For months now our attention has inevitably been absorbed in the contest around and above us and in the immediate problems which it has created. Here and nowhere else the first decisive issue of the war has been fought and won. But if this battle of Britain has closed a chapter it has certainly not closed the story. The actual menace of invasion is still there in the background. We certainly cannot afford to disregard it. At the same time it is becoming increasingly clear that our enemies, foiled in their hope of destroying us by an early fatal blow at the heart, mean to strike directly at every part and, above all, at every vital artery, which they can reach. The battle of Britain is leading up to the Battle of the Empire. It is leading up to it in more than one sense. For it is not only on and over fields and seas remote from here that the fate of the world will yet be decided, but it is only by the resources and resolution of a united Empire that ultimate victory can be assured. That is why I am very glad that my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) has asked that we should now devote a day to the discussion of that part at any rate, of the Empire's effort for which in the last resort this House is responsible, and I am glad to have the opportunity, so far as I am concerned, of telling the House something of the contribution that India and Burma have made and are preparing to make to our common cause.
Before doing so, I hope I may be pardoned if I draw the attention of the House to one feature of the situation which has governed and conditioned all our efforts here, and even more in the other countries of the Empire. The war of to-day is essentially a war of machines. The increasingly complex equipment of a modern Army cannot be improvised in haste. Even in the most highly industrialised countries months and even years are required to set up the plant with which that equipment can be made. We know what we are suffering here for our well-intentioned unwillingness to realise the greatness of the danger which threatened our freedom and that of the world. If we here are still struggling to make good our deficiencies, our other partners in the Empire have even more leeway to make up, because their preparations began even later, and because the equipment of their forces has necessarily had to be postponed in some measure to our more urgent demands here, where we have had to meet the enemy's first onslaught.
India played a large part in the last war. Her first divisions brought an invaluable reinforcement to our thin and war-spent front line in France during those winter months of 1914. Indian troops bore the whole brunt of the Mesopotamia campaign.
India's cavalry played a conspicuous part in Allenby's great sweep in Palestine, and her infantry exploited it to the full by their amazing march from Jaffa to Alexandretta. In all, India put something like 1,500,000 trained men into the field in that war. She can do so again, if so many men are needed, once the equipment is there. There is no scarcity of willing recruits. Some 25,000, indeed, of those who offered themselves have had to be temporarily relegated. The other day an announcement of 300 vacancies in the Indian Air Force Reserve brought in at once some 18,000 applications. In passing, let me emphasise that India's Fighting Forces are all composed of volunteers. That is important. There is in force a limited measure of compulsion in India for Europeans and for Indian technical munition workers, in each case not for lack of volunteers but for the sake of fairness and more efficient organisation. But the men who are fighting for India are all men who have joined of their own free will. There is no shortage of them whatever, either in numbers or in quality. But for the moment equipment governs everything, and it is upon the equipment situation that the expansion of India's war effort has depended and will continue to depend. I shall come back in a moment to what has been accomplished and what we yet hope to accomplish in that field.
Meanwhile, I should like to draw attention to what India has already achieved, or is in process of achieving, in regard to the actual expansion of her Fighting Forces. The Army in India consists in peace time of 160,000 men of the Indian Army and of some 50,000 British troops. The Indian Army is being rapidly expanded, as a first step, to a force of some-think like 500,000 men of all arms, trained, equipped and mechanised on the modern scale. As a first step, over 100,000 recruits have already been taken on, of whom a large proportion are by now fully trained. Not the least of the problems of such an expansion is the provision of officers and of training facilities. New officer cadet units both for Indian and for British cadets have been established. There has been a continuous multiplication of schools for advanced training in all branches of military knowledge and in the use of new weapons. The mechanical transport of the Indian Army has been brought up from 5,000 to 32,000 vehicles, a figure which will be doubled next year. Every credit is due to Sir Robert Cassels, the Commander-in-Chief and to his staff, as well as to the Viceroy and the members of his Council more directly concerned, Sir Ramaswami Mudaliar and Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan, for laying down and getting under way the difficult initial stages of an expansion whose full results will be seen only as the war develops.
Of this force, India's first Army, some 60,000 are already serving overseas. From the very beginning, India has reinforced and is continuing to reinforce our garrisons in Malaya and Aden and our Army in the Middle East. The Indian transport contingent, which showed such admirable steadiness and discipline in France, is now playing an active part in the defence of this Island. Indian troops won well-deserved praise for their gallantry in Somaliland and have recently played a leading part in the operations at Gallabat. Both in the Middle and the Far East these Indian troops are very directly contributing to India's defence. They are securing her bastions both West and East. Meanwhile there is no neglect of the ever-present problem of India's own immediate frontier defence, and as fast as formations are sent overseas new formations are raised to replace them.
No statement about the Indian Army would be complete without a reference either to the military Forces of the Indian States or to those of the Kingdom of Nepal. The importance to India of being able to draw freely for recruits upon the splendid military material of Nepal's Gurkha fighting men needs no stress. All I need say is that we can rely with confidence on the help that our old and loyal ally can afford in that direction. As for the ruling Princes of India, they have their own great martial tradition and a long record of loyalty to the Imperial Crown. Not only their Forces, but they themselves, played a worthy part in the last war. I remember so well the meeting at our corps headquarters at Merville in November, 1914, between Lord Roberts and that splendid old warrior and comrade in arms of his, Sir Partab Singh, of Jodhpur. "Well, old friend, what have you come to do here?" asked the great little Field Marshal. "To die, I hope, for my King," was the simple reply; and if he failed to achieve his wish, it was not for want of trying. In the present war, the Forces of the Indian States are being steadily enlarged and brought to a higher state of efficiency. Some 30 units are serving with His Majesty's Forces in British India, and that fine body, the Bikaner Camel Corps, is already in the Middle East. Ruler after Ruler has placed his personal service and the resources of his State unreservedly at the disposal of the King-Emperor.
The Indian Air Force was started on a small scale in 1932 after the first batch of Indian cadets had been trained at Cranwell. Schemes for expansion were put into force immediately on the outbreak of war, and existing training facilities greatly enlarged. There is great enthusiasm for the. Air Service in India, and young Indians, with their quick minds and sensitive hands, take naturally to flying. Not a few Indian pilots are already serving in the Royal Air Force and a batch of keen Indian pilots arrived here only the other day to complete their training. Nothing, indeed, except the imperious limitation imposed by the more urgent demand for machines here and in the Middle East, stands in the way of a far greater expansion of India's eagerness to develop an air force comparable to her Army. That same inevitable limitation again has, hitherto, prevented the immediate realisation of India's widespread demand for the starting of an effective aircraft industry of her own.
Last, but not least, comes the Royal Indian Navy, the lineal descendant of an Indian Naval Service which began as the East India Company's Marine as far back as 1612. Reorganised on a small scale in 1934 it, with its auxiliary services, has been more than trebled since the outbreak of war and is being steadily increased by new vessels in construction in India, in Australia and in This country. Indefatigably occupied with the task of escorting convoys and keeping India's ports and coasts clear of enemy mines and submarines, the Royal Indian Navy is worthily maintaining the high traditions of its past. The sinking of H.M.I.S. "Pathan" last June by enemy action afforded an occasion for a display of exemplary coolness and discipline on the part of all concerned, under peculiarly trying conditions. It is some evidence of the efficiency of its work in co-operation with the Royal Navy that since the outbreak of war a continuous stream of troops and military supply ships has sailed, without a single casualty, from Indian ports to the Middle East, and that the Red Sea is being kept open for pilgrim traffic to the Moslem Holy Places. A word, too, is due while I am on the subject of the sea, to the faithful and efficient service of India's merchant mariners, the lascars, who form so important a part of the crews of so many of our great shipping lines.
May I now revert to what I made clear at the outset is the dominant factor in the whole situation, the factor of supply and equipment? In this respect, India, like the Dominions, is far more advanced than she was in 1914. She has always been a great producer of foodstuffs and raw materials, and her resources in this respect, too, have been greatly developed; but she is also to-day one of the world's great industrial countries. She has highly developed textile industries in cotton, in jute and in wool. She has an iron and steel industry developing rapidly, both in its volume, which now amounts to 2,250,000 tons a year, and in the range of its products. At the present moment, over and above supplying the Middle East, Iraq, and East Africa with steel, she is sending substantial quantities of pig iron to this country. Her railway works, and many of her civil engineering establishments, are on a great scale and equipped on modern lines. She has considerable resources of hydro-electric power. Her Government ordnance and munition works had also developed in many directions before the outbreak of war, and have been utilised to the full and greatly expanded since. India already makes her own rifles, machine guns, field artillery up to six-inch guns and six-inch howitzers, propellants and ammunition of all sorts, as well as saddlery, boots, tents, blankets, uniforms and miscellaneous equipment of all sorts. Of some 40,000 items which go to the equipment of a modern army, she already supplies more than one half. She is beginning the manufacture of armoured plate and expects to armour 3,000 armoured vehicles next year.
I think not. In respect of something like 90 per cent. of military supplies she will soon be self-sufficient, so far as the requirement of her own Forces is concerned. Over a very large range of supplies, indeed, she can furnish far more than her own requirements. To quote only a few instances; she has sent overseas 100,000,000 rounds of small arms ammunition and 400,000 rounds of gun ammunition, 1000,000,000 sandbags, 1,000,000 pair of boots, and 30,000 tents. Broadly speaking, she is aiming, in cooperation with the Dominions and Colonies east and south of Suez, at meeting, in respect of a very wide and steadily increasing range of the whole field of military equipment, all the needs of our armies in the Middle and Far East, to whatever number of divisions they may be raised.
Even so, there is still abundant room for the further expansion of India's effort. She still has great reserves of industrial capacity which could be harnessed to war purposes if they could be matched up with a certain modicum of imported materials and with certain types of machine tools, and organised on lines which we have worked out here. In order to afford India the benefit of our latest experience in this direction, as well as to furnish the Ministry of Supply here with a revised picture of India's potentialities and of the help required to convert them into actualities, the then Minister of Supply sent out some three months ago, at my suggestion, a strong technical mission, under the leadership of Sir Alexander Roger. I believe that with Sir Alexander Roger's drive and vision, and with the eager co-operation both of Government and of private industry in India, the mission will be able to initiate a substantial advance, both in volume and in range of production, the fruits of which will become increasingly apparent as the war continues.
The mere re-organisation of plant will not produce results without trained workers. I have already referred to the fact that a limited measure of compulsory service has been introduced by the Government of India in order to enable skilled technical workers to be transferred to where their work will be most valuable. This is being done through Indian National Service Labour tribunals in the interests of fairness as well as efficiency, and with appropriate guarantees for the security of the workers' original employment after the war. In India itself, arrangements for training additional skilled workers are being taken in hand on a large scale and it is hoped, by the use of the staff of technical colleges and institutions, as well as with the help of private industry, to train an additional 10,000 men in the next few months. Meanwhile, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and myself have been concerting arrangements both for the despatch to India of an additional supply of competent instructors and for the bringing of young Indian workers over here where, working side by side with British workers, they may learn not only our most up-to-date methods but something of the spirit of British industrial organisation, as displayed in its co-operation with the war effort.
I explained that when I introduced a certain Bill some months ago, and, as I explained, it was not because of lack of volunteers but in order to secure fair distribution throughout the field of work. That fairness is safeguarded by special labour tribunals.
That is a matter which is being worked out. They are working side by side with their British colleagues. I do not think I can give details which are still being worked out.
I think my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour is capable of watching that aspect of the question.
