Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That a sum, not exceeding £75,000, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1923, for a Contribution towards the Cost of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for India in Council, including a Grant-in-Aid."—[NOTE: £45,000 has been voted on account.]
As the Committee is aware, this Vote is almost the only occasion within the Parliamentary year when the affairs of India, as a whole, can be discussed in this House. The Debates which arise from time to time on Adjournment Motions, the Consolidated Fund Bill, and the like, are usually, from the nature of the case, of a desultory kind. Consequently, following precedent, I propose at the outset this afternoon, in my capacity as representative in this House of my Noble Friend the Secretary of State for India, to give a review of the political, financial, and general situation in India. I will endeavour to compress my remarks as much as possible, realising that the Committee is rightly intolerant of lengthy statements, and further, having at the back of my mind recollections of the dim and distant past of having made speeches from the benches in another quarter of the House protesting against the undue length of time occupied by prominent speakers on both sides. I will commence with a subject which at one time in our Debates was considered dull in the extreme but which is to-day. I am afraid, of vivid, painful, and ever-present interest to the inhabitants of almost every country in the world, with the possible exception of the principality of Monaco—I refer to taxation and finance. I am afraid that I shall have to ask the Committee to bear with me while I give a good number of figures in this connection.4.0 P.M. Indian Government finance for the financial year which has just closed, the year 1921–22, has come under the full blast of the world trade depression, and it is inevitable that. India, which has always been a large exporter of raw material, should feel the effects of such times as the world has been lately experiencing in a very special degree. Throughout the War years, really until the end of 1920, India enjoyed what is generally described as a favourable balance of trade in respect of her exports and imports of merchandise. In the year 1919–20, the favourable balance in respect of merchandise, excluding treasure, was as high as 119 crores. In the year following, 1920–21, the pendulum swung round violently, when the Indian trade statistics of net imports of merchandise amounted to 78 crores. In 1921–22 there was, fortunately, some improvement, as the adverse balance had been considerably reduced, and the figures for the year showing a net import of merchandise of 23 crores. Further, in that connection, it is satisfactory to note that in February and March of this year there was actually a net export of over 8 crores; and, even allowing for transactions in treasury, of which India normally imports a great deal, the statistics for the three months February to April last in goods and treasure combined exhibit a favourable balance to India amounting to three crores. These figures suggest that the corner has now been turned as all of us connected with India most devoutly hope that it has been, and it is particularly satisfactory that the export figures for March and April last indicate an improvement over the position in the corresponding month of the year 1921. I would add in this connection that the reaction from the abnormal conditions prevailing during the War has been of serious financial concern to the Government of India as to any other Government of the world, that the position in India was complicated by the fact that this world reaction almost exactly coincided with the introduction of new political and financial machinery by the putting into operation of the 1919 Act. Indian finance has always been handled on conservative lines, and to this fact must he ascribed the high credit that the Government of India has for many years enjoyed in the markets of the world. In 1921–22 the Government of India had to face a financial problem aggravated by a heavy fall in the exchange, an unprecedented rise in prices, and large military expenditure necessitated by unsettled frontier conditions. They hoped, by means of careful economies and by the imposition of fresh taxation, amounting to 17·5 crores, to obtain in 1921–22 an equilibrium Budget. Unhappily, those hopes were not fulfilled, largely owing to the world trade slump and to heavy but absolutely necessary military charges. There was also in the same year a decline in the Estimates of Customs receipts amounting to over four crores and under the net receipts from railways of thirteen crores, while losses under exchange in non-commercial Departments amounted to nearly six crores. The upshot was that a small budgeted surplus of 71 lakhs was converted into a deficit of 33 crores, the revenue for the year amounting to 109 crores while the revised estimate for expenditure came to 142 crores. I will now deal very briefly with the situation in the present financial year. The Estimates foreshadowed a deficit of 31¾ crores on the existing basis of taxation, including an allowance for the yield of the taxes imposed in the preceding year. The proposals of the Government of India for new taxation, which were laid before the Legislative Assembly last March, were designed to yield fresh revenue amounting to 29 crores. The new revenue is to be found under the following heads: Customs, salt, taxes on income, railways, postal telegraph, amounting altogether to 29 crores. Of those proposals for new taxation, the Assembly rejected the increase of duty on salt, the increase from 11 to 15 per cent. on cotton imports, the increase from 3¾ to 7¾ per cent. on cotton excise, and the increase on imported machinery. The total amount they thus cut out was 956 lakhs. The upshot of the discussions in the Assembly and Council of State was that additional taxation amounting to 19½ crores was accepted, because some fresh taxation was accepted, but the result was a deficit slightly in excess of 9 crores. The Committee will observe from what I have just said that the Government of India in the last two years have succeeded in carrying measures calculated to increase their revenue by no less than 37 crores, which represents 25 per cent. of the budgeted expenditure for 1922–23. I think that fact shows that the Government of India are as alive to-day as ever to the imperative need of rehabilitating their financial position, and that they are going to justify the confidence which their handling of Indian finance in the past has established. I make a special point of that fact, because I was challenged in previous debates by several hon. Gentlemen who take an interest in Indian finance, to make some statement about the attitude which the Government of India were adopting towards this question. Before I leave the subject of finance, I want to express the great satisfaction and delight of the Government of India and of my Noble Friend that Lord Inch-cape, whose public spirit has been so often demonstrated in recent years, and who was for some five years a member of the Viceroy Council in India, has consented to go to India in the autumn to preside over a Retrenchment Committee, on which he will be assisted by eminent men of affairs who have a thorough, practical acquaintance with Indian conditions. I need not refer to the names of the Committee or to the terms of reference, because they have been already announced, except to observe that I think they are such as to inspire confidence. The terms of reference follow closely those of the Geddes Committee. They are widely drawn, and it will be within the scope of the Committee to investigate expenditure on defence and.all other issues that appear relevant to the inquiry. I explained, when speaking on the Loans Bill some six weeks ago, the urgent need that there was for increased railway development in India, and it so happens that my speech to-day almost coincides with the issue of an Indian Loan under the powers recently granted by Parliament. The money for which we are asking will be entirely devoted to Indian railway purposes, and the Committee will be interested to know that in the Budget this year the Government include 30 crores for their railway capital programme. I believe that the expenditure of this money will abundantly repay itself, not only directly from the railways, but also indirectly by increasing the prosperity of the country which, in its turn, will enhance the Government's revenue through Customs and in many other ways. Having regard to the great natural wealth of India and to the increased recognition of the scope for developing that wealth, I look forward to a renewal of Indian progress in all directions. Indian public men are fully alive to the possibilities of India's commercial expansion, and I am sure that the increased association of Indians with the Executive Government is bound to lead to developments that will add strength and security to Indian finance. I have only one other word to say on the question of finance, and that is to anticipate questions that will no doubt be asked at a later stage in the Debate with regard to the action that the Government of India are likely to take with respect to this uncovered deficit to which I have referred. I think it would be premature to make any announcement at this time. It may well be that a revival of trade and an increasingly peaceful internal situation will materially improve the revenue prospects within the current year. But, whatever the situation may be, it will be faced in the future by the Government of India. There are two other questions to which I am going to make only a brief reference. One is the question of the Cotton Import Duty. I have already on previous occasions explained fully the attitude of the Government of India and that of my Noble Friend in this respect, and I shall be ready to reply to any criticisms that may be made during the course of the Debate. The other matter is that of military policy. I do not propose now to speak of it, but I will of course reply to any questions, though I have no fresh announcement to make with regard to any change of policy. Let me now say a word or two about two questions, the importance of which no one connected with India can fail to realise. The first is the Khilafat question, and the second is the position of Indians overseas. With regard to the first of these questions, everyone recognises, I hope and believe, the sympathy of Indian Moslems for Turkey as a great independent Moslem power under the Sultan. His Majesty's Government fully realise the position, and they desire to show all possible respect to these beliefs and feelings. It is no part of their policy, and it never has been in the past of any British Government—it has never been the policy of this Government, and it never will be—to pit one religion against another, and it is not for them a question of rival religions; their sole concern is to secure conditions which will as far as possible do justice to all parties. Scarcely less important is the question of the political rights to be accorded to Indians overseas. It excites the most intense interest in India, and, in claiming the full rights of Imperial citizenship, Indians of all shades of political opinion are united. I would go back for a moment to the situation at the time of the last Imperial Conference. While that Conference left undisturbed the principle that each Government should be left free to determine the composition of its own population, it embodied the new and most important principle that Indians lawfully domiciled in any part of the Empire should enjoy the rights of citizenship. The Resolution was not accepted by the representatives of South Africa, and it would be folly to ignore that acute difficulties still remain in that Dominion. We can only trust to time to provide a solution. But I would make an announcement to the Committee which, I think, has not yet been made public. I am not sure whether it has or has not. The Government of India have recently, with the full concurrence of my Noble Friend, entered into direct communication with the Union Government on this question, and it is hoped that, now that each Government can frankly explain to the other its own embarrassments, some satisfactory solution of this difficulty will be reached. I might say that there have been several speeches in South Africa, and notably one by Mr. Patrick Duncan, which would lead all who take an interest in this question to believe that the Government of South Africa are at any rate alive to the difficulties of the situation. As regards the other Dominions, I think that the outlook is brighter in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The representatives of all those Dominions accepted the Imperial Conference Resolution, and it only remains to pro- vide means and methods of translating into practice a new principle. For that purpose Mr. Sastri is visiting Canada, Australia, and New Zealand on the invitation of the Dominion Governments, and his task will be to inform public opinion and consult with the three Governments as to the best way of giving effect to the Resolution. I should like to say that, as the adoption of the Resolution was largely due to the earnestness and eloquence of Mr. Sastri, it is, in my opinion, very satisfactory indeed that he should be conferring, or about to confer, with these Dominion Governments on this question. As regards the Crown Colonies and Dependencies, the position is somewhat different, because, as the Committee is aware, the application of the Imperial Conference Resolution in that case lies with His Majesty's Government, and in some cases we are concerned not only with political but also with economic questions. Just recently two deputations from India have visited in the one case British Guiana, and in the other case Fiji, to examine whether those countries are suitable for Indian colonisation. The inquiries have been largely directed to such matters as the cost of living, rates of wages, and the terms on which land can be held. Neither of these two deputations has yet submitted its report, and it is not possible, therefore, to anticipate their findings in any way. When they are received by the Government of India they will be referred to the Indian Legislature, and it will be for that Legislature to decide whether, and, if so, on what conditions, emigration can be allowed to those two Colonies. There was recently passed into law in India an Emigration Bill which has to a great extent altered the situation, and by it systematic emigration of unskilled labourers to all parts of the world will be controlled and prohibited unless such emigration is specifically permitted by notification. The notification, however, cannot be issued by the Government of India without the approval of the Indian Legislature which will be advised by a Standing Committee on Emigration. For this reason the reports submitted by these two deputations and any schemes put forward by other Colonial Governments will be closely examined in the light of the conditions under which Indians live in the Countries in question. The Committee will see at once the importance of these new provisions to safeguard particularly the interests of the poorer class of Indian workers who go to other countries in the Empire. As regards the question of Kenya and the position of Indians in that Colony, the matter is still under the earnest consideration of the India Office and the Colonial Office. In these circumstances it is, perhaps, better not to comment on the unfortunate differences which have arisen between the Europeans and Indian settlers in that colony. The prospect of a solution, however, is hopeful, and I trust and believe that a settlement satisfactory to Indian opinion, and indeed a settlement which will be satisfactory all round, may be reached in the future. I come to perhaps what is one of the most difficult of all the questions with which those connected with India have to deal at the present time, and on which I know there is a great deal of not unnatural anxiety in this House—I refer to the position of the Services in India. The members of the Indian Civil Service have to contend with great difficulties with which my Noble Friend the Secretary of State for India fully sympathises. Prices have risen enormously in India, just as they have risen elsewhere, and the old amenities and attractions of life to British civil servants in India have largely disappeared owing to a variety of circumstances. In many cases these men find themselves worse off financially than they were 10 years ago, and actually some of them find a difficulty in meeting their obligations, and I am afraid in some cases in meeting the obligations they owe to their families apart from themselves. Unfortunately, it is the fact that the revisions of pay have not fulfilled expectations. The position in this respect is not peculiar. The Secretary of State in Council and the Government of India ate limited by the resources at their disposal, and the Budget of the Government of India and other provincial Budgets showing a deficit, Committees are sitting all over India to advise the Government of India and the local Government where they should lop and prune their expenditure. In these circumstances I fear there can be no expectation of a great increase in Service charges at the present time, but signs are not wanting that economic conditions are beginning to improve and the Services, like the rest of the community, must reap their share of the benefits. So much for the material side of this question. But there is an equally if not more important side to this question in India. I do not know that the material side is the real Service difficulty. You cannot expect good and contented service from men in any part of the world, whether under the Government or under a private individual, who feel that their service is not wanted, and whose everyday task, hard and exacting as it is at the best, is carried out under a constant stream of vituperation, misrepresentation and active or passive hostility which some at any rate of the responsible leaders of opinion have done something to foster and little to check. In that connection may I say that anyone who has lived in a tropical country, as I have done, must realise that the conditions of service are infinitely harder than in this country because you have a hostile climate that is fighting against you. This may not be so apparent during the short visit, and it is only when you live in such a country for about two years through hot and cold weather, as I have done, that you realise what men are up against who have to spend their lives in that country, and when you superimpose upon all that the conditions with which Indian civil servants are faced you have a state of things which very much affects the spirit and the health and the good work of those who are serving in that part of the world. I make every allowance for Indian impatience over the question of Indianisation and for the lack of balance arising from the sudden acquisition of powers of effective criticism and considerable control. I make every allowance for the Indian disappointment at the synchronising of this acquisition with a financial stringency unparalleled in the experience of anyone living, and yet that the fact remains that, whatever the future may have in store, no responsible Indian in his heart would deny that the need of the assistance of the All-India services was never greater than it is to-day, and the need will contiue to be great throughout and beyond the period of transition. Race hatred will not and cannot hasten the advent of responsible government. If any one condition could point to a certain delay and is capable of destroying the chances of Dominion status for India, that condition is race hatred. There is good enough reason, unfortunately, for the belief on the part of the Services that many Indians, including some whose position ought to guarantee that they would act reasonably, want to get rid of them. I can only say in conclusion on this matter, with the greatest emphasis, that there is no reason whatever for the belief that the Government of India, or my Noble Friend the Secretary of State for India, want to get rid of them, or ever will get rid of them. I think it is important that that announcement should be made, in view of the accusations which have been made in certain quarters.
How can you stop it?
I was not referring to anyone in this House.
I merely asked, what are you going to do to prevent it?
