§ 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."
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, those of your Lordships who have attended in your places during the preceding three days of this debate and have listened to the eloquence with which the whole great subject has been treated, ranging from the discussion of important detail to the expression of lofty sentiment, may be excused for wondering what can be left that is new to be said by anyone having the temerity to speak on this the last day of the debate; and so wondering, your Lordships may have it in your heart to sympathise with anyone who has that temerity and to wish him a greater fortune than might at first sight seem to 498 be his. But there is this that may be borne in mind. The recations of a great subject such as this on the individual mind must necessarily be very varied. There are those who approach great subjects solely from the fulness of their own experience; there are others who approach them on the lines of the traditional political view which is at the root of all their opinions just as truly as their religion; and there are others who are mere searchers after truth. And so until the last word is spoken there is always a chance—remote perhaps, but still a chance—that some new opinion may emerge which will start a fresh line of thought in others and so make its contribution to the common good. And this is the excuse that I would offer to your Lordships for venturing myself upon your Lordships for a very brief space this afternoon.
It has been said in this debate, most notably by the most reverend Primate and by the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, that criticism of the scheme of the White Paper with its consequential Report of the Joint Select Committee is clearly an easier task than that of the defence of the whole of its proposals, and that is patently true. But while it is possible to criticise, and easy to criticise, it has been proved in this debate infinitely more difficult to suggest alternatives to the scheme which is before the House and the country. While I am not disposed to spend much time in answering criticism, I would suggest that the application, or the combination, shall I put it, of faith with practicality probably finds the best answer to them all. If I might quote a case which I have in mind, in the impressive and attractive speech delivered last night by my noble friend Lord Middleton, he touched upon—indeed, he did more than touch upon, he dealt at some length with—the case of the illiterate and inarticulate masses of the Indian population. He expressed the fear that that great mass of tillers of the soil had been forgotten in the estimations and proposals of the Joint Select Committee.
There will have been many on that Joint Select Committee, as there are many in this House, to whom the case of the tillers of the soil in India has been ever present. It is very certain that they have not been forgotten. For myself, all my life I have been deeply impressed with the relative importance of the tiller 499 of the soil as compared with what without offence I would describe as the parasitic classes of the community who live upon primary production but do not contribute to it. And I am conscious that that train of thought is uppermost in the minds of many of your Lordships, and that you would never consciously hand over the tiller of the soil to be a prey to those who have no regard for him, whether in India or here. It is, of course, a certain fact, and I doubt whether there will be any found to deny it, that the mass of the present population of India have been, and would be, better governed, in the sense that they would be less open to any form of interference or oppression, under a benevolent autocracy. I doubt whether there would be any disposed to deny that fact. And it is true that they will, under the proposals of the Joint Select Committee, be made in a degree far greater than now subservient to the political necessities of the Parties which may spring into existence in India. But the situation is a wholly different one from that which exists in England.
Bear in mind that for long years, indeed for generations, the agricultural population of England has been subservient to the over-weighted mass of the industrial population, and that in point of numbers it has had little chance. In India, if I may use a colloquialism, the boot is on the other leg, and the surest and most certain way to bring political consciousness to the masses of the Indian population is to give them a Parliamentary majority in any way inclined to oppress them, and to give them a vote by which they can repel that oppression. The vast masses of the Indian population will learn in time, and it will not be a very long time, to protect themselves, and the individual who for an instant need is the first to set in motion the political sense, which will develop quickly when once it is set in motion, will live to regret the foolhardiness of his action. Illiteracy is not a synonym for lack of intelligence. The Indian peasant, safe to-day from interference and mindful only of agricultural prices and the punctuality of the monsoon, will not be slow to realise his danger if there are those in authority who will attempt to exploit him for purposes only of their own.
I have it in mind that that line of thought may be conceivably applied, to 500 some advantage, to sundry other problems connected with the grant of provincial autonomy in India; and I would venture to remind your Lordships—and of course I am not the first in doing this, for other speakers have expressed much the same thought, that it is the Provincial Government and not the Central which will be brought into instant and daily contact with the masses of the Indian people—that our traditional responsibility for the welfare of those masses is going to be affected by the grant of provincial autonomy, and only in the most trifling degree by the grant of responsibility at the Centre. Even so, if one may cast back for a moment, I think that the line of thought developed in my own mind, when applied to the agricultural masses of the people, has application to sundry other elements of the problem as touched by the grant of provincial autonomy, and I have in mind, amongst other things, the question of finance.
We are all conscious that, when all is said and done, ways and means have a habit of intruding themselves into all our opinions and all our judgments, and it is a fact, as was said by my noble friend Lord Linlithgow last night, that the financial situation in India, while highly satisfactory when compared with the financial situation in any other country in the world, is yet not entirely comfortable. When Indian Ministries get into the saddle, and find themselves in power, they will also find themselves under the necessity of dealing with day to day problems of administration always in the light of the exigencies of the financial situation, and there is nothing so certain as this, that a shortage of money would compel reasonableness of action. Without desiring or in any way intending to give offence, may we not compare the action from time to time displayed by the Socialist Party in England? When there is much to divide the Socialist Party is very active, but when there is little in the till we hear less of the Socialist Party. I think we shall find much the same thing in India; that the necessities of careful meticulous administration will go an immensely long way towards bringing home the responsibilities of their office to those who are to be the first Ministers in India. I have this faith, that they will be infinitely more anxious to obtain the co-operation 501 and advice and influence of the Indian Civil Service, and of experienced Britons in. India, than they will be to fight with them and to endeavour to dispense with them, and so to make the whole of their own methods and system of government so infinitely more difficult for themselves.
Now, my Lords, I object to the inferiority complex which many of the opponents of the Joint Select Committee's recommendations have apparently assumed for themselves, and are apparently anxious to fix upon others. Let us rather dwell upon what the British race has done in India, and its incredible accomplishments. Are we not capable of continuing to do in the future what we have done with such conspicuous success in the past? My noble friend Lord Halifax, outside this House, made some remarks the other day which I read with intense interest. I think he was giving advice to young men proceeding to India, and what did he say? He said: "Remember the power of influence." It was a great phrase. And although unquestionably in the past we have had behind us the autocratic power, enabling us to force our will upon India, what in effect has made it possible to force that will? Only the influence of the personalities which have emerged from Britain, and gone and placed their services at the disposal of India. What has been done in the past can be done in the future. And while it would be foolish—it would be worse than foolish—to be so unpractical as to allow sentiment to outweigh or entirely to displace consideration of the patent difficulties of the situation, those difficulties are made infinitely less by the application of a little faith, by the recollection of what has been done in the past, and by a determination to co-operate in the future and to compel a success where others foretell misfortune.
I do not think that I can profitably develop that line of thought any further, for I do not, after all the speeches that have been made, intend to discuss in any great detail the difficulties of the many subjects which arise for consideration under the proposed grant of autonomy to the Provinces. I would like, if I may, to turn from that to some brief consideration of the proposal, made both in the White Paper and by the Joint Select Committee, for the setting up of responsibility 502 at the Centre. The arguments in favour of so doing have been placed before your Lordships with an authority and a conclusiveness which I am unable to equal; but I would say this for myself, that I would be found opposing the grant of provincial autonomy by all the means that I could find at my disposal, if at the same time responsibility were not to be granted at the Centre. I regard the grant of responsibility at the Centre as the greatest safeguard that we have, and I am convinced that any attempt to set in motion the Provincial Governments, with the great powers which it is proposed to confer upon them, without at the same time establishing the strongest possible form of government at the Centre, would end in disaster to the British connection and nothing but suicidal conflict between the Provinces themselves.
But there are other reasons than that which lead me to commend to your Lordships these proposals. You are aware that, whereas we are bound to speak of British India and Indian India, yet in fact no one iii India itself can tell when he passes from the boundary of British India to that of a State and back again, for the reason that the States themselves are interwoven and interlocked with British India; and really it would be unpractical and impossible to legislate solely for one part of India. The unity of India is necessary for the preservation of India itself, and the possibility that the States of India are now to be allied in the legislative sense with British India offers greater hope for the future than any other of the adventures on which we are embarking now.
Last night my noble friend Lord Howe asked a categorical question. He said he wanted to know how many, if any, of the Princes of India are going to accede to the Federation. Many of us would like to know, and I venture to say that neither the Secretary of State nor any member of His Majesty's Government speaking in this House will be able to give a categorical answer to that categorical question. Why should they be able? In this morning's paper—and I make no comment either upon the propriety or otherwise or the wisdom or unwisdom of the letter—we read of a letter addressed to certain Princes of India by certain notable members of the Conservative 503 Party. But while I make no comment on that letter I permit myself to smile at the reply. The Maharajahs of Patiala and Dholapur and Palma and Bahawalpur and Jhalawar are not going to be caught quite so easily as all that. Their attitude has been one of perfect reason from the beginning. What have they said?—and there is nothing Oriental in it. They have said: "We have propounded certain desiderata, and we wish to know whether they are to be met before we will commit ourselves to final agreement." And what do they say now? They say: "When we have seen the Bill we shall know what answer to give, and until we can see the Bill we cannot give a conclusive answer."
§ LORD HASTINGS
It may be said—I know, I think, what is in the minds of those who say, "Hear, hear,"—it may be said that if that is reasonable for the Princes of India it is also reasonable that the House of Lords should agree to the Amendment which is before the House; that if it is reasonable that the Princes of India should wait for the Bill, so also is it reasonable that Parliament should wait for the Bill. But, my Lords, there is an immense difference. Here in Parliament the Bill has got to come before us. By giving an expression of opinion to-day in the Lobby we do not commit ourselves to acceptance of clause after clause of the Bill. The Bill will be ours to deal with as we will in due course. But the Bill will not be that of the Princes of India. When the Bill has been introduced and passed, they will have to take it or leave it. We shall have the moulding of the Bill; they will not, and there is an immense difference. But in any case I can conceive of no more natural attitude than that taken up by the Princes of India, for they have two underlying motives in all they do and say.
I do not pretend to any information on this subject which is not available to all your Lordships, but I have this small advantage in personal acquaintance with very many of these Rulers and their Ministers, and while, Heaven knows, I do not pretend to any greater knowledge of the psychology of the Oriental than any others of your Lordships, at least it is some advantage to know many of them personally and to have discussed these 504 subjects with them. I say that there are two underlying motives in all they say and do. The first of these is a lofty one. They are determined that their link with the Crown shall be indissoluble, their loyalty to the Crown beyond question. They rely on the Declaration of Queen Victoria, emphasised and repeated by successive Sovereigns, and by no action of theirs shall the indissolubility of that link be affected. Their second motive is the perfectly reasonable one of self-interest.
With regard to the first I think there is nothing that I can add to what I have already said, but with regard to the second there is something I can add. What is their self-interest? Assuming always that the attributes of independence are left to them—and none proposes to interfere with these attributes—and assuming also that the details, for they are no more, of the financial adjustments necessary to secure their signatures to the Instruments of Accession are arranged—assuming these things, where does the interest of the Indian Rulers lie? The Indian Rulers know just as well as you and I. The advantage of being able for all time to take part in the legislative business of All-India, of having a direct voice and not a voice through the Viceroy's Council only as now, is immense and overwhelming. There is no Prince in India who is not deeply conscious of it. There is no Prince in India, I venture to say, who is not conscious, too, of the relative weakness which will be his when these Provinces are set up with independent Governments, Parliaments and Ministers. He cannot afford in the future to stand alone. His interest lies in participation in the legislative business of All-India where he will be infinitely better able to protect his interests than in any other way.
I go so far as to hold the belief that if the Princes of India enter, all of them, into Federation, they will by that action secure for themselves an eternal position in the hierarchy of India, which circumstances that none of us will be able to prevent will cause them to lose if they do not so enter. That is my belief, and I believe, although clearly it is impossible to put it any higher than that, that under this Bill, if passed into law, we shall find few if any Rulers in India so short-sighted as to withhold and withdraw themselves from the opportunities 505 it offers to them. Mark you this, my Lords. We have been told that a certain minimum number of the States estimated on the basis of population must enter Federation before Federation can be set in being, but I would beg your Lordships to bear in mind that, although eighty millions of persons are the subjects of Indian Rulers, yet an immense proportion of these eighty millions are in a very few States indeed, and these great States are already in little doubt as to their action when the opportunity of federating is offered to them. I think that those who believe, or hope perhaps, that Federation will be prevented by the non-accession of a number of Indian Rulers are relying upon something which is not in the least likely to happen.
It is because of that belief of mine that I am enthusiastic, if I may put it so, for the future of India with this Central Parliament. A vision unfolds itself before your Lordships if you care to see it, something with infinitely greater possibilities than anything we have envisaged before: a mighty India tied indissolubly to the Crown, co-operating with its British Governors-General and Governors, its administrators, its civil servants, suffering no doubt in the early stages from the very difficulties inherent in the situation, but gradually conquering them because the spirit of good will has been inculcated in them, and because they have been trusted by the British people.
Those of your Lordships who fundamentally, conscientiously, and sincerely disagree with the opinions and recommendations of the Joint Select Committee must recognise that your cause is lost. Self-government is going to be given to India and, bear in mind, my Lords, the graciousness of a gift makes its value. If you are going to give, as you are going to give, give with the grace which befits the occasion. You have expressed your disagreement; you are disquieted at the difficulties which are so obvious; but you are going to be a party to the adventure to which this country has set its hand and, recognising that fact, there is nothing to be gained, but there is all to be lost, by giving grudgingly, by expressing suspicion, by withholding all you can. It would be far better for the future that your gift should be given with all the grace with which you can give it and 506 that, having given, you should determine on that co-operation which alone can make the success of your gift secure, I have occupied sufficient of your Lordships' time. I do not intend to occupy any more of it, but I would appeal to those whose inclination and natural instinct would be one of disquiet at the immensity of the adventure which lies before them, to follow the line that has impressed itself upon myself to make up their minds that the thing has to be done, and to go into the Lobby this afternoon in support of the noble Viscount's Motion, and so assure a very great majority for that proposal.
§ EARL PEEL
My Lords, I should certainly have preferred, in the interests of controversy, to have followed a less consistent admirer than my noble friend of our achievements on the Committee. And, indeed, as a member of all these Conferences, and I think the only member on this side of the House on all of them, I must confess to a certain satiety with the details of Indian constitutional change. But I need only, I think, say one word on the question of the Amendment. I can imagine what indignation would have been expressed by some of our more vigorous critics if we had had no discussion on those problems at the outset, but if we had had to wait no less than six months, probably till June, before we could express ourselves on the details of the Bill. Greatly daring, I take a rather higher view of your Lordships' intelligence than does my noble friend Lord Salisbury. I think that your Lordships have fully grasped what I call the main pillars of this controversy, and as for the detail, your Lordships might quite well leave matters of detail till you get the Bill before you. I can imagine, too, if we had had no discussion, what a wealth of constitutional precedents would have been supplied by my noble friend Lord Rankeillour against that course, drawn from the depth of his great knowledge of constitutional law.
Before I say a word on the general Indian situation I must be allowed a reference to Burma. I was getting a little anxious during your Lordships' debate that no reference had been made to that great country. I was relieved of my anxiety by our noble Chairman, Lord Linlithgow, who, with his usual tact, felt, I suppose, that he would supply that 507 omission. I felt it all the more because I was myself the Chairman of the Committee that shaped that Constitution. I naturally felt that my Committee and myself deserved at least that it should be said that our Report was swallowed almost wholly by the Joint Committee. It only made certain changes which brought our Report into line with the general position in India. I congratulate the Committee on their wisdom, and, if I may say so, our critics also who have not said one single word in criticism of the Constitution of Burma. I therefore suppose we must have produced an almost perfect adaptation of a Constitution for the requirements and needs of the country.
I would say this about Burma. I do trust that after the long cogitations they have had, after, I may say, certain permutations of opinion through which they have gone, they at last have realised, or will realise—because I see no recent expressions of opinion that they have realised—that their greatest interest and prosperity will be found, not in association with, but in separation from India; that they can in that way best develop their true national tendencies; and that if they were to be united with India they themselves, a mere handful of men in a great Indian Assembly, would find, I am afraid, that their special interests were too often either subordinated to the interest of India or neglected altogether.
I need not dwell upon that vigorous plea made by the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, yesterday, when, in trumpet tones, he urged upon us the substantial and sovereign virtues of inaction and delay. But I may say that I approach this subject, and have approached it before, not with any tendency to surrender either power or anything else that this country can get hold of. I approach it rather as a lover of authority, as one who has a profound belief also in the capacity of his own countrymen to govern, who believes that they govern other people probably much better than they govern themselves. Nor do I share the view of my noble friend Lord Lothian of the extraordinary permuting magic of democratic forms. I think, further, that one of the greatest tributes to our consolidating and welding rule in India is that we are here actually discussing gravely what is the degree of self-government that it is wise to confer upon a united India.