So much for the material aspect of India's share in the common effort against the common enemy. What of the moral and spiritual side? Where does India stand in the struggle against the forces of tyranny and oppression? Where are her sympathies enlisted, with which side are her interests identified? I shall be dealing later this afternoon with the statement which has just been made by the Viceroy in the Indian Legislature and which is now available as a White Paper, as well as with the political issues raised by the attitude of Congress. But on one main issue, at any rate, there is certainly no divergence among the leaders of Indian opinion, whatever other differences there may be between us or between themselves. They know that the defeat of the British Empire and the victory of the dictatorships would leave India defenceless against inevitable aggression from every quarter by land, by sea or by air. They know more. They know it would mean the end of all their cherished hopes of constitutional progress within India, and in India's relation to the outside world. For them as for us, a Nazi victory would be a death blow to all they care for in the world of politics.
One form in which that sympathy has been expressed has been in the contributions which have poured in spontaneously from Indians in every walk of life, from ruling Princes to working men, some giving lakhs of rupees, some only a few annas, both to the Viceroy's general War Purposes Fund and to every fund raised in this country for purposes connected with the war. Of the sums given for specific purposes, about £1,500,000, including £290,000 from Hyderabad alone, has been given for the purchase of aircraft. But large amounts have also been contributed to King George's Fund for Sailors, to St. Dunstan's Institute for those blinded in the war, to the Red Cross, for ambulances, for the evacuation of children, and, more recently, to the Lord Mayor's Fund for the victims of air attack here and to the cause of Greece. Many of the letters accompanying small sums involving real sacrifices for their donors give simple but touching expression to the senders' devotion to the common cause.
From India let me turn for a moment to the subject of Burma. When the war broke out, Burma had been in existence as a separate entity for only about two and a half years. Her Defence Forces at that time consisted of two British Regular infantry battalions and four battalions of the Burma Rifles, as well as six battalions of the Burma Frontier Force. Since the outbreak of the war these forces have been very largely increased. A number of other technical units, sappers and miners, signals, transport, antiaircraft, machine gun units, etc., have been added since the outbreak of the war. Compulsory service has been introduced for Europeans, both for military purposes and for the general war effort.
No, only a proportion of them. The reserve of officers has been greatly expanded, and arrangements have been completed for the initiation of an Officer Cadet Training Unit, in which both Europeans and Burman volunteers will be trained side by side. Here again, as in the case of India, while every effort is being made to modernise the equipment of the forces in Burma, much depends upon the supplies which can be secured from the United Kingdom or from India. Before the war, Burma had no naval or air forces of her own. Immediately on the outbreak of war, however, three local vessels were taken over for mine-sweeping duties and a Burma Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve created. Several naval patrol craft for mine-sweeping are now in process of completion, and the Government of Burma have arranged, in consultation with the Admiralty, for the building for the Royal Navy of some mine-sweepers and anti-submarine vessels. So far as air force is concerned, a Burma Auxiliary Air Unit open to both Bur-mans and Europeans in Burma has been started, but is as yet only at the initial training stage.
Burma's main productive capacity is, of course, in the direction of raw materials. She is a great producer of oil as well as of valuable minerals like lead, zinc and wolfram, and of timber and foodstuffs. Her manufacturing capacity, on the other hand, is limited, but her possibilities of munitions production will, no doubt, be fully considered by the Delhi Conference of which I shall have a word to say in a moment. Meanwhile, Burma, like India, has shown her moral support of the common cause by the readiness in which contributions of every kind have poured in to the war fund. A Burma fighter squadron of the R.A.F. has been provided by these funds, which in all, up to date, have amounted to over £210,000. It is interesting to note that £60,000 of this has come from the Shan States, partly from their federal fund and partly from indivdual chiefs, and that, within this capacity, tribal chiefs from the remote hill districts and municipalities in Upper and Lower Burma have freely offered their contributions of gifts or interest-free leans. In February and again in June, the Legislature and Council of Ministers have made plain their wholehearted support of the British Government in its stand against the forces of aggression and its struggle for the freedom of small nations.
So far I have spoken of India and Burma as self-contained units. But they do not stand alone. They stand geographically at the centre of that greater half of the British Empire—greater in area and far greater in population—which, from the Cape to New Zealand, lies in a vast semi-circle round the Southern Ocean. Strategically they form the direct first reserve, not only against the immediate threat to our position in the Middle East, but against any possible threat to our position in the Far East. Between that Eastern and Southern half of the Empire and this country, the normal highway passes through the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal. At the moment that I took office the Italian threat to that vital link was already obvious; The doubling of that menace by the defection of France followed only a few weeks later. It was clear to me from the outset that ih large measure the defence of the Empire East and South of Suez, as well as of the Middle Eastern front itself, would have to rest upon its own resources. It was equally clear that those resources, in manpower, in industry, in raw materals, were immense if they could be effectively combined and matched with each other. I naturally lost no time in communicating my views to the Viceroy, who through- out has shown the keenest interest in all questions affecting India's war effort. I need not tell the House how glad I am in that connection that Lord Linlithgow has consented, at no small personal inconvenience, to carry on the good work he is doing for an additional year. Promptly converting a general conception into a concrete working plan, Lord Linlithgow conceived the idea of inviting all the Governments concerned to send to a conference at Delhi representatives of their departments of military supply and equipment. The Viceroy's initiative met at once with an eager response, and for nearly three weeks now the representatives of the Governments of Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, Rhodesia, the East African Colonies, Palestine, Burma and Malaya have been conferring with the Government of India and with Sir Alexander Roger's mission. Their immediate object is simple, if important. It is to see how, in co-operation, they can contribute, for their own defence and for the common cause, the very maximum of those elements of supply and equipment upon which the expansion of the Empire's armies must depend. In this respect they are, if I may quote from the Prime Minister's inspiring message to the conference, engaged in calling into being a new world of armed strength to redress the balance of the old. It may well be that Delhi is laying the foundations of that Army of Empire whose first contingents are defending the Middle East to-day, but which is destined in its ultimate plenitude of power to march in the van of a liberated Europe.
This aspect of the Delhi Conference, important as it is, is not the only one. It is of the very essence of our conception of the British Commonwealth to-day that it is not of the nature of a solar system with a central sun and satellite planets revolving round it, but of a partnership of free and equal nations girdling the globe. Its activities, the spirit of unity which binds it together, do not reside in any one part or depend upon any central initiative. We are bound together by common ideals and ways of life and thought, and these are enough to secure collective action betwen any two or more members of the Commonwealth where such action can best further the causes to which we are all dedicated. From India's point of view, too, this is a most signifi- cant gathering. It is a conference of Empire held in India, under the presidency of an Indian member of the Viceroy's Executive, Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan. That is a fact which is both a practical recognition of India's growing status in the Commonwealth, as well as a contribution to a better understanding and a future closer collaboration between India and her British neighbours in the Southern Hemisphere. Last but not least, its outcome is destined to be that growth in India's ability to provide her own defence, and that enrichment of her productive power, which are the real sources of a true independence, and which will do more than anything else to strengthen her claim to that full and equal partnership for mutual security and mutual welfare to which we in this House wish to see her attain.
It is unusual to have two statements succeeding one another by two Government Departments, but my Noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), who has for some time pressed for these statements, considered it desirable, and, of course, the Government readily fell in with his suggestion. I trust that the appreciation by Britain of the value of the Colonial contribution to the war effort will not be measured by the amount of time which is given to the Debate to-day. We could wish that there were more time, but I am sure the House, in the few hours during which this matter will be considered, will fully appreciate what is being done both in India and the Empire. There is much to say; there has been no previous review in the House of the Colonial contribution to the war effort since its commencement.
The outbreak of war was the signal for a unanimous and spontaneous outburst of loyalty and support from all parts of the Colonial Empire. The assurances which were given then have been more than fulfilled, and all calls for service have been enthusiastically answered. Indeed, during the past 14 months the loyalty of the Colonies has been demonstrated in an almost bewildering variety of ways. There have been gifts showing a degree of thoughtfulness and sympathy which I find very touching. One gift to me was for the family of the first British soldier killed in France. Another, by a well known Arab, was to buy Christmas presents for the children of naval men killed in action. There have been gifts from such bodies as the trade unions in Fiji, chambers of commerce, municipal councils, and so on; gifts for the general conduct of the war, for fighters and bombers, gifts in cash and kind, gifts to war charities, to the Red Cross, to King George's Fund for Sailors, for every conceivable purpose. Up to date the amount subscribed has reached the wonderful total of no less than £17,000,000. These few examples are an indication of the contributions both private and official, which have poured in from all quarters of the Colonial Empire. Every territory has made its contribution, from Nigeria's 20,000,000 population to the 200 persons who accupy Ascension Island. All have given concrete evidence of their support for this effort.
A striking testimony to the support received from our Dependencies is provided by the extent to which the war has closed the ranks within the Empire. Political and industrial differences have been forgotten for the time being. The reason for this unanimity of purpose comes perhaps primarily from the nature of the present conflict. Our Colonial policy has been criticised in the past on a number of grounds, but this at least can be said, that in the eyes of the Colonial peoples our rule is identified with the possibility of every kind of development, economic and social as well as political. Many people, it is true, are impatient with our rate of advancement towards that goal, but this feeling vanishes at the threat of a German victory. The occupied nations of Europe are melancholy evidence of the extent to which highly developed peoples can suffer at the hands of the Nazi exploiters, and I have no doubt that the Colonial peoples do draw the obvious conclusion that their fate would be infinitely worse. It is not necessary to convince the Colonial peoples of this. Hitler's own references to them, which do little credit to his humanity, his sense or his imagination, make our most effective propaganda.
In addition to the gifts already mentioned, the value of the Colonies in war-time must be considered under three aspects: as strategic, economic, and for the provisions of man-power. On the strategic side, I do not propose to say a great deal. A glance at a map will show at once the importance of such fortresses as Gibraltar, Malta, Singapore, Aden or Hong Kong, the defence of which is mainly the responsibility of the Defence Services, whereas Imperial troops, which are partly recruited from Colonial sources, are stationed in positions which command the great sea routes of the Empire. Some of these fortresses have already been attacked by the enemy, and we can regard with pride the magnificent stand taken and the courageous manner in which these attacks have been beaten off. Haifa and Tel-aviv have suffered a serious bombardment with fortitude, notwithstanding a considerable number of casualties among the civil population.
My hon. and right hon. Friends will have learnt with lively satisfaction from the announcement made in yesterday's Press that considerable progress has been made with the negotiations with the United States of America for the leasing to that country of bases in the West Indies, that agreement has been reached on certain sites for bases in Bermuda, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Antigua, St. Lucia, and British Guiana, and that the position in Trinidad is under close examination. It is understood that preliminary work on the agreed sites will be started in the near future and will be proceeded with at full speed. This important strategical and political development is a valuable contribution to the defence of the two great democracies and to the future of Anglo-American relations. I should like to take this opportunity of paying a tribute to the way in which the Colonies themselves have heartily welcomed the proposals, and to the way in which they are doing everything in their power to facilitate the making of the necessary arrangements and to enable real progress to be made in this important matter.
Perhaps it is in the economic field that the Colonies can make one of their greatest contributions. The importance of the economic weapon in contributing to the defeat of the enemy was from the first fully realised, and Colonial trade presented an important field in which the use of that weapon could be exploited to the full. As soon as war was declared, steps were taken to bring Colonial trade under complete control in accordance with plans already devised. In the period before the war, Colonial export trade was directed to nearly every country in the world. It is true that industrial regulation schemes covered such Colonial products as rubber, tin, sugar, and tea, but that did not affect the principle of the freedom of access of all other nations to our Colonial raw materials, which has always been a cardinal point in the Government's policy. So it was that before the war large quantities of the regulated, and even more of the unregulated, commodities went to Germany and to the territories which have now temporarily fallen under her control, such as Belgium, Holland and France.
The Emergency Powers (Defence) Act had been extended by Order in Council to the Colonial Empire before the war, and the Governors were therefore able to introduce rapidly a series of regulations designed to put Colonial trade on a wartime footing. The purposes which this war-time system was designed to fulfil were the following: To prevent goods from reaching the enemy by all and every means; to provide essential sup plies of Colonial products for this country and its Allies; to maintain our foreign exchange resources, by securing foreign exchange in return for exports, by the limitation of imports which would have to be paid for in foreign exchange, and by the prevention of the transfer of capital into foreign currency.
