HL Deb 26 February 1947 vol 145 cc994-1068

Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion moved yesterday by Viscount Templewood—namely, to resolve, That the decision of His Majesty's Government to hand over India to an Indian Government or Governments in June 1948, under conditions which appear to be in conflict with previous declarations of the Government on this subject, and without any provisions for the protection of minorities or the discharge of their other obligations is likely to imperil the peace and prosperity of India.


My Lords, yesterday's debate showed once again how valuable discussions in this House may be on great and urgent public questions so long as they are conducted in the spirit and with the moderation which is traditional in this House. If I may say so, such a debate as yesterday's was particularly valuable because there happened what does not always happen—it was adequately reported in some of the great newspapers. If our discussion is conducted in the right temper, and if it is conducted, as I am sure it will be, with a single desire to promote the public good and not to stand for any position to which we have committed ourselves without reflecting on recent events, then I claim that such a discussion will be of service and not injurious to the great interests which we, along with others, have in our charge. No one, I should have thought, whatever his opinions on this present issue may be, could possibly take any objection to the way in which either my noble friend, Viscount Temple wood, at the beginning or the noble Earl, Lord Scarbrough, at the end of the debate yesterday presented the case in which they believe. In the time I shall occupy I shall try with all my might to speak in that same spirit of moderation.

I confess that, in trying to do that, one matter which is very much in the front of my mind and which I would wish at once to recognize is that His Majesty's Government at this present time are in fact loaded with a burden of various cares which seems almost to be more than any collection of men could adequately consider and deal with. In this matter of India His Majesty's Government are in a very great difficulty. I think it only right that we should all recognize that fact and allow it to be the background of our criticism. It is quite natural that any Government should want to damp down Parliamentary criticism, and His Majesty's Government are quite entitled to ask that any examination of their policy which we make here in Parliament should be conducted with due regard to the immense gravity of the issue and the perils impending. They are perfectly justified in urging us to remember that. But Parliament has a responsibility too. We do not share the Government's responsibility any more than we share the Government's information, but we have a responsibility, and nothing can alter that fact.

This, I am glad to think, is only a Resolution which calls our minds to certain considerations about which we may hold different opinions. We are not discussing a Bill; we are not offering opposition which would be improper at the wrong stage. What we are doing is asking the House, and those who meet and speak outside your Lordships' House, to consider what are the arguments on either side. Perhaps we may even be able to give a little assistance in understanding what are the matters to be weighed. I would make one other reference to the debate of yesterday, a preliminary reference to what I want to say, and that is to the speech which was delivered by the Nestor of the House, the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury. Apart altogether from its contents, it was a speech which was delightful to hear—for its lively vigour, for its eloquence, for its sincerity, and for the honest passion that was in it, whether rightly or wrongly entertained, that in view of our pledges to India and with the stage now set for a new act in this drama, we should do nothing unworthy of the British name upon this memorable scene.

I must confess that there was one passage in the speech of the noble Marquess which gave me a particular and not altogether pleasant emotion. He castigated my noble friend Viscount Samuel. I do not object to spanking, so long as it is not directed at too wide a target, but (if I may say so with great respect to the noble Marquess) he was for the moment mistaking the species for the genus. There are plenty of Liberal-minded men and women who, on this particular issue, would not agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, at all. We need not spend time in counting heads, but in fact I think it will be found that in the elected Chamber, among those who call themselves Liberals, there are more people who do not agree with him than who do.

Of course, I approach this subject, I admit, from a different point of view from that of a life-long Tory. We may both have our prejudices, but certainly mine are different. I hold the view—and I have always held it—that the Conservative Party were woefully wrong when, fifty years ago, they opposed that act of faith by stout old Campbell-Bannerman to return self-government to the Boers. As we see now, looking back, it was in fact a perfectly justified operation, and it is greatly to the honour of some life-long Conservatives or Unionists—I am thinking particularly of Sir Austen Chamberlain who, at a later date, avowed that if there was any vote he could recall in his life that was the vote he would like to cancel out—that they acknowledged the fact. It was a simple case. Equally, my own conviction has been, from the beginning, that it was a grave misfortune that the Unionist Party resisted for so long the evolution of power in Ireland. If it mattered—which it does not—that is on record.

As it seems to me, the problem we now have to consider is hardly disposed of by references to cases such as that. I heard the noble Lord, Lord Darwen, yesterday make a very thoughtful and well-argued speech in which he seemed to me to rely too much on such precedents. The Boers were a homogeneous, single people. They were very closely-knit in matters of religion. They spoke Low Dutch and they derived from Holland. The social, economic and political life of these people was the plainest example of a unified centre. While there was a risk, of course—they had recently been our enemies—that was the kind of body to which, in its wisdom, the Liberal Government of that day handed over power.

If you take the case of Ireland, as was mentioned yesterday, it is necessary not only to claim it as a precedent but to understand the difference. Ireland is a small, turbulent island, I agree, but it is an island in which everybody calls himself an Irishman, in which everybody, or practically everybody, understands what his fellow Irishmen say, whatever part of the island they come from, whereas it happened that the British minority were very largely concentrated in the North. A case like that and the problems connected with it, with very great respect, have nothing to do with the practical problem which faces the Government and all of us to-day. Indeed, even in the case of Ireland, to this hour you have not got a single united Government of Ireland: the government there is divided. I therefore think that it is really a grave mistake, in considering this question as I shall consider it now, with great calmness and moderation—because know there are arguments both ways—to suppose that we should do something similar.

I must say that the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, not so long ago thought on this subject as I do now. I am looking at the report of the debate in 1943, and I see the speech of my noble friend about India, in columns 27 to 30. I will read two extracts from it. He says: This divergence between Liberal opinion in this country and Congress has been accentuated by the fact that the Congress Party has not yet frankly recognized that. Those of us who believe in the principles of democracy cannot adhere in all cases to the simple principle of majority rule. That will apply to countries which are substantially homogeneous, like Great Britain, France and the United States. You cannot apply it to countries which have fundamental divisions of race or religion, or matters about which people care more than they do about anything else. Then my noble friend quoted from Mr. Gandhi's declaration. Mr. Gandhi has made a great many declarations and they have not always been quite systematic. But this is Gandhi's declaration, which the noble Viscount, Lord Halifax, will remember. He said: "There can be no Swaraj without a settlement with the Moslems."I do not think the views of my noble friend expressed yesterday are necessarily part and parcel of the Liberal tradition.

I will, without delay, come to my contribution to the discussion. I will make it in entirely moderate terms and as the result of a great deal of reflection in which I have tried, as well as I could, to exclude such bias—prejudice, if you like—as may come from my own particular association with the examination in the past of Indian affairs. I note, first of all, that the Government plan announced on Thursday last, is admittely a new departure. The Secretary of State yesterday, in the course of his speech, said—and I honour him for saying it—" It would be disingenuous of me to pretend that it did not involve a change of view in relation to the minorities," and so on.


I did not use exactly those words, but words which were similar.


I hope I have not been unfair; if I have, I should be the first to correct it. I am going to read what he said in column 949, the 5th line: It would be disengenuous of me if I were to suggest for a moment that there was no difference in the matter of what is said with regard to minorities at the present time and what was said then.


It should read "letter."


Let us record it now then. How could I know that? It should read: It would be disingenuous of me if I were to suggest for a moment that there is no difference in the letter of what is said with regard to minorities at the present time and what was said then. I do not want to delay on matters which do not seem to be important. I should have thought it was a perfectly clear admission. I am sorry I gave the noble Lord a respectful commendation if he did not deserve it. I should have thought it was the plainest admission in the present announcement of the Government. It does not correspond with their previous assurances. It is quite clear it is no good correcting a sentence in Hansard to avoid that result.

What is now proposed—I am not at all in a controversial mood, and if do not wish to argue about it—is contained in paragraph 7 of the White Paper, referring to the transfer of power into Indian hands in June of next year, whether there has been substantial agreement between the Moslems and Congress or not. No one who seriously attends to this subject can deny that, whether that is wise or unwise, right or wrong, there is a material difference. It is materially different from what was said earlier. I am sorry to have dilated on it, but let us have it entirely clear. The proposal now made is for the complete transfer of power into Indian hands, and the complete withdrawal of British power in India at an early date in June of next year, whether agreement has been reached between the Moslems and the Congress party or not. We hope it may be reached. Everyone hopes it may be reached, and I should think that no one has had more occasion to know the necessity of it than I. But to say that it is not a fundamental change of policy—well, I leave it to the judgment of the House whether it would not be ridiculous to say that.

That being so, I address this reflection, with great respect, to noble Lords who will speak on behalf of the Government in the debate to-day—to the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, and the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House. It is obvious, is it not, that the Government must have considered the outcome of two alternative events. I do not for a moment charge them with having rushed into this without thinking it over. They must have considered, first of all, how matters would work out if by June of next year the hope was fulfilled and the Constitution was drawn up by Indians and was agreed, so that it could be put, I suppose, in the Schedule of a Statute here. That is the hope under which manifestly they are acting. But they must also have considered the alternative. The alternative is that we shall reach June of next year without that Constitution having been worked out.

I wish to say a few words on those two alternatives to justify my classification. Allow me to call attention to the language of paragraph 10 of this document. After referring, quite justly, to the hard work of the Cabinet Mission, the paragraph continues: His Majesty's Government there agreed to recommend to Parliament a Constitution worked out, in accordance with the proposals made therein by a fully representative Constituent Assembly. I would ask your Lordships to mark those words: "a fully representative Constituent Assembly." That is the first alternative. But if it should appear that such a Constitution will not have been worked out by a fully representative Assembly before the time mentioned in paragraph 7 "— that is June, 1948, and again I would ask your Lordships to mark these words— His Majesty's Government will have to consider to whom the powers of the Central Government in British India should be handed over, on the same date "— they thus indicate the alternatives— whether as a whole to some form of Central Government for British India or in some areas to the existing Provincial Governments, or in such other way as may seem most reasonable and in the best interests of the Indian people. There are the two roads, one or other of which this country has to pursue between now and June, 1948. The practical question is—I am not going to pronounce upon it, but I say that it is essentially a question for us calmly to consider—what are the prospects? It is not a question of whether the Government are acting with completely good intentions—I know that they are. The question is simply, what are the prospects as between these alternatives? And it is very relevant calmly to consider which is the more likely course. With great authority, a former Governor of Bombay, speaking in most measured terms at the end of the debate last night, told the House his estimate. We may to-day hear the estimate of others of equal authority.

I wish only to call attention to what has to be done in these next fifteen months if, indeed, a hopeful issue is to be secured. There can be no objection to pointing that out, so that we can see what it is. The first thing is that there must be brought together a fully representative Constituent Assembly. The second is that when such an Assembly have been brought together—and unhappily that has never yet been done—that is not the end of the business; it is the beginning. That Constituent Assembly have to continue conferring and sitting until they agree, at any rate on the substantial matters, the main matters, about a future Constitution for India. And that is one of the most complicated tasks in the whole world, as anyone who has had to consider Indian affairs well knows. Thirdly, there must be an Act of Parliament carried through to put this happy result into effect. I ask your Lordships to consider, without necessarily coming to a final conclusion, what really are the chances of all that happening in the next fifteen months.

I have regretted before now—as those who have been good enough to attend to me know—that the Government, in their desire to achieve a result which is perfectly natural and right, should have permitted the notion to spread that the meeting which has been going on in New Delhi was a meeting of the Constituent Assembly. That meeting was not composed entirely of Caste Hindus (I was wrong in saying that before) but of Caste Hindus and certain representatives—themselves, I think, Caste Hindus—who profess to speak for the Untouchables, three or four Sikhs and one or two others; bat (and this is the great point) it was entirely without the Moslem League. How can that be called a meeting of the Constituent Assembly? It really is not so; I wish it were. When you call for a meeting of the Constituent Assembly, as did the Ministers who went to India, you mean of course—everybody must mean in that connexion—that you wish to gather together these different important interests in order that they may confer amongst themselves.

I would respectfully suggest an analogy which perhaps the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, would consider—I believe that he is going to speak earlier in the debate than the noble Viscount, Lord Addison, opposite. Suppose the Government said that they were going to have a conference, an industrial conference, which both employers and workmen would be invited to attend. Suppose one side attended, but the other did not? Would anybody call that the industrial conference that it was intended to hold? There are some forms of assembly which essentially require that both the main sides should be there. To talk of what is going on as a meeting of the Constituent Assembly is much like saying that if you arrange a football match between two teams and, when the day comes, one side does not turn up, the referee must nevertheless go on the ground, the game must begin, and the ball must be put in the scrum—although the other side is not there. It is a complete 'misuse of language to speak of what has hitherto happened as a meeting of the Constituent Assembly. It is a meeting of such elements of it as are prepared to attend.

For this purpose, it does not matter whether the absentees are absent by some fault of their own or for good reasons. The point is that you do not got a body in session at all until the result of having the different Parties there has been attained. I am glad to see that in the White Paper, using a much more accurate expression, the Government say that they want the proposals worked out by "a fully representative Constituent Assembly". All I say, for the moment, is that you have not got that yet. I most sincerely hope that you will get it as soon as you can. The next thing is that that body, when it assembles, has to form a scheme—not only vague ideals but a scheme—for the future Constitution of India. A Constitution is not an aspiration; a Constitution is a structure in which each part must have a definite relation to every other part. I repeat—as I have said, I have had some reason to know, and I think it will be universally known among all who have had contact with Indian affairs—that there had never been a more complicated and difficult task than to put together a Constitution for India. That it may be accomplished is my most sincere wish, but to say that it is going to be done the next fifteen months seems to me to be a very wishful piece of thinking.

In this connexion, I must add one other point with regard to the matter of true date. Here again I hope that what I say will be confirmed, if he thinks it worth while to deal with this, by the noble Earl, Lord Halifax. The truth is that you cannot provide for the progress of a Constitution, for the change-over from one Constitution to a better one, by dates. You cannot do it as though these things could happen in jerks, by fixing a day in the calendar and saying that on that day this thing shall happen. You can do it after it is agreed, of course, but you cannot, in the absence of agreement, proceed in that way. We had a very good example of that, which my noble friend will remember, when the Statutory Commission went out to India.

It was universally agreed by those who advised and helped there that it was a very grave misfortune that the Montagu-Chelmsford Act had contained a clause that after ten years there should be an inquiry by Statutory Commission. Nobody knows that better than the present Prime Minister. I will not delay your Lordships by reading the passage in the Report, which we all took part in composing, but it became a most serious consideration, and if anyone will be good enough to turn up the Report in the library and look at the chapter which is headed "The Mechanics of Advance they will see how that is expounded. If you announce a date, you must not assume that it is going to accelerate agreement. The nearer you get to the date the greater is the danger of one great political Party in India seeking to put itself in a better position as against another. That was certainly our experience about the ten years rule, and although I am not seeking to lay down anything as a dogmatic proposition I do most earnestly ask that this should be considered. It has a very immediate bearing on the question as to whether it is likely that what the Government hope for will be achieved by that date.