508 There are, I think, two chief questions which we have to weigh. One of the first questions is the extent to which this desire, this aspiration, this feeling for these democratic forms, which we all know have been rather discredited in Europe, is a growing and developing feeling among the leaders of Indian political thought and among their followers also. It is extremely difficult, I think, to state with precision exactly how one's opinions are arrived at. They grow and form in one's mind after innumerable contacts, after long study of the situation and the development of forces. We have the testimony of the Simon Commission, and we have during the last dozen years or so had innumerable signs and portents of the condition of the political firmament in India, which has borne upon most of us the conviction that we had to deal in India with a very great and constantly growing aspiration for self-government. Some of our critics, not all of them—some are, of course, so well informed—are basing their views on what I call a wrong picture of the situation in India. The background of their minds, I think, does not reflect the actual situation there.
May I take one or two instances of what I am saying? Too often we have on the one hand the representation of a small body of intelligentsia, a small compact body, very largely composed of lawyers, learned in constitutions, impatient of authority and pasturing on phrases, and on the other hand a separate picture of the great masses of India, the peasant on his farm and so on, indifferent to anything but the needs of cultivation and not moved by the political storms blowing all over his head. I believe that that picture of the separate intelligentsia, compact in itself, is growing less and less true in India, and I have had opportunities during the last dozen years or so of observing the constantly growing influence which these leaders exert among the masses of India, both in the country and in towns. I do not say that that means that you can discuss some of these constitutional problems with many of the peasants, but I do say—and that is what makes the difference—that the masses are more and more ready to follow these national leaders, and if the national leaders can command large masses of opinion behind 509 them, obviously it is more than the personal equation that has to be considered.
Again, a great ninny noble Lords have dwelt upon the duty we owe to India of preserving the masses of the people from wrong and injustice, and that is a sentiment which everybody, I suppose, will applaud. My own feeling is that we must not press that too far, that the trustee should be extremely careful that he does not go beyond the wishes of his beneficiary, and when the beneficiary thinks it is time for him to exercise more power the trustee should be very careful not to press his rights too far. There was a very striking instance of that in one of the Conferences—I think it was the first, Round-Table Conference. We had sitting round the table all the chief representatives of Hinduism, the representatives of the Hindu Mahasabha, the President of the Hindu University of Benares, and other great and learned men of the United Provinces. But in the middle of them we had the representative of the Depressed Classes, Dr. Ambedkar. What was his attitude? He said: "Give us the vote and we will deal with these gentlemen." That caused some perturbation, as you can imagine, among the audience. I was profoundly struck by that as showing that the lower castes are themselves prepared to deal with the Brahmins, as indeed they have dealt with the Brahmins, particularly in the Province of Madras.
My noble friend the Marquess of Salisbury also dealt very vigorously with the great question of Hindu and Moslem rivalry. He seemed to think that that was so contrary to democratic ideas and principles that it was a grave obstacle in the way of extending democratic institutions in India. It is not altogether in accord with the doctrine of democracy, but dozens of leading Hindus and Moslems with whom I have discussed this point have all given me the same answer. They have said to me: "Do not make our rivalries the excuse for not extending to us self-government. We can deal with these matters ourselves." Criticism was also directed by the noble Marquess against the Communal Award. Like my noble friend the Marquess of Zetland, I am not going to be rushed into a discussion of the Communal Award, or of that curious excrescence upon it, the Poona Pact, at this stage. He and I 510 who sat at the Round-Table Conference know that every effort was made to make a compact agreeable to both sides. Efforts were made by the head of the Government here at the same time. That arrangement, so much criticised by the noble Marquess, was only made by the Government over here—I must do them that justice—as a last resort forced upon them, and not because they wanted to interfere in that ancient controversy.
Another point that has been urged against the scheme is that it has not been extraordinarily well received in India. When I went on the Joint Select Committee I was not under the slightest illusion that any Report we brought forward would be received with enthusiasm in India, or that we should have garlands thrown about us in recognised Indian fashion if we visited that country. The matter is too big and complicated for that. Let me also remind your Lordships that, just as in this country, all are not statesmen. Some of us are politicians, and those who are politicians, especially those who are leaders of Parties, are careful to scan the statements of their rivals to see if they can get Party advantage by premature condemnation or premature panegyrics. But I am comforted by the fact that there has been, anyhow—perhaps I am not putting it very high—so thorough-going a condemnation of our Report as there was of the Simon Commission's Report—that Report which, though coldly received at the time, has now so many warm advocates, especially among critics of the Joint Select Committee.
Now I want to pass to another great question to which varying answers have been given. There are critics who say: "Well, that may be so. You may have this forced upon you. You may have to accept it in some form. It may be wise to give way to it. But anyhow, the scheme you have propounded to us is really so impossible to work that with the best will in the world we cannot support it." I should like to say one or two words on that practical side. First of all, I would say that we on the Joint Select Committee were not professors trying to produce the most perfect Constitution. We were just practical men trying to evolve the best scheme that we thought we could devise. Let me ask again this question: What are the advantages of a Federal scheme? 511 I submit that the advantages of a Federal scheme, with all the anomalies and difficulties that have been found in it, are so transcendent that we ought to look with a much more tolerant eye upon it than some have done.
When one was considering this question at the India Office when the reforms were introduced, one had always to be looking forward to what was to be the organic connection between the States and the Provinces in India, because it was obvious that if these two great halves—shall I call them that?—of India were going to move off on their separate courses, you would produce a state of things in India, from the point of view of good government or economics or any other principle, that would be hopeless and intolerable. It was not love of trying to make a perfect Constitution—that last infirmity of noble politicians—but simply the pressing economic necessities of the case that drove most of the members of the Joint Select Commitee, I think irresistibly, in that direction. The pressure of economic facts, the growing necessities which in modern life make unity between Provinces and States essential—that, I think, was the great governing idea in our minds which compelled us to overlook the considerable degree of imperfection in the theoretic aspect of the case.
I will not go through all the anomalies, but I will mention one because I think it has been exaggerated in the course of the discussion. That is the suggestion that some of this business in the Central Government is really purely British-Indian business and ought not to be presented before an Assembly which is composed of representatives of States and Provinces alike. The only logical way of dealing with that—which has been considered, for we did consider it at certain stages—would be to have a separate Assembly to deal with that small amount of business alone; but that would have been an absurd and intolerable way out of the difficulty. You cannot, I think, compare it fairly to the proposed Irish Bills. There, of course, one country had to manage its own affairs and had general power of interfering not only with general affairs but with all the private affairs of another State. That is not so here. The area of British-Indian business is a very small one, and if it 512 is suggested that the States are really going to make trouble in that Assembly and interfere in those questions which do not directly affect themselves, I cannot treat that as a practical question at all, because the one thing upon which the States are most anxious and determined is that there should be no interference by the British Government, if possible, and certainly not by a Federal Government, in the internal affairs of their States. They know quite well—quite as well as any of your Lordships—that there will always be the possibility of reprisals and that if they dared to interfere with affairs affecting British India only, British India would be very ready to interfere with their own.
Again on the question of the Income Tax—I only give it generally; I cannot go into the details of the question—the assignment of Income Tax and the fact that for a certain time the States do not contribute to it and that it is paid for by British India, cannot be looked at in isolation. It is really a part of the general settlement with the States, one of the terms of it being that the whole of the debt should be taken over by the whole of the Federation, whereas the States might very fairly have made it a condition that the debt incurred in British India should be attributed solely to the finances of British India. I do not wish to dwell further on any of those details; as I say, they are all set out in our Report.
But I do wish to deal with one point which has been assailed, and I think very naturally assailed, by critics who have not gone through all those processes through which we have passed, and that is the point which is often raised—the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, laid great stress upon it—" Why is it that you are going to remodel the Centre and remodel the Provinces at the same time? Have you any precedent for that? Have you ever heard of anything so laborious as reshaping the Provinces and reshaping the Centre at the same time? "This really arises out of the necessities of the situation. That is why there is no precedent. I think in all other federations you have first had Provinces and no Central Government, whereas in this case you have a Central Government. You have to deal with the facts of the case. You have to deal not only with a Central 513 Government but with a very centralised Government which has been in a relation to the Provinces totally different from that which must be established when the Federation comes into existence. You must, therefore, remodel your Central Government, and if you are going to remodel your Central Government, are you going to remodel it as a purely British-Indian Government? That question presents great difficulties, because if you remodel your Central British Government and start a Central Government for British India the chances of uniting the States in an organic whole grow more and more remote.
It was then that the offer of the Princes came, I will not say as a solution, but as an immense contribution to the solution of that question, because at one stroke you were able not only to remodel your Central Government in the way you might desire but also to effect that organic union between Provinces and States which could be done by one and the same effort. To remodel your Government and later on to bring in the States would have been a double operation which could far better be performed at one and the same time. I have always felt that if you were going to start a Federation for British India and if the bias and tendency of that Government were going to be established, it would be more and more difficult for the States to come into it as a body, and that the possibility of one State after another separately coming into a Central body which had already got, as it were, its British-Indian bias was almost hopelessly impossible. I remember very well the change which was made in the minds of all of us at the Conference when that statement was made by the Princes. It gathered up all the floating ideas which had been sketched in the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms, and which had been alluded to also in the Simon Report. It was really the most dramatic moment that I have seen in all these Conferences and discussions. It is, therefore, in my judgment worth doing even at the expense of a special effort. It is worth, too, putting into one Bill, in order that those who are examining that Constitution may know that they are assured of both changes at the same time. It would be worth putting into one Bill even though it should make a thousand clauses in that Bill, even though it should necessitate 514 all the efforts of all the Clerks at the Table to bring up so weighty a Bill from another place.
Other suggestions, of course, have been made. There was the proposal made by the Simon Commission of a Joint Council. That has been revived by some of our critics; it has been taken out of the dustbin and put into the chief place in the parlour. But now the time is past, and it is worth observing that not one single member of that Commission who still survives—and fortunately there are five surviving out of the seven—is in favour of it. Indeed I do not think you will find either here or in India any support for that proposal. And I believe, too, that if its supporters were in a position of authority and able to bring it into action, they would find that there were so many forces against it that they would be unable to put it into actual practice. The argument upon which it is based seems to me to rest on a misconception of the movement of affairs to-day in India. It is said, and the point is admirably argued, that most of our institutions began as advisory councils and gradually developed authority and power. I think that in this case if it did develop authority and power it would make an unpleasant and awkward rival to the other central body in India. But let that for a moment pass. Nowadays no one really is content to go through those old slow movements of our ancestors. We are ready enough to accept conclusions, but we are much too impatient nowadays to go through the processes which led up to them.
It is sometimes said that this conception is lacking in simplicity—that it is over-complicated. Whenever we could follow simplicity we followed it, but in most cases the facts were too complicated to allow us to produce other than what is in some respects, I admit, a rather complicated scheme. But the one great central point about it is that you do associate the States and Provinces together, and that is the greatest security we can have, I think, for the stability of India. I do not need to dwell upon the point which Lord Hastings has already questioned, as to whether the Princes will join the scheme. I know that since they made their first offers opinions amongst some of them have waxed and waned, and I do not wonder at it, considering the tremendous issues of the future 515 security of their States and their own prosperity. As different aspects of the question presented themselves to their minds their views have, to some extent, altered, but if I may express my own opinion, based on personal knowledge of many of these gentlemen and also of their representatives, their Ministers, and so on, I do not think there is much likelihood of their not joining this Federation. I think on the whole, on a fair computation of their own interests, their loyalty to the Crown, and also, if I may say so, their loyalty to India, they see that the future good government both of British India and of their own States is probably best secured by a unity of that kind.
I will only dwell for two or three minutes on two other points. The first is the question of finance, as to whether the financial condition of India really would forbid such an extension of self-government as to provide a federal system. I need not discuss a question which was so well put before us by Lord Linlithgow yesterday, as to the real incidence, or rather as to the real extra cost which would be necessary in order to establish the Federation. He showed how much was attributable to the Federation, and how much to the establishment of these new Provinces, and the financing of deficit Provinces, which would be necessary whether the Federation had been established or not. For my part, I do not think it is at all an unfortunate thing that when new Provinces are starting upon their new life they should begin, I will not say in the trough, but not on the crest of the wave. They will learn necessary lessons in care and economy with the spending of money which have been learned by less prosperous countries.
If a financier from some outside country were to be asked to examine into the financial position of India, I think he would be, not perhaps gratified but amazed at the contrast presented by the finances of India to those of his own State. Apart from what I may call the details of the income account of the Indian finances, I do not think mention was made yesterday of the extraordinarily satisfactory position in which India is placed in regard to its debt. The amount of dead-weight debt is really extremely small. The interest on it is only about £6,750,000. If you can point out any other 516 State at all comparable to India in its resources and so on, is it possible to cite any other case where so small is the amount of the burden of debt, and where, indeed, the finances have been so carefully managed that debt is being constantly paid off every year? It has been said that India is now balancing its Budget. That is the more remarkable after these last four years of depression, and I think Lord Reading will remember that that was by no means the case a few years ago. During the years after the War there was a considerable margin on the wrong side of the Budget, which was ultimately dealt with, but the comparison now, after all this depression, with what took place twelve years ago is remarkably in favour of the finances of India. I do not believe that anybody looking at these finances carefully, either the income or capital account, would see any reason why there should not be any development of a federal character. We know that if there is any depreciation in India then it might be necessary to examine the situation again, but I need not go into that further, because, of course, a Proclamation would be necessary before self-government is brought in.
Then one word on the much criticised safeguards or emergency regulations. They have not been treated very satisfactorily, I think, by our critics. The critics in India say, of course, that they destroy self-government; the critics here say that they are of no value, or, if I may quote Lord Rankiellour, "must be taken for what they are worth"—an expression which is not generally regarded as very high praise. I have no doubt of the great value of these safeguards. I think a totally wrong picture has been given of the attitude of the Governor towards his Ministers or Assembly. The great bulk of these questions will be settled in conference between the Governor and his Ministers, and those who draw a picture of the Governor set against not only his Minister but also the Assembly, are apt to forget the close and intimate connection there is between the Governor and his Ministers. Indeed, if it is supposed that the Governor will find himself isolated amongst a host of opponents, I would only suggest that these safeguards or emergency powers are really to stop 517 unfairness and oppression, and very rarely do you find the oppressed taking the side of the oppressor. I think myself that these possible limitations, which only come into action at certain times, on the powers of the Ministers, Brill be of the greatest value in the early years of administration in the Provinces, when you have a number of Ministers, inexperienced perhaps in the difficulties of some of these political problems, and more ready to rely upon an equitable arbitrator who would be able to give an unbiased and fair judgment upon these problems.
I am very conscious that we can go on almost for ever discussing these problems, and that after all, when controversy is exhausted and discussion has done its work, and when opinions are as divided as they are even amongst the wisest on these things, we have to rely a good deal on that instinctive judgment of affairs which is one of our possessions, and which has carried us through so many and great difficulties. We have to rely, further, upon that creative imagination which, united with a tenacity of purpose and a sense of justice, has brought us through so many difficulties which might almost seem to be insuperable. We have before us the gigantic task of pouring into a fresh mould all our methods and attitude towards our fellow subjects in India. It is a very long time since our Aryan ancestors on the high places of Asia moved on their separate paths, some of them to colonise the peninsula of India, some of them to reach our far Western isles. We have met certainly in that pilgrimage with very different fortunes. Sometimes we can hardly recognise each other; but if we can re-create, or rather re-incarnate, some of those ancient friendships, and if good fortune attends us, then the great vision of a united India, proud of its place in the Empire, will be an achievement, and not a mere dream.
§ LORD RENNELL
My Lords, I have only a very few words to interject, and those few words would, perhaps, have been left unsaid were it not that, in all the speeches which I have listened to and have read, nowhere have I found any reference to one particular aspect of this grave question which seems to me to demand very serious consideration. I trust that the Resolution which will later be put to the House will receive a very decided vote of approval from 518 your Lordships, and that not only because the recommendations of the Report confirm those pledges and promises which have been held out after long and serious study; not only because they acknowledge cordially and with good will the legitimacy of aspirations which our own political instruction has awakened; but for another and even greater reason which I will try to explain to your Lordships. It is that, while I fully appreciate the difficulties in giving effect to the commitments of the Report, these difficulties, which only time and patience can solve, appear to me far less formidable than many others which we may have to confront if those recommendations are rejected. It is to explain this point that I ask your Lordships' indulgence for a very few minutes, as one whose professional training through many years has accustomed him always to take the long view.
