Considered in Committee.
[Major MILNER in the Chair]
Clause 1—(The New Dominions)
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
There are one or two points on this Clause about which we should like to have a little further elucidation. It may be convenient if, with your permission Major Milner, I simply say that we have not put down any Amendments on this Bill, but we expect to he able to elucidate many of its contents during the short time provided for doing so in only one day's proceedings. Therefore, we shall adopt the procedure of rising on the Motion, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," for the purpose of asking the Government questions. May I add, in regard to the spirit of our approach to the Bill, that if we ask a great many questions I hope it will be understood that it is not in a factious spirit, but with a desire, many of us having been brought up on the constitutional law of India, to elucidate what precisely is the position under this Bill, and that nothing we say will mean that we wish to derogate in any way from our realisation that the Indians are seeking self-government and are to get it.As to the points which arise on this Clause—my hon. Friends may have other ones—I wish to confine myself chiefly to asking why 15th August has been chosen as the appointed day. There has necessarily been a great deal of detail to be worked out in the preparation of this Bill, and there will be a great deal of detailed work to undertake before that date. To our untutored eyes it would appear that the matter is being very much rushed and that to get everything ready by this appointed day, being, as we are, at the middle of July already, will be a Herculean task for the authorities in India. It will appear, as we further discuss the details of this Measure, that there is a great amount of business to be done of a controversial character, in particular in relation to the partition of India into two pieces, and it would seem almost impossible to complete this by 15th August. I do not want to give only my own reasons why that date was chosen. I would rather that the Government gave their own reasons, but it will be satisfactory to us to know that that date was requested by both sides. I would only make the further observation that we have generally supported this Bill on the understanding that this is to be a lasting settlement. If it is a lasting settlement, and is worked out by the Viceroy and those on the spot as a lasting settlement, I cannot quite see why there need have been this great sense of rush. I hope that in reply the Government will be able to reassure us in this opinion that this date has nothing to do with any particular instability in the settlement or the decision which they are pressing. One could animadvert at length on the words "two independent Dominions" and the word "India" in the Clause. I have received explanations of those words and I am ready to accept them. I would only say that I presume that the word "Dominions" has been included as being on the same lines as the Statute of Westminster, and that any proposal to amend the Statute of Westminster would carry with it a proposal to amend such a term as this. I am not suggesting that any immediate amendment of that Statute is likely. I do not wish to say anything further about the word "India." Perhaps we might be given a little explanation as to what "India" means here, and what it means under the new connotation. I understand that it has been arranged with the parties concerned as an agreed matter. Therefore, I shall confine myself to these observations.
I should like to associate myself with what my right hon. Friend said about the entirely helpful spirit of our intentions on this and other Clauses. I should like to say a few words about the words "independent Dominions" and I hope that the Prime Minister will be able to say that "Dominion," as used in this Clause, is a temporary appellation. I believe that the word "Dominions" is subject to several misconceptions, and I do not think it is suitable in this case. I should have liked to see the words:
I still wonder whether it is not too late to use words like that in the Clause. I believe that would have a good effect in India. My right hon. Friend has said everything I wish to say on the other question."Two sovereign States within the British Commonwealth of Nations hereinafter to he known for the purpose of this Act as the new Dominions"
In regard to the use of the word "India," I entirely understand the situation as my right hon. Friend put it. I have heard it argued by friends of the Congress Party in England that the use of the word "India" in this Bill is a proof that His Majesty's Government take the view that Pakistan has seceded from the whole of India. I have always taken the view, which I believe is right, that there has been no secession but that this is the result of an agreement which has been approved by His Majesty's Government, and that the Government do not favour one State or the other in the partition of India. I would like confirmation of that.
Like other hon. Members who have spoken on this side of the Committee, in anything I am about to say about the word "India" I shall not press the point because obviously the Government have obtained the agreement of the parties to this word, and one might do a great deal of harm if one pressed any criticisms one wishes to make. At the same time, I am surprised that the word "India" should have been used in this Bill. It is ordinarily a cause of confusion in the drafting of any Statute if a word is used in two entirely different senses. India has, in the past, included the whole of British India and Indian India. In this case one of the two Dominions into which the old British India is being broken up is to be referred to as "India." In point of fact, Pakistan and such Indian States as do not accede to the Dominion of Pakistan or the Dominion of Hindustan will remain part of the geographical expression "India," and I do not doubt that for certain international purposes, it will continue to be necessary for the whole of that geographical area to be treated as a single India. I am referring more to technical than to political matters. It seems to be most unfortunate and likely to cause confusion when one part of what has been India in the past is to be known as the Dominion of India in the future. There are political arguments which might he advanced, but I especially abstain from referring to them. I think that in the long run it is likely to cause confusion.
I would like to support in part what has been said by the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) in respect of the term "independent Dominions." I think that we need the word "Dominion" here, and that it was a stroke of genius on the part of Lord Mountbatten to apply the possibility of Dominion status to the two halves of India. I cannot help thinking, however, that the term "independent Dominions" involves a certain contradiction. Dominions as between themselves are interdependent, not independent. I would very much prefer the use of the words "autonomous Dominions." In the famous langage of 1926, the Dominions are not subject one to another in any internal or external affairs, but they are not entirely independent. They do not stand completely apart from one another. Indeed, they have the right to secede from the Commonwealth, in which case they would achieve complete independence. It seems to me the word "independent" ought to be used for that status. It would be more desirable to speak of "autonomous" in this case and to use the words "autonomous Dominions" rather than "independent Dominions."
I would like to thank the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) for the spirit in which he has approached this matter in the Committee stage. I would assure him that it is the Government's intention and desire to give every possible information and not to attempt any scoring points. Let me say a word, first of all, with regard to timing. We adopted this timing on the advice of the Viceroy. The right hon. Gentleman will realise how difficult the situation is in which we have an interim Government in which two separate communities are trying to work in a unitary Government. I think there is a great deal to be said for getting them launched and started with their work. The longer we keep it hanging about in an indeterminate way, the greater the difficulties which arise. That has been done not from any ulterior motive but on the advice we have had from India.With regard to the words "independent Dominions," I think we need the word "Dominion" here just for the reason the right hon. Gentleman gave, that we understand what Dominion status means under the Statute of Westminster. Whatever alteration of the Statute of Westminster there may be in the future, the Statute today does define this position. As the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Wilson Harris) said, it means a complete autonomy. With regard to the word "independent," that again one may quarrel over, but I think that one has to consider both history and psychology in these matters. It is a fact that is not generally realised throughout the world that, although it is quite properly said that there is interdependence, there is complete independence in the Dominions from any control, whether from Whitehall or from Parliament. That is the important point that needs to be stressed. It is not, perhaps, quite the same as if this was being formed from some country which had never been in the position of being under this Parliament and Whitehall. I think that is the point that Indians really want to have emphasised; they quite accept the position and they know the advantages of being in the Dominions. The point is that people who have been long, so to speak, under the tutelage of Whitehall and under the control of this Parliament feel, "Now, at last, we are independent of that control."
I appreciate what the right hon. Gentleman has said on the importance of the word "independent" in this context, but is allegiance to the Crown, which is inherent in the position of any Dominion, really consistent with the use of this term?
I think so, because the King is King of Great Britain, King of Canada and of any Dominion. It does not alter the fact that they are independent of any control by any other member of the Commonwealth. I think that is the point. In reference to the question whether we should call the Dominions "India" and "Pakistan," that is largely a choice of names decided by the Indians themselves. As the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) pointed out, it is a fact that we get a constant difficulty over one name going for a geographical expression and also for a State. We are awfully apt to talk of "Americans" when we do not mean the people of North and South America. We often talk of "Americans" and do not mean the people of the whole of North America. In the same way, I have no doubt that we shall continue to talk of "Indians" although one part is particularly called India. The right hon. Member for Saffron Walden will remember that we had a good deal of talk on this when the 1935 Act was discussed. We always had to distinguish between British India and Indian India. I do not think that this will cause great difficulty in practice.An hon. Gentleman opposite raised a point with regard to the status of these two Dominions. The names are not meant to make any difference between them. They are two successor States. They are separate and both of them will be Dominions in the full effect of the term.
I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he has any information about the attitude of the inhabitants of Pakistan towards the other half of India, the Hindu side of India, having as one might say "snaffled" the name "India." Are they satisfied, or is it possible that it will lead to trouble?
I should hesitate to speak for all the inhabitants of any area, but this was accepted by their leaders.
I have no desire to delay the proceedings, but I feel that what we are doing at this minute may be of immense consequence to the future development of the British Commonwealth. The other day we changed the name of the office of the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations. It seems to me rather paradoxical that we should invite perpetuity for the name "Dominion" when we are launching two large new parts of the Empire which, whatever happens, will be on a slightly different footing from the other Dominions. Another point occurs to me, and I must step warily in what I say. I do not know whether every party in India interprets the word "Dominion" in the way in which we interpret it. I think that it needs a good deal of explanation. Perhaps that is the justification for the use of the word "independent" before the word "Dominions." Thirdly, I cannot help feeling that a revision of the Statute of Westminster must be overdue as soon as there is any retreating from or turning against the use of the word "Dominion." I should like to know from the Prime Minister that this aspect will have the attention of His Majesty's Government in the future. I know that:
But there is a very great deal in the names of the British Commonwealth."A rose, by any other name would smell as sweet."
I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman. As a matter of fact, there is a great deal in nomenclature. "Dominion" is the term used in the Statute of Westminster. It may well be that in the future we may consider some other different term. The word "Dominion" is not always frightfully popular with our own Dominions. It may be that in the course of time we will have that matter under consideration. Obviously, it is a matter which we should have to take up with the Dominions at some future conference. I quite appreciate the hon. Gentleman's point.
In dealing with the relationship of the Dominions one to another, we are always referring to the Statute of Westminster. Am I right in saying that the relationships are also governed by a series of decisions reached at Imperial Conferences? If I am right in saying that, to what extent do these decisions apply to the new Dominions? Will they have to accede to them, or do they automatically apply?
It is difficult to answer that question straight off. We are dealing here with a particular status, not with agreements made by those enjoying that status. Whether the new Dominions accede to those agreements would be a matter for their consideration.
Question put, and agreed to.
Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 2—(Territories Of The New Dominions)
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
Following upon the procedure adopted on the first Clause, there are several points to raise on this Clause. It deals with the subject of the territories of the new Dominions, but I suggest that we should not go into detail on the division of Bengal and the Punjab, until we come to Clauses 3 and 4, which deal with their division and on which we shall have a good deal to say. I will not go into these points in detail now, although, of course, they are mentioned in Subsection (2, a) of this Clause, but I want to ask some questions about certain places and areas which do not appear specifically to be mentioned and the future position of which appears uncertain.The general division of India is clear—that is, the territories which are to be under Pakistan, subject to the Boundary Commission's findings, and the territories which are to be in India—but it is not clear what is to be the position of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and what is to be their future. These islands are situated well out in the ocean, and have had a varied history. They assume a certain importance in present circumstances, not least from the angle of defence, and I would like to ask, first, whether the wording in the Clause:
—will cover the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. If it does not, what is suggested should be the future disposal of these islands, and is there any question of their coming to the one or the other part of India? What is it proposed to do with them? I will not go into the question of defence, beyond mentioning that it is obvious that, with the passing of this Bill, nobody will be more interested in the defence of the Indian Ocean than Indians themselves, whether in India or Pakistan, and the question of Imperial defence will assume just as great an importance in future, as it rightly did in the past, not only during the two great wars, but in the preceding period and since. It is an open fact that the future of these islands and other islands, to which my hon. Friends may refer, may be very interesting from the point of view of Imperial defence, and I would like to know whether the Government have any statement to make on that aspect of the matter. I would also like to ask a constitutional question about the inhabitants of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Are they, in fact, represented in the Constituent Assembly. If they are included in the definition of British India in this Clause, they would be represented in the Constituent Assembly, but, if they are not included in that definition, they would not be included in the Constituent Assembly, and I should like to ask why, if the latter is the case, they have been left out of this Bill. I think there is an answer which the Government has to make here on the subject of whether the inhabitants of these islands are in any way represented in the Constituent Assembly, and, if not, what their future is to be. There is another very important matter to which I would make reference and that concerns Berar, which is at present administered under the Government of the Central Provinces. The Governor is called the Governor of the Central Provinces and Berar, but Berar is under the sovereignty of the Nizam of Hyderabad. I will not detain the Committee with a long history of Berar, because I do not think it would enlighten anybody present, as they are already familiar with it. This is that rich part of India whose soil is largely the very rich cotton producing soil, and its capital and other towns are no doubt well known to hon. Members. It has always been an important area of India. It has fallen readily, and I think easily, into the administration of the Central Provinces Government, and has brought to the councils of that Government much of the talent of the Provinces. It would appear that Berar is under the sovereighty of the Nizam of Hyderabad, and would not, therefore, fall within the definition included in this Bill, but would, presumably, remain under the Nizam and within the territory of Hyderabad. I do not know whether any conversations have been proceeding on this subject, but, if they have, it would be interesting if the Government would enlighten us on the subject. It would be interesting to know if there is any up-to-date information on these issues, which we hope may be settled satisfactorily, so that this area may have a happy future in India. The next question I want to ask is about the North-West Frontier Province. I noticed that, in the rush with which we are passing this Bill, the final information on the result of the referendum has not been made available to the Committee, but I should value very much the latest news of the North-West Frontier position, and would like to know whether there is any news of which I am not yet in possession. I should like to make the observation that, in considering areas like the North-West Frontier Province and other areas which form part of the future mosaic of one or other part of divided India, the most absolute care has been taken to consider the wishes of the inhabitants of the areas in question. That would appear to be the case in regard to the North-West Frontier Province, because anyone looking at the map would really form the view that it should be included in the Northern division of India. The point I want to make is that, it such areas, and other small areas, are to be given the opportunity of what may be described as self-determination, it is particularly important that the Indian States, which are also mentioned in this Clause, should, individually, be given the opportunity of seeking their own salvation in their own way and of finding themselves, ultimately, in the future of India, in the situation which they desire for themselves. There is a strong case put to us from India that several States desire themselves to seek a state of independence in relation to British India, and not to join either one or other of the divided parts of India. I would suggest that we might consider the States in detail on Clause 7, because I think that we could then divide up the subject more satisfactorily than by going into detail now and having to return to the question of the States when we come to Clause 7, I think it deals most aptly with the States, and we may best discuss the question on it both in fairness to them and ourselves. I would mention also that the tribal areas will come within the scope of Clause 7. There are some points on Subsection (3) of this Clause which I will leave for other hon. Members speaking from this side of the Committee, but it is, I think, necessary to get the right approach to this Clause on the question of the territories of the new Dominions. I think it is satisfactory that we have been able to get so easily in the Bill the general definitions, and that is all I will say on the general point, though, when we come to the detailed points of the Provinces, I would like to discuss these questions, together with those of the Punjab and Bengal, and that of the States."territories … which, immediately before the appointed day, were included in British India"
I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will be able to give some assurance in response to the reference to Berar made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler), and that he will be able to tell us that this territory is among those territories which will form part of the new Dominion of India. This point was raised in last Thursday's Debate by my hon. Friend the Member for Rusholme (Mr. Hutchinson), but my right hon. and learned Friend who replied to the Debate did not deal with that particular point. It is of some importance. There are, I think, some 4 million people concerned, the overwhelming majority of whom are Hindus, who, for a great many years, have been accustomed to a certain measure of democratic representative government. It would seem undesirable that they should be handed back to the Nizam of Hyderabad, even though he has technically retained an ultimate jurisdiction over them. Therefore, I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will be able to meet us on that point.
I want to say a word or two about the islands of India which, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A Butler) has said, are not mentioned in this Clause, and some of which are of very great importance. Are we to infer that, as they are not mentioned in the Clause, they are to go to the new Dominion of India? First, I will deal with those on the West coast. In the South, there are the Maldive Islands, which I do not think concern this Bill as they are administered by Ceylon. But the Laccadive Islands to the North are now administered by India, and will have to be administered by either one or both of the two new Dominions. I understand that, at the moment, about half of the Laccadives are administered by British India and half by an Indian State? I feel that these islands must have a certain strategic importance, both from the sea and from the air aspect. I would like to ask the Under-Secretary of State whether he has any information to give us as to their future, and whether he can give us an assurance that our position is being considered with regard to those islands.I would also like to say a few words about the Andamans and the Nicobars. My right hon. Friend has said that these islands too are not referred to in this Clause. Can the Under-Secretary of State say whether, in fact, they come within the provisions of the Bill at all? Can he also say what is the present constitution of the administration of those islands? I understand that, at present, they are administered by the Governor General through a Chief Commissioner. I should like to know whether, in the past, they have actually formed part of the Indian Empire, and also whether, in fact, it is now legal even to consider their division between the two Dominions? As my right hon. Friend has said, they are a long way from India; I can speak of that from personal experience, having done the distance in a small ship in bad weather. They are, of course, very much nearer to Malaya, and they have a great strategic importance. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will give us an assurance that the matter is being fully considered, and will also tell us what is the legal position at the moment.
I very much hope that the Under-Secretary of State will be able to give us a satisfactory answer to the question about the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, because a question of some importance arises in regard to them. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler), with whom I am in entire agreement, I am not trying to make it harder for the Under-Secretary of State. We want the Bill to go through, but I hope that some hon. Members opposite will support the point I am going to put. So far as I know, speaking from my long recollection, these islands have no elected representative in the that a large proportion of their inhabitants are of very primitive race indeed. As the Committee will be aware, one of these islands has been for many years the place where convicts are sent from India. Some of them have settled in those islands. I think I am right in saying, although I speak with some hesitation, because I am not quite sure, that both islands were added to India by the action of the British Navy. I do not think that, historically, they form part of India.Even in a Bill of this magnitude—and say this in all sincerity, and with no wish to score a party point—I hope that hon. Members opposite, as well as those on this side of the Committee, will have some regard for the wishes and the welfare of the peoples of those islands. If they are to be added to India, what safeguards have they, from either of the potential Indian Governments, that they will have an eventual chance of being included in the Constituent Assembly? In the course of many years, very little has been done for the welfare of these people, but that in no way absolves us from responsibility for what their future shall be. The other point which my right hon. Friend made—with, if I may say so, great discretion, as we all would wish to do when speaking of defence measures—was with regard to the strategic value of these islands. With regard to the question of Berar, the situation is not quite as simple as the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) seemed to think, it is not a question of what he or, indeed, this Committee considers to be the best, but a question of a treaty. Under the treaty with the Nizam, Berar was leased in perpetuity to the British. The sovereignty of the Nizam continues to be recognized. When we cease to have responsibility for the Government of India, neither this House nor the Government can calmly say to any State that, though the lease which we had of their territory has now ceased to exist, we propose to hand it over, without permission, to our successors. We could not do that; it would be considered as something slightly dishonest. I very much hope that conversations on the subject have taken place with the Nizam, and that we can have a definite assurance on these points to which, I hope, the whole Committee attach considerable importance.
Like the right hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), I feel that some consideration must be given to the Andaman Islands. I understand that those islands became a penal settlement when Penang ceased to be a penal settlement. At that time, Penang was under the East India Company, and later became a Crown Colony. What are the views of the inhabitants of the Andaman Islands? I should have thought that, in many ways, they would be best placed under the Malayan or Burma Governments. At all events, I think that the people who should decide this question are the inhabitants of those islands themselves. I have no doubt that the Government have been able to obtain some information on this point. If so, we shall be very glad to hear it.With regard to the question of Berar, I had the opportunity of discussing this subject in India a month or two ago with one of the chief officers of the Nizam, and I think it has many complications. I believe that it would be best for this Committee to let the matter be decided between the Nizam and the Government of India because, at this stage, I do not think that we can decide a matter which is primarily a legal one. We cannot suddenly hand over areas to either one or the other of the new Dominions. I have no doubt that the Nizam, on the one hand, and the Government of India on the other, are perfectly competent to settle this question for themselves. I see nothing in this Clause which decides the fate of Berar.
May I interrupt my hon. Friend? Would he not agree that, as in the case of the islands, this is a matter on which the wishes of the inhabitants could well be consulted?
There is a slight difference. So far as the islands are concerned, the British Government have full authority and, therefore, we can decide their future. With regard to Berar, that is a matter with which another party is concerned, and that is the original sovereign. We want to ensure the happiness of India and we want the Nizam to be perfectly satisfied that the future of his State shall be assured and that nothing is done to which he can legally object. We are not likely to have that satisfactory state of affairs if, without his consent, we take away from him a part of his dominion.
I agree with some of the things which have been said by the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. Rees-Williams), but surely the point concerning Berar is settled by the Bill. The Bill definitely states that
I understand that Berar has never been under the sovereignty of His Majesty. The Nizam has always maintained and retained his sovereignty over Berar; I believe that is expressly provided in the 1935 Act, and certainly, if not there, in the treaty made under the 1935 Act. I agree with some of the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member for South Croydon and others, but surely, so far as this point is concerned, it is already settled in the Bill, unless, of course, His Majesty's Government intend to amend the relevant Clause."the territories of India shall he the territories under the sovereignty of His Majesty."
What I said was that this Pill does not interfere with the legal position and, therefore, there is no point in raising the question of Berar on this Clause. The hon. Gentleman appears to agree with me.
One of the hon. Member's hon. Friends was not making that point. I now come to a new point in connection with Subsection (3). Perhaps the Under-Secretary of State would say whether it will be more convenient to him if I leave this point until after he has replied to the main points which have already been made, or whether I should introduce it now. Should I continue?
Subsection (3) seems to me to raise matters of general principle concerning the right of accession to the Commonwealth and the right of secession from the Commonwealth. Both are very important points, and I do not feel that I am worthy to go into them, but I would like to make the following comments: first, in connection with the right of accession. It appears that it is open to areas which are not now in the Commonwealth to come into the Commonwealth solely on the vote of the Dominion whom they are joining. That may be a general principle which the Commonwealth has always adopted Certainly if one looks at other parts of the Commonwealth, one can see the advantage of that principle. All I am asking is whether or not this is established as a precedent of Commonwealth law, or whether it is peculiar to this case. I feel that when pushing through Bills as quickly as this, it is dangerous if we make precedents for the future, but if it is quite clear that it is special to this case I am content, because I realise that from the point of view of the Commonwealth and of India, it is most desirable that there should be as much accession as possible. Before leaving that point, I would like the right hon. Gentleman to confirm that it is open not only to the States but also to tribal areas, if they so wish and if the Dominion so wishes, to accede to the Dominion.So much for accession. I now wish to deal with secession. As I understand it. paragraph (b) of Subsection (3) states the present position as to the right of secession from any part of the British Commonwealth. But it is directly contrary to the provisions of paragraph 15 of the Cabinet Mission's original plan, which allowed for Provinces seceding not by the vote of the whole of the Union but only on the vote of the whole of that Province. As a result of the provisions of paragraph (b), it is going to be very difficult in the future to get the unity of Bengal or of the Punjab. When I say it is going to very difficult, perhaps I should say that it might be made more difficult than it would otherwise be, because there is this limit on the power of any Province in either of the two Dominions to join another Province or another Dominion against the wish of its own Dominion. That seems to me of some importance and, no doubt, it has been taken into account by the right hon. and learned Gentleman who may have a good answer to the point, but I thought it right to mention it.
