House Of Lords
Tuesday, 26th February, 1924.
The House met at a quarter past four of the clock, The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.
Criminal Justice Bill Hl
Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
My Lords, I have risen to move the Second Reading of the Criminal Justice Bill. In a material respect it resembles another Bill relating to justice, the Second Reading of which your Lordships passed last week. It is a Bill which, like the last, stands for continuity. It is the work of more than one occupant of the Woolsack, and to-day, in this Bill, there are many provisions which I have inherited from Lord Cave, and some which I have added and of which, I hope, he will not disapprove.To me the most important Part of the Bill is the first Part, which deals with probation of offenders. The proposal of the Government is to make the probation system effective, and for that purpose to expend on it a moderate sum of public money. I know how careful we have always to be about any demand on the public purse, but I have said before now, and I shall say it again, that we must always remember there are two sides to every account. There is that other side of the account in which you have a great-deal of expenditure that would not be necessary if you had an adequate machinery of justice, and which you hope to save by making your machinery adequate. To-day there are a vast number of young persons, first offenders in circumstances which are very extenuating, who are consigned to gaol because there is no other way of dealing with them. That is a very bad thing, if it can be avoided. It means not only cost to the public in paying for persons in gaol, but it means, in too many cases, degradation and the commencement of a criminal career on the part of those who have lived a life which may have been almost blameless up to that date and who are consigned to prison. The purport of the probation system v. as to obviate that. The person now found guilty, if he is very young and, if it is a first offence, or if there are special extenuating circumstances, is now bound over under recognisances which compel him to come up again for trial and receive his full sentence, if necessary. But in the meantime, and in the hope that you may reform him, he is put under the observation of the probation officer—on leave, so to speak—and if he behaves himself he is reported on, and in the end discharged. That is the system which, in a small degree, indeed far too small a degree, is working at the present time. I do not speak on this matter merely from instructions. I have been connected with the Magistrates' Association of England and Wales, and we have had this question under our close consideration for some time. I have been pressed by magistrates in all parts of the country as to the desirability of extending this probation system. I am convinced that the probation system, properly administered, will diminish the number not only of our present criminals but of our habitual criminals, and will thus save the State substantial sums of money in the end. But if the probation system is to be of any value there must be properly-qualified probation officers. The purpose of the early Part of the Bill is to effect this, and to extend the powers and numbers of the probation officers and avoid what has been the cause of the system being largely inoperative at the present time. In the year 1907 the Probation of Offenders Act was passed. It was a very good Act but for one thing. The State said: "Let there be probation officers," but it did not propose to assist their employment. It left this for the rates. Public spirited men and women came forward and assisted in this direction but not in sufficient numbers, and, as for the rates, in some cases local authorities acted up to the spirit of the Statute while in other cases they said they could not bear the cost. In these circumstances the State has determined to come to the rescue and make a liberal contribution towards the upkeep of these probation officers. If your Lordships will look at subsection (3) of Clause 3 you will find that it is contemplated that Parliament should provide the money, in the shape of a Grant-in-aid, to assist substantially in making the probation system real and effective. That is all I need say about this Part of the Bill. I submit that this should have been done long ago and that it is good it should be done now. There are other things in this Bill of quite a different order. The administration of criminal justice was deficient in material particulars, and in order to get the best advice we could on the subject Committees were appointed in, the days of my predecessors. They were very powerful Committees. One was presided over by Mr. Justice Horridge, the second by Mr. Justice Avory, which considered the responsibility of a wife for crimes committed under the coercion of her husband, and the third Committee, under the Chairmanship of the Director of Public Prosecutions, considered alterations in criminal procedure (indictable offences). These Committees have all presented Reports. The proposals which they have made have been carefully considered by the Government and embodied in the Bill which is now before your Lordships. There were also certain other things connected with the recommendations of these Committees, all of which have been the subject of investigation, and I can tell your Lordships what they are in a very few sentences. Clause 9 of the Bill proposes that certain offences which are now tried only at assizes shall be tried at quarter sessions. If they are serious enough they can be sent to assizes, but there is no reason why quarter sessions should not dispose of them, and accordingly there are enumerated those offences which may be dealt with in this manner. Clause 10 says that certain offences which are now only triable at assizes or quarter sessions may be dealt with summarily by magistrates. There are many of these offences, and where the person tried is willing that his case shall be dealt with by the magistrates, then the Bill provides that it can be disposed of summarily. Clause 15 enables justices before whom a person is charged, instead of committing him for trial at assizes or quarter sessions for the county or borough, to commit him to be tried at any other convenient assizes or quarter sessions, with a view to expediting the trial or saving expense. It may be that there is no assize or quarter sessions sitting in the county for some time and that it is more convenient the person should be tried at some other assize which is most convenient. Care has been taken to safeguard the interests of the accused in this case. I need not trouble your Lordships with Clause 19, which provides for the trial of a corporation which is said to have neither a body to be kicked nor a soul to be damned. Still it has to be tried sometimes and, accordingly, procedure has to be provided for the purpose. Clause 20 gives the right of appeal against sentence imposed by a court of summary jurisdicdiction on a person pleading "guilty." Sometimes a man pleads "guilty" and finds to his surprise that a heavy sentence is inflicted. If this Bill is passed he will be able to appeal. It is proposed also to abolish the grand jury at quarter sessions—not at assizes. During the war, as your Lordships know, there were no grand juries, simply because we could not get them, but now we are dealing with the situation as it is to-day, and the proposition will, I think, commend itself to your Lordships. I turn now to Clause 37. Under the law as it now stands, the Common Law of England, if a wife is indicted for an offence which she has committed along with her husband, there arises a presumption of law, so powerful that there is no getting behind it, that she acted under the coercion of her husband. Sometimes I am afraid that it is the other way, and I imagine that in some cases the husband acts under the coercion of his wife, However that may be, there is no presumption in his favour, while there remains this powerful presumption in favour of the wife. There was a well-known trial not very long ago, in which a lady escaped punishment in circumstances which led the Judge to make some comments. We have investigated the point and it has been reported upon by a Committee. As a result, we think that the clause, in the form in which it appears in the Bill, will commend itself. The presumption, as a presumption of law, disappears, but the wife will still have the benefit of any defence which she can set up to the satisfaction of the jury that she was acting under the coercion of her husband. It thus becomes a question of fact and not a question of law. The only other clauses which I think I need mention are Clauses 35 and 36. Clause 35 has been inserted with a view to meeting the point raised by my noble friend Lord Russell. It provides that
Clause 36 provides that people who attempt to take photographs in Court, without the consent of the Judge, shall be subject to penalties. One reason is that this practice is often very hard upon the prisoner, who is very much misrepresented by the photograph in the eyes of the public. At any rate, we have put this matter to some extent under the control of the Judge, who looks after the order of the Court. I think that the clauses I have mentioned are all the material clauses upon which your Lordships will desire information. This Bill is an attempt to bring matters up to standards which appear to be demanded to-day, and I now beg to move that it be read a second time." Any person who is drunk while in charge on any highway or other public place of any motor car … shall…be liable in respect of each offence to imprisonment for a period not exceeding three months or to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds, or to both such imprisonment and fine."
Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a .—( The. Lord Chancellor.)
My Lords, as my noble and learned friend has said, the greater part of this Bill was contained in the Bill which your Lordships passed through all its stages last year, and as to that part I have nothing to say. The new portion of the Bill consists mainly of Part I, dealing with the extension of the system of probation of offenders. I need not say that I welcome that proposal also, for it is one of those mentioned in the gracious Speech delivered at the commencement of this Session for which my friends and I were responsible. All those of your Lordships who, like myself, have taken part in the administration of justice at petty sessions and quarter sessions will know how valuable the probation officer is; how useful it is to have some one who can be put in charge of a prisoner who has committed an offence, or who can confer with a prisoner who is accused of an offence : and in how many cases that simple process has made it unnecessary to administer punishment such as we are all reluctant to inflict. It is the fact, as my noble and learned friend has said, that in some places the authorities have been reluctant to make use of that system mainly because they are unwilling, I think unfortunately unwilling, to expend money in the process. I feel sure that the proposal that some help shall be given by the State towards the payment of expenses will be a useful proposal, and I hope it will commend itself to your Lordships. I have pleasure in supporting the Second Reading of this Bill.
My Lords, there is one point to which I should like to call the attention of the Lord Chancellor. It refers to Part I, which, as he has justly said, is probably the Part which will most interest the House and provides, I think, the greatest hope of considerable results. I am sure that everybody who has been associated with administration of criminal justice will wish it well. It is the Part which relates to the payment and the functions of probation officers. I think it must be manifest to everybody, certainly to everybody who has had any experience upon the point, that everything depends upon the character, the tact, the diligence and the sympathy of the probation officer appointed. A probation officer who is perfunctory, a probation officer who is tactless, a probation officer who is stupid, is a probation officer who does harm and not good, and therefore the pivot upon which the success or failure of this portion of the Bill would probably turn is the selection of the probation officer, his qualifications, and the means of keeping him up to his work, or getting rid of him if he proves to be a failure.I do not see that there is any definite provision for dealing with this matter. It appears that the probation officers are to be appointed by a Probation Committee and the Probation Committee is to consist of "three or more justices appointed in the prescribed manner by the justices acting in and for that division." The post will be one for which, I have no doubt, there will be a certain amount of candidature, because there is a salary attached to it. It is the duty of the Probation Committee, having appointed the probation officer, to supervise his work, receive his reports, and
I suppose that is by the justices—" perform such other duties in connection with the probation of offenders as may be prescribed "—
Then, finally, under Clause 6—" or as the Secretary of State may by order direct."
I think that is all that seems to touch upon this point, and I do not see any means of getting rid of the probation officer, if he is a failure. I am sure, however, that as soon as a little trial shows that a given person is a failure, it would be desirable that he should be superseded by a suitable person. It is left entirely to the Secretary of State to make rules for prescribing the qualifications of probation officers, but I do not think the mere qualifications of a probation officer are quite the whole matter, because I think that, while we might say that the. probation officer was, for example, to be an officer of the constabulary who had served for so many years or should have some experience as a Court missionary or what not, merely prescribing the qualifications of such a person and making the appointment subject to the approval of the Secretary of State does not meet the point. Unless you have somebody who is interested and whose duty it is to find the best man possible for the work, the scheme is not likely to work as it should do. Of course, it can be said that three or more justices, appointed in the prescribed manner by the justices acting in and for that division may be trusted to do this work, but then you must remember that three or more justices appointed by the Lord Chancellor are not always specially qualified for this delicate duty, and I venture, to suggest to the Lord Chancellor, before we come to the Committee stage of this Bill, that the Bill may be made more effective if some provision were made for the points to which I have drawn attention, and if it were not merely left to the Secretary of State to make rules, which, when made, will only be rules and not provide that driving force which is what is really required to make the thing work" The Secretary of State may make rules for carrying this Part of this Act into effect and in particular—
" (c) for prescribing the qualification of probation officers and for providing that the appointment of a probation officer shall not, in any case where the Secretary of State so directs, be effective unless confirmed by him."
My Lords, this Bill seems to me to contain a very large number of miscellaneous provisions, and some changes in the law, which it is difficult to apprehend at the first blush. It ranges in its subjects from cruelty to children, driving motor cars, and probation officers, to a rather technical clause which enables you to perform the feat of committing a corporation for trial. I agree with what the noble and learned Viscount has said with regard to probation, but there are other provisions in the Bill which make changes in the law which are not easy to understand at once. I have no doubt that they have been considered by those who are capable of judging the facts, but I think that probably members of this House would not mind having a little more time in which to look at the Bill before the Committee stage, in order to see whether there are any points to which objections can be taken. I hope the noble and learned Viscount will tell us—I do not know what procedure it is proposed to adopt—whether it is proposed to take the Committee in the Whole House, or to have something in the nature of a Select Committee. If it is to be a Committee of the Whole House I hope that some little time will be given. It is not that I object to the Bill, but I do not quite understand the full force of all its provisions, and perhaps the noble and learned Viscount will enable me to communicate with some of those who have advised him, in order that I may resolve some of the doubts which I have.The Bill does propose a great many alterations in the law. With regard to the alterations in the law relating to drunken motor car drivers, which the noble and learned Viscount said ought to please me, that was not the object of my Question the other day. Powers seem to me to exist now to deal with such cases, and my only complaint was that they were not sufficiently drastically applied. If we are to dictate to the magistrates, which seems undesirable, or to fix minimum penalties which cannot be reduced, I think something is to be said for making it a necessary condition of a conviction for drunkenness that the licence should be suspended for at least twelve months. It is, I think, a punishment which is remarkably apt to the crime committed, and that it is a penalty which ought to be enforced, but which is enforced much too seldom. I would also say, on this matter, that it seems to me a little unfortunate that you should have one clause in this omnibus Bill amending one section of the Motor Act. A re-casting of the Motor Act, which is long overdue, has been promised by successive Governments, and I think it would be far better that it should be taken in hand as a whole, rather than that a particular section should be dealt with piece-meal. I do not desire to comment on the other provisions of the Bill, because I am not sure that I fully understand them, but I would ask for a little more time in which to consider them.
