I beg to move "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
There has this morning been published in the public Press a document to which reference was made yesterday by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox), and the public is now seized of that document. This is the covering memorandum prepared by a delegation of Indian Civil servants, including two Secretaries to Government, two judges and one Indian sub-divisional officer on behalf of the Bengal Civil Service, a memorandum which formed the introduction to and the foundation of the memorial upon these matters now dealt with in this Clause and other Clauses with which we are immediately concerned, relating to such questions as the value of the rupee and so forth.
This memorial and the covering letter are now published, and, as we know, the final memorial has been endorsed by the united Civil Service of India. For the first time, we are in possession of the real views of the Indian Civil Service in regard to this Bill. I have no knowledge of how this document has come to be published, and I take no responsibility whatever for the fact that it has been published; but the House is bound to acquaint itself with the facts and to try to Debate this matter with knowledge of the truth. Anyone who chooses to read these documents will see that the whole of this policy is viewed with the gravest apprehension and fear, dislike and disapproval, by the great mass of the Indian Civil Service. I see the Lord President is present. I must remind him that he said on 29th April,1933:
The overwhelming balance of opinion in the Civil Service in India to-day is in favour of these reforms.
I beg my right hon. Friend to acquaint himself with the facts which are now dis-
closed. I know it would be to him a very great source of self-reproach if he had unwittingly, but none the less powerfully, misled the country and the House upon a great matter of fact. Anyone who chooses to see the views which these people hold and which they interchange among themselves confidentially but with all the frankness of experts and people in a service facing common dangers and difficulties—anyone who chooses to do that, will see how utterly wrong it was and is to-day to say that the Indian Civil Service is in favour of these reforms. it is quite true that the civil servants in the main address themselves to specific questions which affect their tenure, pay, promotion, and transfer of their salaries to the Sterling exchange, to pay for the education of their children and matters of that kind. But no one can read this document without seeing the wreck and ruin which is being brought on the whole of the great Civil Service on which the civilisation and scientific progress of India depend. I must draw attention to one point and one point only in this document to show how grave are the revelations which are now for the first time made. This is paragraph 35:
What does the hon. Member mean by "Ah"? I suppose if I had said it was the "Daily Herald," he would have said "Oh" The journalists on the "Morning Post," the proprietors, the authorities, the editors of the" Morning Post "are just as honourable as those of the "Daily Herald" and have just as much right to take part in discussions of this kind.
I never suggested anything to the contrary. I only wished to say that I had gathered from the right hon. Gentleman that the statement referred to appeared in the Press generally. I wished to know from the right hon. Gentleman in what paper it had appeared, as I had not had the privilege of seeing it this morning.
Perhaps I was misled by the apparently scoffing and contemptuous note which seemed to me to
ring through the interjection of the hon. Member, but, since he says that that was not present in his mind, and that he was merely asking whether this had appeared in one particular paper or in the whole Press, let me say that if I had realised that, I certainly should not have felt it incumbent upon me to retort as I did. Pray let him consider that part of our. interchanges as at an end. I must read this passage, however, and it is the only quotation which I am going to make:
It is probably our duty as Civil Servants to represent these things especially as we are only experts—and, therefore, should not have been consulted but rather gagged—a result of which was that Mr. Baldwin in a public speech, claimed that as we had expressed no dissent, we must agree on the whole scheme. In point of fact we are admittedly not allowed to express any opinions. An honest authority would have removed the ban in a matter of this Imperial importance.
Then follows this extraordinary sentence:
Indiscretions in favour of the White Paper have been committed and this breach of the rules of our Services has not been without its improvement in the professional position of the tactful officers.
Could one have anything more serious or more direct than that statement. I well remember two years 'ago when I was pointing out that patronage had been used to influence the general compliance of the Civil Service with- these reforms I was interrupted by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne), and what a wave of shocked indignation was showered on anyone who could make such a suggestion. But here I find it in cold blood, set out by two judges, two Secretaries to the Government and a sub-divisional officer, delegated by their own classes to prepare a, memorial which was to be submitted to the Government. It makes the charge in the most plain and specific manner. It shows that the Service has been gagged and shows that they have not been allowed to express their opinions. It shows that, in consequence of that, they have been claimed to be in favour of this Measure when no one can read this internal evidence without being absolutely convinced that they are deeply disquieted by and in the main opposed to it. I think I am entitled to ask the Secretary of State to deal with this matter now. We do not wish to be involved in a succession of detailed discussions on the different aspects of the Civil
Service, on Clause 238 and the Clauses which immediately follow it. These discussions would be only more protracted if the general matter which is in all our minds could not be fully and plainly discussed. Naturally, portions of the topic would refer to many of the Amendments and Clauses which are being moved, and I believe it will actually shorten the course of business if the general issue is discussed as it can be and if we hear from the Secretary of State what he has to say upon it.
Therefore, I venture to submit this Motion, but I do ask the Secretary of State and my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council to consider this. 'Suppose that up to the present you have been misinformed upon the feeling of the Indian Civil Service. Suppose that you are now confronted with the fact that you have been misinformed— that you have been receiving information, only from the higher ranks and that, the real opinion of those in contact with Indian affairs and responsible for Indian administration, is very different from that of the high officials who are brought into contact with the representatives of His Majesty's Government. Suppose that to be true. Suppose it is shown that, just as the Princes dislike the scheme, just as India has rejected it, so with the civil servants whose silent acquiescence you most unwarrantably interpreted as approval. Suppose it should be ascertained that they are deeply concerned and thoroughly distrustful of the great undertaking which is now being pushed forward. May I not ask that even now, at the eleventh hour, relief might be given throughout India and this country by the withdrawal of a Measure which, however conceived, has from every angle been shown to fail in its essential purposes.
My right hon. Friend has taken upon his shoulders a very heavy responsibility in raising this question this morning, and in raising it in the manner in which he has raised it. The "Morning Post" has also taken upon itself a heavy responsibility, which may react very seriously against the Services in India and the men on the spot, in publishing what I shall show to be a confidential document, drawn up by three or four individuals, and not accepted either by the Bengal branch of the Central Civil Service Association or by the Central Civil Ser- vice Association itself. Some days ago, I was confidentially sent, not this document but extracts from it. As soon as I read the extracts, it appeared to me that they would be unlikely to be endorsed by either the Bengal branch or the central body of the Civil Service Association. As anybody who reads the document in the "Morning Post" will see, the style of the document bears, on the face of it, evidence of being a document drawn up by certain individuals but not likely to be approved by a responsible body like the Bengal branch or the Central Association.
As soon, however, as I received the extracts I at once telegraphed to the Governor of Bengal to ask him to give me information with reference to it, and Sir John Anderson's information con firmed my own surmise. Sir John Anderson tells me that the document published by the "Morning Post" was, so he understands, drawn up by three or four individuals. It was one of several drafts put eventually before the Bengal branch of the Indian Civil Service Association. It was not accepted by the branch nor was it accepted by the central organization of the Civil Service in India. The only document accepted by the branch was the document to which I referred in answer to a question by the hon. and gallant Member for Bourne- mouth (Sir H. Croft) yesterday, the document which I have actually put in the Library of the House. Hon. Members will see, when they compare that official document with this expression of individual opinion, that there is all the difference in the world between the two documents.
The only official expression of opinion by the Bengal branch or by the Central Association is contained in the document that I have put in the Library of the House, and I am not prepared to take into account the individual views of three or four officials when those views were not accepted by their service organizations, when in any case the document was a confidential document between themselves and their colleagues, when somehow or other, I know not how, that confidential document has got into the hands of my right hon. Friend and of the "Morning Post", and when I am quite sure that the very men who may have drawn up this confidential document and, I am even more sure, the members of the Civil Service Associations as a whole in India, will very much resent the publication of an individual confidential document of this kind, which is certain, which is as certain as anything can be, to stir up unnecessary bitterness against the Services in India and particularly against individual members of the Services in Bengal, where in any case they are faced with a very difficult problem. I therefore can only express my regret that my right hon. Friend has given countenance to what I believe to be, in the interests of the Services themselves, a very injurious act in publishing a confidential document of that kind.
Finally, I would say to the Committee that it does not represent the views either of the Bengal Association or of the Central Association. Their views are set out in the document which I have put in the Library. So far as the Services in India are concerned, they have throughout these discussions adopted the attitude that we should expect them to adopt. They have not interfered in questions of general policy, but, quite rightly, they have put before me, they have put before the Joint Select Committee, and they have put before the various Round Table Conferences their views on specific service points. That is perfectly justifiable, and I feel that I am expressing the general views of the Services when I say that they would regard it as improper, and not only as improper but unwise too, as Services, to express opinions either for or against the general policy of the Government.
I have no responsibility for publishing this document. I never heard of it, unlike the Secretary of State, until this morning, when I opened my morning newspaper, but I immediately saw its significance. The fact that it is a confidential document which has somehow or other now become available for the guidance of the public only adds, as the noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) pointed out in another connection, to its importance as affording guidance to the Committee, and I certainly take the responsibility of bringing before the Committee all pertinent matters which are made public and which seem to be necessary and essential for the formation of the opinion of the Committee upon the matters which are under discussion. To suggest that, because a revelation is made, because a lightning flash illumines a dark and doubtful landscape, no word of warning should ever be based upon such a revelation is too foolish. Since when has Parliament denied itself all sources of information which are placed at its disposal? On what ground am I to be told that I am giving countenance to this procedure or to what has been done, as was my right, when I bring it to the notice of the Committee? Is the right hon. Gentleman afraid that the Committee will take notice of it? I am sure he would not say that. Then it is obviously right, and, as I say, people must keep their secrets. If they allow their secret matters, whether they be Princes or civil servants, to pass into the public attention, so that they are printed by hundreds of thousands and scattered throughout the country, it is impossible to say that Parliament is prohibited from taking notice, that Parliament must go forward blindfold, as it were, While the real facts are disclosed elsewhere. So much on the personal point.
Nothing could be more legitimate and proper than my action in bringing this forward. If it were suggested that it was a fabrication and so forth, the Secretary of State would have disposed of it by saying so, and that would have been an advantage, because a misstatement would have been corrected. If, on the other hand, it is true, then it ought to be read by everybody who wants to know the truth and not merely by people who wish to continue on a false basis, pushing forward their policies on a basis which does not represent the actual facts which rule and the actual facts which should be before the Committee. I trust I did not give any suggestion to the Committee that this document in its present form was approved by the whole body of the Civil Service in India or by the Bengal Civil Service.
I am quite content to describe it as the basis, as it certainly is, on which the official memorial was framed. The time has been too short to make a meticulous examination of it clause by clause, but the substantive recommendations of this document in very many cases are embodied in the official memorial which has been placed in the Library.
I must interrupt my right hon. Friend. That is not the case. The only points mentioned in the Service memorial are connected with Service questions. They have nothing whatever to do with general policy, but my right hon. Friend is attacking us this morning on the basis of general policy.
But it is upon the general policy that this document is particularly informing, and the fact that Service recommendations which are put forward in this document find their repetition in the official memorial which has been sent forward shows the authority which lay behind those who were preparing the basis upon which the whole of the associations were to make their address to the Government. This was the working material out of which the report was to be presented. Naturally, the kind of expressions which I have read out here would not be sent up to the Government by a body of civil servants. Naturally, that would not be the form in which a memorial would be put forward. The roughnesses would be smoothed away, and instead of anything likely to give offence to their powerful superiors, smooth words would be put in wherever possible, but the fact that this was the basis and was prepared by responsible people in touch with the whole body working out the basis upon which the whole body would make its report invests this document with authority. So, by unexpected means, by means for which I take no responsibility whatever, except for bringing it before the Committee, we have become acquainted with widespread views throughout the Indian Civil Service which otherwise would have been veiled in silence and actually represented as approval of the policy of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman is quite entitled to make the answer he has made and to say that he can only deal with official matters which have been put before him, but I am clear that Parliament must study this matter and must weigh from the point of view of its authenticity and its consequences anything that is said in this most important, most revealing and most valuable document.
The Committee is in a little difficulty when a matter which has appeared in one newspaper is brought up. The right hon. Gentleman started off by saying that the country was now seized of it. The fact is that the whole country does not read the "Morning Post." Personally, I cannot afford to buy all the newspapers, and the "Morning Post" is one that I do not read first thing in the morning. Then we come here and have this brought up, and a discussion takes place on a number of statements made in a particular journal. If that is to happen very often, we had better have the "Morning Post" attached to the Blue Papers and sent out to Members. We are in a very difficult position. I have no knowledge of the substance of the remarks made in this document of which the right hon. Gentleman has been speaking. We have only his estimate as to its importance. We have not seen it. We do not know who are the people who wrote it or anything about them. On the other hand, those who have been on the Joint Select Committee have had representations made from all these various organisations, and we have to take what they gave as official evidence as standing until we get something official in contradiction.
There is a further point on this matter. We oppose this Bill from a different point of view from that of the right hon. Gentleman. We would never say that this House should be bound to accept the opinions of the Civil Service in India. We have to give very great weight to them, but neither this country nor India is governed by the opinions of the Civil Service. When we have a matter of this kind everybody knows that there are civil servants who take one view and civil servants who take another view, but I am bound to say that the right hon. Gentleman in his statement gave me the impression that this statement had been approved not only by the Bengal Branch, but by the Central Civil Service Association. If that be so, it makes it a serious matter because that is a great body of opinion. If, as a matter of fact, it is a couple of judges and two or three civil servants who have put their views forward—well, we have had the views of a couple of judges and civil servants on one side and another before and we have to weigh up one against the other. I certainly thought when the right hon. Gentleman moved to report Progress that this was a matter in which we had the opinion of the whole Civil Service. I suggest that he might have waited a day or two and given us an opportunity of seeing this statement if it is only a matter of private correspondence between two or three civil servants.
I only rise to make an appeal to my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) to spare us any further revelations. For 12 months now my right hon. Friend has come down from time to time to this House with some portentous revelation which appears somewhere or other in the public Press. Inspired by nothing but his stern sense of duty and nothing but a regard for the honour of this House and the future welfare of India, he comes forward and discovers, for instance, that Lord Derby and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State had been guilty of a crime and misdemeanour against the honour of this House and the authority of a Select Committee of Parliament. That was discovered to be a mare's nest.
So little was it a mare's nest that the facts were stated by the Prime Minister to be a matter on which no disagreement existed. So little was the procedure one which was a mare's nest that we have at this moment a committee sitting in order to repair breaches in procedure so as to escape from so-called mares' nests.
I repeat that in my view it was a pure mare's nest. The whole of the charges were dissipated into thin air. Then we had another great revelation about the Princes. I would say to my right hon. Friend, "Put not your trust in princes." We have now another revelation brought forward under the impression that here was the considered view, not only on Service questions, but on the whole of this measure, of the great Indian Civil Service, except perhaps a few people living on Olympian heights; and then, within five minutes, blown sky-high and shown to be an entirely unofficial production of a few individuals who, like others in this House, take a strong and partisan view. That revelation again is shown to be a mare's nest. All I rise to do is to suggest to my right hon. Friend that three times is enough. Enough is sufficient for a feast, and if he wants to make further use of these revelations, let him publish them in a new Book of Revelations with the sub-title "Epping Mares' Nests.
I rise to put a different point of view from that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery). I am concerned with the procedure of this House and the proper discussion of this part of the Bill which is now before us. From that point of view, I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) has ample justification for bringing this matter before the Committee. I understand that the. Secretary of State laid a document in the Library of the House for the inspection of Members. It was the last available authority on this important subject. It was only laid to-day, I understand, and none of us have had the time or opportunity to examine it. There is a very real and pertinent relation between the document in the Library and the publication in the Press this morning. They both relate to the same subject, and the publication in the Press certainly emphasises the weight and importance and the necessity of the document which has been placed in the Library by the Secretary of State.
May I submit one general consideration to the Committee? In this matter of the Civil Service we have a special and very weighty responsibility. The Civil Service has been engaged in its work in reliance upon the terms which have hitherto prevailed and which have had the sanction of Parliament and the whole authority of the Government behind them. We are now proposing changes which are very vital in this matter. No one will deny that serious changes are being made, and we ought to examine them in view of the responsibility of Parliament and this country to those who serve us well in order to see that the conditions of those changes are honourable and just to those for whom we have hitherto been responsible. Therefore, I submit that my right hon. Friend did quite right in calling attention to this matter, in view of the important document to which the Secretary of State has referred, and that we should be well advised to postpone further discussion on the status of the Civil Service until we have been able to examine all the latest information at our disposal. Meanwhile, I venture to say that greater importance attaches to the publication of the communication which appears in the "Morning Post" than the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook seems to think. He pours scorn upon everything with which he does not agree, but, after all, the case against his opinions deserves to be heard, and whatever there is in deserves to have full weight given to it before a, decision is taken.
I desire to raise a point of Order. I wish to ask how it is possible for the Committee to continue to consider a document, which is being more widely quoted in every speech, which is not officially before us, and from which it is not in order to quote. I respectfully ask you whether, if this discussion is to continue, you will waive the rule of the House which forbids one to read from a newspaper, in order to enable those of us who wish to take part in the discussion and who have not read the "Morning Post" to read it and to quote from it. I respectfully ask you whether we can discuss a document which is not officially before the House.
I think the Noble Lord will, on consideration, agree with me that the rule against reading newspapers in 'the House does not prohibit hon. Members from reading this particular newspaper in reference to the matter under debate. With regard to the other point, it would be beyond the scope of the debate to discuss the document in question in any detail. The only point which can be discussed on this Motion to report Progress is the short point that a certain document, the nature of which has been disclosed in the course of the debate, has appeared this morning, and the question whether, by reason of the appearance of that document, the Committee should resolve that I should report Progress or not.
I entirely accept your ruling, Sir Dennis, and I would venture to call the attention of the Committee to the fact that I have not committed any breach of Order, and it would have been better, I submit, if an old Member had been allowed to come to the point which he was putting before attention was called to a possible breach of the Rules of Order.
On that point of Order. I must really ask for the protection of the Chair. Every Member of this House is entitled to raise a point of Order. My point of Order was perfectly in order, and I do not think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has any reason to object to my intervention.
I submit that I have nothing to withdraw from the remarks which I ventured to make. The Noble Lord is sometimes over touchy in these matters. I do not want to delay the Committee, but I do submit that this is an important matter. The Secretary of State has told us that he has laid a paper in the library for our consideration. We have not had time to get access to that paper, have not had time to examine it—
Of course, I accept your ruling, but that question cannot be outside the mind of the Committee, although I may not pursue it further. I only venture to say, therefore, that I think my right hon. Friend had ample justification for the motion which he has moved, and that with due consideration of the weighty subjects which are raised and the great responsibility of this House we should be well advised to accept that Motion.
I understood from the press that it had come before the Bengal Civil Service in India, and I cannot imagine that it was sent home without some more authority behind it than that of five civilians who, as the right hon. Gentleman said, wrote the original document. I think it must have come before someone in India before being sent home. The right hon. Gentleman made some reference to possible serious consequences that might follow its publication. I hope that does not mean that disciplinary measures are to be taken.
Let me at once dispose of that question. When I said that it would have serious consequences in India I was not in any way suggesting disciplinary measures against anyone. What I did mean, and what I think, is that the publication of such views, expressed in the way in which they have been expressed, will create a great feeling of bitterness, I am afraid, against civilians in Bengal. I hope that will not be the case, but anyone who will read the expressions of opinion in this document will see how wildly, in many cases, the opinions are expressed, without any appearance of impartiality at all, and in such a way as to create the miximum of prejudice, quite undeservedly, against the Civil Service of the Province. It was on that account that I made my most serious protest against the disclosure of a document of this kind at all. My hon. and gallant Friend asked me whether the document came before the branch of the association or the association itself. I do not know whether it did. What I can say to him is that if it did come before the association it was rejected by the association.
I only wish to intervene because it appears to me, as it will appear to Members who have just come into the House, that there has been a considerable amount of confusion. Apparently, there has been some document which has come from the Bengal Association. I gather that the Secretary of State received it. Then yesterday we were informed that the official document was to be in the Library to-day. I presume I am entitled to refer to the official document without disclosing any confidence.
Thank you very much. I desire to point out to the Committee that, although I have not had time to see the article in the newspaper, except very cursorily, the whole of the official document which has been published and which is in the Library to-day, discloses the grave apprehension of the Civil Service in India.
The hon. and gallant Member must remember that I ruled just now that he must not discuss the document published in the Library, but only that on which this Motion was moved.
As we are about to proceed to deal with the whole of these vital questions concerning the Civil Service, is it not competent for us to discuss the official document which has now been laid before us and which deals with the very points which we are about to discuss? Would it not be advantageous to the Committee that this document should be referred to? I presume that hon. Members have not had time to read it. If hon. Members would search through that document, I would point out to them that in five minutes I have marked 10 passages which indicate immense apprehension. I submit that our whole discussion will be fruitless on the coming Clauses unless we are allowed to take cognisance of the fact that those apprehensions have been expressed in very grave language in the official document which the Secretary of State has published, and which has been assented to, so far as I can understand, by the Central Indian Civil Service Associations representing all the Provinces, and which therefore indicate the views of the Civil Service.
On that point of order. The hon. and gallant Member is of course entitled to refer to this document and it has indeed been referred to by most other members who have taken part in the Debate. My point is that although when a Motion to report. Progress is moved on account of the appearance of a particular document, we may discuss that particular document and also the effect which another document bearing upon the reason given for the Motion to report Progress, I do not think we may switch over with a view to considering whether we should report Progress because of some entirely different reason. That was my point. I do not want the hon. and gallant Gentleman to go into a discussion of the effect of the other document, which is not one that has come to light suddenly, because it was referred to in the Debate yesterday and is in the Library.
I am very grateful for your ruling, and I will not pursue the subject any further in view of what you have said other than to say that if Members of the Committee will read very carefully the document which is in the Library they will observe running all through it a note of apprehension which may be described in language different from what I understand the Secretary of State has complained of in another document, but which nevertheless bears out the statement that the whole of the Civil Service of India, contrary to what we have been told in the highest quarters, is anything but sympathetic to these reforms and is full of apprehension. When I say contrary to what we have been told in the highest quarters, I would add that I am convinced that any information which was given to this country was given innocently but that a wrong impression must have been conveyed to those in authority in this country by those in India, and we must take notice of that in dealing with these vital Clauses.
Duchess of ATHOLL:
May I make a brief reference to three points in the statement made by the Secretary of State? We are glad that when he referred to possible consequences of this publication, he had not in mind penalising anyone connected with the memorandum, but I cannot help feeling that what he said about the prejudice that might. be created is not likely to make that prejudice less. We do not want so encourage anybody to feel anything more than they might be inclined to feel. Finally, may I remind him that he does not appear to have read very carefully what appears in the "Morning Post" in regard to the approval given to this memorandum by the Bengal Indian Civil Service Association. It is clearly stated there, in black type, that the memorandum was endorsed by all but six out of 140 members of the association.
Duchess of ATHOLL:
I will pass from that question, but there is the statement. It is in the public press and there must be some evidence behind it. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman's information is incorrect. Anyhow, I would urge on the Committee that the main thing in any question affecting policy must be to get at the facts. As to whether anything is or is not likely to be a mare's nest is immaterial, compared with whether the policy of Parliament in matters of such tremendous importance as the future government of India and the conditions under which the Services will work, is or is not in accordance with the facts. It is above all necessary to take trouble to find out the facts when we are legislating for India. It is so difficult for any visitor to India to know what really are the conditions there, and many members who take part in the Debates must have felt the need for full and authoritative information on the matters which we have been debating. In regard to this question, more perhaps than any other that has come before us, we should spare no pains and risk any amount of ridicule from my right hon. Friend and others in order to try to arrive at the true facts.
When we consider the position of members of the Services in India, we have to recognise that they are not free to speak or to volunteer their opinion. They can only voice their opinions if they are asked officially to do so. It is a matter of great importance for us to understand whether they have been given full opportunity or not to voice their opinions on the proposals made by the Government. If hon. Members followed with any care the evidence which was laid before the Joint Select Committee, they will have seen that representatives of the Civil Service and of the police were strictly limited in the opinions they were allowed to express. Police witnesses before the Statutory Commission were asked their opinions of the transfer of the police force. The police witnesses before the Joint Select Committee were not allowed to express an opinion on that transfer, otherwise than as to the effect it would have on their own service and its conditions. It is perfectly clear that the Joint Select Committee were not willing to invite the views of civil servants or of the associations of civil servants on questions of policy involved in the proposals.
When a document is produced by even a section of the Civil Service, and a large majority of that Service in one very important Province, which, as I believe, sets forward their views not merely in regard to their own conditions of service but on the broader issues, it seems of very great importance, and we should be failing in our duty to the country, to our Imperial interests and to the people of India if we did not do everything we could to acquaint ourselves with the truth of these matters and as to the views of the Civil Service; more especially so as two years ago we had such categorical statements from the Secretary of State for India and the Lord President of the Council that they believed that they had the great mass of the civil servants of India behind them in this matter. In order to remove any doubts as to whether civil servants have been concerned in the publication of this memorandum, I wish to say to the Committee that I am authorised to state that this publication was made without the knowledge or consent of the Bengal Civil Service Association or of its representatives over here.
Duchess of ATHOLL:
I have not the faintest idea. I am going to say this further: I am able to confirm that as long ago as January it was not the intention of those responsible for the document that it should be published. A copy of the memorandum was sent to me. When I read the memorandum, or part of it, because it is a very long one and I had not the time to read the whole of it, I noticed that it contained some very strong expressions of opinion. It was not sent to me by anyone serving in India. When I saw that it contained very strong expressions of opinion—at least strongly expressed, because the opinions did not surprise me, as they were what I had heard before, but they were couched in very strong language—I wrote back and said "I suppose that this is not for publication," and I was assured that it was not. I therefore entirely believe that assurance given to me that this was published without the knowledge and consent of the civil servants concerned in India, or of their representatives here. I have not the faintest idea how it was published. I have not the document in my hand at the moment. My recollection is that I sent it on to someone else a month or two ago. I have been trying to find it among my papers this morning, but it is not there.
Duchess of ATHOLL:
I think I sent it to a. colleague when I w as in Scotland; that is my recollection; but it does not matter who he was so long as he has got it. What matters much more than the question of its publication or how it was published is whether there is any reason to believe that the views which it expresses so strongly really represent the views of any considerable body of Civil servants in India. I was not in the least surprised by what I read in it, because the views expressed confirmed what had been said to me by so many people. It is nearly three years since someone who had been serving in a very responsible position in Bengal said to me that his duties brought him into touch with practically all the Civil servants in the Province, both British and Indian, and that possibly five per cent. of them might be in favour of these proposals—that was just after the publication of the White Paper—but no more. At about the same time, an officer who had just retired from the headship of a department in another very important Province said to me that he, also, knew practically all the Civil servants in his Province, British and Indian, as he went about a great deal and was in the habit of discussing the Government proposals drawn up by the Round Table Conferences; and that, with regard in particular to the transfer of law and order, he could not remember a single Civil servant, British or Indian, who did not think that that would be madness. But they were not free to express their opinions, and they had not been invited to do so.
Therefore, I submit that a question of very great importance has been raised by my right hon. Friend. I admit at once that there are phrases in this memorandum which are not suitable for publication; I said so in my first few sentences. But do not let us blind ourselves to the necessity of trying to get at the facts, and, in particular, of trying to get the views of the only men who really know this question; and the only men who really know it are the men who have spent long years of service in India, and who, from their knowledge of that country, its people, languages and customs, are really able to say how these proposals are going to work. I feel that I must say again what I ventured to say before-that I think all these debates have been conducted in an atmosphere of unreality, of failure to realise how enormously the conditions in India differ from those in this country. I therefore beg the Committee to take the trouble to acquaint itself more fully with the views of the Civil servants as expressed in this memorandum, in the memorial published yesterday, and in other ways, before proceeding with the discussion of these very important problems.
It seems to me that two matters arise in this discussion—first, the attitude of the Civil servants in India with respect to their personal and private interests; and, secondly, the attitude of the Civil servants with regard to policy. It seems to me that no one in any quarter of the House would question or cavil at the exercise by the Civil servants of their right to examine how these proposals will affect their private interests, and I, for one, am prepared to receive any information that may be available as to how the Civil servants in India regard these proposals from the standpoint of the effect upon their private financial and other interests. I think that so far we are all agreed. But, with regard to the larger issue that emerges in this discussion, I think it is time that a question should be raised. What is the point of all this discussion? Is it claimed that, because the Civil servants in India differ from the policy embarked upon by the Government, this Bill, therefore, is to be held up, whether the Bill be good or bad? This is a fairly important question—
The whole point is that it has been claimed that the Civil servants were overwhelmingly in favour of the Government's policy. That has been repeatedly claimed, and it is because of the evidence that there is to the contrary that we have raised this question.
I can understand the point that the right hon. Gentleman makes, but it seems to me to be an argument in favour of rejecting the Bill on Third Reading rather than of moving to report Progress at this particular stage. The only case for reporting Progress here and now must surely be on the first issue, namely, as to how these proposals affect the personal interests of the Civil servants. If that issue were raised in this document, and that issue only, I could understand a Motion to report Progress, but on the larger issue, I think it is childish. The question is a fundamental one. Is it going to be argued in this Committee that, whenever a Bill is propounded in the House of Commons, the Civil servants of the country are to be asked their opinion; and, if they disagree, is the Bill to be held up? That seems to me to be the whole argument. The right hon. Gentleman, at one part of his speech, seemed to imply that, because the Civil servants were reacting unfavourably to the policy involved in the Bill, therefore we were to hold up the progress of the Bill. I am prepared to grant to the Civil servants, as I am to other subjects, the right to express their views upon any matter of public policy, but I deny absolutely the claim that the Civil servants in India should be able to say, because they disagree with the proposals of the Bill, that therefore the Bill must be held up. I reject absolutely any such claim, and I believe that the House must put its foot down firmly upon a proposition such as that. We are the people to determine what is to be passed by the House and what is not to be passed by the House. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, I take violent objection to many parts of the Bill, but on this matter I must be firm with my colleagues in the House. We must not allow Civil servants in any part of the country to dictate to us what should be the policy followed by the House of Commons.
The Noble Lady the Member for West Perth (Duchess of Atholl) said it was very necessary for every Member of the House to try to inform himself as to the real truth and as to the views of people in India, particularly of Members of the Civil Service. I have been either in correspondence or in conversation during the last few months with a retired judge from Bengal and a retired police officer who has 20 years' experience in another part of India, and they hold views diametrically opposite to those of the Noble Lady. I shall be very glad to put her in touch with them if she would like to find out what their views are. It has been the habit lately in the House rather to ridicule anyone who attempted to inform himself on this subject by actually going out to India and asking the people their views on the spot. It was always assumed that anyone who did that would be immediately "nobbled" by those who live on Olympian heights, and that his views would therefore be framed entirely upon what he heard in such quarters—
Duchess of ATHOLL:
May I remind my hon. and gallant Friend of what I said on the Second Reading? I said that the civil servants were not allowed to express their opinions, and that I had been informed that they were particularly shy of talking to Members of Parliament who went out there. The document confirms exactly what I said on Second Reading.
Not only did I meet those dwelling on Olympian heights in India, but members of all Services, old and young, sonic in high positions and some who had just gone out there, some who were about to retire, others who had retired. I can quite understand that if Members of Parliament of the distinction of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox), or, indeed, the noble lady herself, went out to India, some of these civil servants might be slightly frightened about expressing their true views to such important people, but I cannot flatter myself that they would consider my influence, either here or anywhere else, of such weight and importance that they would not speak their minds frankly 'and openly to me. I think it is a reflection on the intelligence of members of the Civil Service in India to suggest such a deplorable lack of courage in private conversation with people they have known all their lives, that they are frightened of expressing their own views on a question of this kind. I ask why those who took the same opportunity as I did to go to India did not hear on all sides these views which we are told exist among civil servants in India to-day, these grave anxieties and this consideration not only about the future of India but about their own interests as well. We did not hear them because they did not exist.
I will not deny that it is quite possible to find to-day members of the Civil Service in India who are anxious about the future of India. Who is not anxious about the future of India? I perfectly appreciate that they have every right to, and indeed should, represent their views to the Secretary of State and anyone else. It is only in justice to themselves, and, indeed, it is really commonsense that they should examine with the greatest possible care what the conditions are going to be, and that they should express their anxiety through the proper channels. Of course, these officials have expressed their anxiety, but, on the whole, I found that they had complete confidence in the Secretary of State to look after the interests of the Service, and to safeguard their conditions in the future; and, as regards general policy, it is almost universally known that the Government's proposals were the best possible solution for a highly complex problem.
I want, first of all, to record my profound disagreement with the opinions expressed by the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones). I do not think that many Members of this House have anything like the knowledge of India that they have of this country, and, therefore, to draw any parallel between the weight which should be attached to the opinions of the Civil Service in India and the weight which should be attached to the opinions of the Civil Service in England, seems to me ridiculous. I am absolutely at one with the Noble Lady. If I thought for a moment that a majority, or even a respectable proportion of the Civil Service in India was profoundly at variance with the policy of His Majesty's Government, I should be in the same Lobby as the Noble Lady every time. As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chippenham (Captain Cazalet) said, it is becoming the fashion on that side of the House to sneer at hon. Members who have tried to find out the facts on the spot. Again I am entirely at one with the Noble Lady. I think that the facts are the only things that matter, and that it is very regrettable if ever there has been a factious opposition or factious support of the Government. Very humbly, I want to put before the Committee what were the impressions left on my mind after three short months in India. I do ask the House to believe that I went there with an open mind, and with an honest wish to find out the truth.
Perhaps my hon. and gallant Friend will allow me to continue. As a matter of honest fact, I must confess I should rather have liked to have come back a die-hard. In common with most Englishmen, I rather like being in a minority. I found, however, that there was just as great variety of opinion among Englishmen in India on the subject of reforms as there is in England-exactly the same variety. There were people who, without thinking much about the matter, said that it was all very lovely. There were people who were in favour of the reforms. There were people who did not think much either way. There were die-hards quite as much in India as in England. There were people who loath politicians and suspect everything that comes from Westminster or Whitehall. But the difference was this. The people in India were, and are, face to face with the situation as it actually exists, and they have got to face the future and carry on the burden and responsibility of the administration and government of India in the future. I ask the Committee to believe one more thing, namely, that I did not by any means confine myself to what my hon. and gallant Friend called the Olympians. There were many people in the Civil Service and elsewhere who had been at Oxford and school with me. There were people in the country as well as in the towns, administrators in the districts as well as administrators in the secretariat. The question I put to them was not so much "Do you think the Government's policy is the right and wise policy for the future development of India?"—
I would not describe it as a Second Reading speech, but I was awaiting the opportunity of asking the hon. Member to relate what he is saying to the Motion immediately before the Committee, and the question whether we should adjourn as the result of the production of this particular document. We must not allow the Debate to develop on the general lines suggested by the hon. Member's remarks.
I must apologise if I have strayed too far, but it is a difficult subject to confine within narrow limits. I was trying to relate my remarks on the basis of the opinion of serving officers in India with special reference to the document referred to this morning. I was saying that if one asks civil servants in India their opinion as to the general trend of policy, you get a wide variety of answers. The question I asked was always, "If you were a Member of Parliament in my place, would you support or oppose the Government policy?" That, after all, is the question that every hon. Member has to ask himself—shall it be the aye lobby or the no lobby? The answer I got in every case, except one, from members of the Civil Services and other Services, was this.
I am very sorry. I did not mean to transgress, but surely the question before the Committee is whether we shall adjourn because the general feeling of the Civil Service in India is that these proposals are disastrous.
No, I think the hon. Member is quite wrong. It is a question whether we should report Progress on account of the appearance of a particular document to which reference has been made. Up to a point no doubt it is quite legitimate to discuss how far that may be regarded as the opinion of an important or unimportant or a large or small body of persons.
That was what I was trying to do. I was speaking of my own experience in the last few months. I will, however, try to keep within your ruling, but I find myself in great difficulty. From the answers I have received from the very men who are alleged to be represented in this document, as I have said, a certain school of thought think that the Government are on the right lines, that it is in the true English and historic tradition, and that it is normal development. What is far more interesting to me is the point of view of what I call, without meaning to be rude, the diehard mentality in India. They all said, with one exception, that, having got so far you have got to go through with it. "Having taken these steps you will land us into the most frightful difficulties and dangers in India if you subsequently reject the reforms." Steps were taken long ago, certainly before I had anything to do with politics, which have made the present policy of the Government the only policy that can possibly be adopted. I am convinced that if the noble Lady—I refer to her because no one in the Committee can doubt her burning sincerity on this question, and this is my honest and sincere opinion—had taken the trouble or had been able to spare the time to reinforce her vast erudition on this subject by an actual visit to India and an honest inquiry among civil servants in India she would have come back, however reluctantly, with the same views as those which I hold. That is my honest con- viction. Hon. Members who vote against the Government on this policy may, perhaps rightly, sneer at people with a very slight knowledge of India, but I think we on this side of the Committee are equally entitled to question the validity of the opinions of people who have never been to India in their lives.
There is an atmosphere of unreality about this discussion. We supposed to be discussing the reason why we should report progress because of the paper before us, but what is really underlying the discussion is: What is the opinion of the Indian Civil Service with regard to the Bill? and it is not possible to develop this question fully according to your ruling, Sir Dennis Herbert. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chippenham (Captain Cazalet) and my hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Mr. G. Nicholson) have given very fully the results of their visits to India and the opinion that they heard expressed by member of the Civil Service, and I take it that I am free, at any rate, to refer to the three sources of knowledge that we have here with regard to the feelings of the Civil Service in India with regard to this Bill. We have the evidence that was given before the Joint Select Committee, and, when you read between the lines of that evidence, it is impossible to avoid the conviction that the Civil Service of India is greatly disquieted with regard to the Government of India Bill. We have the Memorial which was presented to the Secretary of State a few days ago, and now we have the document which we are at present discussing, and which appeared in one of the morning papers, the authenticity of which we have no reason to doubt, but which has been described by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) as a mare's nest.
Yes, the revelation of the document quoted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) as a mare's nest; and he recalled, as an instance of the propensity of the right hon. Gentleman to discover mares' nests, the matter which was referred to a Committee of Privileges. With regard to that, we were told that, while the White Paper was being considered by the Joint Select Committee, it was sub judice, but in order to arrive at the decisions they arrived at, the Committee of Privileges had to declare that the Joint Select Committee was not a judicial committee; and there is now a committee sitting to disentangle the matter. The impression one gets on reading the document to which reference has been made this morning is that it was drawn up by men who were really anxious and disquieted and who made notes which were not intended for publication, but which found their way into the public press. Those notes were the foundation of the memorial which was presented to the Secretary of State. The impression which is left on my mind by the whole of the evidence and the literature with regard to the Indian Civil Service is that it is profoundly disquieted. Its attitude towards the Bill is of very great importance. We are realists, or ought to be realists in this matter. We ought to judge this matter on facts, and the opinion of the Indian Civil Service is of vast importance. We have to realise in our discussions that that feeling of disquiet and anxiety exists and that it is grave and deep, and the Government would do well to take full and grave note of it.
I want briefly to make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). When he gets hold of what may possibly be a perfectly legitimate Committee point he always renders a dispassionate examination of that point perfectly impossible by mixing it up with his general feeling against the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman appears to me to be carrying out two separate functions, both perfectly legitimate. First to offer general opposition to the provisions of the Bill in which he performs, in some respects, a very useful role, and secondly, his object is to improve the details of the Bill. But it seems to me that he invariably vitiates and spoils his second objective by mixing it up with the first. Take the actual issue which we are discussing now. In support of the Motion to report Progress he must of necessity, as did the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft), drag in general considerations merely for the purpose of creating prejudice and not having any possible relation to the subject under discussion. I will give an example. He said that this shows that the Civil Service as a whole—I am paraphrasing his words—has exactly the same rooted objections to the principles of this Bill as have the Princes. The first is a matter of opinion and the second statement has been disproved.
At least that is arguable. If the right hon. Gentleman really wants to improve the Bill and not to stultify himself in that respect and not to do an injustice to himself or those whose cause he takes up he should not overstate cases which however important in themselves are nothing more than Committee points.
As an old member of the Indian Civil Service I should like to make a few observations. I received the document which has been published in the "Morning Post." I received it somewhere about the middle of January, and I think I received it from the Noble Lady the Member for Perthshire West (Duchess of Atholl). That document is still reposing in a drawer somewhere, and I have taken no action upon it except to ask certain persons who represent the Civil Service what those who had written the note expected one to do. Of course, it was strictly confidential, and it was certainly not likely that I should want to give them away, because it reached me from a source of which they would probably know nothing. I read the memorandum and there were passages in it which were somewhat amusing. It was obviously not a document which could be sent on as a memorial, because it would be thrown out at the very first reading on the ground of being couched in very disrespectful language. That would have been its fate immediately. It was impossible as a memorial itself and I asked those who represented the Service to ascertain whether the Association was preparing a memorial which could be submitted in the ordinary way to the Secretary of State through the Governor or the Governor-General. I received information that they were preparing such a memorandum.
What I read into the communication, which was expressed in bitter language, was that it was the real opinion of those who had read it that they would under the new regime be the toad beneath the harrow. It is no use our being the butterfly on the wheel and preaching contentment to the toad beneath the harrow. It has been borne in upon me from letters I have received from relatives of people who are serving in India, sometimes from parents and wives that they make it clear that there is a great dread over the whole of India about speaking one's opinion freely. That dread is not so much a dread of the powers that be now but a dread, as the time draws near for this Bill and Constitution to come into operation, of what they say being repeated to anyone else, and their name transpiring. They have a dread of how they will be treated by the powers that will be when the Act comes into operation.
Does the hon. Member really say that men in the Services who were at Oxford or at school with me, were afraid to tell me—a not very important, alarming or impressive person—their true opinions?
I do not know what confidences were expressed to my hon. Friend. I am only judging from the evidence of people who write home and from communications that are sent to me, and I only know that great apprehensions are expressed lest it should be known that they have communicated certain sentiments and that their names should be known. As regards what my hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Mr. G. Nicholson) has been saying, I know very well that there are a lot of people who say: "We are now so committed by the statements that have been made by high authorities in India and high authorities at home that for good or ill you had better go on with it." But there is no enthusiasm about it. That is all that I desire to say at the moment.
I have not had the privilege, like some hon. Members, of having been to India, but I have with other hon. Members a great regard for the Civil Service of this country and the Civil Service in India. It is very difficult for me in listening to the Debate to assess whether the Civil Service in India in general or a few members of it in particular are satisfied with the present Bill. I have to accept the statement made by the Secretary of State, who is in a position to obtain more authentic information than anyone else. I perceive in this Debate an important matter of principle. I wonder whether the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) if a Bill came before this House that concerned a distinct section of the community of this country, for instance, the miners, would be prepared to consider the opinion of miners as having as much to do with the subject as he is prepared to give to the Civil Servants in India, in view of the document that has been published in a newspaper? Does he think that Parliament has to consider the weight of opinion of a given section of the community to such an extent as to justify the withdrawal of a Bill?
A Motion to report Progress is not a Motion to withdraw a Bill. It is a Motion to delay the proceedings while further consideration is given to some aspect of the matter. I am quite in favour of consulting the miners on a matter connected with the mining industry.
When the right hon. Gentleman was speaking he certainly did use the phrase that if the publication of this particular document was authentic and that it was the considered opinion of the majority of the Civil servants in India that that in itself was a justification for the withdrawal of the Bill. I feel certain that on reflection he would not take up that attitude. A Bill once presented to Parliament should not be withdrawn if one section of the community expresses an opinion antagonistic to its contents, otherwise Parliament will merely express the opinion of a given section of the community. The Cabinet, the Executive would have no authentic powers. It would at all times have to submerge itself to sectional opinion. I protest against that. It would seem to me from the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman on the last occasion when he moved to report Progress, and on this occasion that he is acting as a very good advertising agent for the "Morning Post." Whenever the "Morning Post" can find something which seems to be alarming in order to increase its circulation the right hon. Gentleman comes down to the House, makes a forensic speech full of logic, a speech which of course we all enjoy, but which, nevertheless, is still the "Morning Post." The sum and substance of the Debate is that something has been published in the "Morning Post," not in the public Press— the public is not seized of the knowledge in the "Morning Post"—and I think it is really high time that the "Morning Post" should seek some other publicity agent rather than the right hon. Gentleman.
I must take exception to the closing words of the hon. Member. I am not in any way connected with the "Morning Post," and I do not think that the hon. Member meant to suggest that I have any connection with the paper or any connection which should stand between me and the discharge of my Parliamentary duties. I hope he will make that clear.
I am sure that the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) has no personal connection with "Morning Post," except during the time of the general strike when he brought up its circulation to over the million mark at the expenditure of a certain amount of money. I have not had an opportunity of studying this portentous document until I came to the House but, having got a copy and having listened to the Secretary of State's speech, I confess that I find it rather difficult to reconcile the statement in the document and the right hon. Gentleman's speech. The Secretary of State gave us the impression that the document was the work of four or five individuals and had not obtained the assent of any Civil Service association, indeed that it had been rejected. In the introduction to the document it says that the note was prepared by the Bengal Civil Service Association, was unanimously accepted by the committee of the association and was subsequently endorsed by all but six of the 140 members of the Bengal Civil Service Association. It also says that it was then sent to other associations who, I gather, objected to the form in which it was drafted, it was not quite in Parliamentary form, and that from the note they compiled the memorandum which is now in the Secretary of State's hands. That is altogether a different thing from a note compiled by a few individuals which has no backing at all, and I think the Committee should be informed of the real situation in regard to this document. Either the Committee is being misinformed by the "Morning Post," or else has been misinformed by the Secretary of State, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to clear up the matter when he replies, otherwise the Committee will have good reason for accepting the motion to report Progress. We shall not be able to carry on with the subsequent clauses of the Bill unless we know the real weight of opinion behind this note amongst the civil servants in India.
I should like to reinforce the remarks of the noble lord the Member for Bristol Central (Lord Apsley). Early in the debate the Secretary of State was asked by the hon. and gallant Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox) whether the Bengal Civil Service had been approached in regard to this document. His answer was that he did not know whether the document had been circulated to the Bengal Civil Service representatives or not, but that if it had been it must certainly have been rejected by them. That seems to me to be a very curious answer. After all, the right hon. Gentleman does not know whether the members of the Civil Service in Bengal have been circularised and it is therefore impossible for him to say that they have rejected it. From what appears in the "Morning Post" to-day it is obvious that a document of this character must have been circulated to a considerable number of people otherwise there would be no object in the document being produced. If it has been circulated amongst the Bengal Civil Service and they have not complained against it to the representatives of the Secretary of State, then it would appear, on the face of it, that it is more than likely that the "Morning Post" is correct and that the document was accepted by a very large number of the people among whom it was circulated. That is a point which I think the Committee has a right to ask should be considered more closely. If it is true that a large number of Civil. Servants in Bengal and elsewhere are in favour of the proposals in this document it will make a material difference to the position as it affects the Bill. We think that the position should be further considered and that the Secretary of State ought to be in a position at a later date to tell us whether the document does represent the serving interests in Bengal or not.
The whole matter has arisen largely on account of what was said by the Lord President of the Council that practically the whole of the Civil Service in India were behind the Bill. That had a tremendous effect upon the Committee. If the Lord President of the Council was misinformed, if it is true that there is a large section in Bengal who are bitterly opposed to many of its provisions, it is manifestly absurd to go forward dealing with Amendment after Amendment connected with clauses affecting the civil service to which they object, that is, if this document truly reflects their opinions. It is all very well for the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. G. Nicholson) and the hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham (Captain Cazelet) to tell us about their personal experiences in India. They may have been interesting but we are dealing with questions which will affect the whole of the Bengal Civil Service-not a few vague members who may have been interviewed by a few Members of Parliament. The hon. Member for Morpeth said that he went out there with an open mind. He may have done so, but it is rather curious that he was the sole 'supporter of the original White Paper at the Conservative Party conference which was held a few months before he went to India.
The hon. Member himself is now vague. What he must be referring to is the Conservative Party Conference at Blackpool in 1932. I do not quite remember whether I moved or. seconded a resolution, but this is what I said, and I stand by it still. I said that a Conservative Party conference was not a competent body to decide on the future of India. I said that it was the policy of the Government whether we liked it or not, of the India Office, of the Central Government and of each Provincial Government, and that as I read history it was the logical course, that, in fact, we were committed to a certain line of policy by people who knew all about India.
If the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) is suggesting that I am telling an untruth when I said that I went to India with a mind completely free to consider all the evidence, I could discover for myself and with an honest intention to make up my mind on that evidence—if he is saying I am a liar—
Personal references to hon. Members cannot possibly be avoided in a debate of this kind and when they are made the hon. Member referred to has a perfect right to answer. I must ask the Committee, however, not to branch off from the debate into a debate on the conduct of one or more hon. Members.
The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth would, I am sure, never even imply that anyone was telling an untruth, but he is in fact implying that because I told a Conservative party conference that they had no option but to back up their own leaders I am incapable of honestly considering evidence which I found out for myself in India. I protest very strongly against this insinuation.
I do not wish to pursue the matter further. The hon. Member for Morpeth has given his idea of what he considers an open mind. Whether anybody else would consider their minds open in like circumstances I do not know. I leave it at that. I should like to make a protest against the way in which certain hon. Members have accused my right hon. Friend of introducing prejudice by raising this Motion to report Progress. There is no question of prejudice at all. It is our duty. New facts have come out; possible facts have appeared this morning. My right hon. Friend called attention to them and those who want to avoid these new facts are themselves blinded by prejudice and are not prepared to face the issue which we have to face at the present time. I do ask the Secretary of State once more to consider whether it is not in the interests of the Government and of the Committee that the question of this new document should be more closely considered to discover whether it does represent the full force of the Civil Service of Bengal and whether it would not be advisable in the interests of the Government that they should hold up proceedings until they know whether the Civil Service have passed it in this form or not.
We have had no answer from the Secretary of State to the question which was addressed very directly to him by the Noble Lord. It is quite true, so far as I am concerned, that the expression "covering letter" was not an accurate description. In defence of that, I must point out that I passed the greater part of the morning reading the publication and that I have had very little time since it appeared—I never knew about the matter until this morning—to couch the actual statement in the appropriate terms. But if I say that expression was incorrect, I do less than justice to the actual fact, because as the Noble Lord has pointed out it is definitely stated here, on the authority of this particular newspaper, that this document was approved unanimously by the committee of the Bengal Civil Service Association and that it was subsequently endorsed' by the 140 members of the Association. The Secretary of State made no answer to that, except that in an earlier statement he said that it was not accurate. We ought to know whether it is accurate or not and whether he gets proper information on the matter, because it makes art enormous difference if it is only two or three people, and the moment the. Association saw it they objected. That is the impression he gave. We ought to know quite definitely whether these statements are correct or not. If he says he is not properly informed on the matter, will he make the further inquiries that are necessary? Here are quite definite statements which are based upon authentic information. I never heard about this matter until to-day. It appears that some of my colleagues heard about this document a long time ago and the Secretary of State apparently knew of it days ago. Here is a definite statement. The Secretary of State ought to say where he now stands in the matter, and I do not think we ought to come to a division without an answer.
I have very little to add to what I said at the beginning of the debate, but perhaps I can repeat it with greater detail. My information is that this was one of, I think, several drafts made in the early stages of discussions about the Bill by members of the Bengal branch, that it was sent round to members of the branch and my information goes to show that it was not accepted, as the noble lord stated, by all but six members of the branch. My information goes to show that it was not accepted, and I am definitely authorised by the Governor of Bengal to say that the memorandum that I have laid in the Library of the House is the only authoritative and representative document. I think that is sufficient and that the Committee will say that this is the only authoritative and representative document before them. My right hon. Friend says "Not at all". Does he mean to suggest that we ought to take into account every draft that was made, every stage in the preparation of a document of this kind, and that we ought to ignore the authorised document approved by the branch itself, and supported by the Central Association? If he takes that view, I entirely disagree with him. I say to the Committee that the only document before them is the document a copy of which is in the Library of the House, a document, as the Committee will see, that raises no question of general policy, but, with the exception of one allusion to terrorism to which I referred yesterday in the House, deals as it should, with Service points-Service points that have already been before the Joint Select Committee and the India Office and in regard to every one of which there is an Amendment upon the Order Paper, showing that we are going to discuss all these Service points and give them our full attention and sympathetic treatment. I myself have put down more than one Amendment dealing with them, and the Committee can rest assured that there is not a single one that will be ignored in our discussion. That being so, I suggest that much the best course for the Committee is to return to the discussion of these Service points, to take only into account the official document of the branches of the Civil Service Associations and to ignore these disclosures, whatever they may be worth of from whatever source they may have come, only expressing our regret that action should have been taken which I am quite sure is undeservedly going to prejudice the Service in Bengal.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend has given the House the full information in his possession, but there is a perfectly clear and plain conflict of testimony as to the amount of support that this document, which has been disclosed, enjoys amongst the Civil Servants of Bengal, and as to how much it represents their opinion. My right hon. Friend must not suggest that I have said that we should ignore the official memorial. Certainly not. We should take that into consideration too. But in reading that memorial we should also be guided by the extremely valuable light that is thrown upon it by this document. There is a clear conflict of testimony. The right hon. Gentleman has given his side of the question, but there is the other side also. Personally, without in the slightest degree throwing any aspersions on the right hon. Gentleman's bona fides, that he gave his information upon the facts presented to him, I still feel that there is a great body of Indian Civil service opinion behind the doubts and anxieties expressed in this document, and that it is a new fact which is brought to our notice, showing what is going on behind the scenes in the service in a way that a formal document would never have done; and this new fact fully justifies us in asking that the Chairman should report Progress in order that the whole position. may be reviewed upon these Civil service clauses. I am therefore not able to withdraw my Motion.
Duchess of ATHOLL:
The source of it is one that is extremely well-informed. I will give the facts and the Committee can judge for themselves. I understand that the memorandum was circulated to all members of the Bengal Civil Service Association with an intimation that if it represented their views it was not necessary for them to write and say so. Replies were not received from the great majority. There were a few both of dissent and of approval. The paper was sent out with a clear intimation that if it was approved it was not necessary for members to write and say so, but an answer was requested if a member wished to express dissent. As I say, there were extremely few replies in dissent, and therefore the presumption is that the members who received this document, being intelligent men and experienced men, fully capable of understanding it, approved of the document. They were in the vast majority.
I look upon this debate as a travesty of Parliamentary government. We have had the Barebones Parliament, the Long Parliament, and other Parliaments. This Parliament will be known as the Churchill Parliament. It is about time we made some protest against the waste of time that is caused by raising points of order or moving to report progress on practically every day of the week. What is going to happen later on when some of us attempt to
|Division No. 144.]||AYES.||[1.12 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Donner, P. w||Keyes, Admiral Sir Roger|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Knox, Sir Alfred|
|Burnett, John George||Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||McConnell, Sir Joseph|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Everard, W. Lindsay||Reid, David D.(County Down)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Remer, John R.|
|Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
I raise my protest. I have sat here all this morning and most of the time during these debates, and whether I am right or wrong I am voicing my own personal view. It is a sheer waste of time by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and the Government ought to show more courage in the matter. If they want to get the Bill through let them tell him what they intend to do, and fight him.
Really this is a most unprovoked attack. I am exercising parliamentary liberties which are of value to minorities and which I hope will be preserved to other Parliaments besides this. The procedure which we have adopted is going forward in the regular manner. The debate this morning has acquired a great deal of interest. Many Members have taken part in it. Matters of this kind should not be ruled out in a sort of Cromwellian way. "Take away that bauble" and that kind of spirit are more suited to the worst dictatorship in Europe than to a free debating assembly. I hope that the leaders of the Opposition will pass a little more education in parliamentary procedure to their unruly and intemperate and arrogant follower on the back bench. At any rate, as long as we have rights and liberties in this House we shall certainly use them as we think fit and in the way best calculated to bring out the real issues which govern the legislation under consideration.
|Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)||Wayland, Sir William A.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A. (P'dd'gt'n, S.)||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)||Mr. Lennox-Boyd and Mr. Ralkes.|
|Thorp, Linton Theodore||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||George, Major G. Lloyd(Pembroke)||Petherick, M.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Glossop, C. W. H.||Potter, John|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Apsley, Lord||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro'.W.)||Pybus, Sir John|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Grimston, R. V.||Radford, E. A.|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Groves, Thomas E.||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Banfield, John William||Grundy, Thomas W.||Ratcliffe, Arthur|
|Batey, Joseph||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Blinded, James||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Bossom, A.C.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Hamilton, Sir R.W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Harvey, Major Sir Samuel (Totnes)||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Helloers, Captain F. F. A.||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Butler, Richard Austen||Hope, Capt. Hon. A.O. J. (Aston)||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Samuel, M. R. A. (W'ds'wth, Putney).|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Sandys, Duncan|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Selley, Harry R.|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Smithers, Sir Waldron|
|Cayazer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Somervell, Sir Donald|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||John, William||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Clarke, Frank||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Ker, J. Campbell||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland)|
|Clayton, Sir Christopher||Kirkpatrick, William M.||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Law, Sir Alfred||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Cooke, Douglas||Leckie, J. A.||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Copeland, Ida||Lewis, Oswald||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Thorne, William James|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Lloyd, Geoffrey||Tree, Ronald|
|Daggar, George||Loftus, Pierce C.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Davidson. Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Wallace, Captain D, E. (Hornsey)|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Mabane, William||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Davies, Stephen Owen||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.|
|Denville, Alfred||McEntee, Valentine L.||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||McLean, Major Sir Alan||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Dickie, John P.||Magnay, Thomas||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour|
|Dobble, William||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||West, F. R.|
|Doran, Edward||Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Edge, Sir William||Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Wilmot, John|
|Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Molson, A. Hugh Eisdale||Windsor-Cilve, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Fermoy, Lord||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Fox, Sir Gifford||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties)||Womersley, Sir Walter|
|Fraser, Captain Sir Ian||Nation, Brigadler-General J. J. H.||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Fremantle, Sir Francis||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Fuller, Captain A.G.||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Galbraith, James Francis Wallace||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Sir George Penny and Dr. Morris-Jones|
|Ganzonl, Sir John||Patrick, Colin M.|
|Gardner, Benjamin Walter||Percy, Lord Eustace|
Amendment proposed [3rd April]: In page 122, line 15, at the end, to insert the words:
If the sterling value of the rupee should at any time fall below one shilling and sixpence, any such person as aforesaid shall be entitled to receive from the revenues of the Federation or, as the case may be, from the revenues of a Province in respect any
payment of salary falling due to him at such time an additional sum equivalent to the difference between the sterling value of such salary at the date of payment, and the sterling value of such salary calculated at the rate of one shilling and sixpence to each rupee."—[Mr. D. D. Reid.]
I wish to urge the Under-Secretary to give favourable consideration to this Amendment. There have been several occasions on which the depreciation of currencies has adversely affected British officers serving in the countries concerned. There is one case which is not a matter of personal recollection with me because it occurred before I was born, when the transfer from sterling to dollars in the Colony of Hong Kong was followed by a very rapid depreciation in the value of the Chinese dollar which had a very serious effect not only on the incomes but on the pensions of serving officers there. There is a more recent case which will be within the memory of the Committee, namely, that of the transfer which took place in East Africa from the rupee to the shilling. In some cases officers derived considerable benefit from the stabilisation of the rupee at 2s., but in other cases they were adversely affected. In this matter we should, if we can do so, protect officers, particularly British officers, from any possible adverse effect of the Federal currency policy.
It is no disgrace to the Federal currency Board or whatever the body may he, to say that it may depreciate the rupee. Whatever may be said by my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. D. M. Mason) the depreciation of the pound sterling has in fact been of considerable benefit in this country and it is quite possible that in India it may be found necessary to do the same sort of thing. It is likely that a Government which has been securing a comparatively favourable balance of trade only by a steady export of gold during the last three years, may have to indulge in some form of currency depreciation. I do not think it would be fair to compel India to put its currency permanently on sterling if it does not wish to do so, but I think that officers from this country who, on retirement, will come back to live in this country and who have to keep their families in this country, ought to be protected against any adverse effect arising from Indian currency policy. It is true that if the value of the rupee appreciated, they would derive consider- able benefit but in these days it is almost inconceivable to think of any currency gaining in value. There seems to be a race in depreciation and, therefore, I do not think that point arises. I hope my hon. Friend will be able to give some assurance that the Government will do something about this, possibly on the Report stage.
I can understand the motives of those who have moved this Amendment but I wonder what will be its precise effect. I take, very largely, the view which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spark-brook (Mr. Amery) advanced last night. It would be fair, J. think, to compensate the civil servant in respect of any loss that might come about through the depreciation of the sterling value of the rupee in respect of any sums that he transfers from India to this country. There, I think, is a case for compensation, but if you do not limit it to that little category of payments, but spread it over the whole field of his salary, there must be a consequential effect. Would it not mean that if you applied it over the whole field of salary, you would have to apply it not only to the British members of the civil service, but to the Indians as well? If, therefore, my hon. Friends opposite are only thinking of safeguarding the British section of the service because of the additional expenses incurred in this country, you should do it by limiting it to that side of the payments, but if you applied it over the whole of the salary, it must mean a consequential increase of salary all the way round. I cannot say that I would be opposed to the first proposition, but I cannot see why there should be at once, ipso facto, an increase of salary in so far as it applied to currency in India itself.
The motives underlying the Amendment have my deepest sympathy. I am entirely in favour of securing compensation for British officers in India in the event of a severe fall in the exchange and the consequent rise in the price of living, but the actual wording of the Amendment would not, I think, achieve that object. It goes very much farther than that and would imply the giving of compensation where, I think, compensation would not be required, in cases such as have been referred to by the last speaker. There is, however, a further point which I think the Movers of the Amendment would have to consider and that is whether it is desirable at all to put a provision of this kind into the Bill. This is not a new matter, this question of compensation for British officers, arid. it cannot be settled in any one definite direction. It might well be that a change of currency in the future would require more than one method of adjustment, in which case it would be very unwise, in the interests of the British officers themselves, to stereotype the matter in this way.
I do not want, however, in saying that, to be led into suggesting that there is not another side to this question. The other objection to the Amendment is that it specifies a fall of the sterling value of the rupee from 1s. 6d., but in the last 30 or 40 years in India before the War the rupee was never fixed at 1s. 6d. It was sometimes at 2s. and sometimes,' to my knowledge, at Is. Id. and is. 2d. Consequently, it is impossible to put the thing clown as a definite change from the figure of Is. 6d. I am not sure that—I throw this out as an illustration—if I were at this moment going to consider at what price compensation would have to be paid, I would take Is. 6d. as the basis. Let us be honest. They have benefited a good deal from the rise of the rupee from 1s. 4d. to 1s. 6d., and I am one of those who at any rate do not shut my eyes to the fact that India might benefit considerably by a reduction of the rupee to 1s. 4d. I do not want to give a definite opinion, but there is a good deal to be said on both sides of the question. The extent to which the ryot may be suffering from the 1s. 6d. rupee would have to be taken into consideration. I do not want to go into these matters, but these are all reasons why it is impossible to accept the Amendment in the first place and really inadvisable particularly to put this matter into the Bill at all. I should be very much more inclined to leave Secretaries of State in the future with power to deal with the matter of compensation when the British element in the service especially is affected, because in some cases they will be affected when the Indian members are not. This is a matter which should be considered at the time rather than being put into the Bill now.
I should like to support what my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) has just said, while sympathising with my hon. Friends opposite with regard to the hardship which might be caused by the fall of the rupee. I would point out, however, that the Bill distinctly says in Clause 238:
If by reason of anything done under this Part of this Act the conditions of service of any person appointed to a civil service by the Secretary of State have been adversely affected, or if for any other reason it appears to the Secretary of State that compensation ought to be granted to, or in respect of, any such person, he or his representatives shall be entitled to receive from the revenues of the Federation, or if the Secretary of State so directs, from the revenues of a Province, such compensation as the Secretary of State may consider just and equitable.
That surely would meet the views of my hon. Friends opposite, but to endeavour to put into the Bill a more or less stereotyped guarantee of what the rupee should be seems to me to be both unwise and most inadvisable. I do not propose to go into the question of the merits or demerits of currency stabilisation. We have had that question debated from time to time, but the fact that this Amendment is on the Paper is another illustration of the terrible hardships and disadvantages from which we suffer owing to the lack of stabilisation. I hope the Government will adhere to the Clause as it stands.
I should like briefly to support the principle of the Amendment. I rather agree with certain hon. Members who have spoken that the exact wording of the Amendment might not perhaps be entirely suitable for bringing into operation what we all desire, which is that, in the event of the depreciation of the rupee, it should be possible to see that there should be a fair allowance to make up for it to British officers. I feel that the principle that the depreciation of the rupee should be followed by compensation for British officers should be recognised by some form of wording in the Bill, and I hope the Government will consider doing it. Undoubtedly, as the Secretary of State said last night, in the past when there has been a depreciation of the rupee allowances have been given, and the right hon. Gentleman said quite openly that he was prepared to go on doing it. I entirely accept his word over that, but I see in the future a big difference. You are Indianising your civil service more and more as the years go on, and that means that the British element will get smaller, and there is likely to be more pressure on Secretaries of State in the future against their being allowed to give sums out of the Indian revenues for a diminishing number of British officers. That pressure is bound to arise. It may indeed well be that that pressure will be effective if you have a weak Secretary of State in the distant future.
I think it will be agreed that the services themselves are not satisfied with the Clause, but want to have something put in in order to assist them in this matter. The depreciation of currency is bound to occur. That, I think, is generally recognised, and there is no need to go into the merits of it, except that I would say to the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne), who said he would have depreciation in the interests of the ryot, that you will have depreciation all right with the new Government, but you will have it very largely because the Bombay mill owner has been advocating it for a considerable time, and he wants to see the value of real wages falling. Under this Bill, he is a gentleman of considerable importance. The agricultural landowner also wants depreciation because it will help him in regard to debts and mortgages. But what the ryot has to say about it will very much affect whether we have depreciation or not.
I appeal to my hon. Friend to consider whether some step can be taken between now and the Report stage to safeguard the British officer in regard to the exchange value. A depreciation of currency in the long run will mean a rise of prices. That is what it is meant to do. Of course, the Indian officer, like the British officer, has been obliged to keep up a certain standard as an officer, but, if the rupee depreciates, he may find it almost impossible to keep up that standard which largely encouraged him probably to go into that particular service. The more vital and immediate point is the question of the exchange, 9 because, as soon as the value of the rupee falls, it means at once depreciation of exchange, and that means that those who send remittances home to their families will be in a hard and difficult position. Exchange compensation allowances were made in 1920 when the rupee fell to 1.s. 3d. Very largely on account of that, that was considered the time when allowances ought to be made, and when it again it was stabilised at 1s. 6d. That is why that figure has been taken in the Amendment.
May I make an appeal to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State? We are faced with this difficulty. My hon. Friend's are asking for an undertaking from the Government that they will consider sympathetically the principle of putting something like this into the Bill. This Amendment would not do it, and there is a further point as to whether you can put this principle into statutory form in any way which is flexible enough to meet the variety of situations which might arise in future. For instance, take one hypothesis that has been mentioned, the change in salaries in Hong Kong from one basis to another. Suppose there was a partial change from the rupee to the sterling basis in the case of marriage allowances. Then clearly any statutory provisions that went. on the basis of compensation for depreciation of the rupee would make nonsense. That, I think, is the real difficulty. There is the further difficulty whether, if you specify in the statute one reason for compensation, you may not very much weaken the case for other forms of compensation. Then comes in the important question of the rise in the cost of living in India. These are things that have to be considered.
I do not agree with the. Secretary of State when he said that it was undesirable to mention the possibility of the depreciation of the rupee. That is a bad argument. There is nothing atrocious about depreciation. On the contrary, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) would agree that it is a most respectable and desirable course. The appeal I would make to my right hon. Friend is that he should undertake to look into this question between now and the Report stage in consultation with my hon. Friends who have supported this Amendment, and to discuss the matter with us. That would meet my. difficulty because, although I doubt whether any statutory provision, however much you may want to make it, is possible, even those who hold that view might quite well undertake to explore the whole question in discussion with the hon. Members who support the Amendment.
In response to the invitation which has been given to us by the Noble Lord, I would say we have not had very many new arguments put forward this afternoon. My right hon. Friend spoke last night upon this subject and stated in general terms the views of the Government. Since that time the views of the Committee have crystallized on the subject, because during our debate to-day there seems to be general agreement that, although we would all wish compensation to be given in cases of depreciation of the rupee, the terms of this Amendment are not desirable because they are too rigid. That being the case, I think that I had first better repeat that we consider it would be well nigh impossible to put anything satisfactory in the Statute upon this subject. The conditions which may arise in future, as has been pointed out by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne), may be so very different. There are so many different questions to take into consideration, such as those which have been put forward by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) and others. For instance, there are some people who went into the Service when the rate of the rupee was 1s. 4d. There are other details to be taken into consideration, such as that a portion of the pay of certain members of the Service is paid in sterling in overseas allowances. There is too, the question of the cost of living in India and the effect of this upon certain members of the Service who are Indians and others who are Europeans.
There are all those conditions and future possibilities to be taken into account. The Noble Lord the right hon. Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) drew attention to one or two other matters which would also have to be taken into account. In view of all these problems and the difficulty of meeting them in any simple and easy matter in the Statute, we consider that the matter had much better be left to the discretion of the Secretary of State to carry on the policy which he has undertaken in the past. On the other hand, if the Noble Lord the right hon. Member for Hastings considers that it would be valuable, my right hon. Friend would be perfectly ready to talk the matter over with him and other hon. Members who have raised this question before the Report stage, in view of the unanimity of opinion in the Committee that this matter should be met. I do not want to give any undertaking that we have any easy method of placing it on the Statute, since we consider that it would be very difficult and, if put in in the wrong way, would be very undesirable.
I hope that the Secretary of State will think twice and several times before he does meet this situation, because it will be really the most damaging precedent if you compensate the Englishman who is a civil servant in India for a fall in the value of currency and do not compensate the civil servant in this country for a fall in the value of our currency. If there is ground for compensation in India, there is just as much ground for increasing salaries here, including that of the right hon. Gentleman, by 50 per cent, at the present time. It would be an entirely new precedent in legislation if we had a Clause to this effect put in any Bill. It would mean that future Governments would be shackled always by the liability to pay enormous compensation, because there is no reason why this should be limited to civil servants; it might extend to all the railway workers and, indeed, to everybody else in the country. That is one great danger of putting into this Bill anything in the shape of statutory compensation for these cases.
I am one of those who are profoundly convinced, and I have been for a long time, that it would be in the interests of India that the rupee should fall from 1s. 6d. to 1s. 4d., go back to the old valuation. If this Amendment is accepted, or any guarantee of any sort goes in that the rupee is always to be paid to English people at Is. 6d., we shall be severely hampering the future of the Government of India. It would then be impossible for any revaluation of the rupee to take place. I am not quite certain what the Secretary of State thinks on this question of revaluation in the future. There would be the question of guaranteeing the Council of India Bills, and that would be increasingly impracticable for the British Government if the Indian Government were compelled to take the rupee at 1s. 6d. By such a change in the law as is proposed we should be preventing an economic change which may be necessary and desirable from the point of view of the Indian exchange.