§ LORD CRAIGMYLE rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether any statement can be made regarding Europeans in India; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I think that a word of explanation is due to your Lordships with regard to the modified form in which this Motion stands on the Paper to-day. It was pointed out to me by certain friends that the original form of the Motion was somewhat narrow, and tended to confine the issue within too restricted an ambit, and that it would be better if the question of the Europeans in India were treated somewhat more widely. The Motion was accordingly modified in wording, and I ask your Lordships to accept the explanation which I have given for this being done. I put down the Motion in view of private advices which had reached me, in common with many others, from India, because it seemed unfortunate that Parliament should adjourn for a Recess without some statement being made to clarify the situation, a situation which has, unfortunately, been rendered more grave by the events and declarations of the last few weeks. It would not be too much to say that a state of serious apprehension exists among the European community in India as a result of certain circumstances connected with the gallant, but unfortunately abortive, attempt of Sir Stafford Cripps to secure agreement among Indians themselves to a settlement of the constitutional position.
The European community are, almost to a man, entirely behind the effort of His
Majesty's Government to bring together the various elements in Indian life so that self-government may be inaugurated speedily and with a good chance of success; but they take the view that equity towards all communities is a necessary foundation for India's future. These Europeans are not without pride in the part which men from this country have played in the past in building up the fabric of Indian economic power and Indian political freedom. I should like, if I may, to quote some words from the second volume of what is known as the Simon Report, the Report of the Indian Statutory Commission over which the noble and learned Lord Chancellor presided. I am quoting from Volume II, page 68, paragraph 81, and these words contain the main point which I desire to make:
As to European representation, this must continue to be secured by means of separate electorates. The numbers of Europeans in India are no fair measure of the contribution they make to the country, or of the influence which they exert. One of the best features of the operation of the reforms is the way in which European business men of high standing and experience have contributed to the public life of the country by their membership of the Legislatures.
That is what the Simon Commission said.
§ These Europeans in India are indeed in a wholly exceptional position, a position, in my submission, for which there is no precedent or parallel. Apart altogether from the economic services which they have rendered to India, which have again and again delivered India from famine, and which have made her trade cover the globe, the gifts which Europeans have givers to India in the domain of toleration, personal freedom, and honest and unselfish government have been the wonder of the world. It was early laid down in the history of our connexion with India that, where there was a British interest in conflict with an Indian interest, preference should be given to the Indian interest. That is the point of view which has always inspired the British Government, and it is the point of view of those who dare to call the attention of your Lordships to this question to-day. We approach it from the point of view of India as well as from the point of view of the European community.
§ The European community, however, and the great enterprises which they have created and administer, and which are 113 of such value to India, appear now, after all these services, to be in particular peril, to which we consider it our duty to call the attention of your Lordships. Indeed, there has been growing up in India of late years a spirit which seems to seek political appeasement at the expense of legitimate British interests. We are not entirely strange to that spirit, because we have seen a good many examples of it in this country during the last ten years. We have seen in this country what seeking for a peaceful life ends in, and to what it has led when British interests are sacrificed in the process. It is very unfortunate that, when we look at what is happening in India now, there seem to be some of the all too familiar signs of that spirit.
§ We have not been without certain warnings in recent years that that spirit was abroad. Let me give one instance, simply as an illustration, and not in any sense as a complaint. Not many years ago, the Government of India were conducting trade talks with Japan, and the humble plea was made to them that the interests of the shipping which served India might be included in the conversations. That shipping, particularly on the run between India and the Far East, as your Lordships will know, suffered almost to the point of extinction in certain trades by the subsidized competition of Japan and by the Japanese system under which every device was directed to securing for the Japanese fighting machine the support of a merchant navy wholly out of proportion to the needs of Japan's trade. It seemed reasonable, therefore, to ask the Government of India to include the subject of snipping among the subjects of their conversations, since upon that shipping, whether it happened at the time to be British-or Indian-owned, the Empire would have to rely when trouble came. But the Government of India wholly declined even to mention to the Japanese negotiators the question of the shipping which carried India's commerce to and from the Far East.
§ They declined to say a word about it, and they were good enough to put on record their reason for so declining. The reason given was that the shipping in question—that on the run between India and the Far East—did not happen at the time to be owned by native-born Indians. That was the reason given; that is on 114 record. And that was true because, as the result of an ordinary business agreement, such as is made in this and every other country in the world, that particular sphere of transport, which happens to be a most unprofitable sphere, and had been an unprofitable sphere, a losing sphere, for twenty years, was left by agreement to the British lines, although at any time Indian-owned lines might well have been admitted to the conference in question by friendly arrangement. So it was thought right and proper that Japan should be allowed, without a murmur of protest, to gain a throttle-hold on the oversea routes of India simply because they were served by British ships. I think that men, however eminent and able and honest, who think like that are the sort of men who prepare the decline of empires. You may condemn that attitude as apathetic, or condone it as an attempt at appeasement; but you cannot base on it a secure future for India. In the instance I have given the Japanese no doubt were gratified that the Government of India should so obligingly stand aside and allow them to continue to build up their maritime strength for the attack upon our Far Eastern possessions, which they were even then so carefully preparing. But the Japanese were the only people to benefit, and India did not benefit at all.
§ There may well be a far closer parallel here than appears on the surface. We may well be proposing to abandon on a much wider scale interests which, although in name British, are in fact bulwarks of India herself against dangers both within and outside her borders, as well as tokens of a strong and sure friendship with this country. We were able to gather from what appeared regarding the conversations which Sir Stafford Cripps had in India that no questions of safeguards or of conditions for fair treatment of British interests were allowed to intrude upon the negotiations which he conducted so ably with certain leaders of Indian opinion. The great services of Sir Stafford Cripps to this country and to the Allied cause are so well known that one is left guessing for a reason for so notable an omission from the message which he brought from the British Government. I need hardly remind your Lordships of the considerations which made it necessary in the opinion of the Simon Commission in, I think, 1929, and in the opinion of 115 Parliament in 1935, that British interests should be safeguarded from special discrimination against them. Your Lordships are well aware of most of these. The point I should like to make is that nothing has occurred in the interval which makes them in any way less necessary now than they were then.
§ If I may try to sum up these considerations in a word it would be in this way: that the Europeans in India are so important to India herself that they should be given the same rights as other minorities. The danger to be averted is the danger of discrimination against them. That danger is not imaginary, it is real. Some reciprocal arrangement safeguarding the interests of both nations would be a proper matter for negotiation with a view to a treaty upon which a new Constitution might be based. And if it be suggested that there is no precedent for such a provision in any such treaty, I would venture to reply that there is no precedent for the special position and history of the Europeans in India, nor the special danger which they run. That is why safeguards, not hastily constructed but long and carefully considered and matured over quite a number of years, were finally adopted in the Act of 1935.
§ But in all the conversations which this most eminent member of the War Cabinet had with Indian leaders, apparently no single word was said upon the subject. So far as Sir Stafford Cripps's conferences with the Press are concerned, it was publicly proclaimed that any safeguards for our own people were completely out of the picture; and indeed this treatment of British interests was represented in some quarters as, I think the word was "magnanimity," which seems to be a curious term to use in such a connexion. All this makes it more difficult, of course, to raise the matter later, and that is one of the reasons why I and those who are collaborating with me wish to raise it now, lest the case of the European minority should be held to have gone by default. We have heard the case for all the minorities in India except the European minority, and I would ask whether the effect upon Indian opinion of abandoning the safeguards which Parliament has created for that minority has sufficiently been considered. I can hardly 116 think that His Majesty's Government have sufficiently considered the effect of all this upon the opinion of ordinary Indians. What respect can loyal men in India—and there are tens of millions of loyal men in India—have for a Government which would treat its own people in that way? And what confidence would they place in a Government if it were ready to desert as a political tactic the interests confided to its care and the men who had put their trust in it?
If such a manœuvre was ever in fact intended or contemplated, which I find it hard to believe, the outcome has indeed been unfortunate for its authors. It is all very hard to credit, but we have the record of a colleague of Sir Stafford Cripps upon the subject. The eminent Oxford professor, Professor Coupland, happened to be in India at the time of Sir Stafford Cripps's visit and, being on the spot, he was attached to the staff of Sir Stafford Cripps. He speaks very frankly about the approach which Sir Stafford Cripps made to this problem of the European minority. I would take leave to read a short passage which occurs on pages 40 and 41 of Professor Coupland's little book called The Cripps Mission. Professor Coupland says this:
The British business men may well have been surprised. No mention was made of them in the Draft Declaration; for, as Sir Stafford Cripps explained to the pressmen, they were not one of the racial and religious minorities' to be protected by the treaty. He was still more explicit. 'We are not going,' he said, 'to make any condition in the treaty as regards guaranteeing the vested rights of British interests in India.' This change of attitude in London may have been something of a shock to the British community in India; but it is proof of a changed attitude on their part also that their representatives were ready to acquiesce in it. At earlier stages of constitutional advance they have always insisted on special safeguards. In the Act of 1935 they secured a separate chapter to protect them from unfair discrimination. But, while they desired to retain the formal status of a 'minority,' they have now for the most part come to the conclusion—such at any rate was the impression I got through my talks with several of them—that legal guarantees are not much use in business, and that the only surety for any trade in India is Indian good will, and that in future they must take their chance in equal competition with their Indian rivals.
§ That is a very remarkable passage, and I desire to make upon it only three observations. The first is with regard to Sir Stafford Cripps's phrase, "the vested rights of British interests in India." There is a disposition on the part of 117 certain people to tie labels with an abusive epithet to things they do not like. A "right" is, so to speak, all right, but if it is a "vested right" it is all wrong, and if it is a "British vested right," then it is just too bad. That is the worst of all. There is then, apparently, no consideration for its justice, for its social value, for its imperial significance—none whatever. It is labelled with the word "vested," now fashionable as a term of abuse, and because it is also British it is outside the pale, and cannot even be mentioned in a treaty. It was, of course, primarily because they were British that these rights were excluded, but one feels that the thought that they were also "vested"—whatever that means—must have given a special relish to the process of consigning them to the outer darkness. Into the same outer darkness, along with their rights, are to be thrust, apparently and—this is hypothetical—as far as we can gather, the British business men themselves. They were, in effect, told that the careful provisions of the Simon Report and the Act of 1935 were to be set aside and that our countrymen were not to be "one of the racial and religious minorities to be protected by the treaty.
§ The men who, for many generations, have made our rule and our trade in India an example of fairness to all mankind were to be outside its protection. They were, so to speak, to be in a new class of Untouchables! When I think of young business colleagues of my own and of a certain noble Lord on the other side of the House, who have gone out to India to devote their lives to an Indian career, and have already sacrificed their lives in India's cause in the Far East, all this seems to be just a little hard. Heat or emotion on this matter would, of course, be out of place. We must, I suppose, leave it to history to judge between our fellow-countrymen in India and those—if any such there be—who turn to them the cold shoulder of desertion. For my own part, I think that History, when she comes to weigh up all, that the British have achieved in India, will take off the gloves when she has to deal with men who have betrayed them.
§ My next comment is with regard to the impression Professor Coupland seems to have gathered that the British community in India were acquiescent parties to this treatment. Nothing could be further from the truth. On the contrary, all advices 118 that reach me and my friends are to the effect that, with hardly an exception, the British community in India are not only perplexed but seriously alarmed. For instance, as is well known outside, they were so much perturbed at the prospect of being deprived of their safeguards and their right of representation in the Legislatures, and their rights of citizenship, that they went the length of sending a cable on the subject to the Prime Minister. No action taken by the European Association in India or by their opposite number, the India-Burma Association in this country, can fairly be construed as acquiescing in any way in the treatment which it is sought to inflict upon them. In voicing their protest they have had to consider, as we all have to consider, the general desire, at this time especially, to support His Majesty's Government: but it cannot fairly be said of them that they failed in their duty of pointing out how damaging to Britain and to India herself was the exceptional course then so suddenly and unexpectedly proposed.
§ My last observation upon the passage in Professor Coupland's most interesting book is on the words, "in future they must take their chance in equal competition with their Indian rivals." I have discussed that phrase with friends who are interested in Indian business, and neither they nor I have the remotest idea of what it means. It is surely an unintentional suggestio falsi. Competition is, of course, at present entirely equal, as any man engaged in business in that country will tell you. As for Indian "good will," to which reference is also made, I have only this to add, that without Indian good will, without the trust and the confidence of Indian business men, the fabric of British business in India would collapse inside a month. It is supported by Indian good will. It is supported by the services it renders to India. Its danger arises, not from the Indian business community with whom it co-operates and whom it serves, but from certain extremist political interests to whose animosity it now seems to run the risk of being exposed without a shred of defence. In dealing with these extreme men we are not dealing with the real India, the India that works with us, that co-operates with us on the basis of equality and respect. You might as well seek to gratify those solid and responsible Indians whom we all know by sacrificing 119 British interests in India as to gratify a gallant Indian battalion by sacrificing a British platoon in the face of the enemy.
§ These things may well appear clearer in the calm atmosphere of your Lordships' House than they did to the very distinguished member of the War Cabinet who at such great personal inconvenience and in such haste made that historic visit to India. Some of your Lordships have served India with all that is best in the energies of a lifetime. Some have held high place in the most glorious of all the Civil Services. Some have governed great Provinces and have had the task of holding the balance fairly not only between man and man but between creed and creed. But to none, I think, can it ever have occurred as the remotest possibility that an emissary from the very centre of British power would ever go out to India at so grave an hour with a message so menacing for our good name in India and the world.
§ Here I venture to point out that, apart from the Europeans in the Services, there are no fewer than about 20,000 Europeans, men whose life's work lies in India, in commerce, banking, shipping, tea gardens and manufacture, and so on. These men, I would point out to the noble Lord on the Opposition Bench (Lord Wedgwood), are not Nabobs. They are young men, very few of them well off, who young gone out to serve India and make their life's career there. They attend diligently to their business, but often, as has been pointed out, they serve in Provincial Legislatures and even give great service at the centre of affairs in Delhi or Simla. My friend Sir Leslie Hudson, in a paper which was recently read before the East India Association, has given a really fascinating and true account of the life career of these men as well as of their daily occupations; and, as the Simon Commission realized, in a Report which was as brilliant as it was laborious and painstaking, these men of our race are a real and most important part of the Indian scene. They have now become an essential part of that scene.
§ To close one's eyes to their importance in the picture is to gain an entirely false impression of what India is now and of what she may become. In them and through them there is daily renewed 120 in India that rare leaven of wisdom and tolerance, and that genius for compromise by which alone democratic institutions, which have failed almost everywhere, can work anywhere at all. I do not know whether your Lordships would agree with me, but it seems to me the Anglo-Saxon race, whether in this country or the United States, have an entire monopoly of that rare leaven which should not now be allowed to slip out of the body politic in India. For their sake and for India's sake it would be well if His Majesty's Government can to-day say a word of hope. The attempt at appeasement, if it were ever made, by abandoning the interests of these men, has failed. Now, I venture to suggest, we have a clean sheet. The offer was made, it was refused. We have a clean sheet, and we can write on it a record more creditable both to India and to ourselves.
§ Accounts of the effect of these transactions upon Europeans in India reach me and others interested in India from many quarters and they are most disturbing. I am not greatly concerned with the property of the British in India, though these young men can less well afford to lose everything they have in India than I or some of my other friends can. That is a minor matter, but the word "expropriation" seems to have been bandied about, and was indeed openly used by Sir Stafford Cripps at his Press Conference. Something seems also to have been said about "a very long innings," and about the views of the people—even, it was suggested, I believe, of Conservatives—about the rights of property having changed. If these accounts are correct it would appear that the hook, if one was used, was well baited with the prospect of rapine and plunder at the expense of our own fellow-countrymen. But the bid that was made has failed, and the fact that it was made has left the British name in India lower than it was before Sir Stafford Cripps went.
§ My Lords, views with regard to the rights of property may change, and are changing, but there is many a loyal subject of the Crown in India whose views on questions of right and wrong and of loyalty and disloyalty have not changed. There is many a man who will not change his views upon these fundamental subjects in accordance with the shifting winds of political opportunism. There are men 121 of the Indian races—I have met some of them and some other noble Lords know many scores of them—who would not thank Britain for the example of abandoning without condition or protest all that has been built up in India by generations of men of British stock. The Indian of the fighting races has a great idea of loyalty and the Indian of the commercial classes, that Lord Catto knows so well, has a good idea of a bargain, but he is also a man who keeps his word. In this particular transaction there seems to be neither the one element nor the other, and accordingly they find themselves seriously perplexed. They do not know exactly where they stand, and to use a rather vulgar phrase they think "there is a snake in the grass somewhere." It is not the way they are expected to go about either ordinary transactions or business affairs but what are they to make of a transaction which keeps neither a bargain nor any exhibition of loyalty to one's own people? They seem to me, at any rate—I hope I am wrong—to have come to the conclusion that this was simply another British bid for appeasement, backed this time by the open abandonment of British interests.
§ Before I sit down I should like to refer in a word to a matter upon which Lord Catto is a greater authority certainly than myself and a greater authority than most people. I refer to the most important matter of the personal position of our fellow-countrymen in India. I should like to know what new feature has emerged to make it desirable in the opinion of His Majesty's Government hastily to discard the provisions for their protection and status as citizens which have hitherto been considered right and proper? No word from Sir Stafford Cripps was reported giving the slightest hope to these men, Europeans in India, regarding their personal status as citizens of India. According to my information was suggested that Europeans could remain in India as British subjects—I think the words were "without Indian citizenship," but in that case no assurance could be given that the Indian Government would allow them any trading rights! That is not a nice outlook for people who have gone out to devote their lives to trade in India. I understand also that it was pointed out that if Indian citizenship were conferred its acceptance would automatically entail the loss of 122 British citizenship, so that our fellow subjects of the King and Emperor could no longer appeal to the Dominions Office in the event of India being a Dominion or to the Foreign Office if India decided to cut adrift altogether from the Empire.
§ I will not pursue this matter because there are others here who can speak of it with much more authority than I can. But I should like to ask this. What is it that our people in India have done that they should be left under this burden of anxiety? Every mail that arrives says that they feel it pressing upon them very heavily. We have it on the word of the Governor of Burma that the same sort of young business men as we are discussing here performed what he called "invaluable services" to the Government of Burma and to the Forces during the long and weary retreat through Burma to the India frontier. And just across the border in India there remains to be written, and some day there will be written, a tale of how British business Men in the tea industry organized camps and medical services, and transport and food for no less than half a million famishing refugees from Burma, largely Indian refugees. These are merely the most recent instances of a record of service that goes back, of course, beyond the days of Clive who went out as a young trader—a record, taking it all in all, of which no country need be ashamed. What have these countrymen of ours done that all the safeguards for their citizenship as well as for their possessions, which the wisdom of Parliament after prolonged and mature consideration laid down—that every vestige of these safeguards should be swept away?
§ I have taken up too much time, but I have nearly finished. This is not merely an academic affair because the subject arouses deep apprehension in India among the very men who are the backbone of our defence against Japan. The matter extends also beyond the immediate victims and affects our good name in the world and the fortunes of India herself. The repercussions would be felt here in this country and in every country where a structure of industry or of credit has been raised upon the hitherto firm and unassailable rock of British good faith. We seem to have the choice of two courses. We can go on trying to buy appeasement in India by abandoning the rights and the interests of our own people, or we can 123 strive to lay the foundations of India's future upon a broad equity which includes everybody—even the men of our own race. If to give up every British interest in India meant that 400,000,000 people in that land would find peace, then I for one would say "Yes, let it all go," and so would the noble Lord opposite. But desertion and abandonment do not work that way when you are dealing with men of honour. The British in India are a tiny handful, a drop in the ocean. It is not they, it is not their possessions which stand between India and her own peace. The gulf is far older than the arrival of the British in India and it goes as deep as the spirit of man. I do not believe myself that the gap is unbridgeable. It can be bridged so long as we still use the materials with which we have built so many difficult bridges in the past, and those, I submit, are loyalty and firmness and good faith. I beg to move.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, I am sure we shall all agree that the subject which the noble Lord has introduced is one of very considerable moment. We shall also agree that there is nobody who is more qualified to speak on it, from his long experience in business matters both generally and in particular as they concern India, than the noble Lord. We shall also agree that the subject is one of some special delicacy at this moment of crisis demanding all possible discretion in discussing it—that discretion which the noble Lord himself has well exercised in the course of his observations. As he told us, he has brought forward his Motion in an amended form. In its first state it applied to the safeguards necessary to preserve British citizens and British interests. It now covers wider ground and asks what the condition of Europeans in general in India is likely to be under the new Constitution. The noble Lord confined himself, however, to discussing the possible grievances which British residents in India might conceivably suffer under the new Constitution and he was not speaking of other European peoples.
In the earlier part of his speech the noble Lord devoted himself very naturally to the possible circumstances in which great British interests in India might suffer, but in the later sections of 124 his speech I was glad to notice he did not forget that there are many thousands of a much humbler type of British subjects whose interests must be as dear to us here as those engaged in important business. We have to remember the fact that what is somewhat vaguely described as Dominion status is promised to India at the earliest possible date after the conclusion of hostilities, and we have also to remember that those who are speaking for India are likely to argue that the preliminary imposition—if that is the right word—of artificial restrictions, even though the matter is one of agreement, will be scarcely compatible with the status which is enjoyed by other great Dominions of the Crown. Of course the new Constitution of India will be the subject of much preliminary talk and of something in the nature of a treaty, but when it comes to the actual conclusion of that treaty the objection which I have just mentioned is likely to be raised by those who consider themselves entitled to speak for Indian opinion.
As the noble Lord, Lord Craigmyle, said, it has been suggested that in these matters we shall have to depend to a great extent on the good will of India, and many of us, I think, will agree with him that to trust solely to the possible good will of those who will be responsible in the future for the Government of India would be going somewhat far, and that it is necessary to have something in black and white on which those sentiments of good will can be exercised. At the same time I think it cannot be denied that the success of the renewed type of friendship which is to obtain between the Government here and the Government in India in the future must depend very largely on the quality and nature of those who will be responsible for Indian government. At the present moment we have to remember that the more extreme element of those who speak for the Congress Party are the most vocal. Even though they could not be called pro-British yet they are very far indeed from being pro-Nazi, but at the same time some of us feel that if they were placed in a position of authority their Government would bear a closer resemblance to that of National Socialism than it would to the type of government that we have in this country.
On the other hand there is, I firmly believe, a very large body, and I hope a considerable majority, of far more 125 moderate opinion among the political representatives of India. Some of those—it is needless to mention names now—have in the most manful way stated their more rational, as we think, outlook for the future, and I firmly believe, that that more moderate sentiment permeates through the vast masses of the Indian people to an extent which the more extreme members of the Nationalist Party in India would try to deny. The one thing indeed that we have to dread—I think and I trust it may be averted—is an extension and a permanent location India of that excessive spirit of nationality which has been so greatly a curse in Europe since 1919. If I am wrong, and it my hopes that the more moderate, and what is called central, opinion of India will dictate in concert with us the terms of the future Constitution, we may be confronted with the strange paradox that in the future British business and those who are making their lives in India will transfer their energies and their valuable co-operation rather to the Indian States than to British India.
That opens up a large and singular prospect, but it is one, I think, which might well be presented to the minds of the more extreme evangelists of Indian independence. But I hope very much that there will be no such sequel to the attainment of self-government by India. All of us who have had to do with Indian administration know that in the past one of the great difficulties has been to find Indians, however intellectually capable and however morally straight in character, who would be willing to undertake and exercise serious responsibility. That is more than a phase; it has been a fact of long-continued knowledge. I believe that it has in a considerable degree changed and that as the years go on there will be, more and more representative Indians who are not merely capable of undertaking the most responsible work but who are willing to do so.
§ LORD CATTO
My Lords, I am sure you would all wish me to congratulate my noble friend Lord Craigmyle on his speech. He has spoken with a knowledge of the facts, with eloquence, and, may I also say, with feeling which does him credit, and in a manner which, I am sure, has impressed us all. If I understand my noble friend aright there are really two very important points, amongst 126 other important points, which have caused anxiety in the minds of the British commercial community in India. I think I could define those points best by saying that they are the legal status of the Briton in any new constitutional arrangement, and perhaps, above all, the lack of understanding and appreciation of the importance not alone to Britain but to India—I repeat to India—of that small but important community. These are very important matters, and my noble friend Lord Craigmyle has indicated them with great lucidity.
I have no intention of trying to go over the points that he has made, although I must confess that I would have preferred that these matters should have been given consideration in a calmer atmosphere than that which exists to-day. The Mission of Sir Stafford Cripps is too recent and its aftermath is still charged with too much electricity for these serious matters to be given that consideration to-clay which their importance justifies. For these reasons I should have been glad— and I speak for many connected with India with whom I have consulted—had my noble friend been able to postpone his Motion to a somewhat later date. I fear that, at this stage at any rate, he cannot receive anything but cold comfort from the noble Duke who will be replying on behalf of the Government in this debate. But as my noble friend has raised these questions, I feel it my duty to take part in the discussion, for as your Lordships are well aware I have ever been in the forefront of the advocates of India's constitutional progress, and indeed I am sure I am interpreting correctly the views of my noble friend Lord Craigmyle in saying that he, too, wants to see India take her place as a Dominion in this great Commonwealth of Nations at the earliest possible moment. That great ideal, however, can and must be accomplished without inflicting the kind of injustice on minorities in India to which my noble friend has referred; and the British commercial community in India, though small in numbers, is very important.
The noble Lord, Lord Craigmyle, has said that there seems to be a suggestion that, in any future constitutional arrangement, a Briton in India, in order to enjoy full citizenship in India, may have to abandon not only his British residence—that, of course, is undoubted—but also his 127 domicile, which is a very different matter, and one which in certain eventualities might involve him in the loss of his British nationality. In a speech in your Lordships' House on February 3 last, I referred to the question of safeguards. I did not say that they were unnecessary, but I did indicate that the protection from them was likely to be small, and I gave it as my personal opinion that on these matters we have largely to fight our own battles. But I protest most strongly if it is suggested that, in fighting these battles, which I hope and believe will be friendly battles, we are to be handicapped by questions of domicile and nationality to an extent which might prevent us from sharing the common rights of citizenship in India with our Indian fellow-British subjects.
Like my noble friend Lord Craigmyle, when I speak on these matters I am moved by emotion, and therefore I hope that your Lordships will excuse me if sometimes I express myself in somewhat forceful language. This question of British subjects in India is really not a new one. It was discussed at the time of the India Round-Table Conference some time ago. Indeed, at that time there was so much discussion and so much legal argument on this subject—and on others, of course, but particularly on this—that I was reminded of the lines of Omar Khayyam:Myself when young did eagerly frequent Doctor and saint, and heard great argumentAbout it and about: but evermoreCame out by the same door wherein I went.That has been very much my feeling towards this long discussion on the legal position. In the midst of all this confusion of thought on the subject, I have tried to maintain a simple faith in a simple principle, that principle being that the Briton in India must have the same rights—no less and no more—that an Indian British subject would have in this country. Surely that is not too much to ask.
It is true that politicians in India, and perhaps even some politicians in this country, may seek to deny that right, but I cannot believe that the majority of thinking people, either here or in India, amongst those with whom I live and work, could deny the justice of that simple principle. 128 It is true that some people may argue that fewer Indians come to this country to live or to trade than Britons go to India; nevertheless, there are many Indians here, and many Indian businesses directly or indirectly established here, and I am sure that those Indians would be astounded if their rights here as British subjects were to be different from those which the rest of us enjoy. I am aware, of course, that it may also be said that there are certain pars of the Empire in which Indians are not accorded those equal right which they have in this country. That may be so, but that is a matter between the future Dominion of India and those parts of the Empire where these conditions prevail, and with which India as a Dominion will have the right to negotiate directly on terms of entire equality. In my humble view, however, those are most certainly not reasonable arguments for denying to a Briton in India the same rights of citizenship as an Indian British subject has in this country.
I come now to the question of the British commercial community. My noble friend Lord Craigmyle has told us that remarks have been made to the effect that this community has had a long innings. The inference would be that it was time for the members of this community to depart, and that there would be little place for them in any new India. That is a viewpoint which is completely untenable, and one which indicates an entire lack of understanding of the part that is being played by the British commercial community, and of the part that has been played by Britons in India over a long period of time, in the creation of wealth in and for India. I sometimes wonder how fully it is recognized that India's main industries are almost entirely Indian-owned, although in many cases they owe their inception to the commercial enterprise, the energy and the initiative of the Briton in India.
I think it might be helpful in such a discussion as this if I gave your Lordships just one instance—the great jute industry of Bengal which is in fact the second largest textile industry in the whole world. It has been built up over nearly a century, from the utilization of what was originally a weed, almost entirely by British enterprise and by British business. It is to-day so important that the whole financial economy, not only of the great Province of Bengal 129 but of the whole of India, is involved in its prosperity. That is a romance of industry which I could unfold to you if time would permit, but the point I wish to make to-day is this, that this great industry, far from being owned in this country or by Britons in India, is owned—and I believe my figures are conservative—to the extent of at least 75 per cent. by Indians.
In conclusion, I feel that if all these facts were better understood there would be less suspicion and perhaps more justice for those men who spend the best years of their lives in a difficult climate, separated often for long periods of time from their families, men who, whatever may be their motive, whether adventure or gain—and the matter is inherent in us all—have the interest of India in their hearts and an abiding affection for the land they live in and its peoples.
§ LORD HAILEY
My Lords, I wish, if I may, to join in the tribute which the noble Lord, Lord Catto, has paid to the force and the conviction with which the noble Lord, Lord Craigmyle, put his case. I am sure there must be many of your Lordships to whom what he has said has made an appeal as deep as it made on me, and has roused an emotion as strong. If I take part in this debate it is mainly because I wish to emphasize one aspect of the case, of which indeed he did not show himself unconscious and to which he more than once referred, but an aspect of the case on which I think much of our argument must really depend; I mean the value which the presence of a European community can still have for India. I think there are very few Indians who have made a serious study of the economics of their own country who would seek to deny the value to India of the introduction of European capital and European skill and business management. It is true that Lord Craigmyle's Motion has taken a wider range and refers to the European community at large, but I take this particular section of the European community for the moment because I think it is this which has been most apprehensive of the effect of any discrimination directed against them.
It is true that there is in political circles a disposition to speak of the profits made by European business as part of what, with great lack of precision, has been 130 referred to as the drain on Indian resources. But the real test—and the only test that any serious economist would apply—is not the extent to which profits have been made by external capital, but the extent to which its use has developed national assets which might otherwise have lain dormant, or has assisted in raising the standard of living of Indian people, or has stimulated Indians to organize their own capital resources and develop their own industry or internal trade, or has indeed contributed to the finance available to the Government for the extension of the social and economic services. If that test is applied there can be no doubt on which side the balance lies. Nor has the position of the European community been won by any special privileges, secured either by tariff legislation or otherwise. If India has a complaint—and your Lordships will excuse me if I purposely take as much as possible the Indian point of view in these discussions—it is only that we delayed too long the grant to it of power to enact a system of protection which would enable it to initiate and develop its own industries—such protection, for instance, as was granted to the Indian steel industry, and has enabled India to extend her cotton and sugar industries.
But the motives which inspired that policy—apart from any predilection we may have had in a previous generation for the doctrine of free trade—was not primarily consideration for the interests of the European community in India. It may have favoured the interests of the manufacturer in the United Kingdom; but the local European community at large would not have been prejudiced by an earlier introduction of a policy of protection in India; the position of a large section of it might indeed have been improved. Not only has enterprise, financed and conducted by the British community, enjoyed no exceptional privileges, but its profits have, as the noble Lord, Lord Catto, has pointed out in a very pregnant illustration, been very freely shared by Indian investors. It is therefore a misnomer, as Lord Craigmyle has shown, and a prejudicial misnomer, to refer to "European vested interests." It is equally true that the position the European community has won in India has been won by open and fair competition with Indians.
131 But Indian public opinion to-day, even if it recognizes the value of the introduction of British capital and business organization in the past, is now apt to ask itself whether this fact in itself justifies the grant of any special consideration to the British commercial community to-day. Its past connexion with India has admittedly been far from unprofitable to it. It has, in words that have been used in the course of the discussions in India, had "a good run for its money." But India, as is often pointed out to us, has now been able to mobilize her own capital resources. She has repatriated the greater part of her external public debt. She has financed from her own resources a great expansion of the cotton industry. She has created—again from her own resources and largely by the use of her own personnel—a great steel industry and a sugar industry; she has taken a large share in the modern development of mining, and has shown that in a hundred other ways she has a great—indeed some of her own people might say, an illimitable—capacity for expanding her own industrial and commercial development. She herself is wont to claim that she can do so without assistance from the European community.
Has that community now therefore any special function which India cannot perform for herself? I am prepared to take up the challenge on that point. I think that anyone who has acquired only such experience of Indian industrial and commercial conditions as can be gained in the course of administrative life, cannot have any doubt that there are still many features in them which compare unfavourably with those presented by organizations for which Europeans are responsible. India has made considerable advance in banking and insurance institutions, but no one can doubt that she would be very much poorer if she no longer had the benefit of the institutions of this class which are still managed and financed by Europeans. She has still a long way to go before she can build up a shipping organization comparable with that which Europeans have provided. No one, again, who has had any experience of discussions in Indian Legislatures can fail to be impresed by the value attached there to the experience of the representatives of the European commercial community, in particular when any matter 132 affecting the trade and industry of the country is in debate. What has been said in the Report of the Simon Commission on that subject is amply borne out by the experience of all who have spent a long life in the Indian Legislatures.
I am putting this claim purposely on its lowest terms. There are others who might assign a far higher value to the contribution which the European community can make to India. They might, in particular, refer to the value to her of the presence of a community which can stand aloof from the inter-communal strife which is so unfortunate a feature of India's political life. But I have preferred to place the matter on grounds which, I believe, should be accepted by any Indian who is free from an undue obsession of racial feeling and is thinking only of the welfare of India.
It is in the light of the consideration I have put forward that I wish to examine the nature of the treatment which the European community might now be entitled to claim for itself. The India Act of 1935 provided a measure of protection which was not so complete as many of the European community asked at the time, but it was nevertheless substantial. It proceeded, in the first place, on the assumption that any European resident in India would have the same civil rights as other residents in the country. It went on to take steps to provide that no discrimination should be exercised against British subjects on the ground that they are domiciled in the United Kingdom. It protected them from discriminative legislation in regard to entry into the country or from special restrictions of liability in respect of travel, trade, the practice of professions, or the holding of office so long as the United Kingdom itself imposed no such disability on persons domiciled in India. That was the principle of reciprocity to which the noble Lord, Lord Catto, has just referred.
It specially forbade the imposition of taxation on individuals domiciled in the United Kingdom or companies incorporated there which would exceed the taxation to which they would have been liable if domiciled or incorporated in India. It made companies domiciled in the United Kingdom eligible for any bounties or subsidies given to Indian companies. It provided that ships registered in the United Kingdom should not be 133 subjected to any treatment which discriminated against ships registered in India, unless the latter were subjected to disabilities in the United Kingdom. Finally, it provided special protection for those holding professional or technical qualifications gained in the United Kingdom. The position of the European community as a separate minority, and therefore entitled to political representation on that ground, was not secured in the Act of 1935 itself. It followed on what is known as the Communal Award which was accepted as the basis of an Order in Council.
I have told your Lordships in detail the contents of the Act of 1935 because they illustrate the wide range of matters which might be involved when questions of discrimination arise. If I may say so, I have done so for another reason, because this subject is sometimes apt to be approached on general lines, and generalization may often lead us in difficult matters of this nature somewhat further than we intend to go. I do not suggest that the European community as a whole would now ask that an identical degree of protection should be embodied in the treaty which the Indian Union would make, as is envisaged by the Declaration of March last. There was no such suggestion, I think, conveyed in what Lord Catto said. I am bound to assume also that Lord Craigmyle would recognize that to stand out for safeguards of this character would not be compatible with the grant to India of the status contemplated in that Declaration. I am in some difficulty here, because the noble Lord, Lord Craigmyle, while referring to self-government in India, did not expressly associate himself fully with that part of the Declaration, the fundamental part of the Declaration, which held out Dominion status to India.
How far the fact that the negotiations have broken down gives us ground for saying we have a clean sheet or not is a matter to which, no doubt, the noble Duke will refer in his reply. I can only say, for myself, and I think for a large number of others who have interested themselves in the Indian question, that when the British Government and the British Parliament representing the British people have made a solemn Declaration of that nature, and made it in the most authoritative form, I should regard it as 134 alike impolitic and dishonourable to suggest that we should hold out to India now anything less than full Dominion status. It is certain that the imposition of restrictions similar to those contained in the 1935 Act would place India in a position inferior to other Dominions. It would place her, for instance, in an inferior position if we were to attempt to deny to her the power of requiring all companies operating in India to be registered there, or if we were to attempt to deny to her the power to require all companies to comply with Indian law in respect of their constitution or their directorate and the like.
It would be open to similar objection if we were to attempt to prevent the imposition of taxation on dividends or profits paid to non-resident partners or shareholders in excess of that paid to persons resident in India. It would equally be a limitation on that status if we restricted the Union from passing legislation prescribing qualifications, other than those obtained in Great Britain, for professional or technical men, or from requiring registration under an Indian law of vessels engaged in Indian coastal trade, or from giving bounties to companies registered in India on a different scale to those given to undertakings not so registered. I do not say that it would not be desirable that we should, if possible, secure the European community from disabilities in these respects, but the point I am making is that it would not be compatible with the possession by India of the same status as other Dominions if we attempted to restrict, in advance, her powers in these directions.
We are, of course, at the moment at some disadvantage in discussing this matter in that we have no clear indication from the European community itself of the provisions which it would now desire to see introduced as part of the future Constitution. So far, however, as their views can be gathered from the published material available to us, they are likely to feel most strongly on two points. They attach importance, in the first place, to the retention of their political, rights as a minority, thus securing to them the same measure of protection in point of political representation as the treaty would provide for other minorities. In the second place, they would ask that the Indian Union should be estopped from passing 135 any measure which would impose disabilities, in respect of trading or otherwise, on persons who, though British subjects for purposes of the United Kingdom legislation, do not possess Indian nationality as defined by any law passed by the Indian Union. If I understood Lord Catto aright, he apprehends that such measures might have the effect of depriving British subjects desirous of trading in India of their British nationality. That, however, if I have read the law on the subject aright, would not be the case, since only a law passed by the United Kingdom itself could have that effect. But an Indian law of nationality might impose conditions such as that of residence for a prolonged period in India, or the like, which would be a serious disadvantage to the European community, particularly in their trading capacity.
Both these points involve very considerable difficulties, the first because a European not domiciled in India could not, strictly speaking, be described as belonging to an Indian minority, and the second because of the complexities which inevitably attend legislation on questions of nationality. They are complications of which we have already become conscious in legislation undertaken by some of the Dominions in respect of the definition of Dominion nationality. Nevertheless, in spite of these difficulties, I hold strongly that we should, alike in justice to the European community itself and in view of the benefits to India which its continued presence there can bring to her, attempt to arrive at some understanding with India which provides a satisfactory solution at least on these two points. But I feel at the same time that it would be more compatible with the general attitude we have taken in regard to the status to be given to India, and which to my mind, as I have said, has the force of an undertaking to which we are definitely committed, if we were to avoid making any effort to insist upon them as a pre-condition to the creation of an Indian Union. They are conditions which, in my opinion, can best be achieved, not by a formal limitation of the autonomous powers of the Indian Union, but as the result of an understanding negotiated with the body which will discuss the form of the future Constitution with us. That is the course which I would suggest. And, if I may repeat the words that I have used already, 136 I would make every effort, both in justice to the European community and because I believe it would be for the best interests of India herself, to arrive at that understanding.
§ LORD HARDINGE OF PENSHURST
My Lords, having served in India I venture to-day to address a few words to your Lordships on this very important issue. It was only last evening that I first heard of the debate that was to take place today in this House, and when I learnt what its implications might be I regarded it as a very important and serious development. I know just as much, or as little, as the general of the purport of Sir Stafford Cripps's Mission to India and of what took place there. I only know its result. As for the latter, I was not in the least surprised at what it turned out to be. Anybody with real knowledge of India and its people would know that complete accord amongst the different races and creeds of India would be impossible to obtain for many years to come, if ever. During the past ten years, as your Lordships know, there have been two Round-Table Conferences in London, a Declaration by the Government of a promise of Dominion status, and a Bill has been passed by Parliament preparing for that status in the future. At the same time the outbreak of war has been the signal for an act of blackmail by Congress and other Parties, another bid for self-government which is now developing into a claim for full independence.
I cannot conceive any British Government admitting such a claim and its consequences without a direct mandate from the people. It would be an act of betrayal of the people of this country, who have been associated with India and its people for more than 200 years, and also of the people of India who relied on and trusted us during all these years. Its result would be to create chaos, confusion and eventually bloodshed, and such a condition would, indeed, be a disgrace to our country. I trust that steps may be taken by the Government of India to reassure those who feel anxiety in India on the subject, and that the inherent rights of Britons to full protection of their rights and interests in India, may be secured in the course of the negotiations for the new Constitution of India which are to take place. I entirely support the views of Lord Hailey in whose opinion 137 I have always had for many years the fullest confidence both when he was in India and since that time.
§ VISCOUNT MAUGHAM
My Lords, the curious thing to me, to a great extent an outsider in Indian problems, is the fact that, as far as I can gather, we are discussing here something which has not really affected, at any rate to any great extent, the minds of the people who speak in Congress. I have done my best to acquaint myself with the debates in Congress during the Cripps Mission, and there is scarcely any reference at all to the question of safeguards for the minorities and in particular safeguards for any British subject resident in India. They have all been talking—and talking sometimes with considerable violence—on other points which to them seem far more important. Having that in mind, I am not sure that there is not some misunderstanding which I hope will be cleared up to-day as to the attitude of His Majesty's Government on this matter.
Words are very often misunderstood and, in particular, statements made to members of a Press association in India, many of whom may be natives, and statements made in general terms in such a pamphlet as that of Professor Coupland, some of which seemed to me to be ambiguous terms, are apt to mislead people as to the present position. I would add with regard to the word "expropriation" that everything depends on what you mean by saying that the Indian States shall be entitled to expropriate people. I remember very well when was endeavouring to assist His Majesty's Government with the Coal Bill that I was told by no less eminent a person than the then Archbishop of Canterbury that the measure was one of expropriation. After careful thought I came to the conclusion that that was a true observation; but the owners of coal royalties were being expropriated on the terms of a compensation, the amount of which was fixed by a completely independent body. If that is what you mean by expropriation, nothing, I think, ought to compel us to the view that the new Constitution for India, if and when it comes into being, will prevent an expropriation of that character.
I cannot help thinking that we have been discussing to-day something which, so far as I know, the Government have 138 not yet given up, and so far as my hopes have any validity at all I hope they never will give up. My knowledge of the matter, I should say by way of introduction, depends very largely on that most able and elaborate document which bears date thirteen years ago and is signed with the name of John Simon. The position of the races and tribes of India and their varied religions and their different customs and ideas are to be found in that Report, and amongst other things there is to be found there a most elaborate account of the reasons which make it necessary in India to have safeguards for minorities. If there is, as I have no doubt there will be sooner or later, a Constitution for India it must be a Constitution with certain safeguards for minorities because the minorities are so numerous and their positions are so very different one from another. The country, so far from being homogeneous in language, in race, in religion, in caste and social customs or traditions, or in climate, is absolutely heterogeneous and different. There are Gurkhas and Jats and Tamils and other races. The Mahomedans alone number nearly 80,000,000 and then there are Sikhs and Buddhists, Jains and Parsees, and a body, which in your Lordships' House we ought not to forget, of over 6,000,000 Christians. There are a number of Anglo-Indians and there are, of course, the British subjects, whose rights and interests we have been considering to-day. There are also 60,000,000 Untouchables. And when all is said and done two-thirds of the people are Hindus in religion.
In these circumstances it is inconceivable that we can leave India without a Constitution which provides some measure of protection, so far as a written Constitution can give it, for those various multitudes, because in the absence of anything of that sort there is the grave possibility of oppression, especially in a country like India where there is so strong a feeling between different religions that, as we know, very serious troubles are apt to break out in some parts of the country as between differing religious adherents of various ideas. The Simon Report observers, in Volume II at page 22, that "India is a land of minorities" and that, I believe, is just as true to-day as it was when the Report was signed. The Report says in the same paragraph "the spirit of toleration … has made 139 little progress in India." That is equally as true to-day as when it was written. In the next sentence the Report says:Members of minority communities have unfortunately only too much reason to fear that their rights and interests will be disregarded.The Report ends on this matter by saying "there is indeed need for safeguards," and expresses the opinion that paper safeguards will not be nearly as useful as the continuance in India of a Governor-General and of the Governors of the different Provinces—a matter in which it seems to me His Majesty's Government have now come to a different conclusion.
But, my Lords, safeguards there must be, and I do want to bring this home to anybody who does me the honour of listening to me or of reading a report of what I say, that safeguards for minorities are no qualification of the true liberty and rights of such a body as the Indians themselves contemplate that the Indian State will possess in the future. Nothing I say is going to qualify what has already been said as to the fact that we cannot qualify the idea that India must have Dominion status. Be it so. But that does not mean that Dominion status is always one and according to the same pattern. It has been my duty to spend many days considering the Dominion status of Canada under the British North America Act and of Australia under the Commonwealth Act of 1900, and incidentally to consider a matter which is sometimes cited in that connexion, the Constitution of the United States of America. There is no democratic country in the world which prides itself more on its liberty than the United States, and your Lordships must not suppose that the sort of measures or qualifications which are being sought for to protect British subjects in India are any more serious or any more objectionable to the people than the safeguards that are contained in the United States Constitution.
Perhaps I may be allowed to read—it will take only two minutes—two of the clauses which now operate daily in the United States of America and have been the subject of many actions in the Supreme Court. The first is the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution which came into force on the 3rd November, 1791. I will not read the whole of it, but it ends "nor shall private property 140 be taken for public use without just compensation." Well that, you may say, is a comparatively small thing. Still it may be very important. "For public use without just compensation." That, as a matter of fact is the way in which in England we also treat our fellow subjects. The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution is still more important. It came into force on December 18, 1865, having been passed by the usual majority of all the States. Section I sets out thatNo State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States;"—that is not the most important part; this is it, which follows:nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.I am not reading this as being a clause which is a model for all Constitutions, or which would necessarily be applicable in the case of India. But I am making this point; that these passages in the Constitution of the United States have not been thought by the people of the United States to be a qualification of their liberty. They are only safeguards of minorities, just and equitable, and freely accepted by the inhabitants of that country
To put in the sort of safeguards which, as I understand it, are suggested on behalf of British subjects on the formation of a Constitution for India would not imply or suggest any qualification of or derogation from the independence of the new Indian State or from its status as a Dominion. And that being so, I pass to this point: What is it for which the spokesmen for people who are British subjects resident in India ask? And here is where I think a misunderstanding has arisen. As I understand it, they are not asking for any preference or any privilege whatever in India. They are not asking for that. What they are asking for is equality. When His Majesty's Government give up those reins of control which they have reserved, small as they have been in many respects since the provisions of the Act of 1935 came into force, these people will be content to be left with equal rights with the rest of the inhabitants of India, in just the same way as if, were they carrying on business in the United States, they would be left with equal rights—except rights of voting, which I am not bothering 141 about for the moment—with the other inhabitants of that great country.
What I wish to protest against is the idea that it can be possible for a British Government to leave British subjects in a position of inferiority as between themselves and the rest of the numerous races who live in India. I cannot believe that after the enormous work which British subjects have performed or accomplished in India during the past century or more, in education, law, commerce, transport, and all the other matters one can mention, our Government will be content to agree to a Constitution which, while putting the Mahomedans and the Jains and the other religious bodies I have mentioned in a position which will protect them, will deliberately leave out, Heaven knows for what reason, other minorities of whom the British people in India are one.
It is absurd to regard British subjects in India as if they were carpet-baggers there. At any rate, I believe a great number of the members of this House have had relations who have spent Dart of their lives in India. It is the commonest possible thing to have people going out there to devote their lives—as your Lordships have already been reminded to-day in several eloquent speeches—to serving the interests of India. For my own part I may say that my mother was born in India, and I should think that there are few people here who have not got some connexions with India. And those people out there are to be treated upon the hypothesis—against which many people have been speaking to-day—that they were mere passers-by or just people who went to India for a holiday in the winter months. That is not their position at all. This great work which has been accomplished in India by British subjects, from Clive downwards, has justified the view that the people who are there now are a minority who cannot be treated as if their rights were of no importance. I am not going to end on that note, because that would sound like a note of despair. I will end by saying that I do not believe that His Majesty's Government are going to abandon the British subjects in India. At a future time when, no doubt with our assistance, some Constitution is being drawn up, wherein there must be, as I say, safeguards for the minorities, I cannot believe they will see that those safeguards touch the 238 religions in India, 142 and the thirty or forty different races that live in that vast country, and yet leave out British subjects.
§ THE EARL OF GLASGOW
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Craigmyle deserves the thanks of his countrymen for putting this very important Motion on the paper, and I have no doubt that the noble Duke who will reply for the India Office will assure the House that the rights of British subjects in India will be well safeguarded. But the people of this country will want to know how that protection will be applied. If unjust measures are taken against British interests and nationals when Indian politicians assume power, what action will this country take? I cannot imagine either of our political Parties which may be in office here after the war daring to use force to defend British vested interests or even to protect the lives of our countrymen if they were in danger. What have these political Parties done? What is their record? The fact must be faced that, owing to the cowardice of our Party leaders, India will be lost to us, and will go out of the Empire in the way that Eire has gone.
What must be the feelings of loyal friends of Britain in India when they contemplate the future of their country under Indian rule? I do not mean Indian friends of particular noble Lords, or of ex-Viceroys who are members of your Lordships' House, and who may or may not be friends of this country. Our true friends in India are the fighting Indians who have done their duty valiantly for the King-Emperor all over the globe. There are hundreds of thousands of them. What will they think of Indian rule? How will they feel when they see the disappearance of the British officials, to whom for many years they have looked for guidance and for justice? It has been the custom of the British to give to these brave soldiers, when they returned to civil life, a piece of land on which to earn their livelihood. I hope and trust that that custom will continue, whoever rules India in the future.
India has been the shuttlecock of professional British Party politicians for a number of years. "India for the Indians" is the kind of slogan which goes down well with the freedom-loving though ignorant electorate, and, most important of all, it is a cry which will help the Party using it to get into power. The 143 other Party, the Tory Party, were quite alive to that, and, although they knew that "India for the Indians" presupposes that the Indian people would be happier and more prosperous under Indian rule, and that that supposition was false, they did not oppose it, because it might have prejudiced their return to power. The Tory Party have seldom had the courage to stand by their principles; the cry has often been that it is better for the Party to give way on this or that question than for the other side to have power.
No one seems to remember the great mass of inarticulate Indian people who for more than a hundred years have looked to the British for help in their need and distress, and who have been betrayed by the British political Parties. These poor people, most of them illiterate, are to see their British protectors hounded out of the country, and they themselves handed over to the tender mercies of a tiny minority of politicians, representing a very small proportion of the Indian people, who propose to rule them by democratic methods, a method of government which has largely failed in Europe, and which is entirely alien and unsuited to Eastern races. Already, in seven Provinces out of eleven, democratic government has been suspended, owing to the desire of Congress to gain its political ends, and at the present moment Indian leaders are demonstrating their unfitness to govern by their advocacy of non-violence to the cruel and implacable enemy at the gate. If these Indians succeed in their experiment—and I hope that they will—can we expect from them justice and fair play for British officials and British interests? I make bold to say that directly the strong mediatory British influence is removed, civil war will come to India.