My Lords, I ask for the indulgence of the House in addressing it for the first time, and, seeing how late I have arrived here, it may well be the last time. I would not venture to say a word upon the introduction of this Bill but that it does deal with matters which came before me, as a Judge of the King's Bench, during a very long period of time, and I think perhaps your Lordships might like to hear what I have to say upon one or two points. Possibly, what I say may be of some assistance. I would notice first Clause 9, which goes to extend the jurisdiction of the quarter sessions. For a long time now Bills have been passed rendering it possible for cases to be dealt with at quarter sessions which otherwise could only be dealt with at assizes. This has been, I think, greatly occasioned by the many and exacting duties of the Judges of the King's Bench, who have to get through the work in London—people always complain if it is in the least delayed—and also have to go assizes to every county town in England and Wales.It is natural, therefore, that cases should be sent to the quarter sessions; but I think before much is done to extend this practice it would be well to consider whether, in all cases, those who preside at quarter sessions are in every way fitted to deal with those cases which are sent before them. No one arrives on the Bench of the King's Bench Division without a very long apprenticeship in the hearing and trial of criminal cases. Those who preside at quarter sessions have not always had the qualifications and the training of a barrister. There are, of course, many Chairmen of Quarter Sessions distinguished by their learning and practice of the law. Unless I am mistaken, the noble and learned Lord President of the Council is, or was, a Chairman of Quarter Sessions.
And I think the noble and learned Viscount who very lately spoke, and who was lately Lord Chancellor, acted for a long time as Chairman of Quarter Sessions. But these instances do not prove that it is always the case. A Chairman of Quarter Sessions is elected by the justices, and I desired to ask the Lord Chancellor, but I had not the opportunity, whether it is the case that he does not have to agree to their presiding in Criminal Courts, as he does in some other courts where an officer is elected to try very important cases. If the trial of criminal business is to be extended, then it would be well to take definite means to secure that in every case a Chairman exercising criminal jurisdiction at quarter sessions should have had the training and practice of a barrister.The present position has grown up almost by accident. Chairmen, of course, have the duties to perform, which they do perform most admirably, of county business, but the Chairman for criminal business may well be separate, and I think there would be no difficulty in getting the services of men in large practice at the Bar. I think there would be no difficulty in getting them to give their services, although I think it would be worth while even to remunerate them to some extent, in order that they should preside at the trial of criminal cases at the quarter sessions. I would not have ventured to make these remarks except that, having been, from the time when the Criminal Appeal Court began its work, often a member of that Court, I have naturally seen the summings up and, in fact, the whole proceedings at the trial sent up to that Court from the quarter sessions, when there has been an appeal; and it is not natural to expect that anyone who sits once in three months to try criminal cases should try them—I think I might fairly say—as well as someone who is constantly engaged in that or analogous work. The difficulty in trying a criminal case is not simply in passing sentence, and, if it were, that would not matter so much, because there is an appeal upon the sentence, and upon the conviction too—an appeal from quarter sessions to the Court of Criminal Appeal. The difficulty is in understanding and applying correctly, and on the moment, the rather complicated but, I think, excellent rules of evidence, as they apply in our Courts, and—most difficult of all—in summing up, summing up so as to present properly and adequately the case for the prosecution and the case for the defence. And there is nothing in which the Court of Criminal Appeal has been more strict than in insisting that both sides shall be fairly put before the jury when the Judge or Chairman of Quarter Sessions sums up a case. It has happened, though we prevent it whenever we can, that, in cases where the prisoner was undoubtedly guilty and had been convicted, the conviction had to be quashed because of some defect, owing merely to inexperience, in putting the defence before the jury as a Judge of Assize would have put it. A small matter upon which I should like to speak, and to which the Lord Chancellor has already alluded, is the question of sketching and taking photographs in Court. To my mind this practice of publishing in the newspapers sketches of people who happen to be involved in litigation has done a very great deal of harm. Whether the provision in the Bill goes quite far enough in preventing it, I do not know. There was a dreadful case some time ago, in which a photograph was taken at the Old Bailey of a Judge passing sentence of death. That photograph was published—a most shocking thing to have taken, or to have published, dreadful for the Judge, dreadful for everybody concerned in the case. Of course, the Judge knew nothing of it, could not do anything to prevent it, and could not punish the person who had done it. Sketching with a view to publication may require a little consideration, because I well remember a learned counsel who became a Law Officer of the Crown, and I very much doubt whether he would have reached that position if he had not been an almost inimitable draftsman and had not published—in the strict legal sense of the word "publish"—the sketches which he often took in Court, and very often gave to the Judge. One other matter upon which I should like to say a word is the alteration of the law with regard to the case of a husband and wife jointly charged with a crime. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack mentioned that this had been brought about by a case recently tried. I think—in fact, I feel sure—that he alluded to a case which I myself heard, and in which the point was taken on behalf of the woman that, whatever the evidence might be, whether it did or did not prove the offence, the Judge must not leave the case to the jury, because it is a presumption of law, as distinguished from a presumption of fact, that if a woman commits a crime and her husband is present, she commits it solely by his instigation and under his coercion. Much ridicule has been poured on this rule. I think when it was established, and for a long time, it was a very good rule indeed. Women are not now in the position in which for a long time they were—whether they will regret it in the long run I do not know. But when the rule was made in the middle ages a wife was, in some respects, little better than a chattel belonging to her husband, and it was quite reasonable, having regard to the manners of the time, that if a man was present when a woman took part in a crime or committed it, the law should say: "She shall not be tried; he domineers over her in all the affairs of life, and we must presume that he coerced her by his dominance on this occasion." And I think perhaps there was another and a softer reason. In those days and, in fact, to the end of the eighteenth century, punishment was dreadfully severe. Capital punishment was awarded for crimes which are now dealt with by the justices, and dealt with very leniently, and I think that the reason why this presumption was not altered long ago was that there was an instinctive dislike—I felt it myself, felt it for years—to punishing a woman at all ; and it was because to punish her as severely as the old law necessitated must have revolted the feelings of the Judges, that this rule remained. But now things are changed and all that this provision would do is this : it. would say that, instead of its being a presumption of law that a woman who participates with her husband in a crime, where he is present, is entitled to instant acquittal, instead of going to the jury, if the point be taken, it shall be a question of fact ; and if all the evidence in the case satisfies the jury that she was not a free agent, or if she can prove that the crime that she committed was a crime dictated to her by her husband, to which she was coerced, then he must be convicted, and she must be acquitted. I apologise for having spoken for so long, but I thought I might fairly bring these points to your notice.
My Lords, I think I am only expressing the feeling of a large number of your Lordships when I say that we welcome the contribution which one of our newest members, my noble and learned friend who has just spoken, has made to the debate. He has brought to bear a ripe and rich experience, and he has given us an example of the promise and potency of the contribution which he can make to discussions of the law such as from time to time come up in this Chamber. I am glad to think that upon the point upon which he spoke he finds himself, in the main, in agreement with the provisions of this Bill. My noble friend Lord Russell also spoke of some of the provisions of the Bill, and he desired to have time to consider them further. That, I think, is quite reasonable, and I should propose that not less than ten days should elapse between now and the Committee stage—perhaps more, but at least that period.With regard to a point made by my noble and learned friend Lord Sumner, it is perfectly true that it is very important that we should get the right type of probation officer: and we must get the right type of probation officer. Then comes the question as to how he is to be chosen. He cannot be chosen by the Secretary of State for Home Affairs, or by the Lord Chancellor. They have not the knowledge of the persons concerned, and they would have to act upon recommendation. It is better, I think, that the probation officer should be selected by such persons as the local justices, who should use their local knowledge so as to get the proper man or proper woman for the purpose. There will be disappointments, of course; but we take good care in this Bill to proceed on the principle which has been found successful with the police. If your Lordships look at the Bill you will find that the grant from the State is not an absolute Grant but a Grant-in-Aid ; that is to say, a Grant given on the terms that the work is done efficiently. The conditions of that Grant may be varied to almost any extent by means of regulations and it would be for the responsible Minister to see that that was effectively done. I think that the real difficulty in the way of the suggestion that was made is this, that it is a local appointment, assisted on the principle of a Grant-in-aid, and that means local selection. You cannot put rules and conditions into a Bill in order to make sure that the right persons are appointed. The only way is to trust the people on the spot, and then to keep your hand over them and to say that they shall not get the money unless they prove that the people they appoint can do the thing they are expected to do. Before we come to the Committee Stage and consider this matter further, I will bear in mind the remarks of my noble friend and make further inquiry. But I thought it right at this stage to indicate to your Lordships the reason why the Grant-in-aid was chosen rather than the system of direct appointment.
On Question, Bill read 2a , and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
The Labour And Socialist International
had given Notice to ask the Lord President of the Council whether, in protesting in this House that the Prime Minister could not be suspected of divided allegiance, and insisting upon what he called "the voluntary character "of the Labour and Socialist International, he intended all adherents of the Labour and Socialist International to understand that the Prime Minister repudiates any obligation of loyalty on his part towards their declared principle that "in conflicts between nations the International shall be recognised as the highest authority"; and, if so, whether he has the Prime Minister's authority for such a statement of his attitude?
My Lords, as my noble friend Lord Charnwood cannot be here this afternoon, owing to illness, he has asked me to put this Question for him. The reason for asking it is that when the matter was raised the week before last, I think it was generally felt by your Lordships that the answer given by the Government did not make the position of the Prime Minister with regard to this article of the Hamburg International quite so clear as your Lordships would have liked. The, article to which I refer is that quoted on the. Paper—" In conflicts between nations the International shall be recognised as the highest authority." The noble, and learned Lord the Lord President of the Council scouted the idea as something utterly unthinkable that there could be any question of divided allegiance on the part of the Prime Minister; but, after all, we can only believe the evidence of our senses. The Prime Minister has, in fact, subscribed to an article which says that in conflicts between nations the International shall be recognised as the highest authority. So far as we know, he still subscribes to that article. If he does not—and that is the point that we would like to clear up this afternoon—then, obviously, he repudiates it, and it is desirable that this repudiation should be as widely known as possible.The noble and learned Lord on the last occasion made a great point of the fact of the voluntary character of this undertaking. I do not quite know what meaning we are to attach to the word "voluntary." It is true, of course, that these twenty-one delegates from the Labour Party voluntarily went to Hamburg and voluntarily subscribed to the article which I have already read. Obviously, in doing that, they must have contemplated certain circumstances in which an international conflict would arise and in which their allegiance would be due not to His Majesty and the Constitution of this country, but to this international body. Clearly also it was very improper that any British subject should be able to contemplate any circumstances in which his allegiance would be in that condition. In those circumstances, I submit that the only honourable and loyal course for His Majesty's Ministers to pursue is to repudiate this obligation altogether, to do it as soon as possible, and to see that this repudiation is as widely circulated as possible. I beg to ask the Question which stands upon the Paper in the name of the nobe Lord, Lord Charnwood.
My Lords, I regret that the noble Lord, Lord Charnwood, is incapacitated by illness from asking his Question, but I am sure that he has lost nothing by leaving it in the hands of the noble Duke. The first Question which I think ho asks me is in regard to the use of the word "voluntary" and in what sense I used it in replying to the Question which I endeavoured to answer when the noble Lord brought the matter before your Lordships' House a short time ago. What I mean by the word "voluntary" is an association such as this, the constituent parts of which, whether personal or affiliated members, can at any time of their own volition, and without any interference from the central authority or central body, terminate their connection with the association, in this case the International. In other words, there is no compulsion of any kind in regard to the continuance of relationship between the constituent parts and the central authority. I think that is very important, for this reason. Whenever you have an association of that nature it is always an implied condition, if anything is asked of the affiliated members which in their view is either dishonourable, or contrary to morality, or to their allegiance vows, or anything of that kind, that the remedy is an obvious one—namely, they dissociate themselves from the central body (which they can do at any time) and become dissociated from it.That is the substance of the answer which was given by the Prime Minister, twice over I think, in another place. I want to quote the words he used, because I think it is much more satisfactory, in such a matter, that I should use his own words rather than endeavour to make any explanation which would, after all, be only an explanation from another mouth. I have the extracts here. On the first occasion the Prime Minister said this :
I think that puts very clearly what, at any rate, I intended to imply when I used the word "voluntary" on the last occasion on which this matter came before your Lordships. The Prime Minister was questioned a second time about a week after, on February 18 I think, much in the same way as the noble Duke—who is quite entitled to do it—asks for a further explanation of this word "voluntary." This is what the Prime Minister said :" The affiliation is merely voluntary and can be terminated at any time should necessity arise."
He said that in answer to Questions, because he had already stated that the Labour Party had become affiliated to the International body, which, of course, is not the ordinary International which is sometimes referred to in connection with Moscow but one of a different character which was constituted in Hamburg in 1923. I do not know that I can carry the matter any further. I am asked whether we are to understand that the Prime Minister repudiates any obligation of loyalty on his part toward" the declared principle of the International. I do not think that question arises at all. If anything is done which in any way would suggest any interference with allegiance, it is a voluntary association and the association thereby stops. That is the explanation which the Prime Minister has given and which appears to me to be adequate and correct. I purposely abstain from using words other than those used by the Prime Minister himself. They appear to me to be conclusive and really to deal with this matter. I do not think that any one can think, having regard to what the Prime Minister said in another place, that there can be any question whatever of divided allegiance. The Prime Minister of this country, as I stated before, occupies a great place in the world's history, and I do not think it ought even to be suggested that it is possible for him, in his position, to accept any suggestion whatever that his allegiance can be divided." Should any decision be taken which would be an oppressive limitation of the freedom of a body, or which would be contrary to the fundamental conception that body has of its duty to itself and to the electors, then the ordinary method would be adopted, and the body would resign and cease to be affiliated."
My Lords, I desire to ask His Majesty's Government whether they have any statement to make with regard to affairs in India ?
