§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND) rose 473 to move, That the Draft Order, as presented to Parliament and reported from the India and Burma Orders Committee on Thursday, the 26th of March last, be approved with Amendments. The noble Marquess said: My Lords, this Order and the four other Orders on the Paper are based in the main upon the recommendations of the Delimitation Committee, under the chairmanship of Sir Laurie Hammond, which began its work in India on the last day of September and completed its work on January 23 of this year. Some idea of the magnitude of the task which they have accomplished can be had from the mere consideration of the number of seats and constituencies for which they had to provide. The number of seats in the case of the Lower Houses in the Provinces alone was not less than 1,585 and the number of constituencies to which those seats had to be allocated amounted to 1,275. I am very glad therefore to avail myself of this opportunity of expressing to Sir Laurie Hammond and to his two Indian colleagues not only my gratitude for the amount of time and labour which they devoted to this matter, but also my admiration at the manner and at the rapidity with which they brought to a close what was a very difficult and very laborious task.
§ It is inevitable that there should be embodied in these five Orders a vast amount of detail, but the actual delimitation of the constituencies, the allocation of the seats and the method by which the votes of the electors are to be recorded are based on certain main principles, and it is to these that I propose to devote my observations in commending these Orders to your Lordships. Your Lordships will observe that there are five different Orders, but since they all deal with similar problems it will no doubt be for the convenience of your Lordships that one general discussion should take place on the Orders as a whole. Let me explain to your Lordships the main questions of policy which arise in connection with these Orders. There is in the first place, of course, the main question as to the division of the seats between urban interests and rural interests. Of course, India is still essentially an agricultural country. Something like 70 per cent. of the actual working population of India is dependent directly upon agriculture in one form or another for its livelihood. 474 There are in the whole of this vast subcontinent fewer than a thousand towns with a population of 10,000 or more, and only thirty-nine towns with a population of 100,000. The truth of the broad generalisation that India is a land of villages is not in any way vitiated by the fact that in Calcutta and Bombay she possesses the second and the fourth largest cities in the British Empire. In those circumstances it is obvious that in every Province the Legislative Assembly will contain a preponderant number of seats representing the rural interests. The actual distribution of seats in the Legislative Assemblies in the case of the territorial constituencies in the whole of the Provinces together is 1,268 representatives of the rural interest and 177 representatives of the towns.
§ Of course, the main problem in this connection has been to decide what is to be regarded as a town for the purposes of representation. No uniform criterion is possible, owing to the vast variations which are to be found in different parts of the country. In Madras, for example, there are many very large towns which are essentially rural in their interests and their outlook, and in Bengal there are quite small towns which are equally essentially urban in their interests and their outlook. In the Punjab the line between rural and urban is much more clearly and strongly marked than in most other parts of India, and in that Province it is widely accepted that any town of 7,500 or more is to be regarded as an urban centre for the purposes of representation. Happily, public opinion in India upon this question is fairly united and fairly clear-cut, and Sir Laurie Hammond's Committee found an acceptable answer to the question "When is a town not a town? ", the answer to that question being, "When it is so declared by the local government with the support of public opinion."
§ The next question which arises is this: Shall the territorial constituencies be single-member constituencies or plural-member constituencies? Here again no uniformity is possible. Under the existing Constitution, single-member constituencies have been the rule except in the Provinces of Madras and Bombay. In Bombay there are special reasons for a preference for plural-member constituencies, the most important being the existence of a number of seats reserved for 475 Mahrattas, to which now, of course, will be added a number of seats to be reserved for the Scheduled Castes. As the Indian Franchise Committee, presided over by my noble friend Lord Lothian, observed, any system of reservation of seats in joint electorates necessarily implies multi-member constituencies. Moreover, in the case of Bombay there are additional reasons for employing multimember constituencies in the existence of small communities like the Parsees and the Jains, who secure a better chance of representation under a system of plural-member constituencies than they would if the system were that of single-member constituencies.
§ Indeed, the system of plural-member constituencies has worked extremely well in Bombay, and it is not therefore proposed to make any alteration there. In Madras plural-member constituencies were adopted under the Montagu-Chelms-ford scheme for the reason that seats were under that scheme specially reserved for the non-Brahmins. It has been found in practice that reservation of scats for non-Brahmins is not necessary, and those reservations are therefore not made in the Act which your Lordships passed last summer. There are, however, to be in Madras thirty seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes, and to this extent, therefore, plural-member constituencies will be a necessity.
