§ Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion of Viscount Halifax to resolve, That this House accepts the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee on Indian Constitutional Reform as the basis for the revision of the Indian Constitution and considers it expedient that a Bill should be introduced on the general lines of the Report, and on the Amendment moved by the Marquess of Salisbury to the foregoing Motion, namely, to leave out all the words after "That" and insert "this House is unwilling to pronounce in advance an acceptance of far-reaching recommendations on Indian Constitutional Reform until it has had the opportunity of considering and approving the particular recommendations of the Joint Select Committee to be adopted by the Government and proposed in the concrete form of the provisions of a Bill."
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, as I had the honour of being one of the representatives of your Lordships' House on the Joint Select Committee, I ought perhaps to take my share in attempting to justify its Report. I understand there were some who thought that I had no business to meddle with matters of this kind, but I do not think it is consistent with the tradition of the office which I hold either in this House or in the public life of the country, to let it be supposed that it is concerned only with ecclesiastical matters or even only with matters of direct religious interest. It seemed to me that there was a place on such a Committee for one member who is wholly independent of any political Party. I have some 310 reason to know that many of the Indian delegates appreciated the presence on the Joint Select Committee of a member holding that independent position.
Let me take my share in paying a tribute of gratitude for the help which the Committee received from its noble Chairman, not least from the Secretary of State, from the very able staff which was ready at all times to assist us, and, I would venture to add, from the two faithful shorthand writers to whom those eighteen months of discussion must have seemed interminable loquacity. I cannot refrain from also expressing my gratitude for the help which we received from the noble Marquess who spoke yesterday with such passionate sincerity and with whom we all so deeply sympathise in his uncertain health. I know that my colleagues would testify with me that he always showed, as we would expect of him, both consistency and courtesy. He was always constructive, never obstructive, and he did his best to enable us to realise at every point the great difficulties with which we were faced.
I tried to approach the study of this immense problem with an open mind. I do not deny that there are political instincts which always influence our judgments more than we know, but I did at least try, by very faithful attendance at the Committee during all those long months, involving a most tiresome tax upon my time, to estimate and weigh the whole of the evidence with the utmost possible care. I confess that at first I was not so much impressed as oppressed not only by the magnitude but by the difficulties of our task. There were times when it seemed almost fantastic to conceive of inventing a new Constitution for this vast sub-continent, with its nearly 340,000,000 people, divided by race, language and religion, the vast majority totally illiterate, to say nothing of the existence of nearly 600 States of varying degrees of independence; and I still think, if I may say so, that I would be able to deliver a more forcible speech in criticism of the Report than I am likely to be able to make in defence of it.
But at a very early stage I found a great steadying influence in the opinion of the great administrators of India. I think wholly without exception all the Governors of Provinces for the last ten years assured us that the proposals contained 311 in the old White Paper were in their opinion timely and workable. I know that in some quarters it has been insinuated that these extremely able men were not uninfluenced by the thought that promotion might depend upon conformity with what were supposed to be the tendencies of the Government. I would only ask: How is it consistent to speak with one breath, and rightly, of the integrity of the great Indian Civil Service, to contrast with it (sometimes most unfairly) the customs and habits of Indians, and then to imply that those of that great Service who are in its front rank and have seen longest service are capable of any kind of political bias? As would be expected, no such insinuation came from the lips of the noble Marquess, but you will remember that he described them as administrative experts and described us, in language which must have been very flattering to our pride, as constitutional experts. But the last thing we should wish to be would be theorists sitting here to invent a paper Constitution. Our duty is to see what Constitution can be adapted to the actual circumstances and conditions of India, and it is upon such matters that these great administrators have the fullest knowledge and are most entitled to give us advice. Therefore, when at the outset I realised that these men, widest in experience, highest in responsibility, considered that the main proposals with which we are now concerned were both wise and workable, I felt that there was at least no place for fear.
It is not possible for us to fail in understanding the naturalness and reasonableness of the aspirations of the Indians. I confess that it was a surprise to me to realise that in that great population of some 340,000,000, the European population is only 135,000 and, excluding 60,000 British troops, is only 75,000. We know, and no words are needed to emphasise, the splendid record of the members of the great Public Services in India. I believe that they are recognised at heart by the great majority of the Indian people. But once political consciousness has been aroused efficiency is not enough, and good government can never be regarded as a substitute for self-government. Of the rise and spread of that political consciousness there can be no manner of doubt. It is penetrating even to the illiterate masses, and it is we who have given 312 direction to that political consciousness. We have taught these people the English language, we have opened out to them English literature, and from that language and that literature they have absorbed the spirit of our institutions. It may have been a mistake. It may have been that we ought rather to have endeavoured to educate them along the traditions of their own races and peoples, But if it be so, we must arraign the ghost of Thomas Babington Macaulay.
At any rate the direction has been given, and over all regrets must be written the words, "Too late!" Facts are facts, and consequences will be what they will be. And if we have given direction to this political consciousness, we are responsible for having set its goal. That goal has been described in words for which the Imperial Parliament is responsible in the Preamble of the Act of 1919. They are very familiar words, but they are always worth remembering:… the gradual development of self-governing institutions with a view to the progressive realisation of responsible government in British India as an integral part of the Empire.I sometimes think that the great Declaration made in 1917, embodied in that Preamble, was somewhat hastily made. I am surprised, when one considers these seventeen years which have passed, that that Declaration was made with hardly any attention even in Parliament. I suppose it was one of those hasty and generous gestures resulting from the War, but there again the goal has been set and it cannot be withdrawn.
I noticed that the noble Lord opposite, Lord Snell, in his excellent speech yesterday, complained on behalf of his friends that no mention was proposed of what is called Dominion status. I think that it is time that we got rid of such a misleading phrase. It has proved capable of infinite misunderstanding, both in this country and in India. No one knows whether it means Constitution or position. If it is to mean Constitution, is it conceivable, considering the circumstances of India and the necessary relations with the Imperial Parliament which these circumstances involve, that, in any time which any of us can contemplate, India should have a Constitution identical with those which have been achieved in countries so entirely different as South Africa, Australia or Canada? 313 Therefore it is no use thinking there can ever be a Constitution in India identical with the Constitutions of those Dominions; but surely an India self governed, especially a great All-India Federation, will always and increasingly have within the British Empire a place of honour quite as distinct and recognised as that of any of the Dominions.
When one reviews the long history of the relations between this country and India, so mysterious and so romantic, are we not driven to the conclusion either that that history is a record of one huge and well-meant mistake, or else that the path towards fuller self-government, such as is indicated in this Report, is the path of destiny? At the same time, I think it is pertinent to observe that it does not in the least follow that the development of the Constitution of India will follow exactly the lines of the British Constitution. Indeed, I should be surprised if, as it develops, it does not and ought not to take a character much more consistent with the special history and position of India itself.
But we are told that it is of no use speaking of meeting Indian aspirations, because it is obvious that these proposals satisfy none of those aspirations. We are pointed to the declarations of the Congress Party, and to the Elections which have just taken place to the Legislative Assembly, and we are asked how we can say that our proposals can in any way satisfy those Indian aspirations. My Lords, like the noble Viscount who introduced this Motion, in what I may be permitted to call a most weighty and admirable speech, I agree that these Elections can create no surprise. The Congress Party is the only organised political Party in India. It holds together by its purely negative attitude. If it attempted any constructive policy, it would be at once rent asunder. We can only ask ourselves what sort of language would we expect in this country from any political Party which was in permanent opposition, and had never known the sobering influence of responsibility. The Congress Party has not said it will entirely refuse to work this Constitution, and my belief is that many of its leading members, after the Constitution is given to them, will address themselves to work it as well as they can.
314 It is more serious, I think, to ask why have none of those to whose support we might hare looked, the moderate Liberals of India, lifted their voice in praise of these proposals. I think it is in some way disappointing, but it is not surprising. They have a very difficult position in safeguarding their influence amongst people in India, and they can scarcely be expected to be otherwise than vocally silent until they know what the attitude is to be in this Parliament. I think I know enough of many of them to say with assurance that if the proposals are embodied in a Constitution Act, whatever their disappointment, they will address themselves to the task of working with it and under it for the good of the people of India. At least, whatever Indian politicians may say, or refrain from saying, it belongs to our honour that we shall at least he ready to fulfil the promises for which Parliament has been responsible.
There again it is said: "Yes, some advance must plainly be made, consistently with these promises, but our complaint is that the advance sketched in this Report is much too rapid; it ought to have been much more gradual."We are particularly told that no one denies the necessity of this advance, but the question is the pace at which it is going. I do not think it can be said that the proposals of the noble Marquess and his friends constitute any real advance at all. It is no advance worth speaking of merely to increase the number of transferred subjects in the Provinces, and to deny to them any share in what is called the control of law and order, which is the first function of a Government. More than that, the proposals would mean, I am sure, a great weakening of Government in India. It is against the provisions as to responsibility at the Centre that most of the criticisms are directed. It is feared that if they were adopted, they would greatly weaken the authority and power of the Central Government. Of that I would say two things. Firstly, nothing impressed me more, coming to a fresh consideration of this great problem, than the fact that the existing Central Government is not strong, but weak. The combination, as has often been pointed out, of an unremovable Executive with an irresponsible Legislature means that the Legislature is repeatedly engaged in 315 irresponsible criticism of the Executive. The Executive continually suffers rebuffs which greatly affect its authority and its prestige.
If that be so, how will it be with the Central Government confronted by Provincial Governments which have even that measure of power which the noble Marquess and his friends would be willing to give? The question admits of only one answer. Its position would be rendered still weaker than it is. But in the second place, more than that, if the critics of the Report had their way they would deprive the Central Government of a new element of strength which it has not hitherto possessed. If the desire is to secure in India loyalty to the Crown and adequacy of its defence, then certainly there is nothing that would contribute to that strength like the influence of the Princes in the Government of India. We know perfectly well that the Princes will not give their adherence to any form of Central Government which does not contain provision for self-government at the Centre. Thus these proposals would not only weaken the existing Government, but would deprive it of this new and valuable source of strength.
Yet once again it is said: "Well then, let us at least delay bringing in these tremendous changes at the Centre until we have seen how the system of provincial autonomy works." The answer is that the Provinces cannot work satisfactorily, and therefore cannot prove that capacity for working, without a strong and effective policy at the Centre. In matters such as tariffs, taxation, distribution of the available surplus, there must be a strong constitutional relationship between the Government at the Centre and the Governments in the Provinces; and, in the second place, in the interval there may be ample time given to the strengthening of centrifugal forces which it might be extraordinarily difficult for any later form of responsible government at the Centre to control or change. And so I am convinced that the policy of giving autonomy to the Provinces without at the same time at least indicating the coming of self-government at the Centre would imperil the true unity of India, and, what is more, would create a disastrous unity—unity of resentment and opposition among all sections and 316 classes of the Indian people. After these long months of study I am convinced that the path of delay is the path, not of safety but of danger.