My Lords, I have been long enough an observer of the proceedings of your Lordships' House really not to have required the very kind assurance which was given to us on these Benches a few days ago by the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition that what we had to say would receive the most courteous and patient attention from your Lordships. I am afraid that, to-day, I am going to trespass more than I should have hoped to do upon your Lordships' patience, because I have, unfortunately, lost considerable portions of my voice, and am not sure of being able to pick them up in the right place, so that I am afraid my statement may be, in parts, somewhat painful for you Lordships to listen to, but I will do my best.I will come at once to the point. The affairs of India are giving His Majesty's Government at the present time very great anxiety. In speaking of these matters I am speaking in a House which contains many Indian administrators, and they will know that in what I say I necessarily fail to refer to many considerations that I might bring to mind, and will also recognise that, in saying some things, I remind them of matters with which they are perfectly familiar. I have to pursue the course which I shall choose in the logical manner in which it has occurred to myself, trusting that my deficiencies may be made allowance for, and be supplemented by the great indulgence of your Lordships. I wish to deal first with the history of this matter. On August 20, 1917, a declaration of policy was made in the House of Commons by the then Secretary of State for India as follows:
This was incorporated in the Preamble of the Government of India Act, 1919. This declaration was coupled with the following proviso:" The policy of His Majesty's Government, with which the Government of India are in complete accord, is that of the increasing association of Indians in every branch of the administration, and the gradual development of self-governing institutions, with a view to the progressive realisation of responsible government in India as an integral portion of the British Empire."
Elections were held in 1920. The Indian Home Rule Party, the Swarajists, abstained from taking part in those Elections under the influence of Mr. Gandhi. In order to show what was the feeling of the Party to which I belong at that time, which is also their feeling now, I will ask leave to quote the words used by my right hon. friend the present Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, in the House of Commons:" I would add that progress in this policy can only be achieved by successive stages. The British Government and the Government of India, on whom the responsibility lies for the welfare and advancement of the Indian peoples, must be judges of the time and measure of each advance, and they must be guided by the co-operation received from these upon whom new opportunities of service will thus be conferred, and by the extent in which it is found that confidence can be reposed in their sense of responsibility."
Some exception has been taken to the wording of the proviso by Indian Home Rulers as ill-chosen. I will deal with this criticism later with a view to a better understanding of how I think the proviso should be interpreted, merely observing now that there seems to me some excuse for some of the objections which have been taken to it. In December, 1923, fresh Elections were held for the Provincial Legislative Council and the Indian Legislative Assembly. The Swarajist Party decided on this occasion to take part in the Elections, and to run candidates. On October 11 the Party issued, over the signature of Mr. Motalil Nehru, an election manifesto in which the basis of their programme is set forth as follows:" To my mind there has been no more lamentable blunder made by the Indian people than their refusal, under the leadership of Mr. Gandhi, to go on the Councils. The experiment was, therefore, not started under the complete conditions which were contemplated."
The practical programme of the Party was then thus laid down:" The Swarajya Party believes that the guiding motive of the British in governing India is to serve the selfish interests of their own country and that the so-called reforms are a mere blind to further the said interests under the pretence of a granting responsible Government to India, the real object being to continue the exploitation of the unlimited resources of the country by keeping Indians permanently in a subservient position to Britain and denying them at home and abroad the most elementary rights of citizenship. It is daily becoming abundantly clear that the British, while professing equality of treatment, are in practice subjecting the whole Indian nation to humiliation and insult in all parts of the world where British influence is supreme. The Party notes with pride and satisfaction that the people of India are resolved to submit no longer to the national humiliation imposed upon them by the autocratic will of their British rulers and in full consonance with the Congress expresses its emphatic opinion that Indians have no option but to continue to carry on a policy of progressive non-violent non-co-operation with the present system of Government until it is radically changed in accordance with the will of the people expressed through their chosen representatives."
" The demand to be made by the members of the Party on entering the Legislative Assembly will in effect be that the right of the people of India to control the existing machinery and system of government shall forthwith be conceded and given effect to by the British Government and the British Parliament.
" The immediate objective of the Party is the speedy attainment of full Dominion status; that is, the securing of the right to frame a Constitution adopting such machinery and system as are most suited to the conditions of the country and to the genius of the people.
" They will, when they are elected, present on behalf of the country its legitimate demands as formulated by the Party as soon as the elections are over, and ask for their acceptance and fulfilment within a reasonable time by the Government.
" If the demands are not granted to the satisfaction of the Party, occasion will then arise for the elected members belonging to the Party to adopt a policy of uniform, continuous and consistent obstruction within the Councils with a view to make government, through the Councils, impossible, but before adopting such a policy the representatives of the Part in the Councils will, if necessary, strengthen themselves by obtaining an express mandate of the electorates in this behalf.
On that programme Elections were held and in certain of the Presidencies this Swarajist Party obtained strong representation, notably in Bombay, Bengal, the United Provinces, and in the Central Provinces, and so strong was the representation that, with the assistance of the less outspoken Liberal Members they were able to command a majority in the Councils. The result ha" been, as your Lordships are well aware, that in Bengal and the Central Provinces, and, as I am informed by a telegram I have received to-day, in Bombay, obstructive tactics are being pursued in accordance with that programme. Votes of "No confidence" are moved and carried, and the Swarajist Party refuse to take office. Moderate and non-controversial Bills like the Protection of Children Bill in Bombay are thrown out by the Swarajist Party. I feel sure your Lordships will agree with me that the belief expressed in that election manifesto, which was signed by Mr. Motilal Nehru, who was one of the most prominent speakers of the Swarajist Party in the proceedings last week in the National Assembly, is a mistaken belief, an ill-informed and ill-inferred belief, and an unjustifiable belief. When I saw that extraordinary pronouncement, one of the first things I had to ask myself was ; What are the reasons, what is the ostensible justification, for the expression by presumably responsible and intelligent politicians of such a view with regard to the purpose and intentions of the British Government and people concerning India ? I took pains to inform myself by communications with the Viceroy, by discussions with my public advisers and by letters which I have received from persons interested in India and reformers in India. I asked as many as I could of the Indian Reform Party in this country in order to ascertain what were the ostensible and arguable grounds for such an uncompromising pronouncement. I found that the grounds, the reasons, were many and various, and I will make a brief survey of the causes, reasonable and unreasonable, which were advanced for the feeling of mistrust. Let me give your Lordships first some general reason" supplied to me by a very high authority. He says:" In no case will any member of the Party accept office."
" Alleged favouritism of predominant British services, and appointment of Lee Commission contrary to the wishes of the Legislature.
" Failure of the reforms to finance nation-building departments such as education.
" Slow decrease in military expenditure.
" Alleged favouritism of British manufacture in store purchase policy.
The words "political aspect" are interpreted in an extremely wide and liberal spirit. I find, again and again, certain references recurring to things which do rankle very generally in the minds of the Indian Home Rule Party. The first is a matter to which I regret I have to refer in your Lordships' House, but I am giving you what are the grounds of mistrust, reasonable or unreasonable. One general cause of distrust in the minds of the Indian Home Rule Party is the Resolution passed by your Lordships' House on the Motion of the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Finlay, on the action taken by the Government of India in regard to General Dyer. I have read the debates and also looked through the Division List, and I know what many of your Lordships think on that matter. I want to take this opportunity, on behalf of myself and the Party to which I belong, to say that I believe the criticism of the Government of India's action passed by your Lordships' House does not represent the opinion of the great majority of my fellow countrymen. It may seem presumptuous for me to speak on the subject, but in my official life I have been connected with parts of the world where riots frequently occur, and I have been concerned in two, in one of which one of my dearest friends lost his life and from the other I have a large ridge on the back of my skull by the impact of what is locally known as a "rock stone." In both of those cases life had to he taken. I speak, as all administrators speak, with a full appreciation of the rules which should govern the protection of life in such matters, and the first impression I received of the Amritsar action was that if it had been taken by an officer of my own it would have led to his immediate suspension from duty." Measures taken to punish and repress disorder even when the latter has a political aspect."
The Coalition Government was in office at the time of the Amritsar occurrence.
I beg your pardon. The Conservative Party was in office when the Swarajist manifesto was written, and the Conservative Party had the imputation laid upon them, owing to the Resolution passed by your Lordships, that many of your Lordships were sympathisers.
The Conservative Party was not in office at the time of the Dyer incident, or the debate in this House which took place in 1920. The Coalition Government was thon in office.
I entirely agree with the noble Marquess. I was discussing what were the reasons for the extraordinary pronouncement in the Swarajist manifesto of October last, and one of the reasons was that as the Conservative Government was then in office the Indian people have imputed to them sympathy with the Resolution passed by this House. I hope I make myself clear. I am speaking of the causes of the distrust expressed in the manifesto of last October. But, according to the papers I have been reading lately, that soreness crops up again in connection with the deplorable incident at Jaito in which many Sikhs were killed last week. It is obviously one of the unfortunate things which unjustly, as I believe, have prejudiced many Indians against the attitude of the English people.In the second place there is the injudicious language used by Mr. Lloyd George in a speech in Parliament, which is known throughout India as the "steel frame speech," in which he compared—quite justly, so far as the present time is concerned—the Indian Civil Service to the steel frame upon the stability of which the whole structure of Indian government rests. I do not think any exception can be taken to that phrase under present conditions, but he went on to say, being carried away by his enthusiastic admiration for the Indian Civil Service,—
This was directly contrary to the statement of August 20, 191V, which said that we should progressively Indianise the Services, and that the position of the British Civil Service in India would be modified. Obviously, if you are contemplating the establishment of self-government in India, it is, in the long run impossible to say that you will maintain intact, as Mr. Lloyd George promised that he would maintain intact, the Indian Civil Service. It was a prediction which appeared to be a departure in policy from that which His Majesty's Government had already laid down. It was seized upon, and is constantly quoted in India as the "steel frame speech." This is one consideration which is constantly pointed out when I ask Indians why they consider that the British Government has changed its policy They say : "Mr. Lloyd George told us so." I do not know whether that is an adequate reason for believing that there has been a change of policy, because we have it on very good authority that the speeches of the gentleman to whom I have referred are sometimes adapted to the immediate purpose in hand, and the immediate purpose in hand on this occasion was the encouragement and enheartening of that splendid Civil Service of which he was speaking and which he was eulogising. Unfortuntuately, the other party to the contract was listening, and although it is possible to make these encouraging statements to two different parties when they are in two different rooms, and to suppose that when they come together you can get rid of the idea which you implanted in two different minds, it cannot be done when the speech is made in Parliament--because it is immediately telegraphed all over India—and when it is in contradiction of a statement which has already been made in Parliament. Mr. Lloyd George's speech was injudicious, though I do not suppose for a moment that he, intended or could possibly have meant that it was the intention of his Government—as it certainly is not the intention of this Government—to stop the Indianisation of the Indian; Civil Service, and to establish for all time in India the British administrative organisation of the Indian Civil Service. The declaration of August 20, 1917, definitely promised a transition in that respect. That is one cause of mistrust—an unfortunate and, I think your Lordships will agree with me, on the whole an irrational and not well inferred cause. In the third place there was the certification of the Salt Tax last year. The Government of India decided that it was necessary that they should balance their Budget, and that they could not balance their Budget without doubling the Salt Tax. When the Assembly threw out the Resolution doubling the Salt Tax, the Government of India had to certify, as is provided in the case of certain Crown Colonies as well as of India, that this was essential in the public interest and that the Resolution must become law. That produced an unfortunate effect in India, as that kind of action always does, in my own experience, whenever it has ever been had recourse to in Colonies. It has been held to be a direct slap in the face, and a stultification of what elected members in India and elsewhere consider to be the first principle of democratic government, that you shall not have taxation without representation, and that the representatives of the people shall decide in matters of taxation. The unfortunate part of the matter was that there was a double prejudice. I remember that many years ago I was brought up to regard the French Revolution as having been brought about by the imposition of the odious gabelle, or Salt Tax. I think most of us have it ingrained in our bones to regard a Salt Tax as a peculiarly iniquitous and horrible form of taxation. That is certainly very widely held in India, because every woman who goes to buy a farthing's worth of salt in the market, and the next week has to pay another half-farthing finds that the taxation has been increased, and you have millions of people affected by a tax which, although the amount is infinitesimally small, is felt throughout the country, and has produced a real popular feeling against the action of the Viceroy in overriding, as he is held to have done, the first principles of the new Constitution. The fourth and most important consideration is what is known as the Kenya business. I hope my noble friend on my right will not think that I am going to say anything which need cause him any apprehension or uneasiness. He may be regarding me as the patient in the dentist's chair regards the dentist, but I assure him that I certainly shall not hurt him. But I entertain certain feelings in regard to the Kenya difficulty which I feel bound to express in this House. I was associated last summer with a number of persons, Members of Parliament in the other House and others, who had been much interested for many years in the fate of African natives, and it was, if I may say so, an enormous satisfaction to us when the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, after considering the whole Kenya question, definitely laid down for the government of Kenya Colony the principle that had been adopted in the Covenant of the League of Nations for the government of mandated