To bring this system into operation and to keep it effective, an elaborate machinery of control and regulation had to be set up. The restrictions have inevitably caused inconvenience and dislocation to colonial traders, but these inconveniences have in general been borne with exemplary patience. Indeed, in this as in other activities, much has been achieved which would never have been possible without the good-will and co-operation of the Colonies concerned.
In regard to the first objective, namely, the prevention of goods from reaching the enemy, many of our colonial products are in many ways complementary to, the enemy's own production, if they could obtain them. Very fortunately, they cannot. I have explained that trade with the enemy has been effectively stopped from the beginning. The hardships and dislocations caused to colonial traders have been to some extent mitigated by our policy of buying at fair prices quantities of colonial products. In some cases we have bought from the Colonies more than we actually required, so that the economic life of the population of those territories might be maintained.
In connection with the second objective, the provision of essential supplies of colonial products to this country and its Allies, almost the first question the Colonies asked when war began was, "What can we do to help you with our products? What do you want more of? What do you want us to send you instead of sending it elsewhere?" That covers a range and variety of products which are only equalled by their value. Let me give some indication of the extent and value of the help given to us by the Colonies. There are the commodities directly needed for the supply of our Armed Forces. On the mineral side, the contribution is very large, and includes great sources of copper, tin and bauxite. Let it be remembered that when the French supply of bauxite was closed to us, the Colonies very quickly came to our assistance and met our full demand. Then there are mineral oil, iron ore, manganese, pyrites, potash, and other essential raw materials, which are all obtained from colonial or mandated territories. In addition, they supply large quantities of rubber, timber, fibres and other agricultural products which are also essential for munition production, nor is their contribution towards the needs of our civilian population less important. A great supply of our tea comes from Ceylon and other British Colonies, the rest coming from India and the Colonies of our Dutch Ally. Nearly all our cocoa and about half our reduced quantities of sugar come from the Colonial Empire, together with much the greater part of the oil seeds and the vegetable oils which are absolutely indispensable to us.
The provision of foreign exchange is no less important. The United States of America, for example, buy a very large quantity of Colonial rubber, tin, cocoa and other commodities, and the dollar proceeds of such sales which are secured to this country by Defence (Finance) Regulations enacted in the various Dependencies are producing valuable additions to the funds available for essential war purchases in the United States. The commodities to which I have referred—rubber, tin, cocoa, and others—must make a contribution to our exchange position amounting to tens of thousands of tons. This impressive list of valuable commodities will inevitably bring to our minds, and to the minds of our enemies, their claims to share in this treasure house of raw materials. I would like to make two points abundantly clear. First, these goods were, before the war, available on the open market to Germany, as to other countries; and, second, our method of disposing of them is as different as it could be from the methods that the Germans would adopt if they were in a position to do so. Ours is no robber economy: there is no question of taking these products and not paying for them. What we receive from the Colonial Empire we pay for at a fair price—and we are on occasions prepared to do even more than that.
The next contribution made by the Colonial Empire is that of man-power. The man-power problem combines great potentialities with a corresponding number of difficulties—although these are not insuperable. Much thought has been given to the problem of how the manpower resources of the Empire can be mobilised and used to the best advantage. In no sphere of activity have the Colonies shown more clearly and more insistently their desire to offer their persons and services without stint. Nevertheless, compulsory service measures were introduced in certain Colonies—not because there was any deficiency of volunteers for the Armed Services, but for very different reasons. It was to make possible a more rational utilisation of the man-power available, and to ensure that the needs of the situation were fully met. Reports from one Colony indicate that almost half the European population between 18 and 29 have already enlisted in the Armed Forces. Compulsory service was introduced for the purpose of regulating the supply of labour for industrial services. If these men are now engaged in the production of, for instance, oil in Trinidad or rubber or tin in Malaya, it is obvious that they are part of our war effort.
It applies to Europeans only, but there are certain ordinances which apply to natives. There is really no need to apply compulsory service to the natives. The trouble is that we cannot take all the offers of service which are given. That applies to every African Colony. In the years before the outbreak of war existing local Defence Forces were increased in strength, and new forces were established where none had previously existed. In a number of territories local R.N.V.R. Forces were established. The House will not expect me to go into details of these establishments; but I might mention, as an example, that at the outbreak of this war the local Forces in East Africa, Hong Kong and Malaya were approximately three times their strength in 1914. In addition to employment in local Defence Forces there has been an increasingly heavy call upon Colonial man-power for other war-time activities, such as contraband control and examination services, work in His Majesty's dockyards, censorship duties, the construction and guarding of camps for enemy aliens, and so on.
The calls upon Colonial man-power locally have been more than adequately met. In October, 1939, the Government decided that for the duration of the war British subjects from the Colonies and British protected persons, whether of pure European descent or not, should be placed for the purpose of voluntary entry into the Armed Forces of the Crown in the United Kingdom on the same footing as other British subjects. The number of men in the Colonies suitable for and desirous of entry into the Royal Navy is limited; but Colonial Governments have been informed of specialised categories required by the Navy, and in a number of cases qualified candidates have been forthcoming. There are, for instance, 1,300 Maltese in the Royal Navy, and 17 lost their lives in the "Royal Oak." In the case of the Army, there are openings not only for skilled tradesmen but for suitable volunteers for general service; and large numbers of volunteers have come from the Colonies to enlist in this country or at Commands overseas. As far as the Air Force is concerned, arrangements have been made, in co-operation with the Air Ministry, for the establishment of preliminary flying training schools in a number of Colonies. In other Colonies arrangements have been made for the local recruitment of candidates for service as air crews, and they are sent to this country or elsewhere for training. There is now a steady and increasing flow of recruits from the Colonies for training as pilots, observers, gunners and technicians of other sorts. Another direction in which man-power from the Colonies is used is in the formation of pioneer units. A pioneer unit from Cyprus had the honour of being the first Colonial contingent to arrive in France for active service. Pioneer units have been raised also in Palestine, Malta, Aden, Mauritius and Seychelles.
I have left until last what is perhaps the most important question of all, that of using Colonial man-power for forming new combatant units. I must emphasise that the limiting factor is not the availability, still less the quality of Colonial troops, but our ability to supply them with necessary equipment. They are geting their share of new equipment on the basis of a well-balanced programme of expansion. In the case of some Colonies it has been decided that lightly armed units, like the Home Guard here, can serve the most useful purpose; but, generally speaking, new combatant units to serve against a well-equipped enemy must themselves be equipped on the same scale. This means the provision of rifles, tanks, Bren guns, mechanised vehicles—in fact all the apparatus of modern war. In allocating the production of such equipment, the needs of the armed forces being raised in this country and the Dominions have in general been given a higher priority than the needs of new combatants units from the Colonies. Until the entry of Italy into the war the only theatre of active operations was in Europe, and there British and Dominion troops were much better suited to the campaigning conditions. Nevertheless, in spite of serious difficulties in raising new Colonial units during the first year of the war much progress was made. In the Far East, compulsory service legislation was enacted in Hong Kong and in Malaya, where the local defence forces form an essential part of the garrisons charged with the defence of these Imperial bases. In Fiji and Ceylon steps were taken to strengthen the defences and to expand the local volunteer forces. In Cyprus it was decided to raise a Cyprus Regiment, in the different units of which several thousand Cypriots are now serving. The Maltese enlisted in large numbers into local units, and take their full share in the gallant and famous defence of the island.
At an early stage of the war Palestinians, Jews and Arabs, were invited to enlist in the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps, and the response has been good. The objective was to form four pioneer companies, two of them being of mixed composition, one being purely Jewish, and one purely Arab. The first three companies have been already formed, and one of the mixed companies served with credit in France and was evacuated from Dunkirk. In addition, large numbers of Palestinians have been enlisted for technical service in the Royal Army Service Corps, Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers, Royal Corps of Signals, Royal Army Medical Corps, and Royal Army Ordnance Corps in the Middle East, and also in local formations of the Royal Air Force. Approval was recently given for the formation of Palestinian, Jewish and other companies to be attached for combatant service to British battalions serving in the Middle East, and recruitment is already in progress. In the West Indies, there has been disappointment because combatant units have not been raised; but it seems unlikely that the West Indies will be an active theatre of war.
It remains to consider the use of manpower in that vast reservoir formed by the African Dependencies. For the first months of the war the only theatre of land operations was, as I have already said, against the Germans in Europe, and for that theatre the troops raised in this country and in the Dominions had definite advantages over African troops. It is true that the probable entry of Italy into the war was foreseen, with the consequent opening-up of theatres of war on the Egyptian, Sudan, Somaliland and Kenya frontiers; but, in order to get the necessary perspective, it is necessary to recall the apparent limitations on Italian intervention, namely, that in Libya they would have to form two fronts, East and West, and that in Somaliland the British and French stood side by side. To counter possible Italian intervention, it was decided on the outbreak of war to give effect to plans approved in peace-time for a considerable expansion of the military forces available in East Africa and the corresponding expansion in West Africa to provide reinforcements for the East. Within six months of the outbreak of war the number of applicants serving in East Africa had increased three-fold and the number serving in West Africa had increased nearly two-fold. That was the limit of expansion for which equipment could at that time be made available. The expansion was such that when the Italians' intention to enter the war became clear it was possible to send well-equipped forces to East Africa to help in the defence of Kenya.
But Italian intervention was immediately followed by the complete collapse, not only of France, but what could hardly have been foreseen, of the French Colonial Empire. That altered the whole strategic situation. The threat to Egypt was doubled, because the Italians had not to maintain a front against Tunis; in Somaliland the defection of Jibuti left the British Forces isolated in a bad strategic position; and in West Africa also, a host of new problems were raised. Plans were immediately put into effect to meet the new situation. Despite our losses of equipment at Dunkirk, the expansion of output and increasing supplies from America made it possible to plan great increases in our African combatant units. As a set-off to the defection of French West Africa, the intervention of Belgium has brought to our side the Belgian Congo, with great man-power and supplies. But I would again emphasise that this is a war of mechanised forces and machines.
We do not intend to fall into the mistake of recruiting masses of African soldiers, lightly armed and without adequate artillery and so forth to enable them to withstand modern mechanised forces. We know that our Forces have the will, the spirit and the courage to win this war, and they must have an abundance of the best equipment that is possible. Just as an anti-aircraft battery or a squadron of fighters, in the right place at the right time, may be worth the striking-power of a large number of infantry, so the mechanised unit in these days of automatic weapons is in direct ratio to the efficiency of the weapons with which we equip our soldiers. Whoever they are and wherever they are, they must have the best, and it is for this nation to see that they get it. The House will not expect me to state the degree of expansion at which we are now aiming or the progress which has already been made towards its achievement, but I can assure the House without hesitation that, great as are the demands on African man-power for combatant units, they are all being met willingly and with enthusiasm.
I need not refer to the Delhi Conference. My right hon. Friend has dealt very fully with that and mentioned that the Colonies are represented and taking their part in the deliberations which are taking place there.
My right hon. Friend made that point and gave a list of the Colonies that are represented. Notwithstanding; the fact that we have to pay so much attention to the preparation of the Colonies to take their place in the great war effort, it is pleasing to note that in all these exigencies of the war the labour problem has not been overlooked. Shortly after the outbreak of the war, my right hon. Friend drew the attention of all Colonial Governors to the importance of seeing that everything possible was done to ensure that the conditions under which labour was employed were adequately supervised, and I am glad to say that, generally speaking, the response to this appeal has been very satisfactory. Since the war the staffs of several Colonial depots have been increased, and there have been enacted some 70 new laws and regulations dealing with such matters as workmen's compensation, trade unions, the employment of women and young persons, minimum wage-fixing machinery and so on.