In the whole of this discussion up to the present time the issue has very naturally been the most direct one, that between Great Britain and India. But I wish to point out that, so far as I see things, there is a larger Asian question from which it cannot be dissociated. There was a traditional Asia that we knew—stationary, changeless, apparently dormant, except where it had had direct contact and associations with the West; but with rapidity of communications, with expanding needs and with a growing experience of the contrasts between life there and in the West, all that is rapidly changing. To-day two currents of influence are perceptible, indoctrinating Asia with new ideas and perceptions. I ask your Lordships for a few moments to consider the position of India between these two currents.
On the one side you have the very active propaganda of Bolshevism, with a programme of promises which, however incapable of fulfilment, are naturally somewhat attractive to the simple mind. On the other side you have the awakening of new ambitions for national evolution and expansion. You have that very notable example of a naturally vigorous and highly gifted people who, within a century, have developed energies and potentialities new to their former life, assimilating the experience, the inventions, and to a certain extent the organisation of the West, with conspicuous efficiency and with a remarkable 519 unity and tenacity of purpose. This is not the occasion to discuss what may be the outcome of the failure of an association of nations, in which the views of the Western peoples have predominated, to realise that an idealistic, rather than a practical, appreciation of issues cannot easily be made accessible to the East Asiatic mentality in its present phase; but we can hardly fail to be aware that, since the beginning of the century, successive events have very considerably diminished Western prestige, or that a moderate and restraining influence, which an old sentiment of regard for this country at one time might have enabled her to exercise, has perceptibly weakened. I do not claim to foresee the future, but things are conceivably there to-day which were undreamt of only a short time ago.
Those who have many contacts act as receivers for many rumours from afar. They hear of a growing insistence on the pressure of an increasing population upon limited means of subsistence in a very restricted area. They hear from time to time of unguarded utterances in moments of expansion when naval units meet in Eastern waters: sometimes utterances, even deliberate perhaps, which seem to betray a progressive tendency towards aspirations of ascendancy. I am speaking in no critical spirit, and I will not press the point. Our own people have not been altogether guiltless in the past of utterances of a similar nature. I am only weighing the indications of many conversations which reach me.
Now, whether these currents of influence have penetrated to any considerable extent into the Indian consciousness I cannot say, but I feel they would make little headway there in an India looking westwards, as she has so long been used to do, and absorbed in working out her own political evolution under the ægis of that Power which has guided her along the lines that have made aspirations for self-government inevitable there. If those aspirations for which we are responsible should encounter disillusion, if pledges which Indians are entitled to regard as sacred should be diminished or postponed, might not a great number of the intelligent and articulate elements in India, not less than the personally ambitious, be tempted to turn their eyes and ears elsewhere? Doors might be opened in that vast sub-continent which 520 we should be quite unable to control or even adequately watch—doors would be opened to intrigues from many quarters whose interest it might seem to be to undermine an influence which has so long held an equitable balance between rival sections and appeared to them to constitute stability and support.
At a moment when so large a portion of Europe seems in danger of being administratively Orientalised, might it not be our interest to fortify by good will against these preoccupying, nay menacing, currents that great wedge of continent in Asia, that India which has derived its law, its culture, and it progress from Western European culture and civilisation? An India liberated from any sense, real or imaginary, of inferiority; an India with pride of membership, in the form best adapted to her own special conditions, in a great federation in which she can play an honourable part, that British Empire in whose maintenance and evolution I for one see the best hope for the future of this disjointed world—such an India would form our surest bulwark in an Asia whose problems have all yet to be solved. The dangers I apprehend from the shadows they cast before them may not be immediate, but behind the shadows there is a substance. I cannot expect to see it grow formidable, but even the oldest among us feel we have a duty to look forward and not to drag back, and if this were the last word I should ever have the privilege of uttering in your Lordships' Assembly it would be most earnestly to beg those who may contemplate doing so to pause before they cast a vote which may have the ultimate effect of disappointing aspirations which the great majority here believe to be legitimate, and which may have effects incalculable on the future of the two peoples.
§ LORD LLOYD
My Lords, there is no one of your Lordships who will be listened to in this House with greater attention on any matter of foreign concern, still more of Middle Eastern concern, than the noble Lord who has just sat down. I, too, have been long and intimately connected, perhaps in a less illustrious manner than the noble Lord who has just sat down, with the political developments of the Middle East, and I am as fully aware as the noble Lord of the 521 dangerous influences which have been spreading during the last decade or two throughout that area. But when one has seen, as I have seen, the strong framework of autocracy right through the Middle East crumble before the insurgent rise of democracy, seen that democracy again submerged, wrecked and superseded by dictatorships, one cannot help being a little doubtful whether responsible government in the East is likely to be acceptable for any long period of time to any countries in the East, least of all to India. I remember the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, pointing out in his speech only the other day that he was far from certain that the Western solutions which we are trying to apply to India, with the best intentions, were necessarily the only solutions. But, as I read the situation, that is not an issue that is open to our practical discussion at all to-day. Whatever our experience, whatever our views, whatever even our forebodings about Parliamentary government in the East, we are bound to accept the Act of 1919 which pledges us to make an honest experiment in self-government, but which does not pledge us to attempt—indeed it indicates very clearly that we should not attempt—to paint all the picture in at one sitting.
A great deal of play has been made both in this House and in another place about the impracticability of provincial autonomy without a Federal Centre. But that surely is an entirely new doctrine, is it not? My noble friend Lord Halifax, for instance, in his Despatch of 1930, did not take that view. The Statutory Commission did not take that view. They did not think that a Federal Centre was essential to the working of provincial autonomy. On the contrary, they used phrases indicating exactly the reverse. They said evolution "must be slow and not be rashly pressed." They went even further. They said Federation could "come about only when the units to be federated are ready for the process," and "we are far from supposing," they said, "that the Federation of Greater India can be artificially hastened or, when it comes, will spring into being at a bound." It is perfectly clear then that the authorities who have made the most prolonged study of the Indian situation certainly did not take the view that provincial autonomy could not work without a Federal Centre.
522 The Government now come to us and say that circumstances have changed since that was written: that the Princes have come in and that that makes all the difference. Or they suggest that the whole of the question of the Native States was outside the scope of the Statutory Commission's inquiry. Of course, my Lords, it was not. The Statutory Commission, almost as if they anticipated a criticism of that kind, were careful to use the words that the whole study of the question of the Native States was "well within our terms of reference." And as we all know, perhaps the most brilliant chapter in the whole of that wonderful Report was devoted to its consideration. Indeed, one of the strangest features in what I think may be rightly called an unparalleled affair was the sudden jettisoning of all past policy—of the Preamble of the Act of 1919, of the Statutory Commission's Report, and of my noble friend's Despatch of 1930—in favour of an All-India Federation. Even the declaration of my noble friend Lord Halifax on Dominion status, which received such posthumous condemnation from the most reverend Primate the other day, was swept away in the landslide.
Again the explanation we were given was that it was because the Princes had come in and that made all the difference. But, my Lords, the Princes had not come in! Only five or six—a handful any way—out of 115 or thereabouts in the Chamber, only half a dozen or so out of 400 or 500 jurisdictions, small and large, had approved of Federation in principle, even then only with far-reaching reservations, and they never even pretended to have a mandate! If on such a fragile foundation as this so vast a structure has been built, and the Government have been willing to stake the whole of their future, to risk a division in a great Party, surely there must be a great deal more to be told us about how this come about than we have yet learned. Fortunately for us, of the two people best qualified to explain to us the full circumstances of that situation, if one, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, is not here to-day, we yet have the other, the noble Marquess who, I believe is to follow me shortly, who is in a better position, I think, almost than anybody else to tell us how it all occurred, and I hope we may have the benefit of his great knowledge on that question in due course.
523 May I now for a few moments explain why it is that my friends and I are so much opposed to a federal solution of this problem. In the first place, and here I think we are on common ground, we all believe that a strong Central Government in one form or another is essential to the good working of provincial autonomy. But we think that a Federal Government would not give you that strong Central Government. We believe it would be infinitely weaker than the Provincial Governments. We believe its procedure would be more cumbrous, its decisions more often questioned, its authority more continually challenged, and, therefore, its hand less sure and more often embarrassed than the present Government at Delhi. Indeed, I do not think it is too much to say that a Federal Government is notorious amongst constitutional lawyers as being one of the most complex and litigious, and, as a lawyer called it, in the true sense of the word most "disconcerting," and, in the execution of the law, one of the weakest of all forms of government.
The very fact that a Federal Government involves a division of internal sovereignty means that every citizen is only too apt to discriminate between obedience to the laws of his own Province, which is near, and obedience to the Federal Centre, which is remote; and, if he is a peaceful-minded citizen, he is only too apt to repudiate the laws of the distant authority by litigation, or, if he is prone to violence, by "civil disobedience" or something more dangerous still. But in India, under a Federal Government, there will not be, as in other Federal Governments, only a dual allegiance for the citizen in the Province to obey; there will be several. He will have to give obedience to Federal Statutes, to Provincial Statutes, to Governor-General's Acts, to Governor-General's Ordinances, and I doubt if there are not one or possibly two more allegiances that he may have to serve. We only have to consider for a moment what enormous possibilities there are in such divided obedience in a country where disobedience has become a creed and litigation almost a disease. And if the ordinary Federal Executive is so notoriously weak, how much weaker still is a Federal Executive whose authority itself, as in this case, is going to be subdivided in a manner unknown and unprecedented in all history.
524 The Government defend themselves by saying that the Princes will only agree to come in on condition that there is responsible government at the Centre. But that, my Lords, does not make the dangers of the proposal any less. In any case the Government have no right to make the Princes of India responsible for their recklessness. Theirs is the responsibility, and theirs alone. And it is all the more their responsibility when we remember, a little bit uncomfortably today I think, the statement made by a representative of the greatest Native State in India, when he declared openly at the third session of the Conference that "His Majesty's Government and the Secretary of State have slowly but relentlessly pressed us into Federation." The responsibility then must be the Government's and not the Princes'. Every administrator—and in your Lordships' House there are a large number of them—knows the enormous importance of swift decisions and of an unhesitating and sure hand in moments of great difficulty in a great country like India. I submit that these must be utterly lacking under any Federal Government.
It is indeed a by-word in the United States to say that the growth of lawlessness there is almost entirely due to the federal system. We have seen the situation to-day in Australia. If ever there was one country in the world where Federation ought to be a complete success, where there was community of people, community of interest, and a large measure of similarity in climate, that country is Australia; yet we have the representatives of Western Australia actually in London at this moment petitioning to get out of a Federal Government. We have South Australia and Tasmania only waiting to see the result of Western Australia's plea before they decide to do the same.
My noble friend Lord Salisbury has proposed an Advisory Council in place of the Committee's solution. The noble Marquess, Lord Zetland, the other day, in a most brilliant and interesting speech, pooh-poohed and made light of my noble friend's suggestion, and to-day one noble Lord—I think it was my noble friend Lord Peel—said that that proposal had been revived from the "dustbin" of the Statutory Commission's Report. That, let me remark in passing, is rather the way in which the Statutory Commission's 525 Report is apt to be referred to nowadays. My Lords, it may be a good or bad suggestion, but it was the Statutory Commission's own recommendation, or virtually so. What did they recommend? These are the very words they used:We wish to suggest that steps should be taken now to devise the creation and setting up of a standing consultative body containing representatives both from British India and the Indian States, with powers of discussion and of mailing and recording deliberative results on topics falling within the list of matters of common concern.That being so, it is really childish to say that what was reform yesterday is mere reaction to-day. We believe that a strong Central Government such as we propose is of vital importance to the functioning of provincial autonomy. I venture to say that no one who has governed a great Province in India and who realises how small is the number of people who are available for Ministerial posts and for wielding the authority of Government, can look upon the proposals of the present Government without dismay. The very best brains in the Provinces will all be needed there to make that great experiment a success, but they will be drifting off to the hub at Delhi and Simla, leaving the experiments at the perimeter practically deserted by those who could solve them.
I pass to make a few comments upon the statement which my noble friend Lord Linlithgow made yesterday in this House. I, unfortunately, through indisposition, was not able to hear him myself, but I read his speech with great interest and attention this morning, and, if he will allow me to say so, I cannot imagine a statement more calculated still further to increase our anxieties with regard to finance than that which he made yesterday. The noble Marquess summoned to his aid the most cheerful prophet he could find in the shape of Sir George Schuster, who was, as everybody knows, a very brilliant Finance Member recently in India. Let me read what the noble Marquess said, quoting from Sir George Schuster:All the Governments, both Federal and Provincial, are going to have—as Governments are having in every country in the world—an extremely difficult time, unless there is a fundamental improvement in the situation. But that does not mean that the new Governments cannot function.Of course any Government can function! The Soviet Governments are functioning 526 to-day at the expense of famine and misery throughout their countryside.
What we want to know—it is a fair question and perhaps the noble Viscount who is going to reply at the end of this debate will answer—is whether the Government think the new Governments they are setting up to-day will be able to function without imposing still further burdens of taxation on the masses of the people of India. That is the first consideration of all of us. The Joint Select Committee admit that there are formidable financial problems, but they go on—I think rather too comfortably—to assume that His Majesty's Government will review the financial position and inform Parliament how matters stand. Yes, my Lords, but before we are told anything about this, we are asked to-day to pass the plan and equip them with a blank cheque before we even know what the cost of the bill is going to be.
May we look for one moment at the economic situation in India? Has there not been rather too rosy a picture given of it? Memories are short. People here may have forgotten—I am sure the peoples of India will not have forgotten—the disastrous results which followed the Babington-Smith Committee of 1920, when the rupee was fixed at 2s. gold, when by a stroke of the pen the burden of every sterling obligation in the country was doubled, which in a few weeks involved the Indian treasury in a loss of about £35,000,000; and when producer and trader were thrown alike into ruin and despair. I was in India at the time and I remember it myself. Even the salvage work of the Hilton Young Committee only partially remedied the damage. All this was the direct preliminary to the prolonged fall in commodity prices which has had such depressing effects on agriculture and industry ever since.
We have only to look to-day at the ordinary signs of prosperity or the reverse to see the effects. If we look at the earnings of the State railways or the earnings of the municipalities, the district boards, the port trusts, all the self-governing bodies, we find them all in great difficulties. Provincial Governments are in almost equally bad situations. We muss remember, my Lords, in this House, that agriculturists' incomes in India have diminished by no less than £360,000,000 in quite recent years. 527 Imagine the effect of that on Provincial Budgets which depend so much upon agriculture and on land revenue for their fortunes. Naturally the result is that the Provincial Budgets have only barely been balanced, if that—and many of them have not been balanced—and the Central Government has only got its Budget balanced by continually increasing taxation, with the result that the less taxpayers in India have earned the more in recent years they have been asked to pay! Do we realise, too, that the value of India's export and import trade is less by half to-day than it was ten years ago? And on the top of that India has got to face the intense hurricane of Japanese competition.
As Sir George Schuster has been quoted, I should like, if I am not wearying the House, to read a further quotation which is of some importance from the speech he made in the Budget debate at Delhi in 1933. That speech has received, I think, too scant attention in this country. This is an extract from the speech as reported in the Statesman of June 2:I want to ask honourable Members to consider what are the tasks to be put upon the Central Government by the Constitution plans which are now pending. I feel that in this discussion, and in all discussions which are going on to-day finance is being considered in an atmosphere of unreality. Here we are at present just able to balance our Budget, although, as honourable Members have pointed out and as I myself recognise in our Budget Speech, our imports, and therefore our Customs revenue stands at a level many crores higher than is justified by the exports of merchandise. Yet even with that adventitious assistance we are only just able to balance our Budget, and then we have the constitutional changes impending which show a vast amount of additional burdens.Sir George Schuster went on to mention some of the main items—separation of Burma, which he said would mean a loss of three crores in the Central Budget; surrender of half the tax on jute to Bengal, another loss of about two crores; subventions to the deficit Provinces, eighty lakhs in Sindh, twenty-five lakhs for Orissa, and so on; and the setting up of a Reserve Bank. Then he went on to say:All these items together—I have not got them in my head—but the total of these and other charges will come to about eleven crores. On the top of that the Central Government are supposed to hand over more than half the Income Tax "—which I notice, according to Whitaker, is probably twenty crores, so that adds 528 another ten crores or twenty-one crores in all. That is not quite the same picture, either in figures or atmosphere, as that which we have had painted to us in this House, in the last few days. I can only say from practical experience—and I doubt whether my noble friend the Marquess of Zetland, who has had similar experience, would contradict me—that I believe that the result of these reforms must be an increase of expenditure in the Provinces. Certainly the evidence points that way. Since 1921, since the reforms came in, I think it is quite clear that there has been a 20 per cent. increase at least, apart from Army expenditure, in the cost of government. If you add to that the steady and large increase in the population, I think one must come to the conclusion that the situation is a dark one, and that to hand over 360,000,000 people to an entirely experimental form of government is at least a very grave and dangerous experiment.