I shall come to that point later on. I wish to say a word or two now about the retirement scheme. I am betraying no secret when I say that the late Secretary of State for India agreed, with reluctance, to a general option to retire which was open for a limited period. The present Secretary of State for India has agreed, not without reluctance, to the removal of the limitation of the period. On this point the exact terms of the announcement will be made by my Noble Friend in a few days in another place. In view of this, I ask that I should not be pressed for details now. It is a complete misapprehension to suppose that this offer represents a desire on the part of the Government of India or on the part of the Secretary of State to "thin out" British members of the Service. I think it is important to emphasise this, because the original offer was made on the insistent demand of the Services themselves and of some Members of this House who had made themselves their spokesmen in this matter. That is the history of this question.The extension which I have just mentioned is not due to a desire for a more effective thinning out, but it is in the hope that the numbers who avail themselves of the offer will be smaller than if the time limit had been maintained. The number of applications for all Services up to date to retire is 97, and this includes 40 from the police and 30 from the Indian Civil Service. I admit that this is regrettably large, but I think there is ground for the hope that it will not greatly increase. Let me say one word further on this question of the Services in India. In my opinion, whether they be officials, non-officials or ex-officials who by speech or action do anything to help to increase the difficulties and help to prevent fresh British blood from coming forward to fill the gaps, they are really not helping India or this country, but they are putting back the clock of progress. I think it is most desirable that I should make that announcement. I now come to the last question I have to deal with, which in itself is divided into two sub-questions, that of the internal political situation and the agitation and unrest in the recent history of the policy under the Act. As the Committee is aware, after a long period of unrest, characterised by much sporadic lawlessness and by several more serious outbreaks of violence, Mr. Gandhi was arrested on the 10th March, and was promptly tried and convicted, having himself accepted the justice of his sentence. Since his arrest the country has become progressively quieter. The embers of the Moplah rebellion have been stamped out, although a few outlaws still lurk in the jungles. At the end of March the dangerous Akali Sikh movement in the Punjab was dealt with. Commencing as a religious movement for the better management of the Sikh shrines, it had taken on a political complexion and threatened to develop into a system of armed and organised terrorism. These manifestations have been checked, and quiet has been restored in that province. The Aika movement in the United Provinces—a parallel agrarian movement—which was also taking on a threatening aspect and which took the form of mobs of tenants and labourers assembling to overawe landowners and general manifestations of that kind has also been put down, while the genuine underlying grievances are being investigated by the local government. An excellent spring harvest was followed by an equally abundant one last autumn. Prices are falling and signs are not wanting of some alleviations of the extreme trade depression of the past year. All these things mean a returning contentment to the country and consequently some improvement at any rate in the tone of political controversy. Those who have adopted the extreme gospel of non-co-operation have in some cases been assailed by doubts as to the efficacy of their faith, and they are beginning to consider whether much of what they desire might not be accomplished by a proper use of the Constitution recently provided for them. I am inclined to think myself that that movement will increase and make headway. Before I sit down I propose to say a word about the use which has been made of it by Indian public men and Indian public opinion. I was challenged by the right hon. Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) to say why Gandhi had not been arrested before. I suppose my right hon. Friend desired I should deal with this subject.
No, what I said was that it was a pity De Valera had not been arrested.
I am glad to say that that particular responsibility does not rest on my shoulders. My Noble Friend did not assume office until after the arrest of Gandhi, and if I am challenged, as I have no doubt I shall be in the course of the Debate, I should like to say now quite frankly that I am not concerned with expressing any opinion on the policy previously followed. It is understood that the view of the Government of India was that to have arrested Gandhi at the height of his triumphant career, when he was almost universally regarded as having more than human qualities, would have involved risks of grave disorder, without any certainty of stopping his propaganda. The Government of India preferred to wait until the barrenness of his political faith and its total failure to produce any constructive results had disillusioned his more intelligent supporters. Then his downfall was accepted by his followers with comparative coldness, while with the ignorant men who had been taught to repeat his name, and had been expecting the date of his promised Swami, and several times seen it pass, the bubble of his supernatural attributes was summarily pricked. I neither criticise nor endorse this policy, but under existing circumstances the Government of India are naturally in a position to say it has succeeded for the reasons I have just given. It is only fair to them to give those reasons and to point to the moral to be learned therefrom.With regard to the policy of administration in India, of course it would not be in Order on an Estimates discussion to deal with the Government of India Act, but I am entitled to deal with questions of administration, and I wish to emphasise again this afternoon what I said soon after I became Under-Secretary, that there has been no change of policy as a result of the change of personnel at the India Office. Parliament recorded its declaration of policy in the preamble of the Act and the Government in general, and the Secretary of State in particular are the servants of Parliament in this, as in all other matters, and were bound to carry out, both in its spirit and in its letter, the Act which had been passed. I should like in that connection to deprecate equally strongly two opposite contentions which have been advanced, not so much in this House, although they have been made here inferentially, but more strongly in the Press outside. The first is that practical experience of 18 months' working of the new Constitution is sufficient to show that that Constitution needs amendment to remove restrictions. The second is that the same amount of experience shows that the Act has failed and ought to be scrapped. Both these contentions are absolutely fallacies. The only reasonable answer is to say that the charge is not proven. It is idle to deny that the Indian Legislature has established for iself a legitimate place in the machinery of the British Empire, and if one has read, as I have done very fully, the Debates that have taken place in it, he is bound to admit that they have been conducted with dignity and courtesy, and have reflected great credit upon the Assembly. I may say in that connection that many members and officers, both of the Indian and the Provincial Legislatures, take the keenest interest in the working and proceedings of this House, and are constantly coming here to meet Members and officials. I have singled out in particular the Indian Legislature, not in derogation of the importance of the Provincial Legislature, but because of the point of contact between the central Legislature and the other Councils in the vast machinery of the Empire is necessarily much closer than it is in the case of the Provincial Councils. The Indian Legislature has been in existence only for three Sessions, and it is only now beginning to find the power it has. Every day of its existence is disclosing new potentialities, and I think that that will continue to be the case. I am glad it should be so. But is it reasonable to continue to say or even to have begun to assert that the best way to keep this great machine going is to take it to pieces so soon to see if it cannot be improved by putting in some new parts or leaving out some of the existing parts? It is absurd to suggest such a thing, and I do not believe that, if any other Government sat on this bench, it would be prepared to advocate such a policy. Any Government would fail greatly in its duty if it did not allow the scheme to work out its own salvation in its own way. There is, however, one point in this connection which I should like to mention. However capable the Legislature, however capable individual Members of it may be, the capabilities of the electorate are still practically untried and unexplored, and the immediate urgent task before India's non-official legislators should be to form a live and independent electorate in India, because, after all, such an electorate is the basis of real responsible government in any country. In this country we all take the utmost pains to educate the electorate; sometimes they do us credit, at other times they do not. In the 1906 Election I thought the electorate appeared to be extremely and deplorably ignorant. In the 1918 Election thought it seemed to be extremely well-instructed.
And it will be ignorant next time.
I am not so sure that next time it may not carry out fully the instruction we give it. At any rate, we can do our best by supplying the electorate with the facts as we see them out of our own mouths or by means of our printing presses. Really, the situation is this, that the electorate in India as a whole has had very few opportunities of being instructed in policy. As a rule, it has only heard one side. It is not to be expected that the new machine, with a new and different motive power behind it, is going to perform exactly the same evolutions as the old machine with the old motive power. We have in this country generations of sound, constitutional government behind us. In India they have the model of generations to follow, and it would be wrong and unfair to expect them not to make experiments. I do not think it should be said they are not to be trusted, because they show signs of departing slightly from the pattern, but at any rate we ought to do everything in our power to assist them to lay the foundation of sound Indian government, and we might well take the motto from the Book of Common Prayer, which tells us to take the mean between the two extremes of too much strictness in refusing and too much ease in giving. That is the attitude of mind which I think we should adapt to this problem.Finally, I come—no doubt to the relief of hon. Members—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"]—I shall have an opportunity of replying later—I come to my last words on this question, and I should like to say something on the very delicate subject of the relationship between Great Britain and India. I have been struck by the persistency with which the enemies of Great Britain throughout the world in every country, and even, I am afraid, in the British Empire itself, cherish the belief that this country has lost faith in itself. That is an idea which is fostered to some extent by people at home who claim to be super-patriots and by men who had no experience, either in the Great War or in the South African War which preceded it, of what is, after all, the real crucible in which patriotism has to be tested, namely war itself. It is these people who are helping these enemies of ours to foster this illusive dream that this country has lost faith in itself. I believe, on the contrary, exactly the opposite is the case. Thousands of British men and women who took part in the War realised for the first time the worth of their race, its courage, patience, resourcefulness, and, above all, its moral qualities. With this revelation went no foolish assertion of race superiority. On the contrary, we all realised the wealth of good qualities in other races of the Empire and especially so did those of us who had the inestimable advantage of fighting day after clay and month after month side by side with the troops of other races of the Empire, and especially any- one who, like myself, fought alongside the Indian troops. We realised their good qualities, and consequently after the War there was an almost passionate desire to co-operate more fully with those other races than we had done before the War, while not abating by one jot or tittle our belief in our own race and our world position. This new conception of the relationship between the people of this country and the peoples of the great Peninsula of India will, I believe, succeed despite difficulties, despite all the efforts of malignancy and perversity to prevent it, and I believe that 10, 15, or 20 years hence people, looking back, will say that we in this Government, in the years immediately following the War, were right in our conception of the true relationship between Great Britain and India.
The Committee has listened to one of the most extraordinary speeches on the Indian situation that it has ever been the lot of Members of the House of Commons to hear. The Noble Lord made a speech which, viewed from any point of view, must be regarded as unusually depressing. I do not criticise so much what he said, but I do criticise what he did not say. The incompleteness of his survey—because he really told us nothing at all about the real situation in India—the way in which his speech from beginning to end reflected an optimism which certainly is not justified by the facts, and the easy manner in which he skated over what are very real difficulties and immensely serious problems, were exceedingly depressing. He told us, first of all, that the financial situation in India gave cause for grave disquiet. He pointed out how it was impossible to get a Budget in which both ends would meet. And then he went on, quite airily, to tell us that he looked forward to the future with confidence as we got, and apparently we were getting, increasingly peaceful internal conditions; and that, as there was coming a revival of trade, all would be well in India in a very short time. In the whole speech there was not a single reference to the Indian point of view. The whole speech was the speech of a Britisher who viewed this problem purely through British eyes. There was no attempt made, at all events in all that we have heard so far, to meet what some of us regard as the legitimate demands of the Indian people. I submit that the speech really reflected no understanding sympathy with the Indian mind at all.We were assured that there had been no change in policy since we had had a change in the officials at the India Office, but I do submit that, if that speech represents the attitude of the India Office, there has been a considerable change in spirit. Gandhi and the whole non-co-operation movement were swept on one side as though they hardly counted at all. Gandhi, we were told, is in prison. We were told that a few outlaws remained in the jungle. I remember that one year we called Michael Collins an outlaw, and the next year we called him a hero.
There were representatives of the Government who used terms upon which that interpretation could be put. I should like just to refer very briefly to one aspect of the military situation in India. I do not want to discuss it in any detail; I will leave that to others who are more competent than I am to deal with it; but I should like to ask the Noble Lord if he can give us some information regarding the tremendous increase in military expenditure. I believe that on British troops alone there has been an increase, since 1914, of about £7,000,000 per annum in expenditure. Compared with 1914, the Army in India in 1921 was, I believe, reduced in strength by about 6,000. I understand, of course, that the increase in expenditure is in the main due to improvement in the pay of officers and men, but at the same time it is a colossal amount, and, when one remembers that practically half the Indian revenue goes in military expenditure, one must realise that very real difficulties are bound to arise. While, however, there has been this decrease in the number of British troops in India, we are informed that there has been a rather extraordinary increase in the Headquarters Staff, and, consequently, in the maintenance of the Headquarters Staff. It has risen from 301 in 1914 to 444 last year. I do not know whether the Noble Lord will be able to justify that extraordinary increase, in face of the decrease as far as troops are concerned.Coming back to the speech of the Noble Lord, I would say that the day for patronising India has gone. We have there a problem too grave to be faced in that manner, and I should like to discuss, perhaps a little more intimately than the Noble Lord has done, the political situation in that country. We are told to-day that India is becoming progressively more peaceful. We have been told that the non-co-operation movement has received a severe check. We have been told that Gandhi's' influence is on the wane. We have been told also that the supremacy of British authority is being again vindicated. It would be difficult to imagine a more superficial view of what is, perhaps, the most vital issue facing British statesmanship at the present moment, for what are the facts? At the present moment over 20,000 political prisoners are in gaol. They include men of high character, men whose character has never been questioned. They include men of profound culture—of a culture, I submit, probably greatly in excess of that of the average Member of the House of Commons. Two or three years ago these men were not hostile to Britain, and, so far as the British people, as distinguished from the Government, are concerned, they are not hostile now. The crime of these 20,000 people is not that they are anti-British; it is simply that they are pro-Indian. Their aggressive assertion of independence, and their intense nationalism, have been stimulated by a long-continued series of blundering errors in British policy. We are familiar, of course, with the story of recent happenings in our relations with India—the story of a demand for freedom which was daily growing more insistent, and the partial meeting of that demand by the reform scheme of 1919; and here I may be allowed to make an observation regarding the work of the late Secretary of State. That gentleman has been driven from office, but his contribution towards the freeing of India will never be forgotten by the people of that country. The Act of 1919, apparently, represented the utmost that could be extracted from the Government. While, in the opinion of some of us, its inadequacy was bound to create difficulty, and, indeed, did create difficulty, it was the first really effective step taken by any responsible British statesman towards the fulfilment of pledges, both express and implied, during the whole of the long years of our dominance in India. Lovers of liberty, not only in the British Empire, but everywhere, will remain grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, in that he did, at all events, succeed in opening a roadway which will never again be closed. But the reforms that he introduced have never had a real chance. Amritsar and the Turkish Peace Treaty created an atmosphere in which the full benefit of that scheme could never be realised. Resentment against what many of us regard as barbarous methods of Government, against vindictive schemes of boundary re-adjustment which violated what, after all, are very deep religious sentiments—these stirred up hatred, not, let me again emphasize, against the British people, but against their Governmental representatives. The weapon of non-co-operation was introduced, and the British authorities were faced with a problem of unparalleled difficulty. Vast numbers of men and women refused even to take part in the first election. Passive resistance spread right through the country. I was in some districts in the Bombay Presidency a little over a year ago where not 3 per cent. of the electorate would go to vote. It is extremely difficult for those of us who have been reared amid the purely materialist philosophies of the West, to understand, even dimly, the reasoning of the Eastern mind. Longer mental perspectives than are possible in the rush and hurry of modern polities are required, and temperamental sympathies which, in the main, are alien to us. So it is that this non-co-operation movement is very largely misunderstood by its Western critics, but we do not get over it by calling it, fanatical. We certainly shall not suppress it by imprisoning a few thousands of its leaders. The prison has not yet been built that will enclose an idea for very long; the gun is not forged yet that can destroy a will, however it may manifest itself, that is really making for freedom. I know that some people imagine that it may be possible to raise a dam that will hold the current in check; but the higher you raise your dam the greater becomes the pressure that is behind it. The great danger is that some day the dam will burst, as certainly some day in India the gaol doors will have to be opened. You are dealing in India with a. terrific force, a force which is altogether incalculable and almost superhuman. The policy of blood and iron can no more bring peace in India than it brought peace in Ireland. It has never brought peace in any country in the world yet. You cannot defeat non-co-operation by it. Personally, I should like to see it defeated, but not by the methods that are being employed by the Government of India, backed by the British Government in this country. You can defeat non-co-operation by practising co-operation. When I say that, I mean the willing, ungrudging co-operation of British and Indian on absolutely equal terms in the maintenance of a commonwealth jointly enjoyed. The Noble Lord told us that certain political disabilities under which Indians suffer in some of our Colonies were likely to be removed. We hope they will very speedily be removed. We hope that even our Colonial Office will be converted to the wisdom of treating Indians as British subjects are treated; for so long as a single Indian suffers from a disability, either in India or in a British Colony, so long as a single Indian is denied a right that is enjoyed by his British fellow-citizens, so long will there be discord and danger and no chance of peace. 5.0 P.M. I do ask the Government really to make an attempt to face the real issue. Instead of trying to understand Gandhi we put him in gaol. Such a policy and such approval as it apparently has in this House in certain quarters is a confession of hopeless incompetence. Gandhi, rightly understood, is far less an isolated leader than the incarnation of what is undoubtedly the popular will. Whether we agree with him or not does not concern my argument, but through Gandhi the hopes of millions of Indians are finding utterance. We may disagree with his ideas entirely, but it is a profound mistake to imagine that they are merely personal. The sole effect of his imprisonment is to stimulate feelings of bitterness which will ruin all possibility of a peaceful issue of this great struggle. The supremacy of British authority has been vindicated. Yes. And India is practically bankrupt. The Lancashire cotton trade is in peril. Indeed, the economic effects of this conflict are as bad as the political ones. Unless there is a rapid change in the whole temper of the relations of Britain and India, India will be lost to Britain and Britain will be lost to India, and no one here can possibly imagine the magnitude of such a disaster as that. I am convinced that there is a very much graver risk of that happening than would be inferred from the speech to which we have just listened. I submit, further, that the practical solution of this difficulty is not so terribly hard after all. India simply wants to be master in her own house, and until she is master in her own house there will be no peace. For the last two or three weeks there have been appearing in a responsible British newspaper, "The Manchester Guardian," a series of articles from its correspondent in India. In an article that appeared last Monday he recorded a conversation that he had had with a wealthy Parsee merchant. This was a man who was not a non-co-operator at all. The article referred to interviews with Mahommedans, Hindus and Parsees. I quote the opinion of this Parsee gentleman because he is quite apart and separate from the political side, or indeed any side, of the non-co-operative movement. The correspondent asked him certain questions. He said, "Is the root cause of the present unrest this unsatisfied national aspiration, or the economic trouble?" This was the answer:
Then he was asked by the newspaper correspondent this question. "On the day when you are masters in your own house what will happen to our capital and our people in India?" In view of the alarm that I have beard expressed in many quarters regarding the position of Europeans in that country, this answer is interesting:"The root cause is the unsatisfied nationalist aspiration. That is intensified by the very serious economic trouble. But we could face those economic troubles with much greater equanimity if we felt that our hands were free to take our own measures to meet the situation. As it is we have to leave matters in your hands and, to speak quite frankly, we think you have made a thorough had mess of our business. Let me make myself quite clear. If our economic troubles vanished, if the exchanges steadied, trade revived, Budgets balanced, food prices fell, monsoons were favourable, and crops were good, then you would find us still just as determined as ever to be masters in our own house."
