§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA AND BURMA (THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE)
My Lords, I owe an apology to your Lordships for having been somewhat late in arriving and for having been responsible for an alteration in the order of the business before the House. I apologize most sincerely. I had been led to believe that the Secret Session would last somewhat longer than it did and that my presence would not be required so soon. 669 Perhaps, after the debate to which your Lordships have just listened, I ought also to apologize for being unable to address you in Welsh. I can promise your Lordships that I will not do so until I have attained far greater facility in that language than the noble Lord who has just made his peroration.
I think the convenience of the House will best be served if I first take your Lordships briefly through the clauses of the Bill, then make a brief statement on the condition of affairs in India which has, unhappily, made its introduction necessary, and then leave it to my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor to reply to any points that may be raised. The object of Section 1 of the Bill is to extend the present statutory limits on the period during which temporary arrangements may be made to meet a failure of the normal constitutional machinery in the Provinces. Section 93 of the Government of India Act, which makes provision for this situation, was first invoked in the autumn of 1939, when the Congress Party Ministries which then held office in eight of the eleven Provinces of India resigned. The three Provinces not affected were Bengal, the Punjab and Sind. In Assam an alternative Ministry was formed. In the remaining seven Provinces no alternative Ministry could be found and the Governors were therefore obliged, on dates varying between October 30 and November 10, 1939, to issue Proclamations taking over control of the Administration.
These Proclamations are dependent on Parliamentary approval for their continuance in force, firstly, after an initial period of six months and, secondly, thereafter after periods of twelve months, but no Proclamation may, in any event, under the Act now in force, be continued for a total period exceeding three years. In one of the seven Provinces, generally called the Section 93 Provinces—namely, Orissa—the Governor found it possible in November, 1941, to cancel his predecessor's Proclamation and to return to the normal constitutional machinery of Ministerial government. There remain six Provinces — Bombay, Madras, United Provinces, Central Provinces and Berar, Bihar and the North-West Frontier Province—in which there is at present no prospect of a Ministry being formed to take over the Administration. In those Provinces no statutory sanction will re- 670 main for the present or for any alternative Administration, and arrangements are necessary whereby the Section 93 Proclamations, which will lapse in the course of a few days now, can be replaced. The simplest and indeed the only solution in present circumstances is to amend the Government of India Act, 1935, so as to enable existing, or any subsequent, Proclamations to remain in force, subject always, as now, to periodic review by Parliament. That arrangement is to hold good until twelve months after the end of the war. That is the main provision of the Bill before your Lordships.
The purpose of Clause 2 is to assist the authorities in India in their task of maintaining law and order under conditions of emergency arising out of the war, by facilitating the prompt execution of death sentences and thereby investing them with their full deterrent value. In view of the near approach of the enemy to India, the Governor-General has promulgated Ordinances this year which enable Provincial Governments to introduce the death penalty for various crimes, such as sabotage and looting, and to set up Special Criminal Courts like War Zone Courts when an emergency occurs in or near India. I hope your Lordships will not think that repressive measures are to be taken. The measures resemble very closely those measures which were made possible in this country when invasion seemed imminent or at least possible. Sentences, including death sentences, passed by such Criminal Courts are final after confirmation by a reviewing Judge, who must be a High Court Judge.
There is no appeal to a High Court from the latter's judgment, but persons sentenced by these Special Courts may exercise the same rights as persons sentenced by ordinary Courts. That is to say, they may petition the Crown for mercy and they may apply to the Privy Council for special leave to appeal. Petitions for mercy are disposed of in India by the Governor-General in the exercise of the Royal Prerogative which has been delegated to him. This Bill leaves those petitions where they were, and the disposal of them entails no undue delay. The position about applications to the Privy Council for special leave to appeal is somewhat different. But very substantial delay might, in fact would almost certainly, be caused if the execution of the sentences of these 671 Special Courts had to be deferred until application to the Privy Council for special leave to appeal had been considered and disposed of. Such applications are, under the existing normal law, received every year by the Privy Council in very considerable numbers, but instances of special leave to appeal being granted—that is, instances of cases in which some special cause for appeal, some irregularity in the law almost may possibly exist—are extremely rare. It is a fact that the only practical result of these appeals, and indeed, the only result which encourages prisoners under sentence to make these appeals, is that the execution of their sentence is deferred for some months. Now this substantial delay must tend to nullify the deterrent effect of death sentences passed by the Emergency Courts, and passed under conditions of grave emergency where most prompt and energetic measures are necessary to deal with such offences—and very grave offences they are in time of war—as looting or sabotage. That is the purpose of Clause 2 of the Bill.
I need not keep your Lordships more than a moment on Clause 3. This clause enables the Central Legislature in India to declare that an office of profit under the Crown does not, or need not, disqualify its holder from being a member of either House of Parliament in India. Provincial Legislatures already have this power, but although it was intended to be conferred upon the Central Legislature in India by the Act of 1935, the fact that Federation has not yet come about has rendered inoperative the sections of that Act conferring this power, and non-official members are, in fact, unable to retain their seats if they accept offices in the service of the Crown in India. The Government of India have, in fact, found that their lack of power to remove this disqualification has hampered their war effort. Several members of the Central Legislature have been deterred from accepting important war-time positions, such as Commissions in the Army or as recruiting officers, for fear of losing their seats. The clause is given retrospective effect in order to deal with the cases of some members who have accepted war-time appointments such as Commissions or positions as recruiting officers or hold Commissions in the Indian Army Reserve, and have been called up for duty from time to time. It 672 is really a drafting amendment in a way, in that the Government of India Act, which was intended to control these powers, for purely technical reasons has not conferred them, and this is designed to put that matter right. It is already within the power of the Provincial Legislatures but not in the power of the Central Legislature.
Clause 4 is designed to remedy certain drafting defects in the Government of India Act which experience has brought to light. The declared intention of subsection (2) of Section 298 of that Act was to prevent the alienation, and to preserve the possession by the traditional agricultural owners, of rural land in India. Such legislation is a fundamental part of the social and economic structure of certain parts of India, and more especially of the Punjab. Opposition to it comes mostly from the moneylenders or Bunnia class. It has been found in practice that the purpose of the Act can be, and in fact frequently is, nullified by fictitious transactions and this clause is designed to close this loophole, the existence of which, in the view of the Punjab Government, may have far-reaching repercussions and lead to grave discontent among those classes from which the greatest number of Army recruits are obtained. The opportunity is taken of improving the drafting of the paragraph in sonic respects, but these are purely matters of drafting with which I need not trouble your Lordships.
Clause 5 deals with various matters arising from the facts that there is to-day in India a Government of Burma, functioning on the soil of India and engaged in the reorganization of the Burma Army, and also that there are a certain number of cases pending before the Burma Courts which it is desirable to have settled. The clause provides for the function and duties of the Burma Government to be exercised on Indian soil, and for those cases which were already before the Burma Courts to be concluded before Indian Courts.
That, my Lords, is the. Bill. I have explained the clauses, I think, tolerably fully, and as your Lordships will have seen, the majority of them, except Clause 1, are really matters of drafting, or of technical amendment to existing legislation. But Clause 1 does deal with the whole question of the political situation 673 in India, and about that your Lordships will expect me to say something. We last debated this subject some six months ago, very soon after the return of the Lord Privy Seal from India. As your Lordships will remember, the position then was that one more, the last, of our sustained and continuous efforts to endow India with full self-government had broken down and had stuck upon the sandbank of the Congress Party's unwillingness to come to any compromise, either with other Indian Parties or sections of opinion or with the Government of India or with the Government here at home. I want to make it very clear to your Lordships that that was the obstacle to agreement being reached. It was the absolute nature of the Congress Party's claim to be the one and only heir of the Raj which the British Government were not only willing but anxious to transfer to Indian hands; it was the Congress Party's claim to be the sole mouthpiece of Indian nationalism, the only representative of Indian opinion. That, of course, is very far indeed from being the fact.
The Congress Party, it is true, is the largest political Party in India, but there are other vast elements in India which it is quite impossible to ignore. To have handed over to the Congress Party the Government of India without having balanced and harmonized the claims of these various elements—in the aggregate greatly outnumbering the Congress Party and still more vastly exceeding that Party in their contribution to India's war effort—could have, and would have, led to nothing but chaos. On the other hand, to attempt to form a Government representative of the other Indian Parties without the co-operation of Congress would have provided a far less satisfactory solution. But even that solution seems to be ruled out by the mutually incompatible claims of the Mahasabha—the second largest Hindu Party—and the Moslem League. Hence the deadlock, a deadlock for which the British Government are most unreasonably being blamed. Since the breakdown which the Congress Party quite deliberately brought about, the Government of India have been confronted with a formidable conspiracy, a conspiracy designed to paralyse the Government of India. Mr. Gandhi has chosen to call this a non-violent campaign, but phrases do not alter facts, and in 674 fact the campaign could scarcely have had a less non-violent character. Sixty Government servants, the enormous majority of them Indians, have lost their lives, and some 650 have been wounded. I should like to take this opportunity of paying a tribute to the steadfast courage and resolution with which the vast majority of the Indian Police and the Indian civil servants have faced this time of trial.
I do not want by any words of mine to indicate that the Government of India are out of the wood yet. The position in some parts of India is still serious, and it is a sinister and significant fact that the disorders, which have been principally directed against communications—railways, omnibuses, telegraphs, and so forth—have been most serious in those parts of India where any interruption of communications would have been most paralysing in the event of a Japanese invasion. There is no direct evidence—none whatever, and I should like to emphasize that fact—that any enemy political influences have been at work in India, but there is evidence, and strong evidence, that the Congress Party has so directed its campaign as to do the maximum damage to India's war effort and to render India vulnerable in the most dangerous quarter. As I said before, I have been careful to avoid giving the impression that we are out of the wood in India. The position is still serious, and sporadic outrages occur daily; but there are quite clear indications not only that the vast majority of the people of India are heartily tired of the Congress Party's campaign, but that very many of the Congress Party's own supporters are themselves wearying of it.
I do not think that it is an exaggeration to say that the Government of India's troubles are at any rate not diminished by political agitation and exhortation from outside India. We—and by "we" I mean the Government here and the Government of India—have for some months past been subject to what I think it is not unreasonable to describe as persistent barracking to make some speculative move. I will come in a few moments to the question of what, if any, spectacular move we might take; but for the moment I want your Lordships to think of the effect not only in India but in Russia, in the United States, in the Dominions, in 675 China and, last but not least, here at home, of the never-ending rain or hail of speeches and articles urging that we should do something—something that is never specified—and do it forthwith. The effect on the Congress Party is undoubtedly a very bad one. There is evidence, as I have said, that the so-called non-violent campaign, which has in fact proved to be a campaign of violence punctuated by occasional incidents of quite abominable atrocities, is on the wane; but when we are being pressed from left, right and centre to make some further spectacular move it is hardly reasonable to hope that that campaign will be called off.