I think it was a little unfortunate yesterday that the Government speakers were already relying on quotations from the Indian Press. I certainly do not want to start a battle with opposing quotations, and it does not surprise me at all that in some quarters the first reaction should be what is called "favourable." My own reflections would lead me to think it is too early to be sure what the result may be. Since the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, quoted from a copy of The Times, and brought the authority of that great paper's correspondent into the present discussion, I will take leave to read one other passage from The Times, and, so far as I know, from the same correspondent. He is pointing out the exact thing to which I have been drawing your Lordships' attention. He says: The British decision to announce a date for handing over power may have justifiably caught the imagination elsewhere in India, but here in Bengal"— he is writing from Calcutta— thoughts are already fixed on the distribution of that power in June, 1948. Will Bengal stand aside from an Indian Union and become an independent Moslem State which the Premier, Mr. Suhrawardy, once boasted he would make it? And what of its Hindus, who form 47 per cent. of the population? Your Lordships know that in the Province of Bengal the majority is not Hindu, but notwithstanding this, nobody would call Calcutta a Moslem place. Therefore you have a situation in that Province which must be a cause of great anxiety. The correspondent goes on to say: The Hindustan Standard, expressing communal Hindu feeling, gave one answer when it said 'India will be well advised to risk a revolution rather than accept a so-called peaceful transference of power on such terms'. I feel that it is very dangerous for us at this stage to accept the invitation to be cheerful because of telegrams from India commending us. I would not make such a quotation here in your Lordships' House if it could conceivably contribute to confusion, but you do grave injustice to the intelligence of Indians if you do not think they have not long ago perceived the possible consequences of Thursday's announcement. Europe may in some ways claim superior qualities, but if it is a question of the keenness of an intelligence to see what might be obtained from a particular announcement, the brains of India will beat you every time. Therefore, it is much better to avoid quotations, and to admit that it is really too soon to say how this will be received.

An alternative is that this will not be achieved by June, 1948. I say, with all my heart, that I wish it well, but, like some others who spoke yesterday, from the maturest reflection I do not really think it is possible, having regard to all that has to be done. Suppose it is not so? At present, I find the Government's explanation of what they are going to do rather obscure. When the question was put yesterday by the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood—I thought very reasonably—the noble Lord the Secretary of State answered with a medical metaphor. Metaphors are dangerous things, but of all the metaphors that I have heard this was the strangest. For greater accuracy, and subject always to the possibility that Hansard needs to be corrected, I will read it to the House. The noble Lord was asked, as an urgent matter, what are the Government going to do in June, 1948, if these hopeful consequences have not been secured? The Secretary of State explained that he did not feel that he was called upon to answer that now. He will be called upon to answer it very soon. What he said was: The noble Viscount might as easily ask if I get an illness next week what medicine am I going to take to deal with it and want to know at once. The answer of the doctor will be: 'Well, wait first of all until you get an illness, and then wait until I have diagnosed it, because I certainly cannot recommend a remedy until I know what it is you are suffering from. If that is approved in any quarter it is not for me to suggest that the noble Lords opposite had better change their medical advisers! If a surgeon is going to operate—perform an admittedly very severe and dangerous operation which he hopes will produce good results—does he say: "Let me cut a leg off first, and then I will have a diagnosis and I will begin to consider what I really ought in the circumstances to recommend?"

It is manifest that the Government must have considered the subject. Of course they have. They would be deeply to blame if they had not. They have asked themselves, I assume, how are we to manage if this which we hope for does not come off? Without delaying the House by putting such a question in detail, I must submit to the judgment of your Lordships that it is a perfectly reasonable and a very necessary question to ask. If, in the alternative, as the White Paper says, the British Government in June, 1948, will have to consider (I am not going to make a point about "will"; they will have considered it long before that date) to whom the powers of the Central Government of British India should be handed over on the due date, I think we are entitled to know, although not of course, in detail, as though the thing were cut and dried, what is the general method of approach which they have in their mind in respect of what I fear is the more probable of the two alternatives.

Does it mean, or can it mean, that if there is no Constitution settled by a fully representative Constituent Assembly by June, they would dream of handing the government of India over to Mr. Nehru? It cannot mean that. They must have some idea of how they are going to decide the body or bodies to whom they are going to give these powers, and of some method by which they are going to select them. Because your Lordships will observe that this alternative means that the Government, at this late stage, would have to return to the method of choosing a Government themselves—a thing which most of us repudiated long ago. I respectfully submit that that is a question which it is legitimate to raise at this stage.

There is one other matter. I think it became very obvious and prominent at the end of the debate yesterday. I have told the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, as 'I think it a useful custom, what it is that I want to ask. Again I do not want details, but I think your Lordships, or most of your Lordships, will agree with me when I say that my question is a reasonable one land one that ought to be answered. It is this: What is contemplated about the British troops in India after June, 1948, and also in the meantime? What is contemplated about British soldiers and officers, now serving in India, after that date? In this matter I may have been entirely foolish—if so, I am willing to be corrected—but I am bound to say that when I read the Government Statement I understood it to mean that British soldiers would withdraw from India in June, 1948, and I think that a great number of people in this House, and out of it, understood the same thing.

It certainly caused me some astonishment that at the end of the debate, in answer to a question which had been put by my noble friend Lord Newall, who knows the Services in India well, the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, in a very courteous reply (obviously read out from a carefully-prepared piece of paper), said that there was a misunderstanding. I would refer your Lordships to the bottom of column 982 and the top of column 983 of Hansard. The noble Earl said: The noble Lord, Lord Newall, asked me a series of questions, and I will endeavour to answer two of them. In the first place, I can assure him that there is not going to be an evacuation of India—evacuation was the word he used—but a transfer of political power from the British to responsible Indian hands. That is not, as the noble Lord, I think, suggested, a military but a political operation. There was an intervention by my noble friend Viscount Cranborne and others, and I think, quite naturally, the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, rather than take the responsibility then and there of giving a further explanation, asked that the matter should be postponed until to-day.

I wish merely to put to your Lordships one or two of the considerations which have led me to form the view which I have expressed. What is the British soldier in India for? He is there for two purposes. He is there for the purpose of assisting in maintaining internal order, and, very marvellously, the British "Tommy sometimes does it, though I think it is only just to say that up to the present Moslem and Hindu troops have often co-operated, with a common devotion, in matters of that sort. But the British soldier has been a very valuable element in maintaining internal order—it was so in the time of Kipling. Many of Kipling's stories are about him. It is so to-day. I have seen it with my own eyes. Anybody who knows anything about the maintenance of internal order in India knows that. But I, at any rate, assume that that work cannot go on.

If, in Tune of next year, there is to be a transfer of power, which means, amongst other things, a transfer of executive responsibility to Indian hands, I should have thought it inconceivable that British soldiers, enlisted by the Secretary of State for War to serve the King in areas where the King's authority was actively discharged, should be used to supplement the efforts of the Indian police in maintaining internal order. The other purpose for which the British soldier has been employed in India (I see the noble and gallant Field-Marshal sitting in the House; he himself has been Commander-in-Chief in India, and he, of course, knows it a thousand times better than I do) is in connexion with frontier defence. When I say "soldier" I include the airman and, so far as may be, the sailor. That is a perfectly possible arrangement so long as the conduct of foreign affairs in India and relations with outlying States are in the hands of somebody who himself speaks with the authority of the British Government, as does the Viceroy. But if all that is to come to an end and you are to have the transfer of power which is now proposed (I may be quite foolish about this, but I want to know) is it really suggested that British soldiers can conceivably be employed for that purpose?

Their supplies, their transport, their barracks and everything connected with their services, would be entirely in the hands of Indian Ministers, conducting an Indian Government under the power which is proposed. I should hardly have mentioned this, had it not been referred to last night. Still, we must consider it. Suppose that the frontier tribes on the North-West found themselves warmly sympathizing with their co-religionists, the Moslems in British India, because they considered they were not being fairly treated, and suppose that in a Province where there is a Moslem majority they came in (as indeed they have a habit of doing from time to time), how could it possibly be that a British army should be employed to drive them out? And how could you do that without at once involving yourself in this result: that the British Army in India would be under the orders (as they might be) of a Moslem Province or it may be a Hindu Province, which might be next door to one another? Thereupon you would get them involved in the whole of this communal trouble. I frankly do not understand it.

My colleagues and I spent a great deal of time (and anyone who looks at our Report can see that for themselves) in studying, with the most expert assistance—including that of my noble friend the Field Marshal—what exactly was the position of the British Army in India. We were told yesterday that this is not an evacuation but only a transfer of power. I ask myself: Is it possible that the British Army is to become—and that is what it would really become—a mercenary Army, to be lent to people whom we are not to control, for their own purposes? I hope I am not going to be put off by a reference to Iraq. The case of Iraq is a simple enough case. In the case of Iraq, though it became an independent State, we stipulated, if I understand rightly, for certain air bases, and we controlled the communications and thereby protected the pipe-line. Nothing of that sort is possible here. I really do not understand at present what is involved.

I apologize for having kept your Lordships so long. It is partly because I have tried to express myself rather as one who is deeply anxious than as one who wishes to pronounce dogmatic condemnation. This problem is much too difficult for that summary process. Every day when the House sits, at the very beginning of its business, those who are here—the noble Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, practically invariably, but I think the only other constant attendants are the noble and learned law Lords before legal business—join in a prayer. That prayer is to the effect that in all our consultations we will lay aside all prejudices and partial affections. I have honestly tried to do so. I know that this Government must be nearly overwhelmed by the mass of major problems, and I think every British citizen, whatever his political attachment, should remember that. Palestine, Germany, relations with America and with Russia, coal and snow, to which there have been added, as I think unhappily, vast schemes of nationalization—this accumulated burden is enough to break down the deliberate considerations of any man, or any body of men. However, I am bound to say that I sadly fear that the end of this business is not going to be the establishment of peace in India but rather that it is going to degrade the British name.

3.33 p.m.


My Lords, it is with great diffidence that I intervene in this debate on a subject of such tremendous importance. I do so only because to me the importance of events in India cannot be over-stated; and I am not alone in thinking this matter important. The Government, in their Statement, call it important, and I will refer to that again in a moment. It is many years ago—over forty—since I spent sewn years on the frontier of India. In between the two wars I was also intimately connected with all questions of defence in India, being Chief of the Air Staff here in Whitehall. I then saw all the papers, and was acquainted with all the questions that arose, and I have tried to keep myself up to date since then. There are certain factors that have never changed, even since those long ago days.

The question of the importance of defence has been referred to at some length by the noble and learned Viscount who has just spoken and I agree with every word that he said on that subject. It was also referred to in those two splendid speeches which we heard last night from the noble Lords, Lord Middleton and the Earl of Scarbrough. If I may say so, I think they were very sincere and were obviously talking on a subject about which they knew a great deal. I feel sure that the Government must have appreciated those two speeches in the same way that I did. The noble Lord, Lord Newall, also referred to this question of defence. I refer to it now from a slightly different angle. I see it is referred to in the Government Statement, in paragraph II, and I think it is the only occasion in the Whole of that Statement where they mention something as being "important." It is a most interesting fact. I have read it through and through again. That statement is also the only one, so far as I can see, except the statement that we leave India in 1948, that is at all definite. Paragraph II of the Government Statement says this: It is important that the efficiency of the Civil Administration should be maintained and that the defence of India should be fully provided for. It is the last part of that sentence with which I want to deal. What was at the back of the Government's mind when they put that into their Statement? I am not against it; I look upon it as of vital importance, and I am all for it. But what was in the Government's mind? Why was that singled out as being important? And why did they have to say it "should be fully provided for"? What does it mean? What steps are going to be taken to ensure that that statement is going to be carried out; and how? Are we going to hand over the deference of the country to the new Indian Government or Governments, fully provided for, or are we going on providing? It is a statement that ought to be made, but I would ask the Government, to explain what was in their mind.

I know that the noble Viscount the Leader of the House has always taken an interest in these deference matters in the past: many times have I heard him go, into these questions, and he realizes their vast importance. I am not in any way disagreeing with that statement, but I do say that we are entitled to know what was meant by it. Does it mean that the British Army and the British Royal Air Force are leaving India? Or does it mean that they are going to remain there under the control of an Indian Government independent of Britain? I think the noble and learned Viscount used the words "mercenary Army." Curiously enough, I have said the same thing. It is quite different from making a treaty and having your troops stationed on lines of communication, as was provided for in the case of Iraq, under the noble Viscount who moved this Resolution. Surely this question can be answered. I ask the noble Viscount who is to reply, not to say that. We must wait (as was said by the noble Lord, the secretary of State for India) to see what reaction there is in India to this proposal; it is too vital a matter to wait and see what reaction there is.

Are we taking away the Army and the Air Force, and leaving the deference problem to India entirely? And, if so, is India going to provide all the necessaries of war? Are they going to see that the deference of India is fully provided for? Is that being done? As I have said, I lived on the Frontier for many years. In those days the tribes raided the villages on our side of the line, and first of all the Army kept the peace and later on the Air Force. I understand that even now, as in the days when I first went there—now fifty-four years ago—those raids still go on. Are we now going to see that those villages are protected, or who is going to provide the necessary protection? If you are going to hand over adequate deference machinery to a Central Government, then it may be all right, but if you are going to hand it over, as the noble Viscount who has just sat down said, to different Governments, what is going to happen if you have a divided control on the Frontier?

During my long stay in India, and afterwards, there were always rumours, and we used to provide against the possibility of a major external aggression. Who is going to provide against that now? Is the country going to be assured that it fully protected against anything like that? Are great cities like Peshawar, Dera Ismail Khan, Dera Ghazi Khan and other frontier cities going to be left open to raids by the marauders from the other side of the frontier or by other aggressors? Even if the Government feel that those raids by the tribes are over, and that, having regard to the existence of the United Nations Organization, there is no chance of a major aggression, there is always the question of keeping order in India with both the Army and the Air Force. Let me say a word about the Air Force. I hope we can get a public declaration that the Air Force will never be used for keeping the peace in cities in India or anywhere else. Whatever happens, we must never use the weapon of a bombing force to keep peace in cities anywhere in the world. The noble Lord, the Secretary of State for India, has had private correspondence with me on this subject. I hope it can be said publicly that in the interim period the Air Forces will not be used for that purpose. I get a good number of letters saying it should never be used in that way.

There are great questions to be solved. I cannot see any reason why we should gamble on the chance that the two great political Parties in India will agree. Your Lordships will remember that in China there are two great Parties who have been at war with one another for ten years. There is a very bitter struggle between the Communists and the Chiang Kai-shek Party. That is a political struggle, with all the bitterness of such a struggle; but the struggle in India between the Hindus and the Moslems until they have made peace and become friends will be not only a political struggle but a religious one as well, with all that that entails in the way of added bitterness. I urge the Government to think of what has happened in China and of the misery it has brought upon the Chinese.

The Government say we shall clear out of India in June, 1948. It is difficult to explain in a few words what I mean. They taunted us last night—not taunted us, but said we had not, with the exception of the noble Earl, Lord Scarbrough, produced alternative plans from this side of the House. I say that is not correct. I say that these great questions outstanding between the leaders of the Parties in India must be settled first. Why are we afraid? The Government say, "Are you going to use British bayonets in India to keep the peace? Are you going to cause great bloodshed by the use of British troops?" Is that a real danger? I say that the Government are unduly alarmed at the rumours they hear. They talk about bloodshed and strife as though it were British troops who were going to be attacked, but I believe that in any one year there are fewer murders of Britishers in India than there are in this country. Our troops are never waylaid or anything like that. They can go anywhere. It is not a case of the Hindus and Moslems fighting the British; it is a case of the Hindus and Moslems fighting each other, and the British have been there trying to keep the peace and to save lives.