§ The question for decision in the case of Madras is, therefore, should the remaining territorial constituencies, other than those in which seats are reserved for the Depressed Castes, be single-member constituencies or plural-member con stituencies? There I am bound to admit that there has been a somewhat marked difference of opinion. Sir Laurie Hammond's Committee were, on the whole, in favour of plural-member constituencies. On the other hand, the Government of Madras, supported by the Government of India, were in favour of single-member constituencies. In those circumstances I refrained from coming to a decision until the matter had been discussed in the Madras Legislative Assembly. A discussion on the question took place there two or three weeks ago, and the result was to show a very marked majority in favour of single-member constituencies. That being so, I have embodied in the Orders now before your 476 Lordships the proposal for single-member constituencies where that is possible. So far as the other Provinces in India are concerned, there was an overwhelming consensus of opinion in favour of single-member constituencies, and single-member constituencies will therefore be the rule throughout India except in those cases in which, as I have explained, it is necessary to have plural-member constituencies, and in a few special cases, for which special arrangements are made.
§ Having come to these conclusions the next point which arises is the method to be employed so far as the voting is concerned in the plural-member constituencies. It is generally agreed that the system of the single transferable vote is not a practical proposition in the present circumstances of India. It is too complicated. The system which has been in force in Bombay is known as the cumulative system. Under the cumulative system each voter has as many votes as there are seats to be filled in the constituency, and he is at liberty to distribute his votes amongst the different candidates or, if he prefers to do so, to plump all his votes for one candidate or distribute them in any way he likes. This is a system which, as I have said, has been in force in Bombay. It has worked very well there, and is the system embodied in the present Orders in Council.
§ I now come to a rather more difficult question, that is to say, that of the method of election in the case of the Scheduled Castes under that part of the Communal Award which is known as the Poona Pact. As your Lordships will remember, the Poona Pact was no part of the original Communal Award of His Majesty's Government. It was an agreement come to among Indians themselves. No official, and indeed no Englishman, had any part in the framing of the Agreement. It was in fact a purely indigenous production, and in accordance with the undertaking given by His Majesty's Government on the assumption that agreement was reached between two communities affected by the Communal Award, they did substitute for their own proposals the agreement reached. In accordance with that promise, the Poona Pact was embodied in the Communal Award, and duly accepted by Parliament. There is 477 therefore no question now of accepting or of rejecting the arrangement, and all that the Order in Council seeks to do is to give effect to those provisions in the arrangements which are being made—in the arrangements for the Scheduled Castes' representatives in Provincial Legislatures.
As those of your Lordships who were members of the Joint Select Committee will be aware, I was never myself an ardent admirer of the Poona Pact. It seemed to me that it had been arrived at in circumstances which altogether precluded the possibility of calm and dispassionate consideration of the problem which was being dealt with, and it always seemed to me that there would be considerable difficulties when the time came for applying its provisions. The Agreement was reached, as your Lordships will remember, under the threat of a fast unto death by Mr. Gandhi, and my fears with regard to the results have been, I think, more than borne out by the evidence which was given before Sir Laurie Hammond's Committee, as to the circumstances under which the Poona Pact was reached. Perhaps I may quote to your Lordships the evidence of one of the witnesses. This is an account given by an Indian witness who, I rather infer, was present when the. Poona Pact was being discussed. He says:
The representatives of the caste Hindus and the Depressed Classes met at Poona to arrive at a settlement. There was much higgling and haggling about seats. Even after two days' deliberations no compromise was arrived at. On the second day, at about 8 p.m., Mr. Devadass Gandhi rushed to the room where the representatives were sitting and made a scene.
§ THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND
No, Mr. Gandhi's son. The witness continued:In the presence of the representatives he began to weep. Mr. Rajagopalachariar and others comforted him. Then he stood up and with tears in his eyes addressed Dr. Ambedkar as follows—Dr. Ambedkar was the leading representative of the Depressed Classes—' Oh, Doctor, is your heart made of stone? My father is in a precarious condition….You do not know what he is going to do for your community. He is going to have another fast for the sake of the Depressed Classes. Please save his life.'478 Then the witness goes on:There was not a soul in that hall which was not moved by his passionate speech.As indeed one could well understand—The very next day the Pact was concluded.It is not incredible that in chose circumstances the Pact should have been arrived at without due consideration of its practical effects when it had to be put into operation.
Let me recall to your Lordships the salient part of the Poona Pact.The election to these seats shall be by joint electorate, subject however to the following procedure. All the members of the Depressed Classes registered in the General Electoral Roll of a constituency wil form an electoral college, which will elect a panel of four candidates belonging to the Depressed Classes for each of such reserved seats by the method of the single vote, and the four persons getting the highest number of votes in such primary election shall be the candidates for election by the general electorate.That apparently simple document as a matter of fact raises questions of great difficulty. Take for example a panel of four candidates. Was the panel of four to be the maximum or the minimum? Then again, after the primary election, assuming that four candidates had been elected, were withdrawals to be allowed? Shall a man who has been elected be permitted to withdraw before the final election takes place? I confess that to these questions and to a number of other kindred questions I found myself quite unable to give answers, and I therefore asked Sir Laurie Hammond and his colleagues if they would be good enough to thrash these matters out with the people primarily interested in India and make recommendations to us after having done so. The result is that there is embodied in these Orders the scheme which Sir Laurie Hammond has arrived at after long discussion of the matter in India. There is only one point in connection with it, I think, upon which I need comment. On one point of some importance special provision is made in the case of Bengal, where the application of the provisions of the Pact is surrounded by very special difficulties. In Bengal a member of the Scheduled Castes will not be entitled to hold a non-reserved seat in a constituency in which seats are reserved for the Scheduled Castes, unless 479 he has first been elected to the panel in a primary election.