The infinitesimally small minority of the Indian people who are carrying on this campaign are showing signs of weariness, but it is hardly reasonable to hope that they will finally lose heart while they continue to receive so much encouragement as they are receiving from here. So long as articles continue to appear, and so long as speeches continue to be made, whether by Prelates or by politicians, putting the blame for the present deadlock in India upon His Majesty's Governments either here or in India, and urging that the next move lies with them, so long will the organizers of disorder in India continue to believe that they have only a few more telegraph wires to cut, only a few more fishplates to tear up, only a few more packets of phosphorus to put in a few more pillar-boxes, only a few more 'bus or tram depots to attack, to enforce a large-scale retreat on His Majesty's Government and to impose their will on the peoples of India. We are still more or less a free country, and for my own part—I am not speaking now as a member of the Government—I should not only deplore but fight against to the very limits of my ability any restriction whatever on the free expression of opinion either by pressmen, politicians or Prelates.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF YORK
My Lords, the noble Duke looks at me on each occasion. May I ask him to make plainer what he means by "Prelates"? The only time that I have spoken on this matter has been in support of the Government.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
I intended to pass no reflection whatever on the most reverend Prelate; I was only looking to see what Prelates were there. 676 I should never countenance any attempt to control the Press; on the other hand, I think it is reasonable that the Press should exercise due responsibility in what it says. I have been nettled, as many of your Lordships have, by expressions of opinion in what, for want of a better or more English description, I may perhaps be allowed to describe as the "Leftish" Press—expressions such as "We cannot undertake offensive operations against the Japanese in Burma with a hostile India behind us." The words "a hostile India behind us" are an actual quotation. Whoever expressed that opinion was grossly wrong. India is not hostile to our cause, not by a very long way. India has made and is making a really magnificent and a constantly growing contribution to the Empire's war effort. I have mentioned this to your Lordships before, and I do not want to weary you by repeating anything that I have said already; but it is a fact that Indian soldiers in this war have fought as well as any soldiers in the world's history have ever fought, and they fight out of loyalty to the King-Emperor; that is their governing motive.
I do not quarrel with expressions of opinion by more or less irresponsible journalists, but I think I am entitled to complain when positive misstatements of fact are made by what is still the most powerful and the most highly respected organ of opinion in the world. The Times newspaper a few days ago published a leading article in which it was stated, not as a matter of opinion but as a matter of fact, that India's war effort could be multiplied ten times over if the political difficulties could be removed; and the article went on to indicate—and here we pass from the realm of fact to the realm of fiction—that the removal of those difficulties lay within the power of His Majesty's Government. The statement of fact is demonstrably and ludicrously false. It cannot seriously be maintained that India could raise, train and equip 700,000 recruits per month, maintain in the field an Army of well over 10,000,000, supply 200 per cent. of the personnel of the Mercantile Marine—I could go on multiplying instances almost indefinitely. At the present moment the limiting factor to the expansion of India's war effort, whether in the field or in the factory, is not the lack of willing recruits—we could take in many more than we are getting now—or 677 of willing workers—unskilled perhaps but willing—but of equipment, machine tools and factory plant, officers and technicians to train and lead. These are limitations imposed not by political considerations but by our want of pre-war preparation. How can it be seriously maintained that a political settlement, however satisfactory, can remedy this?
I do not for one moment maintain that India's effort, gigantic though it is—and it is gigantic—might not be increased, any more than I maintain that our own is incapable of expansion. In war-time we should never be satisfied with any efforts. But if India's war effort is capable of expansion it is also capable of diminution; and I would remind your Lordships of the fact that by concessions to this or that section of India—and that is what we are being asked to make now; we have made all that we can make in this country—by this or that concession it would be a great deal easier to halve or quarter India's war effort by some unwise step than to increase it by 10 per cent., let alone by 1,000 per cent.
What is it that it is proposed we should do next? I confess that I get weary when I hear all these endless exhortations to the Government to "take the initiative," or do something "constructive." These words come very readily to men's lips and pens, but what do they really mean? The Lord Privy Seal went out to India with a full, comprehensive offer of self-government for India, should India be able to accept it. Did that show a lack of initiative? Has anyone yet suggested anything more boldly constructive? He made great and sustained efforts to get that offer accepted—as your Lordships remember, he overstayed his original time-table by a long time—but it was not accepted, not because it was not sufficiently comprehensive—we offered literally all that we had to offer—but because we were not prepared to offer what was not ours. Now it is suggested that we shall do something more, that in some way a further advance shall be initiated from here. I believe that the next move must come from India, that when that fact is realized the next move may come, but that until it is realized the deadlock will continue.
We have in England an old saying that one man can put a cock in a pit but a hundred cannot make him fight if he 678 does not want to. It is rather the same with self-government. It may be offered, or it may be seized; you may endow a country with self-governing institutions, but you most certainly cannot impose them. As my right honourable friend the Secretary of State said in the House of Commons a few days ago, our policy in India is not one of reluctant retreat but of willing advance, not one of enforced abdication, but of freely proffered partnership in freedom. That is the fact; self-government for India was the ultimate goal of British statesmanship long before there was any conscious demand for it in India, long before there was such a thing as the Congress Party.I most emphatically affirm that for us to preside over this transition from the fifth European century in some parts, in slow, uneven stages, up to the twentieth—so that you have before you all the centuries at once, as it were—for us to preside over that and to be the guide of people in that condition, is if conducted with humanity and sympathy, with wisdom and political courage, not only a human duty and a great national honour, but what was called the other day one of the most glorious tasks ever confided to any country.Those words were spoken by Lord Morley in this House in 1908. In the years which have intervened great progress has been made, progress greater than has been made in the same number of years at any time or in any country. It is true that India has not vet attained full self-government, but she has made great strides towards it, and the fact that she has not yet attained it is not due to our failure to proffer the prize but to the failure of some, not all, Indian hands to grasp it when proffered.
In surveying a picture of the vastness and complexity of that which is presented by the great sub-continent of India, it is surely a mistake to take a short view. Six months is a long time in the eyes of a politician whose horizon is the next General Election. Six months or a year is not such a very long time in the eyes of an historian. The period of delay which has been imposed upon Indian progress by the recalcitrance of the Congress Party may be longer than six months, longer even that a year. Let no friend of progress lose heart. We should not be deterred from our purpose by a delay of six months or a year. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill he now read 2a.—(The Duke of Devonshire.)679
§ LORD ADDISON
My Lords, we have before us to-day two issues, it seems to me—the Bill of which the noble Duke has moved the Second Reading, and the speech which he has delivered. In regard to the Bill, I have to say on behalf of my noble friends and those with whom I am associated that we recognize the necessity and give the Bill our support, and I do not propose to say anything more as to the contents of the Bill itself. But I confess I am not altogether quite so happy about the speech which the noble Duke made. I recognize his difficulties—God forbid that I should seek to add to them. I have in times past been a Minister and received deputations who set out their grievances, sometimes not without exaggeration, and who demanded at the end that something had to be clone about it, without specifying what, or how. I quite recognize that that is the lot of every Government and every Department, but it is the business both of the Government and of the Department to suggest expedients tirelessly and with infinite patience and infinite good will. I am still asking myself why it was that the noble Duke laid about him so vigorously. What have we done to deserve these castigations? Even The Times newspaper and unnamed Prelates were included, as well as those with what the noble Duke called "Leftish" tendencies. Really, with great respect, I do not see how that is going to help matters much. The position is very grave. We all welcomed the statement of the Deputy Prime Minister in the other place on October 8, that the offer taken to India by the Lord Privy Seal was a genuine offer then and stands to-day. Since then there has been the breakdown to which the noble Duke referred, but it is legitimate to ask, is it all that the Government can do simply to say, "There is our offer, we stand by it"? I noticed that the noble Duke emphasized the words "last offer." There never is a "last."
§ LORD ADDISON
If the noble Duke had said "the most recent" I should not have called attention to the adjective.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
Perhaps I am unlike the noble Lord in that I never use two words when one will serve.
§ LORD ADDISON
But the noble Duke used the wrong word. That is what I am complaining about. I do not like the expression "last offer." I am suggesting that there is no "last offer" in progressive government. It is up to the British Government to try and devise an alternative offer. At all events I am protesting against the use of the word "last" at this particular juncture. It was a very unfortunate term. It would have been better if the noble Duke had said "the most recent offer." I was more comforted by what the Deputy Prime Minister said in the other place in the same connexion when he stated we had over and over again invited the Indian leaders to come together and agree. Is that enough either? I wonder. I am not saying anything to minimize in any way the difficulties of the situation, but I cannot but think that the speech of the Prime Minister, which some of us did not like as much as we should have wished, will now be classed with the speech of the noble Duke as not being so helpful as it might be just now. I am not satisfied that the speech of the noble Duke represents all that a wide-minded leadership should provide.
It is true—and I would not differ a word from what was said about this aspect—that the attitude of the Congress Party seems to me, quite frankly, speaking with a Western mind, impossible. The conception of democracy which the Congress Party seems to have is not one with which we can have any affinity. It does, in fact, mean the domination of the rest of the people by a section, which is contrary to every principle embodied in the term "democracy."' We cannot, I agree entirely, leave out those great sections of that sub-continent which Congress does not purport to represent, and with which indeed it is continually at difference. It is also obvious that a Government cannot abdicate its functions in the face of civil disobedience. The noble Duke was right when he said that civil disobedience is bound to be attended by disorder; it could not be otherwise. So far as that aspect of it is concerned, all of us would feel that the Government must be supported. Whilst Mr. Gandhi does, in fact, seem to shirk responsibility, there are, and have been since the beginning of the breakdown, a large number of responsible Indian leaders who, with great cordiality and I am sure good will, have sought to 681 be helpful in finding a way out of the present difficulties.
I think we are entitled to look to the Government to provide something more helpful than the speech which the noble Duke has delivered. He did not exaggerate, I am sure, the immense help we are getting from India, and I am sure he is right when he said that India hates the thought of Japanese aggression, and that in fact the efforts of the civil disobedience movement would help the aggressor. That is obvious. Every indication is that the vast majority of the people of India have no support for action of that kind. Therefore we cannot exaggerate the tribute we pay to the help which India, all over, is voluntarily giving; but that makes the responsibility of the British Government all the greater, not to be too stand-offish, but to make use as far as it can of all the elements of good will which there are in India, not simply to say "This is our last offer," not to adopt that attitude of standing upon a particular position and refusing to depart from it. I cannot but think that it is the duty of the Government to mobilize, and use with every possible resource that may suggest itself, all the good will that is available in India. We are right in asking the Government not to adopt the aggressive tone which the noble Duke has displayed to-day, but to develop to the utmost possible degree every avenue of friendly approach that opens out and becomes possible, because democratic institutions only advance successfully by a display of infinite patience and infinite good will, and I hope we shall see more of both of these in the attitude of the Government on this matter.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, we all agree, I think, that there is really no alternative to the introduction of some such measure as this. Like the noble Lord who has just spoken, I will not attempt to discuss in any way the clauses of the Bill, but confine myself to one or two observations on the general question. Though there may be no alternative to this Bill, there are no doubt many people who, as has been said by the noble Lord who has just spoken, cherish a hope that it may be possible for His Majesty's Government to make some further move, and to adopt that attitude which people describe as conciliation when they approve of it and as appease- 682 ment when they dislike it. I think it will also be generally agreed that to attempt appeasement on the Government's part in the sense in which that word is now used would be wrong and futile.
There is one definite fact that divides His Majesty's o Government from the extreme attitude of the Congress Party. In matters of policy or matters of administration somebody must have the final decision, must have the last word, and the Congress Party so far has not budged from the attitude of demanding that they should have that last word. The last word now is not, as some would say, with the Viceroy, or even with the Viceroy's Council or even with the India Office here. The last word is with Parliament, with the other place and ourselves, and, whether it be the Viceroy or the Secretary of State, he has to obey the direction of Parliament or disappear from office. That I think shows that the alteration on which some people have based their hopes, that the administration of India in this country should be transferred from the India Office to the Dominions Office, is not a course which it is possible to take. If the present functions and powers of the India Office were to be transferred to the Dominions Office, that of course would mean from the Congress point of view that the change was a mere imposture. If, on the other hand, the powers relating to India were only to be exercised as they are exercised in the case of the other Dominions, that of course would mean a complete surrender to the Congress Party Will. Therefore I think that that particular solution will have to be dismissed.
Some people say, "After all, these extreme leaders of Congress may be anti-British, but that does not mean that they are pro-Nazi, and they would object quite as strongly to a German victory as we should ourselves." Well, that may be so. Congress leaders would not welcome a German domination to take the place of what they consider to be a British domination; they would probably adopt the view of the Spanish: "The devil you know is better than the devil you do not know." But in some cases I am sure it is the fact that they are not so much anti-British as anti-European. What they desire is to see India. independent as a part of the great continent of Asia, and I do not think it is at all impossible that if 683 the events of the war tended in that direction they would be quite willing, and even more than willing, to attempt to make a bargain with Japan even at the cost of assuming a somewhat inferior position in Asia, still with complete severance of ties with Europe. I should be sorry to believe that there is no hope of any kind of renewal of understanding with India before the close of the war, although I cannot go so far as Lord Addison did in hoping that it would not be difficult apparently for the Government to make terms with the more moderate elements in India.
As I have often said in this House and elsewhere, I have always believed that the road to a freer and self-governing India could be found rather by the extension of provincial administration and powers than by adding strength at the centre. I have sometimes gone as far as to wonder whether we have not in the whole course of our administration in India begun at the wrong end, and attempted to institute something in imitation of our Parliamentary system, instead of working up from the bottom and developing first the village councils, and then going on to the larger areas before we thought of giving the greater legislative powers at all. However, that is a subject upon which it is not possible to dwell now. But I do wonder whether, even before the whole reconstitution of India can be considered, it might not be possible to recreate something in the shape of self-governing Provinces. The difficulties are, of course, obvious. The noble Duke explained that five Provinces are still holding out for the views of the extreme Congress Party. Only one, Orissa, has been able to be reconstituted as a self-governing Province. If in the course of events it is found that that example can be followed by some other Provinces—and I entirely agree that in the long run the boundaries of the existing Presidencies and Provinces might well be reconsidered—it might be a start towards a closer understanding with India. I was greatly encouraged in reading the book lately published by the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, who has had first-hand experience of Indian administration, to find that he believes that the future Constitution of India would have to be worked out on some such lines. Meanwhile I agree most fully that we must not despair merely because of these serious and even alarming 684 events which are occurring in many parts of India. The exercise of patience will, I trust, lead to a satisfactory end of these most difficult and most complicated questions.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I am sure you will have been very much interested in the closing words of the observations of the noble Marquess, in which he said that he greatly doubted whether we had not made a mistake all through our history in paying attention to the centre instead of first arranging for self-government in the Provinces. I agree with the noble Marquess. I can only express regret that in our debates on the Government of India Bill we did not hear from the noble Marquess those observations, which would have been most useful to us in our struggle for the very thing which he now says ought to have been carried out. However, I do not want to detain your Lordships with observations on old history. We are face to face with practical issues of such moment that we cannot spare more than a very few moments to reflect upon the past.
I listened as well as I was able to the speech of the noble Lord, the Leader of the Opposition. I regret very much that he did not seem to have appreciated the appeal which was made to him and to others by the noble Duke, the Under-Secretary, not to disturb the efforts of His Majesty's Government and of the Government of India, for stability in that country, by indiscreet speeches and indiscreet utterances here. We see examples of that not merely in your Lordships' House but in the daily Press—pressure put upon the Government to take a further step of some kind, a fresh initiative, another offer, a gesture. I would urge upon your Lordships that the great hope of arrangements proving satisfactory in India is that there should be stability now. The perpetual suggestion that something more ought to be done is the very way to defeat the object which we have in view. I regret it very much, because those who are advocating these further steps are men of great influence, of great experience, like the noble Lord, the Leader of the Opposition. They are men of great position, and when they make these utterances they resound all through India, and the local agitators, the Congress Party, and their leader Gandhi, think that only a little 685 more pressure is needed. "England is in a bad way," they say, "give her another kick and she will give way." Of course the noble Lord who, as I know from long experience is a great patriot, does not intend that at all, but his influence when he makes a speech is in that direction. I profoundly regret that.
But please do not think that we, any of us, desire to go back on the position which this country has taken up in reference to the future of India. We have accepted self-government; we have accepted Dominion status. Subject to two conditions—first, that nothing more can be done whilst the war lasts; and secondly, that nothing can be done which does not respect the rights and interests of the minorities—we are all of us willing to accept Dominion status, that is to say, to give to India precisely the same rights and authorities which the other great British Dominions possess at this moment. That is our position. Why not leave it there? Why be always pressing for further concessions? It is quite plain. The present position is as clear as it can be. We have made our promise and of course we shall loyally abide by it. To put more pressure on the British Government to go further is merely to create more agitation in India. We have made a great advance. What we want is a moderate policy in India, a tolerant and sympathetic policy, and we want, of course, a loyal and sincere policy. All these things, of course, we must have. Above all, we do not want a weak policy. We want stability and we want stability now. The very fact that we are fighting this tremendous struggle strengthens the argument in favour of stability. Let us forswear forever the policy of appeasement. I should have thought that almost everybody in this country now knew what a policy of appeasement led to. Let us have no appeasement. Let us do what we believe to be right. Let us not do what our judgment tells us is unwise in order to conciliate somebody who is unreasonable. Let us do what is right and not go any further.
Is there anything else which we have to consider? I think it was the noble Lord—or was it the noble Marquess?—who said that we have to consider other opinion, not merely Indian opinion but opinion in China, opinion in America as well as opinion in this country. I re- 686 cognize the importance of that, and especially the importance of making our position clear to American public opinion. I have always wondered why the American Government are not pleased to send representatives to India; official representatives, to watch events there. I am not in favour, of course, of asking the United States Government, or any foreign Government, to arbitrate in India. That would seem to me to be an absurdity. But there is no reason why there should not be official representatives who would watch events and report to Washington exactly what they saw—something corresponding to the officer at the front in the late war who held the position of an eye witness, his duty being to watch what was going on and to report it. Why should something similar not be done now for the benefit of American opinion? We have nothing to hide, we have nothing to be ashamed of. By all means let the United States Government see what is going on in India and the infinite benefits that we have conferred upon India in the course of our administration there. Let them see and let them report what they see. I have no doubt, indeed I have great confidence, that American opinion when it is informed of the truth, will realize what we have done for India and how greatly the efforts of the British Government now ought to be supported in that country.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF YORK
My Lords, I rise to intervene for a very few minutes only. I should not have risen at all had it not been for the fact that the noble Duke referred to opinion expressed by Prelates. Silence on my part might, therefore, be misunderstood. I, of course, am unable to say that all Bishops would be of one opinion on this or any other measure. I do not read with care all the utterances of my fellow Bishops, and some utterances may have been made on this subject with which I should profoundly disagree. But I think I am expressing the opinion certainly of a very large body of Churchmen when I say that I agree with the steps which have been taken by the Government. I thought that Sir Stafford Cripps's Mission was a very brave step carried out with courage, patience and wisdom. I do not see how he, or any Government, could possibly have given way to the demand of Congress. If they had yielded to Congress it would have been a betrayal of the Moslems and other minorities, and I 687 think it would have led to chaos, and, possibly, even to civil war. Therefore, I find myself, in general, supporting the steps which the Government have taken in this matter. I hope, however, that the Government will continue to make it plain, as it has been made plain by some of the Government spokesmen, that we have not withdrawn the offer which was conveyed by Sir Stafford Cripps. There is, undoubtedly, widespread suspicion in India at the present time as to whether this offer is genuine, and the more frequently we repeat that we stand by the offer, the more rapidly will come a settlement.
I feel that I am expressing here the great mass of opinion of the Churches when I say that the Indians themselves—the different Parties in India—must come together and make some more definite, constructive proposals than they have made up to the present time. There is nothing which we desire more earnestly than to see the different Indian Parties meeting together and to hear them tell us what settlement they require. So far as I can make out from what has been stated in Parliament and in the Press, these steps have not yet been taken. There is plenty of statesmanship in India, and I think that one of the wisest things which could be done by the friends of India to-day—those who like myself wish to see India happy and contented—is to appeal again and again to the Indian leaders to come together and reach agreement among themselves. Until that agreement is reached it is really impossible for the Government to go forward with the policy which was announced by Sir Stafford Cripps. We are anxious—and I believe that the great masses of the people in England are most anxious—that India should be happy, contented and prosperous under a form of government on which its own people are agreed.
§ THE EARL OF HUNTINGDON
My Lords, one of the most disquieting features of the situation to me is the lack of knowledge and lack of realization among the people in this country of what is happening in India and of how it will affect every one of them. The noble Duke has referred to the fact that The Times has published various articles suggesting that the Government should take 688 more active steps in this matter. I happened to pick up The Times about a fortnight ago and I saw in it that a special correspondent had written concerning the situation in India with regard to the war, that it "can hardly be regarded as satisfactory." That, I think, is a masterly piece of understatement. Unfortunately, the veil of consorship between the British public and Indian events is so drawn that the average man in the street, who ought to be interested in this problem, knows very little about it, and does not understand the real bones of contention. Yet the future of every person in this country will be vitally affected by the course of events in India.
India, I submit is the key both to the victory of the Allied Nations and to the future development of the world. I do not think that that is an overstatement. I hardly need remind your Lordships of the importance strategically of India in relation to China, Russia, Australia and the sea routes. What its loss would mean! Its importance from a military and naval point of view is as obvious as it is immense. I would like, however, to stress one other aspect. That is, that India has become the touchstone on which our real motives, our real war aims are being tested. This is through no desire of ours; it has just happened. Public opinion in the United States, which has never, I am afraid, looked with entire sympathy on our rule in India, is now profoundly disquieted and disturbed with events there. This feeling finds its way into the Press and is being discussed on all sides.
Americans cannot understand how it is that we are fighting a war for freedom and liberation and yet are repressing in the most violent way the national movement in India. This is also being felt even more strongly in China and in the Soviet Union. Your Lordships will remember Generalissimo Chiang Kaishek's statement about the wisdom of power being given to India even before the Indians asked for it. There has always been a tremendous bond of sympathy between China and India, and the Chinese are very disturbed about the way in which we are handling this terrible situation. The matter is even more important, I think, from the point of view of the millions of potential allies whom we need in Europe, and who will be abso- 689 lutely necessary for our victory. I submit that we cannot allow this state of feeling to exist among our Allies.
What is happening in India? I think that two things are perfectly clear. One is that India is in a ferment. A large part of the country has been in active revolt against us; there has been enormous material damage to property, and very serious less of life. The second point which cannot be disputed is that almost all sections of Indian opinion are agreed on two things. Indian opinion has expressed itself very strongly as being against the Axis and against Japan, and equally strongly as desiring independence arid a free India. The Indian people desire to defeat Japan and the Axis, and so do we. They also desire independence and a Government of their own choosing; and that, after all, is one of our war aims, and is expressly stated in the Atlantic Charter. Yet we have the unfortunate position that the Government of India are at complete loggerheads not only with Congress but with almost every other section in the country, including the much-publicized Mr. Jinnah's Moslem League, which the B.B.C. constantly asserts represents 90,000,000 Moslems in India, but which in the 1937 Elections polled, I believe, under 5 per cent. of the total Moslem votes cast. Even the Moslem League has repudiated our offer, and I was very grieved to see in the Press the other day that the Moslem Premier of Sind has been removed from his Premiership by the Governor for disagreeing with British policy. This seems to me unfortunate. Surely there must be something wrong with a policy which delights no one but our enemies.
The British Government and the people of India are agreed on the defeat of the Axis, which is our main interest at the moment, and on the independence of India, to which we have officially agreed. That being so, what is the basis of disagreement which has led to this upheaval? Briefly, I think it is this. The people of India—this came out in the negotiations—wish above all things for independence and freedom now. The British Government have absolutely refused this, but have offered instead Dominion status after the war. That is the big point of disagreement. The Indians want freedom now; but we say: "You cannot have a Government of your own now, because that is impossible, but we will give you Dominion 690 status after the war." That is why this vast continent, instead of being whole-heartedly on our side, contains a large proportion of people who are actively hostile to us, and a still larger proportion who are apathetically neutral. It has been asserted that such constitutional changes would be impossible during the war, because they would be too big to be undertaken. It seems strange that the Prime Minister, at the time of the most acute crisis in this country, was able to propose amalgamation with France—the biggest proposal for constitutional change, I suppose, in the history of this country—and yet it is impossible to hand over power in India.
§ THE EARL OF HUNTINGDON
There would be a certain dislocation, with new men coming into new jobs, but there would have been less dislocation than will be caused by the continual hostility of the mass of the Indian people. There is one misapprehension with which I should like to deal. Many people in England believe that the proposals conveyed by Sir Stafford Cripps when he went out to India could not be accepted because of the disagreement of did' other Parties in India. It is widely believed that freedom and independence were offered to India, but, because the Moslems could not agree with the Hindus, this offer could not be accepted. Your Lordships are well aware that nothing could be further from the truth. During the negotiations, in which serious and genuine misunderstandings seem to have arisen on both sides, at least one point came out clearly. The Congress leaders demanded that power should be transferred from the Government of India to a National Indian Government. The reason was that they considered that in this way alone could they rouse the masses of India to a genuine war effort. The Congress leaders went on to say that they thought that the masses of India would not fight for the British Empire as they knew it, but would fight as an Ally of the United Nations for a free and independent India. That was the stand of Congress. This demand was absolutely refused, and not because other Indian Parties objected to it, because other Indian Parties were never given the chance. It was made perfectly clear that no transference of 691 power could take place during the war, and so negotiations broke down.
However, one ought not to leave the matter there. Various concessions, and very big concessions, were offered. One was, as your Lordships will remember, that Indians from the Nationalist Parties should be included in the Viceroy's Council. This was refused, and I imagine that the reason was this. The Viceroy's Council is composed of a majority of Indian members, but those members are very carefully selected. They are not elected by Indians, nor are they responsible to an Indian Legislature. So far as I know, none of them represents any of the main Nationalist Parties. So well do they carry out the English policy that as Sir Firoz Khan Noon, the Defence Member, recently pointed out publicly, in all his years of office on the Council never once had the Viceroy's overriding power of veto had to be used. Obviously the Congress leaders, or Mr. Jinnah and his associates, would in such a Council always have been outvoted, and they would have had full responsibility and no power. It was no doubt for that reason that they refused to accept the offer.
The other and much more far-reaching concession offered was that of Dominion status after the war. I gather that the objection to that was that the clause allowing various Provinces to contract out, and thus remain under English rule, or even to form a separate unit, was a very serious blow at the vision of a united India which has always been dear to the hearts of nationalists. The American Civil War was very largely fought on that one issue of a united America, and this provision in the British offer therefore struck a very serious blow at the conception of a united, democratic India. Also the arrangements for elections were not very democratic and seemed to perpetuate for ever the rule of the Princes, because the Princes of India were to be allowed their voting power proportionate to their subjects, but there was no provision made for any representation of those 95,000,000 subjects of the Princes. So it really was, from the Congress point of view, the most undemocratic arrangement that could have been devised.
The final drawback to that proposal was the chance, which I am afraid many 692 Indians believed, that it would allow for what we may call delay or even quibbling after the war, and, frankly, a lot of them, I more than regret to say, did not believe in this offer and did not really believe in the sincere intention of the Government to carry this promise out. I suppose the origin of that was an unfortunate event which happened in past history. You will remember that in 1917, a time of trouble equivalent to the present time of anxiety, various promises were made more or less conveying that Indians would be given Dominion status, and this was very strongly implemented by Lord Irwin when he was Viceroy. If your Lordships will forgive me quoting two or three short passages I think they are pertinent to the situation. Lord Irwin, as Viceroy in 1929, said:I am authorized on behalf of His Majesty's Government to say that in their judgment it is implicit in the declaration of 1917 that the natural issue of Indian constitutional progress as there contemplated is the attainment of Dominion status.That was taken by many Indians as a definite pledge of Dominion status, but although many years have passed since then they have never received it.
Not only that, but the minds of many of our public men seem to have changed. For instance, in 1930 Mr. Winston Churchill, the present Prime Minister, made a very famous speech in which he said that the British nation had no intention whatever of relinquishing effectual control of Indian life and progress, and he added:We have no intention of casting away that most truly bright and precious jewel in the Crown of the King, which more than all our other Dominions and Dependencies constitutes the glory and strength of the British Empire.Then the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin, when Prime Minister in 1934, also made a speech in which he declared:It is my considered judgment, in all the changes and chances of this wide world to-day, that you have a good chance of keeping the whole sub-continent of India in the Empire for ever.Either one must take the point of view that Dominion status does not mean freedom and independence, or else there has been a very considerable change of opinion in the Government, and Indian Nationalists are extremely frightened that there might be an equal change of opinion after this war.
693 In most Assemblies there are two or more Parties with different points of view. Congress is no exception. The Prime Minister in a recent statement accused Congress of being, as he said, "sustained by certain manufacturing and commercial interests." I have also heard it accused of being Soclialist and being supported only by the masses. The supporters of Congress say that it is a democratic, moderate body. I think the real truth is that it comprises all classes, from the rich merchant to the poor Socialist. But the important thing about Congress, it seems to me, is that it is divided into two main streams. A comprehension of this is very necessary if you wish to understand the Congress attitude. One is the rather Right wing reactionary Party under Gandhi, and the other is the more progressive, democratic Party which is headed by the Congress Secretary, Mr. Nehru. That accounts for many things decided upon in the different resolutions of Congress. Both those groups fervently wish for independence, but whereas Gandhi has the point of view of India for Indians alone and the use of non-violence against anyone who frustrates that independence, Nehru, on the other hand, seems to have a bigger conception of national issues. He sees that India cannot be unaffected by what is happening in the world outside, that Fascism must be defeated, that victory must be won over the Axis for India's sake as much as for anything else. And one must remember that Congress has had a long record of anti-Fascist activity and anti-Fascist resolutions. Before the Cripps Mission reached India Congress had been almost completely won over to the democratic side of Nehru. It passed resolution after resolution supporting the struggle against Japan and the Axis, and affirming its wish to be an ally of the United Nations, while Gandhi and his theory of non-violence and the reversion to the simpler life, of a bygone age were completely superseded.
But alas! after the Cripps Mission, when hopes which had been very high in India for some settlement were dashed to the ground, opinion in Congress swung back to Gandhi, and Gandhi's influence made itself felt and more or less conquered and superseded that of Nehru. You will find in the final resolution—and this is the important resolution of which so much has been said—that although Congress 694 again stresses the need for fighting the Axis, and wishes for further negotiations with the British Government, the good will has rather melted, and you find that there follows a threat that if these negotiations are refused the only course left open is the one of non-violent resistance to the Government of India. There we see Gandhi's influence at work again. On that the Government of India put the Congress leaders in gaol, and at once you got violent demonstrations breaking out all over India as a protest against the imprisonment of their leaders.
This is where we stand to-day, and what I want to ask is this: Is there nothing that can be done to retrieve this terribly dangerous situation in India? The fact that the police and the military have the upper hand is no real solution, with Japan sitting on the Burmese frontier. We must have India on our side. The noble Duke said this afternoon that no one had indicated what the Government should do. There is only one thing that the Government should do: that is to reopen negotiations and, if possible, release the Congress leaders unconditionally before they do so. It may be said by many of your Lordships that by doing this we should lose face, but the answer is which face do we want to lose? Is it the Herrenvolk face, which will not relax its rule over subject peoples, or is it the face which looks towards freedom in which we ask the world to believe? The Congress is undoubtedly the largest Party in India, it has the greatest support. Congress leaders have offered to invite all Parties to form a National Government with them to carry on the war and fight the Axis. The Congress leaders have already agreed to allow all the defence forces for the defence of India to be under General Wavell, the British Commander-in-Chief. They have also agreed to allow the complete strategy of the war to be decided in Whitehall, or in any headquarters of the United Nations.