I cannot close without paying a sincere tribute of gratitude and thanks to the whole Colonial Empire for the way in which they have rallied to the cause and have disproved the dictators' frequently repeated assertions, such as Goebbels', picture of the Colonies as conscripted subject races, ruthlessly harnessed to the British war machine. The Colonies were the first to start Spitfire funds, which have become such a great success in raising money, not only in the Colonies, but in this country. Now they are contributing large sums of money for the purchase of mobile canteens for those who have suffered from air raids over here, and it is pleasing to note that among the canteens that were sent to Coventry were some which were subscribed for by the Colonies. The first of these canteens was the gift of the children of Mauritius to the children of London. This effort will be greatly appreciated in the districts which have suffered most severely from this vile form of attack. They will be heartened and comforted not only by the welcome supplies of hot food and drink, but fortified in spirit by the fact that their fellow citizens from the furthest ends of the earth are showing their pride and gratitude for the endurance and courage which they are showing by helping them in this practical and personal way.
Let us remember that all the efforts of the Colonies, whether it is a matter of recruiting, producing war materials, accepting restrictions or hardships, contributing gifts which many of them can ill afford, or whatever it is, they have as their background the strong desire to share with us to the limit of their capacity all the burden of this war, just as they share in our confidence of victory, overwhelming and complete, at the end of the road.
Economic collaboration has taken, and is taking, place between the French Colonies which belong to Free France, the Belgian Colonies and the Dutch Colonies. In Africa at the present time there is a mission dealing with the economic aspect, and the Colonial Office is keeping itself in very close touch with all the Colonies of the other Empires which have suffered as a result of the German onslaught. I would point out that in many of the Colonies of France and Belgium similar treatment to that which is meted out to our own Colonies is to a very large extent to be meted out to the Free French Colonies and the Belgian Colonies for the purpose of saving their economic life, and a large quantity of materials has been purchased.
I think I shall be expressing the views of all who have listened to their speeches to-day in congratulating my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and also my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State in having succeeded in the space of a little over an hour in giving a very clear, succinct and most important account of our Indian and Colonial war effort. I regret that there was not a larger audience to listen to them, but my experience has been that this honourable House is always infinitely more interested in domestic issues than it is in great questions of Imperial policy. I remember that some 30 years ago the "Times" correspondent called attention to the fact that on the day on which an Irish Member was suspended, the House was crammed to its utmost capacity, and that on the next day, when the Indian Budget was introduced, only six hon. Members managed to remain to hear that question being discussed, so that there is nothing new in people being more interested in whether or not Mrs. Buggins is sneezing in a shelter than in the question of how to win the war.
I would like to supplement what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said on the subject of the contribution which can be made by India and the Colonial Empire towards winning the war, and I would ask for the indulgence of the House, which is always accorded to anyone who holds very strong, and, in my case, almost fanatical, views on a certain subject, while I unfold the plan which I am about to do. I begin by a simple mathematical calculation. There are, I understand, from the up-to-date figures, in this country and in the Dominions, excluding certain persons in South Africa who are not friendly to the war effort, something like 67,000,000 people of European descent of both sexes and of all ages. Let me add to that 10,000,000 or 11,000,000 people in that gallant new little Allied country, Greece, which brings the number up to 78,000,000 or 79,000,000, and let me add—it is rather a higher figure; I know something of the actual figure, but I do not think that it is in the public interest to give it—as an estimate another 1,000,000 persons from Free France, Norway, Belgium, Holland and elsewhere. That brings the total number up to something under 80,000,000 persons. Let the House realise this fact, which has never been brought out in debate, not even in the speeches of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, in that series of the most eloquent addresses that, I suppose, have ever been delivered in this House. Put into juxtaposition to these figures, the fact that there are 80,000,000 people of Germanic descent who can be relied upon. There are 41,000,000 people in Italy, and that brings the number up to 121,000,000 persons. There are at least another 20,000,000 people over whom the Germans exercise effective control. Therefore, you have for fighting purposes a population of over 121,000,000 people, and I am including all ages of both sexes. You have another 20,000,000 persons who are under the effective control of Germany, and you have opposed to them something like 79,000,000 people on our side.
These are formidable figures which the House should take into consideration far more than it has done. We have had far too many debates on abstract questions and far too few on concrete facts. They would be formidable figures indeed if they were not matched with this consideration. There are in India, Burma, the Crown Colonies and the Colonial Empire generally, excluding the indigenous African inhabitants of South Africa, who, for reasons which I personally regret, are in a special category, 400,000,000. So that, added to the 79,000,000 of ourselves and our friends and allies, it gives a total of 479,000,000. The territories they inhabit are rich in every form of material required for war purposes. What are the reserves in this respect already developed and to which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary have referred? They merely constitute the slender and the scattered advance guard of the potentialities that exist in every form of production, and I hope that the Minister of Supply, who is represented by the Parliamentary Secretary, will pay due regard to what has been said by both Ministers who have spoken. What has been at the back of their speeches is that there is nothing to stop enormous armies being raised to-day except supply, and trade and labour-power. I hope that the Minister of Supply will "read, mark, learn and inwardly digest" those speeches. The inhabitants of the Commonwealth of Nations are nine-tenths in spirit in this war. There is no question of compulsion coming into the running at all, as both my right hon. Friend and the Under-Secretary have made clear. The gifts, efforts and services of these 400,000,000 should excite our utmost admiration and gratitude. No one could hear without emotion the facts and figures in that regard. The facts and figures were given by two Ministers. I would like to give one example which my right hon. Friend did not give because his time was curtailed, although we appreciate very much the way in which he packed such promising meat into a short period during which he spoke. The example is this: In Bengal Province, which has had the traditional record in the past of turbulence and violence, there is to-day a Government which does not number a single European among its members. Yet they have formed, in every town and village, war purposes committees. These committees are wholly voluntary bodies, whose business is to endeavour to raise money for war purposes and to induce people to join the new Bengali battalions which have been raised. The tenour of the speeches which have been made at these meetings was, "We have been told in the past that we were wild people, not prepared to fight. Now we will prove that that is not true by joining the new battalions." This is a splendid example of co-operation among all classes and castes, and we see the same on the North-West Frontier, where more and more people who have been our former enemies are coming forward to help us.
These are new battations. I am much obliged to my hon. Friend; I should have remembered that a battalion was raised in the last war. I say that there are three facts of searchlight intensity which I believe will eventually penetrate to every corner of India, Burma and the Colonies. My right hon. Friend dealt with one, and it cannot be too clearly expressed in this House or outside. We cannot, even if we could, divest ourselves of responsibility for organising by land, sea and air the defences of this vast area in conjunction with, and by the willing help of, our fellow-subjects. That is a legal and constitutional responsibility from which we cannot absolve ourselves. If we do it properly and the war lasts another two or three years, we shall have trained and developed resources in manpower and material which will not suffer by comparison with the United States and Russia. That is a point which cannot be sufficiently emphasised.
There are some people who, to use a modern cliché, indulge in wishful thinking on the subject of the assistance which we can obtain outside this Empire. There are some who still think it is possible at this time to obtain the actual help, as an ally, of Russia in this war. I do not want to go into a subject which is not under discussion in this Debate, but I must say that I see no prospect of such a thing occurring, at any rate during the next year or so. There are others who indulge in an even more dangerous form of wishful thinking, which goes on in private, if not in public, and it is this, that sooner or later, despite definite assurances given on the subject by both Presidential candidates at the last election in America, the United States will come into the war as a combatant. I have been in the United States since the war broke out, and I believe that Mr. Roosevelt and his opponent at that election were both absolutely correct in judging public opinion when they said that in this war the United States would give every help short of entering the war. It is only a pipe-smoker's dream to think that we are going to see American ships or American troops fighting for us in Europe or on any other front, except in one very limited area to which the war is not likely to go. Therefore, whatever question of political expediency comes in, we have to develop our own tremendous resources.
The other searchlight fact is this, that if we lose the war, the fate of India, Burma and the Colonies is certain, and all, except those in the West Indies, which the United States can protect, will come into the possession of one or other of the totalitarian Powers. Hopes of self-government and self-determination will disappear, and they will be slave States, as we shall he. Therefore, we have to get out of our minds the thought that this is a fight by little Britain against Powers superior in number. It is we who have the numbers—one-quarter of the world's surface and one-fifth of its population. These vast populations under the British flag have the same incentive as we have in our fight.
Yes, that is so, and others, of course. What ought to be done? We have had an outline to-day of what is being done and what can be done, but I myself, without being the least critical of the Secretary of State for India or the Secretary of State for the Colonies, who have done yeoman service in their respective positions, regret that more work was not done by their predecessors. They might have done more than they did during the first eight months of the war when they were in office. I do not want to embarrass my right hon. Friend, but I do know from information which has reached me in a perfectly proper manner that infinitely more has been done since he and his colleague came into office than was done during the previous eight months. But it is only the beginning. May I put very shortly the points which I desire to bring forward to the House with regard to what ought to be done?
First, more garrison battalions should be raised. There is a number of parts of the Empire where, without saying anything uncomplimentary in the slightest degree about the indigenous inhabitants, there has not been in the immediate past the great tradition or a fighting spirit. Garrison battalions should be raised in these countries. They would not in all cases require a great amount of modernised arms and equipment. I was disappointed to hear the Under-Secretary say that despite the patriotic urge of the people of the West Indies, who, as the House knows, are mainly of African descent, it had not been found possible to make use of their services in the Army. In the last war, in Palestine, where I was, we had several West Indian battalions which had been specially raised during the war. They were composed wholly of Africans; many of them had been in good positions in private life and served with the greatest eagerness and willingness. They were, too, well disciplined units. Why cannot such units be raised in the present war and sent for garrison purposes to other parts of the Empire? Some might be made use of in Malaya, Singapore, Hong Kong or even Egypt.
I think that the very minimum which should be laid down as the first step is a field Army of 3,000,000 persons composed of European descent from the British Empire. In that figure I allow, of course, for Dominion troops and the troops which we are raising or about to raise at home. Then there should be raised a Force of 1,500,000 from India and Burma. My right hon. Friend should not hesitate to take that step as an aid. In the last war 1,500,000 troops from India and Burma went overseas. The present figure is 500,000, and they are being highly trained and properly provided with all the modern mechanised aids to warfare which are possible. Then there is the Colonial contribution. From Africa, Malaya and the rest of the Colonies there should be 500,000, which would give us a field Army of 5,000,000. Somebody might say, "You are thinking in terms of the mass movement of the land armies of the last war."
I would like to ask this question, which I have never heard answered in this House and which ought to be dealt with by the Prime Minister and others when the next Debate on the Adjournment comes along. The question, which is an answer to the interruption just made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Wedgwood), is this: How can anyone say that we are in a position to decide the limits of land warfare in this war? Who in this House dare get up and say that we British are in a position to decide this question? Are not Egypt, the Sudan, Gibraltar, Iraq, the Persian Gulf, our own home land, or even India, future targets for the vast land forces of Germany and Italy or some other possible enemy? Are people in this country so benighted that they suppose Hitler and Mussolini are going to sit still in the way they are at present? What is the meaning of all this that is going on? Unless I am mistaken, before many months or weeks, or even days, have passed, we shall see vast land operations put into force on the Continent of Europe. I do not think this point would be repudiated by the Prime Minister, who in
his series of admirable addresses has been very careful to make two points. First, he has made it clear that we are still only in the very initial stages of this war, and secondly, he has used a very significant phrase which I commend to the attention of the House. He said that air superiority was the precursor to victory, not victory itself. It is a very interesting fact that the other day a most distinguished German military writer, who for some reason best known to the Germans—and I think the reason is fairly obvious—was permitted to state his views rather more frankly than most journalists are allowed to do in that country at the present time. He said:
Do not let us delude ourselves into the belief that air warfare is going to finish this war. It has got to be fought out on land.
I find it hard to believe that, if we are ultimately to have a victory of such a nature as to stop Germany for ever we shall not have to confront Germany with land forces which she cannot overcome.