I would like to refer to the question of Berar. In view of the negotiations at present going on between the representatives of Hyderabad and British India, it seems that, to a large extent, we in this Committee are talking academically about the future of Berar. On the other hand, I think we have definite function in those negotations. Obviously, the leaders of the new India will not support the movement of Berar from the present jurisdiction of British India, to the jurisdiction of Hyderabad, and I think they would be right in that contention. In a dispute of that kind it is our function to urge upon both parties that it is right that it should remain in British India, with which it has had long associations for many years, as was said by the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton)—
No, the hon. Member should not quote me as having suggested that it should remain in British India. I said it was so determined by a treaty, which is quite a different thing.
I beg the noble Lord's pardon. I mean that he said it had had long associations with British India. If, however, the dispute is found to be too difficult, it should be our duty to recommend to both parties that a referendum should be held there to decide which way the inhabitants want to go. If it is possible to have a referendum in Sylhet and in the North-West Frontier Province, then it is possible to hold one in Berar.
I was interested in what the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) has just said. There is this difficulty in connection with Berar. We are not here to decide what is desirable or what we should recommend, because we are bound by definite treaties. There is another fact. It is all very well to refer to possible negotiations between the Nizam and the Government of India, but do not let us forget that all scales are weighted in favour of the new Dominion of India. If the Government of India put their foot down and say that they will not give up their jurisdiction over Berar, there will be absolutely nothing for the Nizam to do. He cannot enforce his legally just claims by force of arms, because he has a very small army compared with the new Indian Army. There will even be a garrison of Indian Army troops in the middle of his dominions. That should be remembered. It may be highly desirable that we should recommend a referendum, but the scales are definitely weighted in favour of the Government of India, and I ask the Com- mittee to bear that in mind. This is a legal matter, a matter of treaties.4.30 p.m. As far as the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are concerned, that seems to me to link up with Subsection (3). I cannot very well see how we can encourage referenda in some parts of India and not in other parts. I thought that the original Cabinet Mission plan was that there should be no accession to a new Dominion without the direct assent or request of the various Provinces. If Baluchistan does not wish to join Pakistan, nothing in the world can save it from being forced to join Pakistan if the Bill passes in its present form; and that is a serious matter. I believe that this Clause is one of the most important in the Bill, and I do not think the Committee ought to leave it without very careful consideration of the several very significant points involved.
I do not want to anticipate what the Under-Secretary of State has to say about Berar, except to say that anybody who can reconcile the technicalities with the actualities, is a far greater man than anyone I have come across in my life. I happen to know the inner history of the negotiations that lead to the perpetual lease, and it will not be found in the official records. I want only to add this. I understood my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) to say that the natural association of the Berars is with the Central Provinces. Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman reconsider that, because all the natural affinities, commercial, social, and cultural are with the Maharashtra, and through the Maharashtra with the Bombay Presidency. I thought a great opportunity was lost when, with the conclusion of the perpetual lease the Berars, ceasing to be a separate administration, were not linked with Bombay. I have never wavered in that decision. Regarding the Andaman and Nicobars, I leave that to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble), and would only say that I do not envy the man who is going to go to Nicobars to try to find out what the wishes of the people there are. I doubt whether he will find half a dozen in both islands put together who know where Malaya of Burma are.
A number of points have been raised, and it may be for the convenience of the Committee if I deal, first, with the position of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) referred, in passing to the historical background. I should like to remind the Committee that, whatever may have been the origin of the connection of those islands with India, it is a connection that goes back for a good many years. I think it was in 1872 that the first Chief Commissioner was appointed by the then Government of India. Since that time those islands have been recognised as part of the territories of India, and, as I say, have been administered by a Commissioner.
I do not want to interrupt—I know I have a bad habit of interrupting—nor do I wish to delay the Committee; but the right hon. and learned Gentleman is underlining my point. But for the presence of the—British in India, whatever we may like to say about it, those islands would never have been part of India. It was the British who made them part of India. That was my whole point.
That is true. A good many things would not have happened if the British had not taken power in India. Indeed we should not be engaged, as we are tonight, in dealing with this Bill if we had not gone there. But that is the historical background. The position is that for the last 70 years those islands have been recognised by all Governments as forming part of India
Of British India.
Of British India. The population, it may interest the Committee to know, is composed as follows. The total population of the Andaman Islands is 14,500, of whom about 12,000 are Indians, and about 2,440 Burmans; and the great majority of this section of the population are those who have been sent to penal servitude or their descendants.
What about the aboriginals?
In the Andamans, I am afraid, there are no aboriginals. In the Nicobar Islands the position is just the opposite.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman really saying that there are no Andaman aboriginals? I can assure him he is wrong. They are one of the most interesting anthropological groups in the world. That is a very bad performance on his part.
Well, there may be: but very few.
Certainly less than 100.
I can assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman he is making a very great mistake. They are most interesting anthropologically and in many other ways. They may not have been included in the census. I should not like to make a guess about how many there are, but there are many thousands.
Did the right hon. and learned Gentleman not say in answer to me once that there are 65 aboriginals in the Andaman Islands?
Any information I have given to the Committee is information received from the Government of India, and is certainly based on the census—the last census. It may well be that there are a number of aboriginals in the islands, but certainly the Government of India have no knowlege of their numbers. But in the Nicobar Islands it is entirely the other way. Out of a total population of 14,900, over 14,000 are Nicobarees. They are the aboriginal section of the populations. There are just a few Indians and I think, in fact, four Europeans. So that there the ratio is very different from that in the Andamans.The position of the Government with regard to the disposal of these islands under this Bill is quite clear. Attention has already been drawn to the fact that what are passing to the new India are all those territories which, immediately before the appointed day, with the exception of those that are to be transferred to Pakistan, were under the sovereignty of His Majesty; and they include not only the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, but also the Laccadive Islands, to which reference was made by the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble). The position with regard to the Laccadive Islands is that they are not under the sovereignty of any State, but form part of the Province of Madras. They also come under this formula, and will remain with the new India. A question was asked as to the future policy of His Majesty's Government, looking at these islands from the point of view of defence. I should like to say that we are well aware of the strategic importance of these Islands. This is one of the matters which we propose to discuss with the future Government of India, in the general context of the defence matters which will come up for discussion in due course. I was asked whether the inhabitants were represented in the Constituent Assembly. Well, they are not so represented. The right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) asked me if I had any information about the progress of the referendum in the North-West Frontier Province. Voting is already in progress between 6th July and 17th July, and the result is to be known on 20th July. I should like to make the position of the Government clear with regard to Berar. Section 47 of the Government of India Act, 1935, does, in terms, recognise the sovereignty of the Nizam of Hyderabad, and says:
Following the passage of the 1935 Act, the necessary agreement was entered into with the Nizam in 1936. The effect of Clause 7 (1, b) of this Bill is to terminate the 1936 Agreement. There can be no doubt that it does remove the legal basis for Berar's administration, as if it were part of British India. In other words, Berar will undoubtedly, de jure, revert to Hyderabad. That is the legal position. But we have to face the realities of the position. This Province of three or four million inhabitants, is administered entirely by officials of the Government of India, and of the Provincial Government of the Central Provinces and Berar, and it would be quite impossible for any change to take place, in a matter of days, involving the taking away of the administrative machine and its replacement by the officials of the Nizam. Therefore, it will obviously be necessary for the Government of India to enter into discussions with the Nizam, either to continue the existing arrangements or to replace the present set-up in the light of the legal position. As I informed the House during Second Reading a conference commenced last Friday between the new States Department of the Government of India en the one hand and the representatives of Hyderabad, Mysore and Travancore on the other, and we can only await the outcom of those discussions. The hon. and gallant Member for North Blackpool (Brigadier Low) asked one or two questions with regard to Clause 2 (3). He desired to know why Subsections (3, a) and (3, b) were necessary. I would remind him that Clause 2 (1), as well as Clause 2 (2), uses the words "shall be." It provides:"Whereas certain territory (in this Act referred to as Berar) is under the sovereignty of His Exalted Highness the Nizam of Hyderabad, but is at the date of the passing of this Act, by virtue of certain agreements subsisting between His Majesty and His Exalted Highness, administered together with the Central Provinces."
then the territories are specified. The object of inserting Subsection (3) was to put beyond any argument that those boundaries can be altered, but they can be altered only with the agreement of the Government of India, or the Government of Pakistan. The hon. and gallant Member then said that a new position regarding the possibility of secession from the Commonwealth resulted from this provision, and he wanted to know whether it would be possible for Provinces now forming part of India or of Pakistan to secede if they so desired. There is certainly nothing in the Bill which, in terms, lays it down that it shall be within the power of a Province in the new Dominions to secede. The question how they work out their own salvation in the future, even on a matter like that, will be entirely one for them, and will depend upon the constitutions which their respective Constituent Assemblies draw up."Subject to the provisions of Subsections (3) and (4) … the territories … shall be …"
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman say, in regard to the defence aspect of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, that it is one of the matters to be discussed by the United Defence Council of India in the immediate future?
It would be a matter to be discussed between the various Governments of the British Commonwealth who are interested in those islands.
We are very much indebted to the Under-Secretary for his explanation. There are one or two points which I should like to try to underline. I agree with him on the last point with which he dealt. The right of secession of Provinces was, after all, based upon a wholly different plan from that on which we are now proceeding. It was based upon the plan of the Cabinet, which contemplated a united India and not a partitioned India; and the right of secession of Provinces, was, as it were, put in as a safeguard which would enable—as it was then hoped—the Cabinet plan to become effective. But since the Cabinet plan has been wholly abandoned and we are now on the basis of the partition of India, we have a very different set of circumstances from that first contemplated for the secession of Provinces. I think that the Government are right not to introduce it again in the partitioning of India.At I understood the right hon. and learned Gentleman, he said that these islands which we have been discussing, to the extent that they have achieved importance will be subject to direct negotiations between His Majesty's Government in Great Britain and the Government of the Dominions of India in connection with any other defence matters which may come up in the normal way to be discussed between His Majesty's Government in this country and any other Dominion. I hope he will not turn his mind altogether against the possibility of some arrangement which, as I understand it, is to be discussed. Some final decision would necessarily be taken whether these islands would pass wholly under the power of the Dominion of India, or might pass, to some extent, to the Dominion of Pakistan. I think the Under-Secretary has cleared our minds very much on the question of Berar. I understand he now tells us there is no doubt at all, from a legal point of view, that the lease comes to an end on the appointed day, and therefore the territory in question reverts to the Nizam, and the successor Government has no right of any sort or kind to extend the lease. The final arrangement will have to be made at the conference which is now going on. From the legal point of view, and from the point of view of right, justice and honesty, the Nizam is in the position of being, I trust, a free negotiator of any fresh arrangement which he may choose to make, or which may be made by good will, either for some continuation of this system or for its reverting in due course, and in an orderly manner, to his own territory. This is of some importance, because under the right of paramountcy, which will also lapse under this Bill, we are maintaining large bodies of troops in the territories of Hyderabad and Secunderabad, and there is a certain feeling that it would be proper for these troops, which exist there only under the rights of paramountcy now lapsing, to be removed before the appointed day; otherwise, the discussions may be somewhat prejudiced. I hope that that matter may also be cleared up as soon as possible, as I understand it is causing a certain amount of anxiety.
I rise only to say that I have heard, on authority, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Under-Secretary is wrong in saying that there are no aboriginals in the Andaman Islands. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has either been sent a wrong cable, or his Department do not know the situation. There are thousands of these people, and I hope that their future will be considered, and that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will ask for sympathetic treatment towards them.
Question put, and agreed to.
Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 3—(Bengal And Assam)
I beg to move, in page 3, line 5, to leave out "awards of boundary commissions," and to insert:
I think it would be for the convenience of the Committee if we discussed together the two Amendments to this Clause and the two Amendments to Clause 4. Two of the Amendments are formal, and the only difference between the other two is that one applies to the boundary commission in Bengal, and the other to the boundary commission in the Punjab. These Amendments have been put down at the request of the Partition Council, which, as the Committee knows, is a body set up to settle matters arising out of the transfer of power. The object of the Amendments is to ensure that the reports of the chairman of the commissions, who, as the Committee knows, is Sir Cyril Radcliffe, shall have the force of an award."the award of a boundary commission."
We consider that these Amendments are improvements on the Bill. I understand that they have the approval of the chairman of the boundary commissions. The Amendments tie up the Bill, and the matter is not left so vague as it was before. We are now certain that when the boundary commission in either Province makes an award, it will become final, and no further legislation of this sort will be necessary. The Amendments, therefore, are clear and satisfactory. I think it might be convenient to make the observations I wish to make in regard to Bengal at this stage, rather than on the Motion, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
It would be more advantageous if we first dealt with the Amendment now before the Committee.
I have no more to say on the Amendment, which I consider to be a technical matter. Would I be in Order in referring to the terms of reference?
It would be better to deal with that on the Motion that the Clause stand part.
Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendment made: In page 3 line 19 at end, add:
"(4) In this section, the expression 'award' means, in relation to a boundary commission, the decisions of the chairman of that commission contained in his report to the Governor-General at the conclusion of the commission's proceedings."—[Mr. A. Henderson.]
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
This is a very, important Clause. It refers, for the first time in our detailed discussions, to the partition of Bengal. Some of us in the past have spoken in favour of Indian self-government, and have said that even if Indian self-government meant giving self-government to a divided India, we should still be in favour of it. I have said, in previous speeches, that it might be necessary to give self-government to "parts of India," which is an expression used in one of the Government's own statements. None of us has as yet spoken in favour of or against the division of major Provinces such as Bengal or the Punjab. At first sight, it is repugnant for a great Province like Bengal to be divided up. Bengal has a great history, and a history which involves the, question of partition. Anyone who has discussed or considered the history of Bengal will know of Lord Curzon's proposals to this end, which created the utmost commotion; they have now taken their place in the written history of India as being a troubled matter.We now come to the very great problem which faces the Government and their representatives in India, namely, if there is to be a divided India, how the boundaries are to be arranged so that in the Muslim areas there is a Muslim majority. It can be seen that without some such scheme as this, there is in fact no suitable line which can be drawn to divide the Muslim majority area from a non-Muslim majority area. We therefore come up sharply against the fact that two major provinces of India, with their proud history, have, to the regret of many—it will break the hearts of many, including those who have devoted their lives to the administration of these Provinces—to be divided. If that has to be the case, in order to achieve settlement, all the Opposition can do is to put forward certain considerations, and trust that the boundary commissions, to whom this very difficult task is confided, will be able to do their work with the utmost success and dispatch. Under the terms of reference for the boundary commission with regard to Bengal, the commission are instructed to demarcate the boundary of the two parts of Bengal on the basis of ascertaining contiguous areas of Muslims and non-Muslims, and in doing so to take into account other factors. I can only wish the new chairman of the boundary commission, whom we all respect, the utmost success in his very difficult task. It is a task of a most complicated character, and it is bound to involve him and the other members in the utmost difficulty of mind. It will draw from them all qualities of judgment with which we trust they are fully endowed. 5.0 p.m. I wish to refer, not to the comparatively clear mathematical question of ascertaining contiguous majority areas of Muslims and non-Muslims, but to the next phase, namely, that the commission, in doing so, will take into account "all other factors." These factors are very considerable. When we examine this question of the division of Bengal as we have known it—that is, the great Province of Bengal—we see that it will lose, under the broad demarcation of this Bill, some one-third of its inhabitants, including Calcutta. Even with the Sylhel district, Eastern Bengal will have only 44 million inhabitants—that is, on the 1941 census—and what is more striking is the fact that besides this loss of inhabitants in this, the largest, part of Pakistan, which will be the largest single unit of Pakistan, the majority of the basic industries will be on the Western side of the frontier, in the new India, and the main sources of wealth left to this vast population will be the raw jute itself. The majority of the processing mills for the jute will be across the border, in the outskirts of Calcutta. That means that the basic wealth, including what coal and steel there is, will be across the border. Therefore, I would like to ask the Government how, broadly, they mean to interpret the terms of reference to the boundary commission, and whether there is any opportunity of so allocating the boundary that some of the basic sources of wealth may be found in this the largest single unit of Pakistan? I would like to make it clear that I am not taking sides in this matter, that I am not trying to advocate that one side of India should be stronger than the other; I am trying to make sure that the economy of the area to be set up shall be viable, that it will be able to pay its way. If I want any justification for my remarks, I would refer the Committee to the extensive White Paper published at the time of the Cabinet Mission, in which a divided India was dismissed as impossible owing to the great difficulties it would have to face. But now that we are to face, inevitably, that divided India, let us see that the parts of it have as good a future as we can make for them. Now I come to the question of a port. This vast area of Eastern Bengal, which is known best to my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson), is to depend, so far as we can see, on the port of Chittagong. This is an adequate port in the proper sense of that word, and is situated somewhat far to the East. But whether Chittagong is adequate or not, it is clear that the major portion of the trade and communications will filter down to Calcutta, as they have done throughout history and as they are likely to do in the future. I want, therefore, to ask the Government whether any proposal has been put forward, in the course of the suggested partition of Bengal for an international—if I may so describe it—or impartial port arrangement to be made for Calcutta? Has there been any discussion that Calcutta shall offer facilities, under all circumstances, to the trade of Eastern Bengal, and can we be assured that the raw jute, which is so much a part of the wealth of Eastern Bengal, will find its way to the processing mills of the West? I know that I have put on the shoulders of the Under-Secretary a question which it is impossible for him to answer now, but I would ask whether there has been any consideration given to this matter, whether the freeing of the port of Calcutta for the merchandise of the East has been arranged or discussed? If so, I am sure the Committee will he glad to hear it, for it is with great anxiety and a sense of sorrow that we come, on this occasion, to the question of the division of a major Province which has given so much to India in the past and which I hope will, in its new form, give a great deal to the future of both India and Pakistan.
I hope I shall be in Order in offering a little footnote to history in connection with the partition of Bengal. Everybody who has served in India must share in the regret which my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Butler) has expressed at the splitting up of a great historical Province which, even though it has been amorphous in its boundaries, nevertheless has acquired a historical tradition. This is not, of course, the first time partition has been established in Bengal. When Lord Curzon was Viceroy of India he found that the Province of Bengal was so bloated that he came to the conclusion that it was impossible for any single Administration to conduct its affairs with efficiency. If my memory serves me right, I think the population of Bengal was then about 70 millions. What is now Eastern Bengal was grossly and scandalously neglected. The new province of Eastern Bengal and Assam was created to give that huge area a corporate and provincial existence, detached from the main, provincial Government in Calcutta. That induced an unreasoning agitation which swept the whole of Bengal from end to end year after year until, in 1911, it was agreed that what was called the great Bengali nation should be reunited and the new province of Bihar and Orissa was created. There is an interesting story attached to this. In the Bar Library of Calcutta after the Revocation of Partition an eminent advocate said, "You have been crying for the moon, for a united Bengal. Now you have got the moon, but you have lost the great and glorious sun, in the transfer of the capital from Calcutta to Delhi." Now we see a division which was so violently opposed when imposed from without, accepted as essential because it comes from within.There is only one further point I want to make. My right hon. Friend expressed doubts as to whether Chittagong can really serve the interests of Eastern Bengal. My engineering friends tell me that the port is capable of great development, but that development has been held back by the centralising influence of Calcutta. There is this flow of raw jute from the producing areas of East Bengal to the mills of Calcutta. This is a serious matter for those connected with the jute interests, and if any assurance can be given on that subject it will be welcomed by those who founded and developed this great source of prosperity to Calcutta and India.
I had not intended to intervene at this stage, but in view of what has been said about the situation in my old Province of Bengal I feel I must say just a few words. I do not think it is profitable to go back, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed) has gone back, for present purposes, over old history, interesting though it is. It is not a question today of merely reversing any process through which Bengal has gone in the past. The boundaries will be essentially different from any provincial boundaries hitherto recognised. For example, when the old Province of Eastern Bengal was established with its capital at Dacca, Assam was an integral part of that Province. Assam is now being taken away, though Sylket and possibly certain small portions of the adjacent area may or may not be included. The portion of Pakistan which will comprise the new Eastern Bengal will be smaller in area and, I think, probably larger relatively in population than the old Province of Eastern Bengal. There has been a very considerable increase of population in the portion of Bengal which will he included in Pakistan and that, in itself, taken in conjunction with the lack of heavy industries, constitutes a very serious economic problem. A large part of the population of these areas is definitely on the margin of subsistence.Something has been said about the possibility of developing Chittagong. Do not let us blind ourselves to the actual facts of the situation. In the territory of Bengal, as we know it today, there are two great river systems dependent upon the Ganges and the Brahtnaputra. Both these rivers flow into the Bay of Bengal, and there is a confluence at the mouths of these rivers. Neither river gives ready access to Chittagong. Chittagong is served by a comparatively small river of which few have ever heard. Its name is Karnafuli, or, in the local dialect, Kynso-Kyoung. It is a very small river navigatable only for a very short distance, and if one goes up it in a launch in dry weather one is likely to stick only a few miles above the port of Chittagong. The river system of Bengal is connected with a network of minor waterways all giving access to the port of Calcutta. Chittagong is served by a railway from Chandpur, which is a narrow gauge railway not capable of carrying very much traffic. I do not say that the new Pakistan or the Eastern portion of Pakistan with a portion of Assam is not capable of development, but any economic development on a considerable scale must certainly take a very long time. There is as far as I am aware no mineral wealth; there certainly cannot be a lot because there are hundreds of feet of alluvium over the whole area. Not only has if no industries to speak of, but most of the forest wealth of Bengal will be on the other side of the boundary. All I can say is that—and I join with my hon. Friend when he said he was not taking sides, for I also am not taking sides—I hope in the financial and economic adjustments that are made very special consideration will be given to the backward condition of the portion of Bengal which will go into Pakistan and the need for development. There is no doubt whatever that in the past from the common revenues of India development has taken place outside what will be the eastern portion of Pakistan on a greater scale than within that area. These are matters which certainly deserve the most careful consideration. Do not either let us accept too readily anything that may he said about the rosy prospects of the development of the harbour of Chittagong or anything else, whatever it may he.
I am sure that the Committee will have listened to the speech of the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) with the greatest interest. He has drawn attention to one of the immensely difficult problems which is likely to arise out of the partitioning of the existing Provinces of India. I ask the Government to deal on more general lines with one of the difficulties to which my right hon. Friend has drawn special attention. There is a very great temptation to politicians when they come up against some political difficulty to think that if they refer it to an arbitral tribunal, with a highly respected lawyer as chairman, that, in some way, that will enable the political difficulties to be got round. As a matter of fact the whole question will depend perhaps in the first place, in some degree, on the membership of the tribunal. I would ask for some information about that, because we have obviously to contemplate in a matter of this kind which will be regarded as almost life and death to some of these Provinces, whether the terms of reference will provide that if there is a difference of opinion between the representatives of the Hindus and of the Muslims the decision of the chairman is to be final and conclusive. I cannot find anything in the Bill dealing with that matter or anything on the subject in the statement of 3rd June.I pass over that to what I feel is a much more fundamental difficulty. If the Parliamentary Secretary will turn to the statement of 3rd June, 1947, Paragraph 9, he will find that this is said about the Boundaries Commission:
There is a long and vast history of disputes of this kind ever since 1919. If we draw a line clearly on grounds of race, we find that in almost every case we divide the agricultural hinterland from the towns that they feed, and we may very well have a division between for example, coal and iron. In this case, the most outstanding difference which it will make is between the jute which is grown in the Eastern area and manufactured in the Western area. When the White Paper of 3rd June was made, it was, I think, contemplated that the same individual was to be Governor-General of both of the Dominions. Under this Bill, it says that the"A Boundary Commission will be set up by the Governor-General, the membership and terms of which will be settled in consultation with those concerned. It will be instructed to demarcate the boundaries of the two parts of the Punjab on a basis of ascertaining the contiguous majority areas of Muslims and non-Muslims. It will also be instructed to take into account other factors."
I take it that the terms of reference of these boundary commissions will have to be created between—"boundary commissions appointed or to be appointed by the Governor-General in that behalf."
The boundary commissions personnel have been appointed and the terms of reference have been accepted.
Have the terms of reference been published?
I apologise. Obviously this will be an immensely difficult problem because, if other matters are to he taken into account in addition to race and religion, this will make the task of the boundary commissions more difficult, and we can only hope that they will have the wisdom of Solomon in order to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion.
Those of us who know India view with great regret that Bengal itself should have to be divided up again. We are not going to dispute at the moment the fact that this is going to happen, because it is agreed on this Bill that certain things are necessary in order to get a working plan at all. I feel when these two Provinces of Eastern and Western Bengal are demarcated, provision must be made for facilities which have existed in the past; and one of those to which I should like to draw the Committee's attention is the free passage and communication between the Kingdom of Nepal and India as we have known it. The normal line of communication to the capital, Khatmandu, is through what will be Western Bengal, but there are other more difficult ways of getting to it, and they are through some of the centres of population of Nepal and through the United Provinces. It should be clearly stated in this Bill that whatever Government takes over this particular area should give full agreement to free access to and from Nepal for any purposes which either Great Britain or Nepal may require in friendly relationships with each other. This ought to be mentioned in particular in this Bill so that there can be no argument about it afterwards. I cannot believe that the new Government of these new Provinces will object in any way, but we ought to have the safeguard in the Bill from the point of view of our own interests and in view of our old relationships with the Maharajah of Nepal and his people. When the Parliamentary Secretary replies I hope he will give us some assurance on this point, because I feel it is one of great importance.
As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) has told us, this is a most important Clause. I have been connected with this particular corner of India since 1904, and even before that there were considerable arguments as to which Province Sylhet should belong to, either Assam or Bengal. I remember when the railway was opened first over the hilly section, it took the longer route from Chittagong to Upper Assam, and certainly it developed Chittagong as a port. It was said then that the railway took the long routes because the engineer in charge of the Assam and Bengal railway would not build it upon the easiest and most profitable line. He said there would be no distinction in that for him. Instead of building it through the black country and the populous districts, he took it over the most difficult hill section where no population exists, and owing to landslides, disease, and no population, that section of the Assam—Bengal railway has never paid. Despite that handicap, the port of Chittagong did develop, and before this war had a very big export and import trade both ways, most of which was going to upper Burma.I can remember in the Assam Legislative Council about the year 1924 a resolution was passed that the Province of Sylhet should be incorporated in Bengal and excluded from Assam, but at that same time an amendment was moved that Cachar should also be included in the Province of Bengal. There is no doubt that in the district of Sylhet people are Bengalese speaking and not Assamese speaking, and as for religion, I understand that the Muslim religion is that of the majority. I look at this Clause with some fear as, later on, there may be some agitation to include Cachar also in Bengal, and that would lead to certain trouble for the two new Provinces, at any rate for Assam and for Pakistan. When the Parliamentary Secretary replies I wonder if he would give the Committee information about Cachar and whether it is likely to be included in the instructions to the Boundary Commission.
I wanted to say, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, a word about Sylhet. In view of the fact that the hon. and gallant Member for Down (Sir W. Smiles) who has a close knowledge of Assam, has dealt with the question, I do not think it is necessary to refer further to the matter, except to ask when we will get news of the result of the referendum in regard to that place.
The result of the referendum in Sylhet has been received today and is as follows: Voters for joining East Bengal, 239,619; For remaining in Assam, 184,041; Percentage of valid voters of the total electorates entitled to vote, 77·33 per cent.The right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) referred to the economic problem that will face the two new Provinces of East and West Bengal, and it would not be very fitting on my part to attempt to deal with the points that he and other hon. Members have made, more especially as the right hon. Gentleman has a much greater knowledge of that part of India than I have. However, I know sufficient about the situation in that part of India to agree with him whole-heartedly as to the very difficult problem that will face both these new Provinces. It is also quite fair to remind the Committee of the views that were expressed in the Report of the Indian Cabinet Commission last year, when they said, in terms that the right hon. Gentleman has quoted this afternoon, that there were great doubts as to whether these partitioned areas of India would be viable. The existence of this problem today and in the future is also well known to those who have accepted the responsibility. The national leaders in India as well as the provincial leaders in Bengal and in Assam and the representatives of the communities have expressed themselves as being in favour of the partition of these two Provinces. We can only express the hope and the belief that they will realise that what is essential in the interests of both the Muslim and the Hindu populations in the two Punjabs and in the two Bengals is the need for co-operation if they are to be able to emerge successfully front those difficulties. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out that the hemp was in Eastern Bengal and the factories in Western Bengal, and unless they avoid following the policy of cutting of their noses to spite their faces it may well be that on an economic basis they will not be able to make both these new Provinces viable. 5.30 p.m. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A Butler) asked about the terms of reference of the boundary commissions. I would admit at once that the terms of reference are not very precise and, from that point of view perhaps, not as satisfactory as they might be. I would remind the Committee, however, they they have the merit that they are based on the agreement of the Indian leaders of the majority parties. It is made quite clear that the function of the boundary commission is to demarcate boundaries between the two parts, and to do so on the basis of ascertaining contiguous majority areas of Muslims and non-Muslims. That is the fundamental basis of the plan, but the commission will also take other factors into account. A question has been asked as to what is meant by other factors. It surely waist mean that the primary basis is to be whether the majority of the population is Muslim or non-Muslim, but that in certain cases there may be special factors of a different kind which would justify a departure from this principle. The provision that other factors will be taken into account has been made primarily to enable the commission to have regard to the special circumstances of the Sikh community in the Punjab, where considerations such as the location of their religious shrines can reasonably be taken into account up to a point. I would, however, emphasise to the Committee that it is for the commission itself to decide what are other factors and how much importance should be attached to all or any of them. In reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Down (Sir W. Smiles) I would say that the terms of reference have been published and that I am afraid that it is not possible or practicable at this stage to alter them. The right hon. Gentleman raised the question of Calcutta and asked whether any consideration had been given to the possibility of making in international or a free port. All I can say in regard to that is that we ourselves have not given consideration to that possibility in working out this plan because, as the Bill indicates, we have taken the line as being one that must be drawn on the basis of majority populations, and Calcutta, rightly or wrongly, is to be found within that section of the existing Bengal which contains a majority of Hindu population. The hon. and gallant Member tom Perth and Kinross, Perth (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) asked about the communications between Nepal and the outside world, and suggested that provision should he made in the Bill for safeguarding them. I suggest to him that it would be far better for such matters to be dealt with by mutual agreement rather than by inserting a provision in a Bill which, incidentally, can be altered or modified by either of the new Dominions at a later stage, because their constituent assemblies, as we know, are to be sovereign bodies There is a treaty of 1923 providing for the free transit of goods imported through India to Nepal, and I should certainly not late to think that the Governments of the new Dominions would wish to do other than implement that treaty. I think I have covered the points that have been raised on this Clause.
I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was wrong in saying that the terms of reference as to boundaries have been published in this country.
I did not say that.
They have been published in India but not here, and I now find that they are almost exactly a reproduction of paragraph 9 of the White Paper on Home Rule. The right hon. and learned Gentleman did give a certain explanation of the other factors to be taken into account, and he referred to matters like the location of the shrines of the Sikhs and so on, but I did not hear any reference to purely economic considerations. There may very well be cases where it is extremely undesirable that a boundary between the two Dominions should be drawn in that way, even though it may be fairly clearly the line of demarcation between the two religions. May we have an assurance that one of the matters that can he taken into account is such a problem, for example, as separating the agricultural hinterland from a town, or something of that kind? Also, if a railway were to follow exactly what were the religious lines of demarcation, it might he going perpetually in and out from one Dominion to the other.
I am afraid that I cannot give any such assurance. I can only remind the hon. Gentleman that I indicated a few moments ago that it is for the commission itself to decide what the other factors are that they may wish to take into consideration. I would also remind him that the terms of reference have been approved by the leaders of the major parties.
Before we part from this Clause, I wish to express my personal regret that it is necessary. It sets up what can only amount to the reductio ad absurdum of communal feeling From that point of view, there may be something to be said for it, for I cannot see this partition of Bengal working. I think that all this Committee can do is to register their deep regret that this Clause should have been thought necessary by the peoples of India, and to assure them that any good service that we in this country, either as a nation or as individuals, can afford towards what one can only call the rehabilitation of Bengal will be freely placed at the disposal of Bengal, and, at the same time, beseech the two communities of Bengal to think again in a spirit of human charity. I feel that this Parliament can seldom have passed a more deplorable Clause.
Question put, and agreed to.
Clause, as amended, ordered no stand part of the Bill.
Clause 4—(The Punjab)
In page 3, line 27, leave out "awards of boundary commissions," and insert:
"the award of a boundary commission."
In line 36, at the end, add:
"(3) In this section, the expression 'award,' means, in relation to a boundary commission, the decisions of the chairman of that commission contained in his report to the Governor-General at the conclusion of the commission's proceedings."—[Mr. A. Henderson.]
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
When we come to the question of the division of the Punjab there is none of us who has known the Punjab intimately who can but express his deepest regret that this decision was necessary in order to make the general all-India settlement which is before us. As Punjabi-born, and knowing most of the districts intimately, with other members of my family and friends, I feel myself quite heartbroken at this decision. The Punjab has one of the greatest traditions of any country, or any part of the world I know. Its reputation in the major wars through which this country has passed has been quite unequalled by almost any other part of those areas which came into contact with the British. Its loyalty has been unquestioned, and we now come to the sad parting of the ways which I think has broken the hearts of many of those associated with its administration, not least its most able Governor to whom I should like to pay a tribute. We now come to the parting of the ways, when the expressions "East Punjab" and "West Punjab" are to be brought into the language of the law.I have said that it appears that this decision was necessary in order to make a general settlement possible, but I would like the Committee to consider for a moment, when dealing with the terms of reference of the boundary commission, what this decision will mean. I would take this opportunity, the last opportunity that Parliament will have, to make a special appeal for the Sikh community. Almost exactly too years have passed since the most difficult of all our Indian wars, in which the British and the Sikhs were on opposite sides. Those 100 years have seen the advent of the happiest possible relations between the Sikh community and the British. Of all races in the world, the Sikhs have probably the greatest reputation. Now we find, as was partially the case in the communal award when Mr. Ramsey Macdonald was Prime Minister, that the Sikhs come under the hammer. We find in this decision that the Sikh nation are divided approximately into two parts, a slightly greater part going to the East, that is into India, and the slightly lesser part going to the west, that is into Pakistan. I do not think that any words should be used here which will make this situation more difficult. I feel quite certain that those who have been responsible for this decision feel it as deeply as we do in this Committee. I can only make this appeal—and I would then be taking up some words used by the Under-Secretary of State—that in the demarcation of the boundary all proper regard should be had to the feelings of the Sikh community, in regard to their shrines, their property and their lands. I will say this: I have noticed that the community have asked that the boundary be pushed back to the River Chenab. It that were possible, it would make it possible to include the Sikh community in one part of India and not in Pakistan, but then the division of the Punjab would be made to look ridiculous, from the point of view of the Muslims. It has been to them a very great source of difficulty to divide this Province, as between East and West. It means that the whole of the Ambala and the Julandar divisions of the Punjab are to be transferred to India, and that a large proportion of Muslims are to be passed into India. I know that certain matters are rather beyond the power of Parliament already. That is why some of us feel that we have not very much power in our hands when we talk here this evening. I would therefore like to make an appeal that the Sikh problem be met by the provision of separate electorates. 5.45 P.m. I know that if that appeal were conceded by the authorities-to-be—it has now no longer anything to do with me—it would have to be conceded to the Muslims as well. I see the difficulties of that position, but I must come back to the only solution which, in my view, can mitigate the plight of the Sikhs. It is that the boundary commission should, in its wisdom, so define the boundary that the maximum portion of the Sikhs should be included in one area, without doing damage to the balance which has been struck in the suggestion contained in the Bill for the division of the Muslim and the non-Muslim areas. Later, it will be possible to look back, in regard to some of these decisions, and say, "What a pity that such and such a community did not make an agreement." Such a looking back could take place in regard to the Sikhs. It was not done. We are now facing the division. I hope the Committee and the country will realise the consequences of that division when they are assessing the position that is likely to exist in India now. I hope that the Sikh community and other similarly placed communities do realise that, wherever we sit in this Committee or whatever our point of view, we understand the difficulties that they have to face. I hope that they will also realise that a general settlement which will give India peace could not have been achieved unless some difficulties had beer faced in particular areas. Speaking for my hon. and right hon. Friends on this side of the Committee, I cannot express satisfaction that this community should have been so divided, and I should like to express our regret that such should be the case. I will conclude my reference to the problem of the Punjab by wishing the boundary commission the wisdom which I hope it may have, and by wishing this area of Pakistan, which will amount to some 25 million inhabitants in the North-Western area, the happiest possible future. I trust that in this new period these portions of the Punjab will find in their future something of the glory and of the stability which the old Punjab found in the past. I hope that we may look to the name "Punjab," whether it be West or East, for something of the tradition which has been so intimately connected with this area and which we so bitterly regret in the passing of the Bill.
I wish to associate myself with what my right hon. Friend has just said, about the splitting up of the Punjab. The matters which we are discussing on this Clause make even more clear the immense difficulties which will lie before those who are concerned with this division, whether military or civil. The division of the Punjab, which has had a long and glorious history in war and in peace, requires that the British Government should assure to the Sikh community that that division is brought about with the greatest possible regret and at the request of the Indian people as a whole. Secondly, the Government should ask the Boundary Commission to make the best possible arrangements for the Sikhs that they possibly can. It is clear that no actual division of the ground will ever solve the Sikh problem unless there is a united Punjab. As we are not to have a united Punjab, the Sikh really finds himself sold in every direction. The Sikhs are a martial race with a very great record. They are not likely to take things too calmly when things do not go the way they have had reason to think they would go. I hope that the Government will make it clear that they wish the very best possible to be done for the Sikhs and that they regret that the division should be necessary.
In two or three sentences wish to endorse the point of view which has been expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler). I cannot speak as he did, as an old Punjabi and son of a distinguished member of the Civil Service, but I can look back to the history of the Punjab for the last 50 years When first I knew the Punjab, it was a backward province with a poor and congested agricultural population. Then the engineers got to work and by the mercy of Providence those who were digging the Chenab Canal were forgotten for eight or 10 years and so they could carry on the work without obstruction. They laid out the irrigation system with such skill and so transformed that Province, that today the cultivator who secures a holding in one of the canal colonies has relatively made a fortune. All this progress has been built up under a unified administration. The irrigation starts on the Upper Jhelum in the North and the waters go down to the Lower Bari Doab in the South. The Punjab has an electrical grid as large as the grid for the whole of Great Britain, which is supplied by the works on the Uhl River on the outskirts of the Kangra Valley. Moreover, under the Act of 1919 under the leadership of Sir Fasli Hussain and under the Act of 1935 and the United Party that province has made these very rapid strides.It would be true to say that relatively more progress has been made in the Punjab than in any other part of India, and the Punjabis—Sikhs, Muslims Jats and others—have penetrated to every part of India by virtue of their strength of character, their virility and their energy. The majority of the early recruits in the Royal Indian Navy were Punjabi Mussulmans coming from families who had never seen the sea. It is with bitter regret that we have to accept partition now. We accept it with feelings of intense sympathy towards those who have to carry on the work. Although our task is ended, and influence has passed to other hands, all will hope that if humanly possible the progress and the peace of this great province and these very remarkable people, will not be impaired by the imperative necessity of partition.
I hesitate to disagree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler). My experience of the Sikh community is confined to Mesopotamia in the last war and to several clever mechanical engineers of the Sikh community the right hon. Gentleman hoped that separate electorates for the Sikh community would be considered. From my small knowledge of Indian political affairs, separate electorates have been a curse on the efforts towards a united India. I found it was always the most bigoted and most vociferous Muslim who became elected, and it was the same with the Hindus. If they gave way to a second's tolerance for the people who were not voting for them, they would not be elected. I can only say that I hope that these two Dominions will have a complete electorate and not separate electorates in the future
If I thought the division of Bengal was fantastical, I think that the division of the Punjab is nothing less than tragic. It is possible to mourn at great length at this disruption of a noble Province with a noble history. We should remember that the forces of unity and of reunion may be even stronger than the forces of partition which are today in the ascendant. It is a remarkable fact, whether in this country or in other parts of India, a Muslim and a Hindu from the Punjab will cling together and proclaim themselves brother Punjabis much more than they will adhere to their co-religionists from other parts of India. I believe this cannot work. I believe it is, relatively speaking, a short-term problem. I believe that the Punjab—the country of the five rivers, as its name means—will be reunited within a few years. As for our friend the Sikhs, I rather suspect that they can look after themselves and I rather suspect that they will take steps to do so. It is really a waste of time to talk very much on this Bill. I content myself with registering my great sense of tragedy and my hope and belief that a sense of unity and common fortune and common history will once again triumph.
Question put, and agreed to.
Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 5—(The Governor-General Of The New Dominions)
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
On a point of Order, Major Milner. Clause 5 was no doubt drafted with somewhat different considerations in view than have, in fact, emerged. Perhaps it would be for the convenience of the Committee if we were to take on Clause 9, rather than Clause 5, the major results of the somewhat changed condition of affairs. My hon. Friends and I feel that even in this changed situation it would be an advantage to leave Clause 5 as it is. One does not know—it might not be compatible to have these powers. Therefore, there seems to us to be no reason why the proviso should not stand. It is not going to be used, but we do not see why it should not stand. It might be useful in some cir- cumstances. One cannot tell. Subject to your Ruling, Major Milner, we would rather have on Clause 9 a general dis- cussion as to the powers of the two Governors-General in regard to the transitional problem that may arise.
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, and I agree, subject to the agreement of the Committee, that it would be advantageous to take that course.
Question put, and agreed to.
Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 6—(Legislation For The New Dominions)
Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
I want to raise two points which might interest the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General. The first is in connection with Subsection (1) which gives the Legislature of each of the new Dominions:
That is familiar to the Committee as corning from the Statute of Westminster. I should like to ask the Attorney-General whether he thinks this power also extends to the Provinces of the Dominions. I understand there has been some doubt in the past as to whether the States of Australia, for instance, have the power to make laws having extra-territorial operation. The question might arise in the case of India or Pakistan whether the Provinces have the power. I believe I am right in saying that at the moment it is within the sphere of the Provinces to make criminal laws, and it is criminal laws particularly which require to have extra-territorial operation. The second point is about Subsection (6). I do not quite understand the need for that Subsection. I understood that the Legislature had full power to make laws limiting its own powers absolutely or for a time. I should like some explanation of the reason for or the background of Subsection (6)."power to make laws for that Dominion, including laws having extra-territorial operations."
I am afraid that I cannot answer the first question put to me by the hon and gallant Member for North Blackpool (Brigadier Low) because it is one which depends entirely on the ultimate form of the Constitution which is established by the Constituent Assernblies for the various Provinces. I should think they might follow what is the more usual coarse of not giving extra-territorial powers to the Provinces, but that is entirely a matter for them, and in that they are left complete discretion under this Bill. The position in regard to Subsection (6) is that it will be open to the Legislature to provide for a federal form of constitution under which the powers of the different Legislatures are limited, certain subjects being assigned to the one and certain subjects to the other. If it did that, it would need to make provision that the powers of the particular provincial Legislatures should be limited That is the object of the Subsection.
I really raised the point on Subsection (1) on the present situation. Supposing the Provinces were left as they are now; have they the power to make laws in respect of extra-territorial operation or not?
The answer is "No."
Speaking as a complete ignoramus in regard to the law may I ask is there any limit to extraterritorial operation in the law?
There is no limit so far as the country itself which passes the extra-territorial legislation is concerned. The United Kingdom Parliament, for instance, can pass legislation having extra-territorial effect to any limit which seems proper to this Parliament, but whether that legislation will receive any recognition internationally by other countries is an entirely different matter. The general rule in international law is that countries are not recognised as possessing any powers of extra-territorial legislation at all, and there is a presumption, which our courts apply to our own legislation, that the Acts of the United Kingdom Parliament are not intended to have extra-territorial application unless the contrary so appears.
Before this Clause goes, we ought to take note of Subsection (4), as follows:
It is by this Subsection that Parliament is definitely taking the step of removing from itself power to make laws for India in the future. It is only right of us on this occasion to draw the attention of the Committee to that Subsection and to say What an honour we have regarded it, in what we have described as the Imperial Parliament, to take an interest in legislation affecting India in the past, and what good fortune we wish to those on whom this duty will fall in years to come."(4) No Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom passed on or after the appointed day shall extend, or be deemed to extend, to either of the new Dominions as part of the law of that Dominion unless it is extended thereto by a law of the Legislature of the Dominion."
Question put, and agreed to.
Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 7—(Consequences Of The Setting Up Of The New Dominions)
I hope I am in Order in raising now a matter of importance to the Christian community in India. This Clause relates to the consequences of the setting up of the new Dominions, and I want to call the attention of the Under-Secretary of State to the large Christian community in India, and to get some assurance that it will be adequately protected under the new Dominion arrangements. I would particularly call attention to the position of the Christian community in the State of Travancore which is one of the largest of the Indian States, with a population of 6 million, 2 million of whom are Christians. In that State Christianity was to be found almost as early as the Christian Church itself, and it was known as far back as A.D. 64 The Christian community in Travancore includes both Catholics and Anglicans, and I am anxious that in the new Constitution in India the Christian community should have adequate protection in whatever administration obtains.I want an assurance from the Under-Secretary of State that representations will be made, or appropriate instructions introduced in one of the new Constitutions, that the Christian community will be adequately safeguarded. In "Travancore 70 per cent. of the schools are owned, directed, and largely under the care of Christians, and of the 320 English schools in that State, only 40 are run by the State, 72 per cent. of the 3,000 primary schools there being generally in the hands of English people and under English traditions and English principles. Small as is the Christian population, I am anxious that in the new Constitution of India every precaution should be taken by the House to protect their interests, and particularly to safeguard the schools of the Christian communities which have for so long been in India, naturally making a substantial contribution to the economic welfare of Travancore itself. I do not want to prejudice the future of good relations in India, but there is a danger that some discrimination will enter into the administration of the Indian Constitution in relation to the Christian communities. It should be widely known that the House intends to protect by every means possible Christians who are of the Anglican, Catholic or Dutch Churches, or whatever Christian community it is to which they may belong. I hope the Under-Secretary of State will be able to give some assurance to that effect.
I suggested earlier that the important question of the States should be considered under Clause 7. First, I would say that the remarks which have fallen from my hon. Friend the Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon) are very important, and I hope they will have the attention of the Government.Coming to the question of the Indian States, this is a matter which has not so far been satisfactorily regulated and, in that respect, differs from many of the other aspects of the matters we have been discussing. When we look back to the elaborate arrangements offered to the States under the Government of India Act, 1935, the method by which they were to accede under Clause 6, and the various other powers included in that Act to look after their interests, we find the most sharp and radical difference between those elaborate arrangements for safeguarding their position and fulfilling our treaties and obligations and those under the present circumstances. I dust—and I believe this to be the case—that the position of the States can be remedied if properly handled at the present time. It is in that spirit that I approach the Government, but I repeat that the position at present cannot be regarded as satisfactory, either in regard to the treaty position or the method by which the Princes have been brought into consultation with the Viceroy and his advisers, or the solution evolved in this general Constitution for the Princes who do not desire to accede to either Dominion. I am rather encouraged that the position can still be handled—and that is certainly the spirit in which we should approach this—by one of those telegrams which some of us know so well, and which come from no less a man than Sir C. P. Ramaswami Ayer, the Diwan of Travancore, a man after my own heart, because he finds it easier to do his correspondence by telegram—obviously not a cheaper method but a very attractive one. In the last telegram I have received from him—and I have been the proud recipient of many—he refers, after a somewhat pessimistic tone in the opening, to the
he said,"reasoned, statesmanlike utterances of Sirdah Patel the President of the All India Stales' Peoples Conference, who"
which he brings to my attention—"has partially realised certain aspects"—
If it be the case that so intelligent a Diwan of so prominent a State can refer to the "refreshing contrast to previous bellicose statements," I feel there may be some hope that the discussions between the new Dominions and their leaders and the Indian States may be conducted in a satisfactory way. Therefore, I am interested in how His Majesty's Government will address themselves to the problem of that State or States—there may very likely be more than one—which will desire to retain independence and to enter into relations with His Majesty's Government. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) referred to this, in language which cannot possibly be bettered, in his speech on Second Reading, and I only wish that the assurance that we have had from the Government had been more satisfactory than it has been so far. So far, the Government have not been able to lift the curtain from their minds and to say more than the Prime Minister said:"and are in refreshing contrast to previous bellicose statements "
—that is to the ruler of any State contemplating independence—"Take your time"—
Those are amiable sentiments, and it will naturally be convenient for many States to join one or other Dominion, and we on this side of the Committee have not desired to take sides: but I. am sure there will be States which will desire to retain independence, and to establish relations with us in one form or another. What are the consequences of the Government not having evolved any plan to meet the latter contingency? On 16th August do members of the independent States, who have not seceded, become foreigners, that is, non-British? I would like the Government to answer that. Secondly, on 16th August, do independent States who have not acceded to either Dominion, or made an agreement, fall outside the sterling area? If so, presumably they can do what they wish with their dollars without falling foul of the currency restrictions which govern them. Those are two practical examples of the need for an early decision, but there are many other matters which need to be resolved. The Indian State which finds itself desiring to be independent after the appointed day is particularly anxious about the status of its own nationals. If they wish to travel abroad, under what passport will they travel? These are important questions which are indicative only of the general desire of these States to be given an opportunity to negotiate a future for themselves as dignified as we desire to make for the other parts of India, over which we have taken so much trouble in the discussions we have had hitherto Hon. Members may feel that this question of treaties and States is a matter of little importance, but I must remind the Committee that the very name of Britain and of the Crown is involved in the treaties which have been concluded with these States in the past. In the case, for example, of Hyderabad, a treaty of mutual assistance was started in the 18th century, and consolidated in the 19th century. Reading from the treaty of 1800, we find the words:"and think again. I hope no irrevocable decision to stay out will be taken prematurely."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th July, 1947: Vol. 439, c. 2464.]
That sort of treaty has been carried on, and was taken a stage further by the treaty of 1853, whereby the British Government undertook specific military guarantees to maintain particular bodies for the State's protection. Territory was leased in perpetuity to the British Government as a consideration for these guarantees. Then we have had a series of com- mercial treaties, starting with the major one in 1802. There have been others dealing with posts, telegraphs, railways and other matters. So it will be seen that these treaties, terminated under this Clause, are not just formal and interesting documents, but enshrine in their language and meaning the whole friendship which has persisted through two major wars and many anxieties, large and small—"The peace, union, and friendship, so long subsisting shall he perpetual. The friends and enemies of either, shall be the friends and enemies of both."
Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that these treaties are being terminated against the will of the States?
There is no other inference I can draw, but I shall be glad to hear the answer from the Government, and I shall be perfectly content to be contradicted by the Government. What I am saying is that there are moral ties between this country and many of these States, and it is desirable that the whole picture we have of the Indian scene should be improved by the satisfactory termination of the States problem. As I said, it can be done, and I believe that if the Government go a little further, it will be done. In the view of one diwan the future rulers of India are realising the position, and the whole basis of settlement in India is one of self-determination, and that is giving an opportunity to each Dominion to find R future most satisfactory to itself. As will be gathered from my language on other Clauses, we think this settlement is the most satisfactory that can be made under extremely difficult circumstances. What we press on the Government—and we desire to use this Committee stage to achieve it—is to get a more satisfactory solution, and a more defined decision, for those States, few though they may be in number, who do not wish to join one or other Dominion. If the Government can help us in the light of the rather improving position in this matter, we shall feel we have done some good in putting forward these important moral considerations which lie in the power of the British Parliament which we still have time to remedy and which I hope the Government will use.
I have never previously intervened in a discussion on India, and I would not do so now, if I did not think that the matters raised by the language of this Clause and possibly by the substance are of the greatest possible importance. I share the hope of my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) that the Government may be able to use this Committee stage in order to get more appropriate language in this Clause and to avoid what I believe to be a great danger to the international reputation of this country. Of the importance of the Slates and their magnitude I shall say little, because I think the facts are very well known to both sides of the Committee. They cover a third of the area of India and have a quarter of the population. One at least of the States has a population greater than that of any British Dominion. Those are facts which I think hon. Members ought to hear in mind. The treaties which they have with this country are numerous, ancient and have been observed faithfully by the other party to them. In quite recent years those treaties have been declared inviolate and inviolable. To mention two recent declarations to that effect—they were so declared by the President of the Board of Trade in 1942 and by the former Viceroy, Lord Wavell in 1943. On those facts let us look 41 the language of the Clause.
Then come these extraordinary words:"As from the appointed day … the suzerainty of His Majesty over the Indian States lapses,"
My right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson), dealing with this matter on Second Reading, mentioned, quite rightly, and I know that the Government would not for one moment deny it, our moral obligation. I am concerned, as I am sure the Committee will be, with our legal obligation The only reason given from the Government Bench in justification of the words contained in this Clause was given by the Prime Minister in his opening speech in the Second Reading Debate and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State could not, in his concluding speech, add materially to what the Prime Minister said. What is it, in fact, that the words of this Clause do? They constitute a unilateral repudiation of internationl agreements, without prior discussion or prior negotiation. Do not let us think that that is unimportant. It is setting a precedent which may be most important unless, as my right hon. Friend has just suggested, the Government find it possible, at some stage during the passage of this Bill through Parliament, so to alter the Clause as to do something which is less shocking, and something which I feel quite certain must be nearer to their real intention. In winding up for the Government in the Second Reading Debate the right hon. and learned Gentleman used language, which I think was welcome to the House, about certain discussions which are now taking place in a conference under the presidency of the Viceroy. The real complaint here is that those discussions ought not to take place under the shadow of the pressure exerted by this Clause in its present form. One does not first unilaterally repudiate a legal obligation and then discuss what is to take its place. One has discussions with one's friends before one alters the agreement. It seems to me that there is no certainty that, had there been such negotiations or discussions, agreement could not have been reached. As I say, in recent years a Member of the Government and the late Viceroy both declared these treaties to be inviolate and inviolable. As my right hon. Friend has just pointed out, relying on these agreements, which they have so faithfully kept, the States gave up their means and their right to arrange for their own defence They worsened their position in a number of ways if they are now to be left without the protection of those agreements. I do not intend to say one word against the fulfilment of the wish which was expressed both by the Prime Minister and by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities. It may well be that what the Prime Minister desires ultimately to happen to the States is what would be the most desirable result in the interests of themselves and of the world. I do not intend to argue that at present, but surely the best prospect of securing that result is by seeing that when they become free, as they will become free, and legally independent, they should discuss that with all other parties as equals, and not under pressure. What seems to me to be intolerable is that they should be put under pressure by a repudiation, by us, of our engagements. I share the view which has been expressed on this side of the Committee and, I think, elsewhere, that the Government have the chance and, I hope, the intention of improving the language of this Clause. I feel certain that the Government do not wish to pass through Parliament a Clause which is certainly capable of the interpretation I have given. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, in dealing with this matter, explained that with the lapsing of Paramountcy all these treaties must necessarily go. As to that, I am sure that the Attorney-General would agree, that whether that is right or wrong is a matter for argument. What I think must be wrong is to declare, as we declare in the language of this Clause, for which I have been unable to find any parallel, without any suggestion of prior agreement, or even prior discussion or negotiation, that certain treaties lapse. I believe that that, as it stands, does the reputation of this country a great injury. I certainly do not, for one moment, accuse the Government of having an improper intention. I believe, if I may suggest such a thing, that the extremity of the language of this Clause has got into the Bill per incuriam. I do not believe that, if sufficient attention had been paid to the matter, the Government could not have devised both language and procedure more appropriate to the great step which they are now endeavouring to take. I share many of the hopes that have been raised on both sides of the Committee and of the House, and I only raise this point, first, because I believe that the words of this Clause are actually internationally improper; and secondly, because I do not believe that the pressure which appears to be brought to bear upon the States by the language of this Clause will help the Government to bring about the very result they desire. I hope that some of these matters will receive the careful attention of the Government and their legal advisers, and that they will be able to devise some alterations in the language and substance of this Clause in order to meet the objections which I have raised."and with it, all treaties and agreements in force at the date of the passing of this Act between His Majesty and the rulers of Indian States, all functions exercisable by His Majesty at that date with respect to Indian States, all obligations of His Majesty existing at that date towards Indian States or the rulers thereof, and all powers, rights, authority or jurisdiction exercisable by His Majesty at that date in or in relation to Indian States by treaty, grant, usage, sufferance or otherwise;"
I feel that the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) and the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) are suffering from a grave misapprehension if they believe that these Treaties have been unilaterally abrogated by us without prior consultation with the Indian States. It is within my recollection that just over a year ago, at the time of the Cabinet Mission, the States had it fully explained to them that in the event of the British quitting India, as was our intention, we would not be able any longer to fulfil our treaty obligations. They quite appreciated and understood that position. Some of them may not have liked it; some of them, might have liked us to remain in India indefinitely, but that we could not do. They accepted the position that the treaties would have to be abrogated, or at any rate that we should not be able to fulfil our obligations to defend them. One of the difficulties is that not all the States, by any means, have treaties with us, and the treaties in existence have, as a whole, gradually been covered in a broad way by the doctrine of paramountcy, which has roughly treated all the States on the same level and in the same respect in relation to the Government of India. The main thing is that paramountcy, which was based upon the orginal treaties, goes, and the treaties consequently must go too. I do not think that the States have had a "fast one" put across them in finding their treaties abrogated without consultation with them.The only way we could safeguard their defence is by maintaining troops in India. That is not the object of this Bill. There was no other way in which such obligations could be fulfilled when we withdrew from India. If the central power is no longer held by us, the States can no longer be controlled by us nor can they be defended by us; so they must fall in with the rest of India. That position is quite clearly appreciated by the States even though, in some cases, they may not like it.
The correspondence with the Nawab of Bhopal on 19th June, 1946, showed that he accepted the position about paramountcy but said that the final decision would have to be taken by the States when they saw the completed picture. A point I should like to add is that that refers to those who were members of the Chamber of Princes.
I appreciate the point which the right hon. Gentleman is making. But, surely, the final decision referred to, which must depend on the completed picture, depended on what the States themselves were to decide to do in the new India and whether they were to attempt to form a federation of their own like Rajistan, and perhaps, apply for some kind of separate Dominion status or whether they were going in with the remainder of India. That final decision was nothing to do with whether or not the treaty obligations were to be abrogated. That matter was already settled. I do not think the States could have been in any doubt about that for some 14 months.I think it is improper to suggest at this late stage that in some curious way, the Government are suddenly coming down this afternoon and surprising the States by discontinuing all their treaty obligations. It is true that arising out of the cessation of paramountcy, there is a desire in some of these States to be associated neither with India nor Pakistan. They wish to find for themselves a separate existence in India. I think it is most unfortunate, however, that there should be any feeling amongst those States that there is support in this country or in this Committee for them doing such a thing as attempting to be independent and on their own in India. The whole object of his Bill, as I am sure hon. Gentlemen opposite will agree, is to try to retain as far as possible the unity of India. If we encourage people like the rulers of Travancore and Hyderabad, to set up for themselves a separate rule, we are encouraging the growth of disunity in India as a whole. The message which should go from this Committee this afternoon is one quite to the reverse. The message should be that their place is with the rest of India, and that they have been done no harm whatever by the removal of these treaty obligations. Another thing which should be made quite clear is that people in this country recognise that there may be a distinction between the wishes of the ruler of the State and the wishes of the people who live inside that State. Very frequently we hear from hon. Gentlemen opposite that the wishes of the people who live in such and such an area, wherever it may be, in Europe or in some part of India, ought to be considered. I agree with that very strongly. No one can say that the peoples of the States as a whole wish for secession from the rest of India. In fact, the people of the State from whose Prime Minister the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) received a telegram this afternoon are really not pleased with the Prime Minister's declaration about independence, nor are the people of Hyderabad pleased with the declaration of the Nizam that they are to be an independent State. We should encourage the tendency towards cohesion and not towards disunity and disruption.
I am surprised that the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) should have taken the line he did in the concluding remarks of his speech. He is one of those who has been most anxious that we should withdraw from India and not seek to influence the people after our withdrawal. What he said might equally apply in the case of the Indian States. This Clause deals with one of the most difficult matters which arises from our withdrawal from India. I am bound to say that I hardly think that the Government could have taken any line very different from what they have done. In one important matter, this follows the recommendations of the committee which was appointed some years ago to consider the relationship between the paramount Power and the Indian Princes. They had to consider whether in the event of responsible Government being given to a British Indian Government, paramountcy could be, and should be, transferred from this country to that Government. That, of course, is a thing which conceivably might have been done. That committee came to the conclusion that it would be completely improper for paramountcy to be transferred from a Government responsible to this Parliament, to one that was responsible to British India. Therefore, I feel that in this Clause the Government have followed one of the two main recommendations of the committee which was set up to deal with the problem.It is obvious that if, in fact, we are to withdraw from British India, it is impossible for us to carry out the obligations which we owe to the States. There were two main obligations. One was to defend the Princes against internal and external aggression. It followed logically that we were entitled to insist upon a certain standard of administration. I very much regretted that in the Debate on the Second Reading an hon. Member opposite—I rather think it was the hon. Member for Aston—said that we had not insisted upon a certain standard of administration in the Indian States. No one will claim in that respect, or in any other respect, that a British administration has never made a mistake, that it has never overlooked any case of mis-government or inefficient government. There were two famous examples quite recently—those of Nabha and Alwar. In both these cases the Political Department of the Government of India insisted upon a certain standard of administration being maintained. It has always been the doctrine of the Political Department that so long as we guarantee the Princes, that carries with it a certain responsibility on the other side. If, then, we are to withdraw from India in August, it will neither be possible for us to give the military defence which we have given to the States in the past, nor shall we have the Political Department responsible to the Secretary of State which has insisted upon a certain standard of administration. Therefore, I feel that probably there vas nothing else to be done except to nit the knot rather boldly and to restore to the Indian States their full independence, while at the same time saying that for the future we could not continue to accept the responsibilities previously undertaken. I fully appreciate the point made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss), but I think if, in the course of a major change of policy, it becomes impossible for this country to carry out its obligations, then in those circumstances it is better and more honourable to say frankly in advance that it will be impossible for us to do so and to leave it to the parties concerned to make the best arrangements that they can. Certainly, it would be far worse for us to continue obligations which we could not fully carry out. Nearly all the speeches made today have referred to the Indian States as if they were all of one kind, but, in fact, they vary from the mighty State of Hyderabad, with 18 million inhabitants, down to small States, like Kathiawar. I would like to ask the Government to explain how they contemplate that this great range of States is going to carry on negotiations with the succession States in the case of Hyderabad and Travancore, because there we have a Ruler, with a Government, who is in a position effectively to negotiate with the succession Governments of India on all these important matters like customs and police and so on. On the other hand, in a case like Kathiawar, for example, the jurisdiction exercised by the British Resident very often has been of a very wide kind. In many of these States there has been a kind of criminal and revenue appeal from the Rulers of these States to the British official who has been responsible to the Political Department of the Government of India for the good administration of these small States. I think the Government ought to tell us what kind of arrangements have been made to enable this rather painful transition on 15th August to take place. The circumstances vary so much that I feel that we have a special responsibility in the case of those States which have been most directly under the Political Department of the Government of India, which, in turn has been more directly under the Secretary of State than most of the other Departments. Finally, I would ask a question about personnel. What exactly is likely to happen in the case of the large number of officers of the Political Department, who, at the present time, occupy a position of special trust as between the Rulers and the people of these States and the Political Department? It would be fair neither to the States nor the Rulers, nor, I think, would it be fair to the succession Governments of India, for us merely to wind up the whole of that administration. It must be remembered also that, right down to the present time, a very much larger proportion of the personnel of the Political Department came from this country than in the case of other parts of the Indian Civil Service. A considerable number of the political officers have been drawn from the Indian Army. I hope that the Government will be able to tell us something about the actual machinery by which this transfer is going to take place. I am not quite clear, but I take it that, as far as this Clause is concerned, none of the provisions of the 1935 Act will continue to apply. So far as this Bill is concerned, generally speaking, in all cases where the provisions of the 1935 Act are applicable, they will continue to exist, but the Under-Secretary will remember that there are very elaborate provisions for instruments of accession by the Indian States to the Federation, and Schedule II of the 1935 Act deals with the extent to which modifications may be made. I assume, but I would like confirmation of this, that the whole question of instruments of accession by the States to the new succession Governments of India is now tabula rasa.
I am not very clear regarding the question of the actual status of the people in the States themselves. According to the Prime Minister's own words, it will take time for them to find their position. I wonder if the Government would help us, and the people of the Indian States themselves, by giving a clear definition as to what exactly their position will be. I have assumed that they are not in the same position as Nepal, but in a quite different position. We are now told that Nepal will be represented here by an an Ambassador and that our present Minister to Nepal will become an Ambassador. Quite clearly, we cannot have Ambassadors from all the Indian States here, but there must be some sort of machinery in the interval, because it is not the intention of the Government to coerce these States to join either of these two Dominions.There are a great many British interests involved here, and I think that, if there is some clear definition as to what the period of the interregnum will be for these States to decide to join one or other of the Dominions, it would allay a great many fears. I think most people have assumed from the words which the Prime Minister used on Second Reading that it is not the intention of the Government and the Viceroy to exert any pressure at all upon the Indian States, but, at the same time, there is nothing, so far as I have been able to discover, which states what their position will be. Will they be British subjects, or Indians without attachment? I think that, if we could have a clear statement on the question of the status of the individuals in these States, it would allay a great many fears.
I agree with the hon Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) when he said that this was the only honourable thing to do, but I did not follow his argument from then onward. I did not understand what he was asking the Government to do in the near future. If the object of his intervention was to try to persuade the Government to take any action with regard to these States, I think that advice was definitely bad.
I was not asking for anything, but merely trying to elucidate what was the Government's intention.
I understood that the hon. Member was giving some advice on the subject to the Government, because he certainly took quite a long time to ask questions and the advice which I understood him to offer was that we should do something with regard to the States. I would say that it would be a fatal mistake to interfere in the future of these States. From now on, it is a matter between the Government of India, or of Pakistan, and the Governments of these various individual States. I am perfectly certain that they will come to an amicable agreement, and one which will suit both parties. Hon. Members opposite must not think that because we have difficulty in agreeing in the West, that they also have like difficulty in agreeing in the East. As a matter of fact, that is not so. Orientals are very well able to size these things up for themselves. They are realistic, and they come to a conclusion satisfactory to both parties. At least, that is my experience.With regard to Subsection (1 c) of this Clause, I would like to ask my right hon. and learned Friend what it is intended to do with the large tribal area to the east of Assam, which is unadministered by anybody, and where, at the moment, there is considerable trouble. In that area, tribes are coming down from the hills and raiding the Assam territory It has been suggested that the Government of Burma and the Government of that area should get together and try to work out a satisfactory system for handling these wild tribes. This matter does not come under the Clause because it only deals with tribal areas where there has been some jurisdiction exercisable up to this date. Can my right hon. and learned Friend say whether there has been any suggestion as to who, when this Bill has been passed, is to exercise the authority which we would have exercised had there been no such Bill?
My approach to this Clause is different from that of some other hon. Members who have spoken this afternoon. The Government of India are certainly very keenly concerned with what goes on in the Indian States. Only last cold weather, one very prominent Indian statesman, speaking at a commercial gathering, suggested that whereas the British commercial community paid their Income Tax and Surtax promptly, that was not the case among some of the Indian commercial community. I admit that the British commercial community have to pay because the laws in British India are just as strict with regard to the payment of Income Tax as they are in this country. But some of the principal bankers of India come from the native States, and are inclined to take a very small house in British India and a very large one in the Indian States. I am quite sure that the new Indian Governments, whether of Pakistan or India, will be very keenly alive to some commercial arrangement in the collection of Income Tax from those particular bankers, who at this moment are not subjects of British India.The hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. Rees-Williams) mentioned the tribes on the Eastern Frontier of India. He is perfectly right when he says that there is a large section of unadministered territory lying between British India, Tibet, Nepal, Burma and even up to China, and whereas those hill tribes—Nagas, Lushais, Abors, Mishmis-Mikirs, etc.—are administered only by British political officers, their old traditions date back to the 1830's, or so, and their customs still persist today almost as they were then. There is no doubt that no Naga boy can get married unless he brings in a head. Some of them still hop across to that unadministered territory and come back with a head. Of course, it is not always as young a specimen as one would imagine. Sometimes, they wait by a well for an octogenarian woman to Come there to get water, when off comes her head, and away they go to the hills, 10 miles or more back to their own village. I do not think that the political officer minds very much, so long as they do not collect the heads within British territory. Among the Khasias, again, there are different customs, because they do not in- herit property from father to son, but on the distaff side, from the mother or the grandmother. All those old customs have been kept alive by the British political officers. I well remember a friend of mine who took a few yards of land for a tea garden on the wrong side of the boundary. He was very heavily fined, because no one, whether a British Indian or a European, dared trespass and take land one yard over the line that belonged to any of those tribal areas. What is going to happen to these people now? One cannot help fearing a little for them. There is no doubt that they have been protected for the last century by the British political officers. Now they are to come under a different Government altogether. It seems certain to me that with a famine in Bengal and a shortage of rice and cereals all over the East, and with no protection for those people, there will be an invasion of their land. The possibility of serious trouble cannot be evaded, because, in the Japanese retreat, thousands of rifles were left in the hills, and I am sure that they are in working order today. Only time will show what harm is going to be done. Although we are giving up our responsibility to those people, I am quite sure that if we could, by agreement either with Pakistan or India, appoint for a few years to come British political officers to look after them during the transition years, it would be for the betterment, the comfort and the health of those tribes which the hon. Member for South Croydon has just mentioned.
May I first make one or two observations about the general position? As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, and as, indeed, was made clear over a year ago by the Cabinet Mission, it is the hope of His Majesty's Government that all States will, in due course, find their appropriate place within one or other of the new Dominions inside the British Commonwealth. P We hope that no irrevocable decision to stay out will be taken prematurely7C On the other hand, we realise that it is bound to be some time before the States will have all the information before them to enable them to take their final decision. Indeed, the Constitutions of the new Dominions will have to be altered so as to permit, and to provide for, the accession of the States, and to define the terms on which that accession may take place. The hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson), who raised the question, will recall that Part 11 of the Government of India Act, 1935, which would have enabled States to accede to a federation, has never been brought into effect, and, of course, the provisions of this Clause completely override those provisions.7.0 p.m. We believe that the future of the States inevitably lies in association with British India with whose territories their own are inextricably intertwined but we regard the decision which the States have to take as being their decision and we do not intend to bring any pressure of any kind to bear upon them. Mr. Jinnah has made it clear that, so far as he is concerned he would wish the States to make a free choice. Mr. Patel, speaking from the newly constituted States Department, has dismissed the idea of coercion and has invited representatives of the States to discuss with him in a friendly way the terms of their association with British India, and he has said that he asks of them no mom than accession for defence, foreign affairs and communications. It was stated by the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) that this Clause gives rise to a unilateral repudiation of the agreements. Technically that may or may not be the case, but it is inevitable, in the nature of the situation, that these agreements should be brought to an end. These agreements with the Princes were all based upon the assumption that there would be a continuance of British rule, in one form or another, in India, and, as must have been recognised at the time, they were entered into between the States and ourselves, their continuance would be wholly inconsistent with the situation which is arising now, in which India will become completely independent. The solution to the major Indian problem, which we hope we have now found, largely, if not entirely, puts it out of our power to continue these treaties in operation, and all that we are doing in this Clause is to give legal effect to a state of affairs which obviously arises from the general solution of the Indian problem.
May I raise one point with the right hon. and learned Gentle- man? For how long does he say this must have been clear to the States? The right hon. and learned Gentleman will recollect that in 1942 and 1943 declarations were made by the President of the Board of Trade and the late Viceroy respectively, to the effect that these treaties were inviolate and inviolable.
I think it must have been implicit in what was said, that if the time ever came when complete independence was given to India and British troops were withdrawn from India, it would be impossible for His Majesty's Government to fulfil the obligations which they had undertaken under these treaties. I would ask the Committee to say that that was obvious from the circumstances of the case.Having said that with regard to the position generally, may I now try to take up some of the points which were raised by hon. Members opposite? The subjects of the native States were, of course. never British subjects in the full sense. Their rulers owed allegiance to the King, and they themselves possessed the status which was described in international law and, indeed, in our law as that of British protected persons—a status which was never very exactly defined either for the purposes of our own law or, still less, for the purposes of international law. However, as hon. Members have pointed out, they did travel under British passports which were issued to them as protected persons, and, no doubt, in general, in international affairs, they were treated as if they were British subjects. After the termination of paramountcy the status of a British protected person will technically go, so far as they are concerned. We have, of course, fully recognised that that gives rise to a number of difficulties, including the difficulty as to foreign representation and passports. Existing passports will continue during their currency until the date at which they will expire in the normal course, but a question will arise as to what will happen in regard to the issue of passports subsequently. One suggestion which has been made—and all these matters are receiving careful consideration—is that, pending some final decision as to accession, one or other of the Dominions might assume, as a matter of international law, some of the duties of protection, such as the issue of passports, which have hitherto been borne by the United Kingdom. Another suggestion, which is also under consideration, is that there should be, for the moment, a kind of standstill arrangement under which we should continue to issue passports, and, of course, His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom are entitled to issue passports to anyone they choose, whether they are persons who enjoy the full status of a British subject or not. Solutions of that kind may be found. As a matter of international practice, so far as one can see, and as a matter of practical international recognition, the position will probably remain very much as it is until the States have decided whether or not to accede to a Dominion, and, if they do not decide to accede to a Dominion, until the sovereign States have decided whether or not to recognise them as enjoying the status of independent States. But this, at least, can be said with certainty, that we do not propose to recognise the States as separate international entities on 15th August, when the Bill comes into operation. We hope, as I have said, that the States will associate themselves with one or other of the new Dominions in a federal or treaty relationship on fair terms, fairly and amicably negotiated. If they do that, their relations with the outside world will be with the Dominion with which they become associated. Negotiations with the States as to the terms of their association and their accession to one or other of the Dominions are starting at Delhi on 25th July. If, as we hope, these negotiations prove to be successful, all these problems relating to the international position of the States after 15th August will automatically be solved, and I should prefer now not to discuss the hypothetical question of what our attitude might be in the event of these negotiations failing. So to do might prejudice their successful conclusion We hope that they will be concluded successfully and that these difficult legal problems will not, therefore, arise.
I would like to thank the Attorney-General for his very clear and comprehensive statement of the legal and practical position. If I may say so, I think he a little over-simplified some of these problems in practice. I wish they were all quite as easy as he made them appear in his very nice and clear statement. The truth, of course, is that naturally—and I think this is understood by the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt)—the passage of a Clause in a Bill of this kind is an occasion which raises great thoughts of the past, and, from a sentimental point of view—for sentiment still means something to the people of this island—it cannot be allowed to go by almost as an unimportant stage of mechanics in this Bill. More than that, I do not think it is true to say—and I certainly do not think it—that there has been a breach of faith between the British Government and the Princes. But I do think there has been something in the nature of a breach of decorum, because events have moved very fast, and it has not been possible from a practical point of view, to take all those steps which most of us would like to see taken on the occasion of what the Attorney-General has admitted to be a unilateral ending of so long a friendship and alliance.Of course, the truth is the Attorney rather skated over the fact that, in all the prior schemes which have been before us all these years, there would have been, of course, no need for a Clause of this kind, and that is why the Viceroy and the President of the Board of Trade, as late as 1943, proclaimed once more an absolute, firm decision that the treaties and alliances between the Crown and the States would remain as before; because, of course, it was not until the decision of 1944, the l0th February decision, that we would quit India anyway, whatever happened that it became necessary, since we did not intend to retain any kind of responsibility, to denounce the treaties which we would have no methods of maintaining. In the 1935 Act, for instance, there were great reserve powers to the Viceroy. Therefore, these treaties would not have been improper to maintain—under the schemes it would not have been necessary—and that is why, in fact, they were retained by the Viceroy and the Cabinet until the decision was made It has been clear and should have been clear to us that since that decision, of course, a Clause of this kind would have to be introduced into any Bill. That decision settled the matter. There are one or two points I should like still to press upon His Majesty's Government. I see the Prime Minister is here. My right hon. and hon. Friends and I are very glad that the Government —as I ventured to say on Second Reading and I repeat it—have resisted the claim so long made in India, that paramountcy must automatically pass to the successor Government of British India; and I think it is a very hopeful augury for any arrangements to be made between the new Dominions and the States—as we all hope there will be—that the leaders of Indian thought, in the very statements which the Attorney-General has quoted, have taken such a different attitude from that which has been current in India for many years past; because it is on that basis of equality that agreeable arrangements may well be made for an association of the States with one or other of the two Dominions. I think His Majesty's Government are to be congratulated on having resisted that claim; and, if I may be allowed to say so, the leaders of Indian opinion are also to be congratulated on having thought fit not to revive that past attitude, but to enter these negotiations on a basis of equality. Secondly, of course, these difficulties of the States—I must repeat it—arise from the character of this scheme in particular, because it is the partition of India not upon a geographical basis, not upon an economical basis—
Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me? I do think he has got that quite wrong. There was always the intention of this Government to leave India entirely, and have no responsibility there, and as long ago as the Cabinet Mission's arrival in India it was foreseen that some such Clause as this would have to be inserted.
If that is so, I do not understand why the Government—the Viceroy and the President of the Board of Trade—made this declaration. If the President of the Board of Trade repudiates this, I understand the change of view. I say that it is only since the last declaration that this point arose. I am not trying to make a party point of it. But I say that is why in the last year or 18 months this has been a great practical matter. Secondly, it is only since the decision to have the partition of India and not a united India, a British India, that the problem has become so very pressing, and I think the hon. Gentleman will admit that that decision was only taken last Easter —a few weeks ago. Why is that? There was the problem of the States to get into relations with a united British India—or ex-British India, as we must call it—as was contemplated under the Act of 1935; but now that India is to be partitioned on a purely religious basis, it does very much add to the difficulties of the States; because, as everyone knows, they have so long tried—and naturally, from the very character of their position—to avoid the raising of the religious division, and have been on the whole very successful—more successful than British India—in avoiding that great division. Therefore, that puts a fresh difficulty in their way.7.15 p.m. I welcome very much what the AttorneyGeneral—repeating what the Prime Minister said—nas said that the Government would like to see the States associate themselves through negotiation with one or other of the great Dominions that are coming into being, and that no pressure of any kind will be put on them; and, indeed, that any pressure that may exist, physical or moral, will be removed, so far as His Majesty's Government are responsible up to 15th August. I refer once more to the troops at Secunderabad. There is no greater pressure than to keep troops in somebody else's territory. But I also hope there is not to be a kind of negative pressure. The Attorney-General rather contemplated there could be no alternative—I do not think he meant to give that passage the weight he seemed to, in the second part of his remarks—for a large State—of course, we are speaking of the great States, not small "landlord properties"—no alternative but to join one or other of the Dominions, or to be a free and independent country, completely unattached to any organisation at all. I think and hope that that is not so. I quite see that what was once talked of as the Dominion of "Rajistan" is not contemplated now, but I hope we shall not end this long connection and get this nominal freedom by saying to the States that, unless they join one or other of the Dominions, they are to have no relations with His Majesty's Government. I hope that is not so because—I will not go into detail, and I do not think it would help the position to do so—it would be easy to see that there could be a relation between a very large State and His Majesty's Government in some form or another. And so I hope that there will not be any negative pressure, that if they should fail to reach proper arrangements there will be no hope for them at ail, except to be cast into the kind of limbo where they have no friends or alliances or regularised relations with a powerful body. I should hope that they could in some form or another—for we have a very flexible Constitution—remain in connection with the British Commonwealth of Nations. I think that that is a point of importance. I will not pursue it. These negotiations will continue, and they will go through a quite long period, because there is first the Constitution-making, of course, and then there is that period in which the States will be in touch with the Dominion Parliaments, and then there is question of the interim arrangements. It is a practical and sensible arrangement to carry on as they were and hope for the best. I still think that the phrase that the Prime Minister used—I know he thought it out carefully—and the rather clear-cut phrase of the Attorney sounded a little too impartial. I want impartiality, but I do not want it to lean so far as almost to force the States into a partition they may not wish to take. I should like it to be absolutely open, and that is, I think, what all Members of this Committee would like. Obviously, if in this changed mood—and it is a very changed mood, as indicated by the quotations from the Indian leaders which we must welcome: a very changed mood from that of the last 20 years' agitation —if in this changed mood, this atmosphere, there can be arrangements by which the States range themselves into one or other of the great groups, obviously that must be to the general advantage of India as a whole. I trust that.the negotiations will be successful, but I would still like to feel a little warmer attitude than that shown up to now, and possibly—I do not wish to do any harm; goodness knows, this problem is difficult enough—a message might go out of this Committee which would give the right balance from both sides of the Committee of the good will and wishes of the British people as a whole towards this delicate and difficult problem. I have not spoken on the question of the tribal area, to which some of my hon. Friends wish to address themselves. I thought it more convenient to deal with the problem of the great States, and to leave the other questions to my hon. Friends.
I want: to leave the question of the States about which, as far as I am concerned, my right hon. Friend has said the last word, and to take advantage of the presence of the Prime Minister by reverting for a few minutes to the question with which this interesting Debate was opened by my hon. Friend the Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon), who spoke about the position of the Christians in India. I was wondering how we could bring that question within the scope of this Clause, but I think we can. My own view, of course, and that of the Christian community in India, is that their future lies in India, and that they must identify themselves with India. I hope that whoever replies for the Government will make a reference to future treaties to be negotiated, or some other means, so that we do indicate to the Governments of the new Dominions our intense interest in our co-religionists in India, and our devout hope that freedom of religion will be dealt with in the new Constitution.My hon. Friend spoke particularly of the State of Travancore. I know the Christian community in India has shown some anxiety over a certain bias—I do not use the word "persecution"—which has been shown against Christians in Travancore; surprisingly so, because it is a singularly enlightened State. I rise now to express this hope, and to impress upon the Prime Minister my keen desire that we should indicate to the Dominion Governments the very bad effect it would have upon relations with this country if it were to be shown that there was not freedom of religion under the new dispensation.
Has the hon. Member any complaint regarding the treatment of Christians outside Travancore?
Yes, I have, but I will not go into that, because I do not want to make bad blood.
I also wish to take advantage of the presence of the Prime Minister, and to revert to another matter of immense importance in this Bill. I cannot imagine anything more pregnant with good or evil for the future of India than the question of the tribal areas, and the general position of the North-West Provinces. Those hon. Members like myself—and, I think, the Prime Minister; certainly the Under-Secretary—who have visited those areas in the past know that this great red, raw territory is more a part of Asia—one might almost say it is more a part of the Middle East—than of India. Immediately across the great river one gets into the North-West Frontier tribal territory, and the impression is that of meeting with an entirely different type of person, and an entirely different mentality. In fact, when I was there in 1922 I almost thought I was back in the first desert war, because of the terrain, and the intense and fervent belief of the inhabitants—a belief which must be honoured for its fervency in the great cause of Islam.The reference which Clause 7 makes to this matter is as follows, in Subsection (1, c):
I cannot quarrel with those words, but I do want to ask one or two questions which I think are in Order on this Clause. If they are not they can be answered on Clause 11, on which they would certainly be in Order. The first observation is almost, to use a vulgarism, a bromide for hon. Members on both sides of the Committee. The territory in question is one of the greatest historic battle terrains and strategic points of the whole world. Throughout the history of Asia and of the relationship between Britain and Asia, no point, not even the Alps, can be found which has been the scene of such a great historic battle. I would urge that it does not jeopardise but rather safeguards world peace to ensure that such a territory is properly defended. If it is left in a vacuum it is bound to be a danger point to the peace of the world. Therefore, I hope that His Majesty's Government and the Pakistan Government will act in the closest consultation to secure if necessary —one hopes the contingency will not arise —the joint use of British and Commonwealth troops in any major emergency. I put those views on record, and I think no sensible person could dispute them. It may not be possible for the Government to give an answer, but I hope these views will reach the ears of my friend, Mr. Jinnah, and I have a feeling that he would be very friendly to them. At the same time—and this is a point of equal importance—it is necessary to draw a very clear line of demareation between such a major emergency and ordinary measures to secure law and order, including the dispersing of tribal forays, for it would be in the interests of neither Britain nor Pakistan to use British troops in the latter case; that is to say, if British troops were used for what may be described as an ordinary purpose in that part of the world, in securing law and order. Perhaps I might here make a personal reference, having made certain visits there; few people have had better opportunity of seeing conditions there. The maintenance of law and order, unfortunately, always depends upon the use of troops not in the ultimate but in the immediate background—that fortified area which, incidentally, affords an instance of the admirable strategy adopted by the Government in India, who realised that at the time. If these British troops were to be used for the ordinary maintenance of law and order, as opposed to—I use a very euphemistic term which everyone will understand—a major emergency, I think it would affront an important major constitutional principle. His Majesty's Forces in Great Britain—by which I mean the British Army and Air Force; not necessarily stationed in Great Britain—are the responsibility of the Secretary of State for War, who is answerable to this Committee for their welfare, and so on. It would be a grave departure from constitutional principles for them to be at the disposal of any Government in the Empire, however friendly, except in a major emergency."there lapse also any treaties or agreements in force at the date of the passing of this Act between His Majesty and any persons having authority in the tribal areas, any obligations of his Majesty existing at that date to any such persons or with respect to the tribal areas, and all powers, rights, authority or jurisdiction exercisable at that date by His Majesty in or in relation to the tribal areas by treaty, grant, usage, sufferance or otherwise."
I am glad to see that I have the assent of the Prime Minister, because I do not think there has ever been any case in which they have been so used. Therefore, I put forward these two propositions. I do not necessarily press for an immediate answer. It may be better to give an answer at a later stage, or it may not be desirable to answer them clearly or definitely. However, I think it is useful to put them on record. I am certain that they will not be unpalatable to Pakistan, and I hope that they will not be unpalatable to His Majesty's Government.It used to be said in the old days that if you wanted to have an absolutely bare House of Commons, you had only to discuss Indian affairs. Some intelligent person computed, in the 1890's, that the average number of Members present, when Indian affairs were discussed, was about 15. Slightly more interest is taken in the subject today. I am not complaining of the smallness of the attendance on this occasion, but I do want to make this observation: whether we like it or not, whether we are Socialists, Tories or Independents, this question of the defence of the North-West frontier and of the tribal areas is the very fibre of this Bill, and without an adequate defence system for the tribal areas and for the North-West and North-East Frontiers, the whole structure of this Bill and everything we have been talking about on Second Reading, during the Committee stage, and everything we shall talk about on Third Reading will be splinters and match-wood. Vast possibilities for good or evil —I hope that they are for good—exist in the strategic areas in the world, and I need only ask everyone to look at the districts surrounding the North-East and North-West Frontiers.
I rise to put to the Under-Secretary of State a question which I have put to the Government before. I am making no complaint to the Under-Secretary of State. Earlier on, I submitted certain considerations affecting the safety and security of the Christian population in India, and particularly in Travancore, but the Attorney-General made no reference to what I said, in making a very comprehensive speech dealing with the points raised during the Debate. I am seeking clarification from the Under-Secretary of State. Will he give an assurance that some representations will be made by His Majesty's Government in regard to that particular State. and, indeed, in regard to India generally, that Christian safety and security will be preserved, and that there will be the fullest freedom for them to practise and carry on with their educational work, and so on?
With regard to the point made by the hon. Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon), clearly all these matters of religious toleration pass now to the Dominion Governments. They have, in the Constituent Assembly in India, passed resolutions which lay down the security of religion, and I hope that it will be carried out. It is quite impossible for us, as I am sure he realises, to put in a Statute anything that in any way restricts the position of a Dominion Government in that matter. In the same way, it is not possible to do it with the State of Travancore, of which, I think, something like one-third of the population are Christians.
It has been a very enlightened State, and we all hope that it will set a great example of toleration in this matter. I should like now to deal with one point made by the.right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan). It is quite clear, I think, that as soon as one gets into the role of talking about Dominion status, the question of what should happen to the Princes is bound to come up. It was quite clear that paramountcy would have to go when we ceased to rule India. There have been conversations going on for a long time with the Chamber of Princes, and with individual Princes, on these matters. I wish that agreement with the Princes had been come to rather earlier. I do not want to go into details, but the right hon. Gentleman knows that at times there have been differences of opinion amongst the Princes themselves. It is awfully difficult when you talk of Princes, as the right hon. Gentleman said, to remember that in one case there is a huge country with 18 million, and in another case there is a Prince with only a few acres, where absolutely different considerations apply.I do not think it would be wise for me to add anything to what I said on Second Reading, which was to the effect that we did not want to bring pressure either way. I wanted to keep a level course, because negotiations are going forward with, I believe, good hopes of success. The hon. and gallant Member for Down (Sir W. Smiles) raised a point about troops on the Eastern Frontier, and spoke of the Nagas and so forth, whom I have had much pleasure in visiting. In these unadministered tracts, we hope that agreement will be made, and we must all be anxious about these people, who are extremely primitive. I hope that full advantage will be taken of the very experienced officials we have working in that area. The suggestion put forward that there might be some talks with the Government of Burma is a very wise one, because some of these tribes live on both sides of the boundary line. The noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) raised the important matter of the North-West Frontier and its defence. He knows as well as I do that the defence of the North-West Frontier has been entrusted to the Indian troops for a very long time; and, of course, there have always been forces in reserve. This is a matter that is very much in the minds of the Members of both successor Governments, and there is a Joint Defence Council to consider it. I should not like to go further than to say that the Government would be perfectly willing to enter into discussions with the successor Government on any matter of common defence. I do not think I had better say more than that. I am sure everyone understands how vital to the whole of India and the East is the preservation of peace on the North-West Frontier.
I do not press for an answer to my second point, but will the right hon. Gentleman give a general assurance that it would be wrong, in normal circumstances, for British troops to be used for maintaining law and order unless asked for by the Secretary of State.
I agree. We have always laid that down with regard to other Dominions. British troops would be under command here. With regard to Secunderabad, I understand that discussions are now proceeding on that very question.
I was very glad to hear what the Prime Minister said about the North-West Frontier. I noticed that at the end of his remarks, he referred to the Joint Defence Council, which has just been set up. The Prime Minister said, on Second Reading, that this Council dealt only with administrative matters, and that the Commander-in-Chief whom I imagine to be the executive authority, would have no responsibility for law and order and no operational control. I wonder whether such matters as the defence of the North-West Frontier ought not to come within the purview of such a Council, at any rate during the transition period.
I did not want to suggest anything, except that we have a Defence Council which will obviously bring up these questions; we can, therefore, expect that they will be discussed. I did not want to suggest that everything had been laid down already.
I am much obliged for that answer. The other point I want to refer to is in connection with the Clause itself, which refers to the words "or other like matters appear." I. am always suspicious when I see the words "other like matters" in any Bill, but I am particularly suspicious of them in this Bill, which cannot be construed by any court of law in any country. I would like some information as to what these words mean. I am in doubt as to whether they might not be construed as indicating that troops might be left in the particular area. When dealing with the States such a construction might not be placed on the words, but when dealing with the tribal areas it might.
I desire elucidation on one point. I listened to the Attorney-General's explanation of the position of the States if they join one of the Dominions. I can conceive that a State might desire to be identified fully with Pakistan or India if it was convinced that the Dominion would remain permanently within the British Commonwealth. But what would be the position of a State which identified itself with a Dominion, if that Dominion subsequently decided to secede from the Commonwealth? Would the State be carried, against its will, outside the orbit of the Commonwealth?
I would like to echo the words spoken by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) a few moments ago, when he asked for a little more warmth to be enthused into our discussion about future relations with the Indian States. It has often been said that India is a land of regrets. I have never been quite clear about what was meant by it. If it is said that it means regret at going into India, I do not think that anybody who went to India and tried to identify himself with the country and her peoples has regretted it. If the regret is at leaving India, then that is indeed a regret on the part of those who have tried to serve and love that land. That is a painful thought at this last stage of what I would call the fulfilment of our pledge to India, which is bringing with it partition in a united India, partition in two of the Provinces of India, and now the severance of our historic treaty relations with the Indian States.Those relations go back to the days of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. I do not know which is the oldest, but I have delved many times into the Malcolm Treaties which arrested the march of the Mahrattas into Rajputana. Those treaties lapsed through the unilateral repudiation of paramountcy. We regret it; on the other hand this day ought to have been foreseen, on the day we accepted the principle of self-government for India, so long ago as 1917. Now that these contractual relations are lapsing, we must not let them go without some reiteration of the immense debt we owe to the Princes and States of India, and to the part they have played in the governance of India. 7.45 p.m. There are many Members of this House who, speaking seriously, are rather prone to recall the autocratic tone of the Indian States, and to cry that they do not stand for democracy. I am getting tired of the word "democracy," because I am reminded of what the Roman Catholic Archbishop said in the newspapers this morning, that "democracy" is a word which can be used to cover up the most hideous and oppressive forms of autocracy. I remember one of the leading Indian Princes once saying to me: "Who is the more responsible in India—the Indian ruling Prince, or the Viceroy?" Answering his own question, he said, It is the Indian ruling Prince. The Viceroy passes his five years and goes. The Indian Prince remains the trustee for his State, his House and his successors." We must not forget the great debt we owe to the States through two great wars, when they were pillars of the Commonwealth and Empire, nor that they took part in half a dozen minor campaigns in China and in Somaliland, and elsewhere when their resources and support were given, without stint or hesitation, to the Commonwealth Nor must we forget the testimony borne by many independent visitors to India—that on passing the borders they found the people happier than in British Territories. Now paramountcy is passing; we look forward to the future. Those who suggest that we should have special contractual relations with the States outside the ambit of one or both of the two new Dominions should surely inform us what the nature of those contractual relations should be, and how they can be discharged. However that may be, I do not think we should let the occasion pass without expressing our warmest thanks and gratitude to the Princes and the States which have had this intimate association with us for a century and a half, and paying a tribute to those whose hospitality, generosity, and support have always been extended in unstinted measure to the British Commonwealth and Empire. Although our contractual relations may pass with time, we shall always keep our memories green and be grateful to them from the very depths of our hearts.
I do not rise to follow the striking and eloquent speech of the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed), but to answer two points specifically put to me. First, I would remind the hon and gallant Member for North Blackpool (Brigadier Low) that the proviso to Clause 7 (I) does not contemplate military arrangements of any kind. The words "other like matters" have to be construed, ejusdem generis, as the lawyers say, in relation to the words coming before, and they contemplate economic and financial matters. Civil aviation may be one, roads may be another, but certainly matters of a military nature are not contemplated.Now I come to the second point, raised by the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Wilson Harris). The position of States which have acceded to a Dominion which subsequently decides to secede from the British Commonwealth is a matter on which it would be impossible to make a definite statement now, since it depends entirely on the terms on which the State has acceded to the Dominion. That will be a matter dependent in part on the Constitution of the Dominion concerned, and in part on any agreement that (nay be negotiated between it and a particular State. I do not doubt that a State, in negotiating terms on which it could accede to the Dominion, may make it a condition that the accession should be conditional on the Dominion concerned remaining within the Commonwealth.
There are two points to which I would like to refer. One was raised by the noble Lord in the matter of the tribal areas and the defence of the North-West Frontier of India. The Prime Minister gave an interesting account of what was going on, but I feel that emphasis should be laid on this colossal problem of the defence of the North-West Frontier of India. I am perfectly convinced—if I may say so with great modesty because of a good deal of experience which I have had—that the Pakistan Army on whom the defence of the North-West Frontier will lie under the set-up in the Bill, unless other negotiations to the contrary are brought about, will, by itself, be quite unable to defend the North-West Frontier of India. Therefore, we have to realise that something else has to be put in the place of what is at present the British Army in India if that Frontier is to be properly defended. A great danger on the North-West Frontier in relation to Pakistan are the co-religionists of the tribes of the Frontier. There lies a danger which I hope will not be overlooked. The title of this Clause is:
I wish that these were all the consequences mentioned in this Clause, but I feel that, whereas we have spoken about the Indian States and the tribal areas, and made clear that transit, communications and so on with these places will be maintained, we ought to have some proviso at the end of this Clause stating precisely that agreements and treaties existing at present with countries outwith India—Afghanistan, Nepal, French India and Portuguese India—which will be still in existance after this Bill goes through, will not be affected by this Bill without prior negotiations with the States and interests concerned. I feel that should be added in some way or another to make it clear that this Bill will not automatically wipe out anything which we have agreed to do with any of these States."Consequences of the setting up of the new Dominions"
Question put, and agreed to.
Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 8—(Temporary Provision As To Government Of Each Of The New Dominions)
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
This Clause is rather difficult to follow, and I think that the Committee would be grateful if we could have a further explanation from the Attorney-General as to its precise effect.
This is an important Clause making provision in the main for the transitional period while the Constituent Assemblies are still working and before the Legislatures have had time to consider whether or to what extent they wish to modify the general law and government of the Dominions. In the meantime, law and government must he carried on, and the broad scheme of the Bill as expressed in this Clause and Clause 18 is to provide for a temporary Constitution and maintenace of the general law until such time as they may be altered. Subsection (1) gives the necessary legislative power to a Constituent Assembly and attracts the provisions of Clause 6. Subsection (2) deals with the constitutional position until and unless some other provision is made by the Constituent Assembly, and it provides, broadly speaking, that the Government of each of the Dominions is to be carried on as if the Government of India Act, 1935, was as nearly as may be applied to each of them separately. I say "as nearly as may be" because in practice the Act will require very considerable modification. The provisions of the Act which involve central control, directed from London, go.Similarly, the provisions in the Act as to the precise constitution of the different legislative assemblies go. There are, on the other hand, a number of matters in which the 1935 Act may continue in operation unless and until the Constituent Assemblies decide to alter them. In substance—I do not say in every detail because it would be impossible and I think not useful to attempt to go through every Section of the Act at this stage—the existing powers of the constitution of the Provincial Legislatures will remain in being, and so may the powers, as distinct from the constitution, of the Central Legislature. What I have in mind particularly there is that what are called the "legislative lists" set out in Schedule 7 of the 1935 Act, which allocate certain subjects as being for the Central Legislature and assign others to the Provincial ones, would continue until one or other of the Constituent Assemblies decides to alter them. So should also the provision with regard to the constitution and jurisdiction of the High Courts. This will go on and the courts will continue to function until a Constituent Assembly or Legislature decides to alter them. Some of the modifications and adaptations of the 1935 Act are obvious and some are not. The more obvious ones are the subject of express provision in Subsection (2) of the Clause, and, for the rest, the necessary modifications will be made by order of the Governor-General under the powers which are vested in the Governor-General under the subsequent Clauses of the Bill. That is the broad purpose of this Clause, and one has to read it in relation to the next Clause and in relation to Clause 18.
There are two or three questions which I would like the Attorney-General to answer He has said that the provisions of the 1935 Act will continue in force in so far as they are applicable to the new circumstances. He has mentioned a number of respects in which, owing to the partition of India and also the partition of the Provinces, a number of the provisions of the Act will cease to be applicable. There may be a difference of opinion as to what has ceased to apply. Is there any court through which application can be made in order to determine a question of that kind, or is it to be determined by some other machinery? The right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the High Courts He did not say any thing about the Federal Court. Under the 1935 Act, the Federal Court was set up for three purposes, one of the most important being to define the Constitution. That, I take it, will not continue to apply. Suppose there is a perfectly genuine doubt as to the extent to which some provision of the 1935 Act is by implication being made inapplicable as a result of changes that have taken place, how is it to be decided what the true view is?8.0 p.m. The other question I should like to ask is with regard to Subsection (2, d) which says:
The real purpose of that provision under the Act of 1935 was to enable the Central Government to exercise a certain jurisdiction over the Provincial Legislature and, in particular, if I remember aright, to make certain there was not a conflict of jurisdiction between two adjoining Provinces. One recognises that under this new legislation, instead of His Majesty disallowing legislation on the advice of the Secretary of State for India, it would be done by the Governor-General. If paragraph (d) were not incorporated the natural development would be that the Government of India under the new Bill would be able to prevent a Provincial Legislature from legislating in a way which a Dominion Government disapproved, and the Minister of the Dominion Government would recommend the Governor-General to disallow that Bill. I do not understand why that rather important piece of machinery is being done away with under this Bill. It is true we are going to have two federations instead of one, but I should have thought that it was as important as ever to enable the Government of the Dominions to exercise some measure of control over the Provincial Legislatures."as from the appointed day, no Provincial Bill shall be reserved under the Government of India Act, 1935, for the signification of His Majesty's pleasure. and no Provincial Act shall be disallowed by His Majesty there under"
I will deal with the two points raised by the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr Molson) in the order in which he raised them the existing Federal Court cannot function in future but some corresponding court may arise under Clause 6 (2) unless the Dominion or Governor-General decides otherwise. That will be a matter for the Dominion concerned.
Under both Dominions?
Under the new constitution for both Dominions, but a Federal Court is established—.
—for each Dominion separately—the existing Federal Court established under the 1935 Act will not continue to function. The High Court will continue to operate in each Dominion until they have had an opportunity of deciding to what extent any particular provision of the 1935 Act in these regards should be altered.
I am much obliged to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for saying that the Federal Court will cease to exist. I do not think that that is actually provided for in this Bill.
If the right hon. and learned Gentleman would permit me, I would like to develop this argument. He has made an extremely important statement, and it is an example of the way important changes are being made in the Constitution of India which are not explicit in the words of this enabling Act but are implicit because it is assumed that these provisions cease to be valid on the principle cessante ratione, cessat lex. If that is so, it is vitally important that from the beginning either a court or a tribunal or the Governor-General shall be able to decide what are the ultimate consequences of the provisions of this Bill.
I quite agree with the hon. Member, but the Governor-General has those powers under the succeeding Clause. He has an order-making right to make whatever adaptation he thinks necessary in the 1935 Act The existing Federal Court, of course, cannot function because the circumstances in respect of which it was functioning under the i935 Act will not continue New Federal Courts may be set up for each Dominion. As far as the High Court is concerned, I was saying that it might have occasion incidentally to consider whether any particular provisions of the 1935 Act are still in operation providing that the Governor-General had not already dealt with the matter by Order in Council, the normal way in which these matters will be dealt with and will be made clear, and those orders made by the Governor-General will be made under the succeeding Clause.The second point raised by the hon. Member was in regard to the provision in Clause 8 (2, d) as to reservation. That corresponds in the case of the Provincial Legislature with the provisions under Clause 6 (3) with regard to the reservation of laws passed by the Central Legislature. That was dealing with reservation until His Majesty's pleasure was known and that was a form of reservation which enabled the Governor-General to withhold assent to a Bill until His Majesty could be advised by the Government of the United Kingdom about the matter. That provision would have been a wholly inappropriate one to retain and obviously would have involved a derogation from the sovereignty we are now giving to the Dominions. No doubt, the Governors-General will provide immediately, as the eventual Constitution will have to provide, that there will be some sort of power of that kind vested in the Governors-General or provided for in the provisions of the new Constitution, but that will be a matter for the new Constituent Assembly.
Question put, and agreed to.
Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 9—(Orders For Bringing This Act Into Force)
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
Like Clause 8, this Clause covers the interregnum between one system and another, and it is, of course, inherent in the whole scheme of the Bill that there should be rather a difficult period which has to be overcome. Neither I nor My friends are in any way complaining of that. That is the part of the scheme for which we are passing an enabling Act in order to give a Constitution for the Dominions of India. However, there are one or two points on which I am sure the Attorney-General or the Under-Secretary of State will help us, particularly where this scheme has appeared to change since the period of its birth.I cannot help thinking that this Clause—although I am aware of the Interpretation Clause—was drawn with the earlier plain in view, that was with one Governor-General in mind, who during this interregnum period would act as a link between the two parts of British India which are now being created. Had that been so, there would have been some great disadvantages involved with equal advantages in the scheme, and it is quite right that the appointment of a Governor-General of Pakistan should be made to suit the wishes of the Muslim League or the parties to that appointment. I am not objecting to that, but it seems to me to complicate what was bound to be a difficult process, because as I understand it—and I am speaking with great diffidence because it is difficult to follow what is likely to happen under Clause 9 now that we have got two Governor-Generals —there was to be one Governor-General, but now there is a Governor-General for Pakistan and one for India. The difficulty is to bring into operation the arrangement between both Dominions to deal with matters which are now common matters. Subsection (1) provides for the dividing of various problems between the two Dominions and the powers, rights, property, duties and liabilities of the Governor-General in Council, which, I presume, covers a period, between the passing of the Bill and the appointed day. That we assume refers to the person we knew as the Viceroy. Also under this Clause, each of the Governors-General has to divide the authority of the Central Indian Government; and, secondly, to arrange to carry on the function of the present united Governor-General in Council. The Clause also provides for the removing of difficulties in regard to the new monetary system, dealing with the Reserve Bank of India and a variety of other matters which cover a pretty wide field. I think it is clear—and I am not trying to make the thing more difficult, for we all hope and pray it will succeed—that when the plan was originally drawn, it was hoped that one Governor-General would act as a kind of independent umpire. Now there will be two Governors-General and two sets of Ministers advising them. Therefore, as I understand Clause 9, it is really a legal instrument for making effective agreements by goodwill between the two Dominions. If the two Governments of the Dominions reach an arrangemen+ in regard to monetary matters or the Bank of India or some such matter, this provides the instrument by which such an arrangement can be made effective. It does not, however, provide the instrument by which the negotiations are carried on. As I understand it, each Governor-General will act constitutionally on the advice of his Ministers, and not in the sense of Subsection (2) of this Clause, namely:
Therefore, we have to contemplate these two Governors trying to secure negotiations with each other about matters which are now matters of joint concern to the whole of British India with their Legislatures carrying on legislation at the same time. A very heavy task lies upon all those who are concerned in this plan, and it makes it more pleasing that the present Viceroy has consented to remain as Governor-General of India, because I feel his presence will be of considerable value apart from being the legal instrument of carrying out this Clause. Certainly, his presence will be of great value in helping to reach an accommodation and a settlement upon a number of problems which are immense and because of whose immensity it has been necessary to draft this Clause in very wide terms. 8.15 p.m. There is just one further point. understand from the Second Reading Debate that there was likely to be an Arbitral Tribunal of some kind not unlike the boundary commission. I think it was understood that a Hindu lawyer and a Muslim lawyer would probably be appointed, and perhaps a third lawyer as chairman. I should he very glad if we could have a little more information about what is happening regarding this Arbitral Tribunal. So far as I can see, it will be the only body yet devised to deal with the situation if, the parties cannot reach agreement. If the two do not agree about the monetary system, or upon the assets of the Central Government, or about how the railways should go, or about aviation, this tribunal will be the only appeal body in existence. It will be valuable if we can hear more about it. Moreover, since the boundary commission has been written into the Bill, and we have amended it here today in order to make it effective, the Arbitral Tribunal might also be written into the Act in the same way, as it appears to be the peg upon which the whole prospect of a final settlement is likely to depend. I would be grateful if we could have some more information. We do not raise these matters in a cavilling spirit. They are inherent in the handling of the problem. I wonder whether His Majesty's Government would, between now and the final stages of the Bill, look rather carefully at Clause 9, which was clearly drawn with a somewhat different plan in mind, and decide whether any change is necessary, similar to the Amendment they have introduced today on the boundary question. Otherwise, all one can say is that an immense burden will be thrown upon the two Governments to reach these rapid conclusions. I am sure one hopes that they will take the advice of the British officials who we know are readily working with them for a solution of these great problems. A great deal will depend on the personalities of the leaders themselves, and of the Governors-General of the new Dominions. If there is an absolute impasse there is apparently no machinery for its resolution since I gather that the Arbitral Tribunal merely an arrangement reached between the leaders. Therefore, we part from the Clause in the knowledge that it is a very vague and generalised instrument, but in the hope that the general sense of the immensity of the problems and of the vast issues which hang upon their solution will result in satisfactory arrangements and that an agreeable accommodation will be made. I hope that we can have a statement from the Government on the matter. I ask that the questions which I have mentioned should be dealt with before we pass this Clause in Committee, and that we might have more information about the Clause."to exercise their individual judgment "
I would ask the Attorney-General to give us information about the Arbitral Tribunal because upon it will depend much of the success of this tremendous experiment. When a disagreement between two communities comes up before the tribunal and the tribunal gives its decision, what sanction is there for the acceptance of that decision? Is the decision to be in the nature of an award? I am left in the air about the use of the tribunal on the one hand, while, on the other hand, I see that the tribunal will be the linch-pin of the whole future set-up.
This is a very important Clause. As far as I can judge, there has never before been an Act of Parliament containing a Clause conferring such gigantic powers on one man, except perhaps in time of war. When one contemplates the vast power which there will be in the hands of the Governor-General between now and the appointed day, one wants to take the opportunity of making quite sure that he has the power in his hands to remove some of the difficulties which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) said might arise. It is a good augury of the possibilities of action in other spheres, that this Parliament can, through an Act of Parliament, confer on one man powers of such immense importance and magnitude and bring to a happy ending a dispute which, in other circumstances, might have led to war and revolution. It is a most astonishing triumph that that should be possible, but we should be sure that the powers of the Governor-General are so used that we do not have any constitutional impasse as was suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley. We should he quite sure that the Governor-General has sufficient power in his hands, as he has so much other power, to avoid anything unfortunate of that kind.
As the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Haden Guest) has indicated, this is a very important Clause. It confers very wide but temporary powers of legislation by Order. As I indicated when speaking on the last Clause, this is really the necessary corollary to Clause 8. It provides for the machinery for adaptation of the 1935 Act, by which transitional difficulties can, so far, at least, as their legal aspects are concerned, be overcome. It is a wide Clause. It is inevitable in the circumstances of the case that the powers which are vested in the Governors-General should be very wide powers. Even if it had been politically expedient, it would have been quite impracticable to attempt to deal by express provision in the body of the Statute itself with the various matters which the Clause will bring within the scope of the Governors' order-making powers.The Governors-General have, in effect, under this Clause to bring the Act into practical operation and to provide by law for all the manifold and difficult practical matters, such as how certain matters under the central control can be dealt with, how assets and liabilities are to be dealt with, and how the properties of India as a whole are to be divided up, and so on. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) said, these are all matters which, before they can be the subject of legislation, must be the subject of examination and negotiation on the spot. It is hardly necessary to go into all the different classes of matter which will have to be the subject of Order eventually under Clause 8. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned some of them, such as the currency system and the central banking arrangements; and one might add the whole question of the division of the existing central administrative organisation. All these matters, before being embodied in a Bill, would have to be the subject of negotiation and agreement. As they have not yet been the subject of negotiation and agreement —or not complete agreement—they are matters which, inevitably, have to be left to the powers of the Governors-General. That leads me to say a word about the position of the Governors-General. After the appointed day they will act constitutionally on the advice of the Ministers in each separate Dominion. Quite clearly, there will be many difficult and complicated matters arising out of the division of India, in regard to which they will have to seek accommodation and agreement with each other, and with the respective Governments of the two Dominions. This Bill does not attempt to lay clown how such differences shall be resolved, if unhappily, they arise and, of course, this Bill could not attempt to lay down how such differences should be resolved if they did arise consistently with giving complete sovereignty to each of the Dominions. In regard to some matters it may be that an Arbitral Tribunal should be set up, and discussions have taken place already in regard to that. I am told by the Under-Secretary of State that the Chief Justice has been invited to be president of such a tribunal, but I do not know whether he has yet accepted. I make that reference to show that such arrangements have gone some way. However, there is no provision in the Bill for such a tribunal, nor does the Bill contain any sanction to ensure that the award of such a tribunal must be carried out. That is a matter which, in the last resort, will depend upon the goodwill of the Dominions concerned, although, of course, if they both enter, as they are entitled to do, into a freely-negotiated treaty to establish an Arbitral Tribunal to deal with particular matters, that would become a binding agreement under the ordinary rules of international law.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman says that of necessity there could not be introduced an Arbitral Tribunal into the Bill. How does it differ from the conception of the boundary commission?
There is, in my view, a fundamental distinction between the two. The boundary commissions are laying down in advance the boundaries of what are to be the two new Dominions; the Arbitral Tribunal will continue in existence after the Governments of those Dominions—their boundaries once settled and defined—are themselves functioning. If one had provided for by Statute for an Arbitral Tribunal the awards of which had to be obeyed by each Dominion, one would, to that extent, be derogating from the sovereign powers conferred on each Dominion. That is a distinction in principle between the two. The boundary commission comes into operation now, before the Legislature of each Dominion can exercise sovereign power over the whole of its territory, because ex hypothesi,the boundary of the territory has not yet been settled. Once the boundary is settled, then the Legislatures, under the scheme of this Blil, are to have sovereign powers within their Dominions and within the Commonwealth. It would be a detraction from those powers to say, "If you do not agree with another Dominion, then you must abide by the award of some outside Arbitral Tribunal."
Does that mean, supposing for example, Mr. Jinnah now consents to the Arbitral Tribunal, and therefore gives it some foundation, and after 15th August is advised by his Ministers to disregard the award of the tribunal, that the Arbitral Tribunal's award is of no validity?
The impelling necessity of reaching agreement will, no doubt, result in agreement being reached. That is the real sanction. These two Dominions will not be able to deal with many of these matters, which have hitherto been of central concern, unless they can reach agreement as to their division and as to their future administration. One cannot deal with problems of that kind by legislative enactments, one must rely on the common sense and good will of the two Governments to reach agreement and to find some solution of their problems. I have been mentioning the matter now only in order to emphasise the fact that, great though these powers are which are vested in the Governors-General, they are powers which will be exercised on the advice of the Ministers concerned. They are also powers which are temporary in their nature. They come to an end at the end of March next year unless, indeed, the Legislatures terminate them earlier, and the Orders that they make in the exercise of their powers are subject to repeal by the Legislatures of the Dominions.