I submit that, instead of trying to discredit Congress and belittle it, we ought to be thankful that there is this big body of Nationalist opinion that could rouse India up to a gigantic war effort. Let the Viceroy send for the President of the Moslem League and the President of Congress, Maulana Azad, or the Congress Secretary, Mr. Nehru, and ask them to form a Provisional National Government. 695 This Government would only act until the end of the war. It would not be a permanency, but merely till the end of the war. Afterwards, the Constituent Assembly which has been promised and offered could be brought into being and a Constitution for India devised. It should also be made clear, first, that real power would be transferred to this Government, although Defence and the Armed Forces naturally would remain with the Commander-in-Chief, and, secondly, that no minority rights would be prejudiced by their leaders taking part in the Government when the final discussion comes in the Constituent Assembly after the war. I am sure that the Indian Princes would not refuse to take part in the defence of their own country against the Japanese. If by any chance the Congress leaders could not form this National Government—if a National Government cannot be formed—then indeed the responsibility for the failure would be on India without any question. We should have offered India freedom and she could not take it. We would have the whole sympathy of all the democratic people in the world on our side. I know that your Lordships will think that this is a daring move, but I believe it is vitally necessary.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, you will agree as to the necessity of passing the Bill which is now before us, and you will also be agreed that in the unhappy situation which arose in India after the declaration by Congress of the non-co-operation movement, there was no alternative to exercising a policy for the time being of repression. Apparently, in the minds of many Congress supporters, non-violence is of two kinds—non-violent and violent! When the forces of looting, arson, and murder have been let loose, the duty of the Government must necessarily be one for the restoration and maintenance of order—a policy of repression. From this House it should be stated that the Government of India and the Governments of the Provinces and their local officers, and the police and military, have the full moral support of Parliament in the steps that it was necessary to take. That is obvious and elementary. But of course to say that carries us not one step further to the solution of the political problem.
The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, said that at the present stage it is not 696 helpful to revert to the past, as on one or two occasions the noble Earl who has just spoken did, but that the only course which is of value is to make positive and definite proposals to meet the present impasse. To that advice I shall myself endeavour to conform. In the first instance, it is necessary to clear away some proposals which are doomed obviously to be futile. For example, it is a totally futile course to repeat, year after year, and again and again, that it is essential that the main Indian Parties should agree, and that unless they will agree the Imperial Government and the Government of India will do nothing. I have heard that again and again in this House, and even to-day the noble Duke, the Under-Secretary of State for India, repeated once more that the next step must be with India. Failing that step the Government which he represents here do not feel any obligation to take action of their own. For years that has been said in this House; yet the Government did depart, and most widely departed, from this principle when they authorized Sir Stafford Cripps to proceed to India on his Mission with positive proposals from this side. That was done with universal applause.
If that step did not succeed, it was because it was quite plain that the principal Parties in India cannot agree. The noble Earl who has just spoken somewhat belittled the position of the Moslem League in relation to the Congress Party and said that, after all, it held only a comparatively small percentage of votes in the Elections of 1935. But since then, by common consent, the Moslem League has enormously increased. Its membership has rapidly expanded, and it does now represent in the main the opinion of the 90,000,000 Moslems in India. When the Cripps Mission came to close quarters with this problem and endeavoured to secure the formation of the free National Government which the noble Earl so rightly desiderates, they found that the Moslem League declared that their condition of participation was the acceptance of the policy of Pakistan and, further, that the Moslem community must be given equal authority in any Provisional Government with the Hindu community; while the Congress Party and Mahasabha declared there must be no Pakistan and that the Government must be composed in accordance with, the 697 numbers of the population of each of the two great communities. The noble Earl made no suggestion of any kind as to how that difficulty was to be overcome. He merely said that the Congress leaders should be released and fresh negotiations should be begun. I submit that we shall get no further at all if we repeat, parrot-like, the cry that agreement between the two principal Indian Parties must be the sine qua non of any step.
Secondly, the proposal has been made in some quarters that the British Government, wishing to impress on the United States and on our other Allies and the world in general, the sincerity of our desire to establish effective independence in India, should declare now that, although for obvious reasons that cannot be carried into effect fully during the war, it shall be brought into effect at a given date after the war. That may seem at first sight a constructive proposal, but what if, when this date arrives, it is found that disagreement between the two great communities is still persisting; if the Moslem community, for example, declare at that moment they will take up arms to resist a Hindu Raj established on the basis of majority rule? The history of India has been for centuries the history of Hindu-Moslem wars, and the British Raj has been the first prolonged period for the best part of a thousand years when there has been some measure of peace between the two communities. The British Raj has damped down those fires, but the fires have not been extinguished. They are still smouldering, and they frequently blaze out in local conflagrations.
Those who are impartial observers of the Indian situation declare that never has the peril of actual outbreak of violence between the two communities been greater than it is at the present time. Some of your Lordships will have read the very admirable booklet by Professor Coupland, of Oxford, who was in India for some time prior to the arrival of the Cripps Mission, on an investigation of the constitutional situation there, and was closely associated with Sir Stafford Cripps during his Mission. He has written a little hook called The Cripps Mission. I can strongly commend it to those of your Lordships interested in India who have not yet seen it. In the course of it he uses these words:So bitter has the communal quarrel become that many Indians have begun to think 698 that force alone will settle it. Sooner or later the grim words 'civil war' were spoken by most of those with whom I discussed the communal question. Mr. Gandhi himself has talked of its possibility coolly enough.Well, my Lords, if a pledge is given now that at a given date full independence is to be established in India, and if, when that time comes, no solution has been reached; if then it is found that both sides are arming one against the other and that there is certainty that a British withdrawal would he chaos, the British Government would be compelled to go back upon their pledge, and to plead that force majeure has compelled them to continue the existing situation. Nothing could be worse than that. Nothing could be worse than to give a specific pledge now and to find later that the pledge could not be in fact fulfilled because of circumstances which had arisen, the possibility of which could easily be foreseen. It would then be suggested that we had bought off present difficulties now by giving a pledge which involved a deception in the future.
Thirdly, I trust that the Government will no longer continually repeat the phrase "Dominion status." We have got far beyond that. The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, said this afternoon, what more could be desired than Dominion status? "Dominion status" is in fact a meaningless term. Is this country, the United Kingdom, a Dominion? No one would say that it is, and yet in what respect is the constitutional status of the United Kingdom different from that of the Dominions? Why use the term "Dominion" when what is proposed is a status within the British Crown, which is precisely the status of this country of which we in this House are one of the Houses of Parliament, and when in fact the very purpose of the Statute of Westminster was to declare that Dominion status is the same as United Kingdom status? It is true that the history and achievements of our great Dominions have cast lustre upon that word, but in India, as Professor Coupland again points out, the term Dominion status is not appreciated. They say, and say with truth, that India has twelve times the population of all the Dominions put together (I would add that India is half as large again in population as the whole of the American Continent, north, central and south), and that while our Dominions have a history which is measured by the span of four or five generations, India has a history of civili- 699 zation which is measured by a span of four or five millenia, and surely it would be better now frankly to drop the expression "Dominion status" and use some such term as "National status" which would go much further to satisfy Indian opinion.
How far the Government are prepared in fact to go was declared by the noble Duke in a debate on February 3, and his words, speaking on behalf of His Majesty's Government of which he is himself a member, in this House of Parliament, were very forthright and definite. I would recall them to your Lordships' memory. He quoted the Viceroy's declaration, made with the aproval of the Imperial Government, of August 8, 1940, and said:That is a definite promise that the Government are prepared to hand over to Indians the Government of their country—are anxious to do so, and will do at the very earliest possible moment.No statement could be more specific, more emphatic or more unqualified than that. The question is, what is to be done at the present time in order at all events to begin the transition to that state of things which the noble Duke envisages? The suggestion that I have to make to your Lordships to-day is one that I did indeed put forward in a previous debate—namely, that the key to the solution of the problem for the time being is to be found, I believe, in the constitutional position of the Viceroy.
The Viceroy now has a dual function. He is a true vice-roi, he acts in the place of the Sovereign, but he is also the Prime Minister of the country, and, unlike any Governor-General of any Dominion, he is his own Prime Minister and presides in the Executive governing body of the country. What I would submit to your Lordships for your consideration and to the Government is that that duality should be ended. There are those who have urged—for example, The Times in a leading article to which the noble Duke took some exception—that the next step should be the complete Indianization of the Viceroy's Executive Council. Already there are only two of the Ministers who are not Indians, those who hold the Portfolios of Finance and Home Affairs. There is also the British Commander-in-Chief who is a member of the Council. It is generally agreed that at all events during the war—nothing is said perhaps about the future one way or the 700 Other—the Commander-in-Chief should remain as a member of the Viceroy's Council, but to give those remaining two Portfolios to Indians would not be the Indianization of the Viceroy's Council, for the Viceroy himself is there presiding over it, speaking the last word, giving the ultimate decision.
Although it is true, as the noble Earl who has just spoken has said, quoting Sir Firoz Khan Noon, whom we all remember as an able and popular High Commissioner for India, and who is now a member of that Council, that on no occasion does the Viceroy in fact exercise any overruling voice within his own Council, the fact remains that he is there to preside over the Council in exactly the same way as the Prime Minister here presides over the Cabinet. What I would submit is that the right course would be that when a new Viceroy is appointed—there would be difficulty indeed in altering the status of an existing Viceroy—a change should be made. The present Viceroy has served ever since 1936. His term of office has expired some time ago, and has been extended. It may be that the Government would not wish to impose on Lord Linlithgow the thankless task of continuing to cope on present lines with this persistent deadlock, and if he is succeeded by some other Viceroy let him be Viceroy alone, acting as a pro-Sovereign in lieu of the constitutional monarch, and let it be his first task to appoint a Government as a Government would be appointed here or in one of the Dominions, by the selection of some suitable statesman, some Indian statesman, and the formation of a Government by that Prime Minister in consultation with the Viceroy, as a Prime Minister now appoints a Government in consultation with the King.
It is certain that the rich stores of able statesmanship among the Indian leaders would, in spite of Party and political difficulties, furnish ample material for the provision of such a Government. It might be that the Indian Parties would not formally accept such a solution even as a temporary one, but if they did not formally accept it, they might not repudiate a wholly Indian Government under an Indian Prime Minister, who during this present transitory period would exercise the political power. That power would be exercised first in helping 701 the defence of India against the threat of invasion, and doing that in co-operation with the United Nations led by Britain, the United States, China and Russia. Secondly, that Government might be well charged with the duty of preparing the way for the Constitutional Convention to sit, either now or at the end of the war, whichever of those two periods that Government might find more practicable.
I do not at all agree with the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, that nothing whatever can be done during the war. Why not? It is urgently necessary that steps should be taken during the war to find a way out of the present impasse. I would leave it to the Indian Government to take steps for the summoning of the Constitutional Convention which would deal with a more permanent future. That could be done without any need of elaborate legislation. It would not need the passage through Parliament of a long Statute such as the Act of 1935. Our own Constitution happily is, in its fundamental features, unwritten, and thereby this country has gained enormously in political strength. By the adaptability of our political machinery we have been enabled to achieve a very large measure of political success. So I would give to India, during this transitional period, the great advantage of leaving as much as possible of the Constitution unwritten, giving the Viceroy a free hand to bring about this transition.
A Statute would be necessary, but it need only be a short Statute to remove existing restrictions upon freedom of action. For example, the present law requires that at least three members of the Viceroy's Council must have ten years' official service. That might well be repealed by an Act of the Imperial Parliament, and any other restrictive measures might also be repealed so that India might have, for the time being, the great advantage, as far as may be, of having no written Constitution. After the South African war the Government of the day granted immediate self-government to the Transvaal, and the present Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, is well aware of all the facts since he represented the Colonial Office, which was charged with the matter, in the House of Commons in those days. The first Prime Minister was the Commander-in-Chief who fought against us, 702 General Botha, and one of his closest colleagues and his successor was General Smuts, whom we are to welcome in the very near future at a meeting of both Houses of Parliament and whom we are so delighted to see in this country at the present time. That experiment was a complete success, and when the great test came in 1914, South Africa, under the leadership of General Smuts, rendered invaluable service. So it might be if the same course was followed in the case of India now. India is not in open rebellion or warlike conflict against us, as South Africa was, and great sections of the population are still most friendly to this country. We might entertain the hope that such a policy would lead to a response in India, and a recognition there that it is to their own interest, especially in matters of defence, that she should be in full association with the British Commonwealth and with all the thirty United Nations—and not only for the sake of her own cause, for it is by such co-operation alone in the present crisis of world affairs that India would be able adequately to fulfil her duty to what is, in truth, the wider cause of all mankind.
My Lords, the Under-Secretary of State, in his much criticised speech, invited suggestions and I do not think he can complain of the number he has had, especially in the speeches of my noble friend the Earl of Huntingdon and the noble Viscount who has just addressed your Lordships. I would like to draw your Lordships' attention also to the fact that, if I understood the noble Duke aright, he invited suggestions from India. It occurred to me, as no doubt it did to others of your Lordships, that that was a very important and constructive passage in an otherwise disappointing and indeed infuriating speech. At least it would infuriate me if I were an Indian and read a report of it. Of course nothing the noble Duke says would infuriate me or any of my colleagues on these Benches because we know him of old. The noble Duke, however, did make a very refreshing and indeed extraordinary statement when he said he would welcome an offer from India. Only my overwhelming sense of courtesy prevented me from interrupting and asking him to explain. Now I would ask the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack who is, of course, fully 703 seized of all that passes through the mind of the noble Duke, what exactly that means. India. Does that mean that the Government are looking for an offer from Congress, when all the leaders are in gaol and held so closely that not even the Metropolitan of India—I suppose the Prelate to whom the noble Duke alluded—can communicate with them? Is that what it means, or is he looking to other parties to do so? Perhaps the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack can explain that, because I suggest it is a rather important statement by the noble Duke on behalf of the Government and it needs further explanation.
When I hear discussions on India, otherwise than in your Lordships' House, I sometimes doubt whether certain eminent personalities really appreciate the terrific forces in the world struggle and the vast issues at stake. They seem to regard India as being a vacuum and the problems of India as something to be discussed apart from the immense struggle in which we are engaged. In these hours and days what is at stake is the whole future of human society and of civilized institutions in both hemispheres; throughout the whole world. It is against this terrible background that we ought to regard the present state of affairs in India. To hear certain members of the Government talk one might think that we were engaged in an ordinary nationalistic or dynastic war, that India should be regarded in vacuo and that this great sub-continent, with its vast war potentialities and huge population, could be dealt with as if it were a purely domestic concern of the British people. I believe it to be essential to victory in this war that the bulk of the Indian people should be embraced in our war effort and their vast resources fully employed. The noble Duke, a master of understatement, said that in India the situation was of course still serious: that we are not yet out of the wood. Consider that situation in India. The noble Duke said it was impossible to intake and equip and train more troops in India—
Then I misunderstood the noble Duke. I understood him to say we could not take in more than the figure he gave.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
I said it could not be multiplied ten-fold. I was very careful, I thought, to explain that it could be expanded.
I should think that in India, making all deductions for what are called the non-martial peoples and so on, at least 10,000,000 soldiers—and good soldiers—could be raised, not, of course, in a night by stamping one's foot, but by a great national effort. India could raise such a number of good soldiers that we should have more than are available to the whole military power of the European Axis. Easily! And as for arming them, "Oh," we are told, "there are no munitions available in India, no machine tools." Why we have not begun to mobilize the industrial resources of India. That is the opinion which is generally held by those who have investigated the possibilities of the factories and workshops out there. One of the greatest steelworks in existence, the Tata works, is in India, and you have had, and may still have for all I know, a complete stoppage of work there for political reasons. The textile industry of India, too, is tremendous, but great numbers of mills and millions of looms and spindles are now standing idle also for political reasons. India's labour power and her industrial resources could overwhelm those of her nearest enemy, Japan. The noble Duke, I am sure, knows that.
Is it denied for a moment that India is the indispensable base for the recovery of Northern Burma, for the arming of our Chinese Allies with their great and growing Armies, and for the ejection of the Japanese from the mainland of Asia? I believe that a million Indian soldiers are now serving in the Forces, and I was very glad to hear the tribute which was paid to them by the noble Duke. But one million only, when the figure could have been ten million! The noble Duke spoke about lack of preparation before the war, and I do not deny that there is force in what he said about that. But the war is now in its fourth year. If you had had a great upsurge of national feeling in India corresponding to that in China you could have had vastly greater Armies 705 available than you have to-day for important military actions. The truth of the matter is that the atmosphere in India has been poisoned for years. I am not adjudicating or awarding blame to one Party or one section of opinion in this country or in India, but we have to face the facts. This tragic situation disgusts our Indian friends, our best friends in India, who wish us well and try to help. Never have we British, since the British connexion began in India, enjoyed less popularity or aroused more hostility.
I do not wish to dwell on heartbreaking features in the Indian political landscape, because I wish to make one or two suggestions and to endorse one or two remarks which have fallen from the lips of noble Lords who have already spoken in this debate. But I must remind your Lordships that we cannot be complacent or talk about being not out of the wood, or of the situation still being serious, but all would be well if only critics ceased their criticisms and The Times suppressed itself. This last event, it would almost seem, is desired by the noble Duke unless The Times falls into line. I will mention only three tragic episodes. We have had to use the machine guns of our aeroplanes, not against the Japanese in Burma, but against rioting Indian mobs. What a terrible state of affairs! British airmen, newly arrived in the country and on their way to join their stations, have been dragged out of railway trains by Indian mobs and torn to pieces. The noble Duke referred to the heroic conduct and steadfastness of the Indian Police and the Indian Civil Service. What are we to think of a country in which policemen can be burnt alive by their fellow citizens in the course of these disturbances? It is an awful state of affairs.
The noble Duke said that we are not yet out of the wood, though here and there the military and the police have managed to get the upper hand. I do not minimize the difficulties and complications of this extraordinary situation. The noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, who sits below me, did his best to solve Indian problems, and I know that the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack and many other eminent men in this country have also done their best to solve what at times has appeared an impossible problem. We all agree that there are many leaders of the Moslems and of Congress in 706 India who are obstinate and unhelpful. Of course, a debating case can be made out for doing nothing except gaol Congress leaders and suppress Congress organizations and newspapers. I think from what the noble Duke said that he would like to suppress newspapers here if they did not answer his invitation to keep quiet about India. But when all has been said the prize of success, if we could reach a settlement in India, is so rich and the penalty for continued failure is so deadly that it is unthinkable that a new approach should not be made and a new policy be attempted. In this respect I should like to take the opportunity of endorsing the views which have been expressed by my noble friends the Earl of Huntingdon and Lord Addison.
May I with that preliminary make these suggestions which, although they may here and there appear to touch only upon small matters, could, I believe, collectively, if carried out, have an important effect on the whole atmosphere in India? My noble friend the Earl of Huntingdon said, release the prisoners and reopen negotiations. I rather gather, and I believe, that if that were done immediately it might court failure. The situation, according to my information, is even worse than that described by my noble friend, and I am doubtful if this Government as at present constituted, unless other things are done, could succeed in immediate and direct negotiations. I think that the present Government is too suspect in Indian eyes. I am not speaking only of Congress of course in this connexion. Eventually what my noble friend has suggested will have to be done.
I respectfully endorse the suggestion made by my noble friend Viscount Samuel for the complete Indianization of the Viceroy's Council, except for the Viceroy, by inviting qualified Indians to accept the two remaining Portfolios of Finance and Home Affairs. There is no dispute about the Commander-in-Chief. Before the Lord Chancellor gives his reply and proceeds to tear that suggestion to pieces, may I remind him that not only Viscount Samuel but so great an Indian patriot and friend of this country as His Highness the Maharajah Jam Sahib of Nawangar, over here from India to sit in the War Cabinet, and Chancellor of the Chamber of the Princes, has made that very suggestion. I see no reason why it should not be put into 707 effect immediately. And now the next point may seem a very small matter, but there really is often a great deal in names. Why not change the name of the Viceroy's Council to Cabinet? Indian politicians have always sought to model their institutions on ours, thereby paying a great compliment to our institutions and our Parliament. In their eyes Cabinet means a great deal more than Council.
Then Viscount Samuel spoke of the approaching termination of the term of office of Lord Linlithgow. Why not appoint a distinguished Indian statesman as Viceroy-Designate? Before that is dealt with by the Government, if the Lord Chancellor thinks it wise to reply to-day, may I remind your Lordships that the President of the Philippines is a Filipino, and the Governor of the most important of the French Colonies in North Africa is a very distinguished African? My noble friend suggests abolishing the India Office and, I believe I am right in saying, transferring Indian affairs to the Dominions Office. I am glad the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, Lord Cranborne, was not here, for I know that he would be horrified at the suggestion in view of his present responsibilities. The noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, thinks that unless that means a great deal more than a change of administration, it would be ineffective. There again I think that names mean a great deal. All these matters should be preceded by negotiation, and, if it is found that the Dominions Office is objected to, why should not the Foreign Office assume responsibility for the remaining functions of the India Office?
Having done these things for a start, I should invite our principal Allies to mediate, because the situation is so very difficult and so very important. On the 15th of this month, the Statesman newspaper of Calcutta—and I am sure that is a newspaper to which the noble Duke does not take exception; he must approve its long record of steadfast patriotism and statesmanship, for it is well named, and is one of the most important newspapers in the British Empire—advocated United States intervention, and expressed the hope that this would develop into an indissoluble Anglo-American partnership in matters of diplomacy and defence. That 708 is most interesting, coming from such a source. I suggest, nevertheless, that it is essential in this matter to have the help of at least one Asiatic Power. I should like to invite the friendly offices of the Governments of Russia and China. Russia is, of course, an Asiatic Power as well as a European Power. An international authority of this nature, if it could be established, might develop from such a nucleus into an instrument for the preservation of peace and for the settlement of many other disputes in the future. If Russia was unable to accept for diplomatic reasons vis-à-vis Japan, which is quite possible, then I suggest it is essential to have China's help in the matter. China's vital interests are as deeply concerned in this matter as our own, and are secondary only to India's.
As my noble friend Lord Huntingdon has said, our handling up to now of Indian affairs has not resulted, whatever the reasons for it may be, in ranging the Indian peoples in their full might in the Allied cause, despite the fact—and this is the real tragedy of the situation—that the great majority of the Indian leaders and of educated and politically conscious Indians are with us in this war ideologically. Their sympathies are with us and with our Allies; they want to be on our side, and yet we have not succeeded in ranging them in their full might in defence of the common cause. That being the case, it is no use the noble Duke saying: "Say nothing; do not criticize; leave it all to the India Office and to the Viceroy and his Council." The issues at stake are too important, not only for us but for the whole world, for that to be done, and a different policy is demanded.
§ LORD WINSTER
My Lords, I intervene for a few minutes only, and not to offer any opinion on the matters at issue between this country and India, which I am certainly not competent to do, but merely to emphasize what has been said in the course of this debate about how this matter affects our great Ally the United States of America. There is a tendency in this country—though not, I know, in your Lordships' House—to say that India is our affair, and to ask why America should interest herself in the matter. The fact is, as I know your Lordships will agree, that India is a great factor in the issue of this war, and America is just as 709 much concerned as we are in a victorious issue to this war. In arriving at that victorious issue India, as a neighbour of Burma and China, is a factor of the first importance. On that account I feel that we must admit the right of the United States to take an interest in this question, and it is of course, a matter in which the very greatest interest is taken in the United States.
From reading the Press and talking to American friends in London, I would say that our stock so far as this matter is concerned was very high at the time of the Cripps Mission to India. The immediate effect of that Mission was to convince the United States of our good intentions and of our good will where India was concerned. Since that Mission, however, I feel that our stock has slumped on the Indian issue in the United States, and that at present it is, unfortunately, very low indeed. I do not like using the word "propaganda," but I must do so for want of a better term. I do not feel that our propaganda in the United States on the question of India is meeting the situation at the present moment. I beg the Government to remember that it is not the Government of the United States which we have to convince of our good intentions in this matter, but the man in the street in America. It is the man in the street in America whom we have to reach and try to convince of our good will.
In whatever propaganda or information we put forward in America at present, it is most necessary to give facts about the situation. Americans have a great capacity for absorbing facts, statistics and information, and I feel that it is most important that we should put forward facts about the situation and not merely general expressions of our intentions or of the principles by which we are governed. I can think of nothing which would he more useful in the United States at present than the circulation of facts on the lines of that remarkable document, the Simon Report. I feel, as I say, that America has a great appetite for and likes to have, absolute and precise knowledge. That might perhaps tend to bore us here, but facts do not bore the Americans. and I believe that they would welcome facts and specific information upon the Indian issue.
710 Above all, I would urge this consideration on the Government, and I am fortified in doing so by words which fell from the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, in the course of his speech. Do not let us, in what we say to America on this subject, shelter ourselves behind the position that we are willing to give everything that India wants the moment that the Indian Parties can agree among themselves. That is too easy, and to take up that position makes no impression whatever on the Americans. It is too easy to say: "We are willing to give everything the moment that Indians can agree among themselves." Let us try to convince the United States that we are seeking another solution of the matter and that we are trying to promote that agreement among the Indian Parties which at present we appear to regard as an essential preliminary to the granting of what India wants. I have intervened with very great diffidence, but I trust that the Government reply will take into consideration the standpoint and views of the United States of America on this matter, and may go some distance to conciliate that feeling.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, at this hour and after this long debate I shall not detain the House for more than quite a short time. It is absolutely impossible, in the limited number of minutes which I ought to occupy, to do more than make one or two statements and advance one or two propositions and try to deal with one or two of the matters which have been raised in the debate. Of course it is quite impossible, as anybody familiar with this problem knows, really to give what is called a full reply. A reply on India is a very big matter. This has been an interesting debate and there are one or two things I should like to say. I would like, first of all, to make a perfectly clear statement on what is the aim of His Majesty's Government, and I think of us all in this matter. I entirely agree with what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Winster, that if we could make definite statements on this subject—may I add without always thinking that it must be the Government's fault that things are not going better?—we are more likely to get a reasonable hearing from our friends in America. Then I make this statement quite specifically. I say on behalf of His Majesty's Government that the aim of His 711 Majesty's Government policy is that Indians should themselves mould the destiny of India free from external dictation and control. I do not know any other method by which you can get a great development of constitutional government.
Let me give an illustration. So as not to be misunderstood, let me first say that I am myself rather inclined to agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, when he deprecated the use of the word "Dominion" in this connexion. If anybody ever read through what is sometimes called the Simon Report, they will not find anything about "Dominion status" in it from beginning to end. We never used the word, and I quite agree that the conception is easily misunderstood. Consider what did happen in other cases. The Constitution of Canada was created as the result of a number of leading Canadian citizens of different Parties meeting together and at length thrashing out the series of Quebec Resolutions upon which the British North America Act was founded. The Constitution of Australia was brought about by Australians meeting together from different Australian States, with different political attachments, some of them, again thrashing it out and ultimately producing the Constitution of Australia. The Constitution of South Africa (though I quite agree it received a most important and invaluable urge by the boldness of Campbell-Bannerman's Government) was the work of South Africans in South Africa. And I really do not know any other method by which in the proper sense a democratic government can be created. It cannot be imposed on a people—that is not democratic government at all. It is not a gift given by one body to another body, it is a thing that emerges out of the toil and devotion and patriotism and idealism of the people who are going to live under it.
I assure your Lordships I do not say that with any idea of cold-shouldering Indian aspirations or of saying "I leave it to you." But it is fundamentally a great mistake in reference to Indian development to suppose that the matter rests in British hands. It does not. It essentially rests in Indian hands. Observe this historical development in reference to India itself. There was a tremendous proposal advanced by the late Mr. Edwin Montagu 712 in the time of the Viceroyalty of Lord Chelmsford. I am not at all sure that everybody who is now recognized as a leader of Liberalism in this country was at that time convinced that that was the right line to take. It was a great effort, but it was a purely British effort; it was made by Mr. Montagu and Lord Chelmsford and by two or three other people. The next great effort or series of great efforts was made by my noble and gallant friend now on the Front Opposition Bench and others. That effort ultimately resulted in the Government of India Act, 1935, which was again an effort to devise and impose a constitutional government. I hope it may be accounted as a small merit of what is sometimes called the Simon Commission that, as soon as we found ourselves appointed and began to examine the subject, we did our very utmost to secure that there should be a body consisting of Indian politicians and Indian patriots who would be good enough to co-operate with us. Though we did not get all the help we might have wished from India, we did get the help of many statesmanlike Indians who greatly assisted us.
The great fact about this proposal which goes by the name of Sir Stafford Cripps is that it recognized that a democratic development in a great country must come from within. It may be assisted, promoted, helped, as surely it ought to be, but it is a fundamental error to suppose, whether you are an American or an Englishman or anything else, that somewhere concealed in the recesses of thought there is a thing which is called Indian self-government which can be presented to the Indian people. It cannot. Self-government demands things which cannot be given you by somebody else. If anybody will look at the proposal of Sir Stafford Cripps—after all it was less than seven months ago—he will see that that really was its essential principle. What it said was that we, the British Government, the British people wanted India to know that we are prepared to accept and implement—indeed to accept without question—the form of democratic development which you Indians are able to put forward.
Nobody, when he says that you need unity among Indian Parties, means that you need a parrot-like identity. Every healthy country has considerable differ- 713 ences of opinion, expressed by different bodies. Certainly; but at the same time the reason why there must be some reconciliation of the essential differences in India is plain to any man who will study the subject sufficiently and look it fairly and squarely in the face. The difference of outlook of Congress and the Moslem League—and it is no good limiting it to them; there are the 40,000,000 or 50,000,000 Untouchables and other people in India too—is something which has not any sort of parallel in this country or any country of Europe at all. I heard my noble friend Lord Huntingdon just now, in his very interesting speech, make the contribution of a suggestion, and I thank him for it. It seems to me a most useful exercise that we, being provided with sufficient knowledge of the subject, should make suggestions that they may be tested. The noble Earl will not think that I am quarrelling with him, but I just want to show the difficulty. His proposition was this. Let these Congress people out of prison and then invite the Congress leaders to form a Provisional National Government. That I think puts it clearly, and the noble Earl assents. If it were only a question of the members of Congress or of those who are prepared to acquiesce in the leadership of Congress, that would indeed be an attractive line to take. But my noble friend will observe what was said only the other day by Mr. Jinnah, who, after all, does speak for an extremely powerful and important body of opinion. Mr. Jinnah, on September 13, referring to this sort of suggestion, said:We do not want, under the stress of the war emergency, to be stampeded into forming a Provisional Government which should be of such a character and composition as to prejudice or militate against the Moslem demand for Pakistan.
§ THE EARL OF HUNTINGDON
May I say, to clarify the issue, that what I suggested was that Congress leaders should be asked to form a Provisional Government, and that it should be expressly laid down that minority rights would not be in any way affected by the formation of such a Government, but would be completely discussed in the Constituen Assembly afterwards?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am sure my noble friend has thought this over carefully and the last thing I want 714 to do is to be unduly critical. You may take it that the Moslem League and Mr. Jinnah would be by no means content with the assurance that minority rights would be protected. They do not believe that a Congress Government would protect their rights. It is one of the main explanations of why the Moslem League has grown in strength in recent years that Moslems have had actual experience, in Province after Province, of Congress Ministeries, and they are not too pleased with that experience. I am speaking of a matter on which I have had a great deal of information in times past, and I feel quite convinced you would never get the Moslem League to come into a system of Provisional Government formed by members of the Congress Party who promised—I am sure they would promise—that the minorities would have their rights respected. The point I am making is that, however attractive that proposal might be if you were dealing with a country inhabited by Congressmen or supported by Congressmen, that is not the Continent of India at all. The essence of the difficulty in this respect is that communal suspicion is still great, and I am afraid it is not practicable to create, even if it were wise otherwise, a Provisional Government of nominated Congressmen. I do not entirely agree with the description of the present Indian Council that it does not contain anyone of representative importance. I think that is a mistake. Dr. Ambedkar happens to represent forty or fifty millions of the Depressed Classes; that is a very useful and important member.
As I warned the House the last time I spoke on this subject—it was speculation then, it is the fact now—if you get to the point that you are trying to build up the Government in India by the process of selecting leaders from different Parties, you will find that the Moslem leaders will claim one-half of the representation because they will not consider they are safe otherwise. As long as there are one or two people in the Council who are not involved in these communal troubles—there are two members there now, the Home Member and the Finance Member—they at least form a certain influence which tries to discount and modify these communal tensions; but I do not think you will find it easy, in present circumstances, to create a Central Council for India which would be in the hands of Congress because, among other things, you would find that the Moslem leaders 715 would claim they must be equally represented, notwithstanding their smaller numbers.
I am only anxious to show that though these suggestions are most valuable, and many of them have doubtless passed through the minds of those responsible, the difficulties of this particular problem arising from the communal tensions are at present something that can hardly be exaggerated. It is very noticeable in the history of India—and I remember we pointed this out in the Report with which I was associated—that this strain between the communities does not show itself in the same degree in the great Indian States as it does in British India. The explanation is that at present the condition of things in most of these States does not make the rival communities feel that control is passing to them; but in British India, as we have moved nearer and nearer to full responsibility—and I am on the side of those who want to move that way—you find at once that rivalry grows keener. Nothing that we can do will in itself alter that, but we must continue to appeal in every possible way to the Indian people as a whole to try and find a way of reconciling their differences.
I must add, from my own reading and observations, that I do think that the main leaders of Indian political opinion increasingly recognize this need for unity. Efforts have been made quite recently by some Indian Parties to try and get started a conference with other Indian Parties. We ought to do everything in our power to encourage that. It is a monstrous falsehood to say that the British Raj has tried to exploit these differences between the communities. It is not true. Anyone who knows the facts more or less from inside knows it is not true; but communal feeling is a tremendous fact, it is a rock on which this whole thing may split. We should acknowledge openly and joyfully the fact that more and more of the principal political elements in India recognize that they must get together. But that is a very different thing from making the mistake—it is really a mistake—of supposing there is something we have got to "give." People say "Why don't you give India freedom?" Freedom in India depends on the Indian peoples themselves, for it proceeds from the develop- 716 ment of their own nationhood. Some Indian brains I know are particularly well adapted to the working out of the Constitution if they would devote themselves to that, as I hope they will do more and more.
My noble friend Lord Samuel made another suggestion. He has made it before, but it is not for me to say whether the proposal is good or bad. I would only say it is much more difficult than my noble friend represents. He is a very good historian, and he knows very well that in our Colonies in the old days, the passage to Responsible Government was achieved largely by directions from the Colonial Office, and without any formal change of the Constitution. That is true. But you are dealing in India with a very different situation. The Government of India Act is a portentous document. You do not need to spend very long in looking through it to find out that the Governor-General under the Act has got all sorts of responsibilities and duties and powers. I have the whole Act here: look, for example, at the sections which deal with the special responsibilities of the Governor-General which are laid down for him by Statute—among other things the protection of minorities. You cannot get rid of that without a most elaborate statutory rearrangement. If we were to attempt to do that at this time we should find there were large bodies of opinion in India which would be extremely anxious. And what are you going to put in its place at this stage? If the Cabinet suggested by Lord Strabolgi is to take responsibility, without any Viceroy at the head of it, to whom is that Cabinet to be responsible? There can be nothing worse than that you should have ten or fifteen people in office who will be responsible to nobody. To whom would they be responsible?
The truth is that in the Provinces of India there is set up in accordance with the Simon Commission a provisional self-government and the Ministers are responsible to their Legislatures and are liable to be turned out by their Legislatures or to be censored by them or have their salaries cut by the Legislatures. Nothing of the kind exists at the centre. The Government of India Act contains no provision making the Viceroy's Council responsible to the Central Legislature. The Government of India is essentially the Government of the Viceroy 717 with his advisers. It does not for this purpose matter whether they are Indians or civil servants. The Viceroy, as we all know, is answerable to the Secretary of State and to the Government here.
Would my noble friend permit me to say this? He is now arguing that what we call a Cabinet would be wrong or impossible because a Cabinet must depend on an elected Assembly. There are a number of Cabinets in the world which do not depend on any elected Assembly at all. Looking again at my Constitution it is not necessary for a Cabinet to depend on Parliament.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am sorry that I used the word "Cabinet" but it has really nothing to do with the argument. I used it out of courtesy to the noble Lord. What I am saying is that the Council, or the Cabinet, or whatever you call it, would under this proposal really be responsible to nobody at all. There would be no Legislature to whom you would be responsible. It would be a completely irresponsible body and that is the reason why the view has been taken which I have indicated. And I think there is no way of answering the argument that you cannot make these great constitutional changes during the war. It seems to me perfectly inconceivable that we should occupy a Session or two of Parliament to deal with these very elaborate rearrangements. My own view is that the best future for India is a future that would be arrived at in India and by Indians negotiating and agreeing amongst themselves.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
May I interpose for one sentence? This is only suggested as a transitory arrangement and the Cabinet would be responsible to the Viceroy.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The Cabinet would he responsible to the Viceroy, the Viceroy would be responsible to the Secretary of State and therefore Parliament would still continue to govern the Central Government of India.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am afraid you will not find that the Depressed Classes in India will think it is a 718 good reply to say that pro forma there is somebody to whom this Congress Government or Moslem Government is responsible. There are too many kinds of people in India for an irresponsible Cabinet to govern. The value therefore of what is called the Cripps Memorandum, for which the whole Government are responsible and for which I as a member of the Government am responsible, is that it passes from the state where we tried to devise things for India and proceeds to say to India that, in the end, accepting the aim of complete self-government, it must be for the people in India to devise the best form of that government for themselves. I do not say that in order that hereafter we may be able to say that So-and-so does not agree. Of course you must deal with it reasonably; but these fissures in Indian life run so deeply that until there is agreement on how they are to be bridged it is quite impossible to suppose that you can create as it were out of British good will self-government which is generally acceptable to all the great communities of India.
There is a further consideration which I think I ought to mention. I wish with all my heart that the situation had really improved. Nobody can wish it more sincerely than I do. I do admit with great regret that I do not think the situation has improved. It is only seven months since this proposal was made. Since then, there have been two things at least which have been the reverse of helpful. For one thing it is now quite plainly seen that Congress policy has led to some very shocking acts of violence and to the commission of some frightful crimes. One noble Lord referred to the fact that policemen had had oil poured over them and had been burnt. It is a very, very serious thing that there should be these developments in war-time India of so horrible a kind, and I am glad to think there has not been a single speech made in this House that does not recognize that there is only one way to deal with the situation at the moment, and that is to master it, even if it involves force.
The other thing which is very distressing to me is this. It is not merely that the Parties continue not to agree about the Cripps Memorandum. The difficulty is why they have not agreed. They object to the plan unhappily for com- 719 pletely opposite reasons. It would not matter if people took the sort of objections which were all on the same lines, but they do not do so. The Congress Party object to the Cripps plan because they say it contemplates the division of India. They will not have anything to do with it, they will not accept Pakistan. I believe that to be a very serious objection. The conception of India as a whole is one which they treasure. I would like them to add that India as a single whole is a conception which has been created by the British Raj; but however it came about it is a thing they value and do not want to lose. On the other hand the Moslems say they will not agree to the Cripps plan because they do not feel sufficiently assured that Pakistan will come. Therefore you have two of the most important Parties in India both objecting to the plan, but objecting to it unhappily for opposite reasons. If you try to alter the plan to please one of them you make it worse for the other. I confess frankly to the House, because I do not believe in speaking soft words about this, that I think that is a most unhappy development. If I thought that by adopting one or other of these suggestions now made, such as changing the name of the Council or anything else, we would really strike at the root of this difference, nobody would be more willing to consider it than I would, or, I am sure, the Government. But the thing that has to be dealt with is much more fundamental than that, and it is only as people in India find a way of working politically together as they do in certain connexions—they do it in business, many of them—it is only as they get more together for political purposes that they will create the situation out of which they will be able to produce the Constitution they want.
I believe therefore the Government were bound, as the Archbishop of York said this afternoon, to say that during the war it is not possible to make any fundamental constitutional change. The moment the war is over we wish for the fullest contribution from Indians themselves and what we stipulate for is that they really should come together. It is not we who can bring them together; they are much more likely to come together by themselves. The one thing the Indian suspects now is that he is 720 being manœuvred into something by the British Government. We say to them: "Come together devise the best scheme you can, and if that scheme satisfies the necessary conditions that it is fair to minorities and so forth, we do not seek to criticise it, we do not seek to revise it, we do not seek to move amendment to it. We will take it and it shall be the future Constitution of India." I believe that if the matter is put in that way—I have put it rather crudely perhaps—the argument is really irresistible. Our American friends are, I know, in some quarters critical. They naturally have not so full an opportunity of understanding the complexities of a most complex problem. I would like them to know that this effort which has been made by the British Government is a real effort in the direction of Indian liberty. It is ridiculously untrue to speak of the British Government as if they were now holding India down in some servile condition. Every great service in India is staffed almost entirely by Indians. The number of others in the Indian service has become greatly reduced. The Indian population perhaps is not altogether unwilling to find an Englishman or a Scotsman administering a district when communal trouble is coming near home, but these are the growing pains of what may be in the future a great self-governed area.
It is in my judgment entirely wrong, because there has been this unhappy breakdown about the Cripps proposals, to assume that there are still more proposals in the locker and that we have only to deal them out one after another like a pack of cards. In the Oriental markets, if one is buying a carpet the recognized method is to start with a low bid while the man who wants to sell the carpet claims something impossibly high, and then little by little to come to an agreement. But this is not the way we have proceeded. It is the other method of putting all your cards on the table which we have adopted. We have put forward the most complete scheme we could to help India to attain her ultimate ambitions. Six months ago it was lauded all over the world. In America people said there could be no fairer scheme proposed. If that was true then, it is true now. While we do not want to take our stand on small matters and say "It is your turn 721 to do something now," I do say it is essential for the great Indian Parties and their leaders to make some effort to get together to help to produce a scheme which would be better than the one we have proposed. Our own proposal is not cancelled. It is there in its general outline to be worked at and, if may be, to be improved. I am confident that the British Parliament wishes for no better opportunity than that it may receive some plan—it may be a better plan—which it can proceed to enact into law, not as being our solution of the Indian question, but as being the solution of the Indian question which the Indian people themselves have decided to adopt and to recommend.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole Ho use.