INDIAN INDEPENDENCE BILL
HC Deb 10 July 1947
vol 439 cc2441-550 2441
Order for Second Reading read.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee) I have it in Command from His Majesty to acquaint the House that he places his Prerogative and interests, so far as concerns the matters dealt with by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament.
I beg to move, “That the Bill be now read a Second time.”
I am afraid I shall have to ask the indulgence of the House for taking up more of its time than is my custom, but the theme is a great one. There will also be passages which I am afraid I shall have to read, as verbal accuracy in dealing with some high matters is important. This Bill brings to an end one chapter in the long connection between Britain and India, but it opens another. British rule which has endured so long is now, at the instance of this country, coming to an end.
There have been many instances in history when States at the point of the sword have been forced to surrender government over another people. It is very rare for a people that have long enjoyed power over another nation to -surrender it voluntarily. My mind recalls as the nearest parallel the action of the Liberal Government of Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman, in. 1906, when he gave back to the Dutch in South Africa the freedom to manage their own affairs which they had lost in the South African war. That was a great act of faith, an act of faith which bore fruit both in 1914 and 1939. I have often heard that great South African statesman, General Smuts, describing it as marking the end of imperialism. I regret, and I am sure the House will regret, that the statesman, who was then a young Under-Secretary, who had the honour of announcing the decision of the Government to extend responsible government to the Transvaal 41 years ago—the right hon. Gentleman the leader of the Opposition—is not, for reasons which we all know, able to be present at our Debate today.
One would be tempted to speak at length on the history of the British in India, but that would take up far too much time. I would only allude to a few points. The history of our connection in India begins with our trading ventures, the story of the East India Company. It goes on with the contest with the French for the mastery of the peninsula, the gradual extension of British power, partly by conquest but still more by voluntary cession of authority to the British by those who sought, under our aegis, the peace and security often denied to them during the anarchic period that followed the breakdown of the Mogul Empire.
We can recall how, 90 years ago, the Government of the East India Company came to an end when Parliament assumed responsibility for Indian affairs. During those long years there has been a change in the spirit of British administration. In the earlier days we were concerned mainly with trade providing opportunities for making fortunes. In the eighteenth century British citizens returning from India had often made fortunes and were known as nabobs. But, as time went on, there was an increasing appreciation of the responsibility which fell to the government of the East India Company, a responsibility for the lives of many millions who sought justice and a quiet life. The British administrator in India became more and more deeply concerned with the well-being of the people of India, the well-being of that great congeries of people divided by race, by caste, language and religion in this sub-continent.
To this change of spirit the House of Commons, in many famous Debates from the time of Burke onwards, made a most notable contribution. Perhaps it is not always realised how early that change took place. It was long before the transfer of sovereignty to the Crown. In the early days of the nineteenth century, great men, such as Sir Thomas Munro in Madras, set the standards which have since been followed by so many who have served India. Looking back today over the years, we may well be proud of the work which our fellow citizens have done in India. There have, of course, been mistakes, there have been failures, but we can assert that our rule in India will stand comparison with that of any other nation which has been charged with the ruling of a people so different from themselves.
There has been a great succession of Viceroys who have made their particular contributions and sought to serve India faithfully. I think not least among them would be accounted the present Viceroy. There is a roll of names of eminent Governors of Provinces, high among which is that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson). There has been a multitude of administrators, soldiers, missionaries and others who have served India with great devotion and have loved the Indian people. In every part of India are the graves of those who died in her service. Not least among those who have served India are the men who in the difficult and exacting times of the last four decades, under the stress of two great wars with all their repercussions on Indian life, have worked in the changing conditions that have resulted from the rise of Indian nationalism and the development of self-government.
May I recall here a thing that is not always remembered, that just as India owes her unity and freedom from external aggression to the British, so the Indian National Congress itself was founded and inspired by men of our own race, and further, that any judgment passed on our rule in India by Indians is passed on the basis, not of what obtained in the past in India, but on the principles which we have ourselves instilled into them. I am well aware that many of those who have been closely associated with India are anxious about the future of the millions for whom we are now relinquishing responsibility. I can understand their anxiety. They fear that the work to which they have devoted themselves for so many years may be brought to bought. They are anxious for those who would suffer most from a breakdown of administration—the poorest sections of the community.
We must all be anxious, but I think everybody realises that the service of Britain to India must now take another form. The constitutional change, vital as it is, does not, of course, mean the disappearance of the civilian European community in India. Not a few of those of the British race who have been in the Services in India will, we confidently expect, be willing, at the invitation of the two new Governments, to continue in official service in India and Pakistan. The business community in India has still, I am confident, a role to play in maintaining, between the populations in India and this country, trade and commerce, to the great benefit of both. To all those men and women, who, although domiciled in the United Kingdom, are intending to remain in India after Pakistan, I would say: “You have a great task in front of you, namely, to cement the bonds of friendship between this country, India and Pakistan. You can accomplish as least as much in achieving this end as can the British Government.”