We are grateful to the Attorney-General for explaining this. As he has rightly said, it is part of the structure of this Bill not to try to lay down a solution of all these problems. I think I am right in saying that the powers of the Governors-General are really given them in order that there may be some legal method of making fixed agreements, freely entered into, between the Governments of the two Dominions. We provide them with the instrument to carry out their agreements during this preliminary period, and that being inherent in the plan, it would be foolish for us to attempt to do more. That is why we have not asked for more than elucidation. We must trust that they will succeed because, to use the Attorney-General's words, the impelling necessity of reaching agreement will result in agreement being reached.
Question put, and agreed to.
Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 10—(Secretary Of State's Services, Etc)
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
In the absence, owing to another engagement, of my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler), I want to raise a very important question about the position of these Services. There is, as I shall endeavour to show in the course of my remarks, an apparent discrepancy—and I am confident that the Under-Secretary will be able to tell us why—between the satisfactory statement made by the Prime Minister upon the subject of the Services, and the statement the right hon. and learned Gentleman made in his reply in the Debate on Second Reading. I regret that my right hon. Friend is not able to be present, because he has had more recent experience of the Services than I have, but I had a very long experience, nearly seven official years so to speak. To open a bit of what has hitherto been secret history, there was a period when it was almost impossible to recruit members —that was nearly a quarter of a century ago—to either the Secretary of State's Service, or the other Services. People would not come in because of the uncertainty of the situation and the lowness of the salaries paid. From this long distance of time, perhaps I may now say that I was sent out on an unofficial mission in 1902 to the Viceroy, to induce the Government to agree to such conditions of service as would make it possible to recruit the same splendid type of young Indian who had been recruited in the past, and that equally applied to young Britons. It was very desirable to get young Indians in as well.To cut short my little piece of history, they were recruited, and as a result, in the 1920's there was a very good intake of Indians, and people from this country. I feel as we all do, including Members of the Government who were in office at the time, that we all have a great responsibility towards these men, Indian and British, who were encouraged by the efforts of hon. Members on both sides of the House to enter these services. Nor is it possible to ignore the fact that, at any rate until the announcement by the Under-Secretary of State in the Second Reading Debate, there was serious concern on the part of many members of the Services. Some of my right hon. Friends on these benches have received a large number of telegrams and letters from India. I have received a good many letters. I will read extracts from a typical letter of concern—it cannot be described as complaint—very proper concern, by a man in the Ordnance Services and Departments, which is a very important body in the Civil Service structure of India. He says:
he encloses a memorandum which I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman has seen—"Since this was written."
Then follows something to which I wish to call particular attention. The letter says:"we have been instructed to decide whether we elect to serve in Pakistan or in the rest of India. We may make a provisional choice (for six months) and either Government will guarantee us our existing conditions of service."
A statement of that kind must cause concern to every Member of the Committee, because there is no party division of opinion between the two sides of the Committee about it being the duty, in the case of ex-Service men, and these are British ex-Service men, to do everything we can to help them. The writer continues:"We have had bitter experience of the way in which regulations have been read at various times. Members of our service, recruited during the war for the duration of the war, returned to England bitterly disappointed with the attitude of the Indian Government who in effect attempted to repudiate the terms of their agreement which was signed in England."
"We have been unable to obtain any information from the Defence Department as to what are the 'existing conditions of service.' We are credibly informed that, instead of a man being allowed to take all the leave to which he is entitled pending termination of service, should he not elect to serve under either of the two Governments, he will be treated as having served notice on the Government of India. This means that service terminates six months after the service of such notice.
The writer goes on to make a number of other complaints. I will hand the letter to the right hon. and learned Gentleman privately. I quote it as symptomatic of a feeling of concern which existed until the Under-Secretary of State's announcement. My correspondent writes:It may be that the Government will take advantage of the Clause that 'leave is a privilege and not a right,' in which case the officer will have to continue working right up to the end of this notice period. With transport in its present state, this would perhaps mean a further three months to remain in India without pay. In any case, if leave were granted it would mean spending this leave in India until a passage could be arranged."
I have had a number of letters from other members of the Services. What we are concerned with, as I have already said, is to reconcile what was stated by the Prime Minister with what was said by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I particularly make no party point. I think everyone will agree that it is necessary in a matter of this kind, which affects a large number of people, Europeans and Indians—because I do not want to get on to a controversial point—to make clear that not every Indian in the Services is particularly anxious to serve under India or Pakistan. They may enter under different conditions. It is not a racial question, but a question of the position of these men. What did the Prime Minister say? He said:"…the position of the Europeans of the Ordnance Services is very obscure."
Then, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State when replying, said this:"As regard persons who have been in Government service, whether Central or Provincial, but whose service has not. been specifically under the Secretary of State, I am happy to be able to announce now that the leaders of the Indian parties have guaranteed the existing terms and conditions of service to all their employees, including Europeans. This guarantee covers pensionary and provident fund liabilities, and excludes any question of discrimination between Indian and non-Indian. But it cannot, of course, be regarded as an abandonment of the general right of any Government to revise the salaries of their servants from time to time. It is, however, recognised that, among the liabilities to which I have referred above, there is one category for which His Majesty's Government have a special responsibility, namely, towards Europeans who served in the Secretary of State's and analogous Services. We intend to invite the new authorities to negotiate, in due course, an agreement whereby a capital sum in sterling will be set aside to cover this liability. Meanwhile, those concerned have the assurance of His Majesty's Government that they will receive the pensions to which they are entitled."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, l0th July, 1947; Vol.439, c. 2470.]
he was referring to my right hon. Friend the Member for Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson)—"The right hon. Gentleman's next question"—
"was with regard to the Services. He asked what was meant by the term ' analogous service.' Analogous service means officers of the various defence forces. The statement of policy which was made by the Prime Minister on 30th April with regard to pensions covers the members of the Secretary of State's Services and the various members of the Defence Services and for these purposes they are considered to be and are described as analogous services.
Mr. H. MACMILLAN: This is rather an important point. Does that include what are called the uncovenanted services?
That, of course, will include persons in the category described in the letter which I have quoted. The Under-Secretary of State continued:Mr. HENDERSON: No, and I am coming to deal with that now. It does not cover Europeans who are in the service of the various Provincial Governments and ho are not members of the Secretary of State's Services; nor does it cover such personnel as are in the employment, for example, of the Railway Department of the Central Government."
I think that is in conflict with the words I have previously quoted of the Prime Minister who said:"They have their contracts direct with the Government of India or the Governor-General in Council on the one hand, in the case of the Railway Service, and with the Provincial Governments in the other cases. The most we can do is to have got the leaders of the major parties of India to accept the responsibility for pensions and proportionate pensions. Any question of safeguarding their interests under their contracts must be done in another way." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, l0th July, 1947; Vol.439, c. 2556.]
We want to get that matter cleared up by, I hope, a further statement from the right hon. and learned Gentleman which may be sent out to India in order to reassure these people. I do not want to pursue the matter further at this stage because probably my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden, who has now returned, may have something to say later. I think I have succeeded in my task of not making this in any sense a party question. I am particularly anxious that we should not do that. All that I and all of us on either side of the Committee are concerned with, is to see that these admirable people, both Britons and Indians, of the various grades of the Services are given reasonable assurances about their future. Following the quotation which I have just read from the speech of the Under-Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden said:"I am happy to be able to announce now that the leaders of the Indian parties have guaranteed the existing terms and conditions of service to all their employees, including Europeans."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, l0th July, 1947; Vol. 439, C. 2470.]
Obviously, he was surprised, like the rest of us, at what appeared to be a deviation from what the Prime Minister has said. The Under-Secretary of State replied:"What does that mean?"
I gather from the right hon. and learned Gentleman's attitude that he is going to clear up this dubiety which exists as a result of what appears to be a difference between the statement made by the Prime Minister and the one made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I end by saying that we on this side of the Committee, and hon. Gentlemen opposite, attach immense importance to this matter."What we intend to do is to cover such matters in the treaty that we intend to negotiate with the successor Governments…[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th July, 1947; Vol. 439, c. 2556.]
I only want to add one small point to the case which my right hon. Friend has put so fully and forcibly, and that is in connection with the servants of the Government of India. I understand that these include some covenanted and uncovenanted servants. who, as public servants of the Government of India, have a right to pension. They all have the same right to pension, although the pension itself may be of different amount, and whether they are the Secretary of State's servants or not. In either case, the pension is a charge upon the public revenues of the Government of India. His Majesty's Government have chosen to distinguish between the pensions payable to the Secretary of State's servants and the pensions payable to other servants, and there has always been a distinction between the responsibility of this House and the Government towards the Secretary of State's servants and to the other servants of the Government of India.It seems to me that we can carry this distinction a little too far, bearing in mind that the pensions scheme, in either case, comes from the same revenues, and that the right of pension is a right against the same revenue. It has been, and it will remain until 15th August, the ultimate responsibility of His Majesty's Government to see that these pensions are paid. On 15th August, we cease to be responsible for anything like that, but, under the guarantee which the Prime Minister gave us on l0th July, we remain responsible for the payment of pensions to the Secretary of State's servants. Could not the Government reconsider the position of these covenanted servants of the Government of India who, though under contract with the Government of India and having a right to pensions, are now the Secretary of State's servants? That is the point I wish to put, and it is one which really carries one step further the argument put by my right hon. Friend. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman has not had time to consider the point tonight, I hope he will read what I have said and think it over.
May I put one other point of detail before the right hon. and learned Gentleman replies, and also reserve the right to make further observations when we have heard his no doubt entirely satisfactory reply? I want to ask about a certain category, that is, officials who serve in the Central Government and belong to the railway service. Almost all these officials were recruited by the company-managed railways which have subsequently been acquired by the Government of India. When they became State railway officials, some of them executed agreements with the Secretary of State and some with the Governor-General in Council to serve His Majesty. The only factor determining whether the agreement was with the Secretary of State or with the Governor-General in Council was, in fact, the date of acquisition by the State of the railway in question, those acquired before 1935 being acquired by the Secretary of State and those later by the Governor-General in Council. I have figures to show that some 95 European officials have contracts with the Secretary of State and some 338 with the Governor-General in Council. We want to be quite sure that there is no discrimination between these two types of officials.I have chosen that particular case in order to get down to details to show some of the borderline cases that appear to exist, and this is a particularly difficult case because the officers of the Secretary of State have their pensions fully guaranteed, and if they are not required to stay or are unwilling to continue in the service, they are guaranteed compensation for loss, or are offered alternative employment. I want to ask how the latter cases—those who negotiated agreements with the Governor-General in Council, and who are, in fact, the same type of official as the former category—are to be situated in future. What we want to know is whether the Prime Minister's phrase used during the Second Reading Debate, as to the Indian parties "guaranteeing conditions to Europeans" applies in these cases, and whether the further statement of the right hon. and learned Gentleman about the arrangements to be made financially for the guaranteeing of pensions will apply to the latter category. I am sorry that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is being asked to deal with such a technical point without proper notice; but, all the time we are receiving the most personal and poignant letters from these types of officials. Here is a difficult point, about a class of persons serving the Central Government and the railways. How does the term "Indian parties," for example, apply to those serving centrally, because they have not a contract direct with a Provincial Government? I should be very grateful if that sort of point could be elucidated, and I hope that, on the main issue, the right hon. and learned Gentleman may be able to give us a satisfactory reply. If he can, it will be very satisfactory to the services concerned.
I am grateful to to noble Lord for allowing me to remove any doubts that may exist on this question of the position of servants of the Government of India, or of the Provincial Governments of India. Perhaps it would be convenient if I were to put the facts, starting with the statement that was made on 30th April by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I would say, in passing, to the hon. and gallant Member for North Blackpool (Brigadier Low), that there is, apparently, a misconception as to the use of the term "uncovenanted service." I think that the noble Lord will agree, from his previous experience, that the term "covenanted service" applies only to the I.C.S. How the abuse of this phrase has crept in I aril not able to say; but, in fact, the technical position is that the covenanted service is really the I.C.S.On 30th April, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister stated the views of His Majesty's Government with regard to the premature termination of the engagements of members of the Secretary of State's services. The White Paper, which was subsequently published, makes it quite clear what categories were included in that statement. They are the members of the I.C.S., the Indian Police, the Ecclesiastical Establishment. and a number of others that can be found in the document—those who belong to the Secretary of State's Services. In addition, there were those who belonged to what have been described as the "analogous services." They are the officers serving in the Defence Services. Those various categories are to receive such compensation as may be payable under the terms of the announcement made on 30th April. In addition, it was stated that the Indian leaders were prepared to accept liability for the payment of pensions and proportionate pensions. Up to that point, we are dealing with members of the Secretary of State's Services and analogous services. The next stage is the reference, to which the noble Lord has drawn attention tonight, contained in the Second Reading speech of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. He was then dealing with those who are not members of the Secretary of State's Services or of the analogous services. We have had examples of the categories which are covered—for example, those who are employed under contracts with the Governor-General in Council. Such people include those serving on the Indian railways. Then there are those who are employed under contracts with a particular Provincial Government. As regards those officers, whether European or Indian, the Prime Minister made a firm statement which said of persons who had been in Government service, whether Central or Provincial, but not specifically under the Secretary of State:
He went on to say:"I am happy to be able to announce now that the leaders of the Indian parties have guaranteed the existing terms and conditions of service to all their employees. including Europeans."
The noble Lord drew attention to remarks that I made towards the end of that Debate, and suggested that it might cause doubt in the minds of those who were interested in this matter because there appeared to be some discrepancy between what the Prime Minister said and what I said. Perhaps it will save the time of the Committee if I do not analyse what I said, but if I state what I intended to say. This was that, as far as the members of the non-Secretary of State's Services are concerned, they are not included within the ambit of the statement that was made on 30th April. When the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) asked:"This guarantee covers pensionary and provident fund liabilities, and excludes any question of discrimination between Indian and non-Indian."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th July. 1947; Vol. 439, C. 2470.]
I understood him to refer to the statement of 30th April. Therefore, my answer was that that was not the case, because the statement of policy as regards compensation applies only to members of the Secretary of State's Services and analogous services. Therefore. I said that the statement of 30th April"Does that include what are called the uncovenanted services,"
I went to say, as I have indicated:"does not cover Europeans who are in the service of the various Provincial Governments and who are not members of the Secretary of State's services."
and this is consistent with the statement which the Prime Minister made so far as pensions are concerned—"They have their contracts direct with the Government of India or the Governor-General in Council on the one hand…and with the Provincial Governments in the other cases The most we can do "—
I ought to express my regret to the Committee because, technically speaking, it was not correct for me to use the term "proportionate pensions," since, under their contracts, members of the Provincial services do not qualify for proportionate pensions. They have to serve out their contracts and then they get their pensions. But we are hoping, at any rate in the case of those who, as a result of what is to take place—the transfer of power—will not be able to complete their contracts, that the Governments of India and Pakistan will see their way to granting proportionate pensions to those officers who, at the moment, are not en- titled to them. To that extent, I may have misled hon. Members, and I am glad to have this opportunity of putting the matter right. With regard to the question of the agreements or treaties, whichever one may call them—there is some doubt as to whether they are treaties or agreements which are made between two Dominions —we are seeking to discuss in these agreements or treaties negotiated with the successor authorities, a good many matters, one of which is the possibility of the payment of proportionate pensions to those who today, under their contracts, are not entitled to them but who, for various reasons, may be unable to stay on for their terms—"is to have got the leaders of the major parties of India to accept the responsibility for pensions and proportionate pensions."—[OFFICIAL REPORT 10th July, 1947; Vol. 439. c. 2556.]
If I may interrupt the right hon. and learned Gentleman, he will appreciate in that regard that the reason why proportionate pensions were given, in the first instance, in the case of the Secretary of State's services, was because the conditions of service were completely changed; that is to say, as a result of the Government of India Act, 1919, and the greater Indianisation, it was thought right to give proportionate pensions. If that was true then, it would a fortiori, apply today.
What the noble Lord says is absolutely right. That is the background explanation of why the proportionate pensions were given to members of the Secretary of State's Services. I do not know whether what I have said has cleared up the dubiety, but that is the position with regard to the pensions rights of the members of the Secretary of State's Services, and the terms of their contracts, as regards those of them who continue in their posts following the appointed day. 15th August.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman was talking a moment ago about treaty discussions and a treaty in connection with proportionate pensions for these servants of the Government of India. Will he not also enter into negotiations to try to get a pensions fund set up, at least for the European members of those services for whom we have a little responsibility—we have no legal responsibility, but we have a little responsibility —in the same way as he hopes to nego- tiate for a pensions fund to be set up for the members of the Secretary of State's Services.
I think it would be wrong for me to attempt to give any commitments because, indeed, I am not authorised, and I am sure that the hon. and gallant Gentleman does not expect me, to do so. On the other hand, although the position of those for whom he speaks is entirely different from that of the members of the Secretary of State's Services, owing to the very special protection that was afforded by the Government of India Act, 1935, to members of the Secretary of State's Services, I certainly will take steps to ensure that his suggestion is, at any rate, given consideration.
I cannot help feeling a little dissatisfaction with what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said. I think if he would put himself in the position of people employed in these Services, who, after reading the Debate today, will say to themselves, "What really is our measure of security?" he will see that it is comprised in a statement by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons and a statement made by himself, both of which boil down to a statement of good intentions, and a report by the right hon. Gentleman that the major parties—presumably, the two major parties—in India have in some unknown way, on some unknown occasion, in some unknown document, made themselves answerable for the continuance of the salaries, pensions and conditions of service. They will ask themselves, what remedy have they if these conditions are infringed? The answer is that they will have no remedy against anybody. All they have got is a statement of good intentions.Not for one moment do I impugn the good intentions and sincerity of His Majesty's Government in these matters. Of all the people in the world in this connection, the last person whose sincerity I would impugn would be the Prime Minister. Nor do I impugn the good intentions and the sincerity of the two major parties in India. But times change and people change. What guarantee, what reasonable hope have those men got that the successors to the present Indian leaders will honour this obligation? They do not even know if it is an oral undertaking or a written undertaking. There has been no White Paper issued, no document published. Was it given just in the course of casual conversation between the Viceroy and Mr. Jinnah and Mr. Nehru? These are questions people will ask. "What remedy have we if our conditions of service are infringed?" I know quite well that is the way they are looking at it. We on this side of the Committee, and, probably, hon. Members on the other side, too, have had many letters outlining these reasonable questions and anxieties. They are not unreasonable but natural anxieties, reasonable anxieties. I feel we must demand something more definite from the right hon. and learned Gentleman. May we see the documents and know who signed them; and will he at any rate indicate what remedy these people may have if things turn out badly against the expressed wishes of the Government?
I do not think the Under-Secretary has completely cleared up the situation yet, in answer to the question put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton). We have had this assurance from the Prime Minister—I need not read it all—to the effect that
That is a very satisfactory statement. We would like as authentic information about it as can be given, as has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson). But then during Second Reading the Under-Secretary himself said:"the leaders of the Indian parties have guaranteed the existing terms and conditions of service to all their employees, including Europeans."
That is a statement less than the Prime Minister's, because that includes pensions and proportionate pensions. The Prime Minister's phrase includes the existing terms and conditions of service. The Under-Secretary then went on to widen the gap still further by saying:"The most we can do is to have got the leaders of the major parties of India to accept the responsibility for pensions and proportionate pensions."
Yet the Prime Minister had already said that the existing terms and conditions were guaranteed, including pensionary and provident fund liabilities. There is a distinct gap between the statement of the Prime Minister, which covers all Europeans, and the statement by the Under-Secretary, because the Under-Secretary went on to say that the safeguarding of the interests—which the Prime Minister had already said were covered—must be done in another way. I then asked the Under-Secretary what that meant, and he said:"Any question of safeguarding their interests under their contracts must be done in another way."
I think there is a wide statement and a narrow statement, and into that narrow statement comes a treaty reference which does not come in the Prime Minister's statement. I think it would be advisable for that to be cleared up. The next point about which I wish to ask is the future of the judiciary. The judiciary in India cover a very wide range, ranging from the High Court down to the subordinate judiciary of the Provinces—criminal judiciary, various subordinate judges, and so on. I do not want to go into the details, though prior to this Debate I did look up the voluminous paperswhich I had filed away after our very lengthy discussions on this matter in the Joint Select Committee and on the Government of India Act, 1935. In that Act, of course, all these matters were most carefully regulated. All questions of postings, the different opportunites in the service, discrimination against members of the service and any sort of bullying or anything of that description, were all provided for. I do not think anybody could now reasonably claim that we could enact to include all such provisions, because the situation has changed so radically, and we are indeed thankful that the Indian parties—to use the words of the Prime Minister—have guaranteed as much as they have done. I think we should know to what extent this assurance covers the judiciary. We have had many representations from members of the judiciary, and, if we can, we should like to obtain from the Under-Secretary, on this important occasion, a statement which gives some satisfaction to them that they are covered in much the same way as the other people are covered. I also wish to make some reference to a very important class of persons in India, who in moments of crisis have very often been the nerve centre of our communications during our period in India, and who will, I think, have a great future in the country. I refer to the AngloIndians. They are widely included in the Services, especially on the railways, where, as we know, they are among the most reliable engineers. They are included in many other important posts, and we should like to know whether, in the reference to European and Indians, there is any rememberance of the Anglo-Indian community. It may not be possible, on another occasion, to call attention to the definite part played by the Anglo-Indian community, or to ask to what extent the Government and the new successor authorities are remembering them. We feel that we owe them a special debt in a special way. That is one of the many duties we cannot literally carry out, owing to the fact that the transfer of power is absolute and definite. Many of us who have talked about minorities, realise that in the transfer of power goes the responsibility for the Anglo-Indian minorities and the others. It would be satisfactory to know, in regard to the Services covered by Clause 10, that there is an opportunity for the Anglo-Indians to be considered in general terms. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman apprehended my short intervention in the case of those officers under contract with the railways. Some 95 had contracts with the Secretary of State, and some 338 with the Governor-General in Council. The 95 have issued a document from New Delhi, dated 16th June, and they get the whole of the cover from the undertaking given on 30th April. The rest, although they now have a happier time owing to the statement made by the Prime Minister during the Second Reading, do not get exactly the same range of assurance. It is really a case of differential treatment between those who had contracts initiated before 1935, and those who had contracts after that date. It seems rather awkward that exactly the same type of railway official should be treated in two different ways. What I have done is to put again the question of the apparent gap between the right hon. Gentleman's words and those of the Prime Minister in regard to the Services in general, and then dealt with the ques- tions of the judiciary, the Anglo-Indians and the railway service men. I should like to conclude, on this subject of the Services, by saying that there are many people here and elsewhere who have retired from India, and there are, of course, those who have died and have widows in this country who depend upon widow and family funds, who are looking to the Government to carry out the undertakings which the Prime Minister gave in the Second Reading Debate. Any statement that the Government can make to reassure them will be warmly welcomed. It is right to acknowledge the distinct advance made by the Government in the recent statement. I hope that when the time comes to initiate the treaty, about which we have heard a little, we shall have an opportunity to make some inquiries on what is likely to be included."What we intend to do is to cover such matters 'in the treaty that we intend to negotiate with the successor Governments."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 10th July, 1947; Vol. 439, c. 2470, 2556.]
While agreeing that we must discharge our duties in a way that has been suggested, I should like to ask if the right hon. and learned Gentleman can give us some information on how many of those employed in these various services in India are likely to stay on. When I was in India recently I had the opportunity of meeting a great many of these people, some of whom expressed a desire to stay on, but who were not at all sure about the terms and conditions they would get. If they were to get the same terms and conditions as they obtained previously, it would make a great deal of difference to them and to the future of India. These people are well known and trusted by the Indians and the British community, and if they did stay on I am sure that they would render as valuable service in the future as they have done in the past.
I hope the Under-Secretary will be able to respond to the appeal of the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest), and tell us how many civil servants are likely to remain in India. I rise, however, to make a point which I mentioned on Clause 7, when I asked the Attorney-General whether he could give any information as to what was likely to be the future of the officers of the political Department of the Government of India. In the White Paper dealing with compensation for the services, which was issued in April this year, the Government of India and His Majesty's Government both make it plain that, so far as the services are concerned, inside what is now British India, it is hoped that as large a number of officers as possible will remain, if financial inducements are given, in order to make the transition to self-government in India as easy as possible. But the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not answer the point I made.It is logical that if paramountcy comes to an end on 15th August, all those officers of the Political Department, some recruited from the Indian Civil Service and some from the Indian Army, who have been responsible in one way or the other for the administration of the powers of paramountcy, will cease to have any reason to continue to work. When I spoke about the end of paramountcy, I said that in the case of large parts of India the work of the residents in close touch with the Political Department had had much to do with the good administration of those parts of India, especially in States like Kathiawar. I am still wondering whether, in the negotiations which have taken place, any provision has been made for the officers who have been in the Political Department being employed by the new Political Department which will be under the Governments of the two new Dominions. I think it would make a great deal of difference to the ease of transition. If the long tradition of wise, diplomatic, and administrative energy is to be brought to an end at about eight weeks' notice, I believe there is great danger that in many parts of the Indian States chaos will supervene.
I can say at once that the future employment of Political Officers is a matter for either or both of the new Dominion Governments, and that it will be impossible for His Majesty's Government in any way to bring pressure to bear on either Government, or both, to employ these officers. But as has been said, these men have great experience and ability, and on the basis that they would be willing to serve, I have no doubt the matter will he noted by the Governments concerned. I cannot say at this stage that any steps can he taken by His Majesty's Government to bring this about. I would, of course, remind the hon. Member that political officers are entitled to compensation in the event of premature termination of their engagements. I am sorry if I have failed to clarify the position with regard to compensation. I can only say that whatever omissions there were in my own remarks, the statement that was made by the Prime Minister is the one to be taken as authoritative. Although one reference that I omitted was to the guarantee which has been given by the Indian leaders on conditions of service for those who stay on, both Indian and European, that is of course a very important guarantee, and I for one would be the last to seek to minimise its importance. Therefore, I can only say that whatever hiatus there was in my treatment of the compensation position, the position as stated by the Prime Minister is the one upon which we should work. In regard to whether Anglo-Indians come within the guarantee as to terms of service, the guarantee of the pensions and provident funds includes no discrimination between Indian and non-Indians. It is obvious, therefore, that it covers the Anglo-Indian members of the services.I was asked about the position of the judges. They are getting the guarantee which is set out in Clause 10 (2). As regards those who serve on, they are to enjoy the same terms of service and pension as nearly as may be in the changed circumstances. The case for compensating the European judges, which is at present receiving consideration, is not quite the same as that for the members of the Secretary of State's services. The judges are independent of control by the Executive, and it is necessary, among other factors, to take into account the argument that, so long as this independence is safeguarded and their appointments and emoluments are preserved, their position is not fundamentally altered by the forthcoming constitutional changes. As I said, the question of compensation for these judges is at present receiving consideration. The right hon. Gentleman raised a question with regard to two categories of railway officials. He will remember, having played a distinguished part in the passing of the 1935 Act, that one thing that the Act ended was the appointment by the Secretary of State of officials to the service of the Railway Board in India. The 1935 Act took away that power of appointment. Subsequent to the passing of the Act, the contracts of those thereafter taken into the employment of the Indian Government railways had to be made with the Governor-General in Council. That is the explanation of the difference between the treatment of the 35, or whatever the number was, prior to 1935 who came within the statement of 30th April because they are technically members of the Secretary of State's Services and the others who are excluded from the statement.
I realise that might have been an omission in the Act of 1935, but will the Government consider extending the statement of 30th April to cover these latter people who are doing the same service as the men covered by the statement and who have, therefore, greater security?
I do not want to enter into the technical side of it or shelter behind the fact that the contract in fact and in law was made with the Governor-General in Council and not with the Secretary of State. At the same time, I think it would be wrong for me to suggest that there is any likelihood of a change being made, but on the other hand, the right hon. Gentleman and his friends have pressed the case of those in this particular category, and I will certainly bring the representation to the notice of my noble Friend.
I am sorry to be so persistent. I fully realise the delicacy of the position, and I do not demand a categorical statement tonight. I want to know what the exact position is. Do I understand that the position of these people, who are not in the Secretary of State's Services, is that they are only covered by the statement of the Prime Minister that an agreement has been made either orally or in writing with the leaders of the two principal Indian parties? Is that as far as the Government can go, or can they say that there will be anything in the treaty or agreement which, of course, the House will not have an opportunity of debating or amending later on? Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman give me a direct answer as to whether this is all that these people have to be content with?
I am afraid it is. Until we get responsible Governments established in the two Dominions, we have to negotiate with the recognised leaders of the major parties, and I should have thought that the moral obligation that they are incurring in accepting the liability and giving this guarantee is such that it is inconceivable that successor Governments, which will be in commission after 15th August, would repudiate the undertaking that has been given by their national leaders.
I entirely accept that, but the people whose pensions and livelihood depend on agreements of this sort would feel happier if they had something in writing. Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman publish the agreement signed by the leaders of the parties?
I want to be frank with the Committee. I am not in a position to give the terms of the agreement; the information I have given to the Committee was contained in a telegram from the Viceroy.
I opened the Debate and I do not want to make a second speech. I want to say, however, that I hope the whole Committee feel a particular responsibility in this matter because, apart from the two Members of the Government, there are few who have had more responsibility in this place for speaking for the Secretary of State than I and my right hon. Friend, both of whom represented him in this House. I do not want to carry on a detailed discussion, but I would make a most earnest appeal to the Government to accept as the highest moral responsibility which could possibly rest upon them, the obligation to see that after this Bill comes into effect, representations are made to the two Governments in India to see that these people, including particularly the Anglo-Indians, are given a fair deal; because I can assure the Committee it is an historical fact that we have not always in the past in this country and in this House shown that regard for devoted loyalty which we should have shown.9.30 p.m. There was in the Nova Scotia Legislature, after the Maine Agreement had been reached, a Debate in which several people objected most strongly to the fact that splendid people, who had chosen to give up what was secure in order to come into Canada, had reason to be afraid that they would be deprived of their property and that no safeguards had been given to them of any kind. The Government's answer, which was rather like the answer given tonight by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, was that they would give no specific guarantee but that they must rely upon the good will of the Government. An old member got up and said, "I have never been ashamed to be patriotic and it is 40 years ago since I left the land of the almighty dollar to come again under the British flag. I do not know why hon. Gentlemen should suppose that the Government would do anything of the kind, because it happens that British Governments everywhere pay more attention to successful rebels than they do to devoted loyalty." I am afraid that that is what has happened in more than one instance, as for example, in the Irish settlement. I do not want to get on to a wider aspect of this problem, but I know that there is an analogy there, as everyone will agree who has had letters from former members of the Royal Irish Constabulary. I would only say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that we on this side of the Committee, and I hope everyone in all parts of the Committee who attach importance to this, will use moral suasion to see that these conditions which have been promised are fulfilled to the letter, and that all these men will have an opportunity of an honourable career under the new Governments equal in opportunity to that which they enjoyed before.
Question put, and agreed to.
Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill
Clause 11—(Indian Armed Forces)
Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
I should like to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman a few questions on this Clause and I shall group them under three main heads, firstly, under British personnel in the Indian Armed Forces, officers and other ranks; secondly, a few points under Partition forces; and, thirdly, one or two points about the Gurkhas, who may or may not be covered by the phrase. "His Majesty's Indian forces."In regard to British officers and other ranks serving with the Indian Armed Forces, as a result of a question which I put to the Under-Secretary of State a few weeks ago, it appears that there are something over 22,500 officers and men at present serving with the Royal Indian Navy, the Indian Army, and Royal Indian Air Force. It appears from Clause 11 (2,b), that after 15th August they will not be under the law governing the Indian Forces for Pakistan or India, but will be, I imagine, under the law and rules governing the British Forces. The men serving with the Indian Army, Navy or Air Force will, I imagine, be transferred by a stroke of the pen to equivalent service in the British Forces so that from 15th August it appears that in the British Army—I will omit the other two Services for the time being—they will come under the Secretary of State for War, who will be responsible for their pay and for laying down terms of service. If that be so, I imagine that an arrangement will be made whereby this country can recoup the sum of money expended on these men serving with the Indian Army by treaty or some other agreement between the Governments concerned. In particular I imagine that special arrangements will have to be made to cover payments on leave, and any special payments that are made to British serving personnel that are not made to Indian serving personnel. I would like some confirmation on that point. I imagine that the present procedure will continue whereby men and officers can be posted from here to India without their consent. I see that under Section 179 (b) of the Army Act, no citizen of this country can be posted during a war to serve in the Dominion Forces without his consent, but the consent is not required in time of peace. I do not know the intention of the Government on that point. Now I come to the question of partition. In "The Times" this morning, I see the proposals for the allocation of existing Indian regiments and Indian ships between the Dominion of India and the Dominion of Pakistan. I draw the attention of the Committee to a point which becomes clear when one reads those proposals. It is that because Pakistan will be much smaller in population and much poorer in economic and financial resources than the Dominion of India, it will not be able to maintain forces of the same size as the Dominion of India. At the same tin-Pc, the Dominion of Pakistan is faced with very much larger defence responsibilities, for the reasons which my noble Friend has already explained to the Committee, from the external point of view, than the Dominion of India will be. That is an example, if one is needed, of the wounding gash which the partition of India has made in the defence of India and in the defensive arrangements for the British Commonwealth as a whole. Now I come to the third point, about the Gurkhas. I should like to know at once from the Minister whether the Gurkha soldiers are included in the term "His Majesty's Indian Forces"? It may be that the Gurkha regiments are at present part of the Indian Army. What the Gurkha soldiers are really doing is to serve His Majesty. Assurances have been given in the past that they will serve His Majesty only under British officers. I do not think the Government can deny those assurances. I have heard the claim put to the Government frequently across the Floor of the House that such assurances have been made, and the Government have never denied that the assurances have been given. The position is that the existing Gurkha regiments are under an obligation to serve His Majesty, on the assurance that they are officered by British officers. I know that the whole future of this Gurkha regiment, as well as the future of the recruiting of Gurkha soldiers after 15th August—which I admit is another question altogether—is sub judice at the present moment. I believe that the Under-Secretary of State has told us that an emissary has gone out from the British Government to discuss this matter with the Ruler of Nepal and with the present Government of India. I would like the Minister who is to reply for His Majesty's Government to give us some assurance that we will not force the Gurkha soldiers, who have enlisted in the service of His Majesty on the assurance that they will serve under British officers, to serve in future under Indian officers if they do not want to do so. I am making absolutely no comment on the relative merits of the two, but an assurance has been given, and if Gurkha soldiers do not wish to change their service and to serve under Indian officers, we have no right to force them to do so. If we are not prepared to have Gurkha regiments in the British Army, we should not force the Gurkhas to go into the Indian Army or the Pakistan Army if they do not wish to do so, but should allow them to return to their own country. These matters have been ventilated very frequently, but there is an opportunity here for the Government to give the assurance for which I have asked, and I hope they will be able to do so.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Blackpool (Brigadier Low) has already referred to the division of the Armed Forces. I have one short question to ask about the Royal Indian Navy. We were told by the Prime Minister on 3rd April, 1946, in answer to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford (Mr. J. P. L. Thomas) and also in answer to a question in another place, that three cruisers of the Leander class were to be transferred to the Royal Indian Navy, the first probably in March of this year. I would like to know whether these three transfers have taken place or will take place, as no mention of them is made so far in the division of forces.
I would like to add one word to what was said by the hon. and gallant Member for North Blackpool (Brigadier Low) about the Gurkhas. It would seem at the moment to be a problem which ought to be left for those on the spot to solve. There are some very delicate balances to be struck as to whether Gurkhas want to serve under Indian officers as much as they want to serve under British officers, but this is one of the problems with which the Viceroy, as Chairman of the Defence Committee, will have to deal with Nepal and the appropiate Indian representatives on the spot. There can be no question of compelling the Gurkhas to serve under Indian officers if they do not want to do so. It would be quite impossible to make them do anything they did not want to do, as the hon. and gallant Member for North Blackpool well knows. If it comes out at the end of the negotiations—I hope it does not—that the Gurkhas as a whole do not wish to serve in the Indian Army, I do not think it would be at all improper for His Majesty's Government to consider, at some time in the future at any rate, embodying them in the British Army. I do not think that would give any offence to India, and it would be a very great help to us overseas.
The Prime Minister was very wise in his Second Reading speech when he suggested that the subject of defence should be left till the Committee stage. None of us would wish to make any remarks on the Second Reading or in the Committee stage which would give offence in India. However, I personally regard this division of the Armed Forces of India with very great sadness, and I believe it is one of the most unfortunate things that has happened, although in the circumstances it is inevitable.I regard Dominion status as exactly equivalent to full independence and, therefore, I fully accept the fact that both India and Pakistan want their own Armed Forces, but in neither India nor Pakistan will efficiency be improved by dividing the Army, Navy and Air Force. The first thing needed is to defend the sub-continent as a whole; the second is the prevention of communal strife; the third is other incidental work in connection with duties in aid of the civil power. One of the great unifying things we have done has been to build up an Army in India with the assistance not only of British officers, but of Indian officers holding the King's commission. I know how sad many of them are that this decision has been made. One of the great efforts being made by U.N.O. is to try to get internationalism, and now, just two years after the war, we are to see one of the really successful inter-racial Forces split in two. But that is to be, and I want only to say how sad I am that it is to happen. One question which will arise quickly is that of the supply of technical equipment and advice and the use of bases on the sub-continent of India. I do not think it would be fair to ask any Member of the Front Bench opposite to answer now, but I hope the leaders of India will realise that they are definitely not in a position to defend their country without assistance from someone, and I hope that the other Dominions, including this country, will be allowed to help, as we can produce the technical equipment and arms. There is one small point which perhaps the Minister who is to reply can answer, and that is whether any of the equipment, military, naval or air force, in Indian now is the property of His Majesty's Government or of the Indian Government. If any of it is the property of His Majesty's Government, presumably what shall be paid for it will be subject to negotiation. I believe that one of the great examples we have set in India is in keeping politics out of the Armed Forces. I hope and pray that our friends in India and Pakistan will be successful in keeping politics out of their Armed Forces.
Up to now on this Bill I have supported the Government, because I realise that conditions in India are very different today from what they were after the last war, but I believe that lines 20 to 22 in this Clause, providing for the division of the Indian Army, would mean murder and bloodshed in India. First, let us consider for a moment the composition of the Indian Army. I do not think anybody can be certain in which Army the Sikhs will be in the future, though I think the majority of them will be in the Indian Army. The Gurkhas have all been in the service of the British Crown, some of them from father to son, some from grandfather to grandson, or even from grandfather to great grandson. It is suggested now that they are not likely to serve under Indian officers. Perhaps as the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) has suggested, they may and I hope they will be incorporated in the Imperial Armed Forces, but still I believe that with that tradition the Gurkhas will join in one of the new Dominion armies, either in Pakistan or India. They have the Rajputs., on the left, and they are certain to join the Indian Army. However, as well as internal order we have to consider invasion. I have read articles about Afghanistan joining up with the North-West Frontier Provinces. We had a war with Afghanistan as recently as 1919. I can remember when, about 1906, China went into a place called Rima, and we had to make strong threats to deter her, because at that time China was a united nation, and very different from what she is today. After all, if Alexander the Great was able to invade India without modern transport, others who wish to do so might do the same today.U.N.O. has been mentioned, and I can remember the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Zilliacus) in an earlier Debate, talking about U.N.O. in regard to India. All of us who were in Parliament before the war remember the efforts which were made for an international police force, and for amalgamation. It is certainly a tragedy that this Army is to be split in India. This opinion is my own, but curiously enough, it is exactly the same as that held by Mr. Gandhi. I have never before found myself holding the same opinion as Mr. Gandhi. should not have thought that in the war with Japan the best way to defeat them was non-co-operation, retiring to an Asram, manufacturing salt on the shore at Bombay, or working with a handloom. But I agree with him in this, that it is a tragedy that the Indian Army should be split. When in the past we were told that Singapore was impregnable, or that aeroplanes could not sink a battleship, one felt diffident about putting one's opinion against the experts on both sides of the House, but I believe that this Clause, particularly lines 20, 21 and 22 are going to wreck the whole Measure, and that within 20 years we shall see the greatest tragedy that has ever been seen in India's long history.
I wish to ask what I believe is a fairly simple question about our regular serving Forces in India at present. I understand that they will shortly be transferred back to home establishment—
That is dealt with in the next Clause.
The hon. and gallant Member for East Grinstead (Colonel Clarke) should raise that matter on the next Clause.
In regard to the point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Down (Sir W. Smiles) I think everyone regrets the division of the Indian Army which has had a magnificent record in both great wars, and between the wars. Everyone regrets it; nevertheless, it is a necessary consequence of the setting up of two Dominions in India that there should be a division of the Armed Forces. I am afraid we cannot get over that. It is an inevitable incident of Dominion status. We all hope, of course, that there will be the greatest possible agreement between the two Dominions on defence matters.The question about the Gurkhas has been raised. Gurkhas are recruited from the independent State of Nepal, and so far as we are concerned, negotiations have been taking place with authorities in Nepal, with the agreement of the Indian Government, because, of course, Nepal being inland, we need that agreement. The negotiations have been going extremely well. There is no attempt on our part to put Gurkhas under anyone whom they do not wish to serve, but I can assure the Committee that negotiations are proceeding, and officers are shortly going out from here to try to fix up the whole matter, because I think it is important that we should still have the use of Gurkha troops as in the past. In reply to the point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Hythe (Brigadier Mackeson), some equipment will be taken back with our troops when they evacuate, and other equipment will remain within India. It depends upon to whom the equipment belongs. With regard to the position of European officers who remain with the Indian forces after the appointed day, it must be understood that there is no compulsion whatever in this. They will be serving as volunteers, but the Commander-in-Chief considers it essential for the successful accomplishment of the difficult and delicate task of dividing up the Indian Navy and Army that the process of Indianisation, which has been going on at a great pace, should be slowed down to a certain extent, and that a proportion of British officers should be invited to stay on after 15th August. The terms of that service have been or will shortly be announced. During this continued period of service the officers will be formally transferred to the corresponding British Service, subject to British discipline Acts, but it is hoped that a goodly proportion of these officers will respond to the invitation and will help to steer India through this critical period of its history, and that they will have the powers of command of officers of their rank when they are serving with the Indian Forces. I hope that a great many officers will stay on, because the Indian Army has a great tradition. A tradition takes years to build up; it can be destroyed in a very short time. We hope that a good proportion of British officers will stay both with the Forces of Pakistan and the Forces of India, and help them during this difficult period of transition.
Is it not the case that on transfer from the Indian establishment to the home establishment these officers will lose their full rights to compensation under the terms of the White Paper which the Government published in April? Is it not possible that because more officers will be kept on now in order to fill the extra gaps there are, because we are now finding more officers in the Indian Army, some officers will become redundant after a given period with the progress of Indianisation, and will therefore be discharged from the British Army without compensation? Will the Prime Minister bear that in mind?
Will the Prime Minister say whether arrangements are being made by General Auchinleck in regard to assisting Pakistan with the establishments which the Dominion of India will possess, staff colleges, etc.? Will any assistance be rendered by His Majesty's Government in that way, and are there to be staff attaches, as in the case of the other Dominions, starting immediately with the Forces of the two Indian Dominions?
We shall give every assistance we can to the two Dominions, and will do everything we can to assist them in staff and other matters. In regard to the query by the hon. and gallant Member for North Blackpool (Brigadier Low), my impression is that we have safeguarded the position of all those officers who are staying on. Obviously, they ought to he indemnified if they stay.
Will the Prime Minister answer my question about the cruisers?
The matter of the three cruisers was held up owing to the difficult position. Negotiations are now proceeding with regard to the Royal Indian Navy. I will let the hon. and gallant Member know when anything turther has been decided. Negotiations are proceeding with regard to the allocation of warships.
10. 0 p.m.
We should like to thank the Prime Minister for his statement on this subject. There is perhaps no other subject which is of so much importance at this time as this decision which, we agree must follow automatically upon the decision to divide India into two different parts. I seldom agree with Mr. Gandhi, and I do not appear to have the good fortune very often to agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Down (Sir W. Smiles). In this case I again disagree with him, so we all seem to be following our true and typical form. I should like to make the general observation that the fact that these two new Dominions are to be Dominions within the British Commonwealth of Nations is, I hope, a good augury for the obvious need which they will have to enter into understandings one with another on this vital question of defence. I trust that will be the implication of the fundamentals of this Bill which will come about in due course.I do not want to press the Prime Minister or the Government tonight, but I presume that at a later stage the whole question of Imperial defence as such, which will be a matter of even more interest to the new Dominions than it is to us—even though it is a vital matter to us—will be considered and that it will form part of the general negotiations and talks which will precede the formulation of a treaty. I presume that to be the case but, whether it is or not, I want to mention that the general question of Imperial defence is one which will arise in due course and which must be ever in the mind of the Prime Minister.
That is very much in our minds. The right hon. Gentleman will realise that that must wait until the Governments are fully formed.
I have been talking to two officers in the Indian Army and I believe that what is happening is that if they wish to continue service in the British Army, they lose three-quarters of the compensation which is paid out by the Indian Government; also they forfeit their pension until such time as they qualify for it in the British Army. I think the tendency as a result of that is for the British Army to lose the officer altogether. I know that the view they take is that the risk was theirs in joining the Indian Army, but the compensation is the Government's.
In the case of an officer of less than 20 years' service, which is the category eligible for transfer to the British Army, the emoluments, including pension rights, which they will receive as from the date upon which they join the British Army, have been worked out on an actuarial basis which results in their qualifying only for one quarter of the compensation of a man who leaves the Indian Army and does not enter the British service. One must take the overall result of that transfer.
Of course. They would be better off financially if they lived in "Civvy street" altogether.
It is very difficult to know how well off they would be then because it depends upon the work they get and the emoluments they receive. As I have said, this has been worked out taking into account the pay and pension rights they will have as from the date upon which they transfer to the British Army. Under the scale which has been worked out, they are entitled to only one quarter of the compensation.