territories, thus extending that principle to the British Empire. This is a great and lasting achievement on the part of the noble Duke, for which all who are interested in native affairs are profoundly thankful. He said that we should administer the Kenya country, not primarily in the interests of the white settler and not primarily in the interests of Indians, but primarily in the interests of, and as trustee for, the natives of Kenya Colony. Certain questions were raised with regard to the privileges of white persons and of Indians; demands neither of white settlers nor of Indians with regard to the franchise were acceded to, and that which is practically a Crown Colony system of government was established whereby the Crown and its nominees were put in supreme control. Three decisions were taken which Indians have felt very grievously injurious and insulting to themselves. The first was the comparatively minor matter of the reservation of land in the Highlands and the prohibition of its sale to Indians. I do not think this can be considered to be in any way a really substantial grievance. The second was the statement that immigration regulations must be laid down in order to protect the natives of Kenya against the economic competition of the natives of India. No immigration legislation has at present been passed or adopted. At the time when this immigration legislation was promised there had been a considerable increase of Indian immigrants, which really only represented a return of the efflux that had taken place during the war, and the Colonial Government had some reason for alarm. The local authorities drafted an Immigration Ordinance which was sent home to the Colonial Office. The Colonial Office considered the provisions of this craft Ordinance to be quite unnecessarily drastic, and said the draft Ordinance would not do. They referred it back for a fresh Ordinance, and there the matter stands at the present time. Meanwhile, under the agreement made at the Imperial Conference, an Indian Commitee has been appointed which is to deal with the interests of Indians in the Dominions, and this Committee will have an opportunity of considering and making representations on any immigration legislation which may be introduced. With regard to the economic effects of Indian immigration in Kenya. I have given attention to the matter, and I went into the controversy last spring. With regard to Africa, I have been all my life primarily concerned with the interest of Africans and the negro races, and I have no prejudice whatever in favour of admitting Indians in injurious competition with African natives—rather the reverse. I must say, however, from my own investigations into the subject, that I have never seen any evil results manifested in the Kenya Colony, or elsewhere, on the interests of African natives by the immigration of Indian settlers. My experience has, been that their interests do not conflict, but that almost universally the Indian settlers are of value to the communities which they enter, Consequently my own feeling is, and always has been, that I should like, on behalf of the Government of India, to be sure that a very sound and strong case has been made out before agreeing to the restrictions upon Indian immigration into Africa, and that if there is any economic argument in support of such a restriction I should like it to be fully considered. I am sure that that course will be taken by the Secretary of State for the Colonies and by the Under-Secretary. I am sure that they are going to approach this question of the necessity of restriction upon immigration with perfectly fair and straightforward minds, and not with any prejudice or with any desire to exclude Indians, but with an absolute determination to test the matter on its proved economic merits. If it be proved that Indian immigration is deleterious to the natives of Kenya, then I cannot imagine that Indians would repudiate what they now support—namely, the doctrine that these territories are first to be administered in the interests of their native inhabitants. I have absolute confidence in the Secretary of State for the Colonies and in the Under-Secretary for the Colonies, that they are going to be as careful in doing justice in this matter as I, who speak on behalf of the interests of India, could possibly desire them to be. Then there is the matter of the franchise, which has caused the greatest consternation and irritation in India because we have established in Kenya a differential franchise as between Indians and white men, neither of them being original denizens of the country. That, of course, is a grievance against which Indians in the Dominion of South Africa have been struggling for years. It is the grievance which has brought Mr. Gandhi into being an influential factor in Indian affairs. It is a new departure in our Crown Colonies. The Crown Colony of British Guiana, which desires to have Indian immigration, has published a statement that there is no differentiation against Indians in that Colony. Before the White Paper was issued we had a Report known as the Wood-Winterton Report, and that Report did not recommend discrimination. They recommended the principle which we have always adopted in our West Indian and West African Colonies—namely, equal franchise for all persons of equal qualification—and they were quite prepared to say that if you have a large number of illiterate and ill-educated people in your Colonies you should have such a franchise as will exclude those who are not fitted to exercise it. That was the principle with which I myself agreed, and with which I sympathise, but the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, was not able, in arranging the compromise settlement, to see his way to adopt that He adopted the principle which would always, I am afraid, be a cause of soreness to Indians and to myself, because I associate myself entirely with what my predecessor Lord Peel said—namely, that this kind of discrimination between franchises is one of the things which are most dangerous to the unity of the British Empire. This principle I have held all my life, and if you want to disrupt and break up the British Empire the way to do it is to make this discrimination between one race and another on the ground of colour, and not on the ground of qualification. However, my Lords, I want to make an appeal to Indians interested in this matter, and to those who feel with them, to have a little patience. Crown Colony government is not an ideal constitution. In Crown Colony government, it appears to me, it is not at all necessary you should expect to have exactly the same principles of franchise as you would have under a clearly constituted democratic government. Its representations are not arranged for the purposes of control, because the elected members cannot control the Government. The Secretary of State controls the Government. These representations are conceived in order that the various sections of the population may be adequately represented. I have myself served in a Colony, to which I went owing to the recommendations of an eminent financier, where all the elected members of the Council had resigned their appointments. I had to conduct a whole Session without any elected members. Then there was a fresh Election and elected in embers came back. In Kenya the attitude has been taken that the Indian members of the Council would not vote for the new Constitution Bill, and will not come into the new-Council when constituted, as representative members. I am convinced that that is politically, and from the point of view of common sense, an unwise policy. You must look at the fact that Crown Colony constitution is not a satisfactory thing. The purpose of it is to give representation to various interests, and any interest which does not take advantage of such representation a" is given to it is doing harm to the interests of its constituents. The way to advance is to go back into the Council and to work in the Council, to show that you and your constituent" are fit members—not to take offence and to say : "We will not play." I feel strongly that the discrimination is injurious, But still, having regard to the purposes of such a transitional Constitution as that of Kenya Colony, I do deplore the attitude that is being encouraged by Indian Swarajists. That is how the position rests. The Indian Committee which has been appointed will, on this point, as on others, have every opportunity of making such representations as it may think right to His Majesty's Government, and the Secretary of State for the Colonies will fully consider those representations. I have now indicated the principal difficulties which I find to be rankling in the minds of Indians. I return to the proceedings in the Indian Legislative Assembly. The opening of the proceedings of the Legislative Assembly took the form of a Resolution moved by Mr. Rangachariar claiming the immediate grant of full responsible government to India. An amendment moved by Mr. Motilal Nehru, the principal signatory of that document from which I have quoted, was adopted:" Whatever we may do in the way of strengthening the Government of India, one institution we will not interfere with, will not deprive of its functions and privileges, and that is the British Civil Service in India."
Your Lordships are aware that the Government of India Act provides that, not later than 1929, a Royal Commission shall be sent out in order to consider what further modifications can be made in Indian Government. This Resolution claims an immediate overhaul in the system of government. It continues:—" (a) This Assembly recommends to the Governor-General in Council to take steps to have the Government of India Act revised with a view to establish full responsible Government in India—"
That, of course, was an entire departure from the principles laid down in the Government of India Act and from the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee of Lords and Commons upon that Act. The Home Member in the Indian Legislative Assembly, with the concurrence of His Majesty's Government, took this line : We stand, for the present, by the provisions of the Government of India Act. It must be admitted that no proper opportunity has been given for the working of that Act, but it has been in working, in the hands of the Legislatures, for three years. Let us first examine what are the inconveniences, what are the faults in the working of that Act which can be remedied without any fresh legislation, what are the complaints of its working as an instrument for the efficient carrying on of the government— not as an ideal Constitution but for the purposes for which it is constituted, a transitional instrument for carrying on the public services. Let us first examine these. We will then go on (Sir Malcolm Hailey promised) to investigate what modifications can be made in the provisions of the present Act by rules which may be made under the Act, which rules will require the consent of Parliament, either on a Resolution or by being laid before Parliament. If that course were taken it would remove, or should remove, so far as possible, any working defects which might give an excuse for non-co-operation with the present scheme of the Government of India Act. We could not see our way to go farther than that. It appeared to us that to accept, or to indicate that we might be prepared to accept, on the recommendation of a round table conference, a new scheme for now establishing full responsible Government in India, three years only after the institution of a scheme of reform which was adopted because we were convinced that the establishment of full responsible Government would be worse than perilous, would be big with disaster to the peoples of India, and, when the purposes which that transitional scheme was designed to fulfil have not been availed of, would be a responsibility which His Majesty's Government are not prepared to accept. There, then, at present is how the matter rests. We have had a full debate in the Assembly, and the Home Member for India has stated very fully the views of His Majesty's Government. I should like to read to you Sir Malcolm Hailey's observations. Speaking on February 18, he said :" and for the said purpose
" (b) To summon at an early date a representative round table conference to recommend, with due regard for the protection of the rights and interests of the important minorities, a scheme of constitution for India, and " (c) After dissolving the Central Legislature, to place the said scheme for approval before a newly-elected Indian Legislature for its approval, and submit the same to the British Parliament to be embodied in a Statute.''
" We have again considered the position very carefully, and I am anxious to emphasise that, in what I say, I speak with the full authority of His Majesty's Government. We still hold to the position I took up on behalf of the Government. Before His Majesty's Government are able to consider the question of amending the Constitution, as distinct from such amendment of the Act as may be required to rectify any administrative imperfections, there must be full investigation of any defects or difficulties which may have arisen in the working of the transitional Constitution now in force. …
That is the statement of Sir Malcolm Hailey, very carefully framed, and I thought it well to read it to your Lordships' House, so that you might know exactly what has been the position of the Government of India and His Majesty's Government in this matter. Now I want to expound very shortly, if I can, what is the position of His Majesty's present Government towards this question. His Majesty's present Government, as Sir Malcolm Hailey stated in his observations, are in sympathy with the purpose of the Home Rule Party in India. They are, in sympathy with the purposes of the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms; that is to say, progress towards Home Rule. But their view is that unless a Parliamentary system is welded together by predominant common interests from its foundation in the electorate upwards no theoretical constitution that may be arrived at by a concordat among leaders of divergent interests, for the mere purpose of establishing an ostensibly democratic form, can prevent it from flying asunder. This has, so far, been found to be the case in Ireland, largely because the dividing power of difference of religion is stronger than the uniting force of common political interests. This is very much more the case in India, as I need not labour to point out to your Lordships' House. The concordats for common political action which Hindu leaders have recently made with Mahomedan leaders have displeased their followers on both sides and have merely exacerbated mutual intolerance and antagonism—exhibited by an increase of cow-killing and the increased playing of bands outside of Moslem mosques— between whole sections of the community for whom these divergent religions are a much stronger moving and guiding force than any common political interest. When these religious rivalries are aroused we have seen again and again, and quite recently in Malabar, for instance, how uncontrollably and murderously they act. The interests of the small enfranchised class of Hindus in maintaining their position and distinction over the outcaste masses are infinitely stronger than the common political interests of the two classes. The interests of Moslem leaders, as again we have recently seen, tend to be co-terminous rather with Islam than with either India or the British Commonwealth. Mr. Gandhi has faced this fact that the predominance of religious over secular interests in his countrymen is fundamental, and builds his policy on it. I am glad, and the Party that I represent are glad, that Mr. Gandhi has been released from prison, because it is repugnant to human feeling that a man of his character should be treated as a criminal. But the terrible practical reactions of his philosophically innocent teachings merely illustrate the excesses into which the Indian popular temperament is prone to be driven by any such ferment. We have had our precedents in the rebellions of evangelicalism in England and in Europe. Mr. Gandhi denounces and condemns the whole idea of Western democracy on which the Swaraj leaders, or, at any rate, the Hindu section of them, are working, and on which we have been trying to work for India in the Morley-Minto and Montagu-Chelmsford reforms. Not less completely do Mr. Roy, of Berlin, and his Communist missionaries from the Bolshevist school at Tashkent condemn and denounce the bourgeois republicanism of the Swaraj movement, demanding the dictatorship of the proletariat and the emancipation of the outcaste and lower caste masses.In 1919, Parliament, after the fullest consideration, laid down a scheme transitional in its nature but, nevertheless, carefully devised with a view to effecting steps neces- sary for progressive realisation of ideals embodied in the Preamble of the Act. It is not to he supposed that the British people would be lightly inclined to consider a change in that Constitution, and it is bound to concentrate, attention for the present on such imperfections in working as may have been disclosed… If our inquiries into the defects of the working of the Act show the feasibility and possibility of any advance within the Act—that is to say, by use of the rule-making power already provided by Parliament under the Statute—we are willing to make recommendations to this effect; but if our inquiries show that no advance is possible without amending the Constitution then the question of advance must he left as an entirely open and separate issue on which the Government is in no way committed."
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but is he reading from any document or is he giving us the considered opinions of His Majesty's Government at this stage of his speech ?
I took the liberty of throwing this into form so that I might not make any slip. This is my own statement.
It is the opinion of His Majesty's Government ?