There is one thing which I think the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, mentioned the other day. I do not often find myself in agreement with those who sit on the Benches over there, but in this case I do agree. It has been argued that when Indians are in charge of their own affairs they may find the remedy themselves for this difficult financial situation. But, my Lords, if I may remind you, this is precisely what the Government under their proposals are not going to let them do. Under the new Reserve Bank Act Indians are specifically prevented from changing the ratio of the rupee, from opening the Indian mints for fresh coinage, from coining more silver money, from doing in fact any of those things which certainly 90 per cent. of experts in India believe to be almost the only way to reproduce agricultural prosperity in India in our time. That, I think, is not an unfair picture. I have tried not to overstate the case. If I have, I am sure there are plenty of noble Lords who will be willing to correct me. But I repeat that it is a very grave and dangerous situation.
May I turn new for one moment to some remarks made by my noble friend Viscount Halifax, in the speech he made at the beginning of this debate. My noble friend stated, as regards law and order, that "the Committee followed"—he was referring to the Joint Select Committee if course—"the recommendations of the Statutory Commission." I am sure he 529 did not mean to mislead the House, but this is a misleading statement. Indeed it is not accurate. The Statutory Commission only recommended transfer of law and order subject to very important qualifications which my noble friend failed to mention. The Governor, for instance, was to have power to appoint one or more Ministers, an independent member, if he liked of the Indian Civil Service, to take charge of the portfolio. The transfer again was conditioned by the existence of exactly what the Government are not going to give them—a strong Unitary Government at the Centre responsible to the Crown and to Parliament here. It is therefore misleading, if I may venture to say so, to suggest that the Joint Select Committee have adopted the proposals of the Statutory Commission in regard to law and order. By such strong provisions as those, and no less, were the liberties of both British and Indians buttressed and secured under the Report of the Statutory Commission.
My noble friend also said that the proposal of the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, to delay transfer "for a reasonable time"—you will remember the words—would alienate and embitter all Indian opinion. He reminded us (I hope I shall quote him fairly) that… the whole of our British and Imperial experience shouts at us the warning that representative government without responsibility, once political consciousness has been aroused, is apt to be a source of great weakness and, not impossibly, great danger.I think that is an accurate quotation. The Government talk to us a great deal about good will in connection with these reforms. But, my Lords, there is nothing so calculated to alienate good will as to lead people to expect that they are going to get something which in fact they are not going to get. My thirty years' experience in the East has taught me one thing at least, and that is that Indians amongst others, of whom so many are of high breeding and quick perception, do not mind any amount of candour provided it is coupled with courtesy, but they are very apt to confuse disappointment with deception, and that leads to grave ill-will.
One would imagine that, my noble friend having said all this, he would be the last to delay transfer, least of all in an area "where political consciousness 530 had been aroused." But that is exactly what he and the Committee propose to do. Pages 52 and 54 of the Report, if your Lordships will read them, show that their confidence in the capacity of Indians to manage their own affairs falls short of any emergency. In normal circumstances they are willing to hand over law and order to Ministers, and even then riot all of it, for they propose to enthrone in the Police Department the dyarchy which they deprecate in every other Department of Government, and to wreck its efficiency by a division of authority which a decade of personal experience in handling rough circumstances in two countries in the East has taught me is utterly unworkable. Security Services cannot successfully be placed under divided control, for the functions of district magistrates, magistrates and Police, the whole administration system of law and order, are interdependent, and control cannot be separated without dislocating the whole system. If there are noble Lords hero who do not believe it, I only ask them to go and handle a really disturbed situation and then see what they can do with divided control in their Police organisation.
But when there is a menace to peace, then my noble friend provides that the Governor may take over not only the Police Department but I think any other Department of Government and remove from the hands of Ministers all control and exercise it by the Government itself; and in the case of Bengal, far from only delay, if the situation should not have materially improved they are to be taken over forthwith. This is not the moment to discuss how necessary these special provisions are. I for one should think them very necessary indeed; but if I may respectfully say so, it is, I think, amazing for a body of men who assert that there cannot be any real responsibility without effective transfer of law and order, who insist that a system of representative government without responsibility is weak and even dangerous, then to make solemn recommendations not only to delay, but actually to deprive Ministers, not of one portfolio only, but possibly of all, and this in an area more "politically conscious" than any other at all in India. My Lords, I really cannot believe that good will can be won by proposals in which profession and practice are so violently at war.
531 I noticed with great interest some remarks made by my noble friend Lord Zetland in regard to safeguards. The noble Lord asked why we pressed for safeguards if we doubted their efficacy. My noble friend Lord Rankeillour gave him, I think, the right answer: we take them for what they are worth. What indeed would have been thought of the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, and his colleagues on the Joint Select Committee if they had not tried to support anything which would have mitigated the recklessness of the Majority? In the absence of a strong Central Government we simply must have safeguards for what they are worth. I do not say that safeguards are always valueless; what we say is that the Government are placing much too much reliance on them.
I hope your Lordships will not mind if I mention for a moment some personal experience; it is that even when a safeguard has value and its operation is found to be necessary, there are a number of powerful factors which are employed to influence the Governor against their use. In a local crisis, he has first of all to face immense opposition in his local council, in the Press, in his own Parliament; possibly, opposition from Delhi, and almost certainly from Whitehall. I know from my own experience the kind of arguments which are so often used to shake the determination of the man on the spot. One is asked "to take a broader view." One is told: "You were sent out because you had Parliamentary experience; I hope you will not forget our Parliamentary difficulties at this end." "Please do not lose your sense of proportion. Your local difficulties, I know, loom very large, but please do not forget the Cabinet's difficulties. Remember we have got an Election in two years' time." "There is an anxious situation in Europe." You can hear it all! Have we not all had it said to us? I remember struggling with a situation of immense complexity in Egypt, when the Cabinet had agreed to every step that I was taking, and yet at the last minute: "Please remember our difficulties here. Please remember that there is a General Election in a year and a half's time. We do not want to hear anything about Egypt," and so on.
Those are the facts of the situation. No one will, for instance, doubt Sir William Marris's authority to speak about the reforms and their working. He was 532 for no less than ten years a most distinguished Governor under the Montagu-Chelmsford reform scheme. And what did he say? Referring to safeguards, he said:. … during the past ten years out of anxiety to avoid using them [the safeguards] the Government of India has repeatedly been forced into positions which it is difficult to believe its better judgment would have accepted.That is the verdict on safeguards of a man who was in favour of the reform scheme, who was at the side of Mr. Edwin Montagu when he made them, and yet his experience of safeguards is that which I have told you. Put in a nutshell, the chief infringement of a reserve comes as a rule not by infraction but by erosion, and the kind of safeguard that can be introduced into a Bill is of little or no value at all when you are dealing with a power which is determined to erode your reserved position and to nibble it away bit by bit.
If such are the difficulties—and I have mentioned only one or two of them—which face a British Governor, they are nothing to those that are going to-morrow to surround an Indian Governor. You say, "We are not talking about Indian Governors." But, my Lords, you will have to talk about them. If you pass these reforms to-day there is nothing in logic, in reason, or indeed in fairness, which is going to entitle you to say to Indians—that is to say, if you want their good will—if they are fit to govern themselves—that in every Province an Indian Governor should not administer. Then what will become of all your safeguards? However well disposed and brilliant the Indian Governor is, it is common knowledge to all who have served in India that the difficulties of an Indian official are infinitely greater than those of a British official, for a thousand reasons which I will not enumerate. I do beg of your Lordships then to believe that the safeguards have infinitely less value than many of your Lordships, who are not familiar with the East, would readily understand. Remember also that the Indians have been perfectly frank with us all along in this matter. Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru has already said openly that the intention of the Moderates in India is to "whittle down the safeguards," while the high priest of Moderate Liberalism in India, Mr. Shastri, in discussing the question 533 of British recruitment of the Indian Civil Service and Police for only five years more, said that that safeguard was an "intolerable indignity." If that is the attitude towards so mild a proposal as that, are we not right to be a little careful, and very anxious about the question of safeguards?
I turn from that for one moment, if I may, to speak very briefly about a passage which fell from the lips of the most reverend Primate in the second day's debate, in regard to the position of Indian Christians. We listened, of course, with very deep respect and interest, as we always do, to the assurances of the most reverend Primate with regard to this question. He referred to criticisms which he said had been made—I have not heard them—of his being on the Joint Select Committee. May I say, respectfully, that I think it was of the highest value that he should have been on the Joint Select Committee, and that the spiritual side should have been represented in our deliberations; but his comparative contentment about the position of the Indian Christians a little bit surprised me. I wish I could share his confidence. I have a letter from the Catholic Archbishop of Simla, written so recently as the end of September—and we have to remember that three-fifths of the Indian Christians are Catholics—pleading for what he called the "six and a-half millions of unsafeguarded Christians."
The Archbishop of Simla—in this case the much-talked-of man on the spot, who is sometimes regarded and sometimes not—does not appear to feel so happy as does the most reverend Primate, for referring to the recent debate in the All-India Legislature on this subject, he says that "The Government's reply demurring to the resolution [for safeguarding Indian Christians] was feeble, irrelevant and illogical." In the same debate Dr. de Sousa, representing the Indian Christians, said:Although their fundamental rights were seriously threatened by the White Paper, they were not given a hearing or represented in the Delegation which appeared before the Joint Select Committee.He added, speaking for the Indian Christians:We are gradually being elbowed out from our position in the Public Services.534 Believe me, the fears of Indian Christians have every justification. I have in my house at this moment a plea from missionaries in Egypt—such pleas as I often receive asking me to intervene with the Government for the protection of this or that minority. The particular case in question is that of an Egyptian woman, a Mahomedan who married a Christian and became a Christian. She was driven out of her own village and Province, and even out of the country, and forced to reside, I believe, in Palestine. We have given guarantees for the safety of minorities in Egypt. In 1922 we pledged ourselves to protect all minorities. Yet the British Government refuse to intervene in this case, and this lady is not able to live in her own home or village.
We do not intervene, and when we have handed over power in India to an Elective Assembly we shall not intervene there on behalf of these people, because we shall be unable to do so effectively, any more than we could intervene in Ireland. As my right honourable friend said in another place, the Government has had power to intervene and could move an Army to Ireland. Why do they not do so? Because once they have handed over their authority to an Elective Legislature, they have forfeited their power to intervene in any effective way, much less by force of arms.
If that is the case, I ask your Lordships ought we not to see the Bill before we agree to the policy? In a very eloquent peroration which was delivered by Lord Zetland—if he will allow me so to describe it; perhaps it, is not fair to analyse perorations too closely—the noble Marquess said that if we wished Indian public men to act responsibly, then we must give them responsibility. I noticed the murmur of applause with which that was received. How unquestionable an observation that seems. Nobody could disagree with it. Yet I think we ought to be very cautious before accepting it as being true, of the East at any rate. It is indeed not always true of the West. We gave Ireland responsibility. Have her public men behaved responsibly? You may say: "Oh, but that is only Ireland." Well let us remember the case of Italy. At the close of her period of responsible government the economic situation crashed in corruption and the country in communist control. So much for the 535 West. Look at the East. The Turks and the Persians were given responsibility. Did they respond? We gave the Egyptians responsibility. The more we gave the less responsibility they showed. That is commonly agreed. Over and over again the responsible system has crashed to the accompaniment of bloodshed and recrimination. We gave it to Ceylon, and the less said about that the better!
The Central Legislature in India has had it. It has had the two great responsibilities of the voting of the Budget and the enactment of legislation, and yet Sir Basil Blackett, in his last speech to the Legislative Assembly in India, was constrained to use these words:My difficulty to-day is that I see at every turn this Assembly to all appearances trying to commit political suicide. Every opportunity that is given to it of showing that it has a responsibility and can use it is taken to prove that it is irresponsible.It may be said: "They have not had time. After a while the charm of responsibility will work." Yes, my Lords, but that is our point. In the meantime while the charm is working, what is going to become of the people?
My noble friend Lord Hastings made light of the people who talk as if we were not going to give the people votes, or at any rate, as if we were not going to give them immediately. He said: "They will soon learn to look after themselves." I wonder if they will. I remember so well the leader of the Congress, Mr. C. R. Das, saying in 1922:If to-day the British Government were to grant provincial autonomy with central responsibility, I, for one, would protest against it, for it will lead to the concentration of power in the hands of the middle class, and I do not believe the middle class will ever part with their power.Mr. Das knew something about the Indian mind, and I agree with Mr. Das. If once you part with your power, you are going to put the masses of the people in the hands of the old, able autocracy or oligarchy which succeeded in governing them for hundreds of years, and who will never willingly part with their power once you have handed it over to them.
In this House for centuries your Lordships have had the final authority, the delaying authority—the delaying authority, irrespective of Parties, irrespective of Governments—to take your own course and to put that mark of prudence and care upon the perhaps hastier work of 536 to their policy, they will lose nothing whatever by abandoning it. There is not a single one of your Lordships who votes on our side to-day who will be voting against the Government's policy. All you will be doing will be retaining in your hands, absolutely free and unimpaired, others. I am a very recent member of your Lordships' House, but I have been thirty years in the East, not as a Governor all of the time but amongst the people, of them, knowing their languages, talking with them; and may I respectfully say one word? Beware, my Lords, at playing at politics in India. That is the most dangerous thing, because you will lose the game. And you will lose much more than that. You will lose your honour and your repute with it, and you will forfeit the confidence, and rightly forfeit the confidence, of the 360 millions of people who look to your Lordships in this House as the only anchor of their future.
What are we asking? We are not reactionaries. Everybody is talking as if we meant to take no stride forward. They keep on repeating: "You must go forward. You cannot go back." That, I may mention, was the argument which was used to send the Gadarene swine forward to their destruction. But no one of us suggests going back. We are willing to do all that the Statutory Commission were willing to do only two short years ago. That is not reaction. Is not it the wiser part? I do appeal to your Lordships. There are only a few of us to-day in this House. We are handicapped by the absence of my noble friend Lord Salisbury, whose appeal still rings in our ears this afternoon. Is it not the wiser part, the prudent part, the part of statesmanship—much more than that, the part of duty—to accept the proposal to retain during the process of this great experiment—not much, and yet everything—the ultimate source of our power and authority unimpaired while the charm works, while the experiment in the Provinces is being carried out? If by any chance the thing went wrong—and it might easily go wrong; it has indeed gone wrong everywhere else in the East—if grave misgovernment should ensue, inflicting terrible injuries upon the people, then you would have lost your power of intervention and you would have to watch the disaster impotent and ashamed.
537 I would appeal to the Government to-day. I know it seems a lot to suggest, but I hope the Government will not think me presumptuous for suggesting it. I would ask the Government not to press their Resolution, but to accept our Amendment; because, after all, if their Resolution is not intended to commit us the power to judge the Bill on the merits when it comes forward. Is not that a thing which it is reasonable to ask your Lordships to do? If, on the other hand, as I gravely fear, the Government's Resolution is intended to commit us, then I respectfully beg your Lordships not to ignore Lord Salisbury's advice, based as it was on mature and proved experience, and long leadership of the House, and retain your freedom to vote, with all the weight of this House's ancient wisdom, as you think best when, but only when, the Bill is before you.
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
My Lords, no member of your Lordships' House can speak in relation to India and the East with greater authority than the noble Lord who has just sat down, and I can only say for myself that when he pleads for more time and more opportunity for thought and examination, I regret that he did not avail himself of the opportunity that was offered to him by the Government to sit on that Committee and take his part with us in the consideration of all the problems that were before us. Because, if he will forgive me for saying so—and nobody knows it better than I—it is a much easier thing to make these statements across the floor of the House than to consider them when sitting round a table, when we can put questions to each other and arrive eventually either at a solution or a disagreement. I regret very deeply that, with the knowledge that he has on the subject, and with the capacity that he has for expressing his views, he did not take the same position as Lord Salisbury and those associated with him. And when I say that, I would like to add that I think that we in the Committee owed the noble Marquess and those associated with him a real debt, for they helped us most materially. Whilst we were not able to agree on some fundamental issues, nevertheless they did supply us with material for discussion upon which we reached conclusions. With the noble Marquess and with the noble Lord, Lord 538 Rankeillour, who has a special knowledge of certain subjects such as the audit of accounts and so forth, they really did help the Committee.
I will now deal with the various points raised in the course of the argument, but I would just like to make this observation at the start. The noble Lord has quoted and relied strongly, apparently, upon statements which I have not before me, but which he read out, and which I assume were complete in so far as they were laid before us—statements made by Sir George Schuster, the Finance Minister, and Sir Basil Blackett when he was Finance Minister, either in my time or just after it—in support of the arguments which he addressed to your Lordships. I am not going to attempt to-day to discuss details of finance. But I would like to say that both Sir George Schuster and Sir Basil Blackett are strong supporters of the proposals which are now being put before you by the Government. And, whatever they may have said, I should be very surprised if in the course of the many discussions that have taken place on this subject one could not pick out sentences open to criticism from the remarks of anybody. Although I have been a very strong supporter of them from a certain moment, I have no doubt I have made observations casting some doubt upon the value of safeguards; indeed, from the very first I made it a condition that the safeguards should be effective before I would support the proposals that were coming before your Lordships' House.
Now I will pass from these subjects, dealing with some other points raised by the noble Lord in due course as I proceed with my speech. I will only make this observation at the outset. It is impossible to go into all the matters of detail which have been discussed and which have been raised by the noble Lord himself to-day. All we can do is to concentrate upon the main problems, to deal with the main issues, and leave the minor issues for consideration when the Bill is introduced into your Lordships' House and is considered in Committee. We can only concentrate on main principles. If we had sat as a Committee for another five years we could never have attempted to settle every point of detail that arises. I propose to address my observations to the main questions, leaving others for a later stage.
539 May I say at once that I was a supporter of the White Paper. I desire to say now, after the 159 sittings of the Committee, that I think in some respects the recommendations in the Report are an improvement upon the White Paper. As an instance—I am not going into them in detail—I refer to the special precautions taken against terrorism and to the strengthening of the powers of the Governors and of the Governor-General over the Police, police intelligence, and so forth. It was always intended, as I have understood from the first, that these matters should be considered, and certainly the discussions in Committee were of the greatest value. I accept what fell from the noble Marquess, Lord Zetland, when speaking yesterday, and to him, if I may, I should like to pay with all respect a high compliment for the speech that he made, because I think it was of the greatest value to the discussions we are having, as were so many of the observations he addressed to us in Committee.
I must add one observation, as an instance of why in some respects I prefer the White Paper to the recommendations of the Report. Whether I am right or wrong is a matter upon which your Lordships can decide when the matter comes before us in Committee. I do not take up time in discussing it now, because it is of comparatively minor importance, having regard to the decision and the statements in regard to it in the Report. That is in relation to indirect election. Our view—that of myself and of those associated with me—has been that election to the Lower Chamber of the Federal Legislature should be direct election and not indirect as is now proposed. I do not trouble your Lordships with arguments on the question now, but I would add that the Indian view is strongly in favour—indeed I am right in saying unanimously in favour—of direct election. By the Majority of the Committee, preference was given to indirect election. I admit quite frankly there are difficulties whichever proposal is adopted. Undoubtedly it is a very troublesome question.
I cannot believe you will get a true representation in the Federal Legislature by the indirect system proposed—that is, in the Lower Chamber where indirect election is to take place; but I leave the matter there. I am particularly anxious 540 not to be drawn into discussion about it. I would merely make this observation, addressed perhaps more to Indians than to your Lordships, in the hope that some of them may read it and may be impressed by it, that, however strongly they may feel upon this point, whatever resentment some of the delegates may now be feeling because of the views they represented and brought forward in the Committee, they should nevertheless bear in mind that the Committee's decision was not reached in the main, I think I am justified in saying—and there are members of the Committee present who took a different view from me and who will correct me if I am wrong—because they were so pleased with the indirect system proposed.
No better arguments could have been put forward than were made by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, when he introduced his Amendment, and he really said everything we have been saying against the indirect system of election; but the difficulty foreseen is that if you continue direct election, which has been the system since Parliament enacted it in 1919, there would be a difficulty if afterwards you want to go in for indirect election. It would be preferable to try indirect election and, assuming that system does not work well, or even a better system of indirect election is not found, then you may have recourse to direct election. It would be easier to go from indirect to direct than from direct to indirect. I and those who are associated with me accepted that view, because we realise that it is not a cardinal matter, although we may make an attempt to raise it later. It does not touch the really vital questions with which we have to deal.
May I just ask you to consider what is in substance the whole question before us? It is true that the form of the Amendment is that we should delay and not accept the proposal that the recommendations of the Report should form the basis of the Bill. I think the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, dealt with that quite effectively last night, and all I would say is I do not understand at this moment why it is the noble Marquess introduced this particular form of dilatory Motion or why, on the other hand, he was not prepared to put forward the views he laid before the Committee and put them as the Amendment to the proposals of 541 the Government. But let us pass from that.
I cannot myself understand how it is that you will be in any better position after you have read the Bill than you are after reading the Report of the Committee which is now before you. That, at least, is expressed in ordinary language which most of us can understand. I have had a very long experience of Statutes, both in my practice and in Parliament, and later on the Bench, and I can say that I should deeply regret it if I were forced into the position of having to glean what is proposed by reference to Statutes rather than by reading a volume such as this Report, however lengthy, from which we can understand, particularly from the sequence, exactly what is proposed. For some reason this course has been adopted. Fortunately in this House, as so often happens, we have dealt really with the merits of the whole situation, and I am glad of it. The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, which he has just made with such force and power, nevertheless was an argument, not for delay, but against the proposals in the Report. I quite understand this view which he and those associated with him have taken, but may I ask your Lordships just to consider where we are in regard to this matter?
I suppose there is nothing that is clearer than this, that since the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms came into existence we have always known there would have to be reconsideration at the end of ten years, or a little before the ten years. It is well to take stock of the situation as it then stood. You will remember that power was given under the Act of 1919 which led to the appointment of the Simon Commission to enquire as to whether and to what extent we should modify or restrict the reforms that had been granted. There is common ground on quite a number of matters to which I want to direct your Lordships' attention. First of all, there is no suggestion of any kind that there should be any restriction upon the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms, no suggestion that there should be any retrograde movement. I gather from what the noble Lord said just now that he agrees that some advance must be made. Further, there can be no stand-still policy. We must go ahead. We must make some advance. Again, I may point out that 542 there is no suggestion at this moment even from those who take a different view upon one point—those who sit on the Benches close to me—that we should have a fuller inquiry, but there are suggestions from them that there should be things included in future which in the Report are not included.
The only question therefore that is left—and I beg your Lordships' consideration to this—is how far we should advance. The noble Lord has said that he and those associated with him are making an advance. As we know, their policy, if. I may put it quite briefly, is that provincial autonomy should be granted with the reservation of law and order, and that there should be no responsibility at the Centre, but at most that there should be what has been called a Central Advisory Council. I would ask your Lordships to pause for a moment to examine where we are. I ask you to bear in mind throughout that what we are considering and what those who are opposed to us also have in mind is that an advance must be made. Some of your Lordships may not perhaps recall at this moment that under the Act of 1919, and ever since these reforms were inaugurated, as they were in 1921, when I went there, the Provinces have had the transfer of everything that is substantial in administration, except two things. One was land revenue and the other was law and order.
Now on land revenue there is no controversy of any kind and never has been. We have all been agreed that that should be transferred to the Provinces, and it has never formed the subject of any serious discussion or controversy. It is not suggested now that it should not be transferred. Your Lordships see then what the position is. The Provinces have had those reservations to which I have referred up to the present moment, and now it is proposed, after all this period, after the thirteen years during which time they are entitled to say that it is admitted that the reforms have not worked so badly, that there should be a restriction on them, or practically no forward movement when we are all agreed that there must be a forward movement.
The whole of the argument of those who do not agree with us, and which was advanced by the noble Lord, is that law and order should be reserved. There is no reality in any suggestion of autonomy 543 with such reservation, and the noble Lord knows it quite well. It is idle to pretend that you are giving real provincial autonomy and yet reserving law and order. Nowhere is that more unreal than in India. I would like to call to the noble Lord's attention that when we had a debate in this House in April, 1933, upon the appointment of the Joint Select Committee the noble Lord then spoke, and I had the honour of following him and replying to the debate. This very question was then raised between us. I do not want to trouble your Lordships by reading the whole of what was said, but what I understand to be the effect of what he then said was contained in these words of the noble Lord:I am sorry to interrupt the noble Marquess, but it is an important point, and I would like to make my position clear. He has stated my view perfectly correctly, provided that he will not forget the dilemma which I sketched to the House—namely, that I believed there was no reality unless you transferred, but I feared there would be no security if you did; "—this is referring to law and order—and therefore, while I believe in the main that you have got to hand over law and order in the Provinces "—that was what the noble Lord said in April of 1933—it makes me doubly sure that the policy of devolution at the Centre at the same time is very dangerous.
§ LORD LLOYD
I do not want to interrupt the noble Marquess, but as he has specifically referred to me I should like to make the position clear. I have always gone a little further than some of my friends in this matter. My position has always been this, that there is very little reality in responsible government without law and order, but you had the dilemma to face and it still remains. I would be willing to hand over law and order with the risks involved provided I had a strong enough Central Government, but you are not giving me a strong enough Central Government.
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
I am much obliged to the noble Lord. That states exactly what I understood to be his position in April, 1933. I would call his attention to one fact, not that I want to press too far upon him anything he may have said. I do not want to repeat the observations I made at an earlier stage of my address to your Lordships to-day. I am not pressing this against 544 him for the purpose of making that point. I want to say that whilst he had it well in mind he, as an experienced Governor, realised that there was no reality in the transfer unless you did transfer law and order, and he agrees with that view to-day. That is the point I want to make. What is the alternative? When we are considering a subject of this gravity, when we are dealing with the whole future of our Empire in India, I beg your Lordships to think what it is that is proposed to you against the recommendations of the Report. It is proposed that you should make—what? A grant of this provincial autonomy with a reservation which the noble Lord himself, one of the great protagonists of the opposition, admits makes any transfer unreal. He says he is not in accord with those who have taken the view hitherto that law and order should not be transferred.
§ LORD LLOYD
I do not want to interrupt, but the noble Marquess is pressing my point a little far. I want to make clear what is my position. The noble Marquess is suggesting that my conduct is not quite consistent. Of course, there is no complete reality in transfer; I should not say there is no reality. After all, we do not control the Police even in this country, but, of course, to have a complete transfer you must transfer law and order. But we have to move by stages and security has got to be considered further.
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
I shall not pursue it. I have made the point I desired to make. We are very limited in time and I am anxious not to take up time. I am trying to be brief in my observations. What I desire to press on your Lordships is the only alternative that we are considering to the plan which has been evolved after consideration in three Round-Table Conferences, by the Simon Commission, by the Commissions that went out to India, by the 159 sittings of the thirty-two members of the Joint Select Committee. It is this, I almost said ridiculous suggestion, because of the really diminutive character of the extra advance that is now to be made after seven years' inquiry, after all that has been held out to the Indians who came over here and sat with us at the Round-Table Conference and afterwards. After 545 all that, what is to be offered is this very small advance.
Before passing to consider other aspects of this question, I pause for a moment to reply to one of the questions put by the noble Lord. After the declaration of the Princes I took the view that there should be responsibility at the Centre. I took that view only after grave thought and consideration—not hurriedly by any means—after consultation with those with whom I was closely associated and, I may add, with those with whom I was not closely associated. After that statement made by the Princes, I changed the view I had held and decided that, if there was Federation and the Princes would come in so that there would be union of All-India, then I would be prepared to give responsible government, subject to certain safeguards. The noble Lord said that although Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru was absent I could give an explanation. I do not know what he supposes I can tell your Lordships that is not known already. I know nothing about the genesis of the Princes' declaration. Nothing surprised me more than that declaration of the Princes. No more dramatic announcement was ever made at any Conference or any political meeting at which I have been present. I believe that it surprised everybody else.
Your Lordships will bear in mind that Federation has been the dream of us all, but we have never been able to give effect to it because the key to the door was in the hands of the Princes. Until they unlocked the door voluntarily we were absolutely powerless. When I was in India, and constantly had to keep in view all the difficulties involved in daily administration, I asked myself every day how we were to continue to govern India. Remember that Mr. Gandhi was then at the height of his power, the greatest height he ever reached, in the years 1921–22, when there was agreement between him and the Hindus and the Moslems, and they were all working together against our Government. I ask you whether you think I could ever rise in the morning or could ever go to bed at night without putting to myself the question what was to happen. There were roughly 350,000,000 Indians and 135,000 British all told in the country, counting in 60,000 or 70,000 soldiers. Men, women and children went to make up the remainder. 546 I ask you to put to yourselves the question that I had to put to myself. I ask you, if you reject the Report, to consider what there is in the future for us, and how we are to carry on in the years to come in the government of India.
All I would say to you with regard to Federation is that when that door was once opened it gave us the prospect for which we had always been hoping, of stability in India. That is the only word to express compendiously what it meant. The reason why Federation is of such importance is that the Princes, in their own interests, are involved in the matters that concern us most. If the Princes come into a Federation of All-India, and you have therefore one Government of All-India with the conditions, into which I will not enter at the moment, which the Princes have made, at least you can say that in the future, as India learns to govern herself and assume the responsibility which it is proposed to confer upon her, there will always be a steadying influence. I will tell you how I put it to myself. It may be that some will criticise me for it. I ask myself the question, what will be the result if the Princes are with us. It must follow that in both the Lower Chamber of the Federal Legislature and in the Upper Chamber of the Federal Legislature you will have a large proportion of representatives of the Princes. That will be a steadying, a stabilising influence more valuable to us than appears perhaps at first sight.
What is it we have most to fear? There are those who agitate for independence for India, for the right to secede from the Empire altogether. I believe myself that it is really an insignificant minority that is in favour of that, but it is an articulate minority and it has behind it the organisation of Congress. It becomes important therefore that we should get what steadying influence we can against that view. The Princes are as interested in the preservation of the connection of India with the British Empire as we are ourselves. They want—and it is an essential feature of every discussion we have had with them—their treaties preserved. Their treaties are treaties with the King. They want to have direct relations with the Viceroy as representing the King, so that in any questions that arise they may go to the Viceroy direct, and not have anything to do with 547 Ministers who are to be responsible to the Legislature under this new scheme. That shows the importance of having their co-operation. In my view the maintenance of internal order and the resistance of anything approaching anarchy or Communism is as much in the interests of the Princes as it is in our interest, and it is also in the interest of the vast majority of Indians.
There again you will have a tremendous great stabilising influence. Remember that under the present proposal there will be approximately 33 per cent. of the Princes who will be members of the Legislature with 40 per cent. in the Upper Chamber. There are, of course, large bodies of Indians who do not take the view of Congress or anything approaching it. So that with that influence in the Federal Legislature, I am not afraid in the slightest degree of anything that may happen, even if Congress managed to get the largest proportion of votes. Then, too, the Princes are as interested as we are in the security of India against external aggression. It is just as important to them as it is to us. If invaders gain the upper hand the Princes go, just as we should have to disappear. Therefore they are with us on those three main questions. May I ask your Lordships to put to yourselves in consideration of this matter the three questions which I put to myself, and to take the answers as I have given them? They cannot be disputed; they are beyond controversy. Then you will see the value of the Federation to the stability of the connection between India and ourselves.
I pass from that to responsibility at the Centre. Again I make the observation, taking up what I said before, that when the Princes' Declaration was made it did create a very powerful impression upon my mind and it did bring me to compliance with the condition which they imposed, that there must be responsibility at the Centre before they could federate. I am utterly at a loss to understand what the noble Lord meant by the insinuation, if there was one, that I could tell you, or that Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru could tell you, what had happened to bring about this Declaration of the Princes. I do not know, and could not follow, why he suggested that. I know no more about it than he does, and it was just as unex-petted 548 to me as it would have been to any of your Lordships. In considering the question of responsibility at the Centre, I would say to your Lordships, let us keep our minds concentrated upon the essential principles. We shall only get confused and lose all sense of proportion by paying too much attention to the questions of detail which are raised, in themselves no doubt of moment but in comparison with the main things really unimportant.
What are they? In the responsible Government, first the Army—the whole of the defence of India—and external affairs are reserved entirely for the Viceroy. There is no question about those, and Indians have accepted that. They do not raise any question there, and that remains entirely with us. Then the peace and tranquillity of India are reserved to the Viceroy and to the Governor of the Province; and rightly, because let me remind you that the Viceroy, the Governor-General, is the head of the Executive in India. He is, of course, the representative of the King, and it is for him to see that peace and tranquillity are maintained. It is essential that he should have not only the right of intervening but the right of control to prevent a menace to peace and tranquillity. That is ceded, and as far as I know no question has been raised; the Indians have not attempted to raise one. Another point is the protection of minorities. That is granted to the Viceroy. Why? That is more in the interests of India perhaps than in the interests of ourselves, but we take the responsibility so far as we are concerned to see that Indian minorities are properly protected.