The correspondent goes on to say, "This is not the bait held out by a non-cooperator. It is the opinion of a Parsee man of business." There are certain specific things which we in the party with which I am associated feel should be done immediately. I complain of the fact that the Noble Lord gave no indication whatever that the perfectly legitimate demands of the Indian people should be met. Unless those demands are in some measure complied with, we are bound to have increasing aggravation of what at the present moment is a terribly dangerous position. We submit that the whole of the political prisoners should be immediately released. Those of us who have met some of these men know that it is a criminal thing that men like Lajpat Rai, whose only crime is that they are patriots, have been cast into prison. We submit also that a conference which would include representatives of every school of Indian thought and representatives of the British Government should be immediately called. That conference should review the whole situation. It should review the working of the system of diarchy, about which we had so much controversy when the 1919 Bill was before the House. The British and Indian Governments should give some indication that they are going to revise the whole question long before the period of ten years which is named in the Act. Some of us made an attempt when the Bill was going through the Joint Select Committee to get that ten years' period knocked out. We were not successful, but the gravity of the situation is such at the moment that the Government should give some indication that they are prepared to consider the whole question of reform at an earlier date. I believe if the Government would declare now that they are prepared to call this conference, on the understanding of course that all who take part in t will faithfully and loyally abide by its decisions, and if they will further state that they are prepared to revise the reform scheme at a very early date, it will do more to tranquillise India and bring peace in that country and a better understanding there than anything else could possibly do. We submit, further, that, seeing that the first election resulted, in many cases, in the return of men who by no stretch of the imagination could be called popularly elected, new elections should be held. More than that, every manifestation of racial superiority should be ruthlessly curbed. The Noble Lord referred to the immense dangers of unchecked race hatred. How much of that race hatred has been stimulated by men who were not fit and proper people to represent Britain in India, men who constantly asserted a kind of racial superiority? No man who has been in India but will agree with me that there are certain types of men—I am not now condemning the whole European population—who have done tremendous harm to British authority and to everything that Britain stands for because of the attitude they have again and again maintained. The Noble Lord spoke of the grievances—and I believe he was quite right in what he said—under which members of the Indian Civil Service at present suffer, but there is one aspect of that question which should not be overlooked. There is a feeling in India that the type of man who in recent years has gone out to represent us there is not quite as good as the type of man who used to go years ago; in other words, that, there has been a certain deterioration in the personnel of the Indian Civil Service. Men familiar with India will he, better able to speak of that than I am. At all events, I have heard the assertion made, not only by responsible Indians, but also by responsible white men occupying positions out there. That deterioration is probably in some measure clue to the rather uncertain position in which any man entering the Indian Civil Service must feel at present. But no deterioration should be allowed which will enable men to go out there to assert that overbearing sense of racial superiority which does more than anything else to stir up Indian feeling against us. We submit that there should be a reduction in the vast military expenditure of India. It a terrible thing that in a country, 93 per cent. of whose people can neither read or write—and the responsibility for this state of illiteracy rests very largely with the British Government—nearly a half of the total revenue is spent in the maintenance of an army. We should press on with the work of education. I agree with the Noble Lord that what we want in India—and indeed we could do with it in this country—would be a well-informed electorate—if we could only get that, and encourage the spending of less money on military matters and more on education. We must show, too, in a way which cannot be misunderstood, a desire to help India towards complete self-government at the earliest possible moment. As far as the Labour party is concerned, we always have believed that India should be granted Dominion Home Rule within, at all events, a comparatively short time. We submit, finally, that force and the rule of blood and iron will succeed no more in India than it has done in Ireland. We have an immense responsibility, and the number of Members who attend Indian Debates shows how clearly the British House of Commons realises its responsibility in this matter. We still have an opportunity. Sometimes I have felt that matters have gone so far that recovery is altogether impossible. When I came back from India in December of last year, I had the feeling—and I know it was shared by others—that our policy had been so blind, so unwise, so utterly unsympathetic, so lacking in appreciation of the real Indian point of view that any recovery could not possibly be made. I believe, however, now that we have an opportunity, and that recovery is possible. Our responsibility is to make India free. Our opportunity is to win back the confidence and the trust of vast masses of people who have well nigh lost faith in the very name of Britain."They will be perfectly safe. To-day there is friction over the question of political supremacy. So long as that question is unsettled bad blood may be engendered at any moment, and the lives of your people may be endangered. You therefore need a certain number of British troops in the country. I quite see that. But once the question of political supremacy is out of the way, you will not need a single British soldier in India so far as the protection of your people and your property is concerned. And I can tell you, too, that you will find that we shall then need British brains and British capital just as much as ever, and we shall feel much less reluctance to employ them."
I do not intend to imitate the pessimism of the last speaker. He spoke of the Noble Lord having been pessimistic in his utterances, but one could hardly listen to a speech more pessimistic in its tone than that of the hon. Member who has just sat down. From the beginning to the end he had not one kind word to say for the British official in India; not a single kind thought for those who are serving under great difficulties in unexampled times. It would be a pity if that voice was to be considered the voice of this Parliament, or the voice of this country. It would be a pity if it was considered as representative of the Labour party, or of the labouring classes of this country. I live in an industrial county, where we are very largely interested in Indian questions, and I am certain that some of the remarks uttered by the hon. Member would be treated with ridicule and contempt by the labouring population of Lancashire.I listened to the speech of the Noble Lord, in which he referred to the money to be spent on railway development. Anyone who has read the Report of the Acworth Committee cannot fail 'to have been struck with the deplorable condition of the administration of Indian railways; the chaos, the lack of repair, and the inefficiency of maintenance and administration of the railways is seen on practically every page of that Report. A further Committee of the Legislature has been sitting in India to deal with certain aspects of that report, and there is considerable disappointment both in India and in this country among those interested in the question that, although the Acworth Committee presented unanimous decisions upon certain important things, the Indian Legislature has refused to put them into operation. It was distinctly laid down as one of the conditions of Indian railway reform that the finance and administration should be divorced from the political Governments, and should be treated entirely as a commercial proposition. There is no doubt that if that was done we should find great improvement in railway administration in India, and that the development that is necessary in that country would take place. There are many who believe that the unrest in India is more economic than political, and if by the development of the Indian railways you can give greater facilities for the movement of produce, and increase the value of what the ryots grow, you will be doing greater good than by all the machinery of political institutions which the Labour party are suggesting. In view of the condition of the railways in India, the 150 crores to he spent in five years on the railways is not sufficient. That amount would hardly put into condition the existing railways. It will not allow for that growth and development which is essential if we are to have real prosperity in that great Empire. I hope that the Noble Lord will feel that he can press upon the Government of India that not only must they spend 30 crores a year for repair and maintenance of existing railways, but that a further sum should be allotted in order that further developments may take place. Another matter in which we in Lancashire are interested is the question of irrigation. There is the great scheme of the Sukkur barrage. That is of great importance to the great County of Lancashire, from the point of view of the area which it will bring under efficient cultivation, and from the fact that it will give 400,000 acres extra for cotton growing. It is, therefore, one of the schemes that the Government of India ought to assist. What is the policy which the Government has adopted in connection with this irrigation scheme? Irrigation is considered now to be a provincial subject, and although the Government of India and the Legislative Assembly of India give their blessing to the Sukkur barrage project, they say: "We can find you no money, because it is a provincial subject." The Bombay Province, as a Provincial Assembly, are unable to finance a scheme involving £20,000,000 of capital. The consequence is that this great work, which is going to give inestimable benefits in that particular part of India, is held up because of lack of co-operation between the Provincial Assembly, the Legislative Assembly, and the Government in London. The report which was issued three years ago by the Cotton Growing Committee, set up by the Indian Government, has not received the attention and consideration at the hands of the Government that the urgency of the problem demands. You have in India 23,000,000 acres of land devoted to cotton growing, and in America 36,000,000 to 38,000,000 acres in a good season are devoted to the same purpose. Because of the lack of cultivation in the Indian area, the produce in India, taking pre-war prices, is only worth 31s. per acre, as against £5 per acre in America. If the report which was issued by the Cotton Committee had been dealt with, and the recommenda- tions had been carried out to the full, to extend the agricultural department, to have further research in agriculture, to make it that in the various cotton areas of India you would have men who could properly teach the small ryots how to grow the cotton, how to make it pure, how to get pure seed, and how to cultivate it well, and to send it to the ginnery, so that it could be graded correctly, without an additional hour of labour, but simply by doing the thing on a definite system, you would make that cotton inestimably higher in value, and worth a good deal more both to the spinner and manufacturer, whether in India or in Lancashire. Surely, if by improving the methods of agriculture we are able to give to the poor people of India an improved value for their produce, it is up to our Government here to press upon the Government in India the great need of doing something rapidly in this matter. It is also important because of the very serious condition in which this country finds itself with regard to the supply of raw cotton. The Continent of Europe is taking very large quantities of cotton. Germany, in the nine months ended March, took 1,200,000 odd bales of cotton, although she has only just short of 10,000,000 spindles. We, with our 56,000,000 spindles, only took 1,200,000 bales, a less amount than Germany took for the nine months, although we have five or six times the number of spindles. That shows that the demand for raw cotton throughout the world is growing, and at the same time the supply in America is decreasing. Ten years ago in America the loss by bollweevil was short of 2 per cent. of the acreage. The loss two years ago was nearly 20 per cent. of the acreage, and the loss during the last year is estimated at nearly 25 per cent. of the acreage, so that one out of every four acres of cotton cultivated in America is sacrificed to the bollweevil. That shows the urgency of providing further and greater supplies of raw cotton, and it cannot be pressed too much upon the attention of this Government and the Indian Government. We believe that, in the old days it was India which was producing the finest qualities of cotton goods. A little over one hundred years ago, according to the history of cotton, we know that in this country we were producing coarse goods, and the finest muslins, the best of the cottons came to us from the great Indian Dependency; by some means that good class of cotton which she was then growing has been destroyed. She now produces only the coarse qualities, while the better qualities come from other parts. If she has grown this high class of cotton previously, agricultural research and scientific investigation should make it possible for us to restore to India that valuable trade which is necessary for all the world to enjoy. I should like to say a word in connection with the duties on cotton. It is true that this is a question of which we are told the less we say about it the better. We have been told that so frequently in Lancashire that we are rather tired of the suggestion. We think it is equally true that the less that section of the Indian people who happen to have control of manufactures try to harass the rest of the people in India, the great agricultural section, the less they try to harass the Lancashire industry, the better. The import duty has increased without the Excise duty being correspondingly increased. I would suggest to the Noble Lord that it would be a good policy if, instead of putting the whole of the increase on the goods which are imported into the country, he would put a percentage on the goods which are produced in the country. There is no question of lack of machinery. The machinery of Excise is available. There is a tax of 3½ per cent., and the machinery for collecting that tax is there, and if he would raise the Excise, as we have suggested, to 6 per cent., and reduce the Customs to the same amount we say that he would get an equal amount of revenue. So long as it is the declared policy of the Indian Government that this is a revenue duty and not a protective duty we can see no force in having for revenue purposes the whole of the increased tax placed upon imported goods and nothing upon the locally-produced goods. It has a very important bearing upon the consumers of the cotton goods in India. Mr. Rhodes, one of the members of the Fiscal Committee, and a member of the Indian Legislative Assembly, made a speech in that assembly in which he pointed out that, before the War, the consumption per head of the population in India was 18 yards of cotton goods per annum. Now the consumption is not more than 10 yards per annum. If we have a decrease of nearly 50 per cent.—and that is borne out by the figures of export from this country to India that we have this large decrease in the consumption of cotton by the people of that country—then this is not the right time to make the cost of cotton goods higher. It is not the right time to make a difference between the Excise and the Customs, which imposes in consequence a higher charge upon the native population of India. I should like the Committee to remember that when we speak of the opinions which were given to us from India, we speak rather of opinions which come from Bombay with its organisations, with its up-to-date methods of propaganda. But we want to get at the opinion of those people who make up 75 per cent. of those who are interested in that country, the people who earn their living by agriculture. Those agriculturists, in the words of one man who gave evidence before the Committee, millions of them half-fed and half-clothed, are the people to whom it is urgently necessary to have cheap goods. The Government of India cannot consider that they are representing the true interests of the majority of the people in India by imposing taxation which has the effect, and is bound to have the effect, of making dear what is one of the most necessary things in a tropical country. I hope that the Indian people may have propaganda put before them to show that we in this country, in our desire for equality of duties, are seeking as much the advancement and progress, and the possibility of purchasing, of the Indian people as we are seeking development of our own trade. It would be ridiculous to say that we have not the slightest interest in the pushing of the Lancashire trade. We are interested in pushing it. We do feel that India can only be supplied by Lancashire, that there is no possibility of the Indian manufacturers or spinners being able to supply the total wants of those people for generations to come. Our growth has been taking place for 70 years to supply that market. The Indian growth is continuing. There is no need for India or Lancashire to have disunion. There is plenty of room for both of us to grow. We do not need to impede each other's success, or to try to take each other's trade. If the Government will assist in the development of the railways, the irrigation of the country, the promotion of good feeling between those in India and those in Lancashire, and other parts of the country who are interested in the commerce of India, they will be doing that which will promote real benefit without setting one class against, the other or one country against the other. I do hope that the Noble Lord will be able to recommend to the Government of India, in any revision of taxation, equality of treatment as between the Indian manufacturer and the Lancashire manufacturer.