Now, will your Lordships let me for a short time dwell upon one or two special points? First of all, I feel bound to say something about the problem—I had almost said the nightmare—of those communal divisions about which the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, spoke yesterday with such force. It would not, I think, be easy to exaggerate the difficulty which this special phenomenon of Indian life creates. I can remember—I dare say some of my colleagues can also remember—two evil days in which we heard first the evidence of the Indian Mahasabha and afterwards the evidence of the All-India Moslem League, and I confess that after that experience I was greatly daunted by the prospect of the future. But if there is to be any advance at all we cannot wait until these communal divisions have been healed, and I would remind your Lordships that everything that the noble Marquess said about the evils of this communal division are not less, but more, applicable to any form of self-government in the Provinces than they are to the Centre; for it is in the Provinces that the tension of these communities is most keen, and their influence upon the life of the people most direct. If we were to wait until these communal divisions had been healed, then there is no use making any advance at all. They can only be healed by the Indians themselves, by the growth of tolerance and public spirit.
Meanwhile I think it very likely that new directions of policy and interest may come in which will hinder the divisive effect of these communal divisions. I think there are already signs of new movements appearing which may transcend these divisions. I would mention only one. Few things impressed me more in the evidence that the attitude of the Indian women through their leading representatives. It appeared to me infinitely more free from the communal bias than in the case of the men, and I entirely agree with what my noble friend Lord Snell said yesterday, and what was said forcibly in another place by the Lord President of the Council, that there are few influences likely to be more potent in the future development of India than the influence of its women.
317 Then again, may I say a word about this continuing problem of the transfer of law and order? If there is one thing made plain by the evidence more clearly than another it is this, that there is really little hope for India unless and until the Indians themselves are enlisted on the side of the preservation of order. It can no longer be imposed from without: it must be accepted as a necessity of government from within. How can this be done if this is the one subject which you would withdraw from the responsibility of Indian Legislatures? That is simply to continue the old evil policy of making this matter the special butt of criticism and attack, and you would enable these Indian Legislatures to say that this is a subject for which they are entitled to take no sort of direct responsibility.
I turn for a moment to a kindred subject, the position of minorities—of great importance in India. And here I am bound, as your Lordships will understand, to think very specially of the third largest community in India—the Indian Christians, numbering already six millions, and rapidly increasing. We have been told that they are very apprehensive. We have even been told that they think that their whole future would be endangered by these proposals. I have been in constant communication with the Metropolitan of India and with other leaders of the Indian Christian community of various Christian persuasions, and I find no corroboration for those statements. It is true that some of the older Indian Christians who have been specially attached to missionaries from other countries are very doubtful, but it may safely be said that the great mass of the younger Indian Christians are eager for further self-government. Many of them have declared that they would prefer to have no separate electorates—no specially guaranteed places in the Legislatures—and to take their chance with their fellow-Indians in the general electorates.
It is right to say that quite recently some of the Indian Christians represented by the All-India Christian Council began to be apprehensive about their place in the Public Services, and I think that the noble Lord who, I understand, is following me, and I have done our best on the Committee to allay these 318 apprehensions. I have no time to enter into detail, but if your Lordships study the Report you will see that in many respects certain powers of the Governors have been made more explicit in the control both of legislation and of administration which might prejudice the interests of these minorities and particularly their place in the Public Services. It is, I think, significant that in a recent debate in the Legislative Assembly last autumn, which I read from beginning to end, by a unanimous vote the Legislative Assembly agreed that the Indian Christians should receive fair and equitable treatment in the Public Services. I do not think I can do better that summarise the position in the words of the Metropolitan of India:Give these Indian leaders time to realise the responsibility resting upon them and the necessity of treating all the different communities under their charge with fairness, and I do not think we shall have any grounds for complaint.There is another minority, very small, but because of its special and difficult position specially entitled both to our sympathy and our gratitude: I mean the Anglo-Indian community; and about its position in the future I think I need not do more than read what that indefatigable champion of their interests, Sir Henry Gidney, has written to the members of the Select Committee thanking them for the thorough, sympathetic, and just way in which the claims of this community have been treated:You have by your Report placed us under an eternal debt of gratitude.So far as possible, I think, the interests of these smaller minorities have been secured.
May I refer next to a matter which does not appear to be directly germane to our discussion but which is of the greatest importance: I mean the amelioration of the social conditions of the masses of Indian people? The noble Lord, Lord Snell, yesterday stated—I do not know whether he complained—that there is only one allusion in this long Report to the condition of the Indian people. That was inevitable. It did not come within the terms of our reference, but I hope it was never absent from our minds. I think that one of our main desires in providing adequate safeguards was that we should do nothing to deprive the masses of the people of their greatest 319 need: safety and assurance in living their daily lives and securing the fruits of their toil.
But there were times when I tried to withdraw my imagination from these political proposals to the background, which seemed so remote, of the vast multitudes of patient peasants in their poverty, their dependence upon the incidence of flood and famine, their burden of debt, the grip of the money-lenders, sometimes, I fear, the oppressive action of landholders, and the necessity of scraping a bare subsistence day by day from the soil. I thought of the customs, so strange to us and so repellent, under which they are still labouring, such as child marriage or even suttee, and it was impossible to deny that wonderful as has been the work achieved by British administrators for the good of the village population of India, there is an immense amount of work still to be done. I think we must admit that our Government has not unnaturally hesitated to embark on this field of legislation lest it should provoke religious strife and suspicion, and it is one of the reasons why I would press for further self-government that this task should be entrusted to those who alone can fulfil it—namely, the Indians themselves.
Lastly, I come to the question of the safeguards or, as we should prefer to call them, the emergency powers. Here I would venture, if I thought there was any chance of my words reaching them, to make an appeal to those whom we can best call our friends in India. I know that to them our proposals seem to be merely bristling with safeguards. They seem to take away with one hand what we say we are ready to give with the other. But I would ask this question: What would he the appearance of the British Constitution if we endeavoured to set out in detail all the-safeguards which have become habitual in English life and history, in the form of a written Constitution? I venture to say that the catalogue of safeguards, say, as regards the relation of the Executive and the Legislature, would utterly dwarf all that multitude of safeguards which appears in this Report. They are not there, because our Constitution has never been written; they are the result of usages, customs, and conventions which are the growth of centuries and which 320 have never been codified or even written out. But in a written Constitution such as that which we are daring to ask India to accept they must be explicitly stated. It is inherent in the necessity of the case, and I would ask our friends in India to remember that necessity, and that if they are necessarily in the foreground of any written Constitution, they need only be in the background of its practical working. We are all agreed that the success both of Governors and of their Governments will depend upon whether these safeguards are seldom brought into action.
I would go further in my appeal to our friends in India. I would say to them this: "Do you not desire that the first years of your new self-government should be protected from any chance of failure in that promptitude of action which India so specially needs, in that continuity of efficient administration on which, as the Report says, the lives of millions of the population depend, and are there not risks of such failures in the absence of clearly-defined political Parties, in necessarily divided counsels, in the absence of all those traditions of public life with which we are so familiar in England?" Are there not dangers that there may occur moments when they themselves are unequal to the task of enforcing that law and order which they would desire? I believe it can be said with sincerity by us that we would ask them to regard these safeguards as intended not in the least to thwart but only to help their own administration.
I venture to go further in what I would say to our friends in India. I would ask them to notice that they have secured the main substance of all that they have desired. Will they not recognise that that substance contains in itself the opportunities of future growth and development and be willing to accept it, and make the most of it, and meet the offer which Parliament would wish to make to them in the spirit in which it is offered; and co-operate with Parliament in using these new powers for the good of the country they love and desire to serve? But if we ask them to meet us in this spirit we must make them sure of the spirit in which we make our offer. We must make it plain that it is a spirit, not of fear and mistrust and niggardly concession, 321 but rather of hopefulness and trust. No better proof of that spirit could be given than that your Lordships should pass this Resolution, if it might be without a Division, or at least by an overwhelming majority.
If the Amendment moved by the noble Marquess were carried, even if it received substantial support, then whatever its verbal limitations may be, that would be regarded in India as a sign that this House was still haunted by fears and mistrust. If, on the other hand, your Lordships with overwhelming strength support this Resolution it will be a sign to them of the reality of our desire to meet them as wholeheartedly as we can. I would say this, since it seems to be inevitable, after the vote in another place of yesterday, and, I think, after the tendencies so far in this debate, that Parliament will make this offer, why should we rob it of the element of grace and good will? Rather, I would say, let us remember and follow the principle of the famous words: "Magnanimity in politics is not seldom the truest wisdom."
My Lords, to hear the voice of the most reverend Primate recalls to me weeks and days and months, arduous but not altogether unhappy, of most amicable discussion and most amicable dissension, but I am happy to think, with regard to him, it was not wholly dissension. I recall with gratitude that co-operation which I was enabled to give him in doing our best for the future of the Indian Christians, and as to that I would say that I believe the words now put into the Report, if faithfully carried out, should remove their main anxieties. But I should not like to speak with confidence until we see the provisions in the Bill itself. Now the most reverend Primate is the very last person who would resent a word of criticism on his secular views, and I know he will forgive me when I say that I cannot but think that his attitude towards these proposals has been coloured by a chronic and inveterate Liberalism, which I have diagnosed in him, and that his speech was redolent rather of the aspirations of Lord Macaulay than of the harsh realities of the present day. The most reverend Primate has spoken of the proceedings in Committee, and I should like to echo what he has said, both of the good will which prevailed 322 and, more especially, of the admirable manner, the patience, tact and industry with which the proceedings were conducted by my noble friend and kinsman, Lord Linlithgow. No praise can be too great for that.
But having said that about the Committee, I have exhausted my praise. I have no hesitation in saying that, whatever our individual merits, we were a thoroughly bad Committee for the purpose for which Parliament did appoint, or ought to have appointed, us. If indeed you wished to have a body the majority of which were experts in order to carry out a predetermined policy, then the Committee no doubt was an excellent one. If you wished to focus the controversy in a narrow space, with champions from every point of view, then the Committee may have been a good one, especially from the point of view of those who, when they saw it, knew that it was a mathematical certainty that their views in general would prevail. But if you wanted a great problem attacked by fresh and independent minds, then I say there was not in the Committee that which would give you that requisite. Just consider what the position of the Committee was. The great proportion, I think a majority, were, in popular language, up to the neck in Government policy before they began to enquire. There was little or no hope that on the main issues they would come to any other conclusion, and I suppose that may be suggested of the minority as well. It appears to me that you might just as well have put my noble friend Lord FitzAlan and my noble friend Lord Gisborough on a Committee to enquire whether the Bishop of Rome or the Patriarch of Constantinople was entitled to the Primacy of Christendom. There was no chance of their agreeing.
There was six members of the Government on the Committee, so of the large jury of thirty-two, six were both parties and counsel in the case. But here perhaps I must make a qualification. Two of those members of the Government atoned for the invidiousness of their inclusion by the infrequency of their presence. It is known to everybody that the duties of the Lord Chancellor are arduous and multifold, and no one could have expected anything like a regular attendance from him during the 159 days on which we sat. Likewise the Foreign 323 Secretary. The cares, I may say, of the world are upon him, and no attendance could have been expected from him. Practically none was obtained, but it could not have been expected that he would attend, considering his flights to the Temple of Peace and his wrestling with various types of reluctant dragons upon the Continent. But all this must have been obvious to the Government, and the question arises at once, how was it that these two Ministers were there? The only explanation that I can give is that they fulfilled the same part as you see in the statues of personified virtues by which it is sought to give majesty and dignity to the facade of an edifice which has neither majesty nor dignity in itself.