However, the die is cast. It is too late to turn back. The British Government have given their pledge that India shall have its independence and shall have Dominion status, and that pledge will be kept and should be kept. We must depart from India, and we shall do so with a good grace; but I am sure that we shall bitterly regret having given complete control to Indians in one kangaroo-like jump. I believe that in time the Indians should have come to govern their own country, but I am certain that this democratic experiment in India would have had more chance of success if we had had 144 the courage to insist that progress should be slow. There is an old Latin tag, festina lente, and it is in that spirit that India's problems should have been approached.
This disruption of the Empire has been noted by millions of people in this country. They are the little men; you may call them "John Citizens." They belong to no political Party; they are not interested in politics, and at elections they have voted sometimes one way and sometimes the other. But they are interested now, and they are getting restive. They only want organization, and that is going to come. I believe that a new political Party will arise which will reach out for new ideas and new ideals, and from which British subjects all over the world will have a better chance of obtaining justice than they will ever have from either Tories or Socialists. When this new Party arrives, as I believe it will, it will be, to use an Americanism, "just too bad" for the old, orthodox Parties. I hope that this great experiment in India will succeed. It can do so only if the leaders, many of them men of sincerity and integrity, can allay the distrust which exists among Indians themselves. As help cannot be expected from our own partisan politicians, the Indian leaders will have our grateful thanks, and will increase our desire for their success, if, when they attain power, they give fair compensation and justice to British nationals, whose predecessors have done so much to make India great and prosperous.
§ THE EARL OF CROMER
My Lords, in rising as I do to say but a few words at this stage in the debate, I am confident that I shall be absolved from having intervened too frequently in your Lordships' House. I cannot claim the authority, experience or knowledge of many of the 'noble Lords who have preceded me in this debate, but I can claim to be not entirely a stranger to the country of India and to some of its people, and it is for this reason that, whatever may be the view of your Lordships' House as to the appropriateness of the moment at which this question has been raised—a point which was hinted at by Lord Catto—I hope that the debate will contribute to help His Majesty's Government to sound a more robust note in their future dealings with the people of India. I am not going to traverse any of the points which have 145 already been mentioned here to-day, but I do hope that, when the time comes for a final treaty to be made, all those very important considerations that the noble Lord, Lord Craigmyle, has brought forward to-day, as well as the points made by my noble and learned friend Lord Maugham about not leaving the British in India in a position of inferiority, will be taken into the most careful consideration. In saying that, I have much pleasure in supporting, to the best of my ability, the Motion brought forward by my noble friend Lord Craigmyle.
§ LORD WEDGWOOD
My Lords, I think that this debate serves, or should serve, a double purpose. I am not sure that we shall get much light, leading and direction from the noble Duke when he replies, but I am quite certain that one of the objects of this debate is to reassure those 20,000 of our compatriots in India as to the complete solidarity with them of the politicians in this country in their anxiety for their future, in their confidence, and in their hope for decent treatment. I am speaking from the Labour Benches, but I cannot speak for the Labour Party, because we did not know what the question was that the noble Lord, Lord Craigmyle, would raise. I myself fancied that this would prove to be a debate in favour of vested interests, and that we should hear only about British capital and the security of property; but, as I listened to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Craigmyle, I felt myself carried away, as many others must have been, by the human touch.
After all, these 20,000 of our fellow-countrymen out there are a sample of the people who have made not India, but our reputation in India. I am quite aware that they have done good service in the Legislative Councils and in the Central Legislature. I wish now that the Indian civil servants had been used more largely for taking charge of municipal government in India, and had initiated the Indian people into self-government in that way. But I am confident that their chief contribution has been the establishment of their honesty. They have set a good example which will, I hope, be of lasting benefit to India in any circumstances. The people of this country, whether they belong to any of the political Parties or not—and I am very nearly as bad a Party man as the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow—all agree 146 that blood is thicker than water and that there is a great deal of latent patriotism even in the most appeasing, as in the most extreme, politicians in this country.
The problem before us to-day is an extremely difficult one. It is precisely the same, however, as was presented to us after the last war in the case of Ireland. I think we dealt with it very badly in Ireland. The safeguards were valueless; the whole thing was a bad mess, and it has been getting worse ever since. I do not want to see that happen in India. I am sure none of your Lordships wants to see repeated in India what we had in Ireland. The first point I would make is that the situation between England and India is continually changing during this war. I do not believe that noble Lords realize that we began this war with India a debtor nation and ourselves a creditor nation; we shall end this war, when it does end, with ourselves a debtor nation and India a creditor nation. It is a marvellous change. That is good for the relations between the two countries, and when that takes place social relations change too. We are talking about safeguards. I really do not know what safeguards we can ask for, but the best safeguard, of course, is that for which our fellow countrymen in India are asking—namely, no penalization in future because we are English. They do not want to be penalized in the way they are in Ireland, or even in South Africa. And how are we to get that? The noble Duke who is replying for the Government can promise all sorts of things, but we know perfectly well that promises of safeguards on paper are valueless when they are brought up against the final issue: are you prepared to go to war in order to secure those safeguards? I have seen safeguards break down over and over again in those circumstances—South Africa, Ireland and elsewhere.
I really have a great deal of sympathy in this matter with Sir Stafford Cripps. If he was going to promise anything it would have been held up against him in after years that he had made promises which the Government had not fulfilled. I do not see how these safeguards are going to be adequate unless we can change the relations between Indians and the English people. Those relations are changing. I call your Lordships' attention to two very significant things that have happened 147 in India in recent years. In the first place, nearly all the British jute companies have accepted Indian directors. Twenty years ago they would not have done so. It has come about recently. No discrimination is being made, and that which was more or less always the case in Bombay has now extended to Bengal and is becoming more or less universal; that is to say, all these financial interests which are of great importance to us now—of greater importance than before, as we have lost most of them—are adequately protected in a sense because the Indians have as large a share in them as we have ourselves. I do not know whether your Lordships remember, but about ten years ago there was a passion in this country for excluding American shareholders from British companies. One of the offenders was the Calcutta Electric Supply Company; they were afraid of American capital coming in. What would not we have given to have had American capital in our South American investments, even American directors on the boards of our South American companies! It was a suicidal policy. Well, the British in India have changed that suicidal policy; they have brought the Indians into their business more and more, and they have formed a strong union of interest.
That is one thing. There is another point which I have noticed increasingly in recent times. The Indian capitalist is investing more and more in British securities—not only in British Government securities, mark you, but in British industrial securities. Indians, as it were, are taking their share in the provision of capital for the whole Empire. It does not apply only to Great Britain, it applies to Australia and other countries as well. The great fortunes that are being built up in India are not being built up by the English in India, they are being built up by the great business people of India, and above ail the Princes of India. The wealth of India is colossal. Unfortunately, it is very unequally divided: rich on top and frightfully poor below. But the Indian people are rich, and they are getting richer day by day. As long as this war goes on you will find that capital is international. Therefore I do not think there ought to be much nervousness in future about capital in India. I do not think they will repudiate their debts. I 148 do not think they will pass restrictions on exports or imports, or control finance by block agreements or anything of that sort.
But there remains the question of the decent treatment and the continued existence and functioning in India of the English people there. Now that is largely in their hands, and not in Government hands here. It depends on their co-operating with the Indian people. That has increased enormously in the last twenty years. I hope it is going on even more quickly now. I am perfectly certain that the distinction between the skilled engineer and the honest business man of either race will vanish, and they will be giving the best of our traditions and culture—honesty, justice, judgment rather than rashness—as their contribution to the new Anglo-Indian State. We should seek our real safeguards not so much on paper as in the prospect of a Federal Union which will embrace India, Great Britain and America, and thereby produce financial security, stability, and honest affection between the three great races.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA AND BURMA (THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE)
My Lords, I trust I shall be acquitted of any discourtesy towards your Lordships' House if I reply very briefly to the most interesting, and indeed important, speeches which have been made to-day. The fact is that quite recently we had a debate on India in this House. The constitutional position in India has not changed since then, and I have really very little fresh to say. The mover of the Motion which is before your Lordships' House addressed himself, in a very notable speech, if I may say so, in particular to the future of the European commercial community in India. As my right honourable friend the Secretary of State told the House of Commons to-day, His Majesty's Government made it clear when they made, through the Lord Privy Seal, their recent effort to arrive at a solution of India's constitutional problems, that a guarantee of special protection for British commercial interests in India would not be a condition for the acceptance of whatever Constitution Indians might evolve after the war, and that such provisions would properly be a matter for negotiation with the future Government of India. That is not to 149 say by a very long way that His Majesty's Government either is, or will be in future, indifferent to these interests.