Then I go to the last points that I would mention; because I do not want to take up too much time. There are other matters, such as protection to the members of the Public Services, which again is vested in the Governor-General, notwithstanding the responsibility at the Centre. That naturally follows; and also the right and indeed the obligation upon him to prevent discrimination or penal treatment in regard to British imports. I only enumerate them; I do not go into detail. The same thing applies with regard to finance. All of this is with the object of giving him the power and with it also all the necessary right to put that power into exercise. 549 He has the right to issue Ordinances; he has the right to pass laws himself if he thinks it necessary. He has the power to do everything that may be necessary. In the same way, though of course there are limitations because of the difference between them, the Governor has the same power in the Province. That is all done with one object, to provide the safeguards which we think are necessary and to make them effective.
I submit to your Lordships that after all the consideration which has been given to them these safeguards are as effective as they can possibly be made. It is of no use saying that they are safeguards on paper. I am myself at least able to tell you that when I was in India there were safeguards—and there are safeguards now—under the Government of India Act, 1919. I had to use them again and again, and never failed to use them when I thought circumstances demanded it and it was necessary to use them either to keep peace and tranquillity or to intervene in the interests of the Indians. No difficulties arose in consequence. There was dissatisfaction no doubt among the members of the Legislature; but nevertheless the safeguards were not paper safeguards, they were very effective.
I think I did remind your Lordships once, and I do so again only that I may bring it to your recollection and just to show that the safeguards are not paper, that out of five Budgets which were introduced during my period of office in India two were passed on my signature because the Lower Chamber refused to accept them, once as a protest against, the raising of a tax and the second time as a constitutional protest. But no difficulty arose. The law was passed and in due course all the formalities followed. The noble Viscount, Lord Halifax, followed me in India, and he had the same kinds of difficulties to deal with during his time. If I may say so with all respect, it is absurd to suggest that safeguards put into a Statute are mere waste paper, when our preoccupation has always been to determine what we could do, as we necessarily should, to avoid having to use a safeguard by getting them to take the right step, though always maintaining, as I think one must, an attitude as conciliatory as possible, but firm nevertheless so that, what you think is necessary shall be done 550 even though you have to use a safeguard.
I want to hurry on so as not to take up your Lordships' time. We have heard much about the risks. Of course every new venture involves risks. Nothing is certain except what cart be demonstrated by science, and after all we have not yet reached that stage in politics. Of course what you have to consider is the balance of risk. It was said by my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack yesterday, and I agree, that it is the balance of these risks which you have to take into account. That is the problem. Is it better to stand still, or to give this miserable advance which is suggested by those who are opposing the recommendations, or is it right to go forward and to give a substantial advance—and it is a substantial advance—taking care nevertheless that you are protected against possible dangers which you cannot help foreseeing may arise if powers become operative which we trust may not?
I have been addressing your Lordships upon this question I am afraid, when I think of it, with perhaps some heat, because I feel very strongly upon it—very strongly indeed. I am at least in this position, that I am addressing your Lordships with no personal ambition at all. There is nothing that can be offered to me at this moment, at my advanced years. All I desire is to be able to serve my country in whatever capacity may come to me, although I have passed the years in which I could accept responsible positions such as might have been offered, and were offered, in the past. I do say this to you, bearing all this in mind and speaking as one who has had some experience of administration in India, and who, ever since that time, has given endless thought and attention to Indian affairs, not because it was an obligation of mine but because of my deep interest in our own country and our own Empire, and India's connection—having had to serve on the Round-Table Conferences and to take part in discussions and serve on Committees and finally on this Joint Select Committee—that I have throughout had but one object in my mind, and that was to do what is best in the interests both of India and of the Empire.
I believe that by giving examples in India of our activities, in accordance 551 with the ideals that we cherish of liberty, justice, fair-play, integrity of purpose, and, perhaps of as much importance as any, of holding faithfully to the promises which we have made, and acting truly in the right spirit and not trying to shelter ourselves behind the letter of a Statute or a Proclamation—I believe that it is by means of these activities that we have been able to keep India. I say it with all the sense of responsibility that one can have at my time of life, and with my experience, that I believe that these British characteristics have had the greatest influence upon India, and have done more to keep our connection with India and India's connection with us than all the forces of the Crown which have been in India during that time.
In conclusion I would ask your Lordships, with all respect, to determine whether the policy of advance, which admittedly is the policy of all—of the opposition as well as of those in favour of the Report—should be unduly niggardly in the proposals formulated upon it, or whether it should be, as I hope and as all history teaches us it should be, generous, and as generous as circumstances and conditions permit. I am not suggesting that we should give without thinking what would be the effect of giving. That would be adopting irresponsibility. I am asking that we should go as far as we legitimately can, and as far as the counsels of prudence and wisdom would dictate to us, with our knowledge of the situation. Bearing that in mind I would ask you to support the Government's proposals. I would ask you to remember that if we reject, or appear to reject, or cavil at, the proposals put before us, we do infinite harm in India. I am not going to attempt to picture to you what the result might be, if most unfortunately that should happen. You are as well able to picture it for yourselves. I do, however, ask you, speaking with the deepest conviction of my mind and my heart, to give your vote and support to the Government, to show your good will, and to show that we in England really are meaning to keep the promises we have made in the past. Thus, we shall keep both India and the Indians as partners with us in the Empire.
§ LORD PONSONBY OF SHULBREDE
My Lords, we are now reaching the concluding 552 stages of a prolonged and very memorable debate. I have listened to the speeches, and those I was unable to hear I have read, and I can hardly imagine that a debate has been held in your Lordships' House in which so many authoritative voices have been raised and so much close knowledge of the subject under discussion has been displayed. Twelve members of the Joint Select Committee have spoken, three ex-Viceroys, five ex-Governors of Provinces, and two ex-Secretaries of State for India, and of those, with the exception of two, all have given their voice with considerable conviction on the side of the Government. Those of us who are less well qualified to speak on this very serious problem must naturally feel influenced to a large extent by such a heavy weight of experienced opinion. The responsibility which falls on Parliament on this question is greater than the responsibility which falls on it usually in matters of domestic legislation, or even of foreign relations, because we have to admit that there is in the electorate considerable ignorance with regard to Indian affairs.
I would venture to say that their voluminous Reports have been read by very few people outside the members of the Joint Select Committee. I wonder how many members of your Lordships' House have digested them. The responsibility on the Government is very great. They have to go forward trusting in the knowledge of those who are closely acquainted with the problem in question. There seem to be three lines of approach to this matter. I will first take the mistrustful and apprehensive. The other two are the trusting and generous and the cautious and conciliating. The mistrustful and apprehensive is represented by the opinion of those who follow the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, whose absence here to-night we all very much regret, because his mere presence in your Lordships' debates always seems to add to the dignity and seriousness of our proceedings. Even when he vacated the post of Leader of the House his attendance was very frequent at your Lordships' debates. This opinion, so far as it is held and expressed by individuals, is an opinion which should be heard and should be met.
With a great deal that fell from the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, I felt myself in partial agreement, and I think the views 553 have been put forward, not only by Lord Lloyd, but by the noble Lord, Lord Rankeillour, and if I may say so, in a very forcible speech by the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill; so that we understand what those who support the noble Marquess fear. Laying down a Constitution for an Oriental country, or rather an Oriental sub-continent, in days when democratic institutions are being discarded, may legitimately cause some fear. But, apart from their opinions on that point, they seem to have been most unwise in tabling the Amendment which is on the Paper. What have the Government done? I am not accustomed to support or commend the Government, but I really feel that in this matter they have proceeded very slowly and very cautiously, and that if this stage had been omitted there would have been a greater cause for complaint and more justification for a protest. What is this stage? It really is the revival of the old stage in Parliamentary procedure, which is a Motion for leave to introduce a Bill. I rather think that the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, when he introduced his measure for the reform of your Lordships' House proceeded in this way. At any rate, it is by no means an unusual procedure, and I think the Government are to be commended for proceeding with caution in this way.
So far for the views of those noble Lords and their supporters in another place as individuals. With regard to their views as a compact section, a political faction, I shall have a word to say in a moment. Now the second approach is the trusting and generous approach. We, on this side, represent the views which are embodied in the Minority Report, and we feel that those views are the generous views which would make the Constitution more acceptable to India, and more secure in its future. I only want to dwell on two points. We very much regret that the expression "Dominion status" has been omitted, and is avoided by the spokesman of the Government. Either it meant something originally, or it meant nothing. If it is simply a name for what the Government intend, then why do not they refer to it in that way? The very fact that they avoid this expression is raising a certain amount of suspicion with regard to their intentions. Secondly, we visualise the masses in India, and we feel that the raising of 554 their status is of paramount importance. We want to see an increase in labour representation. It is under-represented in the Provincial Legislative Chambers, and at the same time I think there are five bicameral Provincial Governments where a Second Chamber will still more weigh the balance against them. To use an expression from the Minority Report, we want to give special protection to those whose economic circumstances render them liable to exploitation. In an interesting speech from the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, he dwelt with great force on the question of the tillers of the soil in India, and we on this side of the House feel that their lot, which at present is so miserable, can be alleviated as time passes if they, as a mass and as individuals, have some voice in the government of their great country.
We do not want the people of India to think that we are handing over to them a cut-and-dried water-tight project, a carefully adjusted form of Constitution, and that we are going to blame them if they do not work it properly at once. We desire rather to lay down the lines of a Constitution which they themselves can expand by testing its efficiency as time passes. Therefore we want to see open-handed generosity from the outset, so that there may be no suspicion that we are holding something back, and that we are going to blame them if things do not turn out as satisfactorily as they should.
The third approach is the cautious and conciliating approach of the Government. Caution is inevitable in a great problem of this sort, but it can be overdone, and over-caution may perhaps prevent the scheme from succeeding as it otherwise might. So far as they have been conciliating they have not been conciliating to the people and the differences in India, but there has been an attempt—an attempt that we consider has gone too far—to conciliate this so-called diehard opinion in the Conservative Party. And now I want to say a word with regard to that movement. I have given full credit to the individuals in it; their views are-interesting, their views should be met, and their views should be fully expressed. But when it comes to this faction coming to your Lordships' House and voting and being treated as a political danger, then I think it is time that we put certain views before you. Whatever dangers 555 there may be before us in this country, the prospect of a Government formed by Mr. Winston Churchill, Sir Henry Page Croft, the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, and others, is not one of the dangers to which we have to look forward, but the Government have gone out of their way to conciliate this faction. They have had to have Tory Councils and Tory conferences; and now, in the great Tory Committee of your Lordships' House, they are finally voting to dispose of this. We consider that it would be as unjustifiable for us to intrude by voting on this occasion as if we had broken into the Bristol Conference or charged into Queen's Hall when the Council met.
Meanwhile, what of the references to the Labour Minority Report? There have been one or two. The noble Marquess who has just sat down referred to it in a passing sentence. The noble Viscount, Lord Halifax, who introduced this Motion, never referred to it at all. I quite understand, with this crowd round us, and half a dozen of us here on these Benches, that it seems obvious that what we think, and what we say, and what we want, and what we project, are entirely negligible; and yet what we desire, the projects that we lay down, are the projects of the next Government of this country. However much you may dislike it, that is inevitable sooner or later, and sooner more likely than later. Therefore we find ourselves here in this extremely unreal Assembly treating with enormous care and with great deliberation a movement that is entirely negligible, and neglecting as absolutely outside the pale the representatives of the future Government of this country on whose shoulders the responsibility is going to rest of guiding, of watching, of controlling, perhaps, in its initial stages, this vast experiment.
The Bill that is going to come in and be passed into law when it has received the Royal Assent is not the end. That is only the beginning. This intricate business of which so few of us can foresee the full implications, this plunge into the future in which these millions of fellow subjects of ours are concerned, presenting them with a new form of government to which they are unaccustomed, hoping that they will have gained by our seven hundred years' experience—all that is problematic. We have to go forward. We have led them on and on, stage by stage, to expect this. We cannot draw 556 back now. We have to go on; but it is not this Government or the next Government or the Government after that that has got to deal with this matter. It is Governments for a generation to come, and I only emphasise the fact that the opinion of the next Labour Government should be treated with a great deal more caution, a great deal more interest, a great deal more respect than we are likely to get so long as your Lordships' House is constituted as it is. This vote is going to be taken. We thirty or forty in this House who attend with great regularity your Lordships' debates see many strange faces here to-night. I want to say a word of commendation to the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, the Government Chief Whip, for the tactful, ingenious, and at the same time, I believe, firm way in which he has fitted into these four days speeches from the many who have desired to express themselves on this subject. I do not want to alarm him at all, but I am told another train is due before half-past seven.
The value and importance of our debates in this House depend on the voices of those who speak and not on the votes of those who happen to attend these debates. It has been an enormously important debate during these four days. I am perfectly certain that nowhere else in this country could you have got any body of men to debate this question in the way it has been debated here. Let this not be spoiled by a ridiculous Division. Noble Lords have been brought up from the country—they have been taking the Oath here at this Box during the last three days—and they could easily outvote the Government. There are 300 or 400 spare ones. How can this be taken seriously as a vote to-night? We refuse to participate in it. There does seem to be something ironical about an Assembly constituted as your Lordships' House is, giving a verdict with regard to constitutional reform in India. If anybody in the Joint Select Committee had come forward and suggested that the Constitution of your Lordships' House should be the Constitution of the Second Chamber in India, what would have happened? The noble Marquess, the Lord Chairman of that Committee, would have quietly and firmly asked that member to withdraw and would have sent him to Han-well. And yet we are going by this amazing procedure, by these votes that are brought here in this way on particular 557 occasions, to give some sort of decision with regard to this very grave matter. It would be a great deal more dignified for this House to-night to set aside this absurd Division and to ask the Government to proceed with the Bill in order that all the differences of opinion may be fully discussed when the measure comes before us.
I do feel a great responsibility. I think it is difficult for Eastern countries to understand Parliamentary institutions. That part of Lord Lloyd's speech in which he dealt with that matter dealt with a point which I have always felt was one which must be very carefully considered. It is difficult for them to recognise that democracy involves the submission of the minority to the rule of the majority without violence, and that it depends on the full right of free expression of criticism and opposition as weapons of persuasion for that minority in their endeavour to take the place of the majority. For a majority to suppress a minority by violence or for a minority to attack a majority by force—both spell the breakdown of democratic institutions, and it is because there has been resort to these methods in so many countries in Europe and in Asia that the Parliamentary system has fallen.
I should like, if I may, very humbly to end by joining with my noble friend Lord Snell in begging the people of India to understand what the attitude of the people of Great Britain really is as we know it, because, after all, the spirit in which this reform is going to be worked is far more important than the letter. We want to appeal to India not to reject it, but to use it; not to magnify its possible faults, but to accept it as a foundation on which to build a full responsible form of government; not to pretend that by disorder you can improve it, but to test it by working it and improve it through experience. We in Great Britain want unity preserved with all the diversities of race and religion and language and habits carefully safeguarded. We want to prove to the world by this measure that, not by despotism, not by autocracy, not by benevolent bureaucracy, but by the corporate effort of a free people, the millions of Indian subjects of His Majesty may reach the high destiny to which they will be entitled by the cultivation of their great intellectual and moral qualities under a 558 system of full responsible self-government.
§ VISCOUNT FITZALAN OF DERWENT
My Lords, I think there is one thing that all of us, no matter to what Party we belong, or to what section of any Party we belong, may congratulate ourselves upon as a result of the debates ill both Houses of Parliament and that is the universal agreement as to the gravity of this great problem. I am going to say but a very few words because I must give time to my noble friend below me, Viscount Hailsham, to wind up the debate, but I should like to say that I am speaking to-night, and especially at this hour at the end of this debate, with the greatest possible reluctance and with a great sense of responsibility. I wish it could have so happened that I had not been left to speak on behalf of the noble Marquess who cannot be here at the end of this debate.
I would like at the outset to allude shortly to one point to which the most reverend Primate referred. It was also alluded to to-day by my noble friend Lord Lloyd. I refer to the position of the Indian Christians. I will not say all I had intended to say upon that because of the short time at my disposal. The most reverend Primate referred to the All-India Christian Association, as I think it is called, which is representative of all denominations. I believe my own denomination happens to be the least numerous, being only about one-third of all the Indian Christians in India. I want to emphasise what happened during last summer when Mr. Rakia Ram, the honorary secretary of that Association, was in this country. He is not a co-religionist of mine, but, speaking on behalf of Indian Christians, he said that they had grave anxiety as to their future owing to being under, as they are under, the Government of the Province. He pointed out that it was not that they were anxious regarding anything in the shape of persecution or things of that kind, but that they did feel they were heavily handicapped by coming under the pin-pricking of those who have no sympathy with them and who would interfere with the administration of their religion in such matters as education and so on.
They therefore suggested that something might be done, that a Minority 559 Bureau might be set up, with a view to acquainting the Viceroy and the Governors of their grievances if and when any danger arose. Whether that is practicable or not I do not pretend to say, but I want to urge this matter on the Government so that when the Bill is framed they may endeavour to meet this point and give sympathetic consideration to these people's anxiety. We know that Congress has got very full power, or at least has a considerable number of votes, and that it is likely to increase its power in that way. Last night my noble friend Lord Lytton said that Congress did not count for anything much. I do not know about that, but I imagine they are very good pin-prickers, and that it is possible for them to interfere a good deal with the essential interests of India and this country. For example, they are to have full control over everything—the Army, tariffs, finance and all internal administration—and I doubt very much whether these so-called safeguards are going to be sufficient to help against the pin-pricking power which they undoubtedly possess.
Last night we had a very interesting speech from my noble friend Lord Linlithgow on the question of finance. I hesitate to mention finance in this House at this moment, because I have no doubt the noble Viscount who is going to follow me will shatter anything I say and will make out to his own satisfaction, but I hope not to your Lordships', that the finances of India were never better than they are now, and that there are huge surpluses awaiting dispersal. But he cannot get over the fact that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for India has definitely stated in these words his opinion of the financial position:It is clear that there are financial difficulties to be overcome before the new autonomous Provinces can he started.Before they are started! Nothing then can be done until the financial situation is rectified. My noble friend Lord Linlithgow made out, I believe absolutely accurately, that £5,000,000 would be required for working the new Provinces.
Allusion was made to Sir Malcolm Hailey. Sir Malcolm Hailey, I believe, is considered the pet witness of the Government. He is a man, as we all know, of high standing in that wonderful Indian Civil Service of which we are all 560 so proud. He was brought over here, away from his duties in India, to help the Select Committee with his views and opinions. What did he say? He said:The creation of autonomous Provinces will not be possible until there has been a considerable betterment of Central revenues.I understand that "considerable betterment" includes such things as the abolition of surcharges, provision for the Army Budget, the redemption of debt, the cuts and various other items. I am told that these sums added together amount to something like £17,000,000. I do not think they were mentioned by my noble friend. And before the financial position in India is put right the reforms cannot start.
My noble friend Lord Linlithgow, I suppose, drafted paragraphs 267 and 268 of the Report. I do not think he could have been very comfortable when he was doing so. They are involved, and he seems to be attempting to gloss over difficulties. It is a curious position. In one paragraph the hope is expressed that the financial problem is in process of solution. We do not want pious hopes in great State documents on financial questions. What we want are sterling economic facts and those are what we ought to have in a document of that character. My noble friend said last night that the financial situation was not comfortable. I do not know if I may recall to his memory—I am not certain that he is old enough to have the memory—that some years ago there was a song which those of us who belong to the Party which occupies these Benches enjoyed singing. I do not think noble Lords opposite enjoyed it quite so much. That song was "Wait till the clouds roll by." My noble friend may take consolation perhaps by singing that song to himself, only let me remind him that financial clouds are very slow movers.
Is it suggested anywhere that the financial situation can be put right without further taxation? If there is to be further taxation, sooner or later, some of it is bound to fall on the agricultural population of India. Remember, my Lords, that 89 per cent. of that vast population live in the villages and on the land. No less a medical authority than Sir John Meikle has stated that 60 per cent. of those people are ill-nourished. Is it proposed that, when the Government pass their Bill, it is going to remain hung 561 up because they will not have sufficient money to make the start to which the Secretary of State for India, alluded? If so, I venture to suggest that the position in India will be very difficult, very trying. On the one hand you will have those who want these reforms clamouring for them to be put into execution. On the other hand you will have that great mass of the population, the 89 per cent. living on the land, anxious and fearful of the taxation which is going to come upon them and their homes, and their ill-nourished families. Is that a good prospect? Can that tend to the peace and the comfort of that great country? I must not trepass on your Lordships' time much longer, but I would like to say that it appears to me that the financial situation alone justifies us in voting for the Amendment moved by the noble Marquess, simply in order to show that we do not intend to give a preliminary blessing to this coming Bill until we have it before us and are able to see exactly how the financial situation is proposed to be dealt with.
I regard this Motion of the Government as purely a tactical Motion. I do not blame them for that. I quite appreciate the fact that they would like to have this Motion passed for its effect on India, but I do not understand why it is necessary for this House to come in to help the tactical moves of the Government. I think it is much more dignified for us to take another attitude altogether, and to keep our hands perfectly free. Remember, our voting for this Resolution will be interpreted in India as a distinct blessing of the coming Bill, and I think we ought to avoid giving any premature blessing at all. May I say one thing more? I have had the question put to me, and so have many of my friends in a similar position: "What is the good of your taking part in this Indian debate? What experience have you got?" I do not think that is an unnatural question to ask, but I answer it by saying that I am a member of Parliament, and it is my duty to give an honest and straight vote which I think to be right, and that I cannot see that I am justified in allowing myself to be led by the opinions of a majority of those eminent and distinguished people on the Joint Select Committee without being satisfied myself that I think they are right.
562 In a few weeks—about a month—it will be fifty-nine years since I first went out to India. I stayed there then about two years. I went out again fifteen years later, and I stayed, I think, about a year. Those periods of residence in that country, according to some evidence, certainly entitle me to write a book, but I do not pretend for a single moment that those periods of residence there so long ago entitle me to express any opinion whatever on modern India from personal experience. But I do know this. I came back from my first visit to India imbued and impressed with two things—one an intense feeling of sympathy for the natives, and the other an intense sense of pride in my country for all it had done and was doing. I firmly and honestly believe that it is my duty here to-night, in what I conceive to be the true interests of the people of India and of this country, to give my vote for the Amendment of the noble Marquess.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (VISCOUNT HAILSHAM)
My Lords, the matter which we have been discussing during the last four days has been truly said to be as important a topic as anything which anyone of us in this House has ever had to consider during our Parliamentary lives. The quality of the speeches which have been delivered on the one side and the other, I think has been not unworthy of the importance of that subject. Such speeches, if I may particularise only a few, as those of my noble friend Viscount Halifax and my noble friend the Marquess of Salisbury on the first day, speeches like those of the most reverend Primate, the noble Lord, Lord Rankeillour, and the noble Marquess, Lord Zetland, on the second day, speeches like that great oration by my noble friend the Marquess of Linlithgow yesterday, and the series of addresses to which we have listened to-night, I think will linger long in the memories of most of us, even after our decision has passed into history. I am not competent to add any contribution with the authority of those who have previously taken part in this discussion.
It would be idle for me to attempt in the comparatively few moments at my disposal to deal with all the points which have been raised during the four days of debate, but it is a satisfaction to me to think that the great majority of them at any rate have been answered by one side 563 or the other in the course of the discussion. I have thought that perhaps the most useful thing which I can do for your Lordships' House—and after all the most useful thing is what I believe every one has tried to do in this debate—would be to point out what appear to me to be the alternatives which lie before us and to indicate quite shortly a few of the arguments which point in the direction of the one alternative rather than the other.
There are as I see them four possible courses which have been suggested. There is first of all the course which is advocated by the Amendment upon which we are about to vote, that is, the course of saying that we cannot make up our minds, that we have not had enough time for the consideration of the matter and that we decline to express any judgment at all. There is secondly the alternative which was advocated from the Socialist Benches, of saying that our plain duty is, in a spirit of good will and confidence, to give to the Indians all which any of them ask for and to add to that gift some arrangement under which the Indian Army is to be completely Indianised by some approximately specific date. Then there is further the alternative of the adoption of the Report and the recommendations in that Report which come with the authority of the Joint Select Committee. And there is, finally, the alternative which has been advocated by Lord Lloyd and others, of refusing to go so far as the Joint Select Committee recommends and of limiting the advance which we make to a modified concession in the Provinces and no alteration in any other part of the Constitution. I desire, if I may, to deal with those four which I think exhaust all the courses which have received any sort of support from any single member of your Lordships' House.
First of all, then, the proposal which is contained in the Amendment, that we shall ask for more time to consider this matter. "Why should we be rushed headlong" (such was the expression which the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, used) "into a decision? We have only had a month since the Report of the Joint Select Committee was put into our hands." If the Report of the Joint Select Committee was the first that any of us had heard of this problem 564 I should have thought that there was very great force in that argument. But in truth it is not a month that we have had to consider this topic, it is something like seventeen years. In order to start at the genesis even within recent times, one has to go back, as a number of speakers on both sides have gone back, to the Declaration in 1917, which was embodied in the Preamble to the Government of India Act, 1919:… it is the declared policy of Parliament to provide for the increasing association of Indians in every branch of Indian administration, and for 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.That is the pledge which was given by Parliament in 1919 and it is from that basis that the whole of our discussions must start.
It is no good saying, as my noble friend Lord Ampthill said yesterday, that the only proper form of government is a complete autocracy. We had committed ourselves to something completely different, and it does not help to ask your Lordships to approach this problem with the intention in view of dishonouring a pledge to which every Party in the State is fully committed. Pursuant to the programme laid down in the Government of India Act there was sent out to India the Simon Commission, and in 1928 we had the unanimous Report of that body. Both sides have referred to it, and I propose to say a word or two about it in a moment. At the instance of that Commission the Government of the day invited the meeting of the first Round-Table Conference—it is useful to remember that it was at the suggestion of the Simon Commission—in order that we might ascertain the views of the Princes, into which they were unable to enquire.
At the first Round-Table Conference there came that historic declaration of the possibility at least of their being willing to enter into an All-India Federation. That has been followed by two more Round-Table Conferences. Those in turn were followed by the declaration of the present Prime Minister that:The view of His Majesty's Government is that responsibility for the government of India should be placed upon Legislatures, Central and Provincial, with such provisions as may be necessary to guarantee, during a period of transition, the observance of 565 certain obligations and to meet other special circumstances, and also with such guarantees as are required by minorities to protect their political liberties and rights.That declaration was approved by both Houses of Parliament in December, 1931. Pursuant to that plan, three Commissions were sent out to India in 1932 and they have reported. In 1933 there came the White Paper, with its concrete proposals for examination and consideration. For twenty months the Joint Select Committee, with the assistance of delegates from India, has investigated and discussed those proposals and now, finally, it has produced its considered opinion in the Report which is under discussion today. Of course nobody is bound by the opinion of the Joint Select Committee. Anybody, if he thinks he can find a better alternative, has a perfect right to advocate it. But it is idle to say that we have not had time to consider this matter when we have been continuously considering it for many years past.
Your Lordships will not have failed to observe that during the four days of this debate there has not been a single member of your Lordships' House who supports this Amendment who is able to do so on the ground that he has not been able to make up his mind. The only people who have supported that Amendment are those who have made up their minds, and have made them up against the Report. It is surely hardly worthy of the dignity of your Lordships' House that you should be asked to shirk a decision in that sort of way. And remember, my Lords, that although we are asked to say that we cannot make up our minds, everyone else charged with any responsibility has had no difficulty at all. The Government has made up its mind and has declared its mind. Each of the three Parties in the State has considered this matter.
We have heard from the Socialist Party that they do not think that the recommendations go far enough, but at any rate so far as they go they adopt them. We have heard from both sections of the Liberal Party that these recommendations have their support, and indeed their representatives were signatories of the Report. Our own Conservative Party, if I may speak for those behind me, has had a magnificent meeting of some 1,500 or 1,600 people, the chosen Council of the Party, which considered this matter 566 and by a majority of three to one has declared that this is the policy of the Conservative Party. And, finally, the House of Commons, discussing this matter last week, was able to reach a decision by a majority of something like four to one in favour of the adoption of this Joint Select Committee's Report. We alone are to have it go forth that we, the House of Lords, cannot make up our minds because we have not had enough time to think about it. In this case, above all others, the policy of drift is not the policy of safety. It is the policy of the greatest danger, and it is fully time that this House, and this country, should be in a position to make up its mind on a matter to which so much thought, so much care, and so much attention, has been devoted.
I turn from that proposal to say a word or two—and I hope I shall be acquitted of discourtesy if it is only a word or two—about the proposal of noble Lords opposite. They wish first of all to declare that the Indianisation of the Indian Army shall proceed by approximately fixed times, and they wish us to give to the Indians practically all the self-government they themselves would ask. With regard to the first, Lord Middleton, in a helpful and thoughtful speech—though I did not agree with all that he had to say—was able to deal conclusively with the suggestion. You cannot lay down years ahead a time-table. It must depend on the circumstances of the case, and on developments which naturally and inevitably take place from time to time.
As to the proposal that we shall hand over to Indian politicians, or Indian statesmen if you will, the whole responsibility for the Government of India, I cannot help wondering how it is that noble Lords opposite have their judgment and their understanding so warped and obsessed by their extraordinary delusion that the whole world is engaged in a series of class wars. The reason why they objected to these safeguards, so we were told, was that these safeguards helped the possessing classes and did nothing to help what their shibboleth calls the toiling masses. Nothing can be more untrue, and demonstrably untrue. I will take one instance only—the special responsibility for the maintenance of peace and tranquillity. Who has benefited most by the peace and tranquillity which British rule has given? 567 Who would suffer most if we allowed anarchy and chaos to take the place of law and order? It would be those toiling masses for whom noble Lords opposite profess so much affection, but to whose real interest they are so strangely indifferent. That proposal seems to me one which cannot commend itself to your Lordships, and noble Lords opposite have had themselves to try and find excuses for not voting for it.
I pass to the alternative presented by Lord Lloyd and Lord FitzAlan. There are two or three important distinctions between the policy which the Committee recommend and the policy which those noble Lords recommend. The first is in regard to the Provinces. Everyone agrees that there is to be an advance in self-government in the Provinces, but the noble Lords who propose this alternative claim that the Department of law and order should not be transferred, and indeed that it should be the only Department not transferred in the Provinces. I would like to point out that that proposal has the condemnation of every single Commission or body which has ever investigated it. It is true, as Lord FitzAlan said, that none of us are bound to follow the advice of those who may have had more experience than ourselves, but it is worth noticing that no body of men has gone into the consideration of these problems without reaching the conclusion that the transfer of law and order is unavoidable. One has heard it said outside this House that what are called the dissentients have the support of the Simon Commission. Of course, that has not been said here, because it is contrary to the truth. The members of the Simon Commission, when they dealt with this matter, after setting out most fairly and impartially the grave considerations on each side with regard to this transfer, went on to say: "We must face the fact that responsible Government in the Provinces cannot be achieved without this change." They then proceeded to recommend that the change should take place.
It is true, as Lord Lloyd said, that they suggested certain safeguards. The Joint Select Committee have suggested certain safeguards, but the moment you mention safeguards to Lord Lloyd he flies up and says every safeguard is valueless, and that we should pay no attention to them. Why is it that everybody thinks 568 this transfer is essential? It is essential because if you transfer the rest of the responsibility and retain responsibility for law and order, you would, as has been pointed out, inevitably concentrate the whole attack of every politician in India upon the Police. It is in the interest of the Police that you should not make them the one target against which every dissatisfied politician would deliver his attack. You must also transfer this Department, because unless you transfer it you do not fix the responsibility where you seek to fit it, on the Indian politician. By these proposals you are going to transfer to the Indian politician all the responsibility for the control of economic policy, of expenditure, of agriculture, and of social policy, and you are going to transfer the whole of that administration with the assurance that, however much he mismanages that which you transfer, and however much disorder he can create, he will be able to say that the trouble arose because the Governor or the Governor-General has mismanaged the Police. It is inevitable if you transfer the whole of the rest of Indian policy you must transfer also the responsibility of facing the results of the policy which they have initiated.