This is the plan which I venture to enumerate. Although I may become a bore on the subject, I certainly intend to speak on it again in future, and I am sufficiently conceited to believe that before many months are out more people than I will be talking in terms of the immense forces we shall have to raise throughout the Empire to win this war. If I mistake not, they will be talking on those lines when the fight really starts next spring. There are a great many people in this country who say, "Why not take the offensive?" If they will look at the numbers of trained troops that we have and the munitions available for them, and if they will look at the number of trained troops under arms in Germany and Italy at the present time, they will receive an answer. Let it he noted that the other day Mussolini made one statement which was probably true amid a tissue of falsehoods. He said that Italy had called up only a tiny part of the troops that she could put under arms. Nothing must he allowed to interfere with our maintenance of Naval supremacy and our attainment of air superiority. There is not the least reason why my plan should involve any such interference.
We should raise armies and train them in their countries of origin. We should start schools of instruction in those countries for future officers and N.C.O's., both European and of the indigenous races. Speaking generally, and without saying anything derogatory to the indigenous races of India and Africa, they fight on the whole better alongside trained European troops, and there is not the least reason why, not only some of the British and Dominion troops, but some of the troops of our Allies—I know something about one of them, and more magnificent forces I have never seen—should not be sent to these countries to form a nucleus of the new great armies which could be raised. We should add enormously to the existing munitions factories in India. What my right hon. Friend has succeeded in doing up till now is only a start. He has acted very wisely, displaying initiative after the inertia of the late administration, for which I blame partly the late Secretary of State and, I am sorry to say, partly the Government of India; why it should have taken 14 months to prepare for this Conference in India I cannot think, for the Conference should have taken place in the first three months of the war. I blame the late Secretary of State, the Colonial Office and the Government of India. As a result of this Conference I hope there will be an immense acceleration in effort. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that they are producing something like 30,000 out of the 40,000 items of equipment required for the Armed Forces in India and producing guns and howitzers up to 6 inches, but I shall not be satisfied—and nor will my hon. Friends on this side—until they are producing tanks, armoured cars, and above all, aeroplanes, for there is no reason why this should not be done.
We should also build great factories for the production of munitions in Africa. Why should not that he done? What is the Ministry of Supply doing about this in the intervals of appealing to employers and employés to be good boys and do their best? Are they starting munitions factories in Africa? Some years ago I was in West Africa on a trip, and I had the privilege of seeing over a factory, the nature of which I will not attempt to describe, for I do not think it world he in the public interest to do so, which at that time was, and I think to-day is, engaged in very technical manufacturing processes. It is processing a certain raw material. I draw the attention of the Under-Secretary to the fact that when it was started it was partly staffed by British labour specially brought out. I saw the manager, and he told me that one of the greatest calumnies that he knew was the statement that the West African is not a good workman and does not know how to deal with machines. He said that he had had Chinese working under him and that he could assure me that those trained Africans were just as good as the Chinese. This sort of thing should be done on a larger scale, and—I say this with the greatest sincerity—with every precaution to see that proper rates of pay are given, that the welfare of the men is looked after, and that there is no attempt to cut down prices because the things are made there and not in this country. It should be done on a wide scale, and both Secretaries of State should aim at being able to supply the new armies, which I hope are to be raised, from their own factories in those countries. Let the Colonial Governments act as agents for the British Government in putting up the factories and raise some of the money for them by local loans and subscriptions. The voluntary funds which have been raised for war purpose—the figure given by the Under-Secretary of State was a very remarkable one—could be devoted to equally patriotic use, together with local loans, if necessary, if it went into the development of these countries for the benefit of the war effort and the benefit of the inhabitants after the war. This is almost unscratched virgin soil, and we should do everything we can, by voluntary effort and persuasion, and not by compulsion.
We should devise a plan for one, two or three years, or even longer. We need to get rid of the dangerous idea, which is certainly not the idea of the Prime Minister, that this is going to be a short war because Germany cannot stand a long one, or because both sides will fight each other to a standstill, we winning by a narrow margin. It is no good winning by a narrow margin; we must win by overwhelming superiority in man-power and material. We cannot get that overwhelming superiority unless we call in the aid of India and the Colonial Empire. It is the very essence of realism, if we would only grasp the fact, that we can, if necessary, but only by developing all the resources of man-power and material in our Empire, sustain an ever-growing war effort for years to come. What was it which, above all else, defeated the Germans in 1918? It was not, as Hitler has tried to make us believe, and as some of the apologists of Hitler in this country have tried to make us believe, because the home front had broken down out of lack of vigour. The home front in Germany broke down because the soldiers at the front told them it was no use going on fighting the war because every day more and more material and more and more man-power were being used against them, and that more and more men were coming over from the United States. Substitute for the United States the rest of the Empire, and let the Jerries realise that every day from a certain date onwards more and more trained men are coming from all parts of the Empire and more and more materials coming from our incomparable resources, and then you will have done a psychological thing worth all the talk about war aims and all the propaganda put together. I do not attack debates on war aims or propaganda; they are a valuable supplement; but you will never defeat the Germans, never get those among the Germans who are friendly to our cause and never get the millions or poor devils who are oppressed by the Germans all over Europe to-day to rise until they know that we have sufficient power in this England to defeat the Germans. This comes first, and the other is merely a supplement.
I venture briefly to give this respectful advice to an institution which I admire very much and of which once I was a humble member—the Press. They are too much inclined to employ writers on our war effort who have the ideas of 1914 and who were discredited in prophecies even in those years. Let the Press get young men who can propagate the idea of these vast untapped resources of the whole Empire in this war, which is likely to be the greatest and hardest war in history.
We are a most valiant nation in action, but often most timorous in thought. We dislike grand conceptions and anything which looks like the German idea of "kolossal." We dislike grandeur, but we have to think and plan on a vast scale to win this war. Let us, then, not be afraid of supporting openly and wholeheartedly the principle of the mobilisation of the human and material resources of one-fifth of the world's population and one-quarter of its surface, to defeat Nazi Germany and her miserable accomplice filially and completely. Let us, in our debates in the House from now onwards, concentrate particularly on these facts. Nothing matters compared with more and more destroyers, more and more cruisers, for without them we may easily lose the war. More and more destroyers, more and more cruisers, more and more aeroplanes, limitless numbers of aeroplanes that will obscure the sky; more and more trained men. Let us talk in millions of trained land soldiers. Let us always go for a bigger number than the Ministers tell us is possible. They always say that they cannot raise the numbers in the time and that they cannot get the machines. We know these limits are imposed on Ministers by their Civil servants. Let us always go higher, and let us continue to demand this great principle, that we must, and at an early date, have superior forces, not only on the sea, but in the air and on land as well, to our enemies, Germany and Italy.
The right hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) opened his speech with a handsome and well-deserved compliment to the Secretary of State for India and the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. I wish to associate myself with that compliment, and also to pay the right hon. Gentleman himself a compliment for his very forthright and forceful speech. I want also to make one comment on this Debate. We have less than 3½ hours to debate the whole matter, and already three speakers have taken two hours between them. I know there is much to say and that it is difficult to shorten speeches, but in these days, when we have so few hours of debate on these issues, it is well for all Members, both on the Front Benches and on the Back Benches, to be as brief as possible. I intend to be brief.
I last intervened in a Debate on India in those great days in 1935 when we were passing the India Act. Those who had the pleasure and privilege of participating in those Debates will ever remember the almost daily duels between the right hon. Gentleman who is now Prime Minister and
the then Secretary of State for India, the right hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoarc), and in spite of the great skill and eloquence of the Prime Minister, I think I may say that the honours during those Debates were even between them. I have a feeling that the trouble in India is still to some extent associated with those Debates. When we remember who is the Prime Minister of this country to-day, when we remember his hostile and aggressive manner during those Debates on that very modest proposal, and when we realise that those speeches are circulated in India, that the people there know that the man who delivered them is the Prime Minister of this country and has such great influence in this country, I think it can be understood that Congressmen are wondering how far will this man go. They know that he was very strenuous in opposition even to those modest proposals in 1935. They ask themselves whether he can be trusted to champion any great reform, and extensive reform. After all, in those days the present Prime Minister delivered some very powerful speeches every one of them condemning even those very modest proposals, and I fell sure that as Prime Minister of this country he has to do much to remove the suspicion in India, especially among Congressmen, as regards his own attitude to India. I recognise and appreciate that the Secretary of State underlined the fact that the Prime Minister sent a message to the Delhi Conference, a good message, a message which he ought to have sent; but I think he has to send more messages to India yet if he is to get Congressmen to believe that he, as head of the Government, believes in a real and radical reform for India. The Prime Minister carries tremendous weight in this country; his influence to-day is equal to, if not greater than, the influence of any statesman in the history of this country, but I am not
He has won his victory; he has won the victory for which he has fought hard, and long, and adroitly; hut it is not victory, in our opinion, for the interests of this country,
nor a victory for the welfare of the peoples of India."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th June, 1935; Vol. 302, col. 1925.]
These are the words our present Prime Minister used on a very modest proposal in the India Bill. It is necessary for the Prime Minister to make it known, not only in this country and in India, but throughout the world, that he, personally, supports drastic reforms for India. I pay him this compliment; I must for his magnanimity. He has had the wisdom to place the right hon. Gentleman as Secretary of State for India. It was a very wise choice, and I most heartily agree with it. I remember the right hon. Gentleman's great contributions during those Debates—at any rate from my own point of view.
Let us drop the idea that the Congressmen are taking advantage of the present situation and emergency to force upon us something in which we do not believe. I have had a great deal to do with industrial negotiations, and I have seen one party in a dispute compelled to accept objectionable terms of another to end the controversy. I know they have often said that they will accept the terms, but they have waited their time to turn them to their own account. I daresay there are Congressmen who will do the same thing, but nevertheless we have to realise that the problem is urgent and difficult. We must face up to it. I was very pleased that the Secretary of State referred to the White Paper, because I should like to know why it has been published at all. What has it to do with this question? It is simply an intonation that we consider ourselves right, and that we are sorry that the Congressmen do not agree with us. However, I was pleased to note, in the last sentence, that the door is still left open for the Congressmen to reconsider their position. One of the Prerogatives of the Viceroy is to declare whether India shall take place in the war or not. But I wonder if it would not have been wiser on this occasion if he had said, before exercising this Prerogative, that first he would consult with the leaders of the different parties. Was it because he knew that he would not get their support, and that he thought it better to exercise his Prerogative at once and then to suggest consultations? I am quite satisfied that the reverse of that process would have been better; the Congressmen would have felt they were having a fair deal and were being consulted first. By making that gesture, we should have won more support from the Congressmen.
The right hon. Gentleman stated that Lord Linlithgow had agreed to another year's term. For myself, I wish he had not been asked. I wish the Secretary of State himself had gone to India as Viceroy. I make no reflection on Lord Linlithgow, but the fact remains that he has been there for a very long time, and I think it would have been far wiser if the Government instead of asking him to spend another year there had chosen someone else. Since he is there, I hope that Lord Linlithgow will exercise his great powers of judgment and generosity. I am sorry that Congress withdrew representatives from the eight Provinces. I believe it was a mistake. It may be that the Indian temperament differs from ours, but I think it would have been better to have got on with the negotiations; certainly this action did not help them. I disagree entirely with the civil disobedience movement, but I realise that it is difficult to handle India in the same way as this country. But they are making a mistake when they stress the word "independence." What do they mean by independence? Surely, if they obtain independent status, they can do as Eire has done to-day. Eire, to my disgust, has exercised that liberty of choice and has decided not to assist the British Commonwealth of Nations in their great task. Surely India would have the same right. I do not understand why Congressmen are constantly repeating this word "independence".