The Government say that we must run the risk of these people killing each other because there is no alternative. The alternative I suggest is to continue to keep the peace between the two communities until such time as the Indian leaders come to their senses and realize that they have got to work together. I know it is said—it was referred to last night—that the Government fear the effects of the slogan "Divide and Rule." Is that what is really making people in this country uneasy? It is a silly slogan, besides being a horrible one. Is there really a danger of British troops being killed in large numbers if they are keeping the peace between Hindus and Moslems? The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, last night talked about "indefinite delay." Instead of "indefinite delay" I would rather use the slogan: "Look before you leap."

In conclusion, I would like to refer to a statement that I read the other day in the White Paper called the Economic Survey for 1947. Mr. Attlee, the Prime Minister, said in a foreword: The Government alone cannot achieve success. Everything will depend upon the willing co-operation and determined efforts of all sections of the population. That might well be applied to this problem. The success of this scheme does not depend entirely upon the Government, but there is one thing which is certain, and that: is that if they cannot succeed without the co-operation of all they can plunge India into chaos by Government action alone.

3.48 p.m.


My Lords, the quality of the debate that has been proceeding in this House and the numbers of your Lordships taking part in it are evidence of the importance your Lordships rightly attach to the matter under discussion, and of how grave, in your judgment, are the issues arising. We have listened to a great variety of speeches from both sides of the House, made by those who have every right to speak, with the arguments well marshalled. If I intervene for a few moments now, it certainly is not with the expectation of being able to inject any great novelty into the debate, because the ground has been very amply covered, but merely that I am anxious to place before your Lordships the manner in which my own judgment, such as it is, has; been formed on these matters. Incidentally, as I listened to the admirable speech which was delivered at the reopening of this debate by my noble and learned friend Viscount Simon dealing with the speeches of the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, and one or two others, I could not: but congratulate myself that I had made no speech on India since 1935, and therefore I am some that from any quarter of the House I am likely to be reasonably invulnerable in this respect.

From the speech with which my noble friend Viscount Templewood opened the debate—in which he ranged over the whole field with a command and poise that I am sure most of your Lordships must have envied, as I did—all the speeches have shown that in judging the action of His Majesty's Government regard must be had to the long-term evolution of policy on which all Parties have been generally agreed. The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, and the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, who spoke a moment ago, asked the Government various questions which seemed to me to be of the utmost importance, concerning not only military deference and such like issues but, in the case of the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Simon, questions concerning the general constitutional ideas which presumably the Government have in mind—questions which, if I may respectfully say so, I thought the noble Viscount was perfectly entitled to ask, and which I most sincerely hope, with him, for the general advantage of the House, the Government may find it convenient to answer.

I make only one comment upon the matters raised by the noble and gallant Viscount in regard to the British Army. I hope it is as axiomatic in the minds of the Government, as it is in my own, that the British Army should never be used for the execution of a policy over which the British Parliament has no control. As I see it, British policy in all this business has been concerned always with two purposes—namely, to lead India to self-government and, at the same time, to maintain good order and unity in India. It has been quite evident that as the policy proceeded, and as self-government moved into the picture as an early possibility, agreement (on which much has been said) became both more necessary and also, as I think the noble and learned Viscount said this afternoon, very much more difficult. That has been the plain experience of the last thirty years.

In the condition of India, and with the super-imposition of the war, I find it difficult to see how some such situation as that in which we to-day find ourselves could have been avoided, and I will venture to tell your Lordships why I think that. With each political advance the dilemma has constantly been posing itself with increasing sharpness. On the assumption that the approach to self-government was sure to be both easier and more rapid than the approach to agreement, your dilemma was: were you to make, or could you make, self-government firmly and finally dependent on agreement, or would you in fact be driven, once you set your foot on that road to self-government—as I think you have been driven—to keep on walking, even if your attempted condition of agreement had not been fulfilled? Therefore, to my mind, I am not the least surprised that the noble Lord the Secretary of State and my friends in all parts of the House, and probably myself, have laid the utmost stress in the past upon agreement. It is quite obvious why all that was said, and it is quite obvious how true it was, but that does not alter the fact that it may, in this year of Grace 1947, in totally different circumstances, not be possible in fact to insist upon it or to stand pat until you get it.

The offer which was carried to India by Sir Stafford Cripps emanated from the Government presided over by Mr. Churchill, and proceeded on the first basis—namely, that agreement and due protection of interests for which we held ourselves responsible were essential conditions of India's right to self-government. I suspect that it provided an example of a policy in which different parts made very different appeals in different quarters. Mr. Churchill no doubt placed great weight and great insistance upon the conditions which were attached, but I have very little doubt that the Indian, looking forward to self-government, saw as the large thing on that canvas the fact that, although conditions were of course attached (that was to be expected), here was the great Conservative Party under Mr. Churchill prepared to say that although they attached conditions, the independence of India was no longer a matter of great principle to be resisted at all costs.

I was not in India at the time, but I have seen many Indians, and the first impact on my mind when I read of that offer being made was what an immense effect it must surely have from that point of view, in India. For that reason, once that offer had been made, I think it was idle ever to suppose that you could get back to where you were before, even if you were not able to achieve your condition of agreement. I may be wrong, but I have that very firm conviction. It is for that reason that the slipping of India under the weight of general nationalist aspiration—to which of course had to be added all the emotional consequences of the war—gathered such momentum as to become an avalanche and to pose the problem that is in all our minds here this afternoon.

If that is not an extravagant diagnosis, do let us keep clearly in our minds what have been all along the possible choices by way of policy: first, agreement, in which case the problem is comparatively simple; secondly, continuance of British control until agreement; thirdly—and I think this exhausts the choices—some such action as His Majesty's Government are taking; that is, throwing the responsibility directly and firmly on to Indian shoulders. The first, agreement, is unhappily not as yet forthcoming. The second, the maintaining of control pending agreement is, I think, completely logical and completely just, but for the reasons I have given I gravely doubt whether it would, in fact, be practicable. I say that for this reason. If the Government were to insist on that policy, it would, as we stand now, impose an immense strain on the political and probably on the military machines in India, which I suspect—and I say this with extreme regret and reluctance—would be greater than they could support. Again, I think a decision to maintain British control pending agreement would inevitably have thrown all effective power into the hands of the minority.

As to the third, I think, with my noble friend, the Earl of Scarbrough, that it certainly would have exposed His Majesty's Government in this country, both in India and outside it, to a charge of insincerity—a charge that comes up over the horizon from time to time. What then may we say of the pros and cons of the kind of proposal which His Majesty's Government are making and which represents the third choice? It may be said that it removes uncertainty. If I may make this comment on that by way of parenthesis, it seems to me that during this debate one or two of your Lordships have spoken as if you thought you could, without too much difficulty, go on as at present. My noble friend, the Earl of Scarbrough, who I thought made a most admirable contribution to the discussion, said he would have liked to see the Government wait. Well, from all the inmation that reaches me I gain the impression that the position is rapidly becoming intolerable, for the fundamental reason that at the present moment the Government of India—or, if you like, the British Government—is in a most distasteful position—namely, a position in which its responsibility is greater than its power.

Therefore I think that a considerable item on the credit side of the pros is the removal of uncertainty. For what it is worth, you clear the British Government of the charge of lack of purpose and it is said you establish a lever for Indian agreement. That, I suppose, is what the Government would enter on the pros side of the balance sheet. Certainly formidable entries have to be made on the other side. It is plain, as has been pointed out with great force to-day and yesterday, that there is very great risk of leaving the Indian situation confused, if not chaotic, and the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, dwelt, as did the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, with great passion, on the abandonment of our obligations and on the betrayal of our duties in that regard in India. I would like to say one word about: that in a moment.

And to be entered on the debit side is, I think, that a good deal of informed opinion would be likely to feel that by this offer His Majesty's Government are at least as likely to encourage disunity as to encourage unity. I only hope that that judgment is wrong and that His Majesty's Government, in their estimate of the position with the best information at their disposal, have reason to think that this firm announcement of date is more likely to make for unity. In that regard I was glad the noble Lord the Secretary of State, in the course of the debate yesterday, mentioned a very significant statement of the Nawab of Bhopal, and I certainly hope that it may be within the power of the Princes and the Indian States to make a contribution that perhaps at the present time only they can make when the chances of agreement are being weighed. That balance sheet, to my mind, is not a very good one, and the debit side is very dark. I have no doubt that the entry on the debit side which gives just cause for misgiving is that to which one noble Lord drew forcible attention yesterday—the so-called betrayal of less powerful interests who hitherto have looked to the British Crown and Parliament for their justice and their protection.

But if we are to face realities in this matter surely we must recognize that whatever we may seek to write into the agreement on behalf of Dr. Ambedkar, or any of the other millions of people for whom we seek justice and decent opportunity, the execution of anything written into the agreement will, and must: always, depend upon the good will of those to whom we will have delegated the effective power. There is no getting away from that except by saying that we will go back from our purpose and change our minds about trying to establish Indians in the effective seat of power. I think the worst thing, as the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, said yesterday, surely would be to pretend to a greater power than in fact you possess or can have, unless you are to reverse your general policy of placing India in a position of independent liberty.

Heaven knows it is very easy to feel that all that His Majesty's Government are doing is wrong; it is natural to feel the full force of arguments that are deployed against it. But there is a great deal to be said on the other side. I have the gravest doubt about this early fixing of the date in June, 1948. Indeed, I am sure that no one who has ever worked in India can think of these problems, as they present themselves to-day, without a feeling in his heart very much more poignant and painful than mere anxiety. But while it is easy to say: "This is wrong," it is not so easy to say what is right. With such knowledge as I have, I am not prepared to say that, whatever else may be right or wrong, this step must, on all counts, certainly be judged to be wrong. I am not prepared to say that, for the truth is that for India to-day there is no solution that is not fraught with the gravest objection, with the gravest danger. And the conclusion that I reach—with all that can be said against it—is that I am not prepared to condemn what His Majesty's Government are doing unless I can honestly and confidently recommend a better solution.

Reference has been made to the speech delivered by the noble Marquess, Lord Linlithgow, in your Lordships' House a few weeks ago, in which he posed a problem, as he saw it, with brutal clarity and great force. Either (he said), you have to re-assert power, political and military, with full knowledge of everything that that involves—and you must do so with the consciousness that you must be prepared to do it for an adequate period of time, and even then you will know that this situation is likely to recur every five or ten years, as opinion here or in India might impel you to feel that you must move forward—or you must recognize facts. And, as the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, said yesterday, facts are very awkward in India and in this case, I think, brutally hard. I do not know any other alternative. Those two alternatives seem to me to exhaust the possibilities. I could not find much comfort in the suggestion which the noble Earl, Lord Scarbrough, made yesterday, that the leaders of political Parties should endeavour to assist Indian leaders to agree and, failing that, that they should together appeal to the British people to support them for another twenty or thirty years. It seemed to me optimistic expectation that that might work out successfully.

My feeling is that the first alternative put forward by the noble Marquess is not practicable. I should be sorry if the only message from this House to India at this moment was one of condemnation, based on what I must fully recognize are very natural feelings of failure, frustration and foreboding. I should find it difficult to support my noble friend Viscount Templewood were he to proceed to a Division. Indeed, I hope—and I appeal to my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition upon this—that he and those working most intimately with him will, on this occasion, be able to spare the House the necessity of going to a Division. I do not see what useful purpose a Division can serve. My right honourable friends and my noble friends have made their position abundantly clear. I have no doubt as to what the result of a Division might be here, and I also have no doubt about what the result of a Division might be in India. I think—and I say this with all respect—that it is to the result in India that we ought here to give our thought. That instinct, for me, is re-inforced by a wider consideration with which perhaps your Lordships will agree. Admit and recognize sharp differences that exist as to the method by which the final evolution of our professed policy is to be achieved. There are sharp differences as to method, but no differences at all, so far as I am aware, as to professed purpose. If that is so, it means that the policy of His Majesty's Government would certainly, and will certainly, go forward and there is no desire, and no power, to arrest it. If that is so, is not the wise course to concentrate our thoughts and our hopes on the future relations between India and the British Commonwealth?

As this great drama goes forward, from every point of view, from the point of view of India, from the point of view of the British Commonwealth and from the point of view of the world—because the world does not tolerate a vacuum—immense importance must be attached to the position that the new India is going to occupy. Both India and Great Britain, I am sure, realize how much each has to give to the other, and therefore the wiser heads in both countries, I have no doubt, are planning and thinking and working and hoping and praying that means may be found by which, out of all this, may come the seed of a new spirit of partnership between them.

For that reason I would deprecate any talk—from whatever side of the House it came—about evacuation as if it were one Power evacuating itself before a hostile Power. That is not my conception of the position at all. I do not think that that is the right kind of picture. It is not the kind of picture that I have in my mind, nor is it, I should imagine, the kind of picture that many of your Lordships have in your minds. This country has made it abundantly clear—or rather I would correct myself and say that the Government have made it abundantly plain—that they are prepared to go to the extreme limit in order to leave India a clear field for the evolution of her future. Can we not also make it plain, as the White Paper suggests in its conclusion, that any assistance that India may in future request, and that it may be in our power to give, will be fully and freely given?

Perhaps I may give your Lordships a personal reflection, based on a personal experience, the memory of which has never left my mind. I remember that when I was in India—I think it was on a Christmas Day—I watched a polo match in Calcutta between a team representing an Indian State and a team from a British cavalry regiment. The game was very keenly contested. I should think there were 50,000 Bengalis looking on. Whenever the Indian State team got a run down the ground, all the umbrellas and everything else that could be waved went up and down, and round and round, and there was tremendous excitement. When the British cavalry team had a run down the ground there was dead silence on the part of the Bengalis. There were, indeed, signs of intense depression. It was what many people might call a good racial match. But the interesting thing was that just before the game started a member of the Indian State team became linable to play, and the team had to be made up with a British cavalry officer. When this British cavalry officer, playing for the Indian State team, had the ball and was riding down the ground he got just as much cheering from the Bengalis as any of His Indian co-players in the Indian State team.

That to me always seemed a rather simple parable, which is explanatory of a good deal in Indian nature and, perhaps, in all human nature. I believe there will be very many in India, in every political camp, who will realize the sovereign need of strengthening India's resources, and who, once suspicion and the old order are removed, will be willing to accept a great deal by way of help and general influence that they would never have accepted in the shape and under the guise of controlling power. I am not less certain that the people of Britain would think there was no better way, of closing this chapter in Indian history, if it is to come to a close, than by offering to the limit of their power to assist India'; passage into the new order. That would be the spirit Of the message that I would like to see this House send to India to-night.

4.22 p.m.