Now I turn for a moment to the question of the representation of labour. Part of the seats for the special representation of labour will be allotted to constituencies composed of trade unions, and the other part will be allotted to special labour constituencies of a territorial type. This is the recommendation which has been made by every authority. I think, which has considered this question, such as the Indian Franchise Committee, the Third Round-Table Conference and the Joint Select Committee of the two Houses. Let me say a word first about the trade union constituencies. The trade union movement in India is in its infancy and it is not surprising that a number of unions should already have proved to be very ephemeral bodies. If unions come, they also go, and the one thing that cannot be said about them is that they go on for ever. A striking illustration of the instability of the labour organisations is provided by the history of the labour movement in Jamshedpur, the Sheffield of India. The first labour organisation here was founded in 1921, and it was re-formed in the following year. Six years later, in 1928, there was a strike at the steelworks and the organisation was recognised by the employers as the official mouthpiece of the men. It was, however, soon afterwards ousted by two new bodies, the Jamshedpur Labour Federation and the Dolmuri Plate Workers' Union, which were registered as trade unions in the following year, 1929. But, with the imprisonment of their founder for cheating and embezzlement, they in their turn collapsed and are no longer in existence. They were succeeded by a Metal Workers' Union registered in 1934, and this is at the present time the only trade union in Jamshedpur. It has a membership of less than 2,000 members.
The unions throughout India differ enormously in size. There is the big Railway Workers' Union, by far the largest, I think, in India, with a membership of something like 40,000. On the other hand, there are very small unions, including some thirty-two which, according to the Report of the Hammond Committee, were started in a hurry in order to provide a hopeful organiser with a claim justifying a trip to Geneva. It is clear therefore that before a trade union 480 can be accepted as suitable to form a constituency for the return of a labour representative to the Legislative Assembly it must be certified as a recognised trade union for that purpose, and the provision is made in these Orders for the Governor to exercise his individual judgment; that is to say the Governor after discussion with his Ministers so certifying them; or, if he prefers it, he can delegate that task to a tribunal appointed for the purpose. I would point out that there is no question of a Governor picking and choosing among the trade unions according to his own predilection, or according to the predilections of his Government. He is merely assigned a quasi-judicial task of certifying that the unions conform to certain conditions which are laid down in the Orders themselves.
Then with regard to the special labour constituencies other than the trade union constituencies. In the case of the special labour constituencies and in the case of the trade union constituencies also with certain exceptions, the voting will be direct by all the members of the trade unions in the case of the trade union constituencies, and by all those who are qualified to vote in the case of the special constituencies. The exceptions are certain trade unions in Bombay and Bengal where, owing to local conditions, direct election by the members of the unions is found difficult; and in those cases the members will be invited to elect an electoral college, which will do the actual voting for the candidate for the Assembly.
Just a word or two with regard to the representation of women—a subject in which I know my noble friend opposite (Lord Lothian) takes a great interest. There is, first of all, the question whether women members should be elected by women only, or whether they should be elected by a mixed electorate of men and women. The position under the existing Act, that is to say the new Act that was passed last year, is that they should be elected by men and women except in the case of the seats allotted to Moslem women in Bengal and in Bihar and of the general seat reserved for women in Assam. In those special cases the electorate will be an electorate of women only. Since the Act was passed it has been very strongly represented to me that in the case of the women candidates 481 the electorate should be confined to women, not only in the Moslem seats in Bengal and Bihar but also in the case of the Moslem seats in Sind and the Punjab; and indeed one lady of influential position in that part of India declared that from a Moslem woman's point of view it was "disgusting"—I am using her word, not mine—that she should be expected to solicit votes from men. I am satisfied that in present circumstances there are in these two Provinces very good reasons in the case of the Moslem women's constituencies for confining the electorate to women, and that provision is made therefore in the present Order.
The other point in connection with the representation of women is with regard to the application by married women for inclusion in the Electoral Roll. Under the Act of last year the position is that women qualified in respect of property held by their husbands must make an application to be put on the roll of voters (a) for the first Election in the Provinces of Madras, Bombay, the rural areas of the United Provinces, and Assam; and (b) indefinitely, in the Provinces of the Punjab, the North-West Frontier Province, and Sind. In the other Provinces—that is to say, in Bengal, Bihar, the Central Provinces, Orissa, and the urban areas of the United Provinces—application will not be necessary. The Hammond Committee have reported that in Madras the local Government have agreed to dispense with application. Madras therefore will come out of the first category of which I have spoken, and application in the case of married women in Madras will not be necessary even in the case of the first Election.
With regard to the Legislative Councils or Upper Houses there is, I think, nothing of special interest which need be said. The actual constituencies have been demarcated by Sir Laurie Hammond's Committee and have been accepted by the Government and inserted in these Orders; but the provisions of the Orders, so far as they relate to the franchise qualifications for the Upper Chambers and the provisions likewise in respect of the Scheduled Castes Order, reproduce without substantial modification the proposals which the Government themselves made public in a White Paper in September last. I am happy to say that in India itself there was no criticism of any kind of these proposals which we 482 made with regard to the constituencies and the qualifications of the electors in the case of the Upper Houses.
I think I have touched upon the chief matters of importance in connection with these five Orders. To my gratitude to the members of Sir Laurie Hammond's Committee I should like to add my gratitude to the members of the Provincial Committees in India and to the local Governments, without whose labours the results which are now before us would hardly have been possible. With the passing of these Orders the actual preparations for bringing the new Legislatures in the Provinces into being, such as the preparation of the Electoral Rolls, can be taken in hand, and since during the discussions on the Government of India Act there was a wide measure of agreement with regard to the proposal for the establishment of Provincial Autonomy, I commend these Orders with confidence to your Lordships' House. I have just been reminded that there are upon the Order Paper certain Amendments, and if it be to your Lordships' convenience I shall explain very briefly now the effect of them, or I can do so in replying to the debate, whichever suits your Lordships best.
§ THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND
There are one or two that require a little explanation, but they are mostly drafting.
§ THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND
Perhaps it would be simpler if I explained them now, and then I can move the Motion subject to the Amendments.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT HAILSHAM)
The noble Marquess will forgive my interrupting, but I have been considering, in discussion with the authorities of the House, how best to put this Motion in a case where there are Amendments. I do not think that the first Motion in the form in which it appears on the Order Paper—namely, That the Draft Order be approved with Amendments—can be put, because whether your Lordships were prepared to vote for it might depend on the nature of the Amendments subsequently made. 483 On the other hand, you cannot put the Motion, That the Draft Order be approved and then afterwards amend it, because the House would be varying its own decision. It occurs to me, if the House so agrees, that the convenient plan would be, in a case where there is to be an Amendment moved later on, to put the Motion, That the Draft Order be considered, on which the general merits of the Order can be discussed; and then, assuming that is accepted by your Lordships, to put each Amendment seriatim, and, finally, put the Motion, That the Draft Order be approved as amended, in which case the House would be able to make up its mind after it knows what Amendments have been incorporated in the Order. That, I think, would be the regular way, and, if it meets with the approval of your Lordships, I propose to put the Motions in that manner.
§ THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND
I am grateful to the Lord Chancellor for his suggestion, and in these circumstances it would be better if I explained the Amendments as I came to them. I now move that the first Order be considered.
§ Moved, That the Draft Order, as presented to Parliament and reported from the India and Burma Orders Committee on Thursday, the 26th of March last, be now considered.—(The Marquess of Zetland.)
THE MAEQUESS OF LOTHIAN
My Lords, as one who was intimately associated with a great many of the subjects which are dealt with in this Order, may I say a few words in support of what the noble Marquess who introduced these Orders has just said? The Indian Franchise Committee was inevitably brought up against a great number of extremely difficult conundrums which Sir Laurie Hammond's Committee have been asked to solve. The Indian Franchise Committee perforce had to leave a certain number of questions to be dealt with by a later Committee, and I should like to add my testimony to that which has fallen from the noble Marquess as to the admirable way in which Sir Laurie Hammond's Committee have dealt with these problems. They have dealt with them with great common, sense, with great speed, and without undue attachment to that uniformity which we in this country so much admire, but which anybody 484 who is familiar with Indian conditions recognises is unworkable in that enormous country. The work of the Committee has been extremely thorough and extremely practical.
I have received a number of representations—and every noble Lord who has had anything to do with India is likely to have received them—from people who felt that they ought to appeal to this House to remedy minor injustices; but I think your Lordships will agree with me in thinking that it is impossible for this House, or indeed Parliament, to go into these matters of detail. The only practical course is to follow the advice given by the noble Marquess to-day in adopting, subject to the minor modifications he has made, the Report of the Hammond Committee. I agree entirely with what the noble Marquess said about the Poona Pact. I have always felt that the original proposals made by His Majesty's Government for dealing with the difficult problems which pressed upon it were far better calculated to serve the interests of the Depressed Classes and the caste Hindus than the proposals which were afterwards adopted in the circumstances described by the noble Marquess. None the less we were pledged in that ease, and it is right that we should carry out the undertaking we then gave.
I confess I regret that the noble Marquess felt it necessary to yield to a masculine prejudice, which is perhaps stronger among my Moslem friends than any other section of the world to-day, by separating Moslem women in a great part of India from all others in requiring that they alone should be elected by women, whereas the overwhelming opinion of the women representing both Moslems and Hindus was that the representative women in the Legislature should be elected by women and men. There, again, I do not think that this House can be expected to over-rule the considered view of the Provincial Governments reinforced by the Secretary of State. All I will say to-day is I regret that that change has been made, though I am glad to see that he has withdrawn the conditional requirement of application by women, in the case of the Province of Madras, which is probably the most advanced Province in India in the matter of women's rights and women's influence in public affairs.