I wish to put two suggestions before the Secretary of State. I suggest that the Government of this country should again consider the question of releasing prisoners. I have had the privilege and the great opportunity of meeting Mahatma Gandhi, on two or three occasions, and Jahwal Nehru. I cannot possibly subscribe to all the views of these men, but I was impressed by their transparent sincerity and their downright honesty. If the Government took their courage in their hands and said that they were prepared to go into this question, that they would release all these prisoners and end the policy of repression, and again try the far wiser policy of negotiation, such a declaration would go far. If the Prime Minister himself made such a declaration in this House to the whole world—and there are many interested in the Indian problem outside India and this country—it would have a great effect on Indian opinion. I do not claim any originality for the suggestion, but I have discussed it among friends who wish to see India still more on our side. I agree with the Secretary of State that they have shown sympathy and great help in this struggle. He emphasised equipment; equipment was a major problem. But I am not so sure. Equipment in this country is associated with morale, and morale is a great factor. Equipment will not be forthcoming if morale is not sustained and strengthened.
Why do not the Government consider sending out a small number of people? I am prepared to give a few names, although I know it is risky and dangerous. Why not send the Secretary of State, and with him the ex-Secretary of State, and the Foreign Secretary, as an ex-Viceroy, and a representative of the Liberal party? I believe that a bold gesture of this kind, with these four men of known sympathy to India's aspirations, arriving on the shores of India, would be a tremendous contribution. If this period of repression is to continue, if these sincere, genuine men are to be incarcerated one after another, what do you expect in India, and what kind of spirit do you expect? I know you cannot encourage blackmail. I would never give to blackmail what I would give to reason, but let us adopt the policy which will ease feelings in India. I want the people of India whole-heartedly on one side, not only the Princes, whom I thank for any help they are prepared to give—I would accept help from any part of India—but also the masses, represented by Congressmen, to feel themselves whole-heartedly in this movement. India would not be treated so well by any other Power on this earth as it is by Great Britain. But I see a danger in the refusal to meet Congressmen, representing, as they do, the masses of people in India. This White Paper ought never to have been printed. It makes no contribution to the problem; it simply reminds Congressmen that we still consider ourselves to be right. India hates Hitlerism just as much as we. Mahatma Gandhi, of necessity, must from the very depths of his personality hate anything connected with Hitler, and so must the Congressmen. They will give a handsome contribution in helping us through these difficulties if only we make one other supreme effort to get them to see that we are in sympathy with their aspirations, and that we will give to them as soon as possible, if not during the war, after, that for which they ask and which we interpret as Dominion status, to which they are entitled.
Before passing on to the very few observations that I wish to address to the House, I should like to associate myself with what was said by the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) and the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) in expressing appreciation of the statements made by the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary for the Colonies. They were heartening statements in regard to the developing and strength in India, the Dominions, the Colonies, and the efforts which they have set on foot to make up that leeway to which the Secretary of State referred. The House is also indebted to the Noble Lord for taking a leading part in arranging this discussion, and it is regrettable that we have only a few hours for debate. We are further indebted to the Noble Lord not only for the very able quantitative estimate that he gave of our Colonial resources, but for his impressive warning that this war may be a long one. Even though we may hope it may be shorter, at least we have to bear in mind that no effort in any direction short of the uttermost is one with which we should be satisfied.
There is much that is satisfactory and much that is heartening in the review that we have had. It is true that there is leeway to be made up. On the other hand, we are starting from a very much broader basis than anything on which we had to build 20 years ago. Wherever we look we see a vast tribute, not indeed to the Imperial idea, but to the spirit of the Commonwealth, not directed towards the domination of anyone, but aspiring towards a system which seeks to give equal freedom to all. It is a review which can give no comfort to the enemy but should be an encouragement to us to press forward individually and collectively with everything that we can possibly do to bring our efforts to the maximum. I am glad that the Eastern Conference is being held at Delhi. That is the proper place for it to be held. It might well have been held before. It is a very important conference, an attempt at loosening central control in the economic sphere, and it is in keeping with the whole harmony of Commonwealth development. From a purely economic aspect it has consequences of the greatest importance at the stage at which we are at the moment. But, looking forward a little more, I hope the impetus which it will give to production in India and elsewhere will be of the greatest possible help in raising the standard of living and the general level of life in India when the war is over. That, I think, is one of the least consequences that may flow from the holding of the conference. It is quite clear that the major effort for the success of war in the Near East must come from the efforts which may be organised at Delhi.
I leave that part of the subject and turn to what the right hon. Gentleman said on the moral and spiritual side. He was perfectly right in saying that on the fundamental issues of this war there is no difference of opinion in India at all. I am fortified in that expression by a speech on the 13th instant by the President of Congress, who expressed his unequivocal hatred of Nazism and its activities. If there is that fundamental agreement, it makes it all the more lamentable that we cannot build upon it, in India itself, and between India and this country, a complete agreement so that this conflict may be India's war wholeheartedly as well as ours. I certainly associate myself with what the hon. Member for Ince said in this connection. There is arising in India a situation which can give satisfaction to no one in India or in this country. It can give satisfaction to no one anywhere unless it is to our common enemies, for we have common enemies. This situation is bound up very much with the hopeful and encouraging statement of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the contribution already made by British India and the States to the war effort, and it recalls a sentence in the statement of the Governor-General of India in August. Speaking of India he said:
She has already made a mighty contribution. She is anxious to make a greater contribution still. His Majesty's Government are deeply concerned that the unity of
national purpose in India which will enable her to do so should be achieved at as early a moment as possible.
His Majesty's Government presumably hold that feeling no less strongly to-day than in August, and I think it should be made quite clear that that is their wish and their intention and, if any further statement can be made by the Prime Minister along the lines suggested by the hon. Member for Ince, I hope it will be made. But I cannot disguise from myself that a situation has arisen in India which, if allowed to drift, is bound to deteriorate rather than to get better. It may be urged that, having no practical experience of Indian affairs, my judgment is wrong. It is true that the only claim that I have to speak about India is the very strong sense of the responsibility which is shared by all Members of the House for the conduct of Indian affairs, and it is on that ground that I express my own personal concern at the situation that has arisen.
I think the situation at the moment is an offence against reason. It is certainly an offence against good government. If we are to take it in conjunction with this document, the White Paper just issued, and we are to assume that this document is the last word in the discussions between the Government of this country and certain elements in Indian political life, this is a document of despair. My right hon. Friend must know that it will certainly be represented as being a relapse into the policy of repression and drift. It must not be regarded as the last word in our policy. When I see people with whom I am friendly, or with whom I would be friends if they would let me, taking a course which I think wrong-headed, I try to put myself in their place. I have tried honestly to put myself in the place of those who are taking this point of view in India. I know their intense veneration for their ancient culture. I know their fierce resentment at patronage in the past and their sense of irritation against tutelage and of being in leading strings in the present. I appreciate to the full their continuing sense of disappointment, in the numerous declarations which have been made with regard to the Constitution of India in the last 20 years and the extraordinarily slow progress, as it seems to them, in reaching a decision.
There has been too much talk over years of Dominion status as the ultimate goal for India. It has been a sort of disappearing target, a rainbow which one can never reach. When war breaks out, they are told that they are in it without consultation, but that Eire is free to do as she likes. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for the fact that he has got away from the ultimate goal and has gone further than anyone else towards meeting the aspirations of India. He says we are anxious to enable India, with our co-operation, but of their own volition, to determine the kind of Constitution they shall have so that they may enjoy neither more nor less than the freedom which we enjoy ourselves. That is the position to-day. Having made every allowance for this disappointment and for the slowness of progress and for the fundamental mistake of putting India into the war without preliminary discussion—there were great questions of defence which had to be taken into account—I believe it would have made all the difference if that had been done.
But there is something more. This policy cannot serve any useful purpose, either the purpose of India or the purpose of those who seek to represent the point if view and arguments of Congress itself. It can bring comfort to no one but the enemies of India and ourselves. Mahatma Gandhi, referring to the speech of the Secretary of State on 14th August, a speech which, had it been heard in India, would, I think, have carried conviction to everyone who heard it, said it soothed the ears but did not dispel suspicion. If any words that I could say could reach the car of Gandhi or have any influence with him if he heard them, I would say, "Is it fair at a time when there is a world conflict on behalf of liberty, when an attempt is being made by calculated fraud, and brute force to destroy that organised mendacity, is it fair, is it reasonable, is it logical to say that you will withhold the maximum support which you can give to the cause of freedom because of that suspicion? Would it not be honest of Congress to put that suspicion to the test, and, if you think there is a bluff going forward, to call the bluff?" It is a pity it has not been done. It is not too late even now.
I have not attempted to deal with that particular aspect of the question, but, as my hon. and gallant Friend has asked me, I will say a word on it. If we are to consider the immediate possible practical developments in India on the lines indicated by my hon. Friend the Member for Ince, we have to realise that there is no settlement which can concede the outright demands of Congress and of the Moslem League. We have further to consider that the grant of complete independence for India during a world conflagration such as this is something which simply cannot be entertained, nor do I think anybody would reasonably ask it. The logical conclusion of complete independence for India at this moment would be the withdrawal of all British forces from India, and she would be confronted with the enormous task of building up and improvising defences against enemies who might come from more directions than one. If we are to take further steps immediately to resolve the situation which has arisen, we have to realise that neither such extreme demands as that nor the demands of, for example, the Moslem League for a territorial partition of the country, are steps which can be taken or, indeed, can be asked for. I would suggest that whatever Mr. Gandhi may have said in July, 1940, there are other statements which have been made since and which have a bearing on the situation. There is, for example, the statement made by Mr. Rajagopalachan that if a National Government could be arranged within the present Constitution, Congress would not insist upon a Prime Minister from Congress, but would agree to serve under a Moslem Minister who would have the usual right of appointment enjoyed by a Prime Minister.
My right hon. Friend said in the last Debate on this subject that there had been too much long-range cannonading between India and this country and the Indian parties themselves. I agree with him, and it is for that reason that I am anxious that some steps should be taken to bring these people together. If it was possible for the right hon. Gentleman himself to go there, I am sure he would go with the good will of everybody in the House. I can imagine that there are many reasons why he would think it not suitable. It may be that, in the view of the Government of India, the civil disobedience movement may collapse and that the question will solve itself. I am unable to take that view. Such knowledge and recollection of history as I have suggest that that is a course which is most unlikely. It may be considered undesirable that anybody should presume to interfere with or trespass on the domain of the man on the spot represented by the Viceroy. I say, however, that the position in India is too serious and potentially grave to allow any reasons of a conventional character to stand in the way. I have spoken longer than I had intended, because I feel that this is the one point in which the moral armour of democracy has a break in it at the present time. I do not think that the situation in India is so difficult that it cannot be solved, but the one thing essential is that action should be continuous and that it should not go out that the document which we have received to-day, the reasons for the publication of which I am at a loss to understand, is the last word. That would be a fatal way of dealing with this question at this particularly difficult time.
I would like to support the admirable speech made by by Noble Friend, the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton). Apart from the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for India, my Noble Friend has had longer contact with Imperial affairs than anyone left to us in the House of Commons. Therefore, the high quality and comprehensive nature of his speech was only to be expected. Perhaps my Noble Friend will permit me one small criticism. I think he tended to underestimate the nature of the change in our political and administrative control over India in the last 25 years. I think that India exists at the moment in a half-way world. She is on the way to Dominion status, to an independence which she has never enjoyed before. Therefore, it is not particularly easy for the Government here to inspire in India the rapid industrial and economic development which would give the war effort of this country and of the Empire the type of support it must have if it is to win the war decisively. I agree with my right hon. Friend in what he said about wishful thinking in this country in regard to the United States. The Empire must rely upon its own efforts to win the war. We have the men, the resources and the brains. Let us develop the energy to win this war and to win it as quickly as possible, because the war itself may be only the minimum of our task and the problems which will follow in the peace will outweigh anything that we have to attempt during the war. We want to cultivate during the war opportunities and possibilities not only with India, but with the Colonial Empire and the other Dominions, in order to prepare ourselves for the immediate post-war years.