Many years ago, when we began the association of Indians in the responsibility of Government and set ourselves to train them in the methods of democracy, it was obvious that the time would come, sooner or later, when Indians would seek to secure the entire management of their own affairs. This was clear many years ago to some of our wisest administrators, and I quote from a letter of Mountstuart Elphinstone as long ago as 1854: The moral is that we must not dream of perpetual possession, but must apply ourselves to bring the natives into a state that will admit of their governing themselves in a manner that may be beneficial to our interests as well as their own, and that of the rest of the world; and to take the glory of the achievement and the sense of having done our duty for the chief reward of our exertions. It has been the settled policy of all parties in this country for many years that Indians, in course of time, should manage their own affairs. The question has always been how and when? It would, I think, be unprofitable today to go back into the past and to question whether, if some particular action had been taken by a British Government earlier, or if a different line of conduct had been taken by the Indian political leaders on certain occasions, a more satisfactory solution might have been found than that which I am commending to the House today.
There are hon. Members of this House, such as the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) and the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed), whose connection with the Indian problem goes back far beyond mine. Some 20 years ago, I was first brought into contact with it by being placed on the Simon Commission, and I think they would agree with me that the major difficulty that has faced all of us in considering the best way of achieving Indian self-government has been the absence of mutual trust and toleration between the communities. It has sometimes been said by our enemies that this was a difficulty created by ourselves in order to perpetuate our own rule. Nothing could be more untrue. This same difficulty, which faced Mr. Edwin Montagu and the Simon Commission, faced the President of the Board of Trade in his Mission and my three Cabinet colleagues in theirs, and it was still the outstanding difficulty of the present Viceroy when he took office. Everyone who has touched the Indian problem has been brought up against this stumbling-block. They have all wanted to maintain the unity of India, to give India complete self-government and to preserve the rights of minorities. Every one of them has hoped that a solution might be found without resorting to partition. I know that many Indians of all communities passionately desire this, but it has not been found to be practicable.
We. and the Indian statesmen have had to accept the only alternative— partition. For myself, I earnestly hope that this severance may not endure, and that the two new Dominions which we now propose to set up may, in course of time, come together again to form one great member State of the British Commonwealth of Nations. But this is entirely a matter for the Indians themselves. The demand for self-government has been insistently pressed for many years by the leaders of political thought in India, and has been stimulated by the external situation, and particularly by those great waves of nationalist feeling that accompanied both the great wars. This demand is not peculiar to India, but has spread throughout Asia. It is the natural result of contact by dwellers in other continents with European political thought. The chief question has been as to how this desire could be gratified. Delay in granting it has always led to more and more extreme demands.
There has been a tendency to consider that nothing short of complete and absolute severance would satisfy this urge. there is a desire by some to cut every tie which connects them with their former rulers. On the other hand, in the age in which we live, there are very strong reasons which militate against the complete isolation which some demand. Many countries that long enjoyed their freedom and independence have lost it either permanently or temporarily, and some form of association with others for security and greater prosperity is the desire of many peoples. The League of Nations and the United Nations organisation express this desire, but the one great practical example of how complete freedom and independence can be combined with inclusion in a greater whole is the British Commonwealth of Nations.
The British Commonwealth of Nations is so unique that its nature is still not fully comprehended, and even many of our American friends do not understand that the Dominions are as free as Great Britain. They do not appreciate that membership of the British Commonwealth, in the words of the Prime Minister of New Zealand is, “independence with something added, not independence with something taken away.” In this Bill, we set up two independent Dominions, free and equal, of no less status than the United Kingdom or the Dominion of Canada, completely free in all respects from any control by this country, but united by a common allegiance to the Sovereign and by a community of ideas, receiving from their membership of the Commonwealth great advantages, but in no way suffering any restriction. The Title of this Bill expresses this fact that the independence which has been the goal for so long of many Indians can be, and I believe will be realised within the British Commonwealth of Nations. It is my hope that these two new Dominions may continue in this great association, giving and receiving benefits.
I saw with great regret in one paper, and I think in one paper only, that the action which we are now taking was described as abdication. It is not the abdication, but the fulfilment of Britain’s mission in India. It is the culminating point in a long course of events. The Morley-Minto proposals, the Montagu-Chelmsford proposals, the Simon Commission Report, the Round Table Conferences, the Act of 1935, the Declaration at the time of the Cripps Mission, the visit of my right hon. Friends to India last year, are all steps in the road that led up eventually to the proposals that I announced to the House on 3rd June last. This Bill is designed to implement those proposals, which met, I think, with general acceptance in this House and in the country.