Yes. All that I have read from this paper is the opinion of His Majesty's Government. To continue my observations on this point : Among these three we have pinned our faith to a programme of constitutional democracy, but we claim to know, by centuries of experience in Europe and America, the laws and conditions indispensable for the stable working of that system, which is not native to India, and it is perfectly plain to us that those conditions are not at present established in India, and cannot be established at a few months notice by the deliberation of a round-table conference or the premature appointment of a Commission under the Government of India Act.I would like for a moment to make an excursus into an analogical historical survey. I belong to a Party, and I have belonged to that Party for forty years, which has achieved a certain amount of political success. The noble Duke, the Duke of Northumberland, who spoke the other day in this House, deplored the fact that the precepts of the venerable Mr. Hyndman had not been followed by that Party. The precepts of the venerable Mr. Hyndman, who was the first missionary of Socialism in this country, were practically that the Socialist movement should go on until the day was ripe, and that then there should be a revolution and a dictatorship of the proletariat. The Party to which I belong defeated Mr. Hyndman. The Party to which I belong, being part of that international gang of revolutionaries, the Second International, has been able to exercise, I think, a considerable amount of influence upon the Party programmes of Socialism in the rest of Europe. I remember that about thirty years ago I was at an International Congress in Zurich at which many of those terrible revolutionaries were present. There was a British deputation of about fifty, of whom some thirty were British trade unionists, four were Members of Parliament, and there were Mr. Pickard of the Durham miners, Mr. Davies of the Birmingham Brass Founders, Mr. Councillor Hobson of Sheffield, Mr. Bernard Shaw, with my humble self as secretary of the British Section. There was also a gentleman whom the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, no doubt knows—Mr. F. J. Wheelan, who is a member of that international gang of revolutionaries which is now occupied in endeavouring to subordinate arms to arbitration and another gang of revolutionaries which is trying to do the same in regard to industry. The Party to which I belong did not start off as did the earlier Socialists. The first thing it had to have was an intelligent and understanding constituency which would know what they were driving at and would support unitedly their representatives in Parliament. Here, as in all our political developments, we did not begin at the top but at the bottom. We saw that there could he no Parliamentary stability whatever and no progress in any kind of change or revolution unless the Parliamentary constitution and representation were based upon a real, vital, organic constituency of common interests and understanding, which, as I have said, is singularly absent in India. We say that it is impossible for the Indian people, for the Indian politicians, at once to leap into the saddle and administer without disastrous religious and other dissensions the most ideal constitution which might be framed. When we contemplate the interval which shall occur before the revision of the Constitution, we do not look at it in this way, We do not say. I mention that some offence has been taken at this—: "We will make you a nice little half-way Constitution, we will put in nice Governors and intelligent officials to show you how to work British Parliamentary institutions." We say : "You have to arrive at the other side of the river. You have to arrive at responsible Government. We provide you, according to the best of our abilities, with what we think, and what many of you think so far as we can make out, is a seaworthy boat. The only way you can get to the other side of that river is by getting into the boat and rowing. It is no use whatever to stand on the bank, to refuse to get into the boat, and to say : ' We are not going to go anywhere without responsible Dominion Government.' " This is a case of solvitur ambulando. You must get into the boat. If you want to make a political constitution stable you must become a member of Parliament and have a constituency. You must learn to work with persons who differ from you without at once calling for a holy war from your followers—an experiment, however, which has been largely followed in Ireland, where they resorted to methods which seem likely to be popular in India. There is, of course, that danger, and it is the view of the Labour Party that you must build up not only your political party, but your political constituency. That can only be done by Parliamentary experience ranging over a certain number of years. Before I pass from this terrible danger of religious fanaticism, to which I referred as being dominant in India, I want to mention one very painful occurrence which has been brought to my notice in the last few days, and upon which I think the House would like to have some information—namely, the late recrudescence of killing and of conflict in the Punjab among the Sikhs. I will deal with this matter as briefly as I can, but it is one about which your Lordships will want to know so far as can be ascertained, the facts. The Sikhs are a religious denomination. They are not a racial denomination, though they predominantly belong to a race which is a very ancient stock, one of the most ancient European races, according to Professor Arthur Keith, and one of the finest both in brain conformation and in bone conformation of any of the races that have ever appeared on the earth. I know no Englishman who has come in contact with the Sikhs, and who has not the greatest admiration and affection for them. They are people of a fine, ancient and noble race, and they are one of those ancient and noble races which have, if I may say so, a constitutional apprehension of God, and of the spiritual life. They are profoundly religious. Some little time ago the Sikhs had a religious revival. They found themselves in this position, that the shrines that had been established for the reading of their holy Scriptures, and for the worship of God, had in later times fallen into the hands of corrupt priests, the Mahants, who had taken possession of the properties and annexed the shrines and were abusing their authority for the purposes of gain and of dissipation. The Sikh religious community clamoured for a reform. They formed themselves into a Puritan reform movement. It is unfortunate that the Sikhs were not placed when their reformation came as we were. If this thing had taken place in this country it would have been solved without difficulty. The reigning Prince would have placed himself at the head of the reform movement, he would have declared himself a defender of the faith, and himself would have confiscated the disputed properties and would have bestowed them upon his principal political supporters. The time has passed when that simple mode of procedure can be adopted, and such a method did not occur to the authorities of the Punjab. The Puritan Sikhs took the law into their own hands, and following a very august example, they themselves said : "It is written in our Scriptures our house shall be called a house of prayer ; these men have made it a den of thieves" ; and they went into the temple and cleared them out. They broke down the tables of the money changers, and the seats of those who sold doves, and turned out the prostitutes and the other sources of gain that the Mahants were using in these places. That was very simple, puritan, direct action. That kind of action necessarily led to violence. In the first place the Mahants themselves suffered violence, and, in the second place, when one of the Mahants saw what was coming upon them, he organised a band of followers with long staves, kerosene tins, torches and fire arms, and lay in wait for the people that were coming to turn him out. When those people had come into the temple they shot down and massacred a large number of these Sikhs, and they poured kerosene upon them and burnt them—a very horrible thing. Representations have been sent home. I have seen a telegram to the Prime Minister, and I have seen a long printed document sent to Members of Parliament, reporting this atrocity and laying it upon the shoulders of the Government as having supported the Mahant, ignoring altogether the fact that the Mahant was immediately criminally prosecuted and transported. That was carefully left out of the record and of the statement sent here to the Prime Minister, apparently by a responsible person. However, the Government took action, and very reasonable action. The Government said : "Let us establish a Sikh Board of Control, which shall be made the repository of all the interests of the Sikh religion and of the property of the Sikhs, so that these temples may be administered in the interest of the Sikh religion." That law was passed, but it remained a dead letter. Why did it remain a dead letter ? Because the Sikh movement had been laid hold of by the political movement at Amritsar, which is the centre, as your Lordships are aware, of revolutionary propaganda and disturbance. To cut a long story short, this last tragedy was directly engineered in order to create a fracas between the Government and the Sikhs, so that it could be said the British desired to repeat the tragedy of Amritsar and shoot down the honest, religious Sikhs. Excuse was taken of the fact that the Maharajah of Nabha had been deposed—no, not exactly deposed. The Maharajah of Nabha was a profligate and vicious ruler who entirely ignored the interest of his country for many years. We did not interfere. He then committed outrages upon the subjects of a neighbouring Maharajah, and the latter brought an action against him. The matter was judicially dealt with, the whole record of the Maharajah of Nabha was gone into, and it was intimated to him that he should pay compensation to his neighbour, and should demit his office in favour of his son, his son being placed under a regency. The people of Nabha were perfectly content with this. They knew that they had got a good riddance, but the central revolutionary committee at Amritsar laid hold of this and—I have seen the newspapers—deliberately represented that this was an act of oppression on the part of the British Government who wished to depose and destroy a patriotic Sikh chief, and that the British Government were intending to desecrate the shrines of the Sikh religion in Nabha. They therefore organised a movement from a hundred miles or so away. They sent instructions to the religions jathas, the simple-minded puritans, that the shrines of their religion were being outraged, and that they must go in pilgrimager and claim their right of praying and reading the Scriptures in these shrines at Jaito. The pilgrims themselves knew not why they came. They said : "These are the orders of the committee. We are to act under the orders of the committee. It is part of our Sikh law that we must obey the laws of our spiritual superiors." Five hundred pilgrims who were non-resisters went, and about 6,000 peasants and others. They went on a pilgrimage to Jaito in order to read their Scriptures. They were informed that they would not all be allowed in the shrine together, but only fifty at a time, for the purpose of making their devotions. They refused to accept this term to enter fifty at a time. The pilgrims themselves pressed on towards the shrine, and the band of 6,000 opened fire on the police and troops drawn up in front of the approach. The result was this deplorable incident in which again State troops and police have had to fire on a crowd of innocent and religious-minded people stirred up by a small revolutionary committee with whom they had no actual connection whatever. If that kind of thing can be done for political purposes, if the religious instinct of a people can be traded upon for political and revolutionary purposes in that way, is it to be supposed that ambitious politicians under a perfectly liberal constitution are not going to appeal to religious fears and feelings in the pursuit of their policies ? That appears to me to be an incident of what is repeatedly done in India—namely, that religious feelings are traded upon in order to serve political purposes. In what I have said I have been forced to omit all reference to large sections of the aspect of present Indian problems which are of immense importance. One of them at least I must not be suspected of having overlooked. It is inevitable when a Home Rule movement springs up in a country whose administration has been foreign, that hostility and injustice should be shown towards the agents of the hitherto ruling Power. It is advanced uncompromisingly that the British have no right in India. The right of British statesmen, public servants, merchants and industrials to be in India to-day lies in the fact that they have made the India of to-day, and that no Home Rule or national movement could have been possible had it not been for their work. The Indian Home Rule Party have adopted, and we have joined with them in adopting, the methods of British administration. Our statesmen and our Indian public servants are loyally co-operating in the purpose of the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms I have referred to what I thought, was the regrettable lack of limitation in what Mr. Lloyd George said in his "steel frame speech" with regard to the Indian Service. He appeared to forecast the maintenance and perpetuity of British Service in India. It is, I think, impossible to associate this idea with the ultimate idea of Indian nationalism and responsible government. But, in the transition stage from the present to the future, the loyalty and devotion to Indian interests of the British element in the public Services is as indispensable to the efficient working of any form of constitution in the public interests as is that Parliamentary co-operation on the part of the unofficial classes which I have appealed to the Sawarj Party to give. All my life I have been a public servant and administrator rather than a politician. But I have written much and have exercised perhaps some influence as a politician in the direction of a constitutional development which has placed me in your Lordships' House. So far as I have any qualifications for my present office it is because of this double education, and from myself at any rate the achievements and the continuing in dispensability of the Indian public Service will always command admiring testimony. If that Service is to be regarded as in course of supersossion none the less it is at least essential to the successful conduct of any transition that its high qualities should be recognised, appreciated and realised to the full by all those who are engaged in the problems of effecting that transition. I have done my best, and [am afraid I have wearied your Lordships in doing so, to put before you the views of His Majesty's Government on the Indian situation, their policy and also the feelings of the Party I represent outside Parliament in regard to the aims of the Indian Swarajists. His Majesty's Government are convinced that the, proper line towards Home Rule in India lies in friendly cooperation. His Majesty's Government have been impressed by two characteristics in the atmosphere of Indian politics. The first is the intense and, as they are convinced, the grievously mistaken mistrust and the determination of uncompromising intransigence indicated in the election manifesto of the Sawarj Party last autumn, and also the dissatisfaction expressed by more moderate advocates of self-government. Secondly, and more recently, an appreciable modification of that hostile and intransigent attitude has been indicated not only in the recent proceedings in the Legislative Assembly but in many communications and expressions of opinion which have reached His Majesty's Government, both through official and unofficial channels, from persons representing weighty and influential opinion who are anxious that by some manner of conference a way forward may be found out of the present difficulties. His Majesty's Government having themselves the same ultimate aim as the India Sawarj Party, namely, the substitution of responsible Indian Dominion government for the present admittedly transitional political Constitution, are earnestly desirous of availing themselves in whatever may be found the best possible method of this manifest disposition towards effectual consultation. Various modes of making this approach have been unofficially suggested. The Legislative Assembly have proposed a round table conference. The Indian National Conference is proposing to send a deputation over, and representatives of Indian interests in this country have suggested a mission to India. His Majesty's Government, while they are open to consider any practical proposals, are not yet satisfied as to what may be the best means for establishing that closer contact and better understanding that is so manifestly desirable. Some means of arriving at that closer contact must, they are convinced, be sought, and they hope, after due consultation with the Government of India, to be able with the least avoidable delay to decide upon the means they will desire to adopt. In the meantime His Majesty's Government is unequivocally friendly towards the Indian Constitutional Reform Party, appeals to that Party for patience and circumspection, and for co-operation in using the Councils for their essential purpose of efficient administration according to the views of members on any particular question, and not as a field for administrative sabotage and political exacerbation. His Majesty's Government, during the short period since it took office, has been continually pressed for attention to urgent matters, and it has been impossible for it to explore all the factors of difficulty in the present Indian political atmosphere. It is only a week since the critical debate in the Legislative Assembly took place. The investigation of the situation which the Government of India has already promised to make cannot fail to assist that Government to furnish His Majesty's Government with further considered advice upon the problems involved and as to the best possible lines of approach to any further developments.
My Lords, we shall all of us, I am sure, sympathise with the physical disability under which the noble Lord told us at the commencement of his remarks that he was labouring, but with which, I am bound to say, he appeared to me to cope with increasing success as he proceeded. His speech covered a very wide field indeed, over which it will clearly be impossible for me, in the space of time at my disposal, to follow him. Indeed, I was not always quite sure whether the noble Lord was giving us personal and sometimes autobiographical incidents of his own career and his own opinions, or whether he was quoting the considered view of His Majesty's Government.
I think in every case in which I quoted a personal view, I quoted it as one with which I was assured that His Majesty's Government were in sympathy.