I was glad that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State quoted India's effort during the last war. It was a magnificent effort. In terms of men, the overseas contribution was in the neighbourhood of 1,300,000 men. Some part of that was composed of followers and Labour Corps people. On the other hand, without that effort we should not have won the last war. The total contribution of India exceeded by some hundreds of thousands the combined total contributions of all the other Dominions. In this war India will have to make a still mightier effort if we are to win decisively, because the co-operation of the skilled worker, the mill worker and the technical student is just as important as the loyalty of the Indian Army itself. It is to be regretted that politics so often dominate and cloud every issue in India. For decades past they have retarded social and economic advances. Nevertheless, India with us will make it possible for us to win the war decisively. India's contribution may even in some respects have to exceed our own, and, certainly in the support which may have to be given to the war in its North African or Mauretanian phase, the time may come when the major part of the support in that area must come from India and some of the Colonial Empire.
The economic leadership in the East belongs to India and not to Japan. We have to use this war to guarantee India that leadership and we have to support India in all that she does in an economic sense. The special Mission now in Delhi examining India's war potential, the immense problem of price equalisation between the Empire countries, the work of the many committees now examining the future of our own export trade, even the mission which Lord Willingdon has taken to South America to dispose of the immense surpluses that have grown up out of our sea blockade—all these are problems which cannot be divorced from India's future. One of the tragedies of India in this war is that we so often hear what the politicians want to do for India. Never do we hear of what the younger business men in Bombay, Calcutta and Madras, or the agricultural or forestry experts in the Provinces are trying to do to improve the assets of their country. Whenever I regard the Indian scene, I always think of that socially charming occasion when the late Lord Curzon of Kedleston presided over a luncheon given in honour of Amundsen, the Polar explorer, who has just returned from his lightning dash for the South Pole. Lord Curzon called for three cheers for the dogs which drew the sleigh. Amundsen never forgave Lord Curzon for his sense of proportion. I think that the time has come when we have to show a little better sense of proportion in regard to the contribution which India will make. It is not a political contribution, but if is an economic and supply contribution. On that basis alone can India decide whether she will, in fact, help this country to win the war decisively.
I am sure the House will regret that the Debate has taken place on a day when we are limited by the fact that we are now within the last hour of the Session. The excellent speeches of both Ministers and the speeches that have followed have given us an indication that it would have been well had we been able to devote separate days to the discussion of India and of Colonial problems. One must, therefore, short-circuit many things one would have liked to say owing to the exigencies of time and the fact that the right hon. Gentleman would like to reply to some of the points that have been raised. I would like to make one or two references to the Colonial problem which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary brought before us, while regretting that I have not more time, because it is a problem on which I have some first-hand knowledge. One of the most remarkable things in this war is the way in which it has thrown together what would normally be opposing ideas and personalities. If anybody had told me that the time would come when I would find myself in agreement wan the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), I should not have believed him. Now that I do find myself whole-heartedly in accord with the very powerful case which he has advanced, particularly would I emphasise what he said respecting the development of the economic side of the Colonies, for it is in that sphere rather more than in the supply of actual fighting men that they can give us the largest measure of support in the prosecution of this war. I want to bear first-hand testimony to the noble Lord's statement about the West African making a very good mechanic. Several times I have been in motors cars which have broken down in deserts hundreds of miles from anywhere, and to have seen how the drivers and mechanics were able to improvise and repair in order to ensure that the car reached its destination would have been a lesson to many mechanics in European countries.
We have a tremendous wealth of unused labour in that part of the world which can be harnessed, and willingly harnessed just now, to the production of equipment and to giving us assistance in many other ways. We ought, however, to pay attention to our methods of propaganda and approach. So often we do the wise thing in the wrong way, and often raise doubts and difficulties which need not have been provoked. These people in West Africa are unquestionably loyal to the Empire. I recall with some amusement, and yet with a good deal of pleasure, that less than two years ago, when I was in Nigeria, there came a rumour that probably Germany was to enter into the possession of the country. It caused almost a panic among the population from Emirs to houseboys. Many people waited on my hon. Friend and myself to inquire whether there was any truth in the report, and when we got to the largest native city the feeling was so strong that we found it necessary to telegraph to the Prime Minister—at the time it was Mr. Chamberlain—calling attention to the difficulties that were arising and saying that the rumour would have to be contradicted. A telegram was sent to us in reply, and criers went round the streets of the city announcing that it was not intended to hand Nigeria over to the Germans. That was an indication of the loyalty of these people towards the British Crown, and it was a feeling which we found everywhere; and yet again and again we came across instances where, by a little greater tactfulness, a little better appreciation of the native mentality, we might have done more to win them to us.
There has recently been published a book, "Behind God's Back," by an eminent American writer, Negley Farson, and everyone who is interested in Africa will be well repaid by reading it. Although he is a critic, he is a friendly critic. He there points out many of the defects in our administration, and says that while he appreciates that we act from the very highest motives we often give an entirely wrong impression of our desires. He gives one very amusing example. In connection with the war we issued a statement in the vernacular press that our enemies, when they do get possession of a country, rape the women of the opposing forces. In a country where I was introduced to a chief who had 36 wives—a number which had been reduced, largely owing to the slump—that was not likely to carry very much weight. I merely quote that as an indication of careless and foolish propaganda. That critic pays great tribute to the scrupulous honesty with which we had administered the Mandate in Nigeria. He said we had administered the country in such a way as to do credit to ourselves, but pointed out also that we had placed its economic development largely in the hands of those who are now our enemies on the field of battle.
In view of the short time of my disposal, I can only content myself with emphasising what the noble Lord has already said, that we will use every opportunity to develop to the full the economic resources and the labour power of our African and other colonies, which can do much to supplying the munitions of war that we need. I should like to point out, however, that we are likely to make some mistakes by restricting, as we seem to do, the possibilities of carrying on trade between the West Indies and other of our Colonies. I know there are difficulties in the matter of exchange and in other ways, but we should be careful not to make it more difficult for these people to pursue their economic existence or it will be very hard upon them. I understand that the Canadian West Indian Agreement, which it has been suggested should be revised, has been withdrawn for the time being—and I hope permanently—and that action has, I understand, removed some elements of fear among the people.
The discussion has turned largely on the question of India, and I have a few remarks to make, which will be mainly on the political side. I wish to associate myself without any reservation with the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald). I regret very much that the advice given from both sides of the House when we discussed this subject last August was not followed, and I am sure that we all do. I believe that the Secretary of State had every intention of implementing to the full all that was contained in the Viceroy's invitation and his Memorandum, and I regret the subsequent statements which have been published, because I think they are likely to give the impression that we shall fall back upon methods of repression rather than seek to keep the door open for negotiations in order to find an agreement. If it be true that Mr. Gandhi has said:
We do not seek our independence out of British ruin.
then, surely, it is not too much to ask that Mr. Gandhi might think again, having regard to the issues that are at stake, and also to the fact that all hopes and expectations which he and his colleagues may have in mind would vanish like smoke before the wind if it were to happen that the chances of war should go against us. I still ask why they should not see their way to accept the Viceroy's offer in good faith and with good will. With Hindus and Mussulmen co-operating in the Councils, they might find there a greater measure of agreement than they have thought possible, and out of that might come an agreed measure for a united and self-governing India. Let them get together and submit their own proposals. I think that would be one of the finest steps that could be taken, and I feel that the circumstances would have to be extraordinary if their efforts did not meet with sympathetic consideration from the Government here. Such action would go a long way to solving this tremendous issue.
The President of the All India Conference has said that the present crisis has arisen owing to the outbreak of war in Europe and the action of the British Government in declaring India a belligerent country without the consent of the Indian people. It might have saved a lot of trouble, and would certainly have removed the possibility of complaint, if we had departed from the ordinary practice and made some approach to discussing with them the question of their being drawn into the war. A great deal of harm has also been done by the savage sentence passed on Mr. Nehru. It is worse than wicked, it is stupid, and stupidity in a Government sometimes leads to very much worse happenings. It may be that the sentence will be modified; the right hon. Gentleman may use his influence, but the mischief has been done, and it has exacerbated feelings in a way that might have been avoided with a little more circumspection and restraint. In his statement of 5th November, repeated on 18th December, the Viceroy said that Dominion status for India remained the goal for India. That, I believe, is the aim and purpose. When we discussed this question in August I ventured to say that it would give India as full scope for her freedom as she could possibly need. After all, this country, Australia and Canada all stand on an equal footing within our Commonwealth. I hope it is not true, as I have heard, that the Viceroy has actually withdrawn that statement of his, and is not going to proceed with the setting up of the Executive Council. There is no harm in keeping the door open and endeavouring to bring the Indian people into line with the other peoples of the Empire.
To those who criticise and say that we ought to give full liberty to India without further discussion I would say that we must remember the difficulties of India. They are not a homogeneous people. The country is almost as large as Europe and has a larger population, very diversiicd, racial and religious difficulties, and one knows that if the control or restraining power at the top were withdrawn, all the elements in India would fly apart and greater disaster would ensue. Ways and means of dealing with India's particular position will have to be found, however, even though they do not follow on the lines of the other Dominions. The late Lord Morley said that the fur coat of Canada would not do for the extremely tropical climate of India. In that case it is for us to assist the Indian people, both Mussulmen and Hindus, to solve the problem. There was an occasion only a few years ago when, if we had been quick, we might have taken an opportunity to get a measure of agreement among the people there. Mr. Jinnah has said that the people of India were determined to fight to the last ditch for rights to which they are entitled in spite of the British or Congress. It is suggested that that statement sets up an insuperable barrier to agreement, but we have all heard statements of that kind in negotiations, trade unions and other, and none the less we have managed to keep the negotiations alive and reach agreements. If it is true that there are difficulties at the moment because the Asiatic mentality is different from our own, there is, nevertheless, not the slightest reason why we should falter in our endeavour to find a way out. One certainly cannot ignore the 90,000,000 Moslems, or the subjects of the ruling Princes, or members of the other castes, in all something like 150,000,000 people who are not covered by the Congress party. They must be considered. It is right to point out also that no section has the right indefinitely to hold up the lawful aspirations of the majority of the people; all must seek some means of coming together and achieving a measure of agreement.
I still think that, with a little patience and effort by India and by this country, India may see the wisdom of finding ways and means whereby we can co-operate with each other and that the time may soon come when, like Canada, India will be able to say: "Daughter am I in my mother's house, but mistress in my own." Let India and ourselves recall the happenings on the North-West Frontier in 1919, immediately after the termination of the last war, when frontier troubles with Afghanistan were stirred up by outside influences and a situation was created which meant tremendous loss of life and fighting for some time. We want nothing of that kind again. Surely out of the present war can come a better understanding and a drawing closer together of the bonds of Empire, not only between The European countries, but with our Asiatic brethren.
The hon. Member who spoke before me made what I thought was a pertinent remark. He said that, in the East, India should, and does, lead. She can lead also spiritually, and an opportunity is now presented to her. The door is now open, and I still hope that she will find the Way that has been offered for her to come into that bond, and to show that she is not only willing but has the capacity to carry out executive functions of administration. Both Moslem and Hindu, Congressman and the Working Committee, should sit down together in the interval and hammer out a proposal which can be put up to the British Government, in order that, when things become more settled, we may all sit down in harmony to rebuild once more, and to maintain, the Commonwealth of Nations on a surer and stronger foundation than exists even at the present moment.