We have listened to a very interesting speech from the Under-Secretary of State for India. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Spoor) called the speech of the Noble Lord a very pessimistic account. I am rather inclined to think that it is an optimistic account, but the interest which the Labour party take in this question is shown by the empty condition of the Labour Benches, for I think that there is only one Member of that party present.
There is another here!
The interest of the Labour party is shown by the absence of its Members. The speech of the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland will, I think, certainly encourage our enemies in India in every possible way. The one complaint which I have of the Government of India of late years is that its policy has been, to my mind, to encourage the enemies of British rule by futile attempts to conciliate them, and to discourage the loyal servants and supporters of the Government, both British and Indian,.by sacrificing them to the clamour of the revolutionaries. Nothing has dispirited the Indian loyalists so much as the weakness shown by the Government in dealing with the disloyal. I can only say that I hope that that policy has now come to a definite end. Nothing has destroyed the spirit of the British services in India more than the belief that has grown up among them that they cannot count upon the support of their own Government when they are putting down rebellion in India.We must remember what I call the shameful treatment of the officers who put down the rebellion in the Punjab in 1919. That, without doubt, has had its effect in the late Moplah rebellion in Malabar. That rebellion has been allowed to run on for the best part of a year. The Noble Lord has said that it is nearly at an end, but it has not definitely ended yet. So far as I know at the beginning the British officers were afraid to act for themselves. We have the example of the two young officers who, being afraid to act on their own initiative, for fear of censure, tried to parley and were cut down by the rebels before they could be rescued by their own men. All that I hope has now come to an end. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland, speaking a short time ago, said that it was necessary to liberate immediately what he called all political prisoners. We see in India at the present time different treatment meted out to what are called political prisoners from that which is given to ordinary criminals, and I trust that that will be brought to an end. It would add to the confidence of loyalist Indians if the Government were to bring to an end this system of giving special treatment to criminals who are called political prisoners. I do not think that the much lauded Montagu-Chelmsford reforms are considered in India to have had all the success which the Noble Lord attributed to them. I have here a cutting from this week's Indian mail, it says—
That is the opinion held by some people at any rate in India of the work of these reformed Councils. We cannot say that they are considered to be the enormous success which the Noble Lord has tried to persuade us that they are. We have seen the reformed Councils wasting their time passing futile resolutions, all apparently with the intention of reducing the powers of the British Government in India. We have seen them bringing in resolutions for the repeal of the laws for the repression of sedition, resolutions in favour of the repeal of the Press Acts, the reduction of the Army, the reduction of the police, the stoppage of enlistment of British officers for the police and for the Educational Department, the abolition of Commissioners of Divisions, the refusal of pay for Civil Service posts and the general disintegration of all the various services. The reduction of the Army below pre-War strength has been enforced to such an extent that the whole of Northern India would be in danger in the event of another Afghan invasion. Anarchy is growing all over India to the most alarming extent. All respect for law and order has gone, owing to the weakness displayed by the Government during the last three years. Apparently now, whenever any attempt is made by the police to arrest any offender, a riotous mob at once turns out to rescue him, with resultant loss of life. To say that this state of things is due to the Sevres Treaty, as the Khilafat agitators would have it, is nonsense. I have been all along opposed to the Sevres Treaty. It was, to the best of my belief, the greatest mistake to hand over Smyrna and Eastern Thrace to the Greeks. The Sevres Treaty though is only a peg on which Indian revolutionaries are hanging their agitation. The basis of the agitation is pure and active rebellion against the British Government. The Under-Secretary for India knows that I have clone my best at various times, by questions in this House, to bring to his attention the great danger there is in the poor pay and the bad conditions of service of the police in India. I have here a newspaper which has just reached me with the Indian mail. There is in it an article which I would commend to the attention of the Noble Lord. It commences:"Even the most ardent apologists of the Montagu reforms cannot claim for them an unqualified success.…The test which Mr. Montagu himself would apply has failed. The reforms have not allayed discontent. There are more enemies of British rule in India now than before the introduction of the reforms, and all attempts of Mr. Montagu to conciliate the malcontents with his reforms have only encouraged them in their defiance of law and authority.… As judged by the work of the reformed Councils, the verdict will be equally adverse. Mr. John Albion writes in an English journal, 'The various Legislative Assemblies, Imperial and provincial, are not doing well, though they made a fairly promising start. They are submerging India beneath floods of ineffable bosh.' We cannot say that it is an under-estimate of the work of these Councils."
I hope that something may be done to improve the conditions of the police force in India. There is also a book to which I would draw the Noble Lord's attention. It deals with the Constitutions granted both in Persia and in India, and it draws a most interesting comparison between the two. It is by Mr. J. M. Balfour, and is entitled "Recent Happenings in Persia." The author says there is one thing that is always necessary, and that is that the natives of such countries as Persia and India, who visit Europe for the purpose of education or of amusement, cannot be regarded as typical of the mass of their fellow-countrymen. That is true of all the Indians who come over to England. It is, however, with such Indians, who do not represent the mass of their fellow-countrymen, that the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland has had communications. The author also says:"The airy optimism of Lord Winterton's tone in answering Sir Charles Yate's question in Parliament in regard to the inadequacy of the police force in India is hardly in accordance with the facts as they present themselves to our view in this country."
We all know that the hon. Member for Bishop Aukland made his tour in India in company with the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyne (Colonel Wedgwood). They travelled among the. Khilafat agitators and the non-co-operation agitators; they went from agitation to agitation. We do not know what effect the hon. Member's words had on these meetings or how far his words were truly translated; but the result has been what we have seen. The Moplah rebellion was brought about entirely by the Khilafat agitation, for which the hon. Member spoke in India."The harm which may be caused by the ignorant meddling of the politician in the affairs of a people of whom he has little or no knowledge cannot be estimated. For example, when a Member of Parliament proceeds to address native strikers through an interpreter, regardless of the risk that his remarks may inadvertently, or of set purpose, take on a new significance in translation, what proportion of the blame for the subsequent riots and suffering resulting therefrom may be fairly apportioned to him?"
That statement is absolutely inaccurate. I have never spoken for the Khilafat people or addressed meetings under their auspices in India or in England.
I have read the Indian papers very carefully. They state that there were meetings of non-co-operators and that the hon. Member spoke in favour of Gandhi, Mohamed Ali and his brother, and for every one of the leaders in the movement. Can the hon. Gentleman say what proportion of the blame for the subsequent riots is due to what he said? In the Moplah rebellion, not only were Christians killed, but Hindus were massacred by hundreds and thousands. They were flayed alive. They were compelled to dig pits, into which their own massacred bodies were afterwards thrown. By George! I wish the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland could have been there.
I am afraid that, observation is rather too colloquial.
I apologise for an un-parliamentary expression. I wish that the hon. Member had got into the middle of that rebellion, which he himself helped to incite. Suppose he had gone out for a joy ride in an aeroplane, and that owing to some fault in the machinery he had landed in the middle of that rebellion. He might have escaped being flayed alive, and might have escaped digging his own grave, but like hundreds and thousands of Hindus he might have been circumcised compulsorily. Suppose the hon. Member had been circumcised with a blunt knife and made into a good Mahommedan. What a howl we should have had! How he would have persisted' in voting against the Government and condemning the culpable weakness of the Government in not putting down the rebellion! There is nothing like personal experience in these matters. It is all very well to incite to rebellion; it is a different thing to get into the middle of it and to suffer.I wish to ask the Under-Secretary a question. There was recently published by the India Office Command Paper 1586. It is called, "Telegraphic Correspondence regarding the Situation in India." I asked the Under-Secretary what was the cost of that telegram, and I was informed that it was £120. Never was £120 more uselessly wasted. The whole telegram, 11 pages of the White Paper, is one long apology for the Government's want of firmness during the last three years. There is nothing else in it. Why could it not have come by post? I wish to refer also to a letter I have just received from an engineer officer of the Public Works Department in India. He reveals an appalling state of affairs for the unfortunate Britisher in India who has his wife and family to defend, and yet has been refused the old right of possessing fire-arms for defence against the men who are permitted to go about the country armed with short swords, battle-axes, and similar weapons. This is what the engineer officer says:
So the letter goes on. I trust that this question will be taken up by the Secretary of State, for this restriction is really most dangerous. There is also the important question of the Indian Civil Service. We know its sad state to-day. The Noble Lord has referred to it. Every man in the Indian Civil Service, who can possibly manage it, is leaving that Service. Civil servants in India are no longer able to live on their pay. They cannot afford to educate their children or to send their wives and children home, and they cannot save a single penny with which to furnish a house on their return to England."The present attitude of the local government is to prevent Europeans from holding licences for pistols. I have no fire-arms and recently I made formal application to the Deputy Commissioner for a licence to purchase an automatic pistol. He refused my application without stating his reasons. Another official of the Irrigation Branch applied for a licence to retain a pistol already possessed by him, with the result that the pistol was confiscated by the police. I could mention other cases where a refusal to grant licences to Europeans has occurred. I do not think the refusals are due to any-desire on the part of the Deputy Commissioner himself. He is, I am told, merely obeying the orders of the Government. The expressed object of the local government in this matter is briefly, 'no racial distinction as to possession of fire-arms.' The condition of this part of the country is disorderly. Bands of robbers roam about the country and.the attitude of political bodies towards Europeans is the reverse of friendly. It. is no longer safe to drive at night without fire-arms, and cases have occurred where the toad has been blocked and an ambush formed. I ran into one myself only last week but luckily managed to get through safely. I am strongly of opinion that every white person in India should be permitted to carry fire-arms, at least one weapon for each person."
6 0 P.M.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has put words into my mouth which I did not use. I never made the statement that they could not live on their pay. I said there were difficulties, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman is putting into my mouth a most serious statement, and I wish to point out to him that I never said anything of the sort.
I apologise. I did not intend to put that statement into the mouth of the Noble Lord. I was making that statement myself from the informa- tion that I have received, and I have been talking to civil servants themselve on the matter. That is my opinion from what they have told me. I did not intend to represent it as the opinion of the Noble Lord. I have memorials from various Civil Service Associations, and they are all to the same effect. I hope the question is going to be taken up more seriously. At the present time there is no doubt about the terrible anxiety felt by those in the public service living in India. They really do not know whether or not they are sure of getting their pensions or that the pensions payable to their widows and orphans should they die are assured. I have another letter on the subject from a man who states:
Here we see that Indian civil servants are actually trying, and trying unsuccessfully, to insure pensions which the Government ought to guarantee. I ask from the Government that a Parliamentary guarantee be given to the Indian Civil Service and to other Services in India by which they can be assured of the payment of their personal pensions and of the pensions due to their widows and orphans in the event of their decease. Under the present state of affairs, every British servant in India is afraid of what may happen to his widow and orphans, and he cannot even obtain insurance on his pension rights. I trust this will be taken up in all seriousness by the Noble Lord, and that the minds of the civil servants in India will be reassured, because until that is done we cannot hope to get the best service from them."I have been endeavouring to find a reliable insurance company which may he willing to insure me against default by the Government of India in the payment of annuity after retirement and in the payment to my widow and orphans of the pensions to which they will be entitled upon my decease. I find to my dismay no insurance company to be willing to insure me against this risk on any terms whatever, although I was informed a few years ago that this insurance could be effected on moderate premia,"
I listened with very great enjoyment to the speech of the Noble Lord, and I particularly sympathise with him in such criticisms as have been made of what was, it must be confessed, the rather cursory way in which he skimmed over a number of very important questions. He was evidently trying, in office, to live up to the very good principle which he expressed as a private Member, that too long speeches should not be inflicted upon us from the Front Bench. I think that gives him a very good defence against any of us who may have desired him to deal more fully with some of the extraordinarily important questions which fall within the purview of his Department. I will try, if not to imitate his cogency of argument, at any rate to imitate his brevity. Regarding the financial position of India, I have only one thing to say and it is that, sooner or later, the Government of India and the India Office here at home will have to consider, with the War Office, the question of the reduction of the pay of the British Army in India. It is a remarkable thing that whereas—as has been truly pointed out mainly in the matter of pay—the British Army in India is now costing £7,000,000 more, with a less number, than it did in 1914, there has practically been no appreciable increase in the pay of our civilian army, namely, the Indian Civil Service and the Departments in India. I think it has been most unfair to India that very great increases in what they have to pay to the War Office for the British Army in India, have been forced upon them without giving them a really fair share in coming to the decisions under which they are now suffering, and which are causing them such very great expense. I believe we shall gradually realise, when we look at the remuneration of young officers in this country, and, consequently, of those who are going out to India, that they are, considering their age, ability and training, far more highly paid than any corresponding people in any other walk of life. Great increases of pay to officers and other ranks were rushed upon us at a time when we had hardly begun to feel the burden of excessive expenditure, and India will not get any very sensible relief unless her Government and ours reconsiders the position, as soon as the pledges which have been given render it possible to do so. It certainly would be a better thing all round in India to-day if the rather considerable pay of Army officers could be slightly reduced and the very, very insufficient pay of the Indian civil servants increased.With regard to the position of Indians overseas, I was very glad to hear that there was a possibility at any rate of the matter being discussed in a friendly way between the Government of India and the Government of South Africa. That is an excellent arrangement, and I very much hope that good may come of it. With regard to the question as it affects Canada, Australia and New Zealand, nothing better could have been done than that Mr. Sastri, with whom I had the honour of acquaintance, should be going to those great Dominions to talk over the question. I was very glad to meet him on his recent visit to England, and to learn that he was going to be admitted a member of the Privy Council. Anyone who knows him, knows he will put the case, which he has made specially his own, to those Governments with very great force, and I hope with corresponding success. With regard to Kenya, I entirely respond to my Noble Friend's suggestion that while negotiations are still going on with some prospect of a satisfactory solution, it would perhaps do no good that the subject should be gone into in this House. I have reams of briefs and notes upon it, but I am not going to touch upon it today except to say one sentence with regard to the question of settlements in the uplands of Kenya. A final solution will really be impossible if anyone belonging to any European nation—I do not want to cast aspersions on any European nation, but anyone, Greeks, Bulgarians, Portuguese, Spaniards, or anyone of that kind—is allowed to own land in the highlands of Kenya, but no one of the great princes who have recently been entertaining the Prince of Wales, is to be allowed to do the same, because of a definite bar and exclusion working against them by a rule really set up by this Government. I pass to the remarks of the Noble Lord on the general line of policy which is now being followed. I am very glad to hear his assurance that there has been no change in policy. I always thought that the way in which the late Secretary for State was attacked, very often for reasons not in the least connected with the policy which he was carrying out, was a real disgrace to those who were guilty of those attacks upon him. I must say the statement that the policy is not being changed seems almost too good to be true, but I know quite well that Liberals have often made very bad Conservatives, and therefore I must hope that Conservatives may sometimes make very good Liberals. We must watch and we must hope, and I certainly cannot point to anything at present which in any way counters the declaration of the Noble Lord, and I hope there will be a desire to move forward as quickly as reasonably can be done towards that very, very difficult task to which we have set our hands in the Preamble to the Act of 1919. It is quite true, as the Noble Lord said, that race hatred by the Indians will not help that forward. I quite agree. Neither will the expression of race superiority by some of our servants in India, who express race superiority because they have not got any other sort of superiority, and not much race superiority either.
Can the right hon. Gentleman quote the case of any official in India who has asserted that superiority?
It is quite enough for me to have listened to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member who preceded me. He quoted the declarations of officials regarding reform and he quoted from an Indian official a statement to the effect that the reform schemes were—I think the expression was "unmitigated bosh." That sort of thing seems to me to be in an intolerably wrong spirit and if it is to be quoted with approval in this House, as representing the line that we should take in India, then indeed we have departed a long way from the spirit which actuated us in passing the Government of India Act. That sort of expression seems to me calculated to do a very great deal of harm. As I have said we have an extraordinarily difficult task in India. In talking to Indians in this country and trying to lecture to them as I have done once or twice on their invitation, I feel that the ordinary Englishman, with his ordinary education and traditions, is poles asunder from the extremely well educated and extremely able Indian whom one meets over here, getting his training—the Indian who will go back to India as a public servant or an advocate or a doctor. We do things in a curious way, by nature, without having a very thorough training, but we are very seldom far wrong in the results which, somehow, we manage to attain. I have a tremendous admiration for the way in which we get through, although it is sometimes a muddle through. We get through by having 300 years' tradition of public administration and self-government in our blood and by being able to rely on that—and a marvellous possession it is of our race. When we come up against the Indian he has very often twice our education and three times our ability.I have been enormously struck as a Member of the Joint Committee, on Indian Affairs with the amazing ability of Indian witnesses who have come before us. I have experienced their very great ability in putting a case, in arguing a case, and in seeing an argument. Then I have met the extraordinary difficulty on our side, of realising their point of view, of realising how intense must be their desire, if it is possible, themselves, to supersede us in the government of their country, and how intensely proud they are of their country and intensely desirous of taking over what they feel to be their rightful position in its government, and how difficult it must be for our servants there, with the best will in the world, to conceal the feeling, which I frankly admit that I feel myself when talking to Indians, that somehow or other at bottom that great tradition of administration and public service which we all have in our blood was a thing which it was almost impossible to replace just by education, or even by training, but could only be a thing which could grow by experience and by the exercise of a good deal of trial and error on the part of those who wish to exercise it. But there is that desire, that very passionate desire, by men of very high education and very high ability really to take over as soon as they can, the government of their country, and to attempt to repress it is surely a hopeless line. To think that repression will ever settle any question is hopeless, and the only hope can be to trust and to help forward those who have a really public-spirited ambition with regard to the government of their own country. I am only afraid that if the worst manifestations of race hatred disappear, as I think there are wine indications that they are tending to do, and if the Government service is no longer boycotted by a considerable class of the community, and if the Indians really try on the whole, with such good-ill as you can expect from them, to take their share on the lines laid down in the Government of India Act, there may not be, to use the Noble Lord's phrase, too great ease in giving way. One does not want that, but, at any rate, there may be real generosity, however difficult the path is, in our desire to give self-government and real power over their own affairs, and not a too great hanging back owing to the tradition which the hon. and gallant Member who preceded me expressed, the tradition that India must somehow remain a place in which Englishmen are to exercise their superiority over other people. It does disturb me to learn that, in spite of this success of the Government of India, as I think it was, with regard to Mr. Gandhi, in first of all not arresting him when there was all the clamour here at home that he should be arrested, and then in his arrest, there are still 20,000 political offenders in prison. That is rather like, to use an old phrase of Tacitus, I think it is, making a desert and calling it peace, mopping up everybody and then saying, "Look how peaceful we are." Of course, the population of India is very large, but 20,000 men is a very large number also, and imprisonment never does very much good to anybody. At any rate, it does not make a man love you very much when he comes out, and I hope it may be possible, within a reasonable time, at any rate, to reconsider that point, because it is not altogether simply a proof that a certain number of thousands of Indians have gone wrong when we find that a number of that kind are in prison. It is to some considerable extent a reflection on our system that it should be necessary to keep as large a number as that incarcerated. Having said what perhaps, in the minds of one or two hon. Members opposite, may seem to be a, criticism with regard to certain persons in the Civil Service, let me conclude by treating with one subject particularly, and that is the position of civil servants. I think that our Service has got to learn, as it is learning, no doubt, that India is to be Indianised, and that it can no longer be the happy playground for British officials.
I have heard India spoken of, both by Army officers and by persons thinking of the Indian Civil Service, as a place where you were likely to get more sport than in any other career, and it was that sort of thing that I had in my mind when I used the term.
That does not apply to the Indian civil servant.
Does the right hon. Gentleman assert that that represents the life of the Anglo-Indian official, or that he spends his days in sport?
I have mixed, as doubtless other hon. Members have mixed, with people who have been talking over the possible careers open to them, and I have come across that sort of spirit with regard to the Service in India, both with regard to Army and Civil appointments. It a place where, at any rate, you had the power of bossing other people, and that is what I think is the wrong spirit altogether. In regard to the Civil Service, I feel this, that if they have gradually to drop out and to give way to other persons, let them at any rate have a chance of going down with their flag flying, and flying high. They are, in my opinion, about the finest set of public servants whom this Empire has ever produced. They have done their work in the most astoundingly disinterested way, and if they have got to go, let them, at any rate, be well treated, up to the standard which we should all wish, tip to the time when they have to go, and afterwards. I do not believe it will do any good to the new India, which I, at any rate, look forward to seeing, that there should be hundreds or thousands of people coming back here and having to live here for the rest of their lives, who bear a grudge against India for the way in which they have been treated, either owing to the salary which they received during their last years, or owing to their pensions, or owing to the compensation for having to terminate their appointments, or anything of that kind. I believe that the people who will be responsible for the new India would do a great service to themselves by avoiding anything which might seem to be an injustice or an unfairness to the Service which has really served them so splendidly in the past.After all, they are our servants. They are the servants of this Government, engaged by this Government, through the Secretary of State, to administer British Dependencies. They are paid by India, I know, but I think this House is respon- sible, and it is surely not a right thing that, when we review all that has happened with regard to public servants of all classes, the Indian Civil Service should have been, as I think it has been, far less well treated in regard to salaries than any other Service anywhere in the Empire. As we know, there was a Royal Commission which, I think, sat in 1913 and reported in 1914, although the publication of its Report was, held up till after the War, and a good deal of what was recommended by that Royal Commission has been done, no doubt, but nothing whatever has been done to meet the position arising from the greatly increased cost of living caused by the War, and the rupee is now lower than it was before the War, when that Royal Commission was working. Therefore, the strain on men who get their money in Indian currency and have to pay for the education of their children and things of that kind in English currency is greater than it was then. I am very glad to hear from the Noble Lord that the Secretary of State has reconsidered the question of whether there should be a limit to the right of retirement. That limit, as we all know, was previously set for the 31st March, 1924, and civil servants who had not exercised their right by then would not enjoy it any longer. I hope very much, with him, that the results of that reconsideration will not be an increase in the number of persons who retire, but a decrease, that because of the extension of the period they may seem safer. If that date had been rigidly adhered to, there might have been a great rush of persons to retire just before that date, and their retirement would not really have been necessary, but they would have rushed into retirement for fear that they might be deprived of a chance of retiring later. They must realise, and they have realised, that the members of the new councils have been only gradually realising their powers, and that they cannot foresee as to how the Provincial Governments will work yet from the experience they have had, or from the experience they are likely to have in the next eighteen months. They have had one or two examples, which I am sorry have occurred, of how Provincial Ministers and others have realised that, although they cannot dismiss an Indian civil servant, they can make things extraordinarily unpleasant for him by withdrawing his staff and doing things of that kind. Their nervousness on this sort of matter is very natural, and it is, I think, extremely desirable to do everything we possibly can to relieve them and give them a chance of going on with their splendid work, in what, I hope, may be smoother waters ahead, even if they are ultimately displaced by Indian officers. As that has been done, I will not argue the case further. I am only very glad of the announcement which my Noble Friend has made. It seems to me to be in accordance with the general wish of the Joint Committee which considered the question of the rights of the Indian civilian, because it made no recommendation at all that there should be any time limit with regard to this right of retirement. Another point which ought to be given more consideration, and I hope satisfactory consideration, is that the Indian civil servant, if he is to be expected to do his best work and to be willing, as he may have to be, to be put, on the shelf prematurely, should have a statutory right, to his pension. No one in this country wants those pensions not to be secure. No one who is really looking forward—no Indian who is really looking forward—to taking upon himself real responsibility for government would like to start on that responsibility with the real stain, to begin with, of having taken away the pensions which these men have been given every possible right to expect. If the new rulers of India are genuine at all in their desire to do the right thing by themselves and by their country, they ought to make it certain, so far as they possibly can, and to let us make it certain by Statute, that the men who have served them in the past shall be secure of their pensions in the future. The only other point I want to make is, that it should be very carefully considered whether, in addition to retirement or proportionate pension, there ought not to be some compensation for loss of career. We all of us know—people who, like myself, were unfortunately at home during the War—how often one got a letter from a man who wanted one to find him a job, who said that he had great administrative experience, and how almost utterly impossible it was to find a position for him, if he had had administrative experience and nothing else. They cannot all be secretaries of clubs and so on, and a man who has devoted the whole of his time from the age of 20 to training for a Service like the Indian Civil Service and for work in another country cannot, whatever you say, in this highly specialised age, when he comes back here at the age of 35, or 40, or 45, or 50, get into another profession. His chance of really earning money is enormously decreased by the work that he has done for us and for the Empire, and it is not enough to give him a certain proportion of the pension which he would have had if he had completed the whole of his period of service. He has wasted himself. He has learned to do things which are practically of no use at all in this country. He comes back to this country, and finds it over-stocked with people who possess the power of doing a great many things fairly well. He has no chance of competing with these people who need very special training to make a livelihood, because it is too late for him to train himself for a totally new career. I venture to put these points on behalf of the civil servants, although hon. Members may think that other remarks I have made reflect upon them. But I do hold very strongly that it is only if we feel ourselves quite certain that we here, and the Government of India, are going to treat these men in the fairest possible way, that we can ask them, as I, for my part, do, to view the new regime with favour, hope and trust, and do their very best to help India to become that great self-governing part of the Empire to which we look forward.
The last controversy into which I should like to be drawn would be one upon the merits of non-co-operation and upon the case of Mr. Gandhi. He has come to the end of his political career. I am told by well-informed friends in India that towards the end of his active life the people of India were getting bored with him. It is always a fortunate thing to know that people are getting bored with mischievous agitators, because boredom is the inevitable preliminary to collapse. Mr. Gandhi has been spoken of this afternoon as a patriot, and as having given expression to the aspirations of the whole of the Indian people. There are many definitions of a patriot, not one of which I feel inclined to quote—not even that of Dr. Johnson. I would not apply that for worlds to the Mahatma; but if he be a patriot, he is one of quite an original kind, because his country has to thank him for enormous additions to its expenditure. First of all, there has been the additional expenditure on police and military necessary to keep the peace in the country disturbed by him, and it has been authoritatively stated—and I believe it—that the Satyagrahi movement in Northern India, which he originated, provided the great temptation to the Amir to invade India, and, so far as that is the case, this great patriot has to be thanked by his people for an addition of something like 80 crores to the expenditure of the country. I have done with Mr. Gandhi.There is a question of another nature, and that is the attitude that this House should take in regard to the Reform movement in India. I hold it to be absolutely wrong for anything to be said in this House which is vituperative, or which seriously discredits the operation of the Legislative Councils in India. Let those who run down the Legislative Councils in India in this House remember that they are working hand in hand with Gandhi and his friends, for no one in India has been more hostile to the Legislative Councils than Mr. Gandhi and the non-co-operators. Are there non-co-operators on the other side of this House? If so, I would ask them to consider the mischief they may be doing, and the alliance which they may form, unconsciously, with mischief-doers in India. To say that the Councils are swamping India under a flood of ineffable bosh—I think my hon. and gallant Friend who quoted that must, on reflection, think that that quotation should not have been uttered in this House. I cannot think that the Legislative Assembly in Delhi, or the Legislative Councils in Madras or Sombay, would refer to ineffable bosh being spoken in this House. To say that is harmful, and it is untrue. If anyone would refer to Sir Frederick Whyte, once an honoured Member of this House, who is now presiding with great success and distinction over the Legislative Assembly at Delhi, he would find from Sir Frederick Whyte that, so far from floods of ineffable bosh or floods of rhetoric being heard there, they are not known. The Debates of the Legislative Assembly are subject to a time limit. I believe no one can speak more than half an hour, and Sir Frederick Whyte assured me that that limit is very seldom reached. There is no such thing in the Legislative Assembly as rhetorical display or verbose rhetoric, and I think it would have been better if this evening words of encouragement to the Legislative Councils of India were heard, instead of terms of disparage-men. As regards the 20,000 people in gaol, they are not all pure-minded patriots. A good many are ordinary brawlers, men who create disturbance in the street. I do not think many of them are worthy of the admiration that has been expressed, or are there out of pure patriotism. They are not there for any particular concrete, overt offence, but many are there, because they are members of unlawful associations.