I say one word, and I regret I am not in another place to say it, as to the position of the Secretary of State for India. I am not saying for one moment he abused his position. He did not. He was courtesy and patience itself, and I suppose there was no one who did more to try him than I did. I do not accuse him of abusing his position. My complaint is, he was there to use it. I know there are precedents enough. There is the precedent of Mr. Montagu who was on the 1919 Committee and was a member of the Government. But then there was no bitter controversy at the time, and whatever precedents there may be I believe they are bad ones. I always think, to go a long way back, that the presence of Mr. Joseph Chamberlain on the Jameson Committee was a great mistake. That he should come from some judicial position at the table into the box and go back again, seemed to me to create a most unfortunate impression, which was responsible for a great deal of the malicious and unfounded rumours which pursued him. It is a bad anomaly that the principal protagonist in proposing measures should at the same time be one of the tribunal which is to adjudicate upon them. Well may the Committee for Privileges in another place say that this Committee was not a judicial body. It could not be a judicial body and its conclusions are vitiated thereby. You may say that on their merits they have produced a good or a bad Report, but what you cannot say is that that Report is the judicial finding of unbiased and impartial minds.
I come now to the Report itself, and as regards provincial autonomy it would 324 not be fair for me to say that there are not great changes for the better. I give all credit to those members of the Committee who were enabled to bring that about. I may sum it up by saying that if the Provincial Governors are resolute and able men, if they have first-rate staffs, if they are not hampered by instructions from Delhi or from home, then all may be well, but I think your Lordships will admit that there are several conditions to be fulfilled. I think the most reverend Primate did less than justice to the Minority proposals on the particular point of law and order. Let me put it in this way. The theory of provincial government is that the Governor is the repository of executive power, but that power is qualified by the instruction that he should ordinarily exercise it on the advice of his Ministers. What we of the Minority proposed was this: Accepting that theory of his having executive power, we suggested that he should keep it in his own hands in the first instance, but that he should have the power to delegate it when the affairs of the Province in his judgment and in the judgment of the Governor-General permitted it. We did this, I think, partly because of the feeling that it is much easier and more gracious to grant than to retract. He has the power—nay, he has the duty—in special emergencies of getting back the power in his own hands when his special responsibilities require it, and we think it is a more invidious thing to put him in that position than to allow him to be the dispenser to his Ministers of greater powers.
Before I quit this particular topic I would say a word about this theory itself. Is the theory sound? I hope it will appear from the draft of the Bill that it is, but if your Lordships will study the Report you will see in paragraph 92 that the Governor is enabled to take all powers into his own hand, all the powers of government, for the suppression of terrorism. That, on the construction of the legal principle inclusio unius est exclusio alterius, means it is only in that case that he can keep all these powers in his own hands, however great the emergency may be. I think that really the point is of great importance and wants clearing up. We have been told, for instance, a good deal about the officers and the Services fear- 325 ing that the Provincial Treasury may be exhausted and that their salaries may not be paid. It is assumed that the Governor will have power, if necessary, to borrow and to pay them, but if there is this flaw and doubt then that assurance given to them may be in vain.
In the same way it is assumed that there will be full powers for defence on the North-West Frontier. If the Governor could immediately take all powers into his own hands for that purpose that might be so, but there is a doubt upon that and the Government of India might find themselves in the same position as that in which Lord Milner found himself at the beginning of the South African War, when his attempts to safeguard Cape Colony and the British people were grievously hampered by the local government, although that local government was in no way treacherous but only timid and inert. It is a point that should be thoroughly gone into before the Bill is presented to Parliament. I could say a certain amount about Burma, about the Courts, about the Communal Award and about the Poona Pact, but I am bound to say that although I see difficulties and flaws in. the proposals on these points, I should not have voted against the Report either on the Provincial provisions or on the several subjects I have just mentioned.
Now I come to federation. Here, may I say that Indian administrative experience gives us no guide as to the working of federation. It is a matter which may be surmised by Indian officials, but they have had no experience of it, and therefore what the most reverend Primate said about the cumulative weight of Indian administrative experience, applicable as it may be to the Provinces, fails before a totally new scheme. What are we asked to do? We are asked to perform a major constitutional operation which I think is unique in history. We begin with a great process of disruption. The old Indian Unitary Government is to be destroyed. Then it is to be reassembled and reassembled on lines for which there is no precedent at all. Dominion and American precedents are nothing to the point at all. There there were separate States or Provinces and they were content to surrender on equal terms certain of their rights for the general good of 326 all. But in this case it is nothing of the kind. In the first place the units are not comparable. You have this strange union of democratic Provinces with autocratic States. And then they are to come in on different terms. One State with a Prince at its head will surrender a certain degree of his sovereignty and another will surrender more. That puts the one in a privileged position as against the other, because the one who surrenders less will have his own reserves under his own power, and at the same time will have the right to interfere in the affairs of his neighbour who will have yielded a little more.
What is true of State against State is even more true of all the States against British India. They will have the power to vote on British Indian questions, but the British Indian members will have no power to vote on theirs. It was this very thing which I believe proved fatal to Mr. Gladstone's second Home Rule Bill. When he was challenged upon it, all he could say was that it passed the wit of man to be able to distinguish between domestic and Imperial affairs. What Mr. Gladstone vainly tried for this country years ago you are now asked to impose on India. It is said that this difficulty may be got over by the convention that the representatives of the States will not vote on British Indian questions, but when temptation and opportunity come do you think that that convention will last a week? It is morally certain that, having the chance, they will use it.
And it need not be done openly. You may keep a convention in the letter and break it in the spirit. When something happens in British India in which their communal friends over the border in the States take an interest, they need not go and vote upon it but they can say to the Government: "If you do not oppose this look out for a Vote of Censure next week," and they will vote on the Vote of Censure and turn out the Government. Yet the dominating factor in their minds will not be the issue of the Vote of Censure, but the particular quarrel beforehand upon which they were supposed to abstain, and perhaps did abstain, from voting. Or they may say to the Government: "You must do this or that, you must take this or that line" upon a special question in which they are 327 indirectly interested, "or you will lose your Military Works Bill which is about to come on." It is not an expression of cynicism to say that that is the inevitable and certain result of giving Parliamentary opportunity and Parliamentary power in a hybrid Constitution of this nature.
Observe the reactions on finance. The Princes have all said that they will not, except to a very small degree and in very particular circumstances, admit direct taxation in the States. On that they are firm and fundamental. The reaction of that will be that the Federal Finance Minister will have to look to indirect taxation when he wants more money for his Budget, because obviously he is not going to tax the subjects of British India by an increase of the Income Tax or some other form of direct taxation when that taxation cannot be levied in the State. Therefore, in forecasting his plans and preparing for his Budget he will certainly be limited to indirect taxation, and upon that I can only ask how long British Indians are likely to stand such an inferior position. But they will have a means of retaliation, and that means of retaliation is singularly dangerous. What they will do, if they are obstructed by the representatives of the States, is to put pressure on the Viceroy to use his powers of paramountcy. Now the powers of paramountcy of the Viceroy are great, but they are undefined and they must be used with the utmost circumspection. Their legitimate use is difficult enough, but their use under Parliamentary pressure might be dangerous in the last degree to the unity of India. It is a point upon which I do not like too greatly to expatiate, but your Lordships will, I think, see how reactions in the lobbies of the Assembly at Delhi may turn to serious differences between the paramount power and (it may be) some of the greatest of the feudal States.
There is a similar danger in the reserved spheres. By "reserved spheres" I mean, in India generally, the sphere of defence and the sphere of external affairs. Nominally the Governor-General would have those in his own hands, but the same pressure, I suggest, would most certainly be applied. It is probable—it may be that it is certain—that trouble will arise between the Indian Government and the Governments of some of the Dominions on account of the status, 328 the position, and the immigration of Indian subjects in various Dominions. Do you not see the danger of Parliamentary pressure being put upon the Governor-General to act perhaps hastily, perhaps intemperately, perhaps unfairly, under the threat of a crisis in the Assembly? Is it quite certain that every Governor-General would be able to withstand such pressure? Similarly on defence, the Governor-General in that capacity is responsible and has the power of certifying and passing whatever Estimates he thinks necessary for defence; but he may have other objects in view which are under the control of the Assembly. Can you not see how it may be put to him: "You must cut down this item for the Air Force, you must cut down this item for mounting guns on the frontier, or else you will lose the Bill to which you attach so great importance." Is it certain that the Governor-General will be always able to resist a temptation like that?
I know that it is said—it was said by Lord Reading before and I think very likely will be said by Lord Reading again—that similar difficulties exist now. But has he, and have those others who have ruled in India, considered the differences of the new position? First, there is a responsible majority at the Centre; there are eleven Provincial Governors and eleven Provincial Governments. The Governor-General will have all manner of conciliations and arbitrations to effect between the Governors and between the Governments of the Provinces. He has to keep in mind all his special responsibilities, and he will have new dual and most difficult relations with the States, relations partly under the Constitution and partly under his powers of paramountcy. All these things will add to his burdens with a weight that never pressed upon him before. Let us consider what his position is with all these responsibilities piled up on him. He is the representative of the Emperor of India, the fount of honour, the centre of ceremonial, the dispenser of hospitality. That is one character. He is absolute in external relations theoretically, and theoretically he is absolute, under his powers of paramountcy, towards the States in so far as they have not acceded, and of course towards those States which do not accede at all. Then 329 he is a constitutional ruler guided by Ministers, but on point after point he has power, if he thinks fit, to override those Ministers.
In one sphere after another he has vast matters left to his discretion, and the use of his discretion may provoke or avert some deplorable crisis. He has to preserve what at I may call diplomatic relations with the Provinces, with ultimate power to interfere. He has power to legislate on his own. And all the time he is amenable to the Secretary of State and to this Parliament. He has absolute control of the Army in theory, and at the same time he may be the sport, and will have to exercise the arts, of the lobbying politician. I suggest to you, my Lords, that for a man to fulfil all these functions he requires the dignity of Lord Curzon, the versatility of Mr. Lloyd George, the firmness of Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, and the Parliamentary adroitness of the late Lord Elibank.
I will not trouble your Lordships much further, but I will say this. The promise of the 1919 Act has been fully and amply redeemed. The Preamble of that Act binds us, but nothing else. No statement by a Viceroy, no statement by any representative of the, Sovereign, no statement by the Prime Minister, indeed no statement by the Sovereign himself, can bind Parliament against its judgment. The advance which we have made means great risks, and the setting up of these Provinces means perturbation and disturbance of the whole fabric of Indian Government and perhaps to some extent of Indian society. Is it not wise to wait and get experience before we go further? I know it is said that we must have a strong Government at the Centre, but under these proposals you will not have a strong Government at the Centre. In paragraph 220 of the Report you will see that it is acknowledged that in many respects the Central Government cannot enforce its will on the Provinces against their determination. But the very thing that you deplore you will have to endure for a long time. It will be years before the Central Government can be put into being, and during that time you will have the very thing that you wish to avoid—namely, the Provinces starting with a great burst of energy and strength and the existing Government at the Centre. As you have to go through that, 330 why should you tie yourselves up beforehand with provisions which you may find to be useless and cumbrous?
It seems to me that the whole case for legislating immediately rests on assumptions. There is the assumption that the Princes will not come in later. I may as well assume they will come in if their interest so requires. It is suggested that they will hold aloof from British Indian controversies. I submit that it is equally likely that their communal and other friendships will bring them into these controversies. It is said that indirect election will defeat the caucus. It might equally be assumed that it will focus and intensify Provincial intrigues at the Centre. It is said that there is good reason to assume that this scheme will work with all the anomalies that it displays. I have an equal right to assume that it will not work, and if it does not work, it will add to the dangers. The Lord President said yesterday that the anomalies were of little account. It is quite true that anomalies of long standing, which in the course of time have lost part of their evil, may not be of great account, but these are anomalies of your own creation and they are cumulative anomalies, and these cumulative anomalies, in my judgment, will so work that they will render your Government under this scheme an impossibility. I am sorry that the President of the Board of Education is not here. No one admires more than I do his high standard in public affairs, and his courage and tenacity, but when I hear that complacent optimism coming from his lips, I cannot but think of the words used by Cromwell to a deputation of independent clergy, conscientious men, though of another school:I entreat you, in the bowels of the Lord, conceive it possible you may he wrong.I heard last week a speech of the Lord President when he told his followers that, in his belief, it was essential for the retention of India that these proposals should be passed. If he meant no more than that it was essential some advance should be made, he may be right. A great advance is being made, but if he meant that here and now we should pass this indigestible hutch-potch of anomalies and contradictions, he is placing a strain, not so much upon my loyalty as upon my credulity. The future is very obscure, and past experience is hardly any guide. I would not like to prophecy. Because it 331 is obscure I do beg that, having taken one step, a pause should be made before we take another. You may make mistakes in two ways, by excess or by defect. If you make a mistake by defect, it can be remedied, but if you make a mistake by excess, it is irrevocable, save at the cost of a cataclysm putting 1857 in the shade. I recall to mind words written years back in description of a certain type of British administrator in India. It was said that:He was engaged with meticulous diligence in pulling down, stone by stone, the edifice designed by the brains of Lawrences and cemented by the blood of Nicholsons.I pray that this may not be the judgment passed by history upon the action of this present Parliament assembled.
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just addressed your Lordships' House has made, if I may be allowed to say so, a number of very important Committee points which I hope, personally, he will repeat when the Bill itself comes before this House, and speaking for myself, I feel very much inclined to support him if he moves Amendments in one or two of the directions mentioned. He will forgive me, however, if I explain the reasons why my noble friends on this side of the House, as at present advised—we have of course not heard the final speech to be given by the Secretary of State for War and he may manage to change our opinions one way or another—do not propose either to support the Government or to support the Amendment moved by the noble Marquess, who led for the Conservative opposition, if I may so call it. I propose with your Lordships' leave to give as briefly as possible the reasons why we can support neither the Motion nor the Amendment.
I am very sorry that the President of the Board of Education has had to be away for reasons that are quite unavoidable, but I am even more sorry that the most reverend Primate has left the House. Lord Rankeillour made so bold as to question one or two of the observations of the most reverend Primate, and I propose, with great respect, to do the same. The most reverend Primate made certain observations with regard to Dominion status, and its impossibility, that will be used throughout India to our detriment and to the detriment of this 332 House and of the British Government, and, I am sorry to say, to the detriment of the British people. The most reverend Primate told us that Dominion status was a phrase which had no meaning in an Indian sense, and if I am not misquoting him he said that within measurable time there would not be anything in the nature of Dominion Government. Sitting behind the most reverend Primate as he spoke was the President of the Board of Education before he was called away.
I am going to quote the words of the President of the Board of Education and I may draw the particular attention of the Secretary of State for War to the words. In the memorandum which was reproduced as a draft report drawn up by my noble friends on the Joint Committee and put forward in the name of Major Attlee, a very able document if my noble friend Lord Snell, one of its authors, will allow me to say so, these words of Lord Halifax, speaking as Viceroy in October, 1929, were quoted, and I will quote them again:It was implicit in the Declaration of 1917 that the natural issue of Indian constitutional progress as then contemplated is the attainment of Dominion status."The most reverend Primate went on to speak about the matter of other proposals and said it was too late. My Lords, it is too late to go back upon a declaration of that nature, made by the President of the Board of Education when he was Viceroy and speaking with the authority of the British Cabinet. With great respect, we cannot trifle with these things in dealing with a problem of this immensity and this vital importance. One of the great assets we have had throughout the world in past decades has been our reputation for keeping our word. In Asia, in South America, throughout the world, the Englishman's word is quoted by other races as a mark of integrity. A Spanish American merchant will tell a fellow countryman that he seals a contract with him on the word of an Englishman—meaning he is going to keep it—the greatest compliment we could have as a race. I am proud to say, though I differ from him politically, that the noble Viscount is not only a typical Englishman but a typical Yorkshireman from my own county; he has attained a position of great importance in His Majesty's councils; and yet there is not in this Report 333 one word implementing that declaration in which he pledged his word and the word of the British Government.
The most reverend Primate also spoke about our good government in India in the past. Do let us clear our minds on this question. We have given India in the past honest, conscientious government. We have sent out the best of our young men to administer the country, and they have upheld the traditions of our race; but you cannot really call it good government, judging by its results. The most reverend Primate spoke of good government and a little later he deplored the illiteracy of the great mass of Indians. Has it been good government, however honest, however clean, if it has left India with only eight per cent. of literates? If you would compare like with like, compare India with the pre-War Turkish Empire. The standard of literacy there was far higher than in British India in 1934. In many of the Indian States also the standard of education is higher, as indeed the condition of the people in some of the Indian States is higher. Present-day revolutionary Turkey has universal, compulsory education. The result of our 150 years of "good government" in India, with great respect to the most reverend Primate, is this great mass of illiteracy and, still more, the terrible, grinding poverty of the masses of the Indian people. It is not good government to have produced those results: clean, honest, conscientious, but not good government.
The reasons why my noble friends and myself cannot vote for the Government, unless the Secretary of State for War or some other spokesman of the Government converts us, are these. We consider that there are two possible policies for India. The first has just been defended with great ability by the noble Lord who preceded me, and that is the policy of a strong Central Government: the strong hand, the ruling of India by the sword, as she has been ruled for so many centuries—the policy that was pursued with great success for two centuries at least before its decline by the Mogul dynasty. That is a policy, but we believe it is impossible to-day. The most reverend Primate gave us some reasons for believing that that policy would have been possible if we had done certain things differently in the past. What was 334 the secret of the Mogul power? They were, after all, a small invading army, who remained in India for three centuries, and at times gave India a magnificent government, and internal peace for long periods; but they were alien military adventurers, without the resources of Western civilisation behind them in a backward country. What was the secret of the Mogul power? It was that they governed through Indians. If, at the beginning, instead of imposing on India this magnificent bureaucracy, this alien officialdom, we had governed through Indians, using, if you like, the existing system of government of the Indian States and so on—as we are to-day doing, for example, in Nigeria, and as the French are doing very successfully so far in Morocco—that might have been a possible policy. Government through Indians, with only the least interference by the alien power—that would have been a successful Conservative policy, probably, in the past. But it is too late; we cannot do that now.
The other policy, the one which we support, and which we say this Report does not implement if it is embodied in a Bill, is to make as rapid progress as possible towards a Dominion of India. We should, as rapidly as possible, bring India into the position of a Dominion, of a self-governing part of the British Empire with all that that means. In what way does the Report fall short of that? We see inherent in the Report little or no possibility of ordered development. And, secondly, and of the greatest importance, the scheme proposed in the Report offers little hope for the masses of the cultivators And workmen of India. India is going through an industrial revolution. The noble Marquess who, I believe, will follow me, and who governed one of the great Presidencies, will testify to the appalling conditions of the workers, taken from their village life and thrown into the slums of Calcutta to work in the mills there. These are the people of whom we are primarily thinking—these helpless and inarticulate masses, poverty-stricken and shackled and bound by ancient religious and social observances. In the proposals of the Majority of the Joint Committee there is little hope for these people.
I do not want to be only critical. I hope to make one or two constructive 335 suggestions that my noble friends think would be preferable to what is proposed by the majority of the Committee and supported by the Government; and when the Bill comes before your Lordships' House we hope that we shall be able to persuade your Lordships to accept certain alterations in it. To begin with, the question of the franchise. The most reverend Primate also referred to the communal question, and so did the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, yesterday. Everything else in these proposals can be altered in time. But if we once inflict the Communal Award on India it will be to all intents and purposes permanent, and it is the most hideous denial of everything that we on these Benches believe in. The political division of men according to their religious beliefs and the registering of them on separate registers is to us the most reactionary proposal. I personally agree with every word that fell from the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, on this point yesterday.
And is it really so necessary? We are going to attempt to impose this scheme of government on India. I do not know that any Indian leader has as yet accepted, publicly accepted at any rate, the scheme proposed by the majority of the Committee. The noble Marquess on the Liberal Benches yesterday quoted a mutual friend of ours, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, for whom I am sure everybody who has the honour of his acquaintance has the very highest respect. Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru will not publicly support these proposals, if I am correctly informed, and I do not think any other Hindu leader will. Some Moslems will support them, but the progressive young Moslems are not in favour of this communal system of elections; the young men who are trying to organise the trade unions in India in which there is very little communal feeling and in which Mahomedan, Hindu, and Christian workmen are joined together for their mutual protection and advancement. These men who are trying in the face, very often, of opposition from the Government of India to raise the standards of living of the workers, are against this communal system. They know it will act as a barrier, a dam, against the economic advancement of the peoples of India. If we are imposing so much on India, why did we give way on this 336 point? The great masses of the Hindus will not accept it. They will always strive to get rid of it. A certain section only of the Mahomedans will accept it. Why, therefore, should we pander to this section of Mahomedans?
There is another very grave consideration in this matter. We have heard a great deal both here and in another place—more in another place—about the unity of India. There is another kind of unity that may come about, that will be somewhat hazardous to ourselves as an Empire and, I venture to say, to the peace of the world. I have the greatest respect, as I am sure the most reverend Primate and all your Lordships have, for the Mahomedan religion as a religion and for what it has done for the advancement of civilisation and learning in the past. It is one of the great religions of the world; but there is a political Mahomedanism now that is active from Mogador on the Atlantic coast of Africa to the East of China and that is most active between Cairo and Delhi and the countries in between. Looking ahead—and in dealing with the affairs of a great Empire we have to take long views—there will be attempts made, the beginnings are visible now, to make a Mahomedan political bloc, not friendly to the British Raj, not friendly to the British Empire, from, at any rate, Cairo to Delhi. That is the kind of unity we may end in seeing if we are not extraordinarily careful.
Now it may be said, "what else could we have done? "and the same argument applies to this question of indirect and direct election on which I entirely agree with the noble Marquess Lord Lothian. How are you going to deal with this vast country, with constituencies the size of Wales and a huge illiterate electorate, with these indirect elections proposed on the one hand and this appalling communal electoral roll on the other? It can be done in this way, and, if I may, I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Phillimore, who also touched on this point last night. It can be done by building up your franchise from the bottom instead of taking your few millions of educated people at the top, men of culture and influence and wealth, and enfranchising them. Start from the bottom. You have in India in many areas old-established village councils, the 337 pancyets, the councils of the elders. Your unit in rural India is the village. Start there. Let these village councils elect the district boards, let the district boards elect the Provincial Councils, your Provincial Legislative Assemblies or Chambers.