I should also like, in conclusion, to say how fully I endorse what he said about 485 the work of the Provincial Governments and the Provincial Committees. Not that I have had any personal knowledge in this case, but I have had experience—and the noble Marquess, Lord Dufferin and Ava, on the other side of the House, will bear me out—of the immense amount of concentrated work done by the Provincial Governments and the Provincial Committees in preparing the extremely complicated work which we had to do as members of the Franchise Committee. I have no doubt the same kind of work was laid before Sir Laurie Hammond; in fact I am certain he could never have done his work as quickly and as admirably as he has done without the preliminary work done by the Provincial Governments and the Provincial Committees who assisted him. I have the greatest pleasure in supporting the passage of these Orders this afternoon.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I think your Lordships will be all extremely obliged to the noble Marquess, the Secretary of State, for his most interesting speech, revealing as it did some of the fundamental difficulties in the settlement of this question. Of course these Orders—I hope your Lordships fully realise it—although they deal with matters of the very greatest importance, do not touch those issues which in those long months of last year divided some of us in your Lordships' House from His Majesty's Government. These Orders have only to do with the Provincial Constitution. They have nothing to do with the Federal Constitution. Those difficulties, whatever they are, are yet to come, and no doubt my noble friend the Secretary of State will deal with them in the same efficient fashion when he comes to them. I feel very glad that on this occasion we shall not be sharply divided, because I should have very much regretted as far as I myself am concerned, that at the very moment when my noble friend the new Viceroy is about to take up his duties we should have anything like a sharp difference of opinion as to the future government of India. I felt glad of that and indeed I do not think, perhaps on other grounds, that the general situation of the world is a suitable background for sharp differences of opinion with the Government at the present moment.
I think, however, a word or two might be said about this very interesting Committee 486 whose Report is upon the Table now. The noble Marquess described some of the changes which he proposes to make in the conclusions at which the Committee arrived, and he also stated some of the difficulties which he himself felt. I should think your Lordships were probably most interested in what he told us about the Poona Pact. May I say that my noble friend was severely honest in his description of his own attitude towards the Poona Pact? Those of us who served with him on the Joint Select Committee know full well how greatly he disapproved of it. I did not feel at all surprised as I heard him state the difficulties which in the result have arisen, as to whether the panel of four is to be a maximum or a minimum, or as to whether withdrawals are to be allowed after nomination. I was, however, a little disappointed that, having brought us up to that point, my noble friend did not tell us what the conclusions had been in the Report. Please do not think I am finding any fault, but I was a little disappointed. I think it to be true, but I am not quite sure, for I cannot pretend that I have read this with that attention with which perhaps I ought to have read it, that supposing there are not four selected the election must go on with what there are. Is not that so?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
So that if there were only two, the choice would be between two candidates, and if there was only one there would be no choice at all. That is rather formidable, as this was a method of allaying the difficulties which had arisen about the representation of the Scheduled Castes, and you can quite conceive that by some illegitimate pressure there might indeed be only one candidate left of the four. In the same way, with regard to withdrawals, I am afraid I do not know what conclusion Sir Laurie Hammond came to about withdrawals, but I do know this that the withdrawal of candidates after nomination is one of the greatest and most formidable difficulties in electoral matters in India. The plan is that after the nominations have taken place then they get the awkward opponents to withdraw. I do not know what influence is brought to bear to compel them to withdraw, or perhaps I ought to say 487 to induce them to withdraw. Under the old Constitution of India this procedure seems to have reached formidable proportions. I think it was said that the cheapest way of settling an election was to get your opponents to withdraw, and it might be so. I suppose it is only a question of "How much?" If it was not so grave a matter these things would make us inclined to laugh.
There was one branch of the subject which my noble friend avoided and which is avoided in the Orders, that is the conditions under which the Elections should take place. Nothing was said, for instance, about ballots and there is no reference in the Orders on the Table to the question of whether all the Elections are to take place by ballot. Of course they will take place by ballot, but upon what conditions of ballot? I think my noble friend would have interested the House if he had told your Lordships the difficulties which attach to voting by ballot in India. They are set forth in this Report. Difficulty arises in the first place over the number of illiterates. In the United Provinces and in the Punjab, so the Report tells us, 90 per cent. of the electors are illiterate. The method by which the illiterate votes, under the existing system, is that the returning officer marks the paper for the voter. The Report says that this expedient effectually removes any pretence to secrecy of the ballot. Of course it does. That is an important consideration with regard to Elections.