I would ask my hon. Friend what authority he has for the figure of 20,000. I should like to make sure on that point.
I have information frequently sent to me from India to the effect that there are 20,000 who have been arrested under the Criminal Law Amendment Act. I want to point out that there are two ways of dealing with the particular kind of trouble we have had lately in India. One process is to proceed under the Criminal Law Amendment Act, which declared certain associations to be illegal, and persons who join those associations are subject to arrest, and have been arrested to that extent. The other method is to deal with overt offences, definite acts of illegality and violence. That method has been followed in Madras and Bombay. The method of wholesale arrests—perhaps the word is extravagant —under the Criminal Law Amendment Act has been limited, I believe, to Bengal and the United Provinces, and people in India, to whose opinion I attach a certain importance, men of liberal minds, have told me that they much prefer, and that they think much less harm would be done, and, in fact, much good would be done, by proceeding with the Bombay and Madras method, instead of the method adopted in Bengal and the United Provinces. There is a distinction in the two ways of dealing with the trouble.I have heard with great satisfaction that the Government of India are in direct communication with the Govern- ment of South Africa in regard to the position of Indians in South Africa. We must all recognise the difficult position of the Government of South Africa in: this matter, and I am sure the Government of India will realise that it is not an easy matter for the Government of-South Africa to make concessions. As to Kenya, the Noble Lord has deferred making any statement on that matter, because it is still under negotiation. I wish his prudence and reserve had been copied by one of his right hon. colleagues. When I was in India the news came of a, very outspoken and, as we thought at the time, a very rash and ill-advised announcement by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies. When the news reached us in India, a very prominent. Minister of one of the native States mentioned the matter to me, and said he thought it was a wonder that this statement, and another rash statement which the right hon. Gentleman had made not long before, had-not brought the right hon. Gentleman to his political death-bed. He said, "He has done so many foolish things that I wonder he is not politically dead by now." Of course, I do not endorse that.
Well, the hon. Member may endorse it, but I do not. I wish now to speak briefly on the question of the position of the Civil Service in India, but first I wish to say a very few words about one class of servants of the Government who are not in the Indian Civil Service, but whose case seems to me to have been a hard one. It is known to a good many Members of this House that the class of public servants to whom I refer belong to a number of Departments. They were promised for many years an investigation into their pension rights. The Royal Commission reported on it, and found that those pensions were inadequate. I ask the Committee to bear in mind that this has nothing to do with War conditions. It was held by the Royal Commission that these pensions were inadequate long before the War. The Government conceded an increase in the pensions of these particular people, but it introduced a time bar, and it excluded a large number of old and deserving servants of the Government from the benefits of the increase. An old and a dwindling, set of pensioners were refused that in- crease of pension which the Royal Commission held to he their due. The matter has been brought by a number of Members of this House to the attention of the late Secretary of State. Whenever the case was put it was admitted that there was, equitably, a very strong case, but nothing has been done. I ask the Noble Lord if he will suggest to the Secretary of State the advisability of looking again into the claims of these men, and seeing whether the admission of equity cannot be translated into granting them an increase of pension.As to the Indian Civil Servants, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Camborne Division (Mr. Acland) has stated their case with sympathy and conviction. There is very little that I can add to what he has said except this, during a recent visit to India I came in contact with large numbers of these men. I formed very definite conclusions in regard to them. One was this: that they were losing, have lost, heart. If any hon. Member had seen them, I think he would agree with me, that they are not men who are jibbing against reform. Do not let it for a moment be supposed that they are hostile to reform. One after another has said to me: "We are loyal to reform: we worked well under our Indian chiefs"—and, after all, let it be recognised that it is not a new thing for an Englishman to work under an Indian. They have worked under Indians with comfort and satisfaction to both sides. These men, as I say, are loyal to the reforms, and to their chiefs, and I was very glad to hear that the subordinate staffs of Indians have shown the fullest loyalty to them and to the Government during these trying times. Further I should say this—it is not the Englishman alone—for this is not a racial question and need not be treated from that point of view at all. The Indian members of the Civil Service are discontented, and they are as uncertain as to their future as the English. I know at least two Indian Civil Servants, Indians, who have retired. Do not think it is a racial question. There are various aspects of the troubles, and one is what one may call the element of physical insecurity. Let me illustrate that by mentioning a case that came to my knowledge. A member of the Civil Service in Bombay had sent his wife and children home. He thought he was going to be removed into an upcountry district, and he felt it was not safe to bring his wife and children out in view of that removal, but when ultimately he found that he was to be posted in Bombay, with the security of a great city, he sent for his wife and children out. We know that in past years, ever since the Mutiny, the Englishman and his family have lived in remote upcountry places, with none or few of their own race around them. They have felt no insecurity. The only security they wanted was the good will and kindly feeling of the Indians who lived around them. I do hope that the time will come, is not, indeed, far off, when that good, old feeling and kindly relationship between the two races will be revived. I am not without hope of it, and many with whom I spoke in India are not without hope of it. The other question is a question of pay. It is difficult in India at the present time to suggest increase of pay in any quarter. The legislature for very good reasons is strictly economical at this moment. At the same time it is a question of equity as well as of financial expediency. We have always recognised, the Montagu-Chelmsford Report recognises, that for years to come there will be a need for continuing Europeans in the Service, and that there is a need for them to be of even higher quality than those of to-day, and than those who have been before. If we are to have that, and we put the Englishman in India because India needs him—that is our position—India wants him, and it is for the good of India that he is there—well and good. The old notion that India was going to be the grazing ground for scions of the aristocracy and the upper classes in England is absolutely wrong. That idea has been exploded. Whatever truth there may have been in it, there is none now. People who go to serve in India must be adequately recompensed. We hear distressing accounts of the struggle for life that the British civil servant in India is undergoing now. Let me quote from a statement lately circulated. I dare say Members of the House have seen it—
We are assured that the number of Civil Servants in India who are not able to make both ends meet, and are getting into debt, is daily increasing. I think that this House will feel that such a state of things will be a discredit, and that it is our duty to India, as well as to our fellow-countrymen, that they should be adequately paid. A man has to keep up a certain position, and he cannot do it if he is in grinding poverty. I feel I am pressing an open door when I bring this matter to the notice of the heads of the India Office. I am sure they both have sympathy, and that no argument need be addressed to either the Secretary or the Under-Secretary. It is rather to this House that the appeal should he made and to the legislatures of India. I do hope that this House will have an influence over the legislatures of India, sufficient to make them realise that this is a real and a strong claim that the British civilian has upon them. Remember, as I said, it is not only an Englishman's question; it is a question which relates to numbers of Indian civil servants who will be increasing in numbers as the years go by. It is not suggested that the Indian servant should take any less pay than the British civilians have been accustomed to. I cannot speak with sufficient satisfaction of the answer made by the Noble Lord this afternoon in regard to the removal of the time limit, because that time limit is the greatest grievance—apart from financial considerations—the greatest grievance that the Indian civilians have felt. A young civilian writes to me from India:"They have been compelled to meet the increased cost of living by a reduction in their former standard of living, by a reduction in the provision formerly made by them by way of savings for the purpose of educating their children, and increasing the income of their wives and families in the event of their decease, or, in the case of those who find themselves for any reason unable to save much, even under pro-War conditions, by getting into debt."
I interpret that as fulfilling the expectations of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Camborne. The removal of this time limit will, I believe, result in a considerable number of young civilians abandoning the idea of claiming their proportionate pensions. It will be a real service for the Secretary of State to remove the time limit. There will be immense satisfaction in India when that is known. Perhaps the Noble Lord will be able, in his reply, to tell us what expectation there is of the removal, at all events the modification, of the declaration that the civilian, when he wants to retire on pension, is expected to make. We may differ as to the significance of that paragraph. I do not see anything particularly offensive in it myself; but it is not a question of my judgment, but a question of the judgment of Indian civilians. After all, they feel humiliated' and feel that it is casting a reflection upon themselves that they have to sign-that declaration. It would give immense satisfaction to the Service in India., I know, if that particular declaration were modified, if not done away with altogether. I pass from that to another question about which, if I may be allowed to say so, I should have been glad if the Noble Lord had had time to say more than he has. I refer to the financial condition of India at the present time. Without exaggeration, it is graver than it has been at any time within living memory. There are some specific points I should be very glad if he is able to answer me about. The present deficit stands at a little over six crores. Will the Noble Lord say, is he in a position to say, if that is the real deficit? It depends upon an important question of military policy. That is to say, what is the policy of the Government of India in regard to Waziristan? In the Budget statement it was stated that the cost of occupation there would be two crores, 13 lakhs, and that amount was budgeted for, but it was stated that that was only the tentative estimate. I put a question in the House some weeks ago as to whether a definite final estimate had been made out, and how the cost of the occupation of Waziristan had been arrived at? I was told the matter was still under consideration. Will the Noble Lord tell me whether a final estimate of that particular item has yet been arrived at, and will he tell me whether in estimating the deficit account is taken of the fact that three crores of interest on the currency reserve, which in ordinary times is capital expenditure, has this year been put into the revenue account? Has that been taken into account in estimating the present deficit at nine crores and a little over? 7.0 P.M. The general condition of Indian finance. we must all admit, is eminently unsatisfactory. The view prevails, I think it prevails largely in this House, as I am sure it does in India, that the military expenditure is not entirely determined by the Government of India. This perhaps is a matter upon which the Under-Secretary of State would prefer to keep silent, but the view prevails in India that that total of 62 crores for military expenditure, which has been put forward by the Military Department as the irreducible minimum, has not been arrived at entirely by the Government of India, but that it has been imposed upon India through decisions come to in this country. I am not retailing idle gossip in saying this. Shortly before he left India, Sir Sankaran Nair, who was a member of the Viceroy's Council in India and a member of the Secretary of State's Council in this country, and who is now in England, said:"I think that the great majority of us want to stay as long as we can, and would do en, unless things become absolutely intolerable; but we must have a way of escape in case this happens. If this is not provided, I think a very large proportion of the junior members of the Services will be driven to take advantage of the present offer, much against their inclination."
I do not pretend to say how much truth there is in that suggestion, but it would be an immense advantage if we could send out to India a message stating that it is erroneous. I hope the Under-Secretary of State will be able to tell us something on that point. Do not let it be supposed that the objection to this heavy military expenditure comes simply from a number of discontented and critical Indians, Nothing of the kind. The opposition is as much that of the European mercantile element and community and of the European Press in India as of the rest of the community. It is not a purely Indian antagonism by any means; there is a strong body of public opinion against this excessive expenditure upon the Army, the Navy, and upon defence. We are told it is absolutely necessary to spend 62 crores on the Army this year, and that if not the country will be in a state of internal and external insecurity. We have had before now to decide upon this particular question—an important constitutional question—whether the last word is to lie with the military or whether, being a question of policy, the last word is with the Government as a whole. Even the advice of so competent an authority as Lord Rawlinson has to be subject to political criticism. It is not he who would be responsible for the consequences if, through excessive expenditure, discontent, poverty, and a general unsettlement of the country should arise. The last word does not lie with the chief military authorities. I quoted one eminent Indian just now. May I quote from another who, speaking in the Legislative Assembly three months ago, said:"The case of military expenditure might be cited as an example of the Government of India having their hands tied in face of their Legislature. The Secretary of State was practically obliged to accept what line of action the War Office demanded and to force it upon the Government of India, whereas it was clear that the Government of India and their military advisers were most competent to decide what army was required for the safety of India and what expenditure should be devoted to it, and to settle the matter with the Legislature."
There is the situation, Excessive military expenditure, increase of taxation, discontent, and again more military expenditure in order to keep the country at peace. We admit, everyone admits, the urgent need of security, but is it not a somewhat qualified benefit to afford security to a bankrupt State? If we, through our seeking after security, bring about the bankruptcy of India, what will be the effect upon all concerned? I do not want to anticipate the findings of the Inchcape Committee, but I should like to call attention to a number of items that were brought out in the Debate in the Legislative Assembly three weeks ago; enormous increases upon the pre-War Budget, the pre-War expenditure, and the pre-War equipment. The number of sappers and miners since 1914 have increased, the British officers by 66 per cent., other ranks of British by 40 per cent., and the Indian ranks by 60 per cent. In the Army Signal Service, the increase has been 600 per cent. British officers, 850 per cent. other British ranks, and 800 per cent. Indian ranks. There has been a large expenditure, much of it new expenditure, upon mechanical transport, but while 1 crore, 13 lakhs is laid out on mechanical transport, the expenditure on animal transport has not been decreased in the least degree. The medical service, which in pre-War times cost 58 lakhs, now costs 3 crores, 18 lakhs, or seven times that amount. There are other matters of that kind with which I will not weary the House. We have heard this afternoon of large increases in the General Staff, and elsewhere. With regard to the financial difficulties of the Government of India at this tune, there is a contract between the Provincial Governments and the Central Government, which is likely, I am afraid, to break down, simply because the Provincial Governments have not the means with which to meet their obligations. The Bombay Provincial Government has converted a surplus of something like 6 crores into a deficit in three years. Madras is in an almost equally unhappy position. The other day a Member of the Madras Government, the Indian Minister for the Public Works Department, said:"Are we not entangled in a vicious circle of increased military expenditure, increased taxation, and rise in the cast of living—increase of discontent, and again, increase of military expenditure?"
He urged that the question should be pressed in Parliament; heavy taxation was being taken advantage of, he said, by agitators against the Government. The Bombay Government are in an equally parlous plight. They, too, have to face an increased contribution to the Government of India, with a dwindling revenue. One of their most important revenues which is dwindling is that of excise. The Noble Lady the Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor), if she were in her place this afternoon, would be delighted to hear that the revenue from excise in India is practically vanishing. That may be good from.her point of view, but it is very bad from the point of view of the Government of India. On looking all round one finds that the bankruptcy of the Government of India is threatened, and an almost equally bankrupt condition is threatened in the Provincial Governments. I am afraid this is a doleful tale. There is a possibility of things mending. I have been very glad to hear during the last few weeks that trade is at last showing signs of improvement. The exchange is going up; because, happily, it has been let alone. One must pray that the Government would continue to let the exchange alone. In conclusion, I want to say how glad I was to hear again from the Under- Secretary of State an announcement of the determination of the Government to go on working the reforms without any change of policy. Let this House be fair to itself. When we embarked on this policy of reform we did so with our eyes open and subject to conditions which we ourselves laid down. We recognised the experimental character of the reforms. We knew that it was an essential feature of the reforms that the people of India should show their capacity in administration by taking over certain branches of the work of government. They have yet to show how far they are efficient in the work of dealing with those Departments. In many directions, when I was in India, people urged concessions upon me. They said, "Oh, you must make concessions." When I asked what the concessions were, it was always with great reluctance and great difficulty that I got an answer. The greatest concession we can make to the people of India is to work these reforms honestly and in the spirit in which they were passed. The Preamble of the Act distinctly says that Parliament reserves to itself the decision as to the pace at which advance towards self-government shall be made. That is not a mere exercise of Imperialism, as is sometimes said. It is simply the exercise of our responsibility. With our two centuries of history in India we cannot lightly divest ourselves of that responsibility, and it would be a discredit to this country, because here and there we hear people talking about concessions being made and about the departures which ought to be made from the deliberately laid down policy of Parliament, if through any weakness or mere sentimentality we were to give way to demands of this kind."Unless a crore of the Madras contributions to the Central Government is remitted, Madras will be bankrupt."