My Lords, there is a story told of MT. Burke when he was concerned in a by-election at Bristol, in company with a comparatively unknown colleague. After Burke had made one of his magnificent orations, the other candidate was called upon to speak. He had the good sense to content himself with saying merely: "I say ditto to Mr. Burke. "After the speech we have just heard, I would also like to say: "I say ditto to the noble Earl who has just spoken." But as I have been asked some questions, and as I have given a great many hours of very anxious thought to this problem, perhaps I may trouble your Lordships for a short time. I do so, perhaps, because I have no expert knowledge. After all, we have to-day had speeches from the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, who gave up two years of his life to going out to India and writing a Report on the conditions of India which made it possible for those of us who have never been there to understand some of the conditions, from the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, who has served in India for many years, and knows India's problems, and from the noble Earl who has just spoken, who served his term during a memorable Viceroyship. I am in the position of many of you; I am merely the "man in the street."I had to make up my mind on this problem in the Cabinet just as the man in the street had to make up his mind on all these problems after hearing all the evidence.

I started with this: I had read, as a schoolboy, the stirring story of our work in India. It is almost exactly 190 years ago since Clive, who was only thirty-one at the time, won the battle of Hassey, which is, I suppose, one of the decisive battles of world history. From that time to this, I think we may fairly say, our record in India has been a highly honourable one. We have given them a unity which they never could have achieved without us. We have given them to some extent, at any rate, a common language. We have given them a system of law and order and of justice fairly and impartially administered, which is one of the greatest gifts any country can have. We have made our mistakes, perhaps the existence of what we call the Depressed Classes after our 190 years in India is an instance of one of our mistakes. Although we have made our mistakes, on the whole, history shows no better record than that of the British in India. Therefore, one was influenced by sentiment not to bring that record to an end. It is the fact, as the noble Viscount in his interesting speech in moving this Motion yesterday said, that there is a growth of [...]nalism in the East generally, and in the [...]erecharged atmosphere of this post-war [...]ld events, are moving with tremendous [...]idity.

What, then, were the alternatives which confronted us? If we could get agreement between the two main Indian Parties then, of course, our difficulties were solved. If we could no': get agreement there were only two alternatives. The first alternative is to remain in India until a stable Government, comprising the two major races is assured, and protection is assured for the minorities. That, of course, is to remain for an indefinite time. The second alternative is to fix a limit to our stay, and say that at the end of that time we go out. If I follow aright the view of the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, he would be quite prepared to accept the first proposal, but he would add that as there is no possibility of ever getting agreement in India, it follows that we shall remain for ever. I am not quite sure whether the noble Lord, Lord Rankeillour, and, to some extent, I think the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, felt the same thing. They feel that adequate protection for minorities cannot be secured unless there is either an independent High Court, so that the minority rights are not whittled away by alterations in the future, or armed forces to see that the minorities are not cheated.

In an interesting book, written recently, Professor Coupland considers what possibility there is of protecting minorities in a country which has achieved its independence. Are you, he asks, to be allowed to go there to investigate alleged cases of ill-treatment? If you find such ill-treatment, and you make a protest that is unavailing, what can you do? Are you to use force? He concludes with this: When the question is further examined, will it not ultimately appear that a valid and lasting guarantee of minority rights in an independent country is not to be found in any external authority but only in the law of the land? I believe that proposition to be true.

The noble Earl, Lord Scarbrough, suggested that we should send out to India another Mission composed of the leaders of all the political Parties, but I do not honestly think there is the slightest chance of that succeeding where the last Mission failed. If that failed, then he suggested that we should have something—I do not know whether it is to be a referendum or a general election—in which we seek to get a mandate from the people to remain in India for a further ten or twenty years. I think that the noble Lord had forgotten, if I may use the words of the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, on a previous occasion, how infinitely remote these Indian problems are from the ordinary person in this country. Which of the two alternatives is it to be? Is it the staying for an indefinite period, or the other course?

I think the first course—staying for an indefinite period—has a corollary. I think you must be prepared to face this. If we remain indefinitely, we remain responsible—as we are to-day—for law and order, for the prevention of anarchy and massacre; and if there continues to be no agreement, and if things get worse, we may have to be prepared to set up an impartial Administration, responsible to Parliament, to safeguard the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of the Indian masses. Those are the words of Mr. Churchill. And he adds this significant rider: Whether that can be achieved or not by any apparatus of British-controlled government that we can form from our dissipated resources is again a matter upon which it is now impossible to form a final judgment. It has been an odd thing throughout this debate that the position of this country—the changed and altered position of this country—has not been considered; for although in the near future I do not doubt that we can, and most certainly should, carry through our obligations, yet, if we be realists, I think we must consider very carefully into what long-term overseas commitments which extend for an indefinite time we are going to enter. We cannot assume responsibility without power. De jure, of course, we are to-day responsible for law and order, but de facto what is the position there? The noble Marquess, Lord Linlithgow, in his speech on December i6, 1946, said: The practical position, whatever may be the theoretical position, is very clear. It is that the Governor-General cannot pull up his Council without facing the resignation of the Congress Ministers and, therefore, a first-rate crisis. That is not a position that can last long, because, to take the ultimate test, it is unthinkable that British troops should be employed to support policies over which neither Parliament nor the Cabinet in this country have effective control. It is said that our policy is a gamble, it has been called "a gamble"; it has been called "a gambler's throw." It is most certainly a risk, and a very grave risk, that we are taking, and we are fully aware of it; but the true path of statesmanship to-day is not to attempt to avoid risks. You must take risks. The true problem is to know which risk to take. I considered, for reasons which I will give to your Lordships quite shortly, that this grave risk was probably the best one to take. In the first place, let us consider what its effect may be upon the two great Indian Parties. The noble Earl, Lord Scarbrough, who speaks with far greater knowledge than I can ever hope to possess, told us yesterday that he feared that the jolt which would be administered may not succeed. He thought it would not, and he gave previous instances. I fully realize the possibility of that. On the other hand, I think to put this problem fairly and squarely on Indian shoulders may have some beneficial effect, and I am certainly satisfied that it is more likely to have that effect than pursuing the other course of staying there for an indefinite period.

After all, the art of Governments depends very largely upon the acquirement of tolerance, of "give and take." Tolerance conies very frequently from necessity to those who have been put in the position of governing. We must never be surprised if those who have not had to exercise self-government do not possess the attributes which self-government requires. Macaulay told a story of the fool who used to say he would never go into the water until he had learnt to swim. So also you cannot expect people to have responsibility and tolerance unless and until they find themselves in a position when they have to govern. But although the risk involved in this policy is grave, although the jolt may not succeed, is there any prospect (and this I ask most seriously) that the risk will be less in five years time, in ten years time or in twenty years' time—which was one of Lord Scarbroug'h's numbers?

When the Cabinet Mission was in India there was an afternoon when it looked as if they had secured agreement. But that which was so near fell further and further away. I do not think anybody can deny that the situation in India to-day is very grave, and is not growing easier. In the meantime, if I may recall what the noble Marquess, Lord Linlithgow, said: "the Secretary of State's Services are falling to pieces". That was his phrase—" falling to pieces "—and that is natural enough, because since the war we have recruited no new recruits to the Secretary of State's services. And if recruitment were to start now the new recruit could not possibly cope with this very difficult situation until he had acquired experience over five or even more years.

These Services, to a greater extent than ever, are Indianized. It is right that it should be so. But it is also right that we should recognize this fact: If you 'have largely Indianized your Services, and, as it is suggested that sooner or later we, the British, are going to leave, is it not inevitable that the nationalist pull on those Services begins to make itself felt? We are told: "Don't gamble: Don't take risks. Leave it to the indefinite future and decide then." But is there no risk that in the indefinite future we may be unable to fulfil our task? Is there no risk that the situation is going to become more grave? Is there no risk that the forces of nationalism may become more extreme? Is there even no risk (not that I believe British bayonets would ever be used against one of the major Parties), but that it would certainly be said that they had been used?

If in the near future we can withdraw with the good will and respect of the Indian leaders, and the people of India, quietly and peacefully, is there any certainty that that state of affairs will always continue? Mr. Churchill said that nothing could prevent us from gathering together our women and children and unarmed civilians and marching under strong rearguards to the sea. Our policy avoids any risk of any such consideration. We go, and we go with the good will and respect of the Indian people. It must be remembered that if we stay the time may come when we have to go in very different circumstances. Speaking for myself, I want to assure, your Lordships that it was in no spirit of levity that I came to the gravest decision to which I have ever had to come, applying my mind as best I could to the evidence and the advice that we obtained. Of course, we realize the risks involved, but comparing the risks of this course with the risks of any other course, we came to the conclusion that this was the right one to take.

I do not regard this in any sense as the break-up, or the beginning of the break-up, of our historical Commonwealth. That Commonwealth will survive; and it will survive because it will be based not on forces but on reason, not on violence but on persuasion. However forms of Government may change, India and ourselves, as the noble Earl who has just spoken has said, must always remain closely united by bonds of interest, sympathy, and long association. We shall need India in the troublous times ahead of us just as badly as India needs us. We shall do everything we can to help India on the threshold of her new life. The noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, raised a question particularly relating to defence. I think it would be more appropriate that an answer to his question, if, indeed, one is desired, should be given by my noble friend the Leader of the House.

The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, raised a question with regard to the Forces, and founded himself upon an observation which my noble friend the Earl of Listowel made yesterday, which I think has led to some misapprehension. This is no evacuation in the sense that all British interests, British traders and British people are going to leave India. It is very far from that. The transfer of authority to Indian hands will be the completion of a long process of political development. In the Government's view, the completion of that process does not involve the necessity for British subjects resident in India to leave the country. It will, of course, result from the change that those British members of the Civil Services and of the Indian Armed Forces who are not invited to remain in the service of the new authorities, or who do not wish to do so, will in most cases leave India. But the larger part of the British community in India is engaged in commerce and industry and, as is stated in the White Paper, the Government believe that there will be a fair field for British commercial enterprise under the new conditions, and there will be mutual advantages to both countries in the continuance and development of the present commercial and business relationships. Indeed, the Government believe that the attitude of Indians towards British members of the commercial and industrial community may well prove to be more cordial after the transfer of power has taken place than it has been for many years past. The Government, therefore, see no reason why the large 'British commercial community in India should, because of the decision announced, now think it necessary to leave India.

I come now to the Forces. The Government have stated that until the final transfer of authority British troops will be retained in India on the conditions upon which they serve there at present. It is the intention of the Government to withdraw British troops when the transfer of power takes place, for in no circumstances could British Forces be placed under the control of the new Indian authorities, or any authority not responsible to this country. If India remains in the Commonwealth our relations with her in defence matters will be on the same basis as those with other Dominion Governments. If India does not remain in the Commonwealth the security of India will still be a matter of great interest to the British Commonwealth. His Majesty's Government will naturally be very willing to enter into discussions with India as to mutual assistance in matters of external defence, subject, of course, to the obligations of both parties under the United Nations Charter.

I hope that deals with the question which the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, asked with regard to the Forces, and removes the very natural apprehension which he was under, if I may say so, by reason of the answer given yesterday, which was referring rather to the wider topic of the British community as a whole, and was not directed, as perhaps it ought to have been, to the Forces in particular.


I am greatly obliged to the noble Viscount, the Lord Chancellor. I understand his answer as regards the British Forces to be that they will not stay in India after June of next year.


Yes, that is so. I have practically finished, but if I may I would like to add this. Taking this decision has been no easy task. I would very much like to think that the trust which we are now imposing upon the Indian people will be regarded as a trust received not from a mere Party but from the British people as a whole, and that the responsibility that is involved in that trust is one for which they become morally responsible, not to a section but to all sections and all communities who have inherited the British way of life.

4.49 p.m.


My Lords, I do not believe in unnecessary speeches and I endeavour never myself to be guilty of one. Therefore on this occasion my words will be extremely brief. I had never intended to enter into the field of argument and counter-argument in this grave matter, but since, if this Motion were to come to a Division, I should feel compelled to vote against it, I did desire to indicate why, in spite of all the grave anxieties which surround us, I felt that compulsion. But I now feel no need to give any such indication. My noble friend Lord Halifax, besides a great deal of wisdom with which he spoke which was never in my mind at all: gave a balance of judgment which almost exactly expresses what was in my mind, and that with an authority which it is quite impossible for me to command; and the conclusion to which he came is precisely that which I should regard as the overwhelmingly right conclusion. I cannot reinforce what he said, and I am therefore wholly content to subscribe to it and to do no more than to add my own voice to his plea that the House may be spared a Division upon this matter.

The anxieties we all express and the foreboding we all feel have been here put before us with conviction and with power. It is my own belief that they will prove mere helpful to the Government and also to India if they are not put to the conclusion of a vote. I would desire, as the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, desires, that the message from your Lordships' House should be not a message of hesitation, of criticism or of fear, but a call that, since this challenge has been issued, all that is wisest and best in India should rise to join with us in bringing out of these forebodings a true conclusion and a true fulfilment of the past.

4.52 p.m.


My Lords, I would ask you to believe that I approach this question without either the prepossessions or the prejudice which come of a political affiliation of any kind, for I have none. I hope, therefore, that I may feel myself free from those temperamental peculiarities which the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, attributed to the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, and his Conservative friends. But equally, I hope, I am not living in that world of unreality which the noble Lord the Secretary of State thought characterized some at least of those who have supported this Motion. For neither I nor, I think, most of the men who have served in India in my generation, have ever believed that we could for any length of time maintain our rule over India merely by taking advantage of communal differences. That indeed was very far from our minds.

We believed, however, that at no distant date we might find such a measure of constitutional agreement in India as would enable us to hand over our powers to an Indian Government. We hoped—and I think it is a hope that until recently His Majesty's Government also entertained—that we might at the same time be able to find those conditions accepted which were laid down in the August message of 1940 and in the draft agreement of 1942—namely, that we should make a treaty providing for "all those matters necessarily involved in a complete transfer of our responsibilities to India." When I say that, I must admit with the noble Lord the Secretary of State that there were necessary limitations on those conditions—limitations which I think have sometimes been overlooked in this country. That is to say, when it came to a question of the protection of minorities, it was quite clear that such guarantees as could be given had to be guarantees only within the Constitution, since we should retain no executive or legislative power to protect minorities or to prevent any breach of the agreements. At the utmost all we could hope to effect—and this is a point which has also been made by the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor—would be to provide for an appeal to an Indian tribunal. That was as far as we could hope to go.

I would, therefore, deprecate any exaggerated views as to what we could have done in any case, or certainly what we could do now, for the protection of minority interests in India. Still, we had hoped, as I think His Majesty's Government had until lately hoped, that we should have had the satisfaction of being able to leave India under conditions which would enable us to transfer our power to a Government with that substantial measure of support necessary to make it an organized Government.

At this point may I refer to what the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, said on that subject? He will riot, I think, regard it as impertinent on my part if I say how very deeply moved I was by what he said. I agree fully with him that we could never have expected perfect agreement on the Constitution; nor indeed have those of us who hoped to leave India on those terms ever in our own minds attempted to lay down that agreement must be perfect. In any circumstances and in any country there must be differing Parties, and their differences may be deep. What we had hoped was only that they would be able to agree so far as to give us a working Constitution—a basis which we could consider to be adequate for the transfer of power. We had hoped for that, and we had hoped also, of course, that we should be able to leave India with some sort of guarantee that the conditions laid down in August, 1940, and again in 1942, would be substantially satisfied.