I am now going to open my armour to the Minister of War if he cares to thrust his lance into it. This is a system that has another name, this system of indirect election by occupational voters. Our Parliamentary system of democracy has not yet been very successful anywhere in Asia. In Japan no one would claim that the Western system of Parliamentarianism has been successful despite the homogeneous character of the Japanese population, their ancient civilisation and universal education. The democratic system that has so far functioned in the East is to be found in Siberia where you have this system of district boards elected by councils of peasants in the rural areas. This is where I open my armour, raise my vizor, to the Minister of War. The fact that in Siberia it is called the Soviet system, based on peasants' councils in the country districts, does not mean it is necessarily Communistic. You can have a system of election based on functions either as cultivators or workers without Communism. Indeed you have it even in this country in the University representation in another place. If people vote according to their functions as cultivators or factory workers or anything else they are not necessarily Communists because the Soviets in Siberia, or the majority of them, happen to support the Communist Party. If the Minister of War likes to say I am suggesting a Communist Soviet system for India hs can do so, but it is not really true. I want to find some way of escape from this difficulty of a vast electorate, largely illiterate, and now split by this terrible communal hostility.
The system that I have attempted very inadequately and briefly to describe appeared in the last Home Rule scheme drawn up by the late Mrs. Besant, a woman whose words carried great weight in India, who devoted a great part of her varied life to the interests of the Indian people in a most unselfish way, and who was a woman of most remarkable intelligence as well. That plan was included in the scheme which she brought 338 forward in 1926–27 and which was supported by the present leader of the Labour Party, my right honourable friend Mr. Lansbury, and many Other people who have taken a life-long interest in Indian affairs. It is not an impracticable scheme, and indeed I have heard members of your Lordships' House who differ from me on every other point politically arguing for that very system. We consider that the communal election proposals are the most mischievous things in the whole plan. Everything else can be altered in time, except that.
There are one or two other objections that are of great importance. These are not Committee points, and I trust your Lordships will allow me to mention them: I do not think they have received very much mention so far in the debate. I consider the proposals about the Reserve Bank of India most reactionary. Look westward to the United States of America. In the United States of America a great contest is going on between the most powerful President the Americans have had since Lincoln's time and the private banking monopoly, and I do not know, nobody knows, who is going to win. The proposals in the Report of the Majority of the Joint Committee and in the White Paper with regard to the Central Bank mean that the real rulers of India on all questions of finance and currency will be the board of this Bank who will be absolutely independent of what is called political influence. I was in India four years ago and the one thing that rang through the arguments of all the Indians I spoke to, especially the business men and merchants, was the alleged manipulation of Indian currency in the interests of the City of London. The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, I believe, will bear me out in that respect, and. I should be surprised if the noble Marquess opposite will not tell us that the merchants and others in Bengal are convinced of the same thing, that we have altered the value of the rupee in our own interests and against the interests of India. That conflict is going on in India, and very many of them are insistent in that belief. This completely independent Bank will always represent, I am afraid, in the eyes of Indians, an outpost of the City of London, and the people will believe that the currency and finance of India will be manipulated in the interests of the 339 City of London, and not necessarily in the interests of the Indian people. I must make my protest against that proposal of the Joint Committee.
Now may I make one or two suggestions witch regard to the immediate future? I am afraid we have got ourselves into serious trouble in India for reasons which we need not go into now. Something should be done, if possible, to restore confidence in India. My noble friend Lord Snell made an eloquent plea, which I entirely endorse, to those who still call themselves our friends in India to do their best with the scheme of constitutional reform, but we can do something to help on this side as well. Is it possible for a declaration to be made with regard to commercial discrimination of a reciprocal nature? There are the so-called safeguards or emergency powers to enable the Viceroy or the Governor-General to step in if our commerce is penalised for political purposes. I am paraphrasing. Could not we make a declaration with regard to the penalisation of commerce for political purposes from our side? I think it is very necessary to do that in view of what has happened as between this country and Ireland, otherwise you simply make a present to those who are hostile to us in India of the argument: "Oh, that is all very well; you are not to use the weapon of penal tariffs against the English, but they will soon use them against you if they do not like what your Legislatures do."
Secondly, is it possible immediately to release all the political prisoners, to amnesty them—the men who are there for no crime except, if you like, political agitation, or the various technical offences for which they find themselves in prison? Then, wherever possible, I would suggest to your Lordships and to His Majesty's Government that, as soon as vacancies arise, we should appoint Indians to certain of the Indian Provinces as Governors. That would be a tremendous thing. This is no new proposal. We have had Indians as Governors before. One was a member of your Lordships' House. I wish his heir had taken his seat here and could have contributed to these debates. I wish indeed there were more Indian Peers in your Lordships' House. The present Government, in talking of other matters, declared that they are not very 340 good as propagandists, that they are not very good at blowing their own trumpet. I have not noticed it myself, but that is their confession. Let them consider the psychological effect on India of the kind of things I am now discussing, and, most important of all, do let us have some more rapid progress with regard to the Indianisation of the Army.
I entirely agree with what has been said in another place and here about the necessity of dyarchy at the Centre as long as we have responsibility for the defence of India and for Indian foreign relations. Sometimes it is said: "Oh, wait until the Socialists come into power in England. If they do, then they are going to scuttle out of India." That is said on Conservative platforms in the country. I can assure your Lordships of this: that no Labour Government could suggest clearing out of India. The Indians themselves would not let us. I discussed these matters with Mr. Gandhi in India, besides the matters discussed by the noble Marquess, of which he told us yesterday, and with many other Indian leaders, some of them far more extreme than Mr. Gandhi, but men carrying weight amongst their own people. I assure noble Lords here, and those with a knowledge of India will bear me out, that the idea of our evacuating India now or in the next few years would be received with horror. It would mean immediate fighting in India between the communities and invasion from the North. Everyone knows that. But what we on these Benches say, and what the Labour Party says, is that you must, as rapidly as possible, in the words indeed of the noble Viscount, Lord Halifax himself, make it possible for Indians to govern themselves, and to do that completely and fully you obviously must have an Indian Army. You have Indian troops now in plenty, magnificent troops too, but not officered by Indians. You cannot allow the railways, the posts and telegraphs to be in the hands of Indian Ministers when British troops depend on the efficient working of the railways and posts and telegraphs in case of trouble on the frontier. You are bound to have dyarchy in Delhi until you have an Indianized Army.
What are the efforts His Majesty's Government are making in this matter? 341 The Secretary of State for War is present, and may I respectfully draw his attention to the present state of affairs? I will quote now from answers given to me by the President of the Board of Education a fortnight ago in this House. And may I draw the attention of the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, to these figures? He told us yesterday that he was a one hundred per cent. supporter of the Government on the Indian policy except on one question. May I draw the attention of the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, and your Lordships to a very few figures? We have 60,000 British troops to-day in India, and 120,000 Indian troops in His Majesty's Indian Army—that is 180,000 soldiers. I presume that when, eventually, we are able to withdraw the British troops from India, we will not be able to reduce the numbers of the total Army for some time. Therefore, I am taking the total figure of 180,000 soldiers—airmen, cavalrymen, artillerymen, and so on; 180,000 bayonets, sabres, &c. I am allowing one officer for 50 men, which is not too many, and that means you need in India 3,600 Indian officers for the Army alone. Allowing for reserves and staff, &c., I put the figure at 4,000 officers. I have not discussed these figures, with my noble friend Lord Marley, who, I am sure, will tell me if there is anything that I have said now which is shocking to him as a soldier.
In answer to me the noble Viscount, Lord Halifax, said we had serving 148 Indian officers and twenty-eight on the unattached list—that is 176 officers, Indian gentlemen holding His Majesty's Commission. The annual output from the Indian Military College at Dehra Dun is sixty a year. At the same time we are taking in from Woolwich and Sandhurst European gentlemen to be officers to the number of 100 a year; so we are producing 60 Indian officers a year, and taking 100 European officers a year. We have a nucleus of 176 gentlemen bearing His Majesty's Commission to start with, and we need 4,000. I have tried to calculate in how many years His Majesty's Army in India will be Indianised. I make it to be about 90 years at that rate. If we wish to convince the Indians of our sincerity, we must speed up the Indianisation of the Army in India, and we must adopt—I would suggest, with great respect to military opinion—a rather different 342 plan of Indianisation to the present one. I venture to repeat what I said when I asked a question of the President of the Board of Education, that you must not think you are going to make in India for some time to come an Army capable of meeting in the field, say, the Japanese or the French Army. We need not do that, either.
I again say—speaking with great diffidence as an ex-naval officer and not a soldier—that you need in India two things. You need first a good rough-and-tumble fighting force for the frontier, armed with all the most modern weapons, aeroplanes, artillery and so on. That you can get. You have had it, in the past. Under the Sikh Confederacy there were practically no European officers with the Sikh Army and they were all at headquarters. The Sikh Confederacy under Ranjit Singh preserved the peace of Northern India. Under the Moguls the Army was officered by Indians. Frequently the Commander-in-Chief was a Hindu. It has been done and it can be done again. If, as the noble Marquess reminded us yesterday, one of the effects of our "good government" in India, if I may quote the words of the most reverend Primate, has been to emasculate Indian manhood and remove their former military virtues, the sooner we begin to get young men of the right physical and mental calibre and train them to be the Army officers of the future the better.
The other force we want is an up-to-date Military Police force. I make no apology for stressing this point. If you want to convince Indians of our good faith—and here I appeal to that nebulous central body of moderate opinion that supports the Report, not to the noble Lord, Lord Rankeillour, who has just spoken, but to the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, who spoke for the Liberal Party, the most reverend Primate, the Minister of War, the supporters of the MacDonald section of the Labour Party, this conglomeration of people of great eminence and various opinions who support the Report—if you really mean business, and want to convince the Indians that you mean business, you must for once stand up to Whitehall—Whitehall in the form of the two noble Lords opposite, Lord Hailsham and Lord Londonderry, representing two of the great fighting forces. You need not 343 trouble about the Admiralty, because the Admiralty has done extremely well. The Royal Indian Navy, as it now is, has made great progress under Admiral Warleigh—the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, I am sure will bear me out—in bringing the right type of young men from the Punjab, many miles from the sea, training them on board His Majesty's ships and turning them out as good seamen with officer-like qualities. The Admiralty is all right in this respect.
It is the War Office and the Air Ministry who will have to be fought on this question. You have to choose between fighting them and the alternative of very different fighting in India. I believe, as my noble friend Lord Snell and his colleagues, if I may say so, state in their most admirably drafted Report, that it is possible to set a term to Indianisation. It should be possible in twenty-five years to make a frontier fighting force and a mobile Military Police force for the Plains completely Indianised. Then you can talk about Dominion status and the Dominion of India, and I hope it will remain a bright jewel in the British Imperial Crown, to quote words we have heard so often.
There is a new spirit in all Asia today. I would ask your Lordships who are still inclined to go rather slow in these matters to consider that. It is not of recent growth. It is traceable, I suppose, from the Russo-Japanese War and this new movement was stimulated by the events of the Great War. What is this new movement in Asia, led by Japan? It is a demand for equality of status. The Indians are no longer prepared, nor are the other Asiastic peoples who are politically conscious—and their numbers are increasing—prepared to admit our superiority in political wisdom or in culture simply and solely because we have a military superiority of weapons. This new movement has got to be reckoned with. This painstaking Majority Report of the Joint Committee—I heard with tremendous interest the domestic secrets of its composition exposed by the noble Lord who preceded me—has rather overlooked, I am afraid, this new spirit in Asia. For that reason the Majority Report is, in my opinion, ill-conceived and has many grave defects which I have tried to describe. We cannot support it, nor, for the reasons I have 344 also described, can we support the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, in his Amendment. We will await the Bill, and we will hope for improvement in the Bill. In any case we hope that there will be a happy issue from this extraordinary situation in which we find ourselves.
§ THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND
My Lords, it is one of the many anomalies which are inherent in the discussion of this subject that while I found myself much to my regret in disagreement with a good deal that was said by the noble Marquess who moved the Amendment yesterday, I find myself this evening in some agreement—not very much, but in a few sentences here and there—with the speech of the noble Lord who has just sat down. If I may say so without in any way detracting from the value of the many other speeches which have been delivered so far in the course of this debate, the speech which appeared to me to be one of the greatest significance was the speech delivered by the noble Lord, Lord Hardinge, towards the close of yesterday's debate.
I say that for this reason. I seem to see in that speech, running all through, the results of many weeks, indeed of many months, reflection which the noble Lord, as a member of the Joint Select Committee, was perforce obliged to give to the problem of the future government of India. I recall the speech made by the same noble Lord on the last occasion on which your Lordships discussed this subject in April, 1933. It seems to me that the difference between the speech made by the noble Lord on the first occasion and the speech which he delivered to your Lordships last night was very significant. On the earlier occasion the noble Lord, while prepared to give a generous measure of self-government to India, was, nevertheless, very apprehensive, very doubtful of the wisdom of some parts of the scheme of the White Paper. Last night it seemed to me that the noble Lord's speech showed that he was now in complete accord with the recommendations which are made by the Joint Select Committee.
My own position is not by any means dissimilar from the position of the noble Lord, Lord Hardinge. When the question as to whether the White Paper should be referred to a Joint Select Committee was before your Lordships, I 345 warmly applauded the proposal, for reasons which I then gave. Those reasons were that, while I was in general agreement with the main principles underlying the scheme of the White Paper, I felt considerable anxiety with regard to the methods by which it was proposed to give application to some part of them, and it seemed to me that a Committee of the kind suggested was the most suitable tribunal to take into consideration criticisms of the plan and, if it thought wise and desirable, to suggest alterations of it.
May I remind your Lordships very briefly of the main criticisms which I made of the White Paper scheme? In the first place it seemed to me that the scheme would impose upon the Governor-General and upon the Governors a burden too great to permit them efficiently and successfully to discharge their responsibilities and their duties. In the second place, I thought that it would place them, vis-à-vis the Indian legislators, in a position derogatory to anyone representing the Sovereign; and in the third place, I felt very doubtful whether the machinery proposed in the White Paper for keeping the Governor-General and the Governors informed of what Was going on in the various departments of Government would prove adequate to enable them to intervene in accordance with the special responsibility imposed upon them should events show that that intervention was desirable. Then again, I expressed some uneasiness as to the position of the Police under the proposal to transfer the portfolio of law and order; and finally I pointed out that the vast constituencies which were inevitable if you adopted a system of direct election for the Central Legislature, in the case of a country of the size of India, would reduce the representative principle as we understand it to an absurdity.
I am naturally gratified to be able to point to the fact that nearly the whole of these criticisms which made of the White Paper scheme have been met by recommendations in the Report of the Joint Select Committee. With regard to the first of my criticisms only—namely, that you were going to impose on the Governor-General and the Governors too heavy a burden, have the members of the Joint Select Committee failed to find a remedy, beyond stressing, of course, the 346 necessity for equipping the Governor-General and the Governors with adequate secretariats of their own under the direction of officers of seniority and great knowledge and experience of the system of administration in India. And as against my apprehensions on that point I am able to place the opinions of no less than three ex-Viceroys, who, with singular unanimity, have assured us that the duties and responsibilities which will fall upon the Governor-General in the future, will be no greater than, if indeed they are so great as, those which each one of them in his different way himself discharged with such singular success. And there I think I must leave that point, expressing only this hope, that the future will not show that the optimism of these three distiguished ex-Viceroys needs to be discounted on the ground of its having been based upon a very natural but not necessarily infallible belief on the part of men who have held positions of great responsibility and of very exacting labour, that no office can be conceived which would impose upon its occupant responsibilities or labours greater than those which they have discharged.
For the rest, as I have said, my criticisms have fur the most part been met. The necessity of the Governor-General and the Governor indulging in what I ventured to describe as gladiatorial combats with the members of the Legislature has been dispensed with, as will be seen from a perusal of paragraph 104 of our Report. Then again the suggestion which I ventured to put before your Lordships for ensuring that the Governor-General and the Governors should receive in advance information of all that was happening in the different departments of Government which might affect their special responsibilities has been accepted, as will be seen from a perusal of paragraph 100 of our Report. Again, the doubts and the fears which I certainly entertained with regard to the transfer of the portfolio of law and order have been dispelled by the recommendations which will be found in paragraphs 89 to 97 inclusive of our Report. And finally a perusal of paragraphs 200 and 201 will show that the arguments which I developed at some length in your Lordships' House on the subject of indirect versus direct election have been accepted as valid by a majority of the 347 members of the Committee, and a system of indirect election has been substituted in place of the original proposal.
So much for some at least of the changes in the White Paper which are recommended in the Report of the Joint Select Committee, changes which in their cumulative effect are very considerable, yet changes which I am happy to say meet with the support of nearly all the members of the Joint Select Committee, and I think I am right in saying, of the whole of the Conservative members of that body. Nevertheless it will not have escaped your Lordships' notice, especially after the speech of the noble Marquess yesterday, that there are features of the scheme upon which members of the Conservative Party are unhappily not agreed. The noble Marquess yesterday challenged me to tell your Lordships what were my views of the Communal Award. My views of the Communal Award are well known, and if anybody is interested in the matter they will find them set out at length in a reasoned Amendment which I moved to paragraph 121 of the Draft Report, and which appears on page 338 of Part II of Volume I of our Report. I have always disliked intensely, and I still dislike intensely, some aspects of the Communal Award. I think that it will impose unnecessary difficulties in the way of the smooth working of the future Constitution, particularly in Bengal, and it was a matter of great satisfaction to me that the noble Marquess agreed with me and subscribed his name to the views which I ventured to express.
I should have been glad indeed if I could have persuaded the majority of the members of that Committee to add their names to my own and that of the eight other members of the Committee who signed that particular Amendment; but I was not surprised that they did not, and for this reason: that the Communal Award was in an entirely different category from that of any other matters which came before the Joint Select Committee. In the case of the Communal Award we were faced with an accomplished fact. Nine months before even the Joint Select Committee had been appointed the Government had made their Communal Award and they had declared, when making it, that it was irrevocable, and in these circumstances 348 the responsibility for the Communal Award must be the Government's, and the Government's alone.
Now I come to those matters upon which I find myself differing from the noble Marquess, and those members of the Joint Select Committee who are associated with him, and may I say with what profound feelings of regret I find this difference existing between us. As long as I can remember I have looked up to the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, as the embodiment of everything that an English statesman should be. I have admired profoundly his great knowledge, his great experience, and his great abilities, and above all his transparent sincerity of purpose, yet on these grave issues I find myself differing from him. I would like, therefore, to claim the indulgence of your Lordships while I give you briefly the reasons which have led me to my own conclusions.
The first matter upon which I find myself differing from the noble Marquess and those associated with him is with regard to the efficacy of the so-called safeguards, and particularly with regard to the efficacy of those safeguards which arise out of the special responsibilities imposed upon the Governor-General and the Governors. As your Lordships are, of course, aware, over a wide field of legislative and administrative activity the Governor-General and the Governors, in circumstances clearly defined in the Constitution Act, will have the right "to act in their discretion." That is a technical phrase, and despite that my noble friend Lord Halifax said that he assumed you were all familiar with the details of our Report, I will venture to explain very briefly what is meant by the phrase acting "in their discretion." When the Governor-General and the Governors of Provinces, as the case may be, are referred to as acting in their discretion, what is meant is this, that he, or they, are lawfully acting independently of any authority in India, and under responsibility to Parliament in this country. You will see that the phrase is one of great significance, for it implies the presence of powers in the Governor-General, and the Governors, which may be exercised at any time, should circumstances require it, in the sphere of self-government, both in the Provinces and at the Centre.
349 The noble Marquess spoke a little scornfully of these safeguards, with what appeared to me at the time to be an inherited aptitude for witty phrase. He dismissed them in the sort of phrase which delights an audience, especially when the subject under discussion is one of political controversy. He said:The safeguards looked very well on paper. The whole of the Majority Report bristled with safeguards. Self-government with safeguards was self-government in a strait waist-coat, and a strait waist-coat made entirely of paper. There was no strength in it: no power whatever.What a little puzzles me is this: If the noble Marquess and his friends really are of opinion that the safeguards are illusory, why, during the proceedings of the Joint Select Committee, when proposals were put forward for extending their scope, did they give those proposals the aid of their most valued support? The noble Marquess said something else in the course of the speech which I have quoted. He said that over a large area they (the Conservative Party) were agreed. "They agreed to the establishment of provincial autonomy. That was a tremendous thing in itself—a vast change." Very well, we know two of the opinions held by the noble Marquess and his friends. One is that the safeguards are illusory, and the second is that we should establish provincial autonomy. A question which I would like to ask Lord Rankeillour, or Lord Midleton, in the regrettable absence of Lord Salisbury, is this. Would they prefer that autonomy should be granted to the Provinces with, or without, the safeguards recommended in our Report? I shall listen with much interest to the answer to that question, whatever the answer to that question may be.
§ LORD RANKEILLOUR
Does the noble Marquess want an answer now?
§ THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND
Just as the noble Lord likes !
§ LORD RANKEILLOUR
We will take them for what they are worth.
§ THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND
Then the noble Lord does think the safeguards are worth something, and that is an advance. Now I come to the question of the functions and the powers at the Centre. The scheme put forward in the Report of the Joint Select Committee, 350 while reserving to the Governor-General complete control over defence and the conduct of foreign affairs, would make Indians responsible, through the agency of the proposed Federal Government and Federal Legislature, for policy and administration in the whole field of economics and social reform. In other words, the functions and powers of the proposed Federal Government and Legislature, subject always of course to the reserved powers of the Governor-General, would be analogous in that sphere of economics and social reform to the functions and powers of the Cabinet and Parliament in this country. Now, as an alternative to that scheme, my noble friends put forward a proposal for a Greater India Advisory Council, and they tell us that if their plan were adopted you would escape the difficulties inherent in the plan of the White Paper. There would be, they say, no extra expenditure for offices or officials in Delhi. Are the noble Lords quite so certain of that? Is this Greater India Advisory Council to have no staff, no secretariat, no registrar? I must say that if the Greater India Advisory Council is deprived of such a staff they will find it a little difficult efficiently to discharge their functions.
Then, again, let me quote:There would be no pathless morass to be confronted of direct or indirect election to the Central Assembly.Why not? Unless the noble Lords propose to abolish the Central Assembly altogether they have got to decide how under the future Constitution that Assembly is going to be composed; and if they tell me that they would keep it as it is at present, then I am justified in asking them why then, during the proceedings of the Joint Select Committee, did they vote for a scheme of indirect election for the Central Legislature in place of the existing system of direct election? No, I do not understand their claim that if their plan was adopted these difficulties would be escaped.
