Oral Answers to Questions — India (Viceroy's Visit to U.K.)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th November 1946.

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Photo of Mr Woodrow Wyatt Mr Woodrow Wyatt , Birmingham Aston 12:00 am, 27th November 1946

(by Private Notice) asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether he will make a statement concerning the forthcoming visit of Lord Wavell to this country?

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

Yes, Sir. His Majesty's Government have invited Lord Wavell to come to this country for consultations in regard to the political situation in India, and have requested him to invite two representatives of the Indian National Congress, two representatives of the Muslim League and one representative of the Sikh Community to accompany him. We are still in communication with the parties and I can therefore say nothing further at the present time.

The House will be aware that Mr. Jinnah, the President of the Muslim League, has stated that the Muslim League representatives will not attend the Constituent Assembly which has been set up on the basis proposed by the Cabinet Mission and is due to meet on 9th December. This situation is mainly due to differences of view between the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League as to the interpretation of certain provisions in the Cabinet Mission's Statement of 16th May. The purpose of the proposed discussions is to endeavour to reach a common understanding between the two major parties on the basis of which the work of the Constituent Assembly can proceed with the co-operation of all parties.

Photo of Mr Woodrow Wyatt Mr Woodrow Wyatt , Birmingham Aston

While thanking my hon. and learned Friend for his statement, may I ask him whether he will make it clear, first, that there is no intention of holding up the transfer of power in India because of any possible failure of the two major parties to reach full agreement? Second, will he also make it clear that it is not proposed to reopen the whole course of the negotiations which the Cabinet Mission undertook earlier this year?

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

If I may answer the second part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question first, it is the policy of His Majesty's Government to stand by the Cabinet Mission's statement of 16th May, but they desire to clear up any differences of interpretation. I think that on the basis of that statement the answer to the first part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question follows.

Photo of Mr Anthony Eden Mr Anthony Eden , Warwick and Leamington

Can the hon. and learned Gentleman give us an assurance that in any projected conversations that take place, the Government will bear in mind that the responsibility of this House is to all sections and communities of India—minorities and majorities alike?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

Is it intended to invite any representatives of the other minorities, such as the Scheduled Castes?

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

No, Sir, not at present. The issue at present is between the two major parties on this question of interpretation.

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

In view of the fact that we have definite obligations towards the more important minorities, in fact the minorities as a whole, how can we be assured that their views will be taken into account in the course of these discussions?

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

I have indicated that the issue at the moment is in regard to the question of interpretation which has been raised between the two major parties. The question of the minorities' representation has not been raised in connection with this particular issue.

Photo of Colonel Sir Alan Gomme-Duncan Colonel Sir Alan Gomme-Duncan , Perth

Why has a representative of the Sikh Community—a very small community—been invited, and not the Depressed Classes, a very large community?

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

If the hon. and gallant Member will be good enough to look at the Cabinet Mission's statement, he will see that the basis of it was, below the Union itself, the constitution of groups or sections, and the Moslems, Hindus and Sikhs were to be within those groups or sections. It is because the issue is in regard to the interpretation of the paragraphs of the Cabinet Mission's statement relevant to groups or sections that the Sikh Community has been invited.

Photo of Mr Tufton Beamish Mr Tufton Beamish , Lewes

Can we take it that today's newspaper reports that the Indian National Congress have refused to send representatives for these discussions with the Viceroy in England are premature?

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

I have already indicated in my reply that we are still in communication with the Government of India and the Viceroy about the representatives of the parties coming to this country. I think we had better wait until those negotiations are finalised.

Photo of Sir Godfrey Nicholson Sir Godfrey Nicholson , Farnham

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman bear in mind that every section of this House, and indeed the whole country, is keenly interested in this question, and that if the Government desire to carry the House with them, they must keep the House constantly informed? We hope that the House will be the first to hear of any news or statement.

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will agree that all through this present Parliament we have sought to keep him and his Friends fully informed on the position.