HL Deb 14 March 1940 vol 115 cc858-61

My Lords, I beg to ask whether His Majesty's Government have any statement to make about the assassination of Sir Michael O'Dwyer and the wounding of Lord Zetland and other distinguished persons at the Caxton Hall yesterday afternoon.


My Lords, you will be aware from the reports which have appeared in the Press that at the conclusion of a meeting held yesterday afternoon at the Caxton Hall under the auspices of the East India Association and the Royal Central Asian Society, several shots were fired by a man in the audience, with the result that Sir Michael O'Dwyer was killed and the Secretary of State for India, Lord Lamington and Sir Louis Dane were wounded. An Indian named Udham Singh, who is believed to have been responsible for the outrage, was detained by members of the audience and handed over to the police, and he has this morning been brought before the Magistrate at Bow Street Police Court on a charge of murder. In these circumstances it would not be proper for me to make any comment on the facts of the case.

I know, however, that your Lordships will wish to join with me in expressing our deep sense of sympathy with Lady O'Dwyer and her family in the sudden and tragic loss which they have suffered. The House will also desire to extend to those who were wounded their good wishes for a rapid recovery. Their injuries, happily, were not severe, and I understand that all are making satisfactory progress. As a matter of fact I had hoped that my noble friend Lord Zetland would have been present here this afternoon. He was, in fact, working at the India Office this morning when I telephoned to him. His escape is, indeed, miraculous. He was shot at from, I believe, some three feet away. The bullet entered just below the handkerchief pocket of his coat and hit a rib of the breast. Apart, however, from being much shaken and bruised, I am glad to say that my noble friend has not been badly hurt. I am sure that all your Lordships will wish to join with me in congratulating him on what has, indeed, been a providential escape.


Hear, hear.

4.3 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friends desire me on their behalf to offer first of all to Lady O'Dwyer their complete sympathy in the unexpected and tragic bereavement that has fallen upon her. Many of us had the privilege of knowing the late Sir Michael O'Dwyer, and working with him, and, though not always agreeing with him, feeling absolutely certain of his great sincerity. It is a very sad thing that at seventy-five years of age, when the controversies in which he was engaged had mostly been forgotten, this tragic end to a most distinguished career should have come. I should also like to express my sympathy with my very venerable colleague Lord Lamington, and to congratulate him on having escaped with, comparatively, a small injury. I have not the privilege of knowing Sir Louis Dane, I think, but he is a venerable gentleman who has done a great service, and to him also we should like to offer our sympathy and our congratulations on his escape. I cannot tell your Lordships with what thankfulness we have heard of the escape of His Majesty's Secretary of State Lord Zetland, and the comparatively slight injuries that he suffered. If he had been able to come this afternoon it would have been an embarrassing experience to him for we should all have wished most heartily to congratulate him and welcome him back. On the question of yesterday's experience I will not speak other than to say that if it was due to mental affliction that is to be regretted, but if it was due to political motives that was most reprehensible, and I feel certain that India will take the very earliest opportunity of repudiating any connection with it.

4.6 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure those on these Benches would desire to be associated with the observations that have fallen from the Leader of the House and from the Leader of the Opposition. We all of us must have read the news in this morning's papers with a feeling of horror and of indignation, and we are deeply grieved that this wanton outrage should have resulted in the death of so highly esteemed and distinguished an Indian civil servant as Sir Michael O'Dwyer. We sympathise deeply with the lady who has, in this tragic fashion, been robbed of a life's companion. We sympathise also with our old colleague Lord Lamington in the injury, not apparently a very light one, that he has suffered, and with Sir Louis Dane also, who is known to many of us, and we rejoice that the Secretary of State for India, the highly esteemed colleague and friend of all of us, should have escaped with so light on injury from the attack that has been made. I am sure that in India there will be a general feeling of abhorrence at this futile and dastardly crime.

4.8 p.m.


My Lords, I would like to associate myself with the expressions of regret and sympathy which have been made by noble Lords in all parts of the House in regard to this matter. In view of the expressions of sympathy that have already been made perhaps it is hardly necessary for me to intervene, but I feel as one who had long connections with India, and perhaps, if I may say so, as a representative of Indian commercial interests, that I would like to say that I feel sure that the tragedy of yesterday will be as deeply deplored in India as it is here, and by all classes of the population alike, Indian and European. I would also like to express my sympathy with the lady who has been bereaved and with those who have been injured; and to say what a happiness it is to me and all connected with the commercial interests of India and especially in Bengal, of which Province he was a very distinguished Governor and where he is held in great affection, that the Secretary of State has escaped from serious injury. I therefore will look forward with pleasure to seeing him back amongst us and giving him a welcome indicative of our affection and appreciation of his great qualities and public service.