With the permission of the House, I should like, after this all-tooshort Debate, to make a few observations in reply, and I would begin by thanking once again my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton), not only for being present to-day but for a speech of high idealism and far-reaching importance, which I wish there had been more to hear. I can assure hon. Members that, as far as I was concerned, his request that we should view the great problems of India upon an adequate stage fell on very good ground. One of the things we have to do, in connection with this war, is to set before ourselves a measure of effort of which our opponents cannot believe we are capable, and then to set to work to put that measure into execution. I am not in the least alarmed by the figures which, he suggested, we should make the target of our productive effort. Far from it. It may well be that we shall have to help equip, not only the armies of the Empire, but, later on, the armies of allies and of liberated peoples before we can ensure that ultimate victory, of which our success at sea and in the air are, as the Prime Minister once said, only the precursors. On that issue, there is only one other thing that I would say. If my right hon. Friend will forgive me, I think it is not altogether fair to my predecessor to complain of the inevitable slowness in the initial stages of the war effort of this country. We are still only beginning, and we have to set before ourselves a far larger scale of equipment and of armed forces than we have either attained or have in immediate contemplation.
The hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald), in his very sincere speech, the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. Graham White) and the hon. Member who has just spoken, referred to the Viceroy's statement in the Legislature and suggested that that statement was unnecessary. I think it was necesary for the Viceroy in meeting the Legislature to tell them why at the moment, at any rate, he was not in a position to complete that expansion of his Executive Council which he promised in his statement of 8th August last, and at the same time also to tell them that the door remains open. Those were necessary statements to be made to the Legislature in India. I think they were also rightly brought to the attention of this House. For the rest, all that that document does is to recapitulate very briefly and in substantially identical terms the nature of the double proposal made by the Viceroy on 8th August. It was a proposal which, as the hon. Member for East Birkenhead pointed out, went further than any that has yet been made to India on behalf of the British Government. It was recognised as generous in this House, the United States, and, not least, apart from Congress, by the main body of public opinion in India. Can I say more than that? The hon. Member for Ince and others suggested that we should try to go a little further. Believe me, that statement of intention was not made in any half-hearted or tentative manner. It represented the very most which, with a sincere desire to hasten forward Indian constitutional development, was practicable, consistent with the actual circumstances, external and internal, of the Indian situation.
Let me, if I may detain the House for a minute, to differentiate between those two aspects—the external aspect of the relationship of India with British control in the past, and the measure in which that control can be released, and the internal division of elements in India's own national life.
To begin with let me take the first point. As far as the future of India's Constitution is concerned, we have declared our willingness that the framing of India's constitutional life should be, primarily, the responsibility of Indians themselves, and as far as our own control is con- corned that it shall be limited by the provisions made for our historic responsibilities in connection with India. The most important of these is responsibility for defence and consequently for foreign policy. I do not believe that there is any Indian who does not know perfectly well that, even if the independence of India were declared to-morrow, India would still, for a considerable time, have to make use of the British framework in the Indian Army, the British troops now in India, the main body of the British Air Force while the Indian Air Force grows, and also the British Navy. Is it conceivable that this House should be prepared to put those forces at India's disposal without assuring for itself some guarantee as to the use of those forces, both in India's external relations and in her internal administration? That, at any rate, is a limitation which does not result from our reluctance to concede more power, but is inherent in the situation and one that can only be modified as and when India is—as I hope she will rapidly become—in a position to defend herself.
Let me return again to the more immediate object. Does anyone really suggest as a practical measure that, in the middle of a great struggle for existence, the whole basis of administrative and legislative power in India should be changed over, and the administration of India's war effort placed entirely and unreservedly in the hands of an entirely new executive responsible to a Legislature elected for a very different purpose and under very different conditions? On the other hand, what is it that we have offered? What is the offer which is still open to the leaders of political opinion in India? It is that they should come to the Viceroy's Executive Council, not as mere advisers, but as Ministers responsible for great Departments of State, and to come into that Council in such numbers as to constitute a substantial majority over the European members of the Viceroy's Council. Surely a body of that sort, even though it is primarily responsible to the Viceroy and not to the Legislature, is a body which must carry great weight with all sections of Indian opinion, with the Viceroy and with this House? A body of that sort, working unitedly together for the carrying on of India's war effort would not only be deal- ing with great issues individually but would have a collective influence which could not lightly be disregarded. More than that, a step of that magnitude, once taken, remains. Once the principle is established that the Viceroy's Council consists of a majority of Indian Members, that principle naturally remains. I regret deeply, from the point of view of the relations between the present Government of India and the future Government which will be established, that Congress should have rejected so great an opportunity of real power and responsibility.
No less important and even more difficult is the problem of the relationship of the various elements in India's national life. There again, in dealing with the future, we imposed a limitation or condition that the future Constitution of India must emerge from agreement between the main demerits in Indian national life. That is what has happened in the case of every Dominion—its Constitution has emerged not by sheer majority vote, but by agreement, by compromise, by settlement. And when it comes to the immediate situation, I would again point out that this attempt to set up at this moment an executive council, a body of Ministers responsible to anyone else but the Viceroy, would at once raise all those constitutional problems which are as yet unsettled. I know that an important Congress leader made what he called a "sporting offer" that a Moslem Prime Minister should select his own Cabinet, under the terms of the Congress Delhi Resolution of 7th July. But I must remind the House that this resolution, for which that Congress representative was responsible, not only asked for an unequivocal declaration of the independence of India, but, as an immediate step, for a provisional National Government at the centre, which should be such as to command the confidence of all the elected members of the Central Legislature and to secure the co-operation of the responsible Governments in the Provinces.
Let me be perfectly frank about that. That means a Ministry in fact, under the control of the same Congress executive that called out reluctant Ministers from the administration of Provinces which they would have been quite prepared to go on administering to this day. No Moslem leader would, under such conditions, be prepared to serve. The only solution for the moment, until we have got nearer to some agreement between Indians as to principles, is one in which individual political leaders join the Viceroy's Executive, uncommitted as regards the future Constitution of India and without prejudice.
Those proposals were rejected out of hand by Congress, both in regard to the present and to the future. The Congress President was not prepared even to discuss them with the Viceroy. On this matter, I must point out, when I hear all these suggestions of compromise, of meeting the other side half-way, that the attitude of Congress is one of all or nothing—and by "all," Congress means not merely the immediate unqualified recognition of India's independence, but also the independence of an India governed, on Congress lines, by Congress. That is, after all, a position which if we accepted it, or if we even moved towards it, would at once create infinite trouble in India, and go far towards threatening all hopes of bringing about a self-governing India united, in some measure at any rate, within itself. If I may I would quote just a phrase or two from the language of the Congress Resolution of 15th September rejecting the proposals. It declared the proposals to be a denial of India's natural right to freedom, creating an impossible situation and imposing upon Congress a struggle for the preservation of honour and the elementary rights of the people.
Meanwhile the other elements in India have accepted and welcomed our general proposals as to the future shaping of India's constitution. Even as regards the more immediate policy of the expansion of the Viceroy's Executive, it was not rejected by any of them in principle, but only broke down on details. In the case of the Moslem League they broke down because they asked for more places on the Executive than the Viceroy was prepared to concede, and because the guarantees which were demanded against Congress changing its mind and coming into the Executive later without the League's approval also, in his opinion, went too far. In the case of the Mahasabha, the orthodox Hindu organisation, they too put their claims too high as a rejoinder to the Moslem demand, although I believe they were ready to modify them afterwards. At any rate, these proposals, apart from the intransigent attitude of Congress, have made a real and substantial difference to the general outlook in India. At the same time, in view not only of the Congress objection but of the hesitant attitude of other parties, the Viceroy was put into a position of no little difficulty. It was, of course, always possible for him to fill up an enlarged Executive somehow with individuals of high character and ability. But that would not have carried out our desire to associate the political leaders of India more directly with the Government of India during the war. It would have closed the door to others for a considerable time to come, and the Viceroy's desire is to leave the door open. Consequently, he came very reluctantly to the decision to suspend the expansion of his Executive and the formation of a War Advisory Council for the time being. After all, the Viceroy's object can be attained as soon as sufficient representative elements show their readiness to come in. Meanwhile our wider declaration as to the future still stands, I here is nothing to-day to prevent the serious-minded and responsible leaders of the Indian nation coming together, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested, and beginning to think out among themselves the great problems of India's Constitution.
That depends upon their own action, but even there they will have plenty of opportunities for correspondence and study. At the end of the war they could bring forward a constructive, thought-out plan upon which Indian public opinion could work, which could then be converted into actuality with the minimum delay. Any such effort we are only glad to welcome and promote. But it is in the main a matter for Indians themselves.
Perhaps I may now return to the action of Congress. That body, under Mr. Gandhi's leadership, has decided to express its dissatisfaction by conducting a campaign of defiance of the law by instalments. I want to be quite clear. This is not a campaign merely to preach the doctrine of pacifism. The Viceroy was willing to concede to Mr. Gandhi and his followers the same rights of expressing a conscientious opinion about war in general as we concede in this country. That, however, is not, apart from the attitude of Mr. Gandhi himself, the attitude of his colleagues. What they have demanded is the right to urge Indians not to recruit, not to work in munition factories or to contribute voluntary contributions to the war committees which, as the noble Lord opposite said, have been established in almost every village in India. That is a campaign which here or in any other country no Government could entertain in time of war. It was launched by an earnest and philanthropic follower of Mr. Gandhi, Mr. Vinoba Bhave, who was sentenced to a short term of imprisonment. It was to have been followed by Mr. Nehru who, however, outstripped Mr. Gandhi both in time, and, I believe, in the character of the speeches he made. Those speeches were violent and deliberately provocative, were directly aimed at hampering the war effort and did so in effect as well as in intention.
His speech caused the gravest anxiety to the Government of the United Provinces. I would ask the House whether it would have been fair that the Provincial Government should have allowed such speeches from a man of Mr. Nehru's eminent position to go unpunished while punishing lesser fry? Would it have been fair to the Indian Ministers in the neighbouring Provinces who are still carrying on under the Act of 1935, are loyally helping forward the war effort and have dealt firmly with seditious activities? In any case Mr. Nehru's sentence was a matter not for the Executive but for the law. If the sentence is fudged by him to be excessive he has the right of appeal. In any case he has been imprisoned under the A category under which he is allowed books, his own quarters, the company of others, frequent letters, personal interviews and a great many compensations which deprive him of little except the liberty to go about repeating the speeches he has recently made.
I would only say, in conclusion, that no one regrets more than the Viceroy or myself that we should have had to deal with this matter. But we have a duty to maintain law and order, particularly at the present time, and ensure that nothing is done to prejudice the war effort. After all, India at this moment is, as we are here, fighting for her very existence. For any Government to submit inertly at such a time as this to a deliberate attempt, either by an individual or a political organisation, to weaken the war effort, kill recruitment or hinder production, would mean in India, as it would here, an abdication of all claim to be a Government and would mean an abandonment of the cause which is India's cause as well as our own. Subject to that the Government of India have no desire in any respect to change their policy either towards Congress or towards any other party. Our proposals are on record in two White Papers and have been widely recognised as generous, and I cannot see in what direction we could have gone further and carried India with us. Our offer remains open; it is for Indians themselves to decide how far they can go in order to avail themselves of the opportunity for power and responsibility presented to them.
I do not want to open the whole question again after the very moving speech which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State has made, but is it not possible that the right hon. Gentleman himself might make the effort for which an appeal has been made from more than one quarter of the House? The great difficulty is suspicion and misunderstanding. This cannot be removed by White Papers or governmental pronouncements, but it might be removed by the personal influence of the Secretary of State himself. [Interruption.] There are suspicions, certainly on the part of Congress and I think also on the part of the Moslem League. These suspicions cannot be removed by formal Government statements. It might be possible that, if the Secretary of State would make a visit to India and meet informally in the simplest way the leaders of Indian opinion, he could be the means of creating that confidence which at present is lacking and the lack of which we all deplore.
I am afraid that what I have said this afternoon will have been in vain if I have not made it clear that difficulty lies, and the suspicion goes deeper, as between the different elements in India, than it may between India and the British Government, and while the situation is unchanged, I think it would be only a fruitless and embarrassing visit for a Secretary of State to pay.