Then the noble Lords appeal to authority in support of their plan, the authority of the Simon Commission. Do the noble Lords not a little overlook the fact that the proposal put forward by the Simon Commission was put forward in circumstances which differ profoundly from the circumstances of to- 351 day? And do they not also a little overlook the fact that all those members of the Simon Commission who have expressed their views on the Report of the Joint Select Committee accept the finding of the Joint Select Committee on that question? And indeed, if you read the summing up by the Simon Commission of the objects which they had in view in making, the proposal for an Advisory Council, you will see that their main object was to provide an incentive to the creation of a Federal Government and Legislature, and that they only put forward the proposal for an Advisory Council because they were satisfied that in the circumstances of that time the proposal for a Federal Government and Legislature was beyond the range of practical politics.
But even if I thought that the members of the Simon Commission adhered to their proposal in the different circumstances of to-day, I should still hold, basing myself on my own experience of conditions in India, that no Constitution formed on the lines proposed by the noble Lords would have the smallest chance of success. The Advisory Council would be regarded throughout India as a body which was intended to supplant the existing Central Legislature. Believe me, there is no room in any Constitution which you may devise for India to-day for two rival bodies, such as the Advisory Council and the Central Legislature would inevitably become; and if anybody supposes that the Central Legislature is going to settle down quietly to the task of registering the decrees of an Advisory Council he is, I am afraid, destined to meet with a rude awakening.
Be it remembered, my Lords, that the Central Legislature is not a thing of mushroom growth. It dates back in origin to the Act of 1861, and every Act for the better Government of India which has been passed since that date—the Act of 1892, the Act of 1909, still more the Act of 1919—has increased its representative character, enlarged its scope, and added to its powers. You cannot brush aside the existing Central Legislature in India. And if the Central Legislature has along history behind it, a history which we cannot ignore, so too has the proposal for an Advisory Council. The proposal is no new one; it is the resurrection of a suggestion which was discussed and re-jetted 352 in the course of the earlier discussions which took place between the Government of Lord Minto and the then Secretary of State, Lord Morley, more than a quarter of a century ago. It met with no friends in the India of that day, it met with few friends anywhere; and we now know, as the result of the recent publication of some of the private papers of the late Lord Minto—admirably edited, if I may say so, by the Dowager Countess Minto—that the Viceroy himself looked upon it with no favour. "I would cancel the suggestion for Advisory Councils altogether," he wrote on August 12, 1908, and again on October 14 of the same year—I have never liked Advisory Councils, but swallowed them in the shape we have submitted them to you for the sake of showing a united front here.The proposal, as I said, met with no support, it was quietly buried; and a proposal which was regarded as inadequate to meet the circumstances of 1908 is hardly likely, I think, to be adequate to meet the circumstances of 1934.
No, my Lords, if you wish your Indian public men to act in a responsible manner you must give them responsibility. Does it not stand to reason that if you invite a man to criticise to the top of his bent your methods of government, but at the same time withhold from him the only possible incentive towards responsible criticism, he will behave in an irresponsible, and indeed in a reckless manner. I would invite my noble friend Lord Lloyd to put himself in the place of an Indian public man, a member of the Indian Central Legislative Assembly. He would probably be the leader of a large and powerful Party in it. Like all patriots, he would be consumed with an ambition to play a worthy part in the government of his country. Should I be doing the noble Lord an injustice if I were to suggest that, when he found that the outlet for his ambition was restricted to criticising an immovable Government, the noble Lord's volcanic energy,. his great ability and his talents, would be devoted to embarrassing and to bringing into contempt the Government which he had a constitutional right to criticise but no constitutional right to replace? That is the only way in which you can induce people to behave in a responsible manner.
And what, after all, are the objections to granting the measure of responsibility 353 which we recommend in our Report? There will be the Governor-General in control of defence and foreign affairs; there will be the Governor-General with Hs reserved powers; there will be the Lower House composed of the representatives of the Princes—surely a stable element in the body politic—as well as the representatives of British India; and there will be an Upper House constituted on a stable, and indeed on a conservative basis. And if, in those circumstances, you are net prepared to grant to Indians in the administration and the management of their internal affairs the measure of responsibility which we suggest, well then, I say you may as well tear up the solemn Declaration which was made by Parliament on August 20, 1917, that the policy of this country towards India was "the gradual development of self-governing institutions with a view to the progressive realization of responsible Government in India."
§ THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND
I would ask your Lordships, if you are not prepared to pursue that path, to be prepared to face the consequences of not doing so. I do not doubt that your Lordships can hold India by force if you consider that worth doing, but I hope your Lordships will not misconceive either the nature or the extent of the task which would then be yours. In no part of the world have changes in the political and the social outlook of the peoples been so rapid or so far-reaching as they have been in India in recent years. Let me give your Lordships an illustration of that. Who, whether in India or this country, would have believed it if he had been told only a short decade before that in the year 1930 he would have seen Hindu and Moslem ladies sitting at the council table at Westminster alongside of the Princes from the native States, delegates from British India, and representatives of the three Parliamentary Parties in this country? Who again would have believed it if he had been told it only a short decade before that a Commission composed of members of these two Houses would have been declaring, as the Simon Report did declare, that "the women's movement in India holds the key to progress"? Or who again would have 354 believed it if he had been told that in 1934 a Committee composed of members of the two Houses in this country would have been found expressing doubts as to whether the proposal to give the vote to six million Indian women was adequate to meet the circumstances of the case?
These things indicate a great ferment in the mass psychology of the Indian people. They indicate a great stirring in the still deeps of Indian life which it would be madness for us to ignore. It may be that idealism is a little out of fashion in the affairs of men, yet I hold that politics devoid altogether of idealism are as dry a husk as statecraft uninspired by any spark of imagination. Let us riot keep our eyes riveted exclusively on the foreground of the picture. Let us lift our gaze and try and picture the consequences of what we are doing to-day. Twenty, fifty, or one hundred years hence the historians of those days will be writing the history of these critical times. What is the story that your Lordships would wish them to tell? Is it this: by a lack of courage, a lack of faith, the people of Great Britain in the year 1935 were responsible for one of the greatest calamities which could befall mankind, the permanent alienation of the peoples of the East from the peoples of the West? Or is it this: that in the year 1935, by wisdom and vision and courage and faith, the people of Great Britain inaugurated a new era of co-operation between the peoples of the East and the peoples of the West, a synthesis of all the best that each has to contribute to the progress of mankind? To that question there can surely be but one answer.
§ LORD CLWYD
My Lords, at this late hour I shall not take more than a very short time in saying what I have to say in reference to the important proposals which are before the House. But as I have for a long time taken a special interest in Indian affairs I feel that the House may allow me very briefly to express the main reasons why I give my unqualified support to the proposals of the Report of the Select Committee. May I say this as a preliminary observation? I listened with the greatest pleasure to the most eloquent concluding remarks of the noble Marquess who has just sat down when he pictured the enormous changes which have taken 355 place in the situation in India to-day compared with thirty or forty years ago. When I first took an interest in Indian affairs the Indian Budget was discussed in another place on the last day of the Session in a very thin House, and the discussion was of a more or less academic character, but it fell to my lot for many years at that time to move a Resolution in that House affirming the demand of the people of India for what was called their closer association with the administration of their own affairs. I do not blame Parliament for the lack of interest which it took at that time in Indian matters. The English electorate was at that time uninformed. It was rightly absorbed in its own urgent political problems. But a great change has since then taken place, and an advance has occurred in public opinion on the rights of Indians to a further measure of self-government which is simply astonishing.
There is just this other point in connection with the growth of public opinion upon the question of the advance of self-government in India—namely, the lack of enthusiasm and satisfaction with which the people of India have received from time to time the many important reforms which have been granted to them. But I do not think that that is difficult to explain. There are, perhaps, innumerable reasons for it, but there is one cause which I shall mention because I feel it is true. Much of the explanation of the fact that India has not been satisfied with the many concessions that have been made from time to time in regard to the advance in her self-governing rights is due to the delay which has taken place in granting these reforms—delays which, from time to time, have robbed these concessions of their true value.
I will not detain the House by going into detail in regard to the recommendations of the Select Committee, but will make one or two general observations. The first is this. I do not agree with the view taken this afternoon by the noble Lord, Lord Rankeillour, in reference to the constitution of that Committee. I would say two things about the Committee and its proposals. First, I do not remember, in the whole course of my experience, such an amount of conference and consultation and interchange of views upon any public question as has 356 taken place in regard to the issues which we are now discussing. Secondly, I do not remember a body being set up in modern times equal to that Committee in respect of the distinguished service and experience of public affairs of its members. I would like, if I may as an outsider who has only read the Reports of the Committee, to associate myself with the many tributes of praise which have been paid to the Chairman of the Select Committee, and I would ask the House not to forget that this is not the only contribution he has made to the service and for the welfare of India. I would ask the House to remember also the great service he rendered to India as Chairman of the Indian Agricultural Commission.
To hurry through what I have to say, let me now state very briefly my views as to the present situation. I had the opportunity, during a very long period in my life, of knowing some, at all events, of the leading figures in Indian political life, and I feel that they have a perfect right to exercise their own judgment upon any proposal that is made by a Committee or by Parliament in regard to their constitutional development. But if I may, as one who has for many years acted as one of their spokesmen in Parliament in support of the advance of self-government in India, I would express the hope that they will very carefully consider and not be unmindful of the grave difficulties of passing a great scheme such as this through Parliament in the teeth of very formidable opposition. At the same time, may I make this suggestion to noble Lords in this House, that we, on our part, also should be careful to avoid the danger of substantially weakening the proposals of the scheme in such a way as to make it even less acceptable than it is to-day to those in India who may be prepared to work it. One word as to the Liberal Party in India, a Party which has undoubtedly rendered very great service in times past to the cause of constitutional reform. I agree with the view expressed by the most reverend Primate. I believe we shall find that, whilst they are naturally dissatisfied with some, at all events, of the recommendations of the Committee, they will be prepared, when the Bill becomes an Act, to co-operate in the working out of its provisions. They will do so, I feel sure, in a spirit and in 357 a way which, as they think, will lead to their ultimate goal. And that is one of the main reasons why I support these recommendations.
It is because, in my judgment, when they become an Act of Parliament, they will constitute a basis upon which India can work out her own salvation and reach her ultimate political goal. I feel that the two essential conditions for success in our endeavour to carry out this great transaction are, first of all, that we should ask our friends in India to believe that behind this offer of a new Constitution there lies good will and sincerity; and, secondly, that we ourselves should resolve to look upon the aspirations of India for self-government, not as something dangerous, not as an unhappy or dangerous phenomenon, but as something which will, in due time, lead to closer union and better understanding. I have given India, for certain reasons, the first place on the horizon of my political life, and it is perhaps not surprising that I should take a very deep interest in this debate and what lies behind it.
I will conclude with this observation. I will ask the House whether it is not becoming clear to those who are watching the general trend of world events that there is a tendency for the pivot upon which will rest the main issues of the future to shift from the West to the East. If that be so, and I think in many ways it may be so, I would ask your Lordships to agree with me when I say that a satisfied and a contented India, an India attached to the British Empire by bonds of sympathy and good will, must be a decisive and a vitally important factor in that new situation. These, without detaining your Lordships further, are the main grounds upon which I most strongly support the proposals of the Committee. I believe that if, and when, the proposals are translated into an Act of Parliament, they will be the means of opening a new chapter and a still greater chapter in the history of the relations between this country and the Indian people.
LORD BELHAVEN AND STENTON
My Lords, I have, I am afraid, but a slight contribution to make to the very eloquent and powerful speeches made by eminent statesmen, ex-Viceroys, Governors and others, in the course of this debate. This is a case of high politics which should 358 perhaps be discussed and settled by the elder statesmen and experienced Governors of our Empire, but it may be that you would like to hear a few words from one who bore the burden and heat of the day in the land with which you are now dealing, for the greater part of a lifetime. I went out to India at the age of nineteen and returned at the age of forty-nine. I spent the first eight years of my service soldiering on the Frontier and taking part in those little scraps and skirmishes which we called the Relief of Chitral, the Tirah Expedition and others, so perhaps I have a fair knowledge of the problems of Indian frontier defence.
I was rather struck by a remark made by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, about the pan-Islamic movement that exists and has existed for many years past between Cairo and Delhi and is now very noticeable. Well, I can see my old friends the wily Pathans, whom I fought against, gathering in their clans on their barren mountains and looking down on the plains of India, looking forward to the day when they would descend, as they had so often done in the past, to plunder the land. These men, in their many thousands, are well armed with perhaps the most modern rifles. They have any amount of ammunition manufactured in the arsenals of Kabul and Dum-dum, and they are only waiting for a sign of weakness in the British Raj to make an attempt. Well, I am afraid that the result of this democratisation of the Central Government of India will be taken by them as a sign of weakness and that they will begin to think that the British Raj is fading out. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, talked about a rough-and-tumble force with Indian officers and of Ranjit Singh's army keeping down frontier troubles as if it was an easy thing to do. I can assure him that it is not easy. The very best troops have to be employed against these trans-frontiersmen. I do not think a rough-and-tumble indianised Army would succeed. The noble Lord suggested, I think, that they would not be fit to fight against the French. Well, Indians were fit to fight against the Turks in the last War because I was in Mesopotamia and saw them.
I ask your Lordships not to be in a hurry. We have taken a good many years about, it so far. The Report has only 359 just come out and we are not allowed to digest it, but are swept away by a Resolution promising to accept a Bill founded upon that Report. Although it may seem daring and almost impertinent on my part, I would advise following the lead of our great counsellor the Marquess of Salisbury, in whom we all have implicit confidence. I do not suggest that the Report should be condemned in any way. What I say is let us have more time to consider it, let us have the proposals in the form of a Bill so that we can see exactly what are its provisions, instead of resolving now to accept the Bill when it comes, thus depriving ourselves of the opportunity of criticism when the clauses are put forward for our consideration.
I would rather like to bore your Lordships with one of my experiences when I was in the Political Department to which I had the honour to belong for twenty-two years. I was sent to put down an insurrection which had broken out on the borders of Rajputana and Bombay. It was in a time of profound peace just before the War. The people of that country rose—how they got arms I do not know—and stood against all authority, against the Rajahs, the Maharajahs and the British Government. They burnt down the police station and murdered the policemen. I was told to go and settle it as political officer, and I asked for a certain number of troops to be sent from the Bombay side as well as the other side. I gave these poor benighted people—there were about 10,000 of them on a high hill—a promise of absolute pardon and redress of their grievances if they would come down. But they were determined to fight. I cannot tell you how many were killed, but there were a great many. I ordered the corpses to be burnt on the hill. At that time we had to employ regular troops. Volunteers from the native States were pretty numerous, but they were badly drilled and wretchedly armed with Snyders and Martinis, effective at only 50 or 100 yards, while the insurgents were armed with far greater efficiency.
One question I should like to ask is how the Native Princes in India are to maintain order within their States in the future. Are they to be allowed to have military advisers, to employ European officers, to have artillery and aeroplanes? 360 I find that one of the conditions for corning into the Federation is that they will have to surrender to the Federal Government among other things explosives, arms and ammunition, air navigation and aircraft, including the regulation of aerodromes. If the greater ruling Princes, or even half of them, agree to come into the Federation with the condition of surrendering the things in the list numbered 1 to 48 I shall be very greatly surprised. If the Federation is not to take place—and apparently negotiations with the Princes are still going on and incomplete—what is the use of proceeding to put this Constitution into the form of an Act of Parliament? We cannot go forward with an Act of Parliament when we do not know whether there is to be Federation or not. I venture to say that there never will be Federation because the Princes of the Native States will never agree to give up their powers to the intelligentsia or, as they call them in India, the Babus.
Your Lordships have heard both inside and outside this House very full arguments, and I do not propose to enter into further discussion of them. The Reports of this Committee are no doubt a fine achievement although they are somewhat wordy and, to me, at least, unconvincing. That may be of no account. I have had a great deal myself to do with reading and also with writing official reports and I might tell your Lordships in conclusion a rather amusing incident. I came back from India in 1910, and I was sent for by the Secretary of State, the late Lord Morley, who asked me several questions, one of which was: "Do you approve of the Decentralisation Commission's Report." I said "Yes, I think it is very good." He said: "Have you read it?" and I said "Yes." He said: "That is more than I have, but I believe that there is nothing in it that would ruffle the susceptibilities of the most rigid Anglo-Indian official." That is hardly applicable here. The decentralisation proposals were no doubt excellent, but we have not had time to read these voluminous Reports, which contain a hundred and one proposals. The least rigid of Anglo-Indian officials like myself, now relieved of any responsibility in that direction, would ask for further time for consideration before agreeing to give a vote or an opinion on this topic without 361 seeing the proposals put into an Act of Parliament, if they can be so put, which I very much doubt.
My Lords, last evening we had a very fervid speech from the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, whose absence from the remainder of the debate owing to ill-health we much regret, and in that speech he laid great stress on the fact that there was no concrete proposal in the Motion now before the House which has been moved on behalf of the Government. That is quite true, and I do not quite know what the object of the Government was in bringing forward this Motion, but I assume that it was to ascertain the opinion of your Lordships on this momentous question. It appears very clear in the Motion that your Lordships are only asked to accept the Report of the Joint Select Committee as a basis for the revision of the Indian Constitution. I imagine that noble Lords will be left quite free to exercise their discretion as to the details of the Bill when the Bill comes forward. There are many matters, such, for instance, as the question of franchise or the creation of Sind as a new Province, upon which one must reserve one's opinion until one sees exactly what are the Government's proposals in respect of them.
There was a proposal made in a Memorandum circulated by the noble Marouess, Lord Salisbury, in regard to an Advisory Council at the Centre. At first I was very much attracted by the idea, but I think that these Councils have now been thoroughly condemned both by the noble Marquess, Lord Halifax, last evening, and by the noble Marquess, Lord Zetland, to-night. An official who has recently been in a Native State in India told me that the States disliked the idea very much indeed. They thought it derogatory to their status, and said that they would have no confidence in such a body and that in fact it might lead to their not coming into the Federation at all. Therefore I hope that the proposal will be abandoned altogether. You must have full responsibility of the Governor-General in the discharge of his duties, and any such Council would have the opposite effect of rather weakening and diminishing his responsibility and therefore his predominance as the great authority under the Constitution.
362 There is one point which I was very glad to see stressed in the Report of the Joint Select Committee. It is dealt with in paragraph 101, which points out the great necessity for the Governor of a Province to have somebody whom he can consult. He may have a Council, or a Cabinet as I think it is termed, of all Indians, and it would be impossible for anybody going out from these shores to undertake the Governorship of a Province without having somebody to whom he could turn for advice who had knowledge and experience of India.
Last evening Mr. Winston Churchill said in another place that these proposals are an abdication of our duties to the masses in India, and a charge constantly made outside Parliament against these proposals is that they are a betrayal of the trust reposed in us by the Indian people. There are also prophecies that corruption will be rife and that there will be inefficiency in administration. I have no doubt that corruption and inefficiency will set in to a certain degree, but those are the habits and customs of the people. I was once Governor of Bombay and I had appointed a very eminent Indian Judge—it was a great promotion for him—to go up to Sind. He came to the secretary and said that he could not accept it. He begged to decline it because if he went there he would be going amongst his own people, and we British did not know what that meant—what intrigue went on, and how it would be impossible for him to administer justice where he had his family and relations round about him. He said it would be quite impracticable for him to go there, and of course he did not go. That shows how ingrained is the habit of what you may call corruption. We in our country cannot conceive of any such thing, but there it is not thought a disgrace. It is taken as a matter of course that if you are in a position of authority you benefit those in whom you are particularly interested. However. I am told that a new spirit is springing up, and people want to do their duty quite irrespective of what is expected of them by their own relations.
Then in regard to inefficiency, I have no doubt that there would be greater inefficiency. I am not certain that too much stress has not been laid on efficiency in the past, but there is one test of it that seems to me to be absolutely 363 unanswerable. Many of the Native States, certainly in the Bombay Presidency, are interlaced with British India, and from time to time one tried to find out whether the people in British India or in the Native States were the more contented. No doubt individuals for reasons of their own had preferences, but you could not say that there was any desire on the part of the inhabitants, either in British India or in the States, to change their domicile in order to get under the other set of conditions. That shows that there is no betrayal of trust on the ground that the administration may suffer in efficiency. As regards other habits and practices which prevail in India, there is a new spirit in regard to them—for instance, on the question of the franchise of women—but at the same time, if you want to get an insight into the conditions in India, I should advise you to read a book called "India Calling," written by a noble-hearted woman, Miss Cornelia Sorabji, which throws great light upon conditions there and shows how different are ideas in India from our own. You naturally cannot expect the habits and practices of a thousand years to be changed in a generation or two.
I was myself rather surprised and disappointed to find that the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee have not disarmed opposition to the Government's proposals. Some months ago my noble friend, Lord FitzAlan of Derwent, and I met on a public platform where these matters were being discussed. He said then that he thought the two rival sets of view were approximating to each other, and that there was more likely to be agreement, and I agreed with him. The recommendations of the Joint Select Committee are so valuable, and so reinforce the proposals of the White Paper to which objection was taken by the critics, that one would have thought they would have modified their opposition, but apparently not.
I feel that there really is no great difference between us. It is only a question of quickness and of haste, and plenty of reasons have been given to show that there is no need for undue haste at the present moment, because even if the 364 Indian States come in it must take time. Lord Salisbury referred to the fact that representative government is being abandoned generally. I recognise that fact, but in my view one of the great advantages to India will be the fact that representative government, as held in this country, will no longer exercise control over Indian affairs, that India in the future, if these proposals go through, will be an entity of its own and Party government in this country will not affect it. At the present moment you might have a Government elected in this country on a question of housing, or whatever it may be, and yet that Government would have the power to deal, perhaps very disastrously, with India.
India in the future will be free from that risk, and that will be a great step in advance. We have now a National Government, and it is a proper Government to undertake any revision of this character. To my mind there are two pre-eminent factors in the situation. One is the diversity of races and creeds in India, which makes it impossible to have a united Government there, except under some alien rule. India is not a country, it is a sub-continent, and a congeries of countries, and you cannot imagine any united Government except under the sway of someone who is not an Indian. The other factor is the excellence of the British administration which has hitherto prevailed in India. 135,000 white men, women and children form the nucleus of our administration in India at the present time, and our administration there is over 300,000,000 of people. It is inconceivable that unless our rule had been just, and unless it had been over this diversity of peoples, it could have continued for so long and so successfully. These two factors will remain, and I believe will prove to be the foundation of a powerful and greater India.
THE EARL OF LUCAN
My Lords, on behalf of the Lord Chancellor I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on question, Motion agreed to.
§ House adjourned at twenty six minutes before eight o'clock.