Those hopes of ours were, as I have said, undoubtedly shared until recently by the Cabinet also. What has occurred since then to frustrate those hopes and to make it necessary to resort to the expedient contained in the White Paper? The noble Lord, the Secretary of State, gave us two main reasons for this. In the first place, he pointed, as the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, has also pointed this afternoon, to the breakdown, or the running down, if I may use that expression for preference, of the machinery of the administration. He pointed in particular to the difficulty of recruiting the two Services for which he is responsible—namely, the Indian Civil Service and the Indian Police Service. He could not complain, of course, in that respect of the failure to obtain recruits, or of a lack of suitable recruits, because clearly there were a very large number of British candidates of a good class forthcoming. He laid the greatest emphasis on the fact that it would take some time to prepare those men to take part in government and to repair wastage in the Services.

But that could not, I think, have been decisive, and clearly it was not. What was decisive apparently in the mind of the Cabinet was that a fresh deadlock had occurred in India by reason of the fact that the Moslems refused to participate in the Constituent Assembly. The noble Lord, the Secretary of State, also laid some emphasis on the fact that there were threatenings of revolutionary action in India, by which I presume he must have meant revolutionary action on the part of Congress or its partisans. But we have had deadlocks before in India. Indian political life is nourished on crises. We have had threatenings of revolution before. Indeed, we have encountered an attempted revolution so late as 1942. But did those circumstances justify a remedy such as that which it is now proposed to apply? And is it indeed a remedy?

Clearly, His Majesty's Government could not have hoped that by the fixing of this date they would repair the administrative machinery in the course of the next twelve months. Clearly, that machinery must continue to run down under the threat of almost immediate liquidation. What His Majesty's Government did hope, as the Secretary of State has explained to us, was to administer a psychological shock which would force the two major Parties to adjust their differences. With every desire to be optimistic, I cannot myself feel that the result of this shock will be what His Majesty's Government have anticipated.

How would it, in the first place, affect Congress? Congress, of course, have always pressed for an immediate transfer of British control to Indian hands. But they have never suggested the declaration of a date at which that transfer would take place and have never suggested that this would result in adjustment of their differences with the Moslem League. On the contrary, let me read some wards of Mr. Gandhi spoken in 1941. He said: I admit that there is unfortunately an unbridgeable gulf between the Congress and the Moslem League. But why do not British statesmen admit that it is, after all, a domestic quarrel? Let them withdraw from India and I promise that the Congress and the League and all other Parties will find it to their interest to come together and devise a homemade solution for the government of India. It may not be scientific; it may not be after any Western pattern; but it will be durable. But then he added these significant and, to most of us, rather sinister words: It may be that before we come to that happy state of affairs, we may have to fight among ourselves. We have here, perhaps, one of the few instances in which Mr. Gandhi has descended to realities. It was not one of those chance inconsistencies to which he is addicted, because he repeated himself again, and in somewhat clearer terms, in the following year. He said: Leave India in God's hands or, in modern parlance, to anarchy. That is a queer interpretation of the functions of the Deity, and it is an equally queer interpretation of peace by a professed pacifist. Mr. Gandhi went on: Then all Parties will fight one another or, when real responsibility faces them, come to a reasonable agreement. It is quite obvious why the members of the Congress have taken this attitude. They are the majority, and they have always maintained not only that they represent the whole of India, but that they, and only they, can "take delivery" —those are their words of the government when it is handed over by the British. I think there is more in it than that. The Congress lately have begun to feel that not only by their organization, and perhaps by their organized intelligence, but that even in point of mere material strength they can dominate the Moslems. That is the basic reason why they have taken that attitude.

Now lot me take the attitude of the other main Party, the Moslem League. They also have claimed that the British must hand over power to India, but they have always stipulated that an adjustment of their relations with the Congress must take place before that transfer is made. In other words, they have demanded that there must be a recognition by Government of Pakistan—a term which has now become familiar to everyone and needs no explanation—and of North East India before power is handed over by Britain to India. In other words, the Moslem League demand is this: that full powers must be handed over to Pakistan and to North East India—the two Moslem Governments—at the same time as power is handed over to the rest of British India or, at all events, so much of British India as conies under Congress or a similar organization.

In those circumstances, is it likely that the declaration of a fixed date will effect the psychological change to which His Majesty's Government have looked forward? Is it likely that the Congress leaders themselves will be able—and I put it in that way, whatever may be their desire—to make concessions to the Moslem point of view: because whatever their own attitude may be, and however we may regard some of the declarations we have seen in the last two days, yet with the great mass of their followers the unity of India under one Government is a cardinal article of faith?

Equally, one might ask whether Moslems will not be more determined than ever to maintain that they must receive a recognition and perhaps an establishment of the Governments of Pakistan and North East India before the transfer takes place? Why indeed should the Moslems be moved by the declaration recently made? Why should they be moved to give up their ideal now that they know from the White Paper that the British Government are prepared to hand over the rule of India to a one or more Governments in India? Why should not they stand firm, and why should not they insist that among those Governments Should be their own Governments of Pakistan and North East India? Whatever happens, is it at all likely that in the circumstances these adjustments can be made between the great Parties, and the internal adjustments involved in the position of the Sikhs and the like be made, before the due date arrives?

Again, let me take a further point. What of the conditions that we hoped to obtain in 1942, even with the limitations I have explained? It seems to me that His Majesty's Government have actually discarded any cards of any value in their hand by fixing a date in advance. The noble Lord, the Secretary of State, has quoted with some satisfaction the agreement made by a section of the Constituent Assembly that there should be a fundamental statement of rights and privileges which would protect all minorities. But what the minorities in India desire is not a formula of this kind. Other Constitutions have contained formulae of this nature; even the American Constitution contains a similar formula which has been greatly belied in practice. What the minorities ask for is some guarantee as to the amount of representation they will have in the Legislature, and in the Executive Government, and in the Administrative Services of the State. For that is what they regard as the substance of protection now that they can no longer look to us for the guarantee of their rights.

And what of the contemplated treaty Which was to embody some guarantee, or at all events some understanding, of our commercial relations with India? The treaty was also to provide for such matters as a guarantee for pensions. We hoped also that it might guarantee some compensation for those officers of the Services Whose tenure of office is now being terminated. If we had known of this decision only a few days ago when we discussed this question in your Lordships' House, we should have expressed very much more strongly our anxiety for these officers, anxieties about which, if I may say, and with some regret, the noble Lord the Secretary of State could not on that occasion give one word of comfort to the Services. I notice that when a question on the subject was addressed to him by the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, yesterday, he was still unable to give an answer.

My conclusion, with all respect to His Majesty's Government, is that it is they who have not taken a sufficiently realistic view of the situation. It seems to me, in view of considerations which I have put forward to your Lordships, almost hopeless to expect that at the due date we shall have any agreed Constitution, and we shall then be driven, with all the commitments of an immediate transfer heavy upon us, to look for some body or some bodies to whom we can transfer our rule. I do not think myself that legislation by Parliament on this question is likely to be so lengthy as is sometimes anticipated in this House. So far as I can see, what will happen is that some time about April or May we may find an Act pushed hastily through Parliament, an Act which will give to the Government plenary powers to hand over the authority now exercised in India to any body which they choose to recognize and on any terms that commend themselves to them. That procedure may not perhaps be very satisfactory to Parliament or in line with its traditions. It may not be consonant with its traditions to be asked to pass a blank cheque of that kind.

But what will be the Government or Governments to which authority will then be handed over? If Congress have their way, we shall find a Central Government which no doubt have the approval of Congress but which will find the Moslems openly in conflict. If the Moslem claim to establish Pakistan and North East India is recognized, authority can no doubt in form be handed over to them, but my point is that neither the Congress form of Government nor the Moslem form of Government can by that time be organized. They will not constitute the form of organized Government to which it is possible to hand over authority, and the only result must be the anarchy—I hope only civil anarchy—which seems so pleasing to Mr. Gandhi.

I am aware that the considerations I have put forward are not constructive, and that they mainly express certain apprehensions, though with such moderation as I have been able to command. As the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, said, this problem, if not insoluble, is one of the most intense difficulty. But though I, and some of my friends here who think as I do on this subject, have not put forward any alternative, I think we have the right at the same time to ask a question of the Government. On what advice did the Government take this decision? It is a decision the value of which depends entirely on the accuracy with which the Government have been able to assess its probable results. What advice did they receive in assessing those results? If the Government can show that they had the advice of men whose experience of the complicated pattern of modern Indian politics justifies them in acting on their view of the probable results, then I, for one, will be prepared to put aside any judgment I myself might be able to exercise on the subject and join with the Government. But so far they have not shown us their hand. They have not told us on what advice they have acted, and until they do so I, for one, must feel that they have entered on a course which, at the best, cannot improve our situation in India, or attain the results to which they have looked forward, and, at the worst, may involve consequences from which India itself will be the first to suffer.

5.20 p.m.


My Lords, in common with every other member who is interested in this subject, I count it a very great privilege to sit through a debate lasting two days and to listen to speeches so full of knowledge, administrative, military, and political, of the Indian Empire. But I have been waiting throughout the debate to hear something which would make a positive approach to the problem. I have just listened to Lord Hailey, than whom there is no one who has proved himself a greater administrator during the last twenty years in India. I heard him indict the Government, I heard many noble Lords indict the Government, but no noble Lord has said what he is going to do to help the situation. What we have to decide here to-day is not whether this is a good Government or a bad Government—we can have our own views about that—but whether in this debate we can help a sick patient.

This is not an occasion for dissension. This House, with its authority and its knowledge, might do something to help to overcome the difficulty that exists between the two great communities in India. That appears to me to be the issue, but to that I have heard few people address themselves. One of the greatest and most helpful speeches in this debate, indeed the only helpful speech (I am not speaking about the Front Bench) was that of the noble Earl, Lord Halifax. It did do something to help with this great problem. The value of debates in this House has been favourably mentioned by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon. Of course, they are valuable. They are learned and they are full of information; but if I, as a comparatively new member, may dare to say so, I would add that they can be very dangerous. Things can be said here, attacks can be made on the Government, autopsies can be held, which leave out of account altogether the opinion of the people of the country with whom you are dealing.

I have intervened in this debate solely with the purpose of making one contribution derived from my own experience on that lonely Everest called the India Office. Apart from that, I have nothing to contribute—it is simply this experience that has moved me to address your Lordships. In 1929, very shortly after the then Government came into Office, we were told by the Government in India that the situation was bad. Public feeling was strong. India was angry that no Indian had been appointed to the Statutory Commission. It was suggested us, and after consideration the Cabinet agreed, that if something were said which could indicate what the Government were aiming at, then perhaps public opinion could be swayed and the good will of the Indians could be secured.

What was it that we said? A declaration was drafted which said that the natural issue of our policy was Dominion status. That was not much of a slogan, not much of a clarion call—in fact it might be said to be (more like a meteorological forecast. That was put out, and I myself, as Secretary of State, took it to the late Lord Reading who was acting for Mr. Lloyd George who was absent at the time. I sent Sir David Monteath with a copy to Mr. Baldwin in France. I took it and presented it to Mr. Snowden who, being a Lancashire member much disturbed by the cotton duties imposed under the Tariff Convention by the Indian Government, was reluctant to accept it. However, he did accept it and it was issued. What did we subsequently read in the papers? After all, one cannot discount the opinion of The Times correspondents. They are carefully chosen men who weigh their words. They are men whose opinion must be taken into account. We read in The Times, the Observer, and other papers, that the declaration which had been drafted and issued by the Viceroy and the Government in India, had in fact produced an atmosphere of good will in which we might hope to make some little advance, I do not say to a solution of the problem but at any rate to its treatment.

How is that case comparable with the case to-day? The case to-day is that this Government Statement has been made, and, whatever you may say, it has produced a good atmosphere. I should be surprised and disappointed if it had produced an altogether joyous response among. Mohammedans and Hindus. I would expect that they would be too deeply conscious of the burden now very properly laid on their shoulders to be very glad about it. If they accept it, we may say that we are advancing some way along the road. If there is a better suggestion to be made in this connexion, let us have it. We have, in this debate, listened to speech after speech—expert, deep and informed. But out of them all there has emerged not one positive suggestion except that of the noble Earl, Lord Scarbrough, in which he used words ominous for the Conservative Party: "Twenty years of resolute rule."


I never used those words.


Quite right, the noble Earl said: "Twenty years"; "resolute rule" has come in by affiliation. Now there you have the same situation that you had before. We are authoritatively told from India that this statement has produced a good atmosphere, and here we have again—I am referring to this only because of that little experience of mine seventeen years ago—the same demand for a debate, and the question is, how are we going to turn that debate to good use? What happened seventeen years ago? There was a debate here, and we had a debate in the House of Commons. In the House of Commons there was a great onslaught. Mr. Lloyd George made a vigorous speech, but not all the brickbats came our way; they were mostly thrown at Mr. Baldwin. It was one of the many efforts to remove him from the leadership of the Conservative Party—efforts led by the Daily Mail and stoutly supported by Mr. Churchill and his followers. It was a real battle, cut and thrust and parry, attack and counter-attack; in fact, as they say in popular journals, "A good time was had by all."

But what happened in India This is what happened, and this is the danger about debates of this sort to-day. What happened in India then is what may happen as a result of these discussions here in the past two days. What was a sunny sky suddenly became overclouded. The Round Table Conference which had been suggested because we realized—and it was the first time it was realized—that making an Indian Constitution was a task for Indian hands, was adversely affected. There was immediate talk again about boycott, and instead of our getting Mahatma Gandhi to come to the Conference, he sent a charming lady poetess, Madame Naidu, and Sir C. P. Ramaswamy Aryer as observers. Representatives of other sections in India came, of course, and we started to lay the foundations on which the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, built his Act of 1935. But the Conference was hamstrung by the debate in your Lordships' House and by people directing more attention to the sins of the Government than to the treatment of a sick patient.

I hope I have not spoken with heat—that would be most improper coming from a member of the Labour Party. But I do respectfully suggest that what I have said should be borne in mind especially in any action your Lordships may think of taking. The Government do not control the actions of this House. People outside and in India will not know that your Lordships' House has no power of directing Executive action. If such a thing happened as a vote here, and a defeat of the Government—because the Government would surely be defeated—then there would be a feeling in India: "Why should we shed our extremists and attempt to come together to form a Moderate Group of Hindu and Moslem interests? The principal House of Parliament in England has rejected the Whole scheme." As many noble Lords know—and none better than the noble Earl, Lord Halifax—that would be the danger, if the Government were defeated here.

There was a saying attributed, I think, to Talleyrand. It was to the effect that "I have no longer any power of doing good but I have a little power of doing mischief now and again." Let not that be said of your Lordships' House.

5.30 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure we have all listened to the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, with considerable interest, and if I venture to address your Lordships this afternoon I can assure you that I will detain you for only a very few minutes. I can also assure you that there will be no heat in my remarks. Indeed, I would not have ventured to intervene in this debate were it not the fact that it is suggested that the House should divide on this Motion. I think I would be lacking in honesty if I did not say to your Lordships quite frankly, with my knowledge of India, that that would be a great mistake and might create in India the unfortunate impression that on this question of Indian constitutional advance the country is again divided, whereas, as my noble friend Viscount Templewood said yesterday, the fullest freedom of self-government in India has been, and is, the policy of all Parties.