They are interests of great, indeed vital, importance to India and Indians as well as to England and Englishmen. They have done very much to build up the prosperity of both countries, and both countries alike would suffer if there were any diminution in the flow of trade and the interchange of goods between them. British commercial interests in Canada, in Australia, in New Zealand, or in South Africa are not a matter of no concern to His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. On the contrary, they are a matter of very vital concern. My time during the years I spent at the Dominions Office was very largely taken up with looking after these interests. But that concern was not expressed by means of safeguards or guarantees exacted at the time when the former British Colonies became self-governing Dominions. It is not possible that it should be so. If your Lordships think of it, it is really impossible both to make an offer of complete self-government and to exact guarantees for specified British interests. The one implies trust and confidence, the other a lack of trust and a lack of confidence. The one represents the spirit of free and equal partnership, the other the spirit of grudging concession.
We mean what we said about India's constitutional future, and that means we have passed from the conception of tutelage that of a free and willing partnership. Guarantees other than those arrived at by a process of free negotiation are incompatible with equal partnership, and so are all these restrictions upon the freedom which is to be conferred upon India. But that does not mean to say by any manner of means that the future of British trade with India or the well-being of the British trading community in India is of no concern to His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. As I have said, these matters in self-governing Dominions are of the very closest concern to His Majesty's Government. We deal with them and all safeguards or guarantees by discussion and negotiation as between equal partners. I wonder if any of your Lordships can really doubt which is the better system. The one led to the Boston tea party, the other to the Ottawa Agreements.
150 This country enjoyed a great trade with India before she ever exercised anything like political domination over that country. A collateral of my own, Elihu Yale, did a very large trade with India before there was any conception of political domination. That trade has done very much to increase the prosperity of both countries, and I would remind your Lordships that the result of that trade has not only been an interchange of goods between the two countries, to the great benefit of both, but the development of Indian Legislatures on a scale which would scarcely have been possible but for the British trading community in India. During a period which I believe will come to be realized by all sections of opinion in India as well as here to have been necessary as well as inevitable—the period of British tutelage—that trade has grown steadily. In the words of Macaulay:Now and then there has been a stoppage, now and then a short retrogression; but as to the general tendency there can be no doubt. A single breaker may recede, but the tide is evidently coming in.I can see no reason to doubt that when that period is over and tutelage has finally given way to partnership—the process has been going on for a very long time now, and for many years past the tutelage has been found less complete and the measure of partnership far greater than has been realized by impatient extremists either in India or here—when that period is over, the volume of that trade will continue to expand.
That it will change in many respects I have no doubt. India's own industries were developing before the war came, and the process has been accelerated by the war, but I have no fear that the trade will not continue to expand. I am relatively a newcomer to the India Office and to Indian affairs, but I had some years of experience of Dominions affairs. One of the most encouraging features of that experience was the way in which the continuous process by which the Dominions ceased to be dependent upon us for this or that product, and took to producing it for themselves, had resulted not in a contraction of the total volume of our trade with them but in an expansion. We have always been losing trades, we have always been gaining trade. So I hope and believe it will be with India.
I thought it worth while to devote a few moments to this question because one 151 of the accusations most persistently brought against us by critics of the British record in India is that we have deliberately stifled the growth of Indian industries. That is not true. On the contrary, successive British Governments and Governments of India have fostered the growth of Indian industries and commerce. They would have been fools not to have done so, for the growth has contributed greatly to the general volume of trade which has been so beneficial to both countries. Here and there no doubt individual industries in this country may have felt alarm at the development of Indian industries which seemed likely to compete with them in the present-day markets, may even have been able to get that alarm voiced in Parliament; but the Government of India and the India Office have always realized that the development of India's industry was in the best interests not only of India, but of Great Britain as well. In that development the mercantile community in India has very largely assisted. There are in India many industrial concerns originated by British brains and founded on British capital, which are to-day—and my noble friend opposite made this point—owned by Indian shareholders and directed by Indian brains.
The association between the British and Indian mercantile communities is a very close one, and it is founded not only on commercial interest but, as the noble Lord, Lord Catto, pointed out, on close friendship and close relationship. I can see no reason to believe that that association will cease to exist. The British mercantile community has rendered great services to India of which I believe the Indian mercantile community has never been forgetful—services which I also believe will be recognized by all historians, Indian as well as British, when the smoke and dust of political conflict have subsided. They are rendering great services to-day. They are helping, not as masters but as partners, to direct India's vast potential productive capacity into those channels which will afford the greatest help to all those engaged in the common cause of freeing the world from the threat of tyranny. Their sons, in partnership with the sons of Indians, are leading Indian soldiers, and I think it is seldom realized in this country how gallantly they have acquitted themselves. 152 Of the Indian brigade which was so recently overrun in the Libyan desert, the only survivors are wounded and not one unwounded man laid down his arms, a record of which India has every reason to be proud.
I am conscious of being an optimist, but there is this much to be said for being an optimist in Empire affairs, that ever since the disaster at the time of the Boston tea party to which I have referred the optimists in Imperial affairs have always been right and the pessimists have always been wrong. A hundred years ago there was no statesman, be he never so farsighted, who could sec the Empire as it is to-day. There were some who thought that permanent subjection of the Colonies, as they then were, to the Motherland was a possibility, and that upon that possibility our policy should be founded. They, as we now know, were wrong. There were others, very much more farsighted, who realized that that was not a possibility, that the Colonies not only could not, but should not, be regarded as possessions to be farmed, but should be treated as partners in freedom. But even they never realized that when that freedom had grown up the present close partnership under the Crown would be possible. And yet that has been achieved.
The structure of the British Empire and its various component parts would defy the drafting powers of a Saint Athanasius to put into words, but it has stood hard tests, and it has emerged from them not only unweakened but positively strengthened. So I believe that our new relationship to India will survive the tests to which it has been recently subjected. I have not been able to give the noble Lord who moved for Papers much satisfaction in the way of positive assurances, but I hope I have given him some assurance that the great services to India and to this country of the immensely important community on behalf of which he has spoken this afternoon will not be forgotten either by India or by the Government of the United Kingdom. I do not see how any future Government can ever be unmindful of the interests of that community. We hear much of a golden future in which every man is to be secure in the possession of a well-paid job and of what is called freedom from economic insecurity. All the speeches which have ever been made on these lines 153 never found a job for a man yet and never The European community in India are finding jobs for men every day of their working lives.
§ LORD CRAIGMYLE
My Lords, I have to thank the noble Duke for his reply and, if I may, particularly for the extremely kind words which he used about the services of the European community in India during the present crisis. These words, I am sure, will go oat to India and will be deeply appreciated by these men there. With regard to the latter part of the noble Duke's speech I find myself at a disadvantage. It has been difficult for some of us to ascertain exactly what the policy of His Majesty's Government is, and I should like to ask if I am correct in thinking that the noble Duke compared the policy of the Government to the Athanasian Creed, of which it was said that its chief merit was its entire incomprehensibility. If I am wrong I ask pardon, but I gathered that that was the reference to the Athanasian Creed. The noble Duke has made great play with the phrase "the Boston tea party" and I do not know whether by that he has sought to indicate that my noble friends and myself, who do not entirely agree with the view he takes, advocate the policy which lost to us the American Colonies. The policy we have advocated is a policy of Dominion status for India, the same policy which was so carefully considered for such a long time by the Simon Commission, and which is embodied in existing legislation. If that be the policy of the Boston tea party, I am very much surprised that it should be given that name from the Front Bench.
We have upon the Woolsack the noble and learned Viscount who is the father of that policy, one of the most generous policies ever devised by a great Empire in the whole history of the world. It is a very delicate matter to speak about these things. Two facts stare us in the face. There are, may I say, two bits of entirely solid ground upon which we can 154 put our feet. One is the solid ground of Dominion status, not because that was embodied in any particular declaration which has been kicked downstairs, but because it has been again and again repeated in the highest quarters as the policy of this country, not of one Government alone but as the policy of this country. That is the one piece of solid ground, and the noble Duke has quite rightly taken his stand on that piece of firm ground. There is another piece of equally firm ground, and that second piece of equally firm ground is the necessity for entire equity in this most exceptional case to all the minorities, not excluding a minority consisting of our own fellow-countrymen. The policy which faces His Majesty's Government is to bridge these two pieces of solid ground, and I submit with respect to your Lordships' House that that will not be done by talk about the Boston tea party as representing the opinion expressed by one set of people.
It is a policy to which the present Secretary of State and all his advisers are no doubt applying their minds. It is a policy which is certainly not being helped by the recent developments in India to which the noble Lord who has been a Viceroy of that great Empire alluded. If this debate has done nothing else except elicit the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hardinge, I think it would be notable because he intervenes all too seldom in your Lordships' debates. The hour is getting late and on this delicate matter it is better to say too little. I thank the noble Duke for his reply and I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.