Then I shall treat the noble Lord's speech as carrying with it not only his own great personal authority, but that of His Majesty's Government at every stage. In the ordinary course of events I should not be standing at this box to comment upon the speech of the noble Lord. That duty would naturally appertain to the late Secretary of State for India, Viscount Peel, but in his temporary absence from the country the duty devolves upon me. It is only with very considerable diffidence that at any time now I speak upon Indian affairs, and for this reason, that it is now rather more than a quarter of a century ago that I went out to India to assume the government of that country, and in the space of time that has since elapsed things have moved so rapidly, the per- spective has changed so completely, that I am never certain that I am not out of touch and out of focus.Nevertheless I feel it my duty, as I am sure do all of your Lordships, to follow as closely as I can the progress of events in India, still regarding, as I have always regarded, the duty of the Government of India as the most momentous, the most important, the most responsible that is laid upon the shoulders of Englishmen. In your Lordships' House I feel that every one of us, in a sense, recognises a similar responsibility, because if there was in our legislative system here any body that made itself more particularly responsible for the constitutional experiment that is now being conducted in India it was, in its later stages at any rate, your Lordships' House. It was by a Committee composed of members of both Houses of Parliament and presided over by Lord Selborne that the Government of India Act, 1919, was moulded into its final shape. Since then its progress has been watched and sometimes advised upon by a Committee upon which your Lordships are represented, and there is the further fact that on these benches are seated, as we ail know, men of the highest experience and authority, who in their time have borne a responsible part in the Government of India. Never let it be said, therefore, that in any question affecting India the House of Lords is not vitally interested ; never let us for one moment abdicate our claim to have a voice in the progressive solution of its affairs. The noble Lord devoted the greater part of his remarks to dealing with the present political position in India, and I will come to that question in a moment, and will endeavour to present it to your Lordships in the light in which it appears to me and, I venture to think, to the great majority of your Lordships' House. But before I do so, let me allude in passing—and it shall be a brief reference only—to two subjects which the noble Lord touched upon in the concluding stages of his speech. In the last five or ten minutes of his speech he spoke about the unfortunate events that had occurred in the Punjab, where a section of the Sikh community have apparently come into violent collision with the forces of Government. This is a most deplorable event. The Sikhs have been known to all of us who have any familiarity with India as not only the most valiant and courageous warriors in that great country, but as being among the most loyal subjects and adherents of the British Crown, and it is indeed evident there must have been regrettable mismanagement somewhere to have brought about a state of affairs in which you have bodies of Sikh fanatics marching about the country and having to be shot down because they are resisting the legitimate decrees of Government. I apportion no blame to anybody, because I am not sufficiently familiar with the facts. I think that the Government of India were perfectly right in enforcing the abdication of the Maharajah of Nabha. His father, who was a great personal friend of mine, was one of the noblest and the most patriotic of the Indian Princes. The son was quite unlike the father. He was unfitted by character, education and inclination to be the ruler of a State, and I think it was a fortunate moment when his services in that capacity were dispensed with. But there must have been something wrong in a state of affairs which allows a movement correctly described by the noble Lord as religious and Puritan in its origin, a movement for the reform of religion, to develop into a political agitation associated with dacoity, accompanied by violence and wrapped up in crime. The Government of India must really take this in hand and put it right. I am very glad to see that Sir Malcolm Hailey, an official who was more than once quoted by the noble Lord, has been appointed Governor of the Punjab. He is a strong and fearless man, and I trust that under his administration an end may be put to these troubles, and that we may get the Sikhs back on to the old platform of loyal co-operation with His Majesty's Government. The next point, to which I desire to allude only for a few moments in passing, is that of the release of Mr. Gandhi. The noble Lord said that he and his colleagues, as I understood, regarded it as a terrible thing that a man of the saintly character of Mr. Gandhi should be imprisoned. But it is a much more serious thing that a man of his saintly character should do things which deserve imprisonment. What is the case about Mr. Gandhi ? I have not one word to say against his character ; I believe it to be beyond reproach. I have nothing to say against his ideals, which I believe to have been as visionary as they were sincere. But I have a good deal to say about his conduct, and it is notorious that this Mr. Gandhi has been for the last four or five years the convinced and inveterate enemy of the British Government, out to destroy our system, preaching a doctrine and giving advice which have been connected with indiscriminate and terrible bloodshed in many parts of the country. What eventually happens ? He makes a speech, or he writes articles in newspapers, preaching the doctrine of open sedition, he is arrested, and he is tried. He glories in his act; he does not deny for one moment that he has done it; he pleads guilty, and when he is sentenced he recognises the perfect justice and propriety of his sentence. He is sent to prison for a term of six years. This was in March, 1922. Before two years have elapsed—they will be over next month—he is released, and the noble Lord seems to me rather to rub his hands over this release. What are the circumstances of the case ? After Mr. Gandhi was imprisoned he developed appendicitis, for which he had to undergo an operation and, in common with many of us who have gone through the same experience, the doctor recommended that his convalescence required that he should go to a seaside place, and accordingly he was taken there to complete his recovery. I am all in favour of Mr. Gandhi completing his recovery in suitable surroundings, and of allowing him every convenience and comfort that may facilitate his recovery, and under the Indian Penal Code nothing is simpler than to take such steps and then to bring him back to complete his sentence. But you did not do anything of the kind, and when I say "You" I am speaking with some doubt as to what occurred, because I do not know, even now, whether the release was the work of the Bombay Government, or of the Government of India, or of the Government at home. I suspect that the two latter had nothing to do with it at all. However that may be, he is unconditionally released, after only two years of his sentence had expired, and I am told that since release he has already expressed his intention of prosecuting his previous creed, that he hopes it may not be necessary again to preach civil dis- obedience, but that he has not abated his attitude. Therefore, possibly, we shall presently find ourselves faced with a recrudescence of the old agitation, and the Government will have tied their hands, because they cannot, having released Mr. Gandhi unconditionally, put him back. There may be another result. If you let out Mr. Gandhi on medical grounds, how are you to refuse on similar grounds the release of all the other political prisoners, of whom there are many, shut up in India at the present time, and in whose interest I venture to say it would not be very difficult to procure a medical certificate ? That is all I want to say about Mr. Gandhi, and it amounts to this, that his unconditional release, in the circumstances which I have described, appears to me to demand some further explanation, and some better defence, than up till now has been offered for it. Then I turn to what is, after all, the main subject which has brought us here to-night. We are here to examine into the position of the Government of India, as determined by legislation passed through the two Houses of Parliament not five years ago—to discover what progress is being made with the Constitution then set up, what grounds there are, if any, for modifying it, and what is the attitude of His Majesty's Government towards any such attempt. That, I take it, is the subject which we are here to discuss this evening. The noble Lord read to your Lordships, and very properly, the terms of the original declaration of August 20, 1917, framed and issued by the Government of which at that time I was a member. That declaration I need not now repeat. At a later stage, after the Bill had passed through the Joint Committee under Lord Selborne, of which I have spoken, it assumed its final form, and in its Preamble it laid down the conditions which have governed our action ever since. Let me read the words to your Lordships :—
" Whereas it is the declared policy of Parliament to provide for the increasing association of Indians in every branch of Indian Administration, and for the gradual development of self-governing institutions, with a view to the progressive realisation of responsible government in British India as an integral part of the Empire:
" And whereas progress in giving effect to this policy can only be achieved by suc- cessive stages, and it is expedient that substantial steps in this direction should now be taken :
" And whereas the time and manner of each advance can be determined only by Parliament, upon whom responsibility lies for the welfare and advancement of the Indian peoples :
" And whereas the action of Parliament in such matters must be guided by the co-operation received from those on whom new opportunities of service will be conferred, and by the extent to which it is found that confidence can he reposed in their sense of responsibility :
I might, but I have not time, quote passages from the speeches of Liberal Members of Parliament, and of Liberal Secretaries of State, from Mr. Montagu himself, repeating, as recently as 1922, the propositions laid down in the Preample of this Act. A little later in the Act you find it specifically provided that only after the lapse of ten years—that is to say, in 1929—is there to be constituted the first Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry in order to report to the Government." Be it therefore enacted, etc."
Might I make one observation ? It has been stated by a Secretary of State for India—not myself—that he interpreted that as not forbidding an earlier Inquiry.
I will read it. Clause 41 says:
it does not suggest an earlier period—" (1) At the expiration of ten years after the passing of this Act—"
" the Secretary of State, with the concurrence of both Houses of Parliament, shall submit for the approval if His Majesty the names of persons to act as a commission for the purposes of this section.
What is the result of these passages which I have ventured to read to your Lordships? Do they not establish these propositions—that in the view of the Government at that time, endorsed by every succeeding Government, and accepted by both Houses of Parliament, responsible self-government is the goal to which hereafter Great Britain looks forward in respect of her great Indian Dependency, but secondly, that it is only by slow stages that this ultimate goal can be reached, and that the speed with which the advance is capable of being made must be regulated by the proven capacity of the people to deserve the increasing confidence which it may be possible to repose in them. Surely the first test of such increasing capacity is willingness to support the Government in the elementary duty of preserving law and order. Then, thirdly, it is laid down in these passages to which I am referring that the responsibility for determining the stages of advance rests, not with the Government of India, not with the Secretary of State for India, but with the Houses of Parliament, and that only if Parliament is satisfied can this advance be made. I drew attention to this, because I think there is too great a tendency in India to think that the pace of Parliament can be forced. The hands of Government can be forced, but it is a much more difficult thing to force the hands of Parliament, and I do not believe that this House, or cither House, of Parliament will be in the least disposed to surrender or qualify the vast responsibility thus placed in its hands. Lastly, as the passage which I last read sufficiently proves, it was laid down that after the lapse of ten years the first Commission of Inquiry should be set up. Let me say this. To those decisions and to those principles the Government at home, the Government of India, every Governor in India and, I believe, every civil servant in India have been unswervingly loyal. I cannot say too much for the fidelity and unselfish devotion with which even those who disagreed with those reforms, who disliked parts of them, have nevertheless bent their shoulders to carry them through. Nobody knows that better than my noble friend Lord Chelmsford, who will endorse every word I am saying in this respect. There were some of us in this country—T was one—who exceedingly disliked some of the provisions of this Act. I abominated the system of dyarchy, but when the Committee of your Lordships' House decided to recommend it because they said they could not find another alternative, I bowed my head and acquiesced. And certainly I have never said one word since, and I never will, to retard the peaceful and successful evolution of Indian constitutional life, as provided for by the Act of 1919. Now I come to what has happened in India, and I hope the noble Lord will pardon me for saying that he gave a very inadequate account indeed of the reception which, from the earliest days, this great gift, generous and liberal to a degree, met with from the native politicians in India itself. Let me tell your Lordships what occurred. The Bill was passed into law in 1919. The National Congress of India, which was supposed to represent the views of the most intelligent native politicians, repudiated these concessions at once, and started an agitation for the grant of complete responsible government. Early in 1920, the year after the Bill had passed through Parliament, came that sinister combination of Mr. Gandhi with the two Mohamedan brothers Mohamed and Shaukat Ali, with which, I think, my noble friend had to deal. Then the policy of non-co-operation was started, and in September, 1920, the Congress invited all its supporters to boycott the elections, to boycott education, to boycott the law courts, to boycott foreign goods, to boycott the Imperial Services all round. The next stage was in November, 1921, when the Congress openly converted itself into a revolutionary organisation, teaching the doctrine of civil disobedience and the non-payment of taxes, and aimed eventually at the complete overthrow of British Government in India, and the complete emancipation of India not merely from British, but from all Western influence and education. The next stage to which I draw attention was the hartal, or suspension of all public business, that was decreed by this public body on the arrival of the Prince of Wales in India in November, 1921, with the disastrous consequences that ensued. Thus, this very brief summary will show you—and I could multiply my evidence a hundredfold—that the Congress Party in India has now developed itself into a purely revolutionary party, with the intention of breaking down the system of Government in India, of severing the connection between this country and India, and, in fact, of bringing all government to a standstill. Now I pass from the action of Congress, which you may say is irresponsible, and therefore, if not negligible, at any rate not of capital importance, to what has been done in the Imperial Legislative Assembly, to which the noble Lord devoted a good deal of his remarks. The first Elections took place, if I remember rightly, in 1920. The Assembly was opened at Delhi by the Duke of Con-naught in February, 1921. In September they proposed a Resolution completely forgetting everything that I described to you as the conditions under which this great constitutional development had occurred—a Resolution urging that complete responsible government should be set up in all the Provinces in 1924, and in all Departments of the Government of India by the same time, except in the Army, foreign affairs, and the Political Department, and that complete Dominion home rule should be conceded in 1929. In other words, here was this body, which had only been called into existence in February, 1921, proclaiming in September. 1921, that it had already acquired sufficient experience to justify its being made the recipient of the complete and final boon. The same sort of resolution has been passed since, and the noble Lord alluded to one of them which was passed only the other day at Delhi, to which I will come in a moment. As to that resolution, I was rather amused to read in the speech of one of the Indian gentlemen, who proposed the immediate assumption by the Indians of all the Departments of Government, that he said that, although it was necessary that they should have complete control of the Army in India, still it was desirable that the British officers and soldiers should be invited to stay on—in order, of course, to save these gentlemen from the immediate annihilation to which they would otherwise have been exposed. I have tried to put before your Lordships what has been the attitude of the National Congress in India, and what has been the attitude of the Imperial Legislative Council set up under the scheme of reform. Now I come to a part of the noble Lord's speech to which he devoted very great and prolonged attention. He was seeking to explain—and he did it in a very sympathetic way—what was the foundation of the feeling of unrest (" soreness," I think, was the word that be used) that exists in India, and that has brought about this lamentable state of affairs; and he gave a number of illustrations, to which, of course, I can do no more than allude in a sentence or two. The first of these was the Dyer debate in your Lordships' House some years ago, and the Resolution that was passed by your Lordships upon that occasion. That Resolution, I thought myself, was a great blunder. I argued against it, I appealed against it, with all the force at my disposal. I am convinced that I was right, and I am convinced that your Lordships were wrong. I told you then that that decision arrived at by you on that night, under the spur of feelings which we all understand, and with which some of us sympathise, would have a terrible effect in India And it had. And among the causes named by the noble Lord this afternoon I am bound to confess that I think he was not unjustified in referring to that. But I cannot say the same for the other reason. He alluded to a speech made by Mr. Lloyd George, in which Mr. Lloyd George spoke about the Civil Service as the steel frame of our system in India. Well, I do not, of course, agree with all that that eminent statesman says, but I am bound to say that seems to me to have been a most sensible and a most sound remark. That is exactly what it is, and, if you destroy your Civil Service, as you are in process of doing, it is no good to talk about the British Raj in India—the British Raj in India will fade away and disappear unless you have a sound Civil Service to support it. And what is the gravamen of the charge? The noble Lord says that, apart from the phrase about the steel framework, Mr. Lloyd George's remarks gave rise to serious misapprehension because he said that the Indian Civil Service must remain intact, and that thereby he gave them to understand that the promises about Indianisation were worthless and were not intended to be carried out. Dear me! Is not this quibbling about words? Does not everybody know, when you talk about preserving the Civil Service in India intact, that you are not speaking of the actual numbers; you are speaking about the spirit, the espritde, corps, the traditions, the magnificent sense of duty ; and to take a thing of that sort and make it a cause for complaint is going absolutely too far. Then the noble Lord says that another cause of soreness is that Indians are persuaded that we are not proceeding sufficiently rapidly with Indianisation, and that our promises have not been carried out. Does he not know the facts ? I can tell him. The facts are these. The noble Viscount, Lord Chelmsford, who is sitting opposite, was the author of the proposal that as regards Indianisation we should advance to a point in reference to the Indian Civil Service at which 33⅓ per cent. of the Indian Civil Servants should be Indians and, although conditions are not laid down as regards other Departments of Government, it was assumed that somewhat the same rate of progress and somewhere about that scale would be adopted." (2) The persons whose names are so submitted, if approved by His Majesty, shall be a commission for the purpose of inquiring into the working of the system of government, the growth of education, and the development of representative institutions, in British India, and matters connected therewith, and the commission shall report as to whether and to what extent it is desirable to establish the principle of responsible government, or to extend, modify, or restrict the degree of responsible government then existing therein, including the question whether the establishment of second chambers of the local legislatures is or is not desirable."
Yes. Do your Lordships know what is going on in many of the Services of India now, not five years but only four and a half years after the passing of that legislation by this House ? A great many of your Services have been Indianised to over 50 per cent. Why have they been Indianised ? Because the men will not stay. The noble Lord talks of recruitment, and there he is right. That is just what is actually happening. You cannot recruit because men will not go out. Go to my own University of Oxford and to the University of Cambridge, for which my noble friend who is sitting by me is responsible, and find out whether the young men of the day, the pith and core of the British people, whom you have hitherto relied upon to represent you in India, are going to India. They are doing nothing of the sort. Where fifty-went when I was an undergraduate at Oxford, not two go now. That is what is happening, and that is the result of this policy. Men are disgusted. They cannot stand it ; and the idea that, when this process of Indianisation is proceeding at this headlong, this catastrophic speed, the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India should come here and quote this and say that we are not carrying out our promises about Indianisation, is too much.Then another cause of soreness was the reimposition of the Salt Tax. Here is a thing that I do know something about. When I was Viceroy, owing to the happy and prosperous times in which I administered the country, we were able to reduce the Salt Tax to the lowest point at which it had ever stood. But it was always understood that if the finances of India became bad, and money was required, it would be necessary to reimpose a portion of the taxation which I took off. That situation occurred last year. Lord Reading had to balance his Budget. He had no alternative but to do it, and, using the powers conferred upon him by the Act, he certified—I think that is the phrase—the reimposition of this particular tax. And the noble Lord invites us, with a sympathetic groan, to regard the sufferings of the poor people of India who have had to pay more for their salt than they had to pay before. I wish he would go to the India Office and find out whether any complaint has reached that office from the Government of India as to the suffering caused by this increased taxation. He tried to bring that up as a charge against the late Government, and I desire—
I gave the noble Marquess what had been told me on very great authority, including the authority of Lord Reading—that complaints had been made.
Yes, and I am concerned in informing their Lordships how utterly without foundation those complaints are. Then the next cause of complaint was Kenya, and the noble Lord devoted something like twenty or twenty-five minutes of his speech to arguments about that question. If I may say so, they would have been, perhaps, a little more appropriate to a debate upon Kenya itself ; but let that pass. What did we do about Kenya ? The noble Duke who was responsible for the Colonial Office, and who is not here to-night, proposed, and His Majesty's late Government agreed to, a settlement, a compromise about the Kenya question which was based upon the very principle and ground for which the noble Lord was pleading during the greater portion of his remarks namely, justice to the natives Who are the natives, and of what part of the world ? They are the natives of Africa. That was the. whole basis of our solution. It did not carry satisfaction in India, because I am afraid that nothing would carry satisfaction in India save a complete settlement of their demands. But only the other day at the Imperial Conference it was proposed and accepted by the Government that the Committees to which the noble Lord referred should be sent out to Kenya and other places to deal with the matter, and I hope that satisfaction will be the outcome of their labours. I will devote no more time to it now, because it is really irrelevant to the discussion, but I hope the noble Lord will give us an opportunity another time of discussing the question at greater length.Let me here add one word. The idea, I see, is prevalent that a change may now be required because the reforms are believed to have broken down. I have already spoken of the devoted labours of the Civil Service in attempting to carry them out, and substantial progress has been made. I remember, in particular, only a year ago, being told, on the authority of the Government of India, the Viceroy of India, that very satisfactory progress was being made in the conduct of the proceedings of the new Legislative Councils ; and where they have broken down at all it has been due simply to the attitude and the policy of the extremists who will not work with any system good or bad, and who have been bent on reducing the Government to impotence. Now I come to what I think is the last, but the most important, subject with which I shall have to deal. I come to the proceedings that have just occurred in the Imperial Legislative Assembly at Delhi and to the pronouncement that has been made upon them by the noble Lord. I followed the debate at Delhi, so far as I could, in the condensed telegrams in the British newspapers, although I had not the advantage, of course, of the fuller information which the noble Lord placed before us this evening. In the course of that debate quite a number of proposals were placed before the Assembly by different Indian Members, and they culminated in the Amendment, which was finally carried by a large majority— seventy-six to forty-eight—for a round-table conference to draw up a Constitution for India. I might take the point that it does not seem to me to be any part of the function of the Legislative Assembly, as constituted under the Act, to pass academic resolutions of this description. They deal with reserved subjects which are excluded from their notice ; but let that pass. Let us look at, the thing upon its merits. The noble Lord read to us—at least, I think he did—passages from the two speeches which were made at the beginning and at the end of the, debate by the Home Member, Sir Malcolm Hailey, who is shortly going, I believe, to the Punjab. As I gather, what Sir Malcolm Hailey promised on behalf of the Government was this, that there should be a serious investigation, in consultation with representative Indian opinion, into all blemishes or defects in the working of the present transitional Constitution, and that if such investigation should demonstrate the possibility or the feasibility of an advance within the Act by the use of the rule-making power to which the noble Lord referred, the Government would make recommendations in that sense, to be placed before the Imperial Legislative. Assembly, before the Secretary of State, and before Parliament. That was—I think I have given it quite correctly—the reply of the representative of the Government of India; and we have heard to-day with interest—because it is very important—that this reply was given by him not only with the authority of the Government of India and the Viceroy, but with the authority and knowledge of His Majesty's Government and the Secretary of State at home. Therefore, that statement to which I have just referred represents the considered view of the present administration, unless it has been modified since. Sir Malcolm Hailey added—I noted this remark by the noble Lord—that the British people and Parliament would not lightly reconsider the Constitution of 1919. Then the noble Lord, in the latter part of his speech, read to your Lordships a number of pronouncement" which, on the one occasion that I ventured to interrupt him, he told me represented the considered views of the Cabinet of which he is a member. I listened to those expressions of opinion. They were couched in cautious and carefully chosen, but I thought at moments in rather ambiguous, terms. The noble Lord spoke about the desirability of establishing closer contact between the Home Rule Party in India and His Majesty's Government. That may be all right. It is always desirable to have close contact between governors and governed, but close contact may mean that one swallows the other. That would constitute a very great danger. Then the noble Lord spoke about lines of advance towards responsible Government. Are the lines of advance to be within the ambit of the Constitution which we passed in 1919, or are they to be outside it ? The noble Lord pleaded—and I think pleaded with perfect reason—for time. He said: "His Majesty's Government have only been in Office for a few weeks. It is a. very momentous affair. They must be allowed a little time." I think the Under-Secretary of State said "three weeks" in the House of Commons. They must be allowed to come before Parliament again and tell us the suggestions that they have to make. That, I think, is not at all unreasonable. I hope I am right in having gathered from two remarks which were made by the noble Lord—and this is important—that His Majesty's Government feel no sympathy with the proposal of a round-table conference, which was part of the Resolution that was carried by the majority of the Legislative Council in India. I say so for this reason. I cannot imagine a more unfortunate, or what would be likely in the long run to be a more disastrous, method of endeavouring to cope with the situation in India than resort to what is called a "round-table conference." I do not know that our experience in this country of those conferences has been particularly favourable or encouraging, but in India your round-table conference would have to contain representatives of all classes of a population of 320,000,000—the politicians, the princes, the agriculturists, the merchants, the British community, the Indian community, the Sikhs, the Mahommedans, the 60,000,000 wretched outcastes, of whom the noble Lord spoke. Can you imagine anything more absurd than to have an assembly composed of those various constituents to draw up a new Constitution for India? The idea of the plan has only to be stated to be covered with ridicule. And I am equally sceptical about a Royal Commission. You do not want any more Royal Commissions for India. You have one sitting there now. You have a, Royal Commission under Lord Lee of Fareham investigating the difficulties of the Service—a most anxious and difficult question—which has not yet reported, and to send out another Royal Commission, apparently composed of persons from this country, in order to investigate how far you can go back upon your decisions arrived at in 1919 would, I think, be an encouragement and a sop to extremist agitation in India, and would do your cause not only no good but great harm. What ought you to do? If I might venture, as an old head of the Government of India, to add a word in these circumstances, I would say : You want to find out what are the real facts of the case, and you want advice from responsible quarters. We, in this country, are incapable of giving it, because every year that passes takes us further and further afield from our own experience. Go, then, to the men who are working the scheme in India. Go to your Governors and to your provincial Governors, and to their Councils. Go to the Viceroy, and say to him: "From your experience can you tell us how these reforms are going on?" It is all the easier to do that, because I remember being told a little while ago that only in the summer of last year the Viceroy himself issued a questionnaire, containing a large number of specific questions, to the various Provincial Governments and Governors, asking them to report to him upon the way in which reforms were being carried out, and to give him any information which they might desire on the subject. You have your material, and instead of constituting round-table conferences or Royal Commissions, with the trail of doubt and danger which would follow them, go to the people who really know, and come with those opinions when you want to give us the latest state of information about what is happening in India itself. The Government left us in a position of some doubt this afternoon. I am anxious to interpret the remarks of the noble Lord in the most favourable sense, and I hope I have not done any injustice to the substance of his argument in the observations I have made; but may I, in sitting down, summarise in a sentence or two what I humbly conceive to be the propositions which ought to regulate the conduct of Parliament in dealing with this question in the near future ? The first would be this : That this country and this Parliament docs not recede from the offer—the liberal and generous offer—which it made to India in 1919, and which it still intends faithfully to carry out. Secondly, there is no reason whatever for pulling up the roots of this new system before they are firmly fixed in the ground. By all means remedy the defects to which the noble Lord was alluding just now, but do not tear up the plant itself. Thirdly, the idea that India is at this stage of her evolution ripe for self-government is an idea that cannot be entertained by any thinking man either in this country or in India itself, and if that idea were prosecuted, if an attempt were made to hurry the pace and to give something like self-government to India at this stage, believe me—and I speak here from knowledge—that not only would any such step be ruinous and disastrous to your government in India, but it would be fatal to India itself. It would plunge India back into the misrule and anarchy from which one hundred and fifty or more years ago we rescued it, and, above all, the section of the Indian people who would suffer most would be the great toiling masses, the millions, the hundreds of millions, for whom the agitators care very little but who find almost their sole protection and salvation in the existence of the British Government in India. Our object should be to proceed cautiously and steadfastly on the lines we have laid down, and which give, in my judgment, great and ample scope for all legitimate development on the part of the advanced sections of the Indian people. We ought not to yield to violence or-obstruction in any form ; still more ought we to encourage and support the moderate party in India. The Moderate Party are being swept off their legs because they are not quite certain whether the Government is going to stand by them, not quite certain whether the Labour Government here is going to give India something much bigger than you have hitherto done. Stabilise your Moderate Party, stand by them and see them through, and you will do a better day's service for India than by any new proposals you may make here. There was one remark of the noble Lord with which I entirely concur. He said : "How is this problem to be solved? It can be solved only by mutual understanding and mutual co-operation." That is perfectly true. None of us want to fight any section or any part of the Indian people. We must get the best of the Indian people to understand us and sympathise with us. Get them to co-operate with you and your policy will succeed. If that is the policy of His Majesty's Government—I hope I am right in my interpretation—then they will receive nothing but support from us. Should they attempt anything more advanced or revolutionary I can only tell them that I think they will receive our steadfast and resolute opposition. I do not believe that they will attempt it for one moment, but in sitting down may I call their attention respectfully to one condition in their Parliamentary existence which must govern what they do. I do not want to say anything unpleasant or invidious, but His Majesty's Government know perfectly well that they only represent a minority in Parliament, not only in this House but in the other House as well, and it must be perfectly obvious that it does not lie within their power, it is altogether outside their capacity, to propose any sudden violent or drastic changes in this matter. If they contemplate such, do let them remember that they are bound by the whole history of this question to take Parliament into consultation. It is Parliament that governs India, not any individual who sits on that Bench or at Delhi, and while Parliament will strain every effort to carry the scheme that is in existence to success, Parliament, I am sure, will resist to the uttermost any attempt that would have no other result than to break it down.