The existing policy, which goes far in advance of the Dominion status policy for which I worked and for which I fought for so many years, is a policy initiated not by the present Government but by the offer taken to India by Sir Stafford Cripps on the authority of what Mr. Winston Churchill has called that "great Coalition." The noble Viscount who leads the Opposition was himself a distinguished member of that Government. The main reason, indeed the compelling reason, why I venture to address your Lordships this afternoon is to remind you that sometimes—I repeat sometimes—even the House of Lords can make a mistake. I will give you an instance in connexion with these constitutional matters of India which perhaps most of you have forgotten. I am sure I can recall it to your minds.

In the past history of Indian constitutional reform there was an occasion when an action was taken in your Lordships' House which created an impression in India that deeply affected the pace of India's constitutional advance. It may be that this incident has been forgotten by most of your Lordships, but some of you will remember that when the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms were being discussed in this House an Amendment was introduced which had the effect of saying that the whole matter could be reviewed within ten years. The reason that your Lordships injected that into the Bill was that it was intended that if these Montagu-Chelmsford reforms did not show a proper measure of success they could be renewed at any time, and, if necessary, the hands of the clock could be put back. I would like to remind you of this because I was in India at the time. What happened in India was that the meaning of the Amendment was entirely misunderstood. It was taken to mean the very opposite to what was intended—that the review within the ten years was for the purpose of increasing the pace of constitutional advance instead of retarding it. This difference of interpretation did much to create that ill will and that distrust which have so often retarded Indian constitutional advance in the intervening years.

Do not let us make that mistake again by dividing the House on this Motion, for it may be looked upon as a set-back to the whole policy of constitutional advance to which all Parties are committed. The noble Earl, Lord Halifax, has already made the point in moving language, and I support him most sincerely that this House should not divide on this occasion. We have all had an opportunity of expressing our views; surely that is enough. We must remember what the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, said, and what the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, has just referred to—the effect of a Division in this House, because, of course, the result of such a Division is a foregone conclusion. The effect in India may be, as I have indicated, a very unfortunate one. For these reasons, if a Division is pressed I cannot take part in it, not because I cannot make up my mind—no one will ever accuse me of that—but because, with my knowledge of India, I consider it a profound mistake to take a Division on a matter which, however opinions may differ as to its timing, is only attempting to carry forward a policy of constitutional advance, and which is no longer a Party matter because all Parties are committed to it.

5.38 p.m.


My Lords, my only possible justification for venturing to address you at this late hour—though it will only be for a few moments—is that I have been personally and directly connected with business in India for more than half a century, and my family connexions with India extend over one hundred years. I am well accustomed to face large bodies of shareholders in the City of London, but I confess that this experience is a new one to me, and it is an ordeal. I try to comfort myself with the thought that a maiden speech can be made only once in a lifetime. There is no doubt that lately the position in India has been getting worse, month by month, and is now in a state of complete disorder. I admit that quite frankly; but from all the evidence I receive it does not seem to me that suddenly to fix a date—and such a near date as fifteen months ahead—is going to help matters at all.

What I greatly fear is that we are playing into the hands of Communists. The Communist Party are very strong, and are already well established in the towns and cities. In a letter which I received from India only two or three weeks ago I was told by an experienced man who had been many years in India that they are now working in the villages among the simple-minded loots,—I am thinking especially of the Bombay Presidency—who have been always accustomed to peaceful working and a quiet life. They are trying to persuade them to agitate in favour of Communism, and that, of course, once it appears, will only extend from one village to another. Incidentally, as no doubt your Lordships know, the Communists are out to upset the orthodox Congress régime.

India is now in a very prosperous condition. During recent years industrialists in India have made a great deal of money. They have increased their power, and increased their organization as well as their wealth. They have formed numbers of banks, insurance companies, factories, and so forth, and they have very ambitious ideas for the development of trade and well-being in India. But it all rests on the basis that there will be a responsible Government at the centre, and I venture to think that hitherto they have relied upon us—and still do—to see that we do not throw the country into a possible condition of chaos. Therefore, it seems to me that quite suddenly to say that everything has got to be brought to a full stop in fifteen months is just playing into the hands of, and doing the work of, those people who are asking for chaos and hoping that it will come about.

There is one other small matter which I should like to mention. As your Lordships possibly know, British capital for some little time has been quietly coming out of India, to the detriment of this country and of the trade between the two countries. I very much fear that the effect of what is now the decision of His Majesty's Government will be to increase the rapidity with which British capital will come out of India. There is an enormous demand in India for British goods of every sort and kind. The Indians want British goods, and we are able to supply them to only a moderate extent. In our present financial position we can ill afford to run the risk (and forgo the advantages of having people who want to buy and use our goods) of the Indians going elsewhere, to other countries, without the support which hitherto we have been able to give through British capital in India.

5.45 p.m.


My Lords, to me falls the great pleasure of congratulating the noble Lord who has just spoken on his maiden speech. He represents a very important element in India which we have also heard represented by the noble Lord, Lord Catto—namely, the English business community in India. As the noble Lord, Lord Colgrain—and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Catto also—comes from the same country as I do, perhaps I should say the British business community in India, but I never can remember that particular Scottish idiosyncrasy. I have the greater pleasure in doing so, because I have family connexions with that community.

I do not wish to detain your Lordships for long, but I should like to suggest that in this debate there has been a certain cross-purpose coming from the very different estimates of the facts in India which are held by different members of your Lordships' House, and also I think coming from the two different ways of looking at the relation of Parliament to India. There is, of course, the legal and the formal way. I seem to have heard that legal and formal attitude in many speeches from the other side of this House. The legal position is simply that Parliament is sovereign over India, just as the late Professor Dicey pointed out that this Parliament was sovereign over the Parliament of Australia long after that sovereignty, for all practical purposes, had ceased to mean anything at all. But it is sovereign. This Parliament has given, and may go on giving; this Parliament may stop giving; this Parliament may take back.

But there is another formal side. This Parliament has made engagements with India, and your Lordships being honourable men, take account of those engagements. Even the noble Earl, Lord Selborne (not that I do not think him an honourable individual in the House because he took a very grave view of the situation, and, if I may say so, deplored the whole movement that has gone on recognized that pledges have been made and the pledges have got to be kept. When noble Lords look at the matter in this formal way, they will see that these pledges are of two kinds. There is the general pledge to give India independence, and there are the conditions attached to it. If I may say so, listening to them, it seemed to me that noble Lords attempted to attach so much importance to the conditions, and expressed so little hope of those conditions ever being fulfilled, that their views about the independence of India appeared to be—if I may parody a line of Matthew Arnold—that they wanted the independence of India "some time, they knew not when, but far from now."

As I listened to the debate, those noble Lords who faced what was the alternative seemed to see that "some time from now", receding further and further, and appeared to me to neglect entirely what has happened to India in the last thirty years. The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, echoing—I am sure not with conscious intention—the words of Oliver Cromwell; said that changes in Constitution do not matter, and that what mattered were changes of heart. Does the noble Marquess think that Indians have no hearts and that they do not change? Must we not realize what has happened in the East in the last twenty or thirty years, and especially what has happened in India? The noble Earl, Lord Halifax, referred to the Indian avalanche. But is it not that? Can we really consider what has been happening for the last twenty or thirty years in China, and what has happened in the last few years in Indonesia, and believe any longer that the immemorial East does not change; and not recognize something of the stupendous events which have been occurring in the minds of the people in the East and the people of India, whether we approve of them or deplore them?

I am not sure that I am not in considerable agreement with the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, in thinking that the prospects are dark, in thinking that the best this country can do may fail, and in thinking that the peoples of India would be far happier if we could push the clock back twenty years and return to a position where the peasants, who constitute the great mass of the people of India, respected and accepted the authority of the British Raj. But I think that things have happened in the East. The change began with the victory of Japan over Russia, and then went on and on until it has become one of these great processes in the history of mankind that you cannot stop. May I remind your Lordships that these processes are never tidy; and "never tidy" are frivolous words to apply to them. They are often terrible, and they involve great suffering. Consider what has been happening in China in the last twenty years; consider the millions who have suffered; consider how long it is going on; and consider what little prospect, if I may say so, there is of it yet stopping. The noble Earl, Lord Selborne, and I are not in some ways entirely in disagreement. But can you stop it?

Our authority in India has never rested on force. You can conquer a country by force, but you cannot attempt to govern it by force. Our authority in India has rested for many years on two things, one positive and the other negative. It rested on the respect which the ordinary Indian peasants, comprising I think about go per cent of the inhabitants of India, had for the service and justice of the Civil Service—generation after generation of them. But it also rested on something negative. It rested on the complete neglect that the intellectuals of that time had for the welfare of the peasant. The member of the Civil Service could proudly and justly say that he cared for the humbleryots of India in a way in which the Congress member did not; what is much more important, the great mass of the peasants recognized that.

Then there came with these great movements from the East a very remarkable phenomenon: there came a politician who was also a prophet, or a Mahatma. Mr. Gandhi did two things which I think changed the Indian problem. He made members of Congress care for the welfare of the ordinary Indian peasant as they had never dreamt of doing before. I do not say that he changed them all, but the attitude of Congress, which had been one of extraordinary indifference to the great masses of the people, was changed. And Mr. Gandhi himself, as he went and as his followers went from village to village all over India, changed the minds of the Indian peasants about the British Raj. I am sure that is true. How deep and sensitive the change was I do not know, but it was very important.

You can get a situation in India now—and we have been living in that situation—where, because the main Parties in India expect us to leave, they are prepared to wait. But what would happen if the message came from this House, or, indeed, came, let us say, from Parliament—I imagine that will not happen, and I am glad to think that it will not—that while we maintain our view that India should be independent, that would not come about until we—not they—were entirely satisfied that all the conditions which we had prescribed were perfectly fulfilled, knowing very well that that would never happen? If I may put it in what may be considered a frivolous way, I could not help thinking when I listened to some noble Lords opposite that it was like a governess saying to her children: "My dears, I have promised you that you shall go to a party; I never break my promise, and I do not intend to. But I have said that the room must be perfectly tidy, and there are still crumbs on the carpet and the pictures are not straight. I said that you must be in complete agreement, and Emily and Lucy are still looking very cross with one another. Nothing is going to convince me that when I let you out of my sight you will not continue to bully Evangeline." That is not fair, in a sense, but it sounds like that.

It comes, I am sure, from looking too much at the formal position. Suppose we agree that we cannot guarantee that the conditions we have laid down will be fulfilled; and suppose we refuse to allow the guarantee of those conditions being fulfilled to thwart our main and settled purpose to make India independent; what can we then do, and what ought we to do? I submit that we are bound to see that, so far as we are concerned, the process of making India independent is peaceful and orderly; that, so far as we are concerned and can achieve it, the rights of minorities are guarded; and that, so far as we can achieve it, there is agreement. But we cannot guarantee that we shall succeed.

Noble Lords have referred to the attitude of the Government as if it were a gamble. The old wisdom of the world expresses itself in fairy stories very often, and there are many fairy stories where the giant or dominator says to the hero: "You must guess this right. You must say in which hand I am holding a thing or something terrible will happen." Noble Lords really talk as though, if they were in that situation, they would say: "Yes, but I do not gamble, and, therefore, I shall just peaceably die." I do pray noble Lords to try and discern the signs of the times; to recognize what we are confronted with, and to see that we are no longer in a position when we can just say: "When we are quite satisfied we will give it to you, and if we are not satisfied we will not."

6 p.m.


My Lords, I think perhaps it may be for the convenience of the House if I intervene at this stage. I hope noble Lords will forgive me if I trench on some of the ground that has already been covered. The House will understand that it is difficult to avoid so doing in a discussion of this length on certain definite issues. I am quite certain that this historic debate—I use the epithet which I think was very fairly applied to it by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel—which is now drawing to a close will never be forgotten by any of those who have taken part in it or listened to it. On the last occasion when we discussed Indian affairs (I think it was on December 16 last year) I felt, as I am sure did many of your Lordships, that it was one of the saddest days of my life. I did not realize then what further depths there were to be plumbed. To-day—I think it has already been said—we are sounding the knell, for good or ill, of the British connexion with India.



I think that is a fair description. That is my view at any rate. We are sounding the knell of the British connexion with India, a connexion which has been so fruitful to both countries over a long period of years. That connexion is ending (I do not expect noble Lords opposite to agree entirely with my assessment, but I hope they will allow me to use my own words) not, as was always intended, by a harmonious transfer of power to a united and homogeneous India; it appears—to us, at any rate—to be taking place in an atmosphere of desperation and failure. And it is taking place because, so it seems to us, we British cannot govern the country ourselves and we cannot find anyone else to govern it. However much the Government may try to cover it up by high-sounding phrases, they are in fact throwing up the sponge, clearing out, leaving the country to whatever may come, abandoning our friends and washing their hands of the whole business.

In the earlier part of the White Paper containing the new Government proposals there is an attempt to suggest that these proposals represent the final achievement of an objective for which successive Governments have worked during the last fifty years and to which all Parties are committed. I refuse absolutely to accept any such suggestion. The passages in that White Paper which deal with past history—and I have read them a number of times are remarkable not so much for what they contain as for what they do not contain. Of course, it is perfectly true that all Parties in this country are pledged to the progressive attainment of self-government by India, leading to Dominion status and, if that be the will of the peoples of India, to independence. We, just as the Government do, stand by those pledges; we do not intend in any way to recede from them. But there always was the essential pre-requisite for the fulfilment of this policy, that there must be prior agreement between the main communities as to the Constitution to be set up—as to what the new India was in fact to be, whether it was to be unitary, on a basis of Pakistan or whatever the final settlement might turn out to be. As has already been said, that was the essence of the Cripps proposals of 1942 and of earlier proposals; but that vital fact is not mentioned in the White Paper by so much as a syllable. And yet it is the kernel of the whole question.

As I tried—I am afraid ineffectively—to explain in the debate we had on December 16, on the possibility of agreement between these main communities depends the answer to the basic question: Is India one nation or is it not? On that depends the answer to the question whether the whole policy on which this country has been engaged for the last fifty years is a reality or a mirage. That, we believe, is the only sound ground on which we can stand. I know from the very impressive and persuasive speech that was made by my noble friend the Earl of Halifax this afternoon that he does not accept that view. But much as I admired that speech, I must confess that I was not entirely convinced by it. What he said in effect was—he will correct me if I am misinterpreting him—that the Indians took a different view of the ("zips proposals and conditions from the view that we took, and that we must therefore accept the Indian view. That is really an argument against taking a firm line on any subject at any time.

Your Lordships will forgive me if I go back to the years before this last war, but I must say this: in those vital years the attitude of our Government and of a great proportion of the British people was just the same as the attitude of the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, to-day. I remember, as your Lordships must remember, speech after speech being made on foreign policy. They were admirable speeches persuasive, high minded and sincere—but there was always the same argument as that which has been used to-day. We were always urged to go at the other mans pace and not at our own. We were always urged, in effect, to give way. Yet if we had exerted firmness in time, we might have saved hundreds of millions of lives. That subordination of our policy to the policy of others did not avert bloodshed; on the contrary, it ended, as we all know to our cost, in utter and complete disaster. Surely we are not going to start on those lines again. One can always find good arguments for not standing firm at any time; but, in my experience at any rate, it does not pay. One must make up one's mind as a nation on what is the right pace at which to go, and then stand firmly by that decision. That was the position which the Labour Party members themselves took up when they were members of the National Government in 1942, and that is the position which the Labour Government have Abandoned in 1945, with the lamentable results we are seeing now.

