Ministerial Changes.

Part of War Situation. – in the House of Commons on 24th February 1942.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Sir George Schuster Sir George Schuster , Walsall

I have no knowledge of what these men would do. I should like to address a very strong appeal to them to co-operate for the war on this basis. I believe that if they were asked to do so in this spirit and they refused, they would lose a great deal of credit in their own country. I have proposed that this should be regarded purely as a war measure, committing no Indian parties on the subject of exact form of the future Constitution, but I do not deny that if this kind of procedure could be followed, I should cherish a further hope. I have always felt that it is futile to expect to settle in advance the final form of an Indian Constitution in a manner commanding agreement between Moslems and Hindus; and that the real hope must be to find some basis on which they could be got working together on the practical tasks of government with sufficient responsibility to give reality to the experience. If only a start could be made, the old controversies might be lessened in co-operation for a common purpose, so that gradually a constitutional basis for permanent co-operation could be evolved.

I believe that a proposal on these lines, sincerely made and presented in the right way by the only man whose words will carry weight in India—and that is the Prime Minister—offers a real hope of solution. The urgency of creating national unity in India cannot be over-stressed. It is no use saying that India is already behind the war and basing that statement on evidence on the flow of recruits, on work in war factories, or on the lack of response to the Nationalist political agitation. What do these things mean? A million men in the Army out of 400,000,000? Work in the war factories? There has always been pressure for employment in India. A passive population? The Indian population has always tended to be passive when it is well employed. That is not the sort of national unity which will see India through this war. That must be based on a spirit of energy and sacrifice such as has inspired China and Russia—a willingness to endure everything, even to the voluntary destruction of their cherished homes if that was the only way to defeat the enemy. It is blindness to expect such a spirit unless you have a truly national Government.

I should have liked to dwell also on the fourth of the headings I have mentioned—the need for a new conception of our relations to countries outside the Commonwealth, the building up of a true cooperation which will not only carry us through the war but point the way to a constructive policy thereafter. The latter I believe to be not a mere vision for the future but something which has a vital bearing on our war effort, particularly on the effectiveness of our partnership with the United States during the war. I should have liked too, to turn to another subject, the need for effective decentralisation in the executive tasks of production, to break up some of the top-heavy central controls which exist at present and spread wider throughout all ranks a sense of responsibility and participation in the tasks of the war. There is, however, no time to go into these matters, and I will end with a very short appeal. Many of us are buoyed up with new hope by the Prime Minister's latest announcement about the Government. We hope that it signifies a fresh start, that the country is getting its second wind and is going on now to win the gruelling race which lies before us. I should like to appeal to everybody, to all sections in the country, to respond to this suggestion for a fresh start, and to pull together in the effort that is needed.