Perhaps I may be allowed respectfully to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Sir T. Bennett) on the last part of his speech, while in regard to the first portion of it I am in cordial agreement. I must confess that before I conclude I want to say something about the speech of the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Spoor), who opened the attack upon the Noble Lord the Under-Secretary. Without entering at any length into the dangerous questions raised by the Member for Sevenoaks with regard to army policy I want to say that the position which this House must take up is that the ultimate responsibility of deciding the cost of the army in India must remain with the home Government and this House. I know it is not palatable to the Indian Legislative Councils and to the many eminent Indian legislative representatives there that we should keep that control; but the position clearly is this, that we are responsible, in the last resort, for the Government and the safety of India. If we allow them to dictate in any portion of India, and if any trouble arises either through European or frontier wars we should be held responsible before the civilised world so long as we remain in our present position. I want to put in that caveat, and so long as we remain responsible for the Government of India we must ask the people to realise that the ultimate decision with regard to the cost and size of the Army must remain with this House.The financial side of the question of the Indian Civil Service has been very well put by other hon. Members, and I do not think it is necessary for me to deal with it. The right of the Indian civil servant to carry on his work in a comfortable and reasonable way is the point which I wish to bring before the Committee. These men went out to India long before the question of reform was mooted, and they were recruited here to carry out the Government of India at our dictation and on terms laid down by this House. I am not criticising the reforms. They have been passed and we have got to accept them, but. I wish to say that it was the work of Indian civil servants that made those reforms possible by educating the Indian community to the possibilities of self-government, and that is how those reforms became possible. If Dominion Home Rule is ever to become a possibility in India, it can only come about if the Indian civil servants go on training the people of India along the lines of self-government. May I point out that, once the Indian civil servants have trained the people of India to a position of reliability for Dominion Home Rule, their occupation will be gone. Therefore, the better they do their work the sooner they will abolish themselves. I am asking this House whether during those years the Civil Service, both in the Indian Civil Service and other Services, should not have the fullest protection from us and the Indian Government in carrying on their work in the way they have done it, in the past. According to the Montagu-Chelmsford; Report, the English members of the Civil Service will continue to be as necessary as ever to India. They may diminish in number, but they must not fall off in quality, and the highest qualifications will be required if they are to help India along the difficult road of self-government. A very serious position has arisen, not because of the financial provisions which have been dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Camborne (Mr. Acland), because those are all matters which have to be considered, but, the real question is the position occupied by the Indian civil servant to-day. I want the House to realise that at the last examination for the Indian Civil Service there were 86 candidates. These figures were given officially by Sir William Vincent in the Indian Legislative Council in a debate in the early part or this year. Of those 86 candidates, 26 only were European. There were 10 appointments, and amongst the successful candidates three were Europeans (one of whom withdrew his name), and 13 Indians. I think that is a very serious position. The Under-Secretary of State for India animadverted upon the responsibility which would be incurred by anyone who would make difficult the recruitment of Englishmen for the Indian Civil Service; but it is no use on this question burying our heads in the sand. In his address to the Legislative Assembly, Sir William Vincent said:
India must decide whether she wants a continuance of the magnificent service and recruitment from England of the same type of men who have worked there for the last 150 years, and if they do they must be prepared to realise that the position of the civil servant in India must be very different from what it is to-day. Now let me quote another passage from Sir William Vincent's speech, delivered in the Indian Legislative Council with Indians sitting side by side with him, and speaking as a responsible member of the Government. He said:"Speaking for myself, I think we are incurring a very grave responsibility indeed if we bring out a large number of young Englishmen to this country whose future is uncertain, unless it is clear that their services will he required."
That is not the statement of a globetrotter, but the very seriously-considered statement of the Government of India itself. This is borne out by every letter one gets from India, and by every civil servant who comes home. It is borne out also by another very remarkable resolution passed in one of the Legislative Councils of India in the Central Provinces, where a resolution was carried in a Council of Indians and Englishmen, by 53 votes to one, to the effect that all recruitment in England should cease. The English members of the Council were unwilling that their countrymen should be subjected to the same strain as they were subjected to, and therefore they supported that resolution. That is a most striking testimony in regard to the real feelings of Englishmen in a great many parts of India as to the strain under which the English members of the Indian Civil Service and other Services are working at the present time. I submit that we are responsible for seeing that their conditions, and the terms under which they work, are such as to make possible for Englishmen to continue that great work. I want to make an appeal in regard to the medical question in India, because that is the key to a great many of the amenities and the position of Englishmen and Englishwomen in India. You cannot expect Englishmen to take their wives up country in India unless they have within call an English white doctor. I say to my Noble Friend that whatever the difficulties may be, if he wants to restore the Indian civil servant to a position of contentment, he must reconsider the question of the Indianisation of the Indian Medical Service. In the country districts of Bengal there are only five European medical men—six promoted subordinates and nineteen Indians. In the country districts of Madras, out of 24 districts, there are only seven where there is a European doctor, and in the other seventeen districts, where there is no European doctor, there are only native doctors. I do not say anything with regard to the qualifications of native doctors. I do not want even to raise the question of race hatred."There is this atmosphere of hostility in which our officers have to work. [A VOICE: 'No!'] Who has the audacity to say 'no' to that in this assembly. I challenge any Member to deny that every district officer in present conditions is performing most arduous and difficult duties under almost intolerable conditions by reason of this hostility.…It cannot be denied that officers nowadays are subjected to constant attacks based upon misrepresentation in the Press and on the platform, and they are often not unreasonably apprehensive that in the performance of dangerous and unpleasant duties they will not get that support from Legislative Councils and the public which they have a right to expect."
The colour bar.
The colour bar exists even in the Indian Legislature. They raise the question of the colour bar and it is no good hiding the fact. Therefore, I appeal to my Noble Friend to do something to check the growing Indianisation of the Indian Medical Service. I have asked questions on this subject in the lifetime of the previous Secretary of State for India, and I have done all I could to bring the difficulties of English civilians to his notice, and I ask whether something cannot possibly be done to make their position better. It all comes back to the question of safeguards for the living of the English civil servant in India. The pressure put upon them by local legislation, the deprivation of their subordinates and the attacks made upon them are making their position extremely difficult. It is now known that the extremists are going to contest seats at the next election in 1924. I do not want to make any unpleasant prophecy, but I think my Noble Friend will find that there will be far more extremists in 1924 than there are to-day, and if that is so the position of the Indian official will be far worse, because the avowed policy of the extremist is the complete elimination of the Englishman from the Government service in India. There is no question about that. Advocate self-government if you like, but do not on the one hand say that the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms are dead. Do not encourage Indians to say, "We must have Englishmen with good qualifications to run our services and to train us until we are fit for Dominion Home Rule," and at the same time let them make the position of these Englishmen impossible. I could quote letters from English officials telling us the position of Englishmen in the up-country districts. In regard to this Indianisation question, Englishmen have a very real grievance when they see Indians of junior rank to them in a subordinate service brought into the Service and placed over their heads. I know the case of one gentleman who has been in the Service for twenty years who, during the last few years has had no fewer than five Indians of junior rank pass over his head. That is very unfair Indianisation. Men who entered the Civil Service under entirely different conditions feel it keenly, and I want to know what the Government are going to do in order to afford protection to civil servants who have devoted their lives to the Service and are bound to rely on the British Government in order to secure their position and to obtain reasonable conditions under which they can carry out their duties.I now wish to say a word or two in regard to the general position raised by the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Spoor), who pleaded for the immediate consummation of the Dominion Home Rule scheme. I entirely agree with what has been said by the hon. Member for Seven-oaks (Sir T. Bennett) to the effect that we here are responsible for having passed the scheme in 1910. But we then laid it down that is was only a tentative scheme and that in 10 years' time it should he reconsidered by a Committee sent out from this country. Surely 10 years is not too long a period in which to decide whether Indians are really going to make a democratic community such as we have in our British self-governing Dominions I want to appeal to hon. Members of this House, like the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland, whose speeches we always listen to with respect, to consider their action in regard to India. The hon. Gentleman is a Member of this House. He is one of 700 Members. But when he tours India and makes speeches there, he is held up as a representative of the democracy. I happened to be in India soon after the hon. Member made his speech in reference to the early consummation of Home Rule and I venture to assert that the speech made the position of the Government of India and of the leading members of it, exceedingly difficult. Just consider the position. Immediately after this Act had been passed, and when my hon. Friend knew it was to be in operation tentatively for 10 years, he goes to India and on December, 1920, in a speech at the Surat National College on the 13th of that mouth, he said:
This speech was reported all over India, from one end of the country to the other, and I am sure that the hon. Member had very large audiences. Mr. Patel afterwards made a speech in which he said:"We are fighting for the liberty of human consciences. Do not judge Britain by the British Parliament. Do not judge Britain by the Anglo-Indians, and, lastly, do not judge. Britain by the Indian Government."
The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland listened to that speech without any protest and he was immediately garlanded with roses because he had made no protest. Following that, the hon. Gentleman attended the Indian National Congress as the official representative of the Labour party of Great Britain, and there he said:"We are out for war—a spiritual war with the Government.…We want the Government of India by the Indian people for the Indians."
But the hon. Member does not represent the democracy of Britain. That is represented in other quarters of the House quite as much as it is by the Labour party. It was the democracy of Britain which passed the Act under which India was given very great advantages. Yet the hon. Member goes out and poses as the representative of British democracy and makes a speech of that kind which, I repeat, renders the position of the Government of India very difficult indeed. Later, the hon. Member allowed himself to be interviewed, and there was a long report of the interview published in nearly all the native papers in India. In that interview he pledged himself very fully to the policy of self-determination. I would appeal to hon. Members who go out to India not to make speeches which render difficult the Government of India. I want, in conclusion, to refer to the action of another Member of this House to whom I also gave notice, and I want again to ask hon. Members who go to India to realise the mischief they do by making these speeches. The hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) in February of this year addressed a letter to an Indian who had been convicted of attempting to corrupt our troops and who is now in prison. It was a certain Dr. Kitchlew, a well-known Indian agitator, who had attempted to corrupt our troops, and yet an English Member of Parliament thought it not inconsistent with his duty and with his position to write this letter which was published in "Young India." I do not say that the hon. and gallant Gentleman was responsible for the publication, but undoubtedly it has been published and has been read all over India as coming from a Member of the British House of Commons and the Vice-Chairman of the Labour party. The letter is to this effect:"My primary duty is to convey to Indian Nationalists the good wishes of British Labour and to assure them that in their fight for freedom and for the completest form of self-government the democracy of Britain is whole-heartedly with them."
This was written in February this year. Is that the kind of letter which is calculated to make easier the life of the man who goes out from this country to keep the English flag flying? Is it calculated to bring prosperity to the country? Will it conduce to contentment and prosperity and improved trade with India? Is it not rather bound, when published in the Indian newspapers, to swell the tide of sedition in that country? I think we ought to let the country know the kind of thing that is being done by Members of the English House of Commons to make difficult the Government of India."I do hope that they are treating you decently in gaol. All that can be done to that end from this country has been done, for you are rarely out of our thoughts. If you see Amirchand, of Peshawar, tell him also that our sympathy (for what it is worth) and our hest wishes go to him in his trial. One feels helpless here, but I expect that you all are treading serenely the path you have laid out to follow and want nothing but just that for which you have lived. Of course, I am sorry that it has come to this, but it is no use crying over spilt milk, and we have just got to try to get things put right as soon as possible. Before you can get to the Round Table Conference you must go through the door of the gaol. The Irish settlement has, I think, made all things easier. The Irish Free State must stand up for their companions in a similar trouble. Their wishes will count for something now, and there are few more popular persons in England to-day than Michael Collins with his jokes and his Irish brogue. It has made all our Tories suddenly wake to the virtue and to the future grandeur of a. Commonwealth of Free People. They have caught the habit. Having tried it on Ireland and secured unanimous applause, they will be trying it on India next."
I think perhaps before I proceed with the business part of the Debate, I had better explain to the hon. Baronet who has just spoken (Sir W. Joynson-Hicks) that his attacks on the members of the Labour party who went to India leave us not only cold, but satisfied. The extracts he gave from the speeches of my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Spoor) might properly have been delivered by every single member of the Labour party. The Member for Bishop Auckland went to India as the delegate of the Labour party. He took with him the views of the British Labour party on Indian questions as embodied in their Resolution passed at the annual Conference of the Labour party. Those views are perfectly clearly expressed in the Resolution, and my hon. Friend never in any one of the quotations which has been read went a line beyond the Resolution passed by the party. I think he spoke, indeed, not only for the Labour party, but, as he said, for the bulk of the democracy of this country. Surely the hon. Baronet realises, or, if he does not, I hope he soon will, that if the future relations of England and India are to be amicable there had better, particularly now, be drawn a clear distinction between Governments and peoples. We want to have some foundation for future amity. The Member for Bishop Auckland and myself are friends of the Indian people in their difficulties, in order that when they come to their own they may look back and see that even in their dark days there were some in England who stood by them. I say to-day that the principal differentiation between England and other European countries is that all through the agitation over the Irish grievance there has been a large element in this country, among the democracy of this country particularly, who have stood by Ireland throughout their struggle, even although in so standing by Ireland they were apparently acting against the interests of their own mother country. In the long run we have seen that that attitude is the sheet anchor by means of which we may hope in the future to recover the friendship of the Irish people and to secure real stability for the future British Commonwealth. Do not therefore assume that everything the Member for Bishop Auckland and I do, even although it may not please Members of this House at the moment, is bad for the future of the Commonwealth to which we all look forward and in which we all believe.As to the particular letter of my own which the hon. Baronet read. I think still, as I thought when I wrote it, that it was an extremely suitable letter to write. It was a private letter from one friend to another friend. I only wish that other Members of the House of Commons had the same feeling of complete friendship for Indians, even though those Indians be in gaol, that I have, and that they, too, could write to Indians, as I wrote, not only to Dr. Kitchlew, but to two other Indians who were in gaol. I wrote to those three men who were in gaol, and it may surprise the hon. Baronet to hear that I sent all of those three letters under cover to the Viceroy, asking him to forward them if he thought they would do no harm.
Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman really mean to say that he not only wrote to people who were in prison, but sent the letters to the Viceroy, and put him in the position of saying whether or not he would deliver such letters from an English Member of Parliament? It was a most unfair position in which to put the Viceroy.
Not at all. I asked the Viceroy to forward them if he thought they would do no harm. If he had not forwarded them, the whole thing would have fallen to the ground. He forwarded them, because, being wiser than the hon. Baronet, he considered that it would do good to show clearly to these Indians who were in gaol that they still had friends in the British House of Commons. As to whether a letter which was obviously private should have been published by Dr. Kitchlew, that is another matter. After all, it was a letter from one public man to another public man, and, although it was intended to be private, I think he was entitled to publish it.
It was not, marked "Private"?
No. The two other gentlemen to whom I wrote did not publish the letters. I think that on the whole both the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland and myself deserve, not opprobrium, but congratulations, even from extremists in the House of Commons, for having tried to keep a bridge across the gulf, to prevent these two great races from drifting apart, to keep them locked together in some form of amity.I want now to pass to the real, proper matter of this Debate. As India progresses towards freedom—and, in spite of this House of Commons, India is progressing towards freedom; year by year more and more subjects are being in practice transferred to the control of the local legislatures; year by year the Assembly; itself is getting more control over the finances, and the veto embodied in the Government of India Act is less and less used and less and less likely to be used—as India progresses towards freedom, it is inevitable that Debates in this House should turn more and more upon the interests of Britishers in India, whether they be in the Civil Service or engaged in British trade and commerce in India. We are bound to look at, the question more and more from that point of view, and therefore nearly the whole of the Debate to-day has turned upon the future of the Anglo-Indian official in India. His position is very difficult. Let us realise that the better he is the sooner he will be scrapped. He is legislating, he is administering, for his own extinction, and that is an extremely difficult position. I look back with horror upon one period in my life when I was in exactly the same position, and, in spite of a radicalism which I hope will last throughout my life, I remember thinking that there was a great deal to be said in those days for keeping a firm control over the Transvaal. I can quite understand the attitude of every civilian in India now, because the machine is inevitably working towards the elimination of himself. Just as in Japan, when the Japanese were educating themselves, they had to get Europeans in to do the teaching, and just as in Japan, they inevitably employed them on a three years' engagement and then scrapped them, so in India, as India is following along the line of civilised development, they must look forward to teaching their own people to do the jobs that hitherto have been done by Europeans. All that makes the position of the Anglo-Indian official extremely difficult. I do not want it to be thought that we in the Labour party do not realise that, that we do not sympathise with him, and do not want those who are really working these reforms to work them satisfactorily. In the short time for which I was in India. I found far more radicalism of view among the civil servants than among the commercial classes in India. Over and over again I found that the civilian was looking forward to working these reforms because he was really interested in them, because he really saw that in the long run the principal glory of this country will rest upon the fact that we got out of India, and not that we got into India—that we got into India when it was in a state of complete anarchy, and that we got out of India leaving democracy. That will be an enormous tribute to this country. It will be regarded as, perhaps, the finest monument to British rule, to British altruism, that exists. That point of view is seen and understood by a great number of the civil servants and of the Governors in India to-day. Even Conservative Members of this House like Sir George Lloyd, who go out to India with all the atmosphere of democracy that we somehow create in the House of Commons, in spite of party labels, and who become Governors with the idea behind them that they have a duty to the traditions of England, go there anxious to do what we on these benches are anxious to do, namely, to launch India on the road to freedom. Even though they are working with the knowledge that they will have finished their work at the end of 10 years, or whatever it may be; even though, during those 10 years, they find ignorant, uneducated public opinion among the inhabitants of India constantly against them, and even though they find themselves criticised over and over again when they ought to be patted on the back, the consciousness of doing their duty is enough. With that consciousness they will carry on their work well, and come back to this country having done something for England which they would never have done in the old days, when they simply had to say "Do this," and it was done. Naturally, when we are discussing India to-day, we look at the question of the English in India. It is quite useless for us to discuss, as the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Sir T. Bennett) discussed, the question of Indian finance. Indian finance is a question for the Indian Legislatures, for the Indian Government, which is becoming more and more the real Government of India. I think it is perfectly ridiculous that in India the Income Tax is not levied upon agricultural rents, but it is not. That is a question for India, not for us. It is monstrous that half the expenditure of the country should go on the Army. The hon. Baronet the Member for Twickenham says that the Army is our responsibility, but they have to find the money. They have to vote the money year by year, and I think the people who vote the money will, in the long run, call the tune as to whether that money is to be spent and how it is to be spent. It is simply beating the air for us to discuss Indian finance. In the same way, with regard to the question whether cow killing is to go on in India or whether we should interfere to stop it, I always say, when I am asked about it, that it is not my business and I am not going to ask questions about it. I tell them to go to their own Member about it and let him raise it in the Council, and I tell them that, if they cannot carry it in their own Councils, they should not bother us. They are their own governors now, and, just as Mr. Speaker prevents us over and over again from dealing with questions concerning Ireland, so more and more we shall have to he barred from discussing questions concerning India. Another question that we should discuss if we governed India is that of trade union legislation. Trade unions in India are practically just as illegal as they were in this country a hundred years ago. Men can be put in prison for being connected with a trade union. They can be proceeded against, criminally, by the employers whom they inconvenience. Trade union legislation is essential to the safe conduct of industry in India to-day. But, again, what is the use of our talking about it? They do not want trade union legislation, and will not have it. As a matter of fact, in the last unfortunate election of 1920, they got into the Assembly all the landlords and all the millowners in India. There is no representation of the people of India whatever. A few members were nominated from the Friends of India Society, who do attempt to look after the Indian working man, but the Indian working man has no vote, and the new Governors of that country are the people who were elected in 1920. At the next election we may get a different brand; I do not know. I do not know how far the narrowness of the franchise will ensure a long period of employer rule, but I am certain that it is no use asking questions about it or talking about it in the House of Commons. It is not our business. 8.0 P.M. What is our business is to see where we are going. The Noble Lord made today his first comprehensive speech on India. For 16 years in this House I have listened in Indian Debates to speeches by Liberal Ministers on India. This is the first time anyone in the House of Commons has heard a Conservative speaking for the India. Office. On the whole, I am not certain that I mind the change, because, when the right hon. Gentleman the, Member for Cambridge County (Mr. Montagu) was speaking there, although the speech was quite different, he spoke without power. He spoke without the rank and file behind him; he spoke under constant pressure from those benches; he was not a free agent. To-day we have had a different speech. It will not be so pleasing in India; it is much more pleasing in this Committee; but it has the enormous merit of being in accord with the views of the Government. I wish that, before the Noble Lord makes his next speech, he would visit India. I think it ought to be possible for the Under-Secretary of State to get out and go round India, to talk with the Governors and see what they are thinking about now. That is really the best way of learning what the present position is. I am certain that the Noble Lord, and, I suppose, the Secretary of State, are dealing with India now without understanding the real difficulties of the problem as they are seen out there. They see the difficulties of the problem under the heckling of the hon. Baronet the Member for Twickenham. They see the die-hard point of view. I do not say they agree with it, but they see it. That has always been what they have been up against, and, therefore, they have to take account of it. I want the Noble Lord to go out and see Sir George Lloyd, Lord Lytton, Sir Harcourt Butler, and all the other Governors and find out what they are thinking of the present situation and what they want to do All that I hear proves more and more that the Governors, who are primarily the people who have to work the Government of India Act, are all wanting to get through the transition stage and on to the next stage; that the difficulties of the present position are getting enormous. You cannot go back; you cannot cancel the Government of India Act; but the difficulties of working the situation at the present time, when you have a constant ill-will over the whole population, are becoming very great indeed. You can easily carry on by coercion, particularly in India, where there is no chance of an armed rising. You can carry on Government by coercion for a long time, but there is no heart in it, and the best of these Governors will say, I think—I have not seen them or heard from them—"Let us try and save the amity of the situation by getting on to the final stage quickly. Let us try to get as far as possible over this intermediary stage and take the risk." After all, the greater part of the risk is India's risk. To us the risk of Dominion Home Rule is a loss of jobs by a number of civil servants whom it would pay us over and over again to compensate ourselves rather than have deadly hatred from India in years to come. This is a question of security for a great amount of British capital, and I believe British capitalists themselves—ask those directors of the Scotch mills at Calcutta—would say that their capital was going to be more secure under a self-governing India than it is under an India in which race hatred is going on boiling up, in which the only policy of every Indian is to get rid of the English. As long as you have the struggle for independence, there is a risk to capital. When once India ceases to see that her principal business is to get rid of the English, they will be able to work with the English. I believe a visit by the Noble Lord to India, seeing business men, particularly those who are now bringing Indians on to directorates in great numbers—take the, capital Bank of India. It has always kept Indians off the Board, but is now letting them on. See the way in which capital is developed in Bombay, where nearly all the capital is Indian capital. See the way in which Indian capital is becoming intertwined with English. He will find from those people that perhaps even they would be anxious to end the present situation, and bring about a lasting settlement, even though it came 10, 15 or 20 years earlier than we expected when we passed the Government of India Act. I do not like, and I do not believe anyone in the House likes, a situation where there are 20,000 agitators in prison.
What authority has the hon. and gallant Gentleman for saying that there are 20,000 agitators in prison?
I have seen it in the Indian Press. I was told by an Indian the other day that there were 23,000. We cannot get the information out of the Indian Office. You all say you do not know. The Noble Lord keeps on saying he does not know how to distinguish an agitator from a common criminal. Unless he can distinguish them we cannot get the figures or the facts. I wish he would try to secure them. About two months ago I asked for the number of politicals in prison in each province. I think nearly all the politicals are in prison in Bengal. In certain provinces they are being put in gaol and in others they are not. In any case we want the facts, and, I think, in spite of the fact that we are not responsible any longer for the government of India, we ought to know these facts because they are of enormous importance to the amicable relations of the English and the Indian people. We cannot look on contentedly at a state of affairs in which the only possible way of governing India is to put the political leaders in gaol. It may operate for a time. It may operate for years. I think it has done a great deal to kill the non-co-operation movement. It has made the non-co-operation movement less vocal and I dare say it has made it actually less powerful, but in the long run the gaol is no cure for anything, and sooner or later those people will come out embittered against England. I could wish that every Member of the House would realise that a man who goes to gaol for conscience or for his country is not a criminal. You can call him what you like but he is not a criminal in our sense of the term and whether it be Lajpat Rai or whoever it may be, they are men who are making a very great sacrifice for what they believe to be right, and although it is many hundred years since Englishmen had to go to gaol for the liberties of their country we ought to be able to appreciate that amount of self-sacrifice in another race which, modelled upon our history, is trying to do the same thing that our ancestors did 300 years ago.What can we do? My hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland has indicated what I think might be done. This is really what the Noble Lord should find out when he goes to India. We want as soon as possible an inquiry into the working of diarchy up to now. They have had two years. By the time that Commission gets to work they will have had 2½ years—four Sessions of the Legislature—to go upon. We want to know how it is working in the Legislative Assembly and the councils. We want that Commission to include in its terms of reference the power to make recommendations for modification of the rules and we want it to have power to recommend, if it thinks fit, new elections. I say if it thinks fit because I think any new election in India should be dependent upon the consent of the non-co-operators to drop non-co-operation as far as the councils are concerned. I have always thought and said it was insanity from the point of view of the non-co-operators themselves not to get themselves elected on to the Assembly. They have deprived themselves of the best platform and they have given to their enemies an unduly prominent position. Now they are beginning to realise this. I do not know whether the Noble Lord has seen the views expressed by Mrs. C. R. Dass. She is a lady very much like Rosalind Countess Carlyle in this country 10 years ago, a woman of enormous political influence, partly due to her husband's wealth and partly to her husband's position. He is in gaol of course. Mrs. Dass's views are now that it would be advisable, certainly in Bengal, where she controls the situation, to get on to the Bengal Council and the Legislative Assembly. It was always her husband's view, but under the pressure of Gandhi's personal opinion to the contrary he gave way. Bengal, of course, is the most English part of the country, and a place where they appreciate democracy perhaps better than in any other part of India. There I think you would certainly have a break away. It is obvious that if you had a General Election, and if the non-co-operators decided to take part in it, you would get upon the Council of the Dominion a large number of people who would be extremists. I do not think they would be an overwhelming number, because there has been such a lot of jerrymandering of the constituencies in India that the landlords would still rule the roost in a great many constituencies. But you would certainly get a considerable element of extremists, if you allowed them to stand, of course. They are all in prison, and ineligible at present. They would make themselves a nuisance on the Council. If they were opposed they would carry on opposition even more effectively than the Labour party does now. They might make scenes in Parliament. We are told at present that the conduct of affairs is so extremely humdrum that there is nothing for Sir Frederick Whyte to do. I think he would find plenty to do when the extremists got into the Assembly. You have got to go through that stage. If you are ever going to turn your poachers into gamekeepers you have to expect them to do a little kicking over the traces. You expect them to have a night out occasionally. I am certain that is the only way in which they will learn responsibility. After all, we in this party are learning responsibility through opposition, and in time to come we shall we able to carry on in India quite as well as the Noble Lord opposite. That seems to me to be our only way. Let us have an inquiry. Let us give the people who hold that inquiry into the working of diarchy the possibility of making recommendations for changes in the rules and regulations and also power, if they can come to terms with the Indian die-bards, to open a fresh election and elect a real Legislative Council, a real Assembly, such as we have not got, unfortunately, in India to-day. If you are going to end non-co-operation—and we must end non-co-operation if we are ever to work together with the Indian people—break it down slowly. See, first of all, that they go on the councils, and when they realise that that means governing India the rest of non-co-operation will fall to the ground and be futile and stupid, and we shall get not only Indian Home Rule—a new Dominion within the British Commonwealth—but we shall get the foundation of real good-feeling between these two great races of the earth.
The Noble Lord, who has made his first pronouncement, had a very great and difficult task before him. From the personal management of our concerns in India a sinister figure, who quitted office in the most unhappy and indecorous fashion, was removed a few months ago. Those who heard his last speech will know what I mean. In the place of that sinister figure other influences are now guiding our relations with India. It is therefore necessary that a declaration of policy should be made. I listened very carefully to the Noble Lord's speech, and that declaration of policy evaded me for a long time. We had a lot about crores and lakhs and other things, till, in the middle of the speech, I suddenly came on what, as far as I could make out, was the declaration of policy which the Noble Lord wished to pledge himself to. He said, as far as I understand, that the policy is not changed at the India Office. Will he correct me if I am wrong?
The hon. Gentleman heard my speech.
I wish to know, is the policy—
If the hon. Gentleman wishes me to correct him, will he kindly resume his seat so that I may do so? Those were the words I used. I am not going to withdraw them. If he has any point to make, I will reply at the end of the Debate.
The point I wanted to make was to ask the Noble Lord whether he is about to pursue the measures of the right hon. Member for Cambridge County (Mr. Montagu), and whether we are to have that system of seeing every adventurer and adventuress, however tarnished, who comes to England, whether Mrs. Besant with her besmirched reputation. [Interruption.] Have you ever read the "Leadbetter" documents? Read them.
It being a Quarter-past Eight of the Clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means under Standing Order No. 8, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.