Personally—and I should like to say this—I have never blamed the Government for sending out the Cabinet Mission. I know they have been criticized in certain quarters for so doing, but I certainly would not associate myself with those criticisms. In the situation in which they were placed, it was perfectly natural that they should wish to leave no stone unturned to obtain agreement. But when, after weeks and even months of negotiation, it became perfectly clear that fundamental differences persisted between Moslem and Hindu, surely they ought to have told both Parties that there could be no further constitutional advance without agreement. That was the position they had adopted only three years before, and I believe it would have been the only wise and prudent course. If a man were trying to cross a dangerous morass and found no firm foot-hold in one place, there would be only one sensible course open to him—namely, to retrace his steps. He would try somewhere else, or wait until conditions were more favourable. Merely to plunge forward, sinking deeper and deeper into the mire, would be to court disaster. Yet that, I submit to your Lordships, is what, contrary to all the counsels of prudence and wisdom, this Government did; and from that moment they have floundered from failure to failure, each time sinking deeper into the bog.

First, as your Lordships will remember, there was the episode of the promises and the counter-promises to Hindus and Moslems over the Interim Government. There was the undertaking given by the Viceroy on, I think, June 16 of last year, that in the event of the two major Parties, or either of them, proving unwilling to join in the setting-up of a Coalition Government on the lines suggested, it was the intention of the Viceroy to proceed with the formation of an interim Government which would he as representative as possible of those willing to accept the statement of May 16. What happened? When the Moslem League agreed to join the Government and Congress did not, the British Government repudiated its undertaking and set up a Caretaker Government. The noble Lord shakes his head, but that is a fact, as he will find if he looks up the correspondence. Then later, when the position was reversed and when Congress agreed to join and the Moslem League did not, there was a further shuffle on the part of the British Government; an Interim Government was set up in India with Congress and without the Moslem League; and, ultimately, as we know, the Moslem League were forced into the Government to protect their immediate interests.

Could anything be more calculated to destroy the confidence of the Moslems (who, after all, are our best friends in that country) in the good faith of the British Government? Equally deplorable is the story of the Constituent Assembly, of which we have heard so much this afternoon. Originally, as your Lordships know, the whole raison d'être of that body was that it should be representative of the main sections of opinion in India. Indeed, it is clear that it is only on that basis that the Constituent Assembly could expect to achieve a useful result. A Constitution to which more than half the country had not subscribed would not be worth the paper on which it was written. But gradually the Government were manœuvred into a position in which the Assembly sat, without the Moslem League, without representatives of the Scheduled Classes and, until the last few days, without representatives of the Princes and the Indian States.

In such circumstances, the Constituent Assembly could not have been expected to succeed, and in fact, as we all know, it broke down. Could there be greater ineptitude than that? The Secretary of State took comfort in his speech yesterday from the fact that this policy was, at any rate, progressive; but there are all sorts of progress. There is progress up, and progress down. There is the Pilgrim's Progress, and there is the Rake's Progress. I should have thought that it is the essence of progress, if it is to be useful, that it gets you where you want to be, but the Government's progress has brought them, as they themselves confess, to the edge of a precipice. It is no fluke or mere accident of bad luck, as the Secretary of State seemed to think, that during the whole of that period the general situation in India steadily deteriorated. It was the inevitable result of the course which they were pursuing. Communal strife broke out, as had been anticipated by the National Government in 1942.

On reliable information, in one Province alone 30,000 people, including a great number of women and children, were barbarously slaughtered—I shall have a word to say about that a little later on. The confidence of the Civil Service and the police in the power of His Majesty's Government to protect them was entirely undermined, and the position got completely out of hand. And now the Government, without a policy and, as they themselves confess, without control of the situation, have decided to play the last card in their hand, and have declared that they will march out at a given date, whether agreement is reached or not. No doubt they hope—and I think the Secretary of State himself said this—that by bringing the leaders of the Parties sharp up against hard facts they will force them to come together. I have no doubt that no one in this House would wish to say anything which might prejudice so desirable a result as an agreed solution to this hideous problem. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Hailey, said, speaking with his great authority, equally it is no good our blinding ourselves to the fact that we must recognize the risks involved in a gamble of this kind. Indeed, I think it is already clear that the chances of success are not very great. I do not want to put it worse than that, but a sporting chance, I should have thought, was about the best you could claim for it. And if it fails, we shall have played fast and loose with the lives, the fortunes, and the property of 400,000,000 people, and we may well have plunged the country—a country for whose welfare we have responsibility—into the welter of civil war.

It is no use blinking these facts, and they cannot be stated too loudly and too often, because the British people have to face the possibilities in this situation. Even if the Government decided to embark on this gamble—I know the word "gamble" is not very well received on the other side of the House, but it is a gamble—why did they fix so early a date as to make success almost impossible? Your Lordships may know that the Constitution of Canada took at least three years to formulate, and the Constitution of Australia took six years to formulate; both those countries presented a far easier problem than this, yet we are told that this must be completed in fifteen months.

Of course, I understand the purpose of a time limit; we all understand it. It is indeed the essence of the whole proposal. Without the time limit the White Paper would be nothing at all. Without it there would be no inducement to Indian leaders to face up to the position. But why put the time limit so short as it has been put?

The noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, in the most admirably lucid speech with which he opened this debate, has already dealt with this aspect, and I do not want to weary the House by repeating, with far less authority than he has, what he has already said, but I would like very briefly to look at the broad position. We are, as I understand it, to hand over in any case, whatever happens, in June, [948. What has to be done before then? First, I suppose, the new Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, must get in touch with the leaders of Congress and the Moslem League to see whether, in this new situation which the Government have created, they are willing to co-operate on a united India, so as to enable the Moslems to enter the Constituent Assembly. The new Viceroy will have to re-start the negotiations which Lord Wavell, with all his personal authority and all his long experience of India, has failed to bring to a successful conclusion. No doubt, at best there must be a great deal of hard bargaining. We know that the Moslems are profoundly suspicious of the Hindus, and they will want safeguards on their position. They may well want a large measure of local autonomy. Therefore, even if the best results accrue from the Government proposals, the negotiations are bound, I would have thought, to be long and tortuous.

And suppose those negotiations fail to achieve success. Suppose the Indian leaders—as the noble Lord, Lord Hailey, pointed out is likely—cannot agree on a united India. Suppose the Moslems maintain their demand for Pakistan. Then, at some moment completely undefined in the White Paper, the Viceroy will have to call off the negotiations on the united India and start entirely new negotiations for the creation of two or three or more Indian. He will be embarking on entirely new ground. He must get agreement with the leaders of the two Parties on the principle of Pakistan, and then he will have to negotiate the boundaries of the various territories. He will then have to split up the various public services which have hitherto been managed on a national basis into regional or provincial organizations. That, as the noble Viscount, Lord Temple-wood, pointed out, is likely to be no easy business. It is hard enough to amalgamate hitherto independent States into one single unit. That is a very difficult thing. But it is much harder to split up a hitherto unitary State with centralized services into its constituent parts. I do not say it is impossible; but it is, at best, likely to be a long and troublesome business.

It is likely to be more difficult still when we are simultaneously arranging to withdraw all our troops and those key Government officials on whom the negotiations depend. Yet the Government have pledged themselves to complete this gigantic task in fifteen months. They are absolutely bound by the time limit. They have left themselves no elasticity at all. Moreover, there is yet one more formidable possibility. Agreement may not be reached at all between the Indian communities either to unite or to divide India. That is not at all an impossible situation. I am sure anyone who knows the country not deny it. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, in his speech last night said the Government were satisfied with the Indian reactions to their proposals. I could not help feeling that the Government are extremely easily satisfied. Of course, all of us welcome the moderately-worded statement of Pandit Nehru which was published in the papers; but there was no sign in that statement of any departure from his demand for a united India. And Mr. Jinnah, according to Press reports, has already re-affirmed his attachment to the policy of Pakistan. Suppose the worst happens and both Governments maintain their present position; what will happen then? Do we still walk out and leave India to chaos? I submit that we have a right to have an answer to these questions; and yet we have already had, in this debate, three speeches, one from the noble Lord the Secretary of State himself, one from the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and the other from the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor, and we have had practically no information on these vital points.

The noble Lord the Secretary of State, in what I thought was a slightly off-hand manner, said, "There will be time for all that later"—or words to that effect. He said—and this was his actual word: "There is no urgency in the matter." I must say I was amazed to hear this word used in this connexion. I should have thought there was never a problem of more urgency. He mentioned, casually, that if the mess was not cleared up in fifteen months, there might possibly be a Provisional Government. But he gave no indication as to the character of this Government, or whether it was to be British or Indian in character. Personally I could not help feeling, as I listened, that nothing has been thought out by the Government at all; and yet one would have thought, at any rate, that some timetable was essential, if only for the guidance of the new Viceroy, with whom all of us sympathize in his task.

All that we have been told is, in paragraph 7 of the White Paper, that: His Majesty's Government wish to make it clear that it is their definite intention to take the necessary steps to effect the transference of power into responsible Indian hands"— these, I think, are the operative words— by a date not later than June, 1948. What do His Majesty's Government regard as responsible Indian hands? We have not been told. Do they regard Congress as responsible in their present mood, from the point of view of minorities and of those who have shown loyalty to the King-Emperor during the war? The recent speech of Pandit Nehru at Meerut, to which reference has been made, does not give one much confidence.

I cannot help feeling that, even in this House, there is still a misunderstanding of the extreme bitterness which divides the Indians and the extreme danger of the position of the minorities. Yesterday I listened to a most sincere speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Darwen, in which he appealed for faith in the good sense of the Indian community. I got the impression that he regarded the Indian people as essentially very much the same as the British people, perhaps rather young in political age but pretty good chaps all the same. Unhappily, it is not like that at all: they are not like the British people. They are passionate, fanatical people. They have deep hatred for those who profess another creed.

I received to-day, as perhaps some other noble Lords have done, a report of the massacres in Bihar in October and November of last year. It is a reputable report and is signed by very distinguished men; by one of the members of the Viceroy's Executive Council, by a former premier of Bengal, by the Mayor of Lahore—very credible and distinguished people. I would like to read one paragraph in order that noble Lords may realize what we are up against: Sword, lathi, crude spear—all were used and used to the full. Sadism went to the length of living men being sewn up in sacks and thrown into the Ganges. Neither woman nor child was spared. Children under five, sometimes as young as one month old, were roasted alive in bonfires. Savage sacrificial rites were performed. Wombs of pregnant women were ripped open and the unborn life plucked out and torn to pieces. Infants were snatched from mothers, hacked in two, and the mother forced to behold the massacre of her child ere she fell herself. Political argument took the savage form of a babe cut in two and presented to its parents as an example of Pakistan. Women were pursued with flaming torches attached to long spears and burnt to death. Young girls were outraged and raped, a large number of whom threw themselves into wells to save their honour. Those to whom death gave no refuge were carried away, prostituted and deflowered, to serve as slave girls in the meanest Hindu houses, and to live as trophies annexed in 'war.' It is estimated that the casualties of women and infants bear a proportion of eight to one to the men, and this is borne out by Col. yenning, the Military Officer in charge of an area in a Patna district. That is an appalling story. It makes the blood run cold. But it shows what we are up against, and I would ask again: Do His Majesty's Government stand by the pledges that these people should be protected to the best of our ability? I know as well as noble Lords opposite that there are limitations to our power. We must not be unrealistic. But will they do everything they conceivably can to see that these people have some protection?

I thought that yesterday the noble Lord the Secretary of State in his speech was very doubtful, even of this. Nor did I think the Lord Chancellor to-day very wholehearted, though perhaps I am doing him an injustice. But I do ask once more, will the Government do all they can? Perhaps an answer to that would give some relief to those of us who are unhappy about the present policy. And what about the States? They have been very good friends to us. How is it proposed that their interests should be safeguarded? And there is a further point, not mentioned up to now, as to what is to be the position of British officials in India, and officers of the Indian Army, who are to lose their jobs. Are they to be re-employed; and if not, how are they to be compensated? We in this country owe these men a very great debt, and I would like to know how are we going to pay it.

We have not had what I would have called an adequate answer to any of these questions. The Government seem merely 'to have drifted on from point to point until they have reached the present lamentable position when they realize that they are not really able to protect anybody. We have been told by several noble Lords on the other side that they have had to face, and that we must face, hard facts. I should have thought that it was the function of any responsible Government not merely to face facts: it is, by a skilful and active policy to mould events and so create facts. That I understand to be the broad basis of statesmanship. Merely to face facts created by the actions of others is not a policy at all in the true sense of the word. It is a negation of policy. It is taking helplessly and hopelessly the line of least resistance. No doubt the Government have meant well, but that is the least impressive of all tributes. Governments are judged not by excellent intentions but by their success or failure.

It may be that Government supporters may retort, "What would you do, if you were in this situation and you were in Office? "I think that that is quite a fair question and I will try !to answer it as best I can. I would first reply by inquiring: "What exactly does that question mean? Does it mean what would you have done, or what would you do now—because they are not the same thing? "To the first question I think the answer is perfectly simple and straight forward. We should never have departed from the condition of the Cripps offer that there must be prior agreement between the two Parties in India before there was any constitutional advance. That, as I have already said in my speech, was the position taken up by all of us, to whatever Party we belonged, in 1942, and we, on this side of the House, should never have committed the folly of departing from it, and so, I believe, we should never have reached the present position.

And if I were asked the second and the more pregnant question: "What would you do now?", which has formed the refrain of so many remarks by Government speakers, I should reply: "I think tit is rather a strange question for the Government to ask, when they have been at considerable pains to conceal from this House the essential realities of the situation." One of our main complaints—the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, will have heard it again and again—is that we are not given, and have not been given for months and months, the full facts about the Indian situation, upon which considered advice must depend. It has not been for the want of asking. Again and again in recent months we have asked for information on developments in the political situation in India, on the condition of the Indian Army, on the condition of the Civil Service, on the condition of the Police and, indeed, on every aspect of the Indian problem. But always we have been fobbed off with vague statements and generalities, and with appeals not Ito press matters when the situation was so delicate. Last year we had a rather meagre ration of scrappy White Papers. But during the last few months we have received practically no information at all. This House which, after all, contains most of the greatest experts on India in the country, has been starved of material which would 'have enabled it to help. Even now, after two days of debate, I think most of us do not yet know the full facts of the position.

There would, I think, have been several courses open to the Government—open to any Government faced with these grave difficulties, for they are, I agree, very grave. They could first, as I think the noble Earl, Lord Scarbrough, suggested yesterday, have taken the Opposition Parties into consultation and endeavoured to devise a national policy on what is, after all, not a Party issue. I, personally, believe that that would have been their best course. Or they could have kept the Opposition at any rate informed of all developments in the situation. That would have been better than nothing. But what did the Government do? They told us practically nothing at all.

On two or three occasions the Prime Minister—as the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, knows—has seen the leaders of the other Parties and has told them what had already been decided by the Government, just before a public announcement was made. We were, for instance, informed of the present step, a very vital one, one day before the announcement of it was made to the world. What is the good, in these circumstances, of the Government now turning round and asking for our considered advice on what should be done? I agree that the absence of this vital information apparently did not very much bother the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel. He said in the course of his speech: … knowing that the Government have taken the course they have after much fuller knowledge of the circumstances than any of us here possess"— then follow the vital words: —"and since the Government bear the responsibility, I, for my part, should not be disposed to challenge their decision. It has, if I may say so with great deference, seemed to me a weakness of the noble Viscount's speeches in this Parliament that he always appears to be in two minds as to what he and the Party he represents should do—whether to sit on the fence or whether, frankly, to run away. On this occasion, by a really remarkable contortion, he seems to have performed the very considerable feat of doing both these things at the same time. He was not unduly concerned about the fate of the Depressed Classes, of the loyal subjects of the King-Emperor to whom protection has been pledged, because he said—with obvious relief, it seemed to me that the Government were responsible. My Lords, we who sit on these Benches cannot take so detached an attitude. We cannot, though we are now in Opposition, absolve ourselves from responsibility for these people. To us, all Members of Parliament in both Houses, whether they belong to the Government side or the Opposition side, have a responsibility for moulding policy. If we see something happening which, rightly or wrongly, we consider wrong or dangerous, we are bound to protest, even if the Government may not have put us in a position to produce a fully formed alternative.

One thing I can say on the subject of an alternative—this is merely a personal view but I give it for what it is worth. I do not believe that we should, in any circumstances, have agreed to such a short time limit as the Government have decided upon in this case. That decision has been absolutely riddled by expert opinion in your Lordships' House. But the possibility of giving any further opinion depends inevitably on facts which have not yet been disclosed to us. The Government have consistently avoided consultation with the other Parties on this great Imperial issue, and they must take full responsibility for what has occurred. They can, no doubt, quite fairly apportion some of the blame to the leaders of the Indian community. We know that these have throughout been both intransigent and irreconcilable. We know that they have up to now shown very few of the gifts of true statesmanship. But, for that very reason, surely the Government should have gone ahead at a steady pace, and with prudence, realizing that the issues were too great to take unnecessary risks or chances. The noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, in his speech, said that the risk might very well have been greater later on. That is a matter of opinion, but, in view of the horrible story which I have just read to your Lordships, I hardly think that the risk could be very much greater later on than it is now. At any rate, there is this merit in a breathing space: that you can always have some possibility that the situation will alter for the better.

As to the attitude of noble Lords on this side of the House with regard to the future of the Indian question, I cannot, for obvious reasons, give any advice to-day. It seems to me that there is only one thing we can do: we can watch developments and help where we can. There is no further advice that it would be the slightest use to give at the present stage. This Motion, at any rate, is so framed that it ties nobody to any rigid line of action in circumstances yet unknown. I feel strongly, myself, and I am sure that every noble Lord in the House will agree, that we must all preserve considerable elasticity in this regard. Nobody knows how the position is going to develop, and Ito take up a rigid attitude might perhaps be very unwise. So much for the future. As to the past, I submit that there can be no doubt that not merely the future of India but the whole basis on which international peace rests has been thrown into jeopardy, as we believe, by the course which the Government have pursued. An India which was weak, divided or worse still, in confusion, would no doubt be an international danger to-day.

And now I come to my advice with regard to this particular debate. I must confess, quite frankly, that my first impulse was to advise the House to divide upon this Motion and to make our view —.which I have tried to express to your Lordships—clear in no uncertain fashion. But I must admit, that I have been deeply impressed by the appeals which have been made by most distinguished members of this House—by the Secretary of State for India, by the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, by the most reverend Primate and by the Lord Chancellor—on the ground that a vote on this question might be misunderstood in India, and that it may be taken to mean not what it is intended to mean) a difference of the ultimate objective which we all in this country seek to attain. There is no doubt that if it were taken to mean that it would be a most deplorable thing. For there is no difference between the Parties on our ultimate objective. The purpose of this debate was to convey a solemn warning, both to the Government and to the country, as to the dangers of the course that is at present being pursued. That purpose has been backed by all the authority which this House possesses. I think nearly all the Indian experts have been in agreement with the Motion and with what was said by the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, when lie made his opening speech.



Well, the great majority of the experts certainly have been of that way of thinking, and therefore it may fairly be said that the main purpose of this debate has been achieved. It would be very easy for us to pass this Motion by a great majority. It is not difficult for us in this particular House to achieve that result. But we do not seek easy triumphs in your Lordships' House. It has always been my advice to your Lordships that we should be diligent to act on all aspects of public policy as a Council of State. If we have given our warning, and if we have established beyond doubt your Lordships' views as to the fundamental importance of British good faith, then I think it may fairly be said that OUT main objective has been attained.

I shall not therefore advise the noble Lords who sit on these Benches to press this matter to a Division to-day. At the same time, there is one thing I would, with very real deference and in all sincerity, repeat to His Majesty's Government. I would beg them most earnestly to do nothing, however great the temptation, to impair the good name of this country for standing by its pledged word. That, after all, is our greatest treasure. The good faith of Britain is known all over the world, and has been for centuries. An Englishman's word is his bond. If we lose that, we lose everything. It is above all because of our anxiety on this particular point, and in particular with respect to the minorities and the Princes to whom we have obligations, that we felt bound to move this resolution. If the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, in the speech with which he will wind up the debate, can gibe us an assurance on this point, much will have been achieved, and we shall have been able, by not dividing, to underline the fundamental fact that, whatever our differences as to methods—and these are very considerable—as to our ultimate objective, the peace, the happiness, and the prosperity of the peoples of India under the Government or Governments they choose, we are all at one. On that objective there is no division at all. I would say only this in conclusion: We shall watch the position, and we shall reserve the right to raise this matter again as the situation may seem to require. In addition, I would beg the Government to give us fuller information, both in public and in private, so as to enable us to make a full contribution to a solution of this great and difficult problem.


Can the noble Viscount answer me one question? It is whether the decision he has just announced on the course that, he proposes to take on this Resolution is sitting on the fence, or running away, or both?


It is responding to a great appeal by some of the most respected members of this House.


My Lords, owing to the powerful intervention of the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, the most reverend Primate, Lord Catto, and others, I am immensely relieved that there will be no Division on this occasion. I think that in so deciding the noble Viscount has rendered a great public service. I think the speech that he made was constructed before he heard the others; it certainly gave me that impression. He asked one question to which I can reply with full confidence. He wanted to know whether this Government felt it to be their duty to maintain the good faith of the word of Britain. I have to say on that that we surrender to nobody in our recognition of our obligation to maintain the good word of Britain with all men.

I confess that, having heard the conclusion of the noble Viscount's speech, and having heard some of the other speeches to which I have referred, I shall cut out a very large part of what I had previously proposed to say. At this time, and in these circumstances, I hardly think the House wishes the case to be restated. Therefore, I should only be wearying noble Lords and doing no justice to the case if I endeavoured to do so. I shall also not try to answer the exceedingly numerous questions the noble Viscount rained upon me. I do not think for a single moment that he expected me to do so.


I never expect an answer from the Government on India.


I accept what the noble Viscount says, but I am only explaining that his questions were so numerous, so diverse and, in many cases, so overlapping, that I really could not undertake to answer them. But I would say this with regard to many of them: we are endeavouring by this action to bring into being in India constitutional bodies that will address themselves to some of these questions. With regard to other questions, whatever action is taken in India it will be necessary to submit proposals for legislation to Parliament, and the proposals which will necessarily be submitted to Parliament will provide ample opportunities for the ventilation of all these questions. I sincerely hope that before long some of them will not require to be asked again, and others will necessarily be answered as the case develops.

I am not going to imitate the expressions of the noble Viscount. I think he cannot have been in his usual friendly frame of mind when he thought of some of them. I tried to get a few down, but they were so many, and I write so slowly, that I had to give it up. I know he said we were "washing our hands" and "clearing out," and a large number of other things about us which were exceedingly unpleasant to hear, and yet, perhaps, might be more difficult to justify. However, I will pass over all those expressions, and will, in a very few words, only try to summarize my impression of this momentous debate. I think that some noble Lords opposite find it difficult to forget the past—their past. You see, we on this side of the House believe in self-government. We really do. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman also really believed in self-government. One of the greatest acts in British history was the act of that great Liberal statesman, who, I happen to know—knowing the history of his time fairly well—against great opposition said: I promised the people that I would give self-government to South Africa, and when I said self-government, I meant self-government. That was a decision which involved the life of his own Cabinet at that time. We know how abundantly justified has been his faith. We have been told by some noble Lords that that particular case is not a parallel. Perhaps in many ways it is not, but, nevertheless, it is a very remarkable object lesson to history. The case of Ireland is an even more tragic one. I mention those matters only because it Caine to my mind that some noble Lords who spoke really had forgotten the lessons which ought to be derived from those events.

So far as India is concerned, if I may say so, I think that the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, in powerful phrases and in a clear and succinct way, put before us what has really happened in India, and indeed what is happening all over the world. For thirty years or more it has been British policy to help to develop in India a system of public service manned by Indians. Since 1924 that development has gone on at an accelerated pace. Gradually there has been developed a considerable Indian public service and, alongside with that, the development of more and more of national aspirations. That is why it was that the noble Lords opposite introduced the Act of 1935. It was to satisfy those rising aspirations. After that, development went on at an even accelerated pace. As a result we find Provincial Governments almost completely staffed by Indians, and an entirely Indian Government in office. There are now in India a vast body of experienced, trained men, such as were not there a generation ago. That is the inevitable result of this British policy.

During the war, all over the world one found this immense surge of nationalism. We know how the Arab world is, shall we say—to put it no stronger—thinking alike. The whole Eastern world is influenced by this strong sentiment of nationality which has increased immensely since 1935. The noble Earl below the Gangway described it as an avalanche. It is indeed an avalanche, and all the numerous question that we have been asked lose sight of that avalanche. Still, there it is. With great respect, notwithstanding the criticisms or rather, shall I say, the aspersions of the noble Viscount on the work of the Cabinet Mission, I say that the Cabinet Mission, when it went out, saved the situation. At that time, the situation was very acute. Taking no overt action, we were the target of the hostility of all the Parties.

This Mission did one very great thing. They did not achieve agreement in all the things they would like to have done. I know that they did not. I do not think that anybody experienced in affairs could really have expected that they would achieve all that they desired. But they did achieve one very great thing which has made a profound difference to the whole situation. They convinced Indians of both Parties that we really meant what we said. They convinced them that we believed in giving self-government to India, a belief which before had been looked upon with suspicion. The result of the action of the Cabinet Mission, so far as the British are concerned, has been a complete transformation of Indian opinion.

I am not going into the case that has been argued during this debate. I think that the decision we have made, shall we say, to bring things to a head in this manner is an inescapable decision. The alternatives as they have been described, and as dealt with, by the noble Earl below the Gangway, are really not practical alternatives. We cannot indefinitely carry on as things are, being the target for the suspicion and hostility of everybody because we are not keeping our word, because we are not bringing India to a state of affairs in which her people can have self-government. We cannot carry on indefinitely as the noble Earl, Lord Scarbrough, wanted us to. That is not a practical proposition. We certainly cannot revert to the idea of twenty years—or whatever the period was of—firm government, which the noble Earl recommended as another alternative. I do not see this Government or any other British Government, enlisting young British soldiers to serve in India in great numbers for ten or fifteen years to reestablish forcible government. It is not a practical proposition. And at the end of it we should have an India more hostile than ever. That would expose the complete folly of the whole undertaking.

It is perfectly evident that, in order to do what we could to compel the sinking of differences, and so, within limits, to compel the two great Parties in India to begin to think of realities, the Government were forced to take a step of this kind. It was a step taken with great reluctance, and after many weeks of deliberation. I cannot think of a better defence for it than that which was provided by the noble Earl below the Gangway. He has great experience in India and knows the realities behind the present situation and the immense strength of the nationalist spirit in that great country. A free India is much more likely to be a friendly India than an India under either of the other alternatives. That is what we believe in. That is what we are working for. That is what the Government's decision is meant to achieve. It is not a question of cutting paper. I believe myself that the bonds of interest between India and Great Britain are so deep, so long rooted and so strong that, if this great issue is handled in a friendly, co-operative and helpful spirit, we are much more likely in time to come to have a friendly, co-operative India than we could obtain in any other way.

It is that long-distance objective that we have in view. I am quite sure if noble Lords, with that objective in view, and with the same desire to attain it, had had this same responsibility, they would have come to a similar decision. It is not a question, shall we say, of our getting out of India in the circumstances of fear or panic such as the noble Viscount seemed to suggest. We are taking this step because we believe that this is the way of consolidating the friendship of India with the British Commonwealth in the future— because, simply, we believe that this is the right way to proceed. It is not out of panic or fear; it is the result of a reasoned consideration of all the factors of the case. Several noble Lords have referred to them at length. I have here in front of me a lot of notes which relate to them, of which I shall make no use at all. I shall only say this in conclusion: I think that any unprejudiced person reading the record of the debates of these two days would feel that the action that has been taken by the Government—as an act of faith, I agree—with all the risks attending upon it, was the only action that statesmanship could take at this time; and I believe that it will in the end be the way to lead India along with us to a greater and nobler freedom.

7.1 p.m.


My Lords, I do not rise to continue the debate. If I were continuing the debate, I should have certain comments to make upon the speech the noble Viscount has just delivered. I rise rather to deal with the question of the Resolution that stands in my name. Let me be perfectly frank with the House. It is a matter of complete indifference to me whether the House votes upon the Resolution or not. The object of the Resolution was two-fold. In the first place, those noble Lords who agreed with my views wished to make it quite plain that they dissociate themselves from the Government's declaration. Nor do we take the optimistic view just expressed by the noble Viscount opposite: We hope that he will prove to be right, and that we shall prove to be wrong, but upon every standard of probability we think that he will prove to be wrong. In any case—and this is the second reason why I attach very little importance to the question whether the House votes or not—this is not the last Indian debate that we shall have. We are going to have a series of Indian debates, beginning very likely in the near future. We are dealing with a very short period of time, and it will be necessary very soon to discuss administrative and legislative questions. That being so, we can resume the debate that ends this evening in the near future, and we can resume it with further information at our disposal—with further information, I hope, from the Government.

I would like to support what my noble friend Viscount Cranborne said in his closing speech, that the Opposition are entitled to be taken more fully into the confidence of the Government, if the Government wish to maintain a united front and to speak to India not only as the representatives of a Party but as the representatives of the country. We should also have further information from what is actually going to happen in India in the next few weeks and the next few months. I take a pessimistic view of what is going to happen. Nothing that has been said in the debate has altered my view that the Government plan is unwise and unworkable. But I am prepared to be judged by the course of events. I hope, therefore, that we in this House will follow with meticulous care the developments in India, and that we shall have frequent debates in this House clarifying some of the questions that have been left so very obscure this evening. Let me remind the noble Viscount opposite that not one single question that we have repeated from these Benches during the course of this debate has received a clear answer.



I can assure the noble Viscount and the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for India, that we are not satisfied with the answers that we have received, and we intend to go on pressing until we get better answers than we have had to-day. Having said that, I am perfectly ready to bow to the suggestion of my noble Leader and what is obviously the view of many members of this House, and beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.