Then in Bihar they adopt what is called the coloured box alternative. The illiterate voter does not take his ballot paper to the returning officer and have it marked for him, but each candidate has a different coloured box and it is supposed that the elector can be induced to put his vote into the right box. He very often does not put it into the right box, and sometimes he does not put it into a box at all but puts it in his pocket. When he gets outside the paper is a marketable commodity. I am only stating what is in the Report, and my noble friend of course has read it too. This method of voting or not voting is so formidable that they have to have a constable to watch into which coloured box the elector puts his paper or whether he puts it in at all. There again I am afraid the secrecy of the ballot disappears. These are incidents which 488 must happen in a wholly uneducated constituency.
Lastly there are some observations as to the postal vote. It seems that in some places the vote is a postal vote—that is to say, something on the same lines as those on which University voting is carried out in this country. I dwell upon this because it may come up again when we have to deal with the Federal Legislature, and I observe that one of the returning officers—so the Report states; I suppose returning officers were witnesses before the Committee—considers that the postal voting system affords many opportunities for chicanery and is unfair both to the electors and to the candidates.
I do not quote these cases of difficulties of election and of recording votes in these Provincial Elections because I want to oppose these Orders—we are all agreed, and we have always been agreed, that there must be constitutions of some kind in the Provinces—but I do quote them as showing in what a very elementary stage the Indian electorate is with reference to all these matters. The difficulties of the secrecy of the ballot and of the particular methods of voting are very grave. This subject of course will come up again when the Orders in Council dealing with the Central Constitution have to be considered. When you are dealing, not with the Provinces but with the final, or almost the final authority in the Centre, they will become of much greater moment. I have ventured to mention them not because I thought they would interest and just a little amuse your Lordships, but because I thought that between now and the critical Orders in Council which are coming later the Government might have time to reflect upon the method they will put forward for the Elections which are to determine the nature of the Central Government of India, and most of all of the Council of State, which your Lordships will remember it was finally arranged are to be directly elected by the people of India.
I can only again thank my noble friend the Secretary of State for his very interesting speech, and I should like to say as to the method of order suggested by the noble and learned Viscount who was then upon the Woolsack that personally I think it a very good expedient. But I do regret a little 489 that the Government did not settle all these things before. I asked them several times when the Bill was going through Parliament to settle how these Orders were to be passed through both Houses of Parliament, and on what principle Amendments were to be inserted and finally agreed to between the two Houses. But perhaps it is on the principle solvitur ambulando, and as long as we have the wonderful power of adaptation—the most priceless gift the gods could have given to a legislative assembly—no harm will accrue.
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA
My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships long, but as I have a little experience of Committee work in India I should like to pay tribute to the extraordinary celerity with which Sir Laurie Hammond produced this Report under conditions of great difficulty. As I listened to the speech of the noble Marquess who has just sat down I felt that, although his differences with the Front Bench may have been composed, at the same time his methods remain unchanged. He still seems to me to propound a great number of difficulties and never attempts to commit himself to any solution of any of them. There are of course difficulties, as there are bound to be in a country like India, but it is not very helpful to put forward matters of that kind as if they were quite insoluble. On the contrary, they are solved to a certain extent by the Orders in Council and many of them will be solved by later Orders.
It seemed to me—if I may make one further remark—that there was only one matter in which the Hammond Committee did go wrong, and that is a matter which has been set right by the Government: the matter of multi-member constituencies in Madras. It seemed to me that, although there must have been tremendous reasons which influenced them to take the decision they did, they have condemned their own decision. There is a great danger of not merely splitting community from community, which is unfortunately necessary in the present circumstances, but of splitting one community within itself. Furthermore, it seemed to me—and the Government evidently took the same view—that it was really a profound mistake to make Party government, which we all agree is the most necessary thing for healthy political 490 life in India to day, most difficult in the one Province, Madras, where it seems most likely to grow. It is the one Province where there is a Party feeling, and it seems to me that the Committee must have taken a wrong view when they decided to destroy that growing Party feeling.
May I in conclusion, in supporting all these Orders, say one word on behalf of labour? I regret to a certain extent that the Government and the Hammond Committee were not able to represent labour by trade unions more effectively. When my noble friend and I made the recommendation that, as far as possible, trade unions should be the basis of labour's representation in India, we did so with the definite hope, the very genuine hope, that by making that representation we should encourage trade unionism to grow in a healthy way. We hoped, by dangling the carrot a little, to make the donkey move! Unfortunately, the Hammond Report shows that our hopes were not fulfilled. As far as I can make out from the Report, since we were in India trade unionism has become worse and weaker, and in view of the weakness of the trade unions I entirely agree with the decision of the Government. Encourage trade unions as far as you can, but do not give them burdens that they cannot sustain properly. Do not let the representatives of labour be representatives only of themselves. I therefore feel perfectly convinced that the special interest of labour, which is very near to my heart and very important to India, is best served by your Lordships accepting the Orders which the noble Marquess has moved.
THE EARL OF MANSFIELD
My Lords, until the noble Marquess, Lord Dufferin and Ava, addressed your Lordships, I had not the slightest intention of inflicting myself upon you this afternoon, but I think that the strictures which the noble Marquess saw fit to pass upon the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, were so unfair that some reply is merited. The noble Marquess, Lord Dufferin, said that my noble friend Lord Salisbury had drawn attention to a great many possible and probable difficulties which are likely to arise in the administration of the new Constitution, without offering any solution for those difficulties. In the first place, I suggest that there is no reason why Lord Salisbury should offer any 491 solution. The difficulties are not caused by him, because it was not his Bill. Those of us who did oppose the passing of the Government of India Bill expressed our intention of trying to make the Act work once it came into legal being; and to that we adhere. But I do not think that we are in any way helping the Act to work, I do not think we are being of any assistance whatever to the masses of India, if we fail to point out to the Secretary of State and to the Government many abuses which they themselves well know to exist.
Furthermore, it is surely right that the responsible section among the politicians in India should have their attention directed very forcibly towards these abuses in order that they may take steps to put their house in order and clear up any difficulties which are otherwise likely to make the future history of the Government of India Act even more troublous than it seems likely to be at present. I therefore suggest that your Lordships, the Secretary of State and the Government ought to be—and will be—grateful to the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, for pointing out these many serious difficulties while there is yet time for the difficulties to be remedied.
§ LORD RANKEILLOUR
My Lords, I have no intention whatever of reviewing these Orders as a whole. I really only rose to put a very small point. Before I do so, however, I very much regret that the noble Marquess on my left (the Marquess of Dufferin and Ava) should have seen fit to infringe the dignity of labour by ascribing mokish propensities to its organisations. I am sure he will regret it at his leisure! I should like to endorse what my noble friend Lord Salisbury said with regard to the attitude of those who opposed the Bill in Committee in this House. I do not in the least regret our opposition; I should do it all again; but, now that the Bill has passed, I do not think we ought to do anything which would make the path of the Government, and of the noble Marquess, Lord Linlithgow, who has now gone to India to take supreme command, any more difficult than it is.
Having said that, I come to the very small point—though important locally, I understand—which I wish to put to the noble Marquess. If he will look at the main Order with regard to the franchise 492 on pages 63 and 64, he will find certain provisions with regard to the labour seats in Assam. Although apparently every labourer in the tea gardens, and so on, will be able to be put on the register and vote, only those belonging to certain tribal castes will be eligible for election. I am assured that the category of the tribal castes is too narrow and that some are omitted from it. I am told that these are mostly immigrants into Assam from other parts of India, but that many of them are quite as well qualified for election as those who are included. I am not quite sure that it is not within the power of the Governor-General himself to remedy this omission, but the matter has only been drawn to my attention quite recently, and I have not been able to find from the text of the Order whether that is so. If that is possible, perhaps the matter might be put right by extending the powers of the Governor-General to admit other qualifying castes; or, if that is not possible and if the noble Marquess is not ready, it might be put right in another place to-morrow. I do not want to press the matter too hardly, but I am assured on very good authority that this omission will cause some considerable difficulty and disturbance in the Province of Assam, and therefore I undertook to bring it to his notice.
§ THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND
My Lords, may I express my gratitude to those of your Lordships who have spoken and have given your support to these rather voluminous Orders? I quite expected that the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, would take some exception to the decision with regard to the electorates for Moslem women, but I hoped that he would accept as a quid pro quo the alteration which we have made in Madras. Judging from the friendly tone of his speech, I presume that he is willing to do that.
May I say how grateful I was to the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, for his observations? It was very good of the noble Marquess to take into consideration the fact that my noble friend Lord Linlithgow is about to assume office in India and to take over the reins of Government at a time when great difficulties necessarily will face him, and I appreciated therefore very much the 493 spirit of the noble Marquess's observations under that head. May I say also that I appreciated all that he said with regard to the difficulties of voting by ballot in the present circumstances of India? All those points which he brought before your Lordships are substantial points, and, as I can assure the noble Marquess, they are constantly present to my own mind. We do propose at a rather later date to ask your Lordships to consider a Corrupt Practices Order in Council, which I hope will deal, so far as it is humanly possible to deal, with this sort of question and deal satisfactorily with some of the points which the noble Marquess has very properly raised. With regard to the noble Marquess's suggestion that I should reflect very carefully upon all similar questions before I have to ask your Lordships to consider the establishment of the Federation, I need hardly say that I certainly shall give my best reflection to all the points which he has been good enough to bring before us.
Then there was the point raised by my noble friend Lord Rankeillour, and may I incidentally express my gratitude to him for the attitude which he has adopted now that the Government of India Act is actually the law of the land. I appreciate my noble friend's point with regard to the representation of labour in the tea gardens of Assam. The proposal in the Order is that every labourer in the tea gardens in Assam, who is qualified—that is, every labourer who has worked so many days in the preceding year in the tea gardens of Assam, which constitute these constituencies—will be entitled to vote, but there is a certain restriction in the Order upon their standing as candidates. It is laid down that only those persons shall be entitled to stand as candidates who are enumerated in three groups. I need not read these groups to your Lordships. The groups are lists of well recognised labouring castes in India. The reason why Sir Laurie Hammond and his colleagues thought it desirable to restrict candidature to these rather better educated groups of labourers was that, supposing a member of a very uneducated labouring caste were permitted to stand as candidate, he might very easily be run by someone who was not a labourer at all. It was for that reason that we 494 propose to put this restriction on actual candidature for the Legislative Assembly in these particular constituencies. The matter was considered very carefully from both points of view, and on the strong advice of Sir Laurie Hammond and his colleagues we eventually decided that on the whole our proposal is in the best interests of this particular class of labour itself.
§ LORD RANKEILLOUR
Can you say whether any alteration will be possible by administrative act of the Governor-General in this matter?
§ THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND
No, because that would mean that Parliament would be deprived of its control. It is quite possible, of course, if experience showed it to be desirable, that a very short amending Order in Council could be passed, but I think this retains control in the hands of Parliament.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND
My Lords, the object of the first Amendment on the Paper is simply to confine the right of voting, in the ease of chambers of commerce and other similar bodies, to full members of those bodies. It has quite recently been pointed out to me that in some cases these bodies have what are known as associate members, who are not full members of the chambers at all, and the intention always was that the voting should be restricted to full members of the chamber. It is in order to ensure this point that I ask leave to move this Amendment.
In paragraph 2 of Part I, page 2, after line 28, insert "'member' in relation to a constituent body for a commerce and industry, mining or planting constituency does not include an associate member ").—(The Marquess of Zetland.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
In paragraph 6 of Part II, page 8, line 31, after ("is") insert ("an Indian Christian ").—(The Marquess of Zetland.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.495
In paragraph 4 of Part VIII, page 52, line 11, after ("ten") insert ("of Part VIII ").—(The Marquess of Zetland.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND
My Lords, the next Amendment, in paragraph 9 of Part IX, is to make it quite sure that the persons who at present exercise the franchise in Shillong shall continue to do so. It is a mere technical point. It so happens that certain parts of Shillong are not British territory, but belong to certain chieftains in the neighbouring country, and the people who reside in that part of Shillong which is not British territory pay the municipal taxes, and so on, just as other people, and are therefore entitled to a vote. It was suggested to me that unless it was made clear that even though not residing in British territory they were entitled to vote, there might be some doubt about it. To make that clear I have put down this Amendment.
§ Amendment moved—
In paragraph 9 of Part IX, page 60, after line 29, insert—
("(6) Paragraph 9A of Part IX of the Sixth Schedule to the Act shall apply in relation to the Shillong constituency as it applies in relation to territorial constituencies.")—(The Marquess of Zetland.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND
My Lords, next there is another small Amendment, which is necessary owing to the incorporation in Orissa of certain parts of Madras and the Central Provinces. The qualification for voting in Orissa is the payment of road and public works taxes, but in those parts of Madras and the Central Provinces which are now incorporated in the new Province of Orissa the tax is not described in these words, and the purpose of this Amendment is to make it clear that those who pay the local, land or village tax have the right to vote just as the people in Orissa have who at present pay the road and public works taxes.
In paragraph 14 of Part XI, page 69, lines 14 and 15, leave out (" road and public works ") and insert (" local, land or village ").—(The Marquess of Zetland.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND
My Lords, I am indebted to an honourable 496 friend of mine in another place for pointing out that the Order did actually contain a slightly inaccurate description of a small geographical area, and the object of the next Amendment is to put the boundaries of that area right.
In the Ninth Schedule, page 146, line 24, leave out ("West") and insert ("South ").—(The Marquess of Zetland.)
My Lords, I do not want to be punctilious, but these Orders were investigated by a Committee of which I had the honour to be a member, and I should like to know how it is that, after we have passed the Orders, these Amendments are proposed to your Lordships' House. They are not of great substance, I admit, but it seems to me that we are in a position in which very grave alterations might possibly be made by the Secretary of State, and perhaps a word of explanation might not be out of place.
§ THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for raising that point. It is quite true that these Amendments were tabled subsequently to the meeting of the Indian Orders Committee, and I agree that if they had dealt with points of any substance I should certainly have asked the Chairman of that Committee to summon the Committee again to consider the Amendments. But in view of the fact that in most cases they were drafting Amendments, and in the other cases they really touched no point of principle at all, it seemed to me that it was hardly necessary to re-summon the Committee. But I will bear in mind what the noble Lord has said, and I will be very careful, if a case of this kind arises in future, to ask the noble Lord the Chairman of that Committee to re-summon it should any Amendments be found to be necessary.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The Question is that the Government of India (Provincial Legislative Assemblies) Order, 1936, be approved, with Amendments.
§ Moved, That the Draft Order as presented to Parliament and reported from the India and Burma Orders Committee on Thursday, the 26th of March last, be approved as amended.—(The Marquess of Zetland.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.