Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £74,834, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1928, for a Contribution towards the Cost of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for India in Council, including a Grant-in-Aid."—[Note: £37,500 has been voted on account.]
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
The Committee, and the House of Commons generally, is to be congratulated on the fact that we are to have two opportunities of discussing Indian affairs. On behalf of my hon. Friends, I desire to say that we hope that as many hon. Members as possible will be able to take part in the discussion to-day, and we propose to reduce the length of our speeches, as far as we can in conformity with what we want to say, and hope that other hon. Members will follow our example. In the past the House of Commons has not taken a discussion on Indian affairs very much to heart. It has been relegated to the end of the session, and generally there has been only one day. In my view it is a pity that this House is obliged to discuss the details of Indian affairs. I think it would be much better if they were discussed by the representatives of the people of India in their own Legislative Assembly. The responsibility, however, rests upon this House, and it is necessary that we should discuss these matters. It is perfectly true that the Legislative Assembly, and the Provincial Assemblies, may discuss certain matters, but their decisions, except on certain questions, may be overruled by the Viceroy or the Governor-General. Whilst the Speaker of the Indian House of Commons, if I may describe him in those terms, may sit in the Gallery here and learn how not to do things on occasions and how to do them on other occasions, the vital difference between a discussion in this Parliament and in the Legislative Assembly is that when this House passes a Resolution it has power to see that it is carried into effect. That does not happen in India.
I feel that there is a certain amount of unreality in the discussions that take place here. There are Anglo-Indians in the House, men who have served in that country and come back with a certain amount of knowledge gained during their official connection with India, but they are not the people who have to decide questions of policy. In the end it is the average and ordinary Member of this House who has to accept the responsibility and decide all questions relating to India and, therefore, I am going to try and persuade the Under-Secretary of State to represent to his chief that on the next occasion when we have an opportunity of discussing Indian affairs, which will be in two or three weeks' time, he will be able to tell us rather more fully what the Government's intentions are in regard to the setting up of the Commission, which is bound to be set up in 1929 to consider the future of reforms in India. It is bound to be set up if the honourable undertaking is carried out. Before I proceed, however, I want to correct a misstatement of mine in the last discussion on Indian affairs, and also clear up a misunderstanding with the Noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State. This is what occurred, as reported in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I said:
So this business of imprisoning people without trial or before a magistrate or a Judge and jury or anyone is still going on.
That is a very good way of getting out of it. He was tried in secret. Two Judges went into the prison and the man was taken before them, without any counsel or anyone knowing what he said or what anybody said to him. That is a pretty fine thing to call a trial. That used to be called an inquisition in the old days. The Noble Lord knows perfectly well that when I say these men are in prison without trial, I mean the sort of trial which the ordinary people outside call a trial.
That is not what I said. I was only correcting what was, unintentionally, a terminological inexactitude on the part of the hon. Member. He said the cases had not been considered. There is a distinction."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd June, 1927; Col. 611, Vol. 207.]
I took it from the Noble Lord that he accepted my statement that two Judges went into prison to see Mr. Bose, but as matters have turned out I was wrong in my interpretation of the Noble Lord's interruption, and I think the House on that occasion was rather led astray by what I said. As a matter of fact no Judges, no magistrates, examined Mr. Bose, and I have received from him this telegram, which I think it is right I should read and get on the records of this House:
I have no desire to be drawn into a political controversy from a sick bed, but a speech so provoking makes it impossible for me to remain silent. No detinus were ever tried before any Judge or Judges. I was myself never produced before a magistrate or Judge, neither was I told by whom police papers against me were examined before or after my arrest. I was never acquainted with the nature of the evidence against me.
When the police officials interviewed me during October, 1926, and stated that documentary evidence existed against me, I challenged them to produce genuine documentary evidence, and asserted that if documentary evidence existed it must be forged. The police official remained silent.
I do not want to pursue that subject any further, except to say that when, some months ago, I stated that these men had not been put on trial and that they had had no chance of proving their innocence either secretly or publicly, I understood that that was denied, and that was why in answer to the noble lord I said what I did. But the House of Commons should realise that there are in prison other men who have not had a ghost of a chance of proving their innocence, and that if it is held not to be possible—I do not take that view—to put them on trial openly, at least it should be remembered that the worst criminal in the world has the right to demand that he should be tried in some form or other. I say that because I feel that on the last occasion I did Mr. Bose an injustice, and I think that the noble lord unwittingly assisted me in doing so.
We on this side of the Committee think that the noble lord and his Department ought to consider not merely the political considerations affecting the people of India. It is quite possible that there will be self-Government in India, but even so, certain big economic problems affecting the relationship between this country and that country will still remain unsolved. So far as it goes, the Trade Unions Act, which is coming into operation very shortly is a step in the right direction, though a very halting step indeed. We would have liked to have seen it a very much bigger and broader Measure. I want to call attention to the fact that as the days pass Indian and other capitalists who invest their money in India, and the workmen who work for them, will want to claim the same rights for Indian industries that right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen opposite claim for British industries, namely, safeguarding. Up to the present we hold the power, and the Viceroy exercises the power, of deciding whether there shall be duties, countervailing duties or tariffs, on certain things. There is at the moment a considerable controversy on the subject of tariffs in regard to iron and steel and things of that kind. I do not think that this country should decide these questions for the Indian people or even for the Indian capitalists or workmen. In the end the people of Burma and India should have the right to settle these questions, and they ought not to be settled merely from the point of view of what may happen to be good for British industry at a particular moment. I may be told that that is very unpatriotic, but I do not think this country has a right to say to 300,000,000 of people, "You must arrange your economic life in conformity with our convenience and the economic position of this country." I hope that when the Under-Secretary of State brings forward his annual statement, he will tell us something about that question.
The question I want most to put to the Noble Lord this afternoon, though I do not expect that he will answer me very fully to-day, is this. The condition of India demands that the Government here should very soon tell us what their intentions are in regard to the development of reforms. It is often said about us here, and it is certainly said of people like me, that we are unpatriotic in demanding that the Indian people should themselves he given the opportunity, which we think is their right, of saving whether they want to be in the Commonwealth of British nations or outside it. We believe that a commonwealth should be a commonwealth of free partners, of partners who come in of their own volition. Australia, Africa and Canada have come in of their own volition, and we think that if India were given an opportunity, if we gave up the right of saying that she must remain in, the Indian people would in all probability—I hope they would—want to remain in. The reason why I want them to remain in and why I want the Noble Lord and his Department to tell us what their attitude is, is that I am not one of those who think that the development of pure and simple nationalism is good for the future of the world. I think that you must develop individualism, but nationalism and individualism must be developed along the lines of the admission, "My individual rights are bounded by the rights of other people, and my national rights are bounded by the rights of other nations."
I believe that the struggles of the future will be, not so much on nationalist lines, as on the lines of economic rivalry, and that what the world has to face is the problem whether we are going to be able to develop pure and simple international co-operation or to go down in a welter of confusion through international competition. Great capitalists already believe in that, already do their best to form cartels and huge combines, and so on. On this question of India and Burma and countries like those, which at present are living under the British flag, I want to see the British nation in conference with representatives of those nations trying to hammer out some policy which will enable us to deal with the enormous quota which these countries can produce in competition with ourselves, without tariffs, and on same basis of co-operative production and distribution. That question, I know, cannot be discussed fully, or settled, this afternoon. I raise it now only because I think it is necessary, in considering the Labour party's attitude regarding India and the Dominions and Colonies generally, that it should be understood how we look on the question. We know that political developments take place, but we think that the economic position is almost predominant, and that in some way we have to get inter-Dominion arrangements by which these economic questions can be settled on a basis of equity and justice, not only between the people who are the Whites in those countries, but the races that originally inhabited them.
The Labour party for whom I am speaking to-day, has laid down this policy in regard to Indian development and the development of political reforms. The first thing that we lay down, and the first thing that we want the House of Commons to face up to, is that the people of India, not ourselves, have the right, and the inalienable right, to say whether or not they want to remain in the British Commonwealth. The question for this Parliament is to decide how effect is to be given to that right. As I have already said, in 1929 the question of the Commission and of the reforms must in honour be settled. It must be remembered that the reforms were never accepted as a settlement or even as a partial settlement. They were, in a way, imposed upon India as an instalment, and as the beginning of the fulfilment of Queen Victoria's pledge that the people of Britain held India in trust for the Indian people. When I plead that the Indian people should have the sole right of settling their own future, I am only saying what every representative people have said again and again ever since the official connection of Britain with India. I heard it said—I do not dare to say how many years ago—when Professor Henry Fawcett was looked upon as the representative of India in this House.
I put it to the noble Lord that the time has come when we should cease treating the Indians as if they were good or bad children. We should treat them as our equals in this matter of their right to determine the future of their own country. We should not say to the Indian people or to the representatives of the Indian people or even to the agitators, "If you will only be good we shall consider what we can do for you," or say to them, "You are torn so much by religious differences that nothing can be done for you." That was said about Ireland for 100 years, and we all know the blood and tears and sorrow that it caused in that unhappy country. We know that religious differences were very acute there, but we know that in the end they were lived down and lived through. People have to become more sensible in these matters. The same thing will happen in India. The fact that there are religious differences in India does not stamp the Indian people as being different from any other people. In that matter, all nations are alike. The manner in which we want the claims of the Indian people to be considered, in regard to the future of the reforms, is that their statue as a nation, their right to self-government, their right to determine their own future, should be recognised.
My Communist friends I know say that this can only be accomplished by a violent break—that one party or other must break the connection, and that then India can start again. I do not subscribe to that view. I believe it is possible to do with India what was done with South Africa and Australia. Australia worked out its own constitution, and in the end the British Parliament accepted it. You have also the great self-governing Dominion of South Africa. But do not let us forget that, while we may boast that we have given self-government to certain places, we have not yet conceded self-government to any race which is of a different colour from ourselves. India provides a unique opportunity of proving that we are a great Imperial race which has given freedom and self-government throughout the world. Unless we do it with India, the future will prove that we have not done anything different from any other conquering race. It has been said that the Indians themselves do not know what they want. Those who were in this House during the Home Rule Debates know that this was a usual argument in addition to the religious argument about the Irish people. We were told that they never knew what they wanted, and that therefore nothing could be done. But happily—and I commend this to the notice of the Committee, though I need not commend it to the notice of the Noble Lord who, I expect, knows it much better than I do—a joint committee has been set up in India representative of all parties and sections in India, and that committee is trying to hammer out a new constitution for India. That is another committee since the one which framed the Commonwealth Bill—a Bill which has been introduced into this House and which Members will have an opportunity of reading.
I hope in regard to this new Committee that the Noble Lord will not say, "Why was not this done when the Labour Government were in office?" The Labour Government were only a few months in office, and were in the humiliating position of being under the heels of their opponents all the time. Even so, apart from the fact that the Bengal Ordinance can be put down to their credit or discredit, it can be put down to their credit that they appointed the Muddiman Committee to consider how the reforms were working. On the report of that Committee nothing has been done. That, of course, is usual. I served for about 3½ years on a Royal Commission which brought out volumes of reports, but practically nothing came of it, and in the same way nothing came of the Muddiman Report. But in India there has been a continual, persistent appeal for a revision, and now in response to Lord Birkenhead's statement that the Government are prepared to consider schemes, put forward by representatives of the people, this committee has been appointed. I press upon the Noble Lord the fact that time is running out. What we look to find out from him, either to-day or on the next occasion when the Vote is taken, is the Government's idea as to the constitution of the Commission, the terms of reference to be given to the Commission, and, generally speaking, what plans the Government have in mind for the consideration of the future constitution which they expect the House to accept in regard to India.
We feel that the numerous questions to be raised by my colleagues are questions which the Government should have dealt with long ago, and about which the people of India shoud have been given some satisfaction long ago. If we charge the Government and the British connection with not having educated the people of India, we may be told that that is a question with which the provinces themselves can now deal. That may be so, but the Noble Lord knows that on that particular question the great stumbling block is finance. The enormous amount of money spent on Army Services in India prevents money being spent on education and many other social services. Those who may be inclined to stand up to-day and talk of the blessings of British rule in India must remember that there is scarcely a day passes but some people die of literal starvation in that country. You have only to see the photographs of people that are sent over, you have only to know the records of the state of living in many of the cities and villages there, to know that whatever blessings of civilisation have been taken to India, we have not yet taken them the blessing of enabling them to live, in the proper sense of the term.
It is no answer to us to say what happened before the British connection, to say what famines there used to be in the past, to say—and I admit it—that many British men and women have gone to India and given of their very best. It has been an impossible task, and it is still an impossible task. I believe that you cannot do for an individual anything that that individual with his own capacity can better do for himself. I do not believe that this nation or any other is fit to rule and govern and dominate any other people. I do not believe the nation or the individual has been bred that has the power or the right to impose its will on others, and I am certain that you cannot impose civilisation from without on any nation. When hon. Members talk of civilisation, I beg them to remember that they are speaking of the affairs of a great people, a people that was civilised in the best sense of the word long before our forefathers ever dreamed of Christianity or of a religion of any kind, and I beg them to remember that we bring to this country numberless young men and women from India, we allow them to read Mill on "Liberty," you allow them to see our own arrangements for the administration of government, and I say that the time is long since overdue when we should give back to that nation the thing which they have not had for generations, namely, the right to rule themselves. I am a firm believer, whatever inconsistencies there are in my life, in this principle of life, that an individual who is more intellectual than another, who has greater powers than others, should, because of those powers, be a greater servant to the community, and if this nation of Britain, of which, after all, we are proud—I like to think that I am an Englishman and that I live in a country in which I enjoy living—has any civilisation to give to the world, any contribution to make to the development of mankind, it should be done, not that we may get something out of it, not even that we may get power to rule, but because we want to be greater servants of humanity
It was not my intention to intervene at so early a stage of this Debate, but I hope it will be accepted by the Committee that I do so, first of all, through a desire to express—and I am sure I speak for the whole of the Committee—great appreciation of the speech to which we have just listened from the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury). I have listened to many speeches which he has made in this House on the subject of India, and I know of no speech from him with which the Committee, as a whole, would agree more than with the one which we have heard to-day, and certainly none with which I feel myself more in sympathy. But if I agree, as I do, very largely with the views which the hon. Member has expressed, I am also conscious of the difficulties with which this country is faced in bringing about the very conditions which we desire to see and in getting agreement as to what should be done in the way of constitutional changes in India. The hon. Member has said that it is not desirable that we should consider the Indian people as children, or that we should hold out to them promises of some change in the constitution provided they are good or that they fall into line with our views as to what co-operation should mean. I quite agree with that. I think it is essentially desirable that we should approach the problem of getting the Indian people to co-operate with us, not from the point of view or the standard of British ideas only, but to get them to co-operate with us with the single object of achieving the best results for India as a whole.
Unfortunately, however, we are faced with a very practical difficulty. Leaving aside the very small number of Indians to-day whom I may describe as those of the "bag and baggage" policy, who want the British to get out at once—leaving them aside as really, in my opinion, hardly worth consideration—we come to a section of the people who strongly believe that the time has come when we should hand over at once to the Indian people the entire civil administration of that country. Unfortunately—and we must not ignore the fact—it is equally true that the very people who claim that this should take place are the people who premise their claim by some such statement as the following: "We do not believe that you mean anything at all; we do not believe that you mean your declaration; we do not believe that you mean to give us self-government eventually; we do not believe that if you do appoint a Commission it will ever do anything; we believe the whole thing is eye-wash." It is no use for us, in this House, to ignore the fact that that opinion does exist. It is not possible to deal with a man who begins by saying that he does not believe what you have said. If a man says: "You are a liar!"—which is what it amounts to—you can do no more. You are in the same position as you would be in dealing with someone who insists on saying something is white when the rest of the world says it is black. You cannot deal with him at all.
Further, he goes on saying that not only does he not believe what you say, but he also does not believe you will ever do anything without coercion, that no Government ever has done anything without coercion. That there is a modicum of truth in the statement that most Governments act often under some form of coercion, I suppose we shall all agree, but it is equally true that the people of India ought to be the last to make such a statement, because I do not think there is anyone who will suggest that the very Act which they now seek to have amended, and which is very shortly to come under consideration for amendment, was brought into existence in any way by coercion. The famous Declaration and the Act of 1919 were in no sense brought about by coercion. They were the idea—the gift, if you like—of this country to India—a promise of a definite programme or policy which is to bring about gradually responsible government in India as an integral part of the Empire. But I think it is worth while for the Committee to consider very carefully what the words of the Act are.
I do not want to weary the Committee by repeating words which they already know but it is quite clearly laid down in the Act of 1919 that the progress towards this goal will come about by successive stages; it is quite clearly laid down that progress by stages may, and probably will, be necessary; and it is further clearly laid down that the Commission which is to be nominated in 1929 will have to consider what further steps can be taken, or, if necessary, whether there should be any steps required in the opposite direction—whether, in fact, it will be possible to move forward or be necessary for conditions to remain as they are, or, if necessary, to consider that some measure of self-government already given may have to be removed. I think all of us will agree that it is in every way desirable that the movement in 1929 should not only be progressive, but should be one that will meet with the general goodwill and the consent of the large majority of the moderate-minded people in India. But I want, once again, to make it quite clear to the Committee that we are faced with this, that there is this one section of the Indian people who make things extremely difficult by starting from the basis that it is, in fact, impossible to believe anything said in this country regarding India, and, "Therefore, whatever you do, we will not believe you, and we do not appreciate in the least your desire to forward self-government."
If that be the case, I think that the point which the Committee has to consider now is this: Two years hence, or whenever it may be when this Commission is appointed the Commission will have to try to discover some means by which the difficulties of the present situation may be removed. I do not think there is, probably, any Member of this House, on either side of it, who knows India who likes diarchy. It is a system of government which, however necessary it may or may not have been as a temporary measure during a difficult period of transition, nobody likes. It is a form of government extremely difficult to carry out, both on the side of the British connection through the Government of India, and on the side of the Legislative Assemblies, who have to work it. But the problem is what we can put in its place, and I do think if we can to-day show that this House is anxious that Great Britain should approach that problem, not in any hostile spirit to the progress of reforms in India, but with an earnest desire to find a solution, we shall, at any rate, have helped to bring about that spirit of co-operation and goodwill in India which is so essential if we are to achieve success two years hence.
There are, as I say, practical difficulties. Take the case of those who suggest that we should hand over the civil government. Immediately, of course, two questions, such as defence and in- ternal peace and security, arise. It is impossible, speaking practically, to hand over the civil government and keep the military forces and the security of the country in the hands of people who are not directly responsible to the civil power.
The conditions in Egypt are very different. It seems to me that you are up against a difficulty at once. But there is a further point. Supposing such a scheme could be brought about, and then the internal security of the country demanded certain measures which the civil power thought necessary, but which, by the traditions and the customs of Great Britain and the British people throughout long years, were totally foreign and antagonistic to our ideas. What, then, is going to happen? Are the British military forces to be put in a position of carrying out orders possibly, perhaps, aimed at one section of the people, totally against our ideas of impartiality and our ideas of religious freedom? Take again the question of grants of money required for the Army. It is not difficult to see where sharp and immediate differences would arise. How is it possible to hand over the civil administration unless there is with it a responsibility for military control and for the defence of India? It has been constantly said in India that this country is responsible for a condition of affairs which prevents India being in a position to defend herself. I do not think that is quite a fair statement. At any rate, a good deal has been done in recent years to endeavour to encourage the growth of an Indian officer class, and I am not too sure that we can all be absolutely satisfied with the progress which has been made in that direction. I hope and believe it will come gradually, but I do not think anybody who looks at the conditions of India, and wonders what is to be done a few years hence, can possibly contemplate in the very near future a time when Indian officers would be able to take over the entire defence of India, and take over the entire control of its internal peace and security.
That is one of the practical things to consider when we are told we do not meet the legitimate aspirations of the Indian people. It is with that point that, I think, it is most important for us to deal. What are legitimate aspirations of India? They are not, as I believe, that we should leave the country, and leave it entirely to Indians. As the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down expressed it, I believe that they should become a free people who should be fully within the British Commonwealth of nations. Subject to the difficulties I have stated, the thing at which we are aiming is what progress we can make two years hence, or whenever it may be, when that Commission has to consider changes in the Acts. It appears to me that it is impossible to do anything more than extend, in some form or other, the progress we have already made, and the whole problem—the problem, I think, that we must show clearly to India—is that this is the difficulty and that we are more than anxious to meet it and to get them to join us in facing the situation. I myself, believe, rightly or wrongly, that India is as fully aware of the difficulties of the situation as we are. The people of India know thoroughly that it is impossible, in present cirrumstances, to relax altogether the British control, which gives them a very great many advantages. At the same time, it is realised that something must be done to show them more and more the anxiety this country has to move towards that point set out in the Declaration, that they will be able to take their place among the free peoples of the Commonwealth.
India has very little of which to complain in regard to material progress. In the last few years the progress of India materially has been remarkable—probably the most remarkable of any country in the world outside America. I do not want to weary the Committee with figures, but the whole progress of Indian trade since the days before the War has been so remarkable that we are getting in India a completely new set of conditions. Instead of a country almost entirely agricultural, instead of a problem almost entirely agricultural, we are now getting an urban, an industrial problem also, and one of which India must take cognisance. In the last few years the number of people engaged directly in industry has more than trebled, and although it is, and must always be, a very small proportion of the total population of the country it does not alter the fact that you are getting in India new problems and new conditions which alter the outlook of the whole Indian people. For this country also the progress in India has meant a great deal. India still is far and away our largest customer. It is also true that the very things she wants are the things we want to sell, and, therefore, it is all to the good of this country that India should have made that industrial progress. We are getting not only industrial progress but markedly better conditions in India. No doubt it is perfectly true, as the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley has said, that one can find in India to-day individual cases of starvation and of famine, as one could find them at any time in the past history of the country; but it is equally true that conditions in India to-day are infinitely better than they have ever been before. The number of people who die of famine or starvation is infinitesimal. I do not know that there are any at all, and if there are any the number must be infinitesimal as compared with years ago. Immense work has been done, largely by British enterprise or under British leadership, for the relief of the famine areas, and by the promotion of irrigation schemes, to deal with outbreaks of plague and cholera, and to cope with difficulties arising from the failure of crops.
Apart from this, the actual standard of life of the worker has distinctly increased. This was brought out, in the case of the towns particularly, by figures given by the Noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State in answer to a question not many weeks ago. I will quote to the Committee a few of the figures he gave on 9th May. The report of the Bombay Labour Office in 1925—that is, two years ago—gave the following averages of monthly earnings of all mill hands in the Bombay Presidency: May, 1914, 14 rupees, 11 annas; August, 1923, 28 rupees, 9 annas. If the figures are worked out in relation to the increased cost of living, it will be found that for the City of Bombay the increase of 55 per cent. over July, 1914, was an actual increase in real wages of 21 per cent. I am well aware that my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) would be able to show at once that as compared with wages in this country that is a very meagre rate of pay. But he knows as well as I know that it is perfectly impossible to compare con- ditions in this country with conditions in India. I am not suggesting for one moment that it is not desirable that those rates of pay should increase, just as I am equally anxious that the standard of living should improve in this country, but that does not alter the fact that there has been a material increase in India, and that it has been accompanied by a higher standard of living, and a demand which has made what were regarded as the luxuries of yesterday the necessities of to-day.
I am very much interested in the hon. Member's argument, but will he not explain to the Committee that the figures he has quoted take no cognisance whatever of fines, of short time and the extraordinary cost which these poor workers—these agricultural. Workers—are put to in travelling to and from Bombay and their native villages?
Perhaps the hon. Member will give me credit for knowing a little about this particular subject. It is perfectly true that practically all Bombay mill labour is imported labour; at any rate, a large proportion of it was imported labour originally, in the sense that a great many of the people were not born in Bombay. It is equally true that a great many of them return to their native villages to do a certain amount of cultivation during certain months of the year. But there is no necessity at all for them to leave Bombay. The Bombay mill trade is not a seasonal trade for six months of the year, or nine months of the year, it is a 12-month trade in the year; and one of the greatest difficulties of the mill owners arises from the fact that Indian native labour insists on returning to its native country to do a certain amount of cultivation which, by tradition, is a part of the native life. It is very far from being a hardship for these people to return to their native villages, and it is not a matter which should be taken into consideration in connection with the question of wages. On the contrary, it is a very real hardship on the mill owner that labour should be in a continual state of flux owing to this desire of the people to go back to their native villages.
The question of fines, too, is one which bears more hardly perhaps on the employer than on the employed. The hon. Member may suggest that in saying that I am rather like the father who, when he is going to beat his small child, says, "It hurts me more than it hurts you." But there is rather more in it than that. The fines inflicted are, as a rule, inflicted with the one hope of stopping the continual slack labour in the Bombay mills. I hope the House will not misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that it is desirable, but it arises out of the conditions under which work is carried on in Bombay. In that country you cannot get that concentration of labour which exists in this country, where our people have been trained to this work for generations and are living in a healthier climate to which they are accustomed and under their normal conditions of life. It is a well-known fact that if you compare the work done by the native workers in Bombay with the work done by people in, say, Lancashire, you will find that it will take something like three or four—I do not know what is the exact number—of Indian workers to do the same amount of work as is done by one man in Lancashire. As long as that is the state of affairs, there is bound to be a lower rate of wages for the native worker. The one thing that can be done is, by advancing the standard of life and improving education, to create among the workers a better understanding of the problems, a better appreciation of the necessity for regular work, and a realisation of the effect of their frequent absences and slackness upon the mills. Gradually, in this way, one may bring about higher rates of pay and better standards.
I think the hon. Member for Dundee has probably discovered on his visits to India that the problem is not quite so simple as he thought it was, and that conditions are not quite so bad for the workers, considering the class of people employed. I have seen an interesting statement emanating from the Secretary of the Burnley Weavers' Association, Mr. Hindle, after a 20 weeks' tour in India. He says:
Wherever we saw industry organised or managed by European firms, there we saw both native labour and housing conditions under better circumstances than in almost any of the districts where labour is run by native employers. Individually, the natives' wages are low and their standard of living very low. They have no home conditions worth mentioning. Furniture is unknown, and five, six or seven people will live in a
roughly-constructed place measuring 10 feet by 8 feet.
All those facts are perfectly true. The housing conditions are still very bad. But there is no city in the world, probably, where more has been done by the Government, by the Improvement Trust and by the Municipality, largely Indian-managed institutions, to bring about better working conditions. The enormous number of houses erected for the working classes is an example to many other places, although it is still true that there are difficulties in connection with these particular problems owing to the fact that the standard of life and of earnings is still very low. The hon. Gentleman opposite, however, has rather led me into more detail than I intended in regard to housing conditions, but I would just like to say a further word on the subject as to what this country can hope to do in regard to India in the near future. We shall probably receive very soon the result of one of the most important Commissions ever sent out to India, I mean the Agricultural Commission. That Commission really deals with the outstanding problems of Indian life.
I maintain that there are two problems connected with agriculture which we have to face if we are going to bring India to a greater state of prosperity. The first is the terrible problem of the subdivision of the land of India. Hon. Members scarcely realise the enormous extent to which the land of India is cut up into little plots which makes it impossible for a man to get a full year's work on his own land. The average agricultural work in one year per head of the population is something like 153 days, and that is partly caused because of the sub-division of the land. There are large numbers of areas of land of the size perhaps of an ordinary field in this country which belong to five or six different owners. The land is split up into little lots, and this makes it extremely difficult to secure any form of co-operation in regard to production, marketing or the supply of tools, in spite of the great work being done by the Agricultural Department and experimental farms. The second problem we have to face is the terrible problem of the moneylender. A large proportion of the people of India not only are born in debt but live in debt and die in debt, and that is one of the most difficult questions with which we have to deal. We have to consider by what means or measures that problem can be dealt with. I hope that as a result of the efforts of the Commission, which has done, I am told, such excellent work in India already, we may find some light to lead us along these very difficult paths.
I know a section of the people of India demand the immediate handing over of the civil government; but it should not be overlooked that perhaps a much larger number of the people of India appreciate thoroughly the fact that the British connection is a great matter for them, and are anxious to co-operate with us to bring about a satisfactory condition of affairs for both partners. In this connection I would only like to say that I do not think it is wise that we should continually look at this problem from the point of view which is so constantly put before us and which I will not call extremist but the most advanced point of view. We do not hear enough from the people holding moderate views, and they are the people who are anxious to sit down with us and hammer out the best way in which to secure the future welfare, contentment and prosperity of India. We do not hear much from the moderate class. We are constantly told that the British elector does not know anything about India, but that is not true. It is true, perhaps, that the average elector knows very little of Indian conditions and Indian statistics, but at any rate he knows the cardinal fact that, however much it may be right for us to listen to their views, it is not the local party leaders we have to consider but the welfare and happiness of the ryots, who form the huge bulk of the Indian people, and who still look to Great Britain, its honour, its justice and its impartiality for leadership and help.
I wish to place before the Committee the point of view of the British Government in India not so much from the political or Parliamentary side as from the national possibilities which are inevitable when such relationship is created between two peoples. I listened, not only with interest, but with a great amount of respect and gratitude to the speech of the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) and yet on certain fundamental points I stand as much apart from his views as from those of Lord Birkenhead. This is not a question of reform, or gradual or quick reform; it is a question of the possible relationship between two nations on the basis of one nation deciding what is good for the other. The hon. Member who has just sat down used a very fine phrase when he said that the majority of the people of India held moderate opinions. I do not know what moderate opinions are when one talks of India. I suppose that moderate opinion is that which agrees with the views of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Wardlaw-Milne), and even the hon. Member is not quite sure that all the people of moderate opinion hold the same views. I have frequently put it to this Committee and I do it once again that in the year 1927—never mind what happened in 1827—it is absolutely impossible for one country to hold another in subjection and pretend to offer them measures of reform giving them a partnership in the commonwealth. That is all humbug. I see that a new Commission is going to be appointed, and I would like to ask what is going to be the scope of that Commission and its terms of reference. Everybody knows, whether it is put in black and white or not, that the first thing that will be put in the terms of reference is how this country can keep a stranglehold over India. That is a primary condition.
Another condition will be that you must give to the Viceroy full power, and place a whip in his hand by which the interest, the prestige, and the political power of Britain shall never be allowed to suffer a scratch. Whether that is put down in print or not, it is the fact. Perhaps hon. Members will pardon me for putting things very bluntly, but I think that is the only way in which I can explain my views. Between slavery and freedom there is no middle course, and a transition from slavery to freedom can never be attained by gradual measures. As long as you continue slavery, it must continue with the full strength in the bond; the bond must be strong to hold down the people. When you make up your minds that there shall be no slavery, then the bond must break, and it must break completely. There is no human possibility of gradual reform and gradual freedom. The hon. Member for Kidderminster perverted an historical truth when he said that the last reforms of 1919 were not given to India by the Government under coercion. The Government of Great Britain played one of the most deceitful games in their history by pretending to give reforms to India, because the then Government of Great Britain was working under the greatest force and pressure and coercion of American and European nations. After the War, after the destruction of the power of the Kaiser, Great Britain stood, to the shame of the world, as worse than ten thousand Kaisers in her rule in India; and, in order to save the face of Great Britain, to show that Great Britain was no longer the only Imperialist Power in the world, but that British Imperialism after the War was modifying itself into a group of Commonwealths under tremendous coercion, perfidious Albion played the perfidious game by giving what you call the reforms.
In the reforms granted to India there is no measure of freedom, and I take the view quite candidly that there can be no measure of freedom. There is no such thing as gradual freedom. You must approach the point when the people enjoying the gradual freedom must overthrow the people who try to curb their freedom, even gradually. Why does Great Britain presume that, of all the savage peoples in the world who cannot manage their affairs, she must be the controller of the people of India only? Why do you not take into your charge the people of Persia, the people of China, the people of Egypt, the people of Turkey, and everywhere else, in the same manner and fashion as you take charge of the people of India? Did you not believe that the German people had no instinct of democracy? Why did you not take charge of them? You say the Italian people have not the same instincts of democracy that the British people have; why do you not go and assume parentage over them?
It is all nonsense to say that for the benefit of the Indians the British nation has got to be there, and is performing some benevolent action. For goodness sake be honest, and say you are a nation of enterprise, and, in seeking for enter- prise to seek your own good, opportunity placed you in a strong position to throttle the country and the people of India—that you are there, and you are determined to remain there as long as you can get any good out of it. That is the only confession of this House or this Parliament or this nation which can convince an honest world. It is no use pretending as though a deputation had come to you from the Indians, as though a section of the moderate opinion of India came to Great Britain and said, "Come and protect us; come and give us military protection; come and teach us civil administration," and so on. The hon. Member for Kidderminster said, but there has been tremendous progress in India since I do not know when—the last 20 or 30 years—
Make it as much as you like. I am prepared to grant you a still further term of 150 years, and I say that a nation which, after 150 years of hypocritical pretence, has kept the literacy of the people down to 6 per cent., ought to be pilloried in public in the eyes of the nations of the world. When a nation that says, "I control and give progress to the people of India," fails miserably—or rather, does not fail, but artfully and deceitfully in its own interest prevents 100 per cent. of education, and limits it like a tyrant and oppressor of an unspeakable character to 6 per cent.—how can any member of that nation come and say, "I am proud of my progress"?
Take the death rate in India, the crushing infantile death rate in that city of Bombay; take the progress of the hon. Member's own firm there. It has been a progress in infantile mortality from 150 or 200 up to 600 and 800 per thousand. There is tremendous progress in the murder of children all over India, and all over the industrial towns and cities there. The hon. Member spoke of wages—from 14 rupees they came up to 28 rupees; but there was another half-truth in it. He quoted the authority of the Labour Office. The Labour Office was under a fairly competent person, our friend Mr. Findlay Shirras; but, as soon as he began to expose some inconvenient truths about the mill-owners of Bombay, Mr. Findlay Shirras was fired from his place, and his office was abolished and absorbed in other departments, because the hon. Member and others engaged in enterprise and progress would not like so many facts to come out from time to time.
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member. I do not in the least mind his making statements about what happened to someone in Bombay, but I know nothing about it. It may or may not be true, but I object to his associating me with it; I know nothing about it.
I am associating the hon. Member with it as a type and a class in saying that what happened was for the convenience of all those enterprising merchants who have given to India a tremendous progress within the last 20 years. But what was the same Labour Department's discovery? It was that the poorest labourer's home cannot be maintained in the City of Bombay under 53 rupees a month, and the hon. Member wants the world to believe that under a terroristic Government which makes it possible for the master class to give, not to everyone, but an average of 28 rupees a month in a city where the lowest type of living costs 53 rupees a month, there is no semi-starvation, that there is a position of prosperity and progress. The hon. Member gives us the consolation that there are not so many deaths from famine. No; some diseases first come in as epidemics, then they become endemic; and famine is no longer a periodical condition in India—it is the constant lot of the people. To die from semi-starvation is a permanent condition in the country; the condition is not one of periodical famine.
The statistics are the heavy death-rate. A Government that can tolerate a death-rate such as exists to-day in India is the most unfit Government on the face of the world, and, if nothing else, the murder of 4½ millions of Indians who are dying because of the British rule, over and above the normal death-rate which should exist in a tropical country like India, is alone a sufficient reason to tell the British to go out bag and baggage, in spite of all the chimneys that they are capable of erecting when they are there. The fact of the misery, the poverty, the starvation and the degradation of the people you cannot deny, but I am coming to the relationship as it stands, and to where even our friends of the Labour party are making a mistake.
Anybody who would try to speak of Great Britain as one homogeneous nation is wrong; anybody who is trying to speak of India as a homogeneous nation is wrong. Both the British nation and the Indian nation are sharply divided into two classes. The interest in Great Britain as well as in India between the two classes must be antagonistic, has been antagonistic, and will remain antagonistic, and I want the Noble Lord to attend to my remarks in this respect free from any political prejudice. In this county, taking class for class, the interest of the British working class and the Indian working class and the Indian peasant is identical and closely united. If there can be any advantage in the international relationship it will always spring in the heart of the workers and the peasants in these two countries, and where mistakes are arising they arise from ignoring this great factor of class interest.
For a time Great Britain pursued, or tried to pursue, the cultivation of a class rule for the capitalist and Imperialist class of this country. As long as the capitalist class rule exists in this country you are quite welcome to your choice, to build up and to back up the capitalist, Imperialist class in India, but that is where you are making your mistake. Between the two separate nations the interest of the higher classes in the two countries is a conflicting, competitive and rival interest and is not identical. The mill owners of India and the mill owners of Lancashire would rather wish to see each other weakened and destroyed. The mill workers in India and the mill workers in Lancashire will both gain an advantage by standing together, fighting together, working for a common standard of life, demanding the same standard of wages and demanding the same form of political franchise, liberty and freedom, and if you take the peasantry of India, though there is not a correspondingly large class of agricul- turists in Great Britain, you will find that their fortunes are essentially linked up together with the higher earning power of the wage earners and the agriculturists themselves in India. If you take the landlords' interests, they are not identical, and where this country continually comes into conflict is on this question, that whenever you talk of reforms, whenever you talk of progress, whenever you talk of any measure of liberty you in your hearts believe that by granting a few concessions to your own class brethren in India you are building abridge of some kind. You are doing nothing of the kind. You are strengthening a class which in its economic interests is your rival and your competitor, and would like to see her manufacturing and commercial activity agree with the depression of yours, whereas if you look at the unity of interest of the agricultural worker and the industrial worker and the British worker and British agriculture, of course you will find there a genuine desire to co-operate and to advance together and to fight together against the external control and domination of any patry over their own class.
I again appeal to the Committee to look to that position rather than any other. The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley appealed to the Committee that it is in relation to India that Great Britain can give real proof of the desire of this nation, as a conquering nation, to give freedom to the conquered. How can this Committee, how can even the hon. Member expect Great Britain to give proof of an equality that has never existed? Sometimes we are misled by looking at the Dominions. Australia, Canada and New Zealand are annexes of this country, but the example of South Africa is very often misleading. There was the Dutch exploiter of the African races and the British slave driver of the African races. A competition clearly arises between the Dutch and the British as to who shall exploit the negro and his country and who shall fill his pocket best. A war takes place, after a lot of intrigue and forgery and plotting, and for the time being the position of the British exploiter and slave driver goes very low, and after some anxious times it again just comes about level, and then the Dutch and the British exploiter make common cause and say, "We will now be one corporate company of exploiters and robbers and we will carry on." There is no such thing as Dominion home rule for Africa. I suggest to the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley that he should never talk of Dominion rule and Home Rule in Africa as long as the poor Africans themselves are the slaves of foreign rulers and settlers. There is no Home Rule in South Africa, there is no Home Rule in the Orange Free State or any of those States won over from the Dutch Republic.
I am not making a speech on the Union of South Africa. I am pointing out the fallacy of the argument that was used this morning, that it appears to us as if South Africa is one of the Colonies which has been granted a sort of Home Rule similar to what may be granted to India. No Home Rule has been granted to the people of South Africa and the granting of a similar Home Rule to a few British merchants in India without rights granted to the people of India would be no Home Rule at all.
With regard to these reform schemes and the gradually granting of Home Rule of some sort, I entirely agree with the difficulty which Members put forward from time to time. But when you realise those difficulties, why humbug the people of India and the people of the world as though there is a possibility of such gradual reforms and gradual freedom being granted? I quite see the position to-day. What is civil liberty? What is the right of civil administration? Divorced from economic rights, divorced from commercial possibilities, civil liberty and civil administration have no meaning and no significance. The class that desires civil liberty and civil administration always desires them for economic and commercial advantages.
I fully agree that a powerful civil administration in the hands of Indians would simply be a mockery, if it were not accompanied by full powers to regularise their economic, commercial and fiscal policy. What else is the cause of war in this world except economic, fiscal and commercial jealousies and rivalries? You have to-day an example between Japan and India, and between Japan and Great Britain. With fiscal liberties, with economic power, looking at it purely from the standpoint of the good of the Indian shareholders, of the Indian investors and financiers, there ought to be a break in India's commercial relations with Japan. Now look at the position of Great Britain, and her shakiness in China. Great Britain has, once again, to, flatter Japan, and I realise now, Great Britain must control the Indian question and the welfare of the Indian and the power of the Indian, so that her interests in China and Japan are not to be allowed to suffer for the benefit of the fiscal and commercial interests of the Indian. I realise the absolute impossibility of dividing the civil and the military power. There is no freedom for a nation by telling that nation, "You are free to use your foreign policy, but your military power shall be in the hands of a foreigner, who will control you militarily, and who will regularise your inter-relationship with the outside countries."
Coming to what was described as the Commonwealth of India Bill—again I do not desire to be misunderstood—I see in the structure of that Bill the same objections and the same impossibilities. I do not believe that the representatives elected by the various groups of Indian political schools have ever, for a moment, supported that Bill as being welcome. I agree that there are several points in it which look like an advance in reform. But, taking the Commonwealth of India Bill as a whole, there, again, lies the inherent difficulty of one nation trying to grant to another nation a semblance of freedom without real freedom. If you analyse the Commonwealth of India Bill in the final control of the machinery of the Government of India, you find only about 10 per cent. of the people having the franchise right to settle it. If you go further into this Bill, you find the power of revenues so tied up in the hands of the Viceroy, representing the interests and power of this country, that for education, water supply, irrigation, public roads, widows' pension, old age pensions, and all the amenities, for which you would require, in a large country like India, at least £250,000,000 to £300,000,000, the Bill empowers the Viceroy to give to the Indian nation not more than £15,000,000 a year on the present basis of the Government of India's revenue.
We perpetually find that in one country attempting to control another country the question never arises in a bona fide way of a gradual relief to the controlled country in such a way that gradually the controlled country might become the controller. At each stage, at each conflict of interests, the question will always arise, "Has the controller had his control really shaken? If it is so, it must be altered." I suggest therefore to this Committee, that we have only to consider two things. Shall we be in India? If so, then your policy should be to be as efficient as possible; otherwise you will be shaken. If you say, "No, we do not desire to be there. We have spoiled your powers in the past. We have deprived the people of their educational, franchise and political rights, and their freedom. But we will make good to those people all their educational, franchise and political rights. We will support them and back them up, and then allow them to manage their own affairs." Then you will immediately come to nothing short of international labour solidarity between this country and the other European countries and the people of India.
Coming to the small point of the Bengal detenus, I again put it to the Committee that there is the same hypocritical attempt to cover up the necessity of one country governing another. I do not believe that the Labour Government had the slightest justification for sanctioning that Measure. I do not believe that the Labour Government's policy, even in other respects in India, was other than that of a tyrant, an oppressor and a foreign monster, and every class of Indian politicians to-day will hold the same view. I do not blame the Labour movement. I do not blame the Labour party in the country. I do not blame the large class of trade union workers of the country. I blame the last Labour Cabinet of the country. I do not for a moment say that the great intelligent working class movement, the Labour movement, is to shirk the blame, or is going to continue that policy or permit its own leaders in the future to put forward such an unfortunate policy with regard to outside nations.
But what is this system of governing a country by imprisonment without trial, and so on? If you say that you are powerful rulers, and that you have definite proof of the indisputable guilt of certain persons, surely you ought to be concerned with the proof, even if not with the persons who give you the proof. If you tell us that the whole police force, the whole Army, the whole Navy of the British Empire will be helpless in regard to 200 or 300 or 3,000 persons who will kill the witnesses in a law court, then it is time that you ceased to govern both India and Great Britain, and gave way to more competent persons. To suggest that the witness is afraid! Why, in regard to every common burglary committed in Great Britain every witness who might come against the burglar or against a murderer, would be punished if the burglar, or the culprit or his friends found a chance to do so. Will you wind up ail your law courts and say, "We have not got the power to protect our own witnesses"?
You carry on the administration of justice in this country, and other administrators carry on the administration of justice in their countries, on the primary power and ability of the State to give protection to witnesses, and your pretence that the Government in India is not strong enough to give complete protection to the witnesses, is something that no community in this world will believe. Suppose our own rulers and administrators want to extort bribes, or want to extort some social advantages, from certain persons, and they say: "We believe that you are guilty, but we are afraid to bring witnesses." Apart from that, now that the Government have been beaten to a frazzle by the fine character of Mr. Bose and others, and the Government have had to surrender, how many murders have been committed and how many revolutions have taken place. What has happened with Mr. Bose free, that did not happen when Mr. Bose was captured and imprisoned? The Government have adopted a savage way of governing the country. It is the tyrant way. No King in any country of his own would have dared to practise such an instrument of torture and terrorism over his subjects.
If Great Britain wants to rule India, she must take up the position that her own Monarch, her own Parliament, her own Cabinet, her own administrative machinery cannot afford to remain constitutional for five minutes and govern the country and affairs of another people. It is no use preaching common-sense and constitutionalism in respect of the people of India, when not only are you not constitutional, but you dare not be constitutional and you cannot afford to be constitutional. Just as this country would not allow Chinamen or Germans to write a constitution for this country, it is equally absurd for this country to appoint a Committee to write a constitution for the people of India, on whatever basis. The only point of discussion in this Chamber should be whether this country is still to be a tyrant over India, or whether it will be courageous enough to say "no" and cease to be a tyrant. There is no gradual process about this. I am prepared, and I am sure the Government must be prepared, to look at the international world in as much as it affects the peoples of these two countries, just as we are prepared to look at things which affect the peoples of other countries. If we analyse those interests, it will be found that, in the long run, the mass interests, the working class interests, the agricultural worker interests of India are closely identical with the case of the workers of Great Britain, Europe and America, and that there is a common economic interest between these working classes. From that point of view, the policy of the Government in India is extremely unfortunate, both for the people of this country and the people of India. The methods of repressing Labour literature, of repressing Communistic literature, of preventing the people of India from studying working class and mass interests, and studying Labour and Communistic literature, is a very short-sighted policy. If you are merely seeking your own permanent economic interests by the friendly tie of equality in India, it is to your own interests and the interests of the Indians to allow the people of India to study Labour literature and Socialistic literature and the great international economic problem of life, rather than prevent them from doing so.
My further appeal is this, that whenever you do take steps you must, at least, ask your conscience the question whether you are British by instinct and by conviction, or whether you wear your British label only as you wear your clothes. Can you be British here and anti-British somewhere else? Can you be British this moment and anti-British the next moment? If you are British by conviction, if you are British in your conscience, if you say that you believe that there should be no taxation without representation, if you say that as British people you believe that education, franchise rights, sanitation, medical assistance and so on are now the absolutely necessary rights of a modern nation, how can you go forward and say: "Although we are British, although we believe these things, yet for the sake of filling our pockets we are prepared to act in an anti-British manner. We do not believe in practising these doctrines, because if we tried to practise them, our pockets will be hurt, and our commercial prosperity will be injured. Therefore, we will still hold the people of India in bondage by dictators, and they shall have no rights"?
When you are developing that policy, the inevitable result will be on the lines of those which we have seen in the Trade Unions Bill. I appeal to the Committee to realise that two processes are inevitably going on—the cultivation of a capitalist class in India, not on Indian lines but a Britanised capitalist class in India, with all the practices of the British ruling class, and with all the methods and facilities for the protection of the British financial class, and just as that Britanising of India goes on, there is a desire in this country to Indianise the working classes here. Once you realise that a large class of workers in India can be made to work, can be subject to overwork and underpay, and can be deprived of trade union and political rights, you try the experiment here. Therefore, the process of ruling India is taking the lines of the Britanising of the capitalist class in India, with its dire effects upon the working classes there, and the process of ruling the working class in this country is linked up with a desire to Indianise the British workers and deprive them of their rights of freedom, of trade unionism, of education, of sufficient wages, and of short hours.
If this country is prepared to take the consequences, let it go on ruling India. The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley said that some Communists believe that a violent break must come. Call it a violent break or a gentle break, we do believe that there must be a break. I do not see the slightest reason why it should be violent, but I do not for a moment believe that a man can go out as the British Viceroy and say: "I am a man from Great Britain, and I have come to India for the specific purpose of obeying the people of India." There can be no intention to obey the people of India, unless under the subterfuge of obeying the people of India whilst looking after the interests of the capitalistic exploiters from Britain, who are in India. I therefore say that the break must come, but the break need not be violent at all. You need not pretend to charitable feelings as to what will happen to the people of India if the break does come and you retire. They will know how to conduct their own business. It is not a question of a violent break or a gentle break; it is merely a question of breaking your bondage. There is no middle way. As to inter-relations, the only natural bridge between the two countries, the only common bridge that can exist is the labour bridge, the working class, the Socialist, the International Communist bridge, and, if you are wise people, you will not stop the Indian population from reading Communist and Labour literature and interfere with the education of the masses in India. Do not prevent that literature and education from entering into and spreading in India.
At the opening of his speech the hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Saklatvala) made some very cruel and unjustifiable charges against the European population of Bombay. He quoted some figures relating to infantile mortality in Bombay, and he then charged the European community in that city with being largely responsible for the state of public health, and pointed to the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Ward-law-Milne) as being a sample of that class. Now the population of Bombay is over 1,000,000, and at the outside there are not more than 12,000 white people among them. The hon. Member, in effect, asserted that the responsibility for the heavy infantile mortality rested upon that small minority.
The hon. Member must have misunderstood me, or else he is pretending to misunderstand me for the purposes of the newspapers. I never charged the white population with anything in connection with public health. I never said the white population was responsible for the infant mortality in Bombay. British industrialism and so-called progress are responsible for the increase in the infantile mortality among the factory working population of Bombay.
The white population of that great city, whose total population exceeds 1,000,000, is some 12,000 at the outside. The dominant manufacturing class in Bombay, the people who own most of the mills, who give the industrial tone to the place, and who are responsible for its industrial development, are Parsees, of the race and religion of the hon. Member himself, and it is just as well and it is high time that the Committee should know who the hon. Member for North Battersea is and what is his relationship with that great industrial community in Bombay.
I want to make it quite clear to the Committee that I am not here to blackguard the white population in Bombay and defend the Parsees. Indians who have been influenced by the British capitalist system are just as much a curse to the working-class population of Bombay as the British capitalist himself. The Parsee capitalist class is just as abominable and as much to be avoided as the class to which the hon. Member and his friends belong in this country.
The hon. Member talks about the Britonised character of industry in India. That is evidently his point. Now up to 18 months ago this hon. Member was closely identified with the industry in Bombay which his grandfather created, and he drew emoluments from it. I pay my tribute to the hon. Member's grandfather for his great efforts in developing industry in that city. The white population of Bombay is, as I have pointed out, a tiny, infinitesimal minority. They have done everything they possibly could to improve the shocking slum conditions that exist in the city, conditions which are the creation of the Indian social system. It is the Indian practice to have marriage at an extremely early age, 13 or 14, and the conviction that a child must be born of such a marriage as soon as possible and that as many children as possible must be born is the root cause of the conditions of misery not only in India but in China. The British Government and the white population in India have endeavoured to remedy these social evils by promoting education, doing their utmost to improve the conditions of industry and agriculture and those engaged in them, and yet the hon. Member lectures the hon. Member for Kidderminster, who as a merchant in Bombay took so great an interest in the moral and material progress of that city. That is absurd on the face of it. I know how the hon. Member for Kidderminster worked in that city. The hon. Member for North Battersea is the very heir of the industrial system which he attacks. Some three or four years ago, one of the mills belonging to his own firm paid a dividend of 100 per cent.—[An HON.MEMBER: "400 per cent."]—and up till eighteen months ago my hon. Friend the Member for North Battersea did not think it inconsistent with his political views to accept a salary from that industrial concern while living in London.
I want to make a reference to one or two things which fell from the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) with regard to Mr. Bose and his treatment. It is less of the individual that I want to speak than of the origins of the trouble which made it necessary for Mr. Bose to be put into confinement. The Secretary of State for India has several times given this House some particulars in an official form of the beginning of that conspiracy which led to his confinement, and I do not want to go over that ground again. The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley, quite unintentionally I am sure, very much misleads the House by leading us to imagine that the sufferer is Mr. Bose. Mr. Bose has been in confinement for over two years, and when the Committee hears that he was in confinement for that period without any trial regarding the offences with which he was charged, it sounds awful; but I want the Committee to realise why it is that Mr. Bose and his fellow conspirators had to suffer in this way. I want to make it clear, and I do not think it has ever been mentioned in this House before, that Mr. Bose was the centre of the whole ganglion which formed this conspiracy. One of the objects of that conspiracy was actually to assassinate the Governor of Bengal himself, a man who went to Bengal with the very kindest intentions and good will towards India.
Is the hon. Member at liberty to utter absolutely unfounded untruths like that, when his own Government dare not bring the men before a public trial and are unable to establish anything of this nature; is he at liberty to make these accusations of the foulest character?
It is a matter of evidence. It is well known that Lord Reading and Lord Olivier and also the members of Lord Reading's Cabinet in India, examined the evidence before this step was taken. Lord Reading himself is an ex-Lord Chief Justice of this country. In addition the evidence has been examined and re-examined in this country, among others by the present Secretary of State, who had a long legal training and is an ex-Lord Chancellor. It is, therefore, very misleading to say that these men have not been subjected to any trial at all. They have been asked whether they have anything to say or not; they have been given an opportunity every six months of stating anything that may be in their favour, and at the present time there are still 40 or 50 undergoing this confinement, because the Government of India and the Government of Bengal are still absolutely convinced that if they were let loose they would start this dreadful conspiracy again.
Let me say a word or two about some of the police officers and the people who have had to collect the evidence in Bengal. In Bengal there is one particular police officer who is never referred to without adjectives of hate and malignance. I happen to know this particular individual. He is an Irishman by birth, and has the very greatest sympathy with all democratic movements. It is his desire that there should be true democratic progress in India. He was in Ireland during what is caled the Black and Tan period, and I know that the methods which were pursued then did not meet with his approval at all. But the steps taken to suppress this conspiracy in India were so carefully taken, so punctilious were Lord Reading and the Government of Bengal, that nothing of such a character can be alleged in connection with the Bengal conspiracy. They gave these men every chance of stating their own point of view.
The papers have been examined and re-examined over and over again. I may remind the Committee that this conspiracy began the second phase of its existence with the murder of an Englishman who was, in fact, not the man whom the conspirators were trying to murder. The conspiracy actually had broken out, and this man was shot dead in a Calcutta street. They had also commenced to raid post offices, and in one instance they killed a Bengali postmaster in order to get money with which to carry on their conspiracy. It was essential for the authorities to do something, and we have the statements of all these ex-Judicial servants of the Crown to the effect that it was alsolutely inevitable to take some measures, and that they are satisfied as to the guilt of these men.
Another point has been raised in this Debate to which I want to refer. It was raised during the Debate on the Adjournment the other day, but I was then in my constituency and could not possibly be here. I refer to the incident at Kulakati, in Eastern Bengal, in which a Moslem and a Hindu crowd very nearly came into collision as the result of religious feeling. It was a case in which a Hindu procession tried to pass a Mosque, playing music, while it was going by. The collector was summoned to the spot, he being the officer responsible for the administration of the district. He had a small posse of police, about 16 policemen. The greatest effort was made to induce these two crowds to separate peacefully, but ultimately there was nothing else for it and the police were ordered to fire. Sixteen people, I think, were killed.
It was suggested in the Debate on the Adjournment by the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley that the crowd was not armed except to this extent, that it is the custom of people in India to walk about with rather long walking sticks, and that these are the only arms they have ever been charged with carrying. The Under-Secretary of State, in reply, said something about these long "walking sticks." He said that they had iron ferrules, and that he had seen them. These walking sticks, as a matter of fact, are about three times as long as a policeman's baton and just as thick. In addition to these heavy iron ferrules they are sometimes loaded. They are the primitive form of attack in a country which has, generally speaking, never habituated itself to the use of fire-arms. It is the form of defence which is given to the policeman and to the durwan who guards every house, and they are never used for walking in the street. They are not walking sticks They are carried by lathials, a substantive which is very far from being the equivalent of "walking-stick" men. You can go into the northern slums of Calcutta and purchase the services of so many lathials, who are gentlemen who will come up with these innocent "walking sticks" and arrange any little trifle for you in the way they have of arranging these things. We cannot possibly permit these Hindu and Moslem processions to come into conflict merely because they are armed with these long "walking sticks." I happen to know the particular collector who had to deal with this incident, and a more humane person it would be impossible to imagine. Let me put this to the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley. I would remind him that the collectors and officials have very often been blamed by his own Indian friends, when writing to him from India, because they have not taken action in time on some of these occasions.
I well remember a particular case, at the height of the Gandhi trouble, in which a bitter complaint was made by Mr. Gandhi himself because a British officer was not in charge of the district when the clash took place. Many people were killed and much damage done. I have made a note of four or five cases—the mob murders at Katarpur, in the Sikh shrine at Nankana Sahib, and at Chauri Chaura—within my own recollection, in which the most serious events have happened because the officer on the spot did not take the thing in hand in time, as the district officer in this particular case did. Let me remind the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley also of the local war which broke out in Malabar on the Western Coast of India, in which some five thousand people were killed. The real cause and origin of that war was the fact that when the Collector at Malabar asked for permission to prevent inflammatory speeches being made and the assembling of crowds, he was refused permission by the Madras Government, on the ground that the Indian Government wanted to give the country the maximum possible opportunity of working these questions out on its own lines. The power to exclude these agitators was refused. A crowd assembled, the fire was lit, and the flames spread throughout Malabar. There were 4,000 or 5,000 people killed before the trouble was over. Let me point the moral of that. The hate that began with these Moslem attacks on Hindu in Malabar was unquestionably the causa causans of the Moslem-Hindu feud which has since spread over all Northern India and is now one of the greatest problems with which the Indian Government is confronted. That is what results from the responsible official on the spot not being given power to act when he thinks he ought to act. I submit that this Collector did not act one single minute before it was essential to do something.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley demanded the other day, on behalf of the Labour party, that whenever these things occur there should immediately be an inquiry by an impartial body as to why they had occurred and why the Collector had acted in a particular way. In the first place I do not agree for one moment that the inquiry made by the Commissioner in that division was not perfectly impartial. My hon. Friend spoke of an inquiry by an official senior to the Collector. I do not think he quite realised that a Commissioner is in charge of a huge division of population, sometimes 5,000,000 or 6,000,000 people. He is a very senior member of the service, and will generally have from 22 to 27 years' service to his credit. He is saturated with the tradition of complete impartiality, which is one of the finest characteristics of a great service. I would stress the danger of holding over these officers, when these most serious situations arise, the threat that whatever they do in an emergency will immediately be inquired into by some impartial body. It is very difficult indeed to find a body more impartial than a Commissioner will be, and it would be very easy indeed to place an inquiry in the hands of people like the so-called Congress Committee which pretended to make an inquiry into those terrible events of a few years ago at Amritsar. Any impartial person who reads the Congress report on the Amritsar events will be satisfied of the dangers of appointing so-called impartial inquiries into events such as occurred at Kulakati some weeks ago.
There is one other point to which I would refer. I understood the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley to suggest that there was a tendency in this country still to interfere with the course of economic development desired by the Indian people. He mentioned the iron and steel trade in that connection. The suggestion seemed to be that that was an example of interference, or the imposition on the Indian people of some economic policy which they did not want to pursue. There could not be a more complete misapprehension of the policy of the Government of India or the policy of my Noble Friend the Secretary for State. The movement for a tariff on iron and steel came wholly from India. A Tariff Board was set up in 1924 while the iron and steel industry in India was still quite young. There was then, and still is, only one factory in the whole of India manufacturing steel. It is a most extraordinary undertaking. At present it is turning out some 600,000 tons of steel ingots and 420,000 tons of manufactured steel for sale every year. But that industry, the Tata Iron and Steel firm, has been given the maximum possible protection. The Tariff Board reported in favour of a very heavy tariff, and later in favour of bounties on Indian production. These tariffs were largely directed against the British manufacturer of steel in this country. There were 1,000,000 tons of steel going into India annually, and my recollection is that about four-fifths of that came from Great Britain.
When the duties were imposed in 1924 they were fixed at something between 15 and 30 per cent. ad valorem on various classes. Those heavy tariffs were a serious factor in the depression in the steel trade of this country. Lately these tariffs have been again revised. The Tariff Board has recommended that the tariff should be imposed for seven years and the Indian Government has accepted its findings. The duty recommended on fishplates and sleepers, which are used in the construction of the Indian railways, is 10 per cent. ad valorem; on rails, 12½ per cent.; on tinplates, 15 per cent.; on British structural sections, 17 to 24 per cent.; and for reasons solely connected with India's advantage these duties on British structural sections are less than the duties on foreign sections. There are other cases where the duties rise as high as 35 and 40 per cent. ad valorem. When in India I took some small part in trying to demonstrate the effect that these duties must have on Indian prosperity and the prosperity of the mass of the people. When I hear speakers in this House advocating obedience to the will of the people of India I always feel that the will of the people is most inadequately expressed and must be adequately expressed when only 7 per cent. of the population are literate to the extent of being able to read a postcard. The people of India, the masses of the consumers of India, to-day are paying something like £1,000,000 sterling a year to encourage and maintain that one great steel factory and to enable the iron and steel trade of India to establish itself on a firm footing. There has been no hindrance from the British Government or the Indian Government.
Nor in the case of duties demanded by the cotton trade in Bombay has there been any serious hindrance. I would remind the House that the ad valorem duty against British cotton piece goods is now 11 per cent., and that the old excise duty of 3½ per cent. has been removed. There is no cause of complaint there. It is true that the Indian Government has not accepted en bloc the recommendations of the Tariff Board in regard to further help for the industry in Bombay, but the Indian Government has stated quite clearly what the reasons are, and they have nothing to do with Lancashire's prosperity. They argued the case carefully, and in every instance it is the mass of the Indian consumers whom they are endeavouring to consider. Finally, may I say what a great improvement it seems to me to be that this House is now asked to give just as careful consideration to the economic aspects of Indian life as to the political aspects. I readily admit that the influence of the Labour party has counted for something in that respect. They have tried to draw the attention of the House to India's industrial problems, to its mill conditions and so on and to some extent they have been influential in inducing the Indian Assembly and the Indian Government to pass the most remarkable industrial code possessed by any country in Asia. They have passed a Trade Union Bill, they have workmen's compensation, they have restrictions on the employment of women and children in factories and recently we have had the extraordinary spectacle, which I witnessed with the greatest pleasure, of an Indian statesman, an ex-member of the Civil Service presiding over an international Labour Conference in Geneva. It is surely symbolical of the great progress made in India in regard to labour and industrial conditions, and symbolical also of the growing esteem in which Indians are held not merely in this country but all over Europe. I feel myself that the progress which has been made is extraordinary. I hope it will be very much greater in the future and I ask the Committee to believe that, despite anything which has been said to the contrary, the whole English community in India is heart and soul with this endeavour to advance the political status of India and to improve the social and industrial conditions under which the people work.
I never rise in the House of Commons to speak on the question of India without a sense of the great importance of the subject and a desire to say something helpful. Among the many themes which compete for treatment in the short time at one's disposal on such occasions as this, it seems to me that the question of the constitutional issue and of the outlook for Indian constitutional government is the most important. In endeavouring to state to the Committee what I conceive to be the attitude of the Labour party towards this great problem, I ask hon. Members to believe that we are as much concerned about the good government of India as hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I cannot help regretting that the two hon. Members who have spoken from the Government side have used an occasion, which might be employed with great benefit to this country and India, only for the purpose of narrowing the issue to captious criticism and to a limited interpretation of what the Indian movement seeks. The hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Pilcher) allowed himself to be rattled by the remarks which fell from the hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Saklatvala) and made remarks which seemed to me to be pitiful in their narrow appreciation of this subject. You will not solve the problem which exists between India and ourselves by adopting an attitude which is as harsh as the granite of the constituency represented by the hon. Member. We have to face the problem in an entirely different spirit. The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Wardlaw-Milne), who is not, I regret, in his place at the moment, thought it appropriate to weave a carpet of suspicion and prejudice around this question. I hope the Committee will come back to the real problem which we as an Imperial Parliament have to face. That is the problem of the attitude which we are going to take towards the rightful desire of the Indian people for constitutional development upon lines which are suitable to their own race and in accordance with their own ideals.
The Government when they pronounced last upon this question said they were waiting for evidence of goodwill and co-operation on the part of the Indian people. I submit that that evidence has been supplied, and that the Indian people in an increasing degree are allowing the old non-co-operative ideal to subside and are applying themselves, in a way which ought to be appreciated by the Government, to cooperation with the forces of Government. Both racial sides in India are at present working out a plan of agreement and there has been real progress. At an earlier period of this year I had the privilege of presiding at a meeting within the precincts of the House of Commons addressed by the first President of the Indian National Assembly. If anybody is capable of judging the temper of an assembly surely it is the man who presides over that assembly. I often wonder, Sir, what passes through your mind in regard to Members of the
House of Commons. If we could penetrate into your thoughts probably some of us would be shocked in our self esteem. Sir Frederick Whyte, speaking here this year, said:—
During the five years I was there, there was a progressive increase in the sense of responsibility in which the Legislative Assembly approached questions of policy. I am inclined to sum up, on the whole, in favour of the Indian constitutional parties in respect both of co-operation and of responsibility.
I submit therefore that the evidence for which the Government were waiting has been supplied in a sufficient degree by the Indian people. In effect, the present system reduces the efficiency of government without developing any sense of direct responsibility in policy. That responsibility can only be increased by granting a further measure of self-government and giving the Indian people more scope. If, however, non-co-operative practice has subsided, I hope the Government will not be under the misapprehension that the spirit of non-co-operation is dead. India is waiting anxiously and with some apprehension for the next step of the Government. If it is delayed too long the non-co-operative attitude may have an unfortunate re-birth. In India the whole nation is living under the shadow of an arbitrary date—1929. It is almost like the way Members of the House of Commons feel in regard to the guillotine rule, when business is pushed up against a time barrier. In India to-day the people do not feel that they can enter upon a programme of consistent work and development because an arbitrary date has been fixed on which their whole position may be overhauled. In our own experience we know how difficult it is to make plans or pursue work when some decision has yet to be made which will vitally affect our lives. I address the Committee and the Government in the hope that the Noble Lord at a later stage of the Debate may he able to utter some assuring words on the subject.
Delay hinders national development, and the whole of the Indian people today are arrested in their growth because they are having to wait this long time before any decision as to their future is made. If haste is bad, as it may well be, it should not be forgotten that entirely senseless procrastination has in it an element of danger, which should not be overlooked on this occasion. I want to make also the criticism that the Government have not pulled their full weight in encouraging the people of India along the line of self-development. The educational system in India is entirely unsatisfactory, the agricultural conditions are deplorable, the Indianisation of the Services is far too slow, and the reform of the Indian Constitution is, we think, unduly delayed. If we mention these matters in this House the Noble Lord is rather prone to get up and say there is no demand for these things, but, on the other hand, if there is a spoken demand, then the Noble Lord is rather prone to treat the demand as being a merely revolutionary outburst. I submit that there has been no effort to train the people of India for the responsibilities of that self-government which we hope they will before long obtain, and it is because of this that the Indian people are growing more and more impatient. They are asking why it is that their aspirations are so persistently ignored, and they are asking when the Provincial Governments will be allowed to become autonomous, when the Government of India will become responsible to the Indian people, and within what time Indian officers, for example, will have an honoured share in the control of the Army and the civic services be manned by Indians to a greater degree than at present. Those questions cannot be answered by such criticisms as the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth and the hon. Member for Kidderminster have made about the Indian people to—day.
It has been said there are difficulties in the way of development. Of course there are. Have not we difficulties in the way of our own development in this country? It has been said that if people say, "We do not believe you intend to do this or the other," we cannot do anything else for them. I confess that in the matter of the treatment of the poor of this nation I have sometimes held the belief—and, I am afraid, I have sometimes uttered it—that hon. Members opposite are not very interested in the question, but that does not prevent them from having their own ideas, and we work together as best we can for de- velopment. I think it is a pitiful thing, and entirely outside the range of immediate need, for hon. Members to pick out entirely isolated, temporary things in India and put them forward as though they affected the whole of the Indian people. The hon. Member for Kidderminster said the people of whom he was complaining were a mere handful. Then why advertise them so as to make it appear that the whole of the Indian people are involved? I desire to ask the Government not to let these golden days, which I think are on the whole with its, in regard to the temper of the Indian people, go by, but to show that the change of attitude that the Indian people have shown has taken place in regard to co-operation will bring its proper reward. Above all, do not let the Government assume that there is no dissatisfaction in India at the present time.
I want, before I sit down, to say a hurried word about the constitution and the future. Whenever the Government see fit to appoint the Royal Commission about which all our thoughts are centred, I hope they will, at any rate, see that an attempt is made to place the Indian constitution upon a permanent basis, and that we shall not have in a few years another time barrier against which we shall have to batter before anything further can be done. In asking that this should be taken up quickly, we are only developing that for which the Indian people themselves have asked for some time. The Legislative Assembly in 1921 asked that the question should be faced; in 1924, they again asked for a round table conference; and the Reforms Inquiry Committee of 1924, which was appointed by the Labour Government, attempted to prepare for the work that has still to be done. When that Committee reported, the Labour Government had been superseded by the present Government, and a part of our complaint is that they have left that work, which the Labour Government started in the faith that it would be followed up, almost entirely where the Labour party left it. If I may say a word about the recommendations of the Muddiman Committee, the Majority portion of the Committee made certain recommendations that a great many people in India think are entirely valuable and that they should be implemented as soon as possible. The Minority recommenda-
tion really was supported by practically the whole of India, and, that recommendation was that the constitution should now be put on a permanent basis, with provision for future automatic progress, so as to secure stability in the Government and the willing co-operation of the people. The newspaper called the "Statesman" in India is an English publication and is one of the responsible journals in that country. On 10th March, 1925, it said:
The next step should not be another transitional constitution, carrying with it inevitable agitation for something more drastic, but a settlement with an air of finality, which will enable Indians to set about the proper task of politics and to turn away from the barren work of agitation for constitutional reform.
So the problem for the Government, for this nation, and for India is whether the time has not now arrived when the next step forward in constitutional development should be undertaken. No one would wish to interfere with the judgment of the Government in this matter, either as to the exact time when such a Commission should be appointed or as to how it should be constituted or what its personnel should be. They have the responsibility for that, and they must take it, but I hope it is not inadmissible to express what our hopes are in this matter, and what we are hoping is that that Commission, whenever it is appointed, will include on it men not merely of administrative ability and experience, but of insight and human understanding, because the problem between India and ourselves is not, as the hon. Member below the Gangway would rather lead the Committee to believe, a material question, an economic question only. It is not essentially a political question; it is a psychological question. It has to do with the deepest roots of the human soul, and, therefore, I hope that those questions will not be absent from the mind of the Government whenever they are considering this matter. Above all, I appeal to them to beware of the bureaucrat with the closed mind, the person who has been to India and who "knows," who is the greatest danger to the relationship between India and this country that could possibly be invented by any malicious force. One gets tired of gentlemen who, because a capricious fortune happened to send them out to India, come down here and, with all their
assumed knowledge on the subject, instruct us as if we were sixth form schoolboys. You may have far too much knowledge of the technical details, and far too little knowledge of the broad outlook and the human qualities that are involved in this matter.
In conclusion, I only desire to say that in a very few minutes I have tried to put before the Committee the Labour outlook on this problem, and I hope I have not said anything which will create difficulties or which is inappropriate to this matter; but we consider that this is the greatest constitutional issue and the greatest possible danger, the issue most charged with possibilities of both good and evil that we in this time have to face. The Labour party, for good or for evil, believes both in the will and in the ability of the Indian people to direct and control the machinery which belongs to their social life, and it will support the Indian people in every peaceful endeavour that they make to get the blessings of self-government in their own time.
I have listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Snell), and, up to a certain point, I find myself in agreement with him. We all desire that the constitutional development of India should go forward, but where we differ from him is that we seek to build this constitutional government on a firm foundation. The hon. Member who has just spoken would seek to hurry on this constitutional government. Might I liken this to the growth of a plant—one put in a hothouse and forced, but which has no strength to resist the climate; the other a plant which is planted out of doors, which is able to withstand the vicissitudes of climate, drought or frost, and grows steadily and surely. That is the kind of plant we would establish in India; that is the form of constitution we would build up slowly and surely. It is, possibly, an Anglo-Saxon characteristic to go surely and steadily, as opposed to the Indian Nationalist idealistic but unpractical view. We admire their ideals, but how often are they totally unpractical? They do not see the difficulties in the way which we see, and which we are facing to-day. We, too, desire the development of India on constitutional lines, but we have to realise—and, I think, the hon. Member for East Woolwich realised—how difficult, since the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms have been brought in, it has been to carry on the Government with all that non-co-operation which was working against those reforms, working to make them a failure.
If the non-cooperators and the Indians generally would show a real desire to co-operate in the Government of India, I think we could be able to advance far more quickly than we have done in the past. It is for them to show that they are capable, that they have understanding of the difficulties and of the responsibilities which they would have to take over. Up to now, I am afraid we have seen but little of the idea of responsibility. We would give this responsibility if they had shown themselves up to now really capable of it. The hon. Member who has just spoken said the whole of the Indian people had been arrested in their national growth by our failure to give them constitutional government. Surely the politicians who wish for political development are but a very small proportion of the people in India. The agricultural population in India is some 217,000,000, devoted, I think, to agriculture alone, and it is there that we are going to be able to do far more for the people of India than by hurriedly giving them that political constitution. The Agricultural Commission has been sent out to inquire into the whole agricultural conditions of that country, the need for research, the need for better implements of agriculture, which are going to add vastly to the wealth of that country.
The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) alluded to the economic conditions and to the economic development of India. We believe that by developing to the fullest, the workshops in India, we shall eventually be developing our own industries in this country. The richer people in India are, the more they can purchase in this country. We wish to develop their factories, their iron and steel works, their cotton mills, their jute factories, and the more they do it, the more desire for machinery will there be in this country. They themselves cannot make it, and I think the figures speak for themselves. Before the War, we sent out some £4,000,000 worth of machinery to India. We are now sending out nearly three times that amount— over £11,000,000 worth, and the jute mills are working short time and putting in no machinery. It is the same with iron and steel. From 50,000 tons of finished steel before the War, they are producing over 500,000 tons to-day, and the more we can encourage the output in India, the more we are going to benefit our people at home
There is a point which I should like to raise, and I would ask my Noble Friend the Under-Secretary for India whether he would not consider this very carefully. I refer to the present state of the Indian Army. There is a distinct shortage in the number of officers who are coming up to-day for the Indian Army. The number of commands that will become vacant at the end of each year for the next few years is an average of 32. There are 42 new entrants, new officers, coming into the Indian Army every year, and with wastage in one form or another it is not sufficient to keep up the regular supply of officers to the Indian Army. There are one or two reasons for this. First, after the War, in 1920–24, there was a wave of pessimism which passed over this country with regard to India. The Army was cut down. A large number of officers came to this country, and they were very gloomy and pessimistic with regard to the future in India. There was non-co-operation to the fore. They were afraid of political influence being brought to bear that was going to terminate the careers of many of them in the Indian Army, But, I am glad to say, that that wave of pessimism is decreasing to-day, that that point of view at any rate is better. But there is one thing, and that is that the pay of a married officer in the Indian Army to-day is very inadequate, and we shall have seriously to consider whether the attractions are sufficient to induce people in this country to send their sons into the Indian Army. It may be possible to second officers from the British service, which is well paid to-day, where a living is possible. Whether it may be possible to do that with regard to the Indian Army I do not know, but it is a matter for consideration. The Indian Sappers and Miners are one of the finest Corps in India. They are officered solely by officers seconded from the British service. Certainly, by doing that we lose, to a great extent, the touch which the old Indian Army officer had with his men. An officer seconded has not the same personal influence, the same personal touch as an officer who has lived with his men for years.
We have to realise that the army in India must remain there. I think even the most advanced Swarajist realises that the growth of a self-contained and self-governing Indian nation is dependent on the strong arm and guidance of Great Britain. I think even the most advanced Swarajist will admit, though he will not like to admit, that he cannot get on without the British army. For 50 years we have admitted Indians to the Indian Civil Service. It took 25 years before the first Indian Commissioner was appointed, and it was nearly 40 years before 10 per cent. of those in the Indian Civil Service were Indians. It has been a slow growth, but they have done extremely well; and to build up a new corps of Indian officers will also take time. I do not think the policy of the Indianisation of certain regiments has been a particular success. Besides bravery, an officer needs to have a sense of responsibility, and the power of being able to command troops, and that is not to-day to a great extent the characteristic of the Indians who would make the officer class. It will need education for some time before we are able to get a class capable of taking responsibility and able to act suddenly on their own responsibility in cases of emergency.
The Indian army must be regarded as the first line of defence in India. For the last 20 years there has been no threat to India from beyond the frontier—that is, nothing of any great moment. That has been due to the entente we had with Russia. But conditions have changed very much indeed, and we have to realise that we now have beyond the frontiers a Government that is hostile to us, and that the old Russian peril to India, which we thought had altogether passed away, is coming back in a new form. The Commander-in-Chief in India last March made a speech in which he said:
We know what Bolshevist propaganda is doing, not only in Afghanistan hut in China. The time may come when the Bolshevist menace may come upon us. We have seen that the Bolshevists never seem to tire of their propaganda work. Both in
Afghanistan and in China they are carrying on an enormous amount of propaganda. If we were deliberately to reduce our Army in India. I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that India would suffer, and would suffer in a way from which she might never recover.
I think it is up to us at home to see that the Indian army is not reduced in strength to any extent. The position in India to-day is very much better than it was a few years ago, but there has been an increasing amount of communal strife in the country. There is the age-long antagonism between the Hindu and the Mohammedan, and that has been accentuated, strange to say, by the apparent desire for co-ordination between the Mussulmans and the Hindus in Delhi. There is one point which I should like to have elucidated. Sir Mohamed Shapi, at Lahore the other day, lent the weight of his name to this statement:
That Hindu loaders had deliberately adopted a hostile attitude to Mohammedans because Lala Lajput Rai had reached an understanding with Lord Olivier in England that when the Labour party came again into power communal electorates
and, therefore, the Moslem minority re-presentation—
was going to be abolished.
I should like very much to know whether Lord Olivier or the Labour party gave a pledge that when they again came into power they would reduce communal representation in India, for to the Mohammedans, at any rate, that communal representation is a very great safeguard at the present time. We wish to stop this communal fighting, but we realise, as I think even the Swarajists realise, that it is only the presence of the British Army that prevents the adherents of the two religions fighting each other. We desire to secure friendship among all parties in India, but friendship must be based on mutual benefit and esteem, and I am convinced that the best foundations of friendship will be secured by trusting and helping the Indian peoples to advance to the point at which they will eventually be able to govern themselves; but we must go slowly.
They need a great deal of help from us. They need our Western research. They need our administration and help in the development of agriculture. They need our help in establishing their great in- dustries. They need Western experience to organise the financial resources of their country. They need Western co-operation to direct the forces for the good of the country. They need all that, and we would like to help them to progress. The hon. Member for East Woolwich said that we were hard-hearted. We are not. We have understanding and wish to do what we can to help the Indians towards securing constitutional government, but we must realise that up to the present they have not been helping us, and have not been co-operating with us. If they would only realise that there is a real desire on our part to co-operate, we should do our best to help them to improve the economic conditions of their country to the utmost. That is our policy; but we do not wish to hurry, as do hon. Members opposite. I would not pay much attention to the speech of the hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Saklatvala), because I believe he represents only himself in the House, and he stands for destruction. I wish hon. Members opposite would not make this a political question, but deal with it purely from the point of view of benefiting the Indian people. Politics have ruined our trade unions, and politics will ruin India. Let us put politics aside and work honestly and sincerely for the development and benefit of the Indian peoples, and then, I am sure, we shall bring peace and prosperity to that country.
I am sorry that I am not able to follow the hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford (Lieut.-Colonel Howard-Bury) in the interesting points he has raised, because I want to devote the short time at my disposal to discussing another matter. I want to discuss once again the imprisonment of Indians some of whom have been languishing in gaol for more than two years without trial. I know it will be said that we have already discussed this subject on a number of occasions, but that does not absolve us from the necessity of discussing it again. In my view, these imprisonments were not only a mistake, they were a crime, and the longer that crime continues the deeper the shame on the Government which countenances it. Before I develop my case, I would ask the Noble Lord to discuss this question on its merits, and not seek to defend himself, as he has done so often in the past, by saying that this policy was initiated by Lord Olivier under the Labour Government. The Labour party has many doctrines, but the doctrine that Ministers are infallible is not one of them and we are prepared to say that a Labour Minister may have made a mistake. Every sensible party ought to be prepared to take up the same attitude in regard to its Ministers. In our view them was never any necessity for this most extraordinary measure, and we think that if Lord Olivier made a mistake it was because he was misled by his advisers. I am going to suggest to the Noble Lord that there is good historical ground for assuming that he may have been misled.
In 1908 there were a large number of deportations from India including Lala Lajpat Rai, A. K. Dutta, and K. K. Mitra. These men were deported under the regime of Lord Morley. Since Lord Morley's letters have been published it has become clear that Lord Morley stated that he only acquiesced in the deportations of these men without trial because the local governments represented to him that they were believed to be criminally connected with criminal plots. Now the phrase is "connected with terrorist activities," and it is on that ground alone that Lord Morley authorised the deportation of these men without trial. What is the sequel? In the Bengal Council Sir Hugh Stephenson who is the chief executive officer, with all the official records at his disposal, now says that two of these men were not deported because they had been guilty of any association with terrorist activities, but they justified their deportation by reason of their boycotting speeches. It is quite clear that Lord Morley was misled by his advisers in 1908. The view of the Labour party is that in this case history may be repeating itself and that in 1924 Lord Olivier was also misled.
On this question I want to get it quite clear what is the hon. Member's position. I understood him in the first place to say definitely that Lord Olivier was wrong; and in the second place that Lord Olivier was misled by his advisers. The question I wish to address to the hon. Member is, whom does he mean by advisers? Does the hon. Member mean the officials at the India Office, the Viceroy, Lord Reading; Lord Lytton the Governor of Bengal or the members of the Government of India or of the Government of Bengal?
There is a whole chain of responsibility which eventually rests with the Viceroy. I feel sure that the advice given to Lord Olivier came not from the Viceroy but from people lower down, and those are the people who were responsible for misleading Lord Olivier. Two or three weeks ago the Noble Lord said that these Ordinances and these imprisonments without trial were a regrettable necessity. I know the Noble Lord's Parliamentary history shows that he has always been capable of audacity, but I marvel at his audacity in saying that the necessity for these imprisonments without trial has been abundantly proved. The one thing notable in all our discussions on this question has been the utter failure to justify by evidence these Ordinances. I know that it is alleged that there are terrorist activities in India going on, but that has nothing to do with Our case.
Our point is not that people engaged in terrorist activities should not be punished, because if such a charge can be proved against them, certainly they should be punished. That is not our point. What we contend is that no man in India, or elsewhere, should be punished for being engaged in terrorist activities unless that charge can be proved against him. The point we have to settle is whether it can be proved that these people were engaged in terrorist activities, and whether they was any reason at all for departing entirely from the ordinary procedure of the criminal law in order to discover whether these people were guilty or not. On that point I think hon. Members are bound to agree with me that there has been no adequate evidence forthcoming justifying the institution of these extraordinary imprisonments without trial. Let me stick to the facts.
I think it is an accepted doctrine not only in England but all over the Empire that the elementary right of a man to be tried before he is convicted ought to be respected, and that only in the greatest possible emergency ought that right to be taken away. What happened in these cases? These men were arrested. They had no trial whatever and they were not even told who their accusers were. The evidence against them was considered by two Judges, and the accused persons were not allowed to be present while the evidence was being considered. They were not allowed to have anybody to represent them. The people who were brought forward to give the evidence were not cross-examined and were not subjected to the ordinary process of examination in order to find out whether they were credible witnesses or not. Consequently these men were condemned unheard. That is the position, and I do not think the Under-Secretary of State for India will deny that that is a fair statement of the facts of this case. What is the defence? It is that the reason why these men were brought to trial in this way was because they had broken the crimnal law, and the facts were such that it was feared that if these men had been tried in an open court the witnesses would have been exposed to danger of terrorism and possibly to assassination.
That is the one argument used by the Noble Lord but I would like to ask how much evidence has the Noble Lord produced in substantiation of that argument? The only case he has brought before the House is a case of a murder in connection with the Alipur conspiracy in 1922. In that case a man was murdered in gaol by two other people who were identified as being connected with the same conspiracy. Really the connection between the Alipur case which happened in 1922, and the case I am dealing with which occurred in 1924, is not at all clear. It was the Alipur conspiracy case of 1922 which the Noble Lord cited as evidence that there was a danger of the witnesses being terrorised, and that is the one case which the Noble Lord gives to justify his action in the case I am dealing with. It is on the strength of that case that the Noble Lord attempts to justify his action, and makes out these men as most dangerous criminals. It is said that these men are all members of a terrorist organisation. I will put that charge to a simple test.
It is urged that these men are members of a terrorist organisation, but will the Noble Lord tell us the name of that organisation? By simply stating that name, he will not be incriminating any witness, he cannot involve anyone in the danger of assassination. Will he just tell us the name of that organisation? I have invited him to do that in the past, but he has not done so. If it exists as an organisation, surely it must have a name, and, if he knows that it exists, he must know the name. I invite him to say what the name is. If he cannot give it, then, in my view, the Committee is justified in assuming that this is nothing but a malicious and slanderous invention.
The Noble Lord goes on to say that these men are dangerous men and—I ask him to consider this—that they are identified with crime which takes the form of assassination, that they are men who are likely to indulge in assassination. What are the facts with regard to their arrest? The Arrests were sprung upon them suddenly in October, 1924; the police took them in the dead of the night; and the police not only arrested them, but they conducted a widespread investigation to find incriminating evidence. All sorts of houses all over Calcutta and elsewhere were searched, and what was the result of that search? These are men, the Noble Lord says, who are identified with the crime of assassination. How much evidence did the police find? Did they find a single bomb, a single revolver, a single lethal weapon of any kind in all their researches? Not one. Did they find any revolutionary or terrorist literature? They did not find even one single leaflet. I submit that in that very fact there is a sufficient refutation of the Noble Lord's allegations that these men are really dangerous criminals who are actively engaged in a policy of assassination. What kind of evidence is it that the Noble Lord has against them? I presume it cannot be documentary evidence, because, if it were documentary evidence, there would be no objection to a public trial, since, if merely documents wee to be submitted, no witnesses would be required, and there would be no question of intimidation of witnesses. It cannot, therefore, be documentary evidence, and so it must be the testimony of witnesses. I would like to ask the Committee, how can you rely upon the testimony of such witnesses when they are able to make these statements behind the backs of the accused, when the truth of the statements cannot be tested or sifted in any possible way? If an Englishman in this country were arrested under those conditions, and evidence were taken behind his back, without his having anyone to represent him, without his hearing the names of his accusers, without their evidence and their credibility being tested in the witness-box, the whole country would be up in arms, because that would be regarded as a gross outrage on justice; and yet that is what has happened in this case.
An hon. Member below the Gangway a little while ago said that there really was nothing in this, and that the ease had been amply proved against these men. There are in India, as the Noble Lord knows, all sorts of shades of opinion—left wing, right wing, and moderate, of all varieties and kinds. What is the attitude of the Indian public towards this particular question? Taking them all—taking the Hindus and the Moslems, taking the Swarajists and the moderates, taking the co-operators and the non-co-operators, taking the extremists and the moderates, taking the representative assemblies, the Indian National Congress, the Moslem League, the Indian Liberal Federation, the Indian Legislative Assembly itself—all these organisations, all these different sects, all these different representative bodies have called out with one voice that this is an outrage on Indian liberty, and that these men ought either to be set free or to be tried. I submit that, in view of what I have said, it is easy enough to imagine what an evil, poisonous effect this fact is having upon Indian public opinion. The Secretary of State, the Noble Lord's chief, has made frequent appeals recently to all Indian nationalists to co-operate with him in getting a scheme of Indian Home Rule fairly and properly launched. How can he hope to get any real response to an appeal of that kind when some of the best, some of the truest Indian nationalists have had their liberties taken from them in this fashion?
As I said earlier, only in the most extraordinary cases ought there to be any
imprisonment without trial. There is an old British maxim to that effect, and I would call the Noble Lord's attention to this fact: his chief, Lord Birkenhead, is a well-known lawyer, trained in the tradition of British law. In 1908, when this same kind of thing was taking place, Lord Birkenhead was one of the most persistent and bitter critics of the Government because they were punishing people without trial. I invite the Noble Lord to tell Lord Birkenhead that it is now time, in 1927, that he put into practice the principles which he was enunciating in 1908, before he had been contaminated with office. If these people were Englishmen, and were being treated in this way, I am sure the sense of justice of the Under-Secretary himself would be outraged, but apparently—I regret it very much—he is not disturbed because a certain number of Indian citizens, British subjects, are allowed to languish in gaol year after year without any trial. I do not know why it is. It looks to me as though the Noble Lord's sense of justice has national limits, that he cannot see beyond the confines of this island. It may, of course, be lack of imagination, and in that connection I should like to put into one or two lines what I feel is his attitude on this matter. The lines were originally written of a man who showed great lack of imagination, and the Noble Lord will doubtless recognise the paraphrase. His attitude on this matter may be fitly described in this way:
An untried Indian in a prison grim,
An untried Indian is to him,
And he is nothing more.
The Noble Lord fails to appreciate the fact that these men, although they are Indians, are British citizens, and, just as much as any Member of this House, they are entitled to their British rights and privileges. We are appealing for these men, not because we want clemency, not because we want generosity, but we are appealing for them on grounds of justice. British justice demands, British honour demands, British fair play demands, either that these men should be brought to public trial, or that they should be released forthwith.
I only rise to point out one error into which the hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle) has fallen. He has talked constantly of punishment without trial, but I would venture to point out that people who are being detained are not being punished in any way at all. These men are being detained, and they are being detained in precisely the same way in which we detain men and women in this country. We arrest them without a warrant, and we detain them without trial. [HON. MEMBERS: "For how long?"] For their whole life. I speak of those who are detained because of mental affliction. They are brought before two doctors; there is no trial; no evidence is taken publicly; but the doctors certify that in their opinion these people are unfit to be at large. In India we have a condition in which it is impossible to bring men to trial and prove that they are going to commit grave crimes, that they are going to disturb the peace, and are going, possibly to cause the deaths of hundreds of innocent people; but we have the evidence that they are going to do that. Just as a doctor certifies that a person is a lunatic and may cause trouble, so we are far more justified in detaining a man who, we know, may set India on fire from end to end, and cause, as has actually happened, the deaths of thousands of innocent people. There is far more justification for that than for arresting a man or a woman on the evidence of a doctor and shutting them up because possibly, in their insanity, they may do some harm to their fellow creatures. On those grounds, I think, the Government of India is entirely justified in what it has done. I strongly object to an hon. Member saying they are being punished. They are being detained, for the benefit of the people of India, in order that they may not disturb the peace and cause the rebellion and bloodshed that inevitably follow. We had an instance just now in which a tiny dispute ended in a war. For that reason only the Government of India is fully justified in the steps it has taken for the preservation of the peace.
I should like to say how very much impressed I was with the speech of the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury). I have the same feeling in the matter. I have only spent 14 years in India and I only speak two languages out of the thousands that are spoken from end to end of that great continent, but I have been there long enough to realise how impossible it is for an Englishman, even if he spends his whole life there, to know the Indian people. We are not dealing with one nation but many nations, many languages and many religions, and they differ so entirely one from another that in one part people would starve to death in the midst of plenty because they cannot eat the food that the others eat. I have seen that proved with my own eyes when by an error flour was sent to a rice-eating district during a terrible famine and the people, though starving, absolutely refused to touch it. It is with the knowledge we have of all these conflicting elements that we find a difficulty in carrying out what the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley so rightly said should be the policy of the British Government. I feel that when the time conies we must not only give India self-government but allow her to determine for herself whether to remain within the British Empire or not. It would be the height of folly to give liberty to those who are unable to use it discreetly for their own benefit. What man is there who would allow his children to do exactly what they liked because they want to do it? They cry and say, "You are very unkind; why should I not do this?" We do not let them do it because we know it is for their own benefit that they should wait till they reach years of discretion when they are able to decide for themselves. If we were foolish enough and criminal enough to say, "You can have self-government; we will remove our armies and leave India to the Indians," the immediate result would be a complication greater than there has ever been in the past, and India has known more bloodshed, oppression, tyranny and misery than any other land in the world. For that reason only we, having put our hands to the plough, cannot look back until we see clearly that the people of India are prepared to govern themselves.
We have heard hon. Members speak of the people of India. What are the people of India? The people of India have no voice in the government of India at. They have no voice in India at all. [An HON. MEMBER: "Whose fault is that?"] It is not a fault at all. It is nature. They are people who have lived on the land and have never received any form of education. They have always been the slaves of those who have swept down from the North and the East and the West and used them as hewers of wood and drawers of water. [An HON. MEMBER: "John Company!"] John Company brought them the only peace they have ever known. That is why the Englishman is so respected in India. I can tell a story proving that. I had been out shooting one morning and, while I sat with my wife afterwards having breakfast, I saw a number of natives assembled in a circle round where I was eating. If there is one gentleman in the world it is the Indian peasant. He never looks at another man eating or interferes with another person's privacy, but I knew they were there for a purpose. I told my butler to ask them what they wanted. And old man with a white beard said, "We come to ask you to hear a case. We have here the plaintiff and the defendant. It is about land and a marriage dower and we have all the witnesses." I said, "Tell him I am a soldier and I cannot possibly hear the case." He said, "We know he is a soldier Sahib but we have decided that he shall hear the case." He turned to the two parties and said, "You are prepared to accept the decision of the Sahib?" and they said, "Yes." I said, "Why do you want me to hear the case? I do not speak your language and do not understand your laws and customs. Wait until the assistant collector comes up. He speaks your language and knows the law." The old man said, "We do not, wish to wait for the commissioner. The Englishman always gives justice, but the assistant collector is a Bengalee." The assistant collector was a graduate of Oxford and a personal friend of my own whom I met every day at the club, and a most honourable man, who would have given a perfectly fair trial, but you cannot get over the fact that, for a thousand years, their own people have oppressed them, have not given them justice and have demanded bribes. It is so engrained in their very nature that they could not trust the assistant collector, educated as he was, but they were prepared to trust an ordinary soldier. They believed that I should give a just decision.
That gives you some little idea of the mentality of these people, and shows that we cannot judge the people of India by our own people over here. They have the stamp of a thousand years of injustice engrained in their souls and bred in the bone, and until we can educate these 300,000,000 people, who cannot read nor write, earning their living, and a very hard one, out of the soil as their forefathers did, to be able to understand what democratic government means—it is hard enough for Englishmen in this House to understand what it means. I sometimes wonder whether democracy is really the best form of government after all. We have governed India in the past with justice, foresight and the insight into the psychology of the Indian people that the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Snell) is not sure the Indian Civil Service possesses, and without the agitator, without the Indian who goes back there and wants at once to adopt this very form of government which we have built up by a thousand years of experience. We have built it up in blood and tears, and that is the reason we have trouble in India today. I desire to see self-government in India at the very earliest possible moment, but when it comes we have to remember that we have other people to think of besides those who are educated, and besides those into whose hands that government will go. We have got that inarticulate mass who rely upon the land, and we have another class of person. We have the outcast class, something like 30,000,000 or 40,000,000 people, who look to us and to us alone, because we are the only people who will really deal with them and understand them, and who are willing to strive to make their position easier.
We have another large class of people whom we must not forget, because we were responsible for their creation—the Anglo-Indians. I should like to ask the Noble Lord, when he replies, to state what the position of the Anglo-Indians will be in the India of the future. At the present time they fall between two stools. Under one law they are statutory natives of India, and under another law they are British subjects, and in that way they fall between two stools. What will be their fate when India has self-government? That is the question I hope the Noble Lord will answer when he replies to-day. With the very slight experience that I have had of India and of Indians, I have always felt the deepest interest in a people who, at least, can claim to be the oldest civilisation in the world, that wonderful people who built the cities which now lie in ruins, and the most wonderful monument that the world has ever seen—probably the most beautiful—the TajMahal. When we realise the people with that civilisation we have a great responsibility in front of us as the rulers of India to-day, and that responsibility we have to keep, whether we like it or not. We have to see the work we began through to the end. I hope and believe that it may be very soon. We are progressing with immense rapidity. Since I lived in India some 12 years ago, such strides have been made that I should hardly have realised it, if I had not returned and seen it for myself. I am astonished to hear of the progress that has been made in 10 years, and I hope that if we go on steadily forward, as we are doing now, along the road to self-government, the time will not be far off when we can hand over to India the government of themselves with a feeling that we are, handing over to the people a responsibility which they are able to fulfil.
It may prove that the Debate to-day will be a very important one in this respect, that possibly before we can have another Debate on the subject steps may have been taken which will be very significant for the future of India. I mean to say, that there is thought of appointing a Commission and of setting down the terms of that Commission, and that could take place almost at any time. I hope that, when it does take place, steps will be taken to see that the Commission is thoroughly representative and that the Terms of Reference are sufficiently broad to give confidence to the people of India. I was really astonished as I listened to the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Enfield (Colonel Applin). I feel that, if there is any future trouble in India, it will be as the result of such a mentality as that of which we have just had an exhibition. The hon. and gallant Member has uttered the language of the oppressors from the beginning of the world. It is exactly the same kind of thing that has been used in regard to the working-classes in our own land. It is not so very long ago that the state of illiteracy in this country was very similar to that which exists in India. It is not so very long ago that in our industrial and agricultural areas the wages of the industrial workers were 1s. per day, such as the wages of the industrial workers in India are to-day.
How have we come out of that condition? We have come out of that condition as the result of the fight for freedom, and of other means of development, such as the trade union movement and so forth. It is only by virtue of such liberty that India can develop today. Much mention has been made of the question of underground forces. I can believe that there may be a tendency to underground work in India to-day, but why is that? In so far as there may be a tendency in that direction—and I am not saying for a moment that there is—I can well believe that it may be so for the reason that India cannot develop in a positive direction. She is held up at every turn, as I will try to show in a few moments, and the result is that people are being driven underground. They are in a state of despair, and they feel that there is no opportunity for reasonable development. You had such a condition in India in the early years of the present century, and it was largely as the result of such men as Ghandi that that tendency was overcome. Ghandi, who was on the side of the British Government for years, had been keeping down the passion of the Indian people and trying to keep them reasonable until a moderate opportunity—such an opportunity as had from time to time been promised to the Indian people—should come into their possession.
When the diarchy came into operation in India, the Indian people were filled with enthusiasm and idealism, and they really believed that the time had come when they would be able to make tangible progress. What did they find? As soon as they came up against what we regard as fundamental issues in India, they could not move at all, with the result that there could not he any real progress. In any case, if it comes to setting up a native Government in India, we have to remember that, after all, we have only a handful of officials in India, and that India has had sufficient training already, at any rate, from the point of view of the educated classes in India. We must remember that a considerable number of Indian subjects have had an education in this country, and have studied our institutions. There is a sufficient number of people of training, understanding and education in India to-day to take on the work of our officials out there, especially with our co-operation. We have been asking Indians to co-operate with us in India. India puts it the other way, and asks us to co-operate with her and to help her as a free-governing country. That is the only tangible and reasonable position that we can expect Indians to take up.
I was astonished to hear the hon. Mem-for Kidderminster (Mr. Wardlaw-Milne) speak of the knowledge that existed in this country with regard to Indian affairs. I find that the people of this country are extremely ignorant of Indian affairs. I know very little about them. Although I have devoted a considerable amount of time during the past 12 or 15 years to Indian affairs, I consider myself extremely ignorant in regard to these matters, comparatively speaking. Nevertheless, I suppose I know a fair amount, in comparison with a large number of people in this country. In the average constituency, I doubt very much if more than one or two people per 1,000 really know anything about India. I invited an Indian to come into my constituency and to give a talk at a public meeting on India, and the people were tremendously interested. I told the people that so far as the Government of India was concerned, in fundamental matters the most ignorant in that audience had more to say with his or her vote on Indian affairs than had that educated young Indian who was to address them. Can we expect that an educated people will be content to put up with such a position as exists in India to-day, under our rule?
I do not want to go into the question whether other people would have ruled India better than we have. I am prepared to say that we have probably done better in India than any other nation could have done. I am not going to say that we have necessarily taken more advantage than a normal person would have done, under the conditions which prevailed when we entered India. When we went into India we did so for our own personal ends, without, of course, any intention to do any harm to the Indian people; but to get as much advantage out of India as possible. It might be said, also, that we took India at her own valuation. At the time we entered India, India was in a backward state. All Indian people will acknowledge that. But in the meantime India has awakened, partly through our kindness and partly through our kicks, and we have to recognise the fact that there can be no pacifying India until she has what we can only describe as real and effective Home Rule.
I should like to point out how India is held up by our methods of rule. Take the question of agriculture. I was astonished at a remark made by the hon. Member for Kidderminster with respect to the material progress that has taken place in India during the last few years. If you take the returns of trades such as are carried on in Calcutta, Bombay and other large centres, you may get imposing figures but you cannot estimate the real wealth and well-being of the people of India from statistics of that kind We have to remember in that connection that the profits on a very large part of that industry—the profits on loans to India, and the salaries and pensions of civil servants, and so forth, come back into this country, and do not benefit the Indian people, as such. In that way, we are draining India, and India is becoming poorer every year, but not for that reason alone. We are not making the greatest drain upon the finances of India. It is the Indians themselves, and one of the reasons why the Indian people want Home Rule is in order that they may deal with their own landlords, their zemindars. This country is on the side of the landlords in India against the well-being of the Indian people, and the Indian people know that quite well. It is not chiefly our industrialists in India who are draining India of her wealth, but it is the Indian zemindars who are draining The Indian people of the means of life.
We have to recognise that although there has been industrial development and perhaps there is promise of a very large degree of industrial development, only 10 per cent. of the Indian population is industrialised, and that the remaining 90 per cent. live in villages, and are chiefly of the agricultural class. Something like 65 per cent. of the Indian people are living well below the starvation line. They have not enough to eat. They live on what is generally known as a handful of rice per day. It is obvious that here there is tremendous scope for development of trade, and if we or anybody who rules India would so utilise the real wealth of India, that there might be a better distribution of wealth, it would be opening up one of the biggest markets that the world offers to-day, either for our trade or any other trade.
Let me elaborate that point because it is most important that we should understand exactly where India is held up in regard to the development of agriculture. Reference has been made to the Agricultural Commission. I have obtained a Report of that Commission, and I have no doubt whatever that it will perform a very useful function, and will accomplish a very necessary task. But I would point out that the Commission from the very start, is handicapped from the Indian point of view. It is not permitted to deal with the matters to which I have been referring. The terms of reference say:
It will not be within the scope of the Commission's duties to make recommendations regarding the existing system of land ownership or tenancy, or of the assessment of land revenue and irrigation charges.
It is on matters like these where the trouble really arises in India. Whenever we come to deal with legislation in India we find that the Indian people are constantly coming up against what are known as the reserved subjects, i.e., against matters upon which we will not allow them to pass any Measures. The land of India, or a very large portion of it, was settled according to what is known as the permanent settlement, the Cornwallis Settlement of 1793. According to the terms of that settlement, 53 per cent. of the land of India, which included the greater part of the best land in the country, was settled so far as taxation was concerned. It was decided at that time that 90 per cent. of the receipts of the zemindars from the land should be returned to the land, but, instead of keeping it at that proportion, they reduced it to a much smaller proportion. Now they are paying that amount of money, but in the meantime there has been a large amount of reassessments, with the result that a very large number of these zemindars are only paying 27 per cent.
of their receipts from the land back to the land, whereas 90 per cent. was being paid before. That is what creates trouble in India, and whenever Indians have tried to introduce legislation it is always vetoed. The Malabar Tenancy Bill was vetoed by the Governor of Madras. I put a, question down to the Noble Lord on that issue, and he sent me an official communique issued by the Madras Government as to the reasons why the Governor exercised the veto on that occasion.
It is well to state exactly what the position is so far as the Indian people are concerned when they want to make any progress in the direction of education or agriculture. They cannot make progress in agriculture to-day, because they cannot deal with the landlords. We will not allow them to get control of their own land. The Madras Tenancy Bill was brought in to protect the tenants from summary eviction in Malabar. It was introduced by Mr. Krishnan Nair. The Bill was brought in in 1924. Considerable obstacles were placed in its way, but eventually it was allowed to be introduced. It was introduced in August, 1924, and, after two days' discussion, it was decided to send it to a Select Committee by a vote of 59 against six, which shows how important that Bill was felt to be at the time. When that Bill was referred to a Select Committee, it was stated by the Government that they would modify the Bill and broaden its scope, and that Sir C. P. R. Aizar would take the chairmanship of the Committee. Mr. Nair, who introduced the Bill, expected that the Bill would be modified and its scope broadened in fulfilment of this promise. Now, when the Bill came before the Committee, the Government refused to modify the Measure or to broaden its scope as they had said they would like to do, and it became evident that they intended to veto it later on. They spent 15 months in the Committee stage of that Bill, and it eventually came before the House. It was passed by 44 votes against 23, but again the Governor exercised his veto. The chief reason for the veto was given by the Governor as follows:
Moreover the Bill proposes in respect of members of one section of the community to take away or seriously diminish the value of rights over property in which they have been confirmed by legal decision
extending over a period of three-quarters of a century, and it proposes to do this without any adequate compensation. The Bill would thus not only interfere with private rights to an extent for which in His Excellency the Governor's judgment no clear justification has been shown, but would do so in a manner repugnant to equity and to the principles generally observed in cases where such rights have necessarily to be subordinated to the public welfare.
Trouble is arising in India to-day because of this and other reasons. It is not so much British business reasons and so forth or our draining of Indian wealth which have caused such dissatisfaction with the diarchy; the reason is that India wants to develop its education and its agriculture and has not got the power to do so. The future welfare of India depends upon these two developments, and yet by reason of the insufficiency of the powers which they have they cannot develop education and agriculture in the way in which it is necessary. The Indian budget to-day is £100,000,000, roughly. Of that, roughly, £45,000,000 is spent on armaments. In these circum-stances and in the conditions of land tenure which prevail, it is simply impossible for the Indian people to make the progress they desire. I hope these matters will be taken into very serious consideration by the Government, and that these broad questions of human freedom will be taken into account. India is awake to-day; a great wave of idealism has swept over the country and a chance must be given to this idealism to develop along its own lines.
I beg the hon. Member's pardon. My hon. and gallant Friend did not make himself responsible for that statement, he merely repeated a statement that had been made and wished to know if it were true.
But since the hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford has given currency to that statement, I am authorised to say that no such conversation ever took place. We have heard to-day from some hon. Members, in language of condescension and patronage, their idea as to how the problem of India should be dealt with, and it seems to me it is precisely the same language which was uttered by Lord North over 100 years ago to the American Colonies about their unfitness to govern. We have no right whatever to dominate other people's lives any more than they have the right to dominate ours, and we should rather spend our time in devising methods of co-operation for our mutual advantage within the British Empire.
I do not want to take up the time of the Committee by repeating statements which have already been so well made by hon. Members on this side on the constitutional position or indeed upon the attitude of the Government towards the detenus but I want to draw the Noble Lord's attention to the proposals which I made in this House 12 months ago when he promised to carry those suggestions to the Secretary of State and see whether they might be useful in bettering the conditions of India and at the same time materially improve the position of unemployment in this country.
Let me briefly repeat, in essence, those proposals, and draw the Noble Lord's attention to the fact that since I made them, His Majesty's Government have published the evidence given by officials serving under the Government of India before the Commission on Agriculture, who have endorsed the suggestions which were put forward. What are the facts of the case? There are 319,000,000 people in India, or one-fifth of the entire population of the world. They are almost all agriculturists either whole-time or part-time. There is something approaching appalling poverty amongst this community, which is also wasted by fever and disease. Only 22,000,000, according to the last census, out of this total of 319,000,000 are literate, after 150 years of British domination, as against 43 per cent. who are literate in Japan, 25 per cent. in Burma, 7 per cent. in Bengal, and 2 per cent. in the United Provinces. The average income per head of the population is not more than £4 per annum, and in Bengal the average holding of land, according to the evidence given, is between one acre and 2¼ acres. Owing to the system of fragmentation and infeudation it is now impossible for an agricultural tenant to get a living from his land.
When a Mohammedan dies it is not unusual for eight to 10 persons to inherit his strip of land. When a Hindu dies there are four to five persons who probably inherit it, and in Bengal there are very frequently no fewer than 20 to 25 degrees of infeudation. In Bengal 71 per cent. of the males, leaving out the females altogether, die before they reach the age of 30. Malaria is rampant, and even if they do not die it weakens them every week. I have here a quotation from Lord Ronaldshay's book "A Bird's-eye View," which is testimony the Noble Lord will not dispute. He says:
A perusal of the vital statistics of British India in recent years shows that of a normal annual death rate of from 7,000,000 to 7,500,000 deaths, from 4,000,000 to 4,500,000 are atrributed to fever. Recent estimates of the extent of the ravages of the malarial parasite in Bengal discloses a state of affairs before which one stands appalled. Every year there occur in the Presidency from 350,000 to 400,000 deaths from this cause alone. But a mere enumeration of the deaths gives only a faint idea of the evil wrought by the disease. It is probable that at least 100 attacks of malarial fever occur for every death for which it is responsible. It is estimated that this disease alone is accountable for 200,000,000 days of sickness in the Presidency every year. Plague slays its thousands, fever its ten thousands. Not only does it diminish the population by death, but it reduces the vitality of survivors and saps their vigour.
I will not continue the quotation; the facts are indisputable. The people are in appalling poverty and they cannot get enough to eat. It is very questionable indeed whether one man in a thousand of the agricultural population of India ever goes, to sleep at night after having eaten one decent meal during the day. Rents are rising. Trade is getting worse. That is inevitable. The purchasing power of the ryot is such that it does not enable him to purchase our goods.
It is much more serious than that. At another time I could reply to that interjection. Our proportion of the total trade of India in pre-War times was 63 per cent. Last year it was 51 per cent. and it is steadily falling. But the Japanese proportion of our Indian trade is steadily rising. India cannot buy our goods and she is driven to buy Japanese goods because in some directions they are considerably cheaper. What is to be done about it? This is where I beg to repeat what I said 12 months ago. It seems to me that there is only one thing we can do. I leave out the political side of the question. This economic problem is fundamental under whatever Government rules in India. One-fifth of the human race cannot be allowed to continue in this appalling poverty. We must increase the purchasing power of the ryot, increase the buying ability of the peasant cultivator of the soil. How can it be done? The Noble Lord will probably say that it is all very well to talk at large on the subject, but how can it be done? I think it is exceedingly simple. I have now the support of the chief officers in the Noble Lord's Department. We have 750,000 villages. The people buy 7s. 4½d. worth of goods from Britain every year. If we could increase their purchasing power by only three farthings per week, or half-a-crown a year, we would increase British exports by £40,000,000 sterling a year, and that would have some effect upon British unemployment.
How can that be done? The Indian ryot, the agriculturist, does not get enough to eat, because he is so poor. He has not a plough; he has a bit of an old stick. He has primitive methods in agriculture almost beyond belief. If the Under-Secretary of State disputes that statement I will quote his own officials against him. At any rate I can quote statements of his chief agricultural officials in India, who gave evidence before Lord Linlithgow and his Commission, as published in a Blue Book. In many cases, they raise the water from village wells by means of skin bags. They cannot irrigate the soil properly; they cannot plough the soil properly; they are still ploughing with old harrows which only go three inches deep. They do not get enough out of the soil. We could set every engineering factory in this country busy to-morrow and abolish all our unemployment in the heavy metal trade if we had the sense to ask every engineering iactory in this country to set about manufacturing standard pumps and oil engines and standard ploughs and giving these to the ryots on loan for two or three years free of interest. The saving on our dole money in this country would more than meet the loss of interest that would be incurred in this way. We would save money by it.
You could give through the Indian cooperative societies the use of these materials which are so urgently required, but you would require to take another step in that connection. It would be necessary to see that no increase in rent was permitted. Surely it is possible, through the legislature in India, to see that rents are fixed in such a way that the increased productivity due to the employment of these materials should not be sucked up by the zemindars or other land owners there. The ryot—the producer—ought to have the benefit of the increased productivity of the soil due to the use of these materials. The Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Minister of Labour and the Noble Lord ought to get in touch at once with the responsible authorities in India and set about providing the village co-operative societies—of which there are not enough—with the necessary implements to raise the purchasing power of the people. It they did so, not alone would it practically abolish unemployment in our heavy metal industries, but it would give a regular and permanently increased purchasing power to the people of India which would be to our general advantage. I cannot see any way in which to deal with un-employment in this country except by increasing the purchasing power of the consumers of our goods. Unless the purchaser is able to buy, we cannot sell to him. A competition in international starvation has been going on for years, boosted up by leading statesmen in all countries, on the theory that the only remedy for poverty is to become poorer still. Thus, we get deeper and deeper into the mire. We should go boldly, and courageously in the contrary direction by seeking to increase the purchasing power of the ryot, providing him with the means to cat more, wear more and use more of the world's goods. Unless we can do so, we shall be condemned to a greater and greater degree of poverty in this country. Those were the suggestions which I made to the Noble Lord in more detail 12 months ago, and I should like to hear from him what, if anything, he is going to do in the matter.
There are just one or two other points which I would mention. We must deal with the question of the moneylender in India. It is no good an hon. Member here saying that he does not know how the practice can be stopped. It is being stopped in places. In Ahmedabad the rate of interest at the Labour Union Bank is down to 6¼ per cent., but private moneylenders are exploiting the poor natives in the mills on as high a rate of interest as 1,000 per cent. per annum and the average in Bengal, in the jute area, is 300 per cent, per annum. We must deal with that and we must also deal with the question of the marketing of produce. We have very capable officials there. There is Mr. Mitra, the Registrar of Friendly Societies in the Province of Bengal, one of the ablest and most conscientious officials we have. He has money at his disposal and only wants assistance and encouragement. You have the unemployed literary class from Calcutta and other universities. Why not employ them to go round the country as missionaries organising village cooperative societies. It must be done and done speedily if India is to progress. In this connection I might quote what Mr. Mitra said in an address he gave on 20th August. 1926. This is a remarkable illustration of what the British Government and the Indian Government are permitting to continue in the marketing of the poor ryots' produce. This is a case of fisheries in the province of Bengal, and Mr. Mitra says:
It was found that in a particular fishery, out of the total catches valued at Rs.80,000, Rs.1,000 non went to the landlord, Rs.20,000 to the actual fishermen, and the remainder (Rs.59,000) to the middlemen.
How long can that go on? It is the same in every other industry. For jute last year the city which I represent in this House, which is the main purchaser of jute in Europe, had to pay, for the same quality of jute, from the same harvest, grown in the same
Province of Bengal, prices fluctuating between £29 and £61 per ton. The cultivator did not get it; the middleman got it, and if the jute manufacturers here have not the sense to have joint purchasing, then the Government here and in India must step in to see that it is done.
It is the same with hemp. In India the hemp for which the cultivator gets 6d., the wholesaler sells for 5s. In every possible industry in India to-day the ryot is not only robbed at one end, but at every end, and I have heard it said, with some truth, that the poor Indian ryot, the producer of the wealth of India, upon whose back the whole social economy of India, the princes of India and every other body, rest, is the only individual who, both as a buyer and as a seller, has to ask, "What price?" When he sells, he says, "What price will I get?" When he buys, he says, "What price must I pay?" He has no control. He lives in starvation, his body is racked with disease, and after 150 years of British rule, it is surely up to the Noble Lord and the British Government to take immediate steps to remedy such a state of affairs. In education and in organised co-operative marketing it must be done. We ought to be using our credit in this country, the national credit here, to stimulate our manufacturers in assisting the producer on the soil in India to increase his purchasing power, and to do it, not for profit, but to do it free of interest, not as a gift, but as something that will benefit the working classes both in this land and in India. I can see no other way out of the poverty mess in that country.
One last word. There is a certain gentleman called Captain Arthur Herbert Vaughan-Williams. I do not know whether or not the Noble Lord knows anything about him, but he is a brother of Lady Lauderdale, and he is busy over in Florida. This is a quotation from the "New York Times," dated 17th March of this year. This gentleman is busy declaring that if Florida would
ask the British Government for permission to import several thousand Hindu labourers from India, such permission could be obtained easily enough. These labourers could be brought over for a period of from three to five years, and paid at the same rate they are being paid at home, with their board and keep provided. They can live on a handful of rice a day, and it would cost little enough to keep them.
I trust the Noble Lord this afternoon will be able to disavow any official connection whatever with this Captain Arthur Herbert Vaughan-Williams and his propaganda. I trust that he will give every encouragement to the propaganda for raising the purchasing power of the In-
dian people, giving Indian people something to thank God for association with the British Empire. If you do that, you will settle at once 100 political and all kinds of problems, but you cannot do it by continuing the starvation, degradation and misery of the Indian people.
Perhaps I may, at the outset, before replying to the points which have been raised in the Committee this afternoon, explain that the procedure which has been adopted in regard to the Estimates for the India Office has been arranged through the ordinary channels, and it was agreed that it would be for the convenience of all concerned if hon. Members belonging to the two Oppositions raised any points which they wished to raise on the occasion of the Debate to-day, that I should make a short reply to those points at half-past three or 20 minutes to four, and that it should be understood that when the Estimates are taken again, I should then be permitted, at the outset of the business, to make a general statement which it has been customary for the Secretary of State or the Under-Secretary of State to make on the Indian Budget and other matters. I should like to express my appreciation of the way in which my objection to making a full statement on this Friday afternoon has been met by the Opposition.
A great many of the points which have been raised in the course of what, I think, has been an interesting Debate this afternoon, are points which can only be adequately dealt with, and to which I can only give an adequate and a sufficient answer when I make my statement on the occasion of the resumed Debate. For example, many of the points raised by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, although I am in a position to reply on some of the details to-day, cannot wholly be answered without a full exposition of what, I would venture to call, the moral and material progress of the people of to-day compared with their situation 10, 15, 20 or 100 years ago. Even in the next Debate I should be setting myself rather an ambitious task to give a full statement, but I think I can show in concise form what is being done and the difficulties which are inherent in the situation. There is one thing I would say on that point Fit the outset, and that is that I do not think there is sufficiently realised in this Committee the degree of devolution of powers which has already been given to the Indian people through the various legislative bodies, the Councils in the Provinces and the Legislative Assembly and Council of State.
The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston), who made a most interesting speech, I am sure will accept my assurance—he is always most courteous to me—when I tell him that it is an axiom that the Secretary of State never attempts to interfere with transferred provincial subjects, except in some particulars, it may be some particular civil service which by Act passed recently by this House comes under his control. Except where the Secretary of State is concerned, he does not interfere with the policy, and, in fact, the Secretary of State, which is to say His Majesty's Government, have less control over such matters than, for example, the Board of Education or the Ministry of Health have over many things which are dealt with by local authorities. I want to make that clear to the Committee.
To turn to rather a different subject. The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbary), whose restraint in putting forward his views I am the first to recognize—he is a person, we know, of very strong views and convictions, and he put them forward with great restraint—exaggerated, I think, the restrictions which are imposed by Statute upon the Legislative Council and the Provincial Councils. In comparing the powers which those bodies have with the powers possessed by this House, I think he exaggerated the power possessed by any given House of Commons. He spoke as if the Council and the Assembly in India could never carry out by their vote the wishes of the people. I can assure him that is very far from being an accurate representation of the case. In fact one of the difficulties with which the Government of India, as is the case with the provincial Governments, are faced is that they are practically always without a majority in the Assembly to which they owe a large measure of responsibility. I do not suggest that it is a hardship, bat I have to read all the debates in the Legislative Assembly and the Council of State and most of the debates in Provincial Councils, and I can assure the Committee that the Government consequently have to give way on things that no Gov- ernment with a majority behind it would ever dream of giving way on in this House. That is an element of the situation which has to be considered in connection with the Montagu-Chelmsford Act.
It really is quite wrong to represent to the Committee here, many Members of which are not familiar with the details of the Act, that there is no power in the Assembly. It is most unfortunate that the hon. Member should have made that statement. It is one of the few things to which I object in his speech. It is a statement which is constantly being repeated in India—why, I do not know—by people who must know it is not accurate, because they themselves are members of the Assembly and know the amount of influence the members have. This is a small point, and not of particular importance in relation to the main question, but the hon. Member said the House of Commons can pass a resolution and get the Government to do anything. To my knowledge a great many resolutions have been passed when different Governments have been in power which have never been acted upon. It is a great surprise to me to learn that the House of Commons can always by resolution get anything done. The hon. Member exaggerates.
No, I do not think so. I do not think that was what he said. I knew what the hon. Member had in mind, and I was coming to that in a moment. There would be more point in what the hon. Member said if this power of veto were constantly used. In point of fact, it is rarely used, and the reason why it was put into the Montagu-Chelmsford Act was perfectly obvious. It was because it was realised that the Government, in the conditions prevailing, must, in the ultimate result, have some power of carrying on its work.
I am sure the Noble Lord does not want us to have to correct him on another occasion. What I was arguing was that the House of Commons was master of its own business, that if it pleased it could get any Resolution it passed carried into effect. In India, the Viceroy can overturn the decision of a majority. The majority wanted to discuss the sending of troops to China but the Viceroy refused to allow it.
I must not prolong the argument. I speak subject to correction, but I think I am right in saying that the reason why the Viceroy acted on the authority he had under the Act to prevent that particular Debate was because he did not think that in the circumstances it was in the public interest to permit it.
What I am trying to persuade the hon. Member of is that Debate constantly take place—this is my last word on the subject—in the Legislative Assembly and in the Council hostile to the Government of India. In some cases the Government act upon those views and in other cases they do not, but it constantly happens that the course of the majority in the Council and in the Assembly has a very considerable influence upon the course taken by the Government—a very considerable influence. I think there are some hon. Members here who have been members of the Assembly, and it is not necessary for me to emphasise the point further. One has only to read the Debates. Looking back over the period during which the Council and the Assembly have been in existence it is true to say that they have exercised a greater effect upon the course of Government in that country than was contemplated at the time the Act was passed. I have made some point of this matter because it is constantly being said in India that the members of the Assembly and the electors, through the Assembly, have no power. Nothing could be further from the truth. I shall be very surprised if the Royal Commission when it has considered this matter does not confirm what I have just said.
I now turn to another question, which is a very important one, raised by the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley. It is obvious that time does not permit me to give anything but a very brief summary of recent events in the political world in India, but I think to an impartial observer the outward appearances indicate that the existing constitutional machine in India is working with less jolting and less vibration than was the case a year or so ago. It is working with fewer attempts to paralyse it, and I think there is a growing appreciation of its merits and the merits of the reforms. It is very difficult to judge how far those appearances may be justified, and it is equally difficult to analyse what the causes of this recent trend may be Probably the improvement in the financial situation is ore, and a growing scepticism as to the value of some of the pretensions of the more extreme critics of the Government of India and also the feeling that their energies should now be husbanded for the next stage when the Statutory Commission appears on the scene.
All these are factors which have led to an improvement in the situation. It may be, and I think it is that the approach of the Commission by the mere efflux of time has been a factor in the recent attempt by Hindus and Moslems to come to an agreement over the question of joint electorates to which reference has been made. I think the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley referred to that matter, but, whoever it was, he spoke of it with confidence, and I wish I could share that confidence when he said that it was one which would be readily accepted by the whole community. I have read many statements which have been made on this subject, and a good many of the articles which have been written by representatives of those two communities, and I am sorry to say that they do not give me much hope that that so-called agreement is one which will be recognised by either of them. As I said on a previous occasion, I do not think that the Committee could really ask me to make any announcement on the question of the Commission except to say that the interval remaining before the time when under the Act the Commission has to be appointed is now so rapidly diminishing that the question of the precise date on which the Commission will assemble is fast becoming one in which, one might say, matters of practical convenience bulk as largely as matters of policy.
What I can tell the Committee—I think it is an open secret; it was certainly announced in the Press of India—is that such questions as the collection of data for placing before the Commission are being considered by the Government of India. If the Commission is brought into operation before the time prescribed by the Act, the Government will have to seek the approval of Parliament, and I need hardly say that they will do so without any hesitation; and I would also like to remind the Committee—I think some questions were asked on this point-that, under the provisions of Section 84 (a) of the Government of India Act, it will be necessary in due course, quite apart from the question of the date, to obtain the approval of Parliament for the submission to His Majesty of the proposed personnel of the Commission. I think an hon. "Member asked a question about that.
I should like just to say a word on a question which the hon. Member for Dundee has been discussing, namely, the question of agricultural development in India, although, as I have already said, my main reply, which will concern the economic position of Indians and Indian agriculture generally, must be left till I make my statement next week. In the first place, as regards the Royal Commission on Indian Agriculture, I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman took sufficiently into account the fact that the Royal Commission has been asked to inquire into many of the subjects which he raised this afternoon. He referred to the evidence which was given before the Commission. I am not going in any way, of course, to repudiate that evidence, but the hon. Gentleman must realise that it was given by the witnesses concerned—high officials, it is true, of the Government—of their own volition. They were entitled to put before the Commission whatever views they held, but they do not necessarily represent the views of the Government; but I read with great interest the particular evidence to which the hon. Gentleman referred, and no doubt it is of great importance.
The terms of reference include the promotion of agricultural research—a matter which fundamentally affects the whole basis of agriculture in India—experiment, demonstration and education, and also the investigation of measures for the introduction of new and better crops and for improvement in agricultural practice, dairy farming and stock. The hon. Gentleman made some very interesting references to conditions in Bengal. I would venture to say to the Committee that my own advice, if I may give it without disrespect, to Members on both sides, would be to await the Report of this Royal Commission on Agriculture in India before suggesting any solution of the difficulties—perhaps I might say, in some respects, the growing difficulties—under which agriculture is carried on in India. To some extent I agree with what the hon. Gentleman said, but I would venture to suggest that no suggested remedies be put forward until the Commission has reported. I cannot, of course, tell what the finding of the Commissioners will be, and it would be most improper for me to attempt to predict it, but I would say that personally, from the information, official and otherwise, which I have inevitably obtained in five years of office and two visits to India, I am not at all sure that all the complaints that are made against Indian agriculture, and the apathy of everyone concerned, will be found to be justified.
The hon. Gentleman made specific references to Bengal, and spoke of the sub-division of land in that Province, which I think it is admitted has become an evil; and he spoke of the great pressure of the population upon the soil. I will tell the Committee one of the difficulties. In recent years land has been available fur settlement under irrigation schemes in other parts of India. Efforts have been made, as I know from my own personal knowledge, by a particular Indian State, to induce cultivators to leave Bengal and take up some of this new irrigable land in other parts of India. They have refused to go. As anyone who knows India will agree, one of the great difficulties found by administrators is to induce people to move from one Province to another. It is only natural that people who have lived in one particular part of this huge country should not want to go 300, 400, 500, 600 or 700 miles away to another part, where the people speak a different language, and are, it may be, of a different religion, and where the climate is different. That is one of the difficulties as regards pressure of population.
As regards the actual method of cultivating land in Bengal, I am perhaps rather rash to attempt to give what is largely a personal opinion, but when I was last in Bengal, in January, I had the advantage of going over a small Government farm, which is kept not so much for research purposes as for a demonstration farm. It is farmed so as to show cultivators how a farm, whatever its size, with average equipment, should be conducted. I talked to the man in charge, a Scotsman, a most enterprising and delightful gentleman, who showed me some of the implements they use, and said, "It may be the Royal Commission on Indian Agriculture will find these implements, which have been in use for two or three or perhaps 4,000 years, are utterly useless and old fashioned, but I have my doubts. I am not at all sure these historic implements of agriculture will not be found, in the particular conditions prevailing in Bengal, to be the most effective." He showed me a wooden plough, and said, "This has formed the peroration of politicians' speeches for years past Fancy a man using a wooden plough when he can buy an iron one! It is my personal opinion, but when the Royal Commission come to report, they may find that, for purposes of cultivation in this part of the world the wooden plough, after 4,000 years, forms the most effective implement." This man is an expert.
The hon. Member must not speak of Government experts on India. No one would ever be so foolish as to attempt to make a general statement as regards the whole of India. I am talking of one particular corner of India The whole difficulty is to get a comparison between one part of India and another. You cannot generalise about India as a whole. It is difficult to generalise about agriculture in this country. To do it about India is impossible. I am giving the view of a particular individual in a particular corner of India. On another matter to which the hon. Member referred, I can assure him that efforts are being made in various directions and by various agencies, both through the co-operative societies and through the agricultural departments of the various provinces, to introduce modern machinery where it can be used. I do not think this always meets with support from some British manufacturers. A Commissioner in the Punjab introduced a certain type of hand pump which he was anxious to get the people in his district to use. Several of them did use it, but they came to him and said it was too heavy. It was supposed to be a single man pump, but the physical strength of the Indian people being less than that of the European, they wanted a pump of slightly less power. He wrote to the firm who supplied it and said very much what the hon. Member said: "If you introduce a pump that suits the Indian cultivator you may be able to sell hundreds of thousands, or indeed millions of them." The only answer he got was that they had always had this specification in the last 50 years and did not propose to alter it. I give that with the utmost frankness because it is a fact that should be known. I told my friend to get in touch with the Minister of Overseas Trade and put the facts before him, and I have no doubt he will do so.
The only other question I wish to refer to in connection with agriculture is the question of legislation to safeguard the interests of the tenants against undue interest on the part of moneylenders and bad treatment on the part of the landowner. I can only say it has been the constant endeavour of the Government for a long time past to secure an improvement. I do not think the hon. Gentleman, the Member for Stourbridge (Mr. Wellock), when he was dealing with this matter, was quite fair. He produced one example, but there have been many examples where the Governments have acted. Two recent examples are the Oudh Rent Act of 1921 and the Agra Tenancy Act of 1926. With regard to undue interest charges and to prevent extortionate usury by moneylenders, attempts have been made for years past to deal with them, in some Provinces successfully and in other Provinces not quite so successfully. I fully accept the view of the hon. Gentleman that it is the duty of the Government to do everything they can on all occasions to prevent this growing scandal and evil of undue charges by moneylenders.
Before I sit down—I have only a few moments more—I want to say something about the question which has become a controversy of long standing between two or three hon. Gentlemen opposite—the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley and the hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle) and myself. It is an interesting controversy in this way, that the vast majority of the House, I think, knows nothing about it and cares nothing about it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I do not intend it in any disrespect. I was going to say that it may be that the personalities of the hon. Members and myself may not be of sufficient importance to excite interest. I am only judging from the questions I have answered. The difficulty in dealing with it to-day is this, that both the hon. Gentlemen opposite and myself have constantly dealt with this matter in Debate, and it is really very difficult to find anything fresh to say upon it. I do not think either of the two hon. Members who dealt with it to-day had anything fresh to say, and I am not by any means confident that I can find anything fresh to say.
There is no need for me to repeat the history of the Ordinance, as I gave it very fully on the last occasion. But there was one thing I was interested in this afternoon and that was the remarks—I took them down at the time—made by the hon. Member for Shoreditch in connection with this matter. He now says, quite frankly, that he considers Lord Olivier was mistaken when he agreed to the Ordinance being put into operation. He then went on to say that his mistake was due to the fact that he was misled by his advisers. Well, that seemed to me to be a sufficiently important statement in the sense that it was a fresh one, because it was not until now or until the other day that I heard any criticism of Lord Olivier's action. I ventured to ask him to whom was he referring when he spoke of advice, because the advice we had to sanction came from Lord Lytton and Lord Reading. I asked him if he referred to them, and he said "No," but to some other advisers, more obscure persons. I hope the hon. Gentleman is not really serious in asking the Committee to believe that a man like Lord Olivier, a distinguished ex-civil servant, and a man like Lord Reading, an ex-Lord Chief Justice of England, and a man like Lord Lytton, who has held administrative office in India and in this country, and all the other high officials at the India Office, the Government of India, and those Government officials whom they had at their beck and call, were misled by some obscure adviser.
I think it is a most frivolous and ridiculous charge that the ex-Lord Chief Justice of this country, the Viceroy of India, a man who does not belong to my party but who has had a most distinguished career in this House, should wittingly himself, or unwittingly, because he was misled, give advice to Lord Olivier which was based on what the hon. Member calls a malicious and slanderous fabrication. I do not know who made the fabrication.
The hon. Member said that it was a malicious and slanderous fabrication to say that there was any terrorist organisation. The whole basis for the adoption of this Ordinance was that Lord Olivier, Lord Reading and Lord Lytton believed in the existence of a terrorist organisation. How, then, can the hon. Member say that the existence of such an organisation was a malicious and slanderous fabrication?
I think the Noble Lord, quite unintentionally, is not dealing fairly with my hon. Friend. The malicious fabrication business arose in this way, that my hon. Friend said that if the Noble Lord could not give something more tangible than this vague generality, if he could not give definitely the name of this terrorist organisation, he could only believe that it was a malicious and slanderous fabrication. The Noble Lord has not attempted to give the name of this terrorist organisation, but he merely repeats the phrase that he used before.
I do not think the intervention of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) was justified. This is becoming a matter of great importance because the names of Lord Reading and other distinguished men have been dragged in. Let me repeat the circumstances of the situation. The situation is that neither Lord Lytton, as Governor of Bengal, nor Lord Reading, as Viceroy of India, nor Lord Olivier, as Secretary of State, would ever have sanctioned or agreed in any way to this Ordinance unless they had believed in the existence of a terrorist organisation in Bengal. The hon. Member says that unless I am prepared to give names and dates and all sorts of information, which I am certainly not prepared to do—I am not prepared to endanger people's lives, and subject them to possible assassination—to say that there was a terrorist conspiracy is a malicious and slanderous fabrication. If the hon. Member says that, he is equal charging Lord Reading and Lord Olivier with a malicious and slanderous fabrication. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] Certainly. That is obvious. The existence of this conspiracy was the whole basis
I recognise, and I would be the last person to complain that certain hon. Members opposite hold very strong feelings and very strong views in regard to this matter, and I do not wish to underrate their feelings, or the importance of the matter. I agree fully, as does my Noble Friend the Secretary of State, who has said it constantly in another place, that it is a regrettable necessity when you have to put such powers into operation. I hope hon. Members opposite will give me credit for equally sincere convictions. Not merely as Under-Secretary of State for India, but from my own experience, I am equally of tile opinion that unless these powers had been taken at the time, and sinless they are retained, so long as the circumstances which caused them originally to be put into operation continue to exist, there would be no safeguard for law and justice in Bengal, and had the Government of India of the day and the Labour Secretary of State for India tailed to take the action which they did, they would have been taking a responsibility on their shoulders which no Government ought to take, and they would have been endangering the lives of then own officials—the lives of many responsible officials in Bengal, including Indians.
|Division No. 190.]||AYES.||[4.1 p.m.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hardie, George D.||Pethlck-Lawrerce, F. W.|
|Baker, Walter||Hayes, John Henry||Saklatvala, Shapurji|
|Batey, Joseph||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Broad, F. A.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Snell, Harry|
|Bromtey, J.||Kelly, W. T.||Thorne, W, (West Ham, Plaistow|
|Buchanan, G.||Kennedy, T.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lansbury, George||Vlant, S. P.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Lawrence, Susan||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Joslah|
|Dennison, R.||Lawson, John James||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Duncan, C.||Lowth, T.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Dunnico, H.||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Windsor, Walter|
|Gardner, J. P.||Maxton, James|
|Greenwood, A (Nelson and Colne)||Naylor, T. E.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Groves, T.||Paling, W.||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. A.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Ganzoni, Sir John||Nelson, Sir Frank|
|Albery, Irving James||Gates, Percy||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hen. Sir John||Nuttall, Ellis|
|Astor, Maj. Hon. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Goff, Sir Park||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon, Stanley||Grant, Sir J. A.||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Pennefather, Sir John|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Penny, Frederick George|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Berry, Sir George||Grotrian, H. Brent||Pilcher, G.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., SKipton)||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Ramsden, E.|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Hammersley, S. S.||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Hereford)|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Hanbury, C.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemeuth)|
|Brittain, sir Harry||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Rye, F, G.|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Hartington, Marquess of||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C M.||Sandon, Lord|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Henderson, Lt.-Col. Sir V. L. (Bootle)||Savery, S. S.|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Scott, Rt. Hon. Sir Leslie|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Shaw, R. G (Yorks, W. R., Sowerby)|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Hilton, Cecil||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mel. (Renfrew, W.)|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S J. G.||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)||Smithers, Waldron|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon, Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Hopkins, J. W. W,||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Colonel C. K.||Storry-Deans, R.|
|Christie, J. A.||Hudson, Capt. A. U, M. (Hackney, N.)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Sykes. Major-Gen, sir Frederick H.|
|Clayton, G. C.||Hurst, Gerald B.||Tasker, R. Inigo.|
|Cobb. Sir Cyril||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth. Cen'l)||Templeton, W. P.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||James Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Thomson, Rt. Hon. sir W. Mitchell.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington., N.)||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Davidson, J. (Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd)||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Lougher, Lewis||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dalrymple-|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Ellis, R. G.||Msclntyre, Ian||Williams, Herbert G. (Rending)|
|Elveden, Viscount||McLean. Major A.||Wilson, Sir M. J. (York. N, R. Richm'd)|
|Erskine, Lord(Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Winby, Colonel L. P.|
|Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||McNelll, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Fermoy, Lord||Malone, Major P. B.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Wood, Sir Kingsley(Woolwich W.)|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Forrest, W.||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Foster, Sir Harry S.||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Moore. Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Major Sir Harry Barnston and|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Murchison, Sir Kenneth||Major Sir George Hennessy.|