My Lords, I move that the debate be now adjourned until Thursday, February 28.
Thursday, the 28th, is a convenient date, as the Motion now standing in the name of Lord Muskerry will not be taken.
There is a debate on the Lausanne Treaty on that day.
Yes, that is so, I was looking at the wrong date.
Why not take it to-morrow ?
There are three Questions down for to-morrow, but perhaps it would be convenient if we adjourned the debate until to-morrow.
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to: Debate adjourned till to-morrow accordingly.
Standing Committee On Indian Affairs
My Lords, I understand that it will be convenient to the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India if I postpone until Thursday next, my Question as to whether it is the intention of the Government to submit a Motion to both Houses of Parliament this Session for the appointment of the Standing Joint Committee on Indian affairs. I will therefore put it down for that day.
Reduction Of Armaments
rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether they can now say what steps they propose to take with regard to the reduction or limitation of armaments ; and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said : My Lords, I do not propose to occupy your Lordships more than a few moments. Indeed, I would not again have troubled you on this subject but for the fact that since I had an opportunity of laying my views before you a deputation has waited on the Prime Minister and the Lord President of the Council dealing with this among other subjects. The Lord President, at that deputation, said that as regards the Treaty of Mutual Assistance he hoped we may be able to set up a strong Government Committee to consider it thoroughly. That is probably the only thing that can be done, and I am quite content with that undertaking by the Government. But I should like to know the nature of the Committee and when it is going to be sot up. I hope it will be a Committee of strong representa- tives of an impartial character and not merely a few delegates from Departments. This is a broad question of policy, and if it is to be investigated properly it should be investigated by a proper body, preferably a Royal Commission.
Secondly, I wish to press this on the Government; that there is no time to be lost. This matter comes before the Assembly of the League in September, Other Governments are considering it, and will reply. To judge by their present attitude, it is likely that most of them will be favourable, but the British Government must be, there with a policy and ready to say what they intend to do. If they appoint a Royal Commission, well and good, but it should be done immediately and set to work immediately so that it may report in time to enable the Government to have a policy before September. I hope the Lord President of the Council will be able to tell us that the nature of the Commission is fully settled and that it will be appointed without further delay.
My Lords, I think there must be some misapprehension. I recollect the meeting to which the noble Viscount has referred. It took place at the Foreign Office. I do not know that the word "Commission" was used.
No. The word was "Committee." This is the official statement issued by the Government to the Press of what the, noble and learned Lord said :
" As regards the Treaty of Mutual Assistance I also hope we may be able to set up a strong Government committee to consider it thoroughly."
The difference is this, and it is one of great importance. The responsibility in this matter rests with the, Government, and we do not intend to shirk it in any way by setting up what is sometimes called a Commission, or Royal Commission. The Government must-have the responsibility itself ; and that is what we intend. As regards the setting up of a Committee I am not sure that I can say anything at the present time. Committees are meeting and considering it, and are going to consider it from every point of view. As the noble Viscount has said, an answer must be given in time for the consideration of the Assembly of the League when it meets next September. That is some time ahead, but as soon as the Government can come to a determination the noble Lord is quite entitled to know what that determination is. No one has taken so much trouble in this work as he has. We are both at one in the desire to obtain some measure of disarmament. There is no difference between us upon that score. The question is whether the method which has been suggested, largely upon his responsibility, is the right one or not. The initiative on disarmament must come from the Assembly of the League and not from the Government. It is for the Government to consider the propositions made.
They have been made.
That does not, of course, exclude the Government from expressing its own view upon a very-crucial matter of this kind. But the method of procedure laid down in the Covenant of the League is that the Assembly shall make suggestions, and that the Governments shall consider them. At the present time a suggestion has been made—I do not say a suggestion for adoption, but a suggestion for consideration—which is considerably identified with the noble Viscount himself. That suggestion will receive the very fullest consideration of His Majesty's Government. As regards the noble Viscount's observations about the Committee, I do not wish to say anything more at present, but clearly the Committee must be formed from the Departments concerned. The Government is not going to delegate the responsibility which it must undertake to any other body, and the only way in which it can accept that responsibility itself is by having the full consideration, assistance, and views of the various Departments concerned. There is no other way in which the Government can fulfil its responsibility, and we do not intend to shirk our responsibility. I do not think I can tell the noble Viscount any more than that.
My Lords, I cannot pretend to be at all satisfied with the answer that the noble and learned Lord has given to me. I confess that it appeal's to me to be an answer which is likely to be viewed with grave dissatisfaction in the country. As I understood the noble and learned Lord, he says that the Government does not recognise any duty to have a policy in this matter at all.
I understood him to say so.
I should like to correct the noble Viscount. That was not what I intended to say, and I do not think I said it. I said that the basis, the principle of action, was that proposals should be brought forward by the Assembly of the League and considered by the Government, and that is what we are doing at the present time. It is not for the Government to initiate a policy in these matters. It is for the Government to consider a suggestion which has been initiated, and that is what we are doing. That is a very different thing from what appears to be the suggestion of the noble Viscount, that we have no policy.
I do not think it is very different from what I have said. What course is it that the noble and learned Lord contemplates? According it that the League.is to develop, after two or three years, a policy which is to be put before the Government? According to the noble and learned Lord, the Government's whole duty is to say Yes or No to such a policy.
That is the first duty.
It is the only duty which the noble Lord has so far recognised. He is not prepared to say that the Government is going to consider whether, if this policy is not to he accepted, some other policy is possible. The question is whether the Government are in earnest in this matter of disarmament or not. That is the question which the country will ask, and they will not be satisfied with ingenious Parliamentary replies. They are in earnest, terribly in earnest, on this question, and they will expect the Government, not merely to adopt a purely negative attitude, but to declare their readiness either to accept a policy or to lay down a new policy which they will consider satisfactory. I confess that I have heard the answer of the noble Lord with the greatest misgiving, and I shall take the earliest opportunity of raising this Question again.
My Lords. I should like to say upon that point that I do not think the Lord President quite grasped the point at which the noble Viscount opposite is driving. As I understand it, it is that before the Assembly meets next September the Government shall have definitely made up their minds on this question of policy, which lies at the root of securing any measure of disarmament; that is to say, that the Government should be clear as to their policy before the Assembly meets in September, and not merely wait for suggestions to come from the Assembly, or consider this suggestion, or criticise it, without having a definite policy of their own on this very important question.
I regret that there should be any misunderstanding, and I should be very sorry if that were the case. The point which I was emphasising was the method of procedure by which the initiative comes from the League, and then the Government considers the suggestion which the League has brought before it. I do not suppose myself that by September the Government will not be in a position to express very decidedly their own views upon this question. I never intended to say a word to suggest that they will not, and that is my expectation. As regards there being any difference of opinion upon this point, the Government have, I think, shown in every way not only their desire to have what has been called a League of Nations policy, but their intense appreciation of the importance of this question of disarmament. I tried to express the other day my own view that, apart from disarmament, it is almost impossible to imagine that the Covenant of the League can be successfully worked. I have no hesitation in saying that, although I pointed out what appeared to me to be the right course of procedure, the Government in due course—certainly, I hope, before September, if not much earlier—hopes to express its own view, if it finds itself—as to which I say nothing at the present moment—unable to accept the proposal put forward at the present moment.
Do I understand that the noble and learned Lord definitely rules out the inquiry in public which I desire—I say so quite frankly—into the whole subject, not only of this particular proposal but of others that can be put before it. Will the Government insist upon a purely Departmental consideration of these questions, and do they intend to keep the public out of their confidence in this matter ?
I think, if I may say so, that the noble Viscount is hardly fair to put it in that way. What I said was that the Government are going to accept the responsibility which they think lies upon them to give a decision in this—
Of course ; they have got to.
Wait a moment. They are not going to ask to get rid of this responsibility by remitting it to any other body. I am glad the noble Viscount agrees with that. That is their policy, and, so far from its being a policy of do-nothing, it is a policy of which the basis is that they shall consider the whole question and, on their own responsibility, determine what they think is right to be done.
My Lords, I do not propose at this late hour of the evening to make any considerable contribution to the debate, but I am interested to see that there has apparently been a clash of opinions between two such noble supporters of the League of Nations as Lord Parmoor and my noble friend, Lord Cecil. I merely desire that this question of disarmament should be examined with some contact with reality. Unfortunately, public business deprived me of the opportunity of listening to all the speeches that have been made, but I certainly do not propose that this topic shall receive discussion in this House on any occasion on which I am able to be present without making it perfectly plain what are the views which I hold, and which I fear are somewhat distinct from the views held either by my noble friend behind me or by the noble Lord, the President of the Council.I hear all this talk of disarmament, and the more I hear talk of disarmament the more I feel myself impelled to ask what are the realities of the situation. Who is disarming, except the people who have not any arms at all ? Who is disarming in this world, except those who talk in terms of idealism ? I observe in to-day's papers a full report of the discussion of the League of Nations which met together in order to discuss the terms of naval disarmament. Have they arrived at an agreement ? We find, on the contrary, that even in the League of Nations, where one would have supposed there would have been those elements which, if any agreement be attainable, would have effected such an agreement, there has been complete failure to approach any agreement upon this point. The real truth is that when you talk about disarmament—and I would specially commend this to the Lord President, who is Deputy Leader of the House, and ask him to apply his mind somewhat to realities ; he used to apply his mind to realities—
I do not quite agree. When the Lord President was a high Tory in the House of Commons he used to apply himself very closely to realities. He used to warn the Government against the Socialistic tendencies of Mr. Lloyd George, and he was a strong advocate of the cause of Imperial defence. In those days I attached far more importance to his opinion than I do to-day, and I invite him, in the light of his new entanglements, to apply himself to those realities which I think he has forgotten. We are dealing in Europe with only one nation which at this moment counts, and that is France. We are all deeply concerned, if we can, to maintain our friendly relationship with France. Does the noble and learned Lord see any tendency in France to accept and illustrate the practice of disarmament ? We have now survived four years of bitter disillusionment since the Armistice, and what is the position to-day in Europe, as illustrated by the only other vital nation in Europe except ourselves, namely, France ? Did France demobilise her Army, or agree in substance, or even in spirit, to the Washington Conference ? What is the position of her air armament to-day ? Yet the noble and learned Lord sits there and talks in terms of disarmament which have not any relationship to any contemporary position in Europe.I will tell him how he and his Government might more profitably employ themselves. Let them think in terms of national safety. Does the noble and learned Lord tell the House to-day that this country is safe? I agree that his Government has only been in power—I use the word "power" perhaps inadvisedly— in office, for about a month, and the responsibility is not primarily theirs. A year ago I raised in this House the subject of air defence, and I was interested to observe that the statistics, and all of them, cited recently in the House of Commons by the late Secretary of State for Air, were the very figures that nine months earlier I had unanswerably given in this House. Let us address ourselves to realities. Nobody in this world at the present moment has the slightest intention of disarming himself. "Spain, it may be observed, broke away from the discussion of the League of Nations a day or two ago upon the question of what is the strength to which she is entitled in the competition of the world, and while the noble and learned Lord, Lord Parmoor, and his fellow idealists, without the slightest contact with any contemporary reality anywhere in the world, are talking of what we may abandon, let them remember this, that there are a number of people in this country, of whom the noble and learned Lord used to be one, who have not the slightest intention of giving up anything which they conceive to be necessary for the protection of the country. He might equally remember this. I think I see the noble Viscount, Lord Grey, still sitting in the House. We had a lesson three nights ago as to the practical contribution which we may hope for from the Liberal Party. There were five cruisers under discussion in the House of Commons—the inadequate and irreducible remnant of that which we had proposed—cruisers which wore necessary for no other purpose except for the pur- pose of replacement. Yet what did we find from the Liberal Party ? We found them in the House of Commons, for the sake of gaining a fugitive political advantage, attempting to embroil the Labour Government with their own extremist supporters, in order to pluck some small advantage for the Liberal Party. It is true that Mr. Asquith and Mr. Lloyd George abstained from that discreditable attempt; but we may at least derive this lesson, that the Labour Party in their attempt, even inadequately, to maintain the minimum provision required for national defence, will obtain no assistance at all from that section of the Liberal Party controlled by Mr. Pringle, and that they will and must look, as every responsible Government must look, to the Unionist Party for that assistance. I recommend the Lord President of the Council, if I may do so, as one who has known him for a very long time, and who has been a very old colleague, if he can to rescue himself from the kind of vague talk which deceives him and carries him away, and renders him utterly unworthy of himself—this kind of illusory talk, this kind of vague tributes which he pays to other vague people indulging in silly talk in other countries of the world. On the contrary, let him address himself to subjects that he used to understand perfectly well—to the greatness of this country, and to the lesson that that greatness has been preserved, not by silly talk but by action, and by capacity for action when the need for action arises. By those means alone will the noble and learned Lord, and the Government of which he is a member, prove themselves adequate to the responsibilities and duties which rest upon them.
I have no right of reply, and I will only say in one sentence that I profoundly disagree with almost everything the noble and learned Earl said. I ask leave to withdraw my Motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
House adjourned at ten minutes before eight o'clock.