I ought to add that there are safe-guards. The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, does not like safeguards. At one time he said they were valueless, but at another time he said the unfortunate Indian people would not accept the transferred Services with the safeguards. I do not know which leg he is going to stand upon, but neither will support him for very long. There is first of all the special responsibility for the maintenance of peace and tranquillity resting upon the Governor in the Province and on the Governor-General at the Centre. Then there are special provisions designed to protect the Police. Your Lordships will remember that in paragraph 93 there is a provision that, no alteration can be made either in the Acts with regard to the Police, or the regulations or rules which are promulgated, without the consent of the Governor. Paragraph 94 contains provisions which secure that the secret records of the Special Branch shall be inviolable and inviolate. Then there are provisions which ensure that if the ordinary methods of law and order are inadequate for combating terrorism there shall be special powers placed in the 569 hands of the Governor as may be necessary. It seems to me—I hope it will seem to your Lordships—that those safeguards do not detract from the general responsibility of the Indian politician in the provincial field, but that they do ensure that if, unhappily, our confidence in him should be misplaced, or circumstances should be too strong for him, there would be adequate power with the Governor to prevent a serious mischief arising.
I pass to the next point of difference with regard to the responsibility at the Centre. The Joint Select Committee advise a responsible Centre on a federal basis. If you are going to have a responsible Centre, it must be on a federal basis, because everybody agrees that merely a British Indian responsible Centre will not work. And if it is to be an All-Indian Federation, there must be responsibility, because we have had from the Princes, over and over again, from 1931 down to the present day, the statement that they will not consider entering into any Federation which does not include responsibility. The words were:We can only federate with a British India which is self-governing, and not with a British-governed India as it is at present.That was in 1931. We are agreed, I am glad to see, that when you have a provincial autonomy, you must have a strong Centre, otherwise the inevitable centrifugal force of these great autonomous Provinces will break India up into a series of separate units.
The difference between us is this, that the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, and those who think with him wish to preserve the existing Centre under the delusion that it is a strong one, whereas the Joint Select Committee took the trouble not to assume that it would be strong or weak, but to investigate whether it was strong or weak; and in their Report they point out very clearly that in their judgment it is far too weak to be entrusted with any such duties. They say:As our inquiries have proceeded, we have been increasingly impressed, not by the strength of the Central Government as at present constituted, but by its weakness. It is confronted by a Legislature which can be nothing but (in Bagehot's words)' a debating society adhering to an Executive.' The members of that Legislature are unrestrained by the knowledge that they themselves may be required to provide an alternative Government; their opinions have been uninformed by the experience of power, 570 and they have shown themselves prone to regard support of Government policy as a betrayal of the national cause. It is no wonder that the criticism offered by the members of such a Legislature should have been mainly destructive; yet it is abundantly clear, from the political history of the last twelve years, that criticism by the Assembly has constantly influenced the policy of Government. As a result, the prestige of the Central Government has been lowered, and disharmony between Government and Legislature has tended to sap the efficiency of both. Indeed, the main problem which, in this sphere, Parliament has now to consider is how to strengthen an already weakened Central Executive.What is the good of assuming, as my noble friend does, that the Central Government is strong, and on that basis, which is shown to be entirely false, arguing against the substitution of a responsible and Federal Centre?
In fact, a Federal Centre is inevitable if you want to retain a unitary India. It is essential for the safeguarding of our Imperial interests, but it is essential also in the interests of the good government of India itself and the protection of those 360,000,000 people who, as the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, told us, are looking to us for our decision this evening—a number of people who, be it remarked, are affected much more by the existence of autonomy in the Provinces than they could possibly be by any change in the Centre. But then difficulties were raised. We were told that there never was a federation with such disparate units, with sections which are self-governed and sections which are ruled over by Princes. Almost every federation is unique when it starts. There are different problems. When the system of federation started in the United States of America the problems they had to solve were novel, but that did not mean they were insoluble; and when I am told, as we have been told, that the thing will not work because some members are nominated and some are elected, I would remind your Lordships that that is the case in almost every Colonial Legislature in the Empire to-day. They have all got a nominated section and an elected section; but I have never heard yet that it makes the British Empire an unworkable unit.
It is said that indirect election will not do. Well, originally the plan was direct election. Lord Rankeillour and Lord Salisbury came and persuaded the Committee that that was an impossible proposal, and that indirect election 571 ought to take its place. Then indirect election is put in, and they come and ridicule that, and say you must not have it. What is the result? If they were right it would mean, not that the method proposed by the Joint Select Committee is wrong, but that Federation itself is an impossibility: not that it is impossible now, but that it never will be possible. But nobody suggests either that the Provinces are to become autocratic or that the Princes will, within any measurable time, hand over their States to self-governing democracy. My noble friend indeed, as he often did in his speech, proves too much.
Then he said the Communal Award creates a difficulty. How does the Communal Award create a difficulty? It is perfectly true that there is in India this communal cleavage, which cuts right down to the roots and divides the population into wholly inconsistent sections, peoples with different traditions, and with different religions, and with different conceptions of society. That unhappily is the fact, and nothing that we do here will alter that fact. But that that involves that it is not possible for them to elect representatives seems to me a complete non sequitur. It is quite true that an elector who belongs to a Moslem constituency cannot vote in a Hindu constituency; but it is also true in England that somebody who votes in London cannot vote in South Wales, and vice versa. The only difference is that with us the division is geographical, and with them, unfortunately, it is religious and racial. But that that makes it impossible to hold an election I altogether deny, and I deny it with the more confidence because your Lordships realise that the Central Legislature at this moment is going on with direct election quite consistently and quite regularly.
I would remind your Lordships, too, that in the Provincial Legislatures which are meant to be made autonomous, and which will deal with far more of the intimate interests of the masses of the people, there is going to be this communal difficulty whether we have a Central Responsible Government or not. What is the good of saying that the communal difficulty makes an insuperable obstacle, and at the same time saying that we are going to have autonomy in the Provinces, where there will be the communal difficulty at its worst?
572 I had some other points to make, but I see that I have already made almost too great a draft on your Lordships' time. I only want to say one or two words about the possibility of safeguards. It is said—I have heard it often said—" Look at Ireland and that ought to frighten you from doing anything in India." There never could be a more false analogy than that. It is like saying that because in one particular case one particular form of safeguard has not worked, therefore it is impossible ever to find any safeguards that will work. In fact, in Ireland we made unfortunately every mistake which we are avoiding in India. In Ireland, unfortunately, these safeguards which were then created consisted in the promises of the authority to whom was handed over the government of the Irish Free State. I am sorry that they have not lived up to those promises, but that is not what we are relying on in the case of India.
In the case of India we have the great Departments of Defence, with the Army, of Foreign Affairs, and of Ecclesiastical Affairs reserved exclusively to the power of the Governor-General. We have an elaborate machinery set up under which the Governors and the Governor-General will not only have the right and the duty of interfering when minorities are threatened, when commercial discrimination is threatened, when the peace and tranquillity of the country or a Province are imperilled—not only have they that right of interference, but they are given a Secretariat, they are given a staff, they are given the right to call on the Civil Service, they are given the right to take over the administration of any Department which may be necessary for the effective discharge of that responsibility. We have not only in India set up safeguards resting on declarations, but we have put into the hands of those whom we are going to trust the power, if need be, to enforce those safeguards and to see that they are effective.
I would remind your Lordships that, after all, there is one big new factor which has arisen in the last month in the history of our relations with India, and that new factor is this Report. You cannot ignore it. You are not bound to follow it, but you have got to remember what the effect will be in India if you do ignore it and turn it down. For seventeen years India has been promised the 573 gradual realisation of progressive self-government. For seven years we have been engaged by successive stages investigating how best to give her that self-government. We have had Commissions, Round Tables, White Papers, Conferences, Joint Select Committees—every manner of investigation and inquiry, to which we invited India to send her representatives for discussion and collaboration.
We set up at last a Joint Select Committee whose authority and experience are probably unrivalled in the history of Select Committees in this country, and when we get their Report with an overwhelming majority in favour of certain recommendations, when we find that all Parties in the State accept these recommendations, when we find that the House of Commons by an overwhelming majority endorses them, when we find that the Government of the day accepts them, representing a National Government and therefore speaking, I hope, with peculiar authority for the country—when all that happens, India is not to be allowed to have the self-government that has been promised and offered because the House of Lords will not trust her to have anything of the kind. Not only so, but the reasons for which you are asked to refuse this self-government are reasons which will operate, not in favour of postponement, but in favour of never granting any such self-government as you have promised to award.
If safeguards are valueless, as is suggested, if it is impossible to devise a programme which gives the gradual realisation of Indian hopes, why, then, what follows? It follows either that you are going to wait before you take another step until you are able to hand over the whole government of India—Army, administration, ecclesiastical, minorities, commercial, everything, lock, stock, and barrel—to an Indian Government, or else you are never going to hand it over to her at all. I do not know which of these alternatives your Lordships will regard as the more logical or more fair.
§ This has been said to be a grave question. I agree it is a grave question. The problem is as difficult a problem as we have ever been set to solve. We have chosen a Committee which has investigated that problem and which has spoken with an authority which probably no other Committee could ever claim to have possessed. I do not suggest that there will not be found difficulties and disappointments and set-backs. I do not suggest we are taking no risks. I do not suggest that in working out this Constitution human weaknesses will not display themselves and imperfections come to light. But what I do suggest is that this is a problem which has got to be solved, and that the worst way of solving it is to ignore its existence and to refuse to do anything at all. If anybody is satisfied—and my noble friend Lord FitzAlan is satisfied—that this solution is the wrong one, and if he is satisfied that he has a better alternative, then let him vote against the Government; but let no man vote against the Government unless he is prepared, honestly and sincerely, to say that he has thought this thing out, that he has studied the problem for himself, and that he has reached a solution which he is confident is a better one than the Joint Select Committee has been able to propose.
§ I hope that by your votes this evening your Lordships are going to reject the dilatory Amendment put forward, and are going to support the recommendations that the Joint Select Committee advised. I think it has approached the fulfilment of its task with infinite patience, with resolute courage, and with statesmanlike vision. I hope and trust that the solution which it has advised, and which the Government accepts, is a solution not unworthy of the genius of our race or of the traditions of our Empire.
§ On Question, Whether the words proposed to be left out shall stand part of the Motion?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 239; Not-Contents, 62.577
|Canterbury, L. Abp.||Ailesbury, M.||Lansdowne, M.|
|Bath, M.||Linlithgow, M.|
|Sankey, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Bristol, M.||Northampton, M.|
|Camden, M.||Reading, M.|
|York, L. Abp.||Crewe, M.||Zetland, M.|
|Dufferin and Ava, M.|
|Somerset, D.||Exeter, M.||Shaftesbury, E. (L. Steward.)|
|Cromer, E. (L. Chamberlain.)||London, L. Bp.||Greville, L.|
|Abingdon, E.||Peterborough, L. Bp.||Grimthorpe, L.|
|Airlie, E.||Rochester, L. Bp.||Hampton, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||St. Albans, L. Bp.||Hanworth, L.|
|Ancaster, E.||St. Edmundsbury and Ipswich, L. Bp.||Hardinge of Penshurst, L.|
|Balfour, E.||Harlech, L.|
|Beatty, E.||Salisbury, L. Bp.||Harris, L.|
|Bradford, E.||Sheffield, L. Bp.||Hastings, L.|
|Cavan, E.||Hawke, L.|
|Cranbrook, E.||Aberconway, L.||Heneage, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Aberdare, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Denbigh, E.||Abinger, L.||Howard of Penrith, L.|
|Derby, E.||Acton, L.||Hutchison of Montrose, L.|
|Drogheda, E.||Addington, L.||Iliffe, L.|
|Feversham, E.||Allen of Hurtwood, L.||Illingworth, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Alness, L.||Inverforth, L.|
|Granville, E.||Alvingham, L.||Jessel, L.|
|Grey, E.||Amulree, L.||Ker, L. (M. Lothian.)|
|Harrowby, E.||Annaly, L.||Kinross, L.|
|Iddesleigh, E.||Ashfield, L.||Lamington, L.|
|Iveagh, E.||Ashton of Hyde, L.||Loch, L.|
|Jellicoe, E.||Askwith, L.||Lugard, L.|
|Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Balfour of Burleigh, L.||Luke, L.|
|Lytton, E.||Bayford, L.||Mamhead, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Belper, L.||Manners, L.|
|Midleton, E.||Bethell, L.||Marks, L.|
|Minto, E.||Biddulph, L.||Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)|
|Mount Edgeumbe, E.||Bingley, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Munster, E.||Boston, L.||Merthyr, L.|
|Peel, E.||Brancepeth, L. (V. Boyne.)||Meston, L.|
|Plymouth, E.||Brownlow, L.||Mildmay of Flete, L.|
|Radnor, E.||Burnham, L.||Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)|
|Romney, E.||Camrose, L.||Mottistone, L.|
|Rosslyn, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)||Moyne, L.|
|Rothes, E.||Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.)|
|Sandwich, E.||Clements, L. (E. Leitrim.)||Ormathwaite, L.|
|Scarbrough, E.||Clinton, L.||Ormonde, L. (M. Ormonde.)|
|Spencer, E.||Clwyd, L.||Palmer, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Cochrane of Cults, L.||Pentland, L.|
|Strafford, E.||Conway of Allington, L.||Polwarth, L.|
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Conyers, L.|
|Waldegrave, E.||Cornwallis, L.||Ramsay, L. (E. Dalhousie.)|
|Cottesloe, L.||Ravensworth, L.|
|Allenby of Megiddo, V.||Craigmyle, L.||Remnant, L.|
|Allendale, V.||Cranworth, L.||Rhayader, L.|
|Astor, V.||Cromwell, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Brentford, V.||Danesfort, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Darling, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Cecil of Chelwood, V.||Daryngton, L.||Rockley, L.|
|Cobham, V.||Davies, L.||Rowallan, L.|
|Cowdray, V.||Dickinson, L.||Runciman, L.|
|Devonport, V.||Dynevor, L.||Russell of Liverpool, L.|
|Elibank, V.||Douglas. L. (E. Home.)||Sackville, L.|
|Esher, V.||Doverdale, L.||St. Levan, L.|
|Falmouth, V.||Dulverton, L.||Saltersford, L. (E. Courtown.)|
|Goschen, V.||Dunmore, L. (E. Dunmore.)||Seaton, L.|
|Hailsham, V.||Ebbisham, L.||Sherborne, L.|
|Halifax, V.||Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)||Somers, L.|
|Hambleden, V.||Somerleyton, L.|
|Hampden, V.||Ellenborough, L.||Southampton, L.|
|Hardinge, V.||Eltisley, L.||Stafford, L.|
|Knutsford, V.||Elton, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L. (L. Sheffield.)|
|Lee of Fareham, V.||Ernle, L.|
|Leverhulme, V.||Erskine, L.||Stanmore, L.|
|Long, V.||Essendon, L.||Stonehaven, L.|
|Mersey, V.||Fairhaven, L.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Ullswater, V.||Forster, L.|
|Wakefield, V.||Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.)||Swinfen, L.|
|Younger of Leckie, V.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.) [Teller.]||Templemore, L.|
|Gainford, L.||Tenterden, L.|
|Durham, L. Bp.||Gladstone of Hawarden, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Gloucester, L. Bp.||Glentanar, L.||Thurlow, L.|
|Leicester, L. Bp.||Gorell, L.||Trent, L.|
|Lichfield, L. Bp.||Greenwood, L.||Tweedmouth, L.|
|Vernon, L.||Wargrave, L.||Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)|
|Vivian, L.||Waring, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Waleran, L.||Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)||Woodbridge, L.|
|Argyll, D.||Bertie of Thame, V. [Teller.]||Gisborough, L.|
|Wellington, D.||De Vesci, V.||Hothfield, L.|
|Westminster, D.||FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Islington, L.|
|Hereford, V.||Lawrence, L.|
|Aberdeen and Temair, M.||Hill, V.||Leconfield, L.|
|Tredegar, V.||Leigh, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Lloyd, L.|
|Birkenhead, E.||Exeter, L. Bp.||Middleton, L.|
|Cottenham, E.||Monkswell, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Ampthill, L.||Mostyn, L.|
|Arundell of Wardour, L.||Oxenfoord, L. (E. Stair.)|
|Effingham, E.||Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Phillimore, L.|
|Eldon, E.||Berwick, L.||Queenborough, L.|
|Fitzwilliam, E.||Carnock, L.||Raglan, L.|
|Harewood, E.||Carrington, L.||Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)|
|Howe, E.||Darcy (de Knayth), L. [Teller.]||Rankeillour, L.|
|Lindsey, E.||Redesdale, L.|
|Maccelesfield, E.||Delamere, L.||Roundway, L.|
|Morton, E.||Deramore, L.||Selsdon, L.|
|Nelson, E.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.||Shuts, L. (V. Barrington.)|
|Strange, E. (D. Atholl.)||Fairlie, L. (E. Glasgow.)||Tollemache, L.|
|Ypres, E,||Forester, L.||Trevor, L.|
|Gerard, L.||Willoughby de Broke, L.|
On Question, original Motion agreed to.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment disagreed to according