I will now turn to the provisions of the Bill itself. The House is, I recognise, being asked to pass this Bill in a very short time. I have a great deal of sympathy with the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) in the point he made. I agree that the time given is not commensurate with its great importance. But we are really constrained by the urgency of the matter. The House will realise that, once the decision had been come to by the Indians themselves that a separation of India into two Dominions was necessary, the position of the existing Government became one of ever-increasing difficulty. The eyes of all were fixed on the future. The day-to-day work of Government became subordinate to the consideration of that most complicated and difficult business of effecting the separation. In these conditions, the continuance for any long period of the Central Government in India, of a Government containing the leaders of two parties that wished to separate, was impossible. The position of the Governor-General became extremely difficult. As a consequence, the House will realise that it has been a rather arduous and exacting task to prepare this Bill in the time available. No doubt, if time allowed, it could be improved. Its general lines have, necessarily, had to be discussed by the Governor-General with the Indian leaders, and while I would not for a moment suggest that every detail has the approval of both the Congress and the Muslim leaders—that would be far too much to expect—I do believe that, in its present form, it represents the greatest measure of agreement possible, and I believe, too, that it will effect what is required. Delay, I am absolutely certain, would jeopardise success.
It would be very easy to show points where a deadlock might arise, because one can do that with almost every constitutional proposal, and much that is contained in it will have to be worked out by agreement, and much will depend on the personal influence of those concerned, and especially of the Governors-General themselves. I hope, therefore, that the House will excuse, on the ground of urgency, the short time given for its discussion of the Bill. It is simply due to the pressure of events, and not from any disrespect to this House, or any lack of appreciation of the magnitude of this Measure.
May I turn to the Clauses? In Clause I, provision is made for the setting up, from 15th August next, of two Dominions to be known as India and Pakistan. It is, of course, quite easy to suggest alternative names. One could do that at any christening, but, in fact, these are the names by which the spokesmen of the Indian parties wish the Dominions to be called, and as, presumably, it will be in the power of the Dominions, once set up, to change their names, it does not seem worth while to endeavour to make any alterations in this Bill, or to spend much time on the point.
Clauses 2, 3 and 4 give effect to the methods which I described to the House last month, whereby the Indian people, through their own representatives, were given the opportunity of deciding on the division of territory. A decision has already been come to that Bengal and the Punjab should be divided, and in the North-West Frontier province and in Sylhet voting is taking place to decide the future of those areas. We must expect, therefore, that in a few days the broad division will have been made. But it will have been noted that, in accordance with what I indicated to the House, the detailed delimitation of boundaries will be done by two Commissions. These Commissions will be starting work forthwith. Hindus, Muslims, and, in the case of the Punjab, Sikhs, will be members. I am glad to say that Sir Cyril Radliffe, K.C., has accepted the request made to him by all parties in the Government of India to be chairman of both Commissions.
Clause 5 of the Bill provides for the appointment by the King of a Governor-General for each of the new Dominions, with the proviso, however, that until provision is made to the contrary by either of the new Dominions, the same person may be Governor-General of both. This is a pretty clear Clause. Normally, it would be both unnecessary and inexpedient for a Minister here to say anything more about it. The House is, of course, aware that the appointment of a Governor-General in the Dominions is made by the King on the advice of his Ministers in the Dominion concerned, and it would be wholly improper for His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom to be in any way concerned with the matter. But, today, it is necessary for me to make some further comments, because the position in relation to the appointment of Governors-General of the new Dominions is exceptional.
In the first place, there is the matter of procedure. It is not possible to follow the normal procedure in this case. Under the Bill, Governors-General will have to be appointed as from 15th August. Although the two countries become Dominions as from that date, there can be no Ministers formally to advise the Crown until a Governor-General has been appointed and Ministers have taken office. In these circumstances, it was agreed with the Indian leaders, and the King’s approval was obtained, that the Viceroy should consult the recognised leaders of Congress and the Muslim League as to whom they would wish to recommend for appointment as Governors-General. Then their advice would be formally tendered to the King by His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom. This procedure would, of course, only apply in the present case. I wish to emphasise the fact that, although the appointments would be made on the formal advice of Ministers here, they were, in fact, the recommendations of the Indian leaders themselves.
So much for the exceptional procedure in the present instance. But the Viceroy has represented that it would be in the interest of all if some statement could be made at an early date about the persons who are to be recommended for these posts. This, again, is a most unusual procedure. I should inform the House that I have received the King’s specific authority for referring to the recommendations before him and to which assent cannot, of course, be given until the Bill has become law. It had been intimated to us that it would be most convenient to all concerned to have one Governor General for both of these Dominions in the initial stages, and, for some time, we proceeded on this assumption. It has recently become clear, however, that the Muslim League was in favour of a separate Governor-General to be appointed for Pakistan.
It is obviously very desirable that this matter should be settled at the earliest possible opportunity in order that the position may be understood in India, and so that the new Governors-General can prepare themselves to take over on 15th August. Both Congress and the Muslim League, who have been recognised in the Bill as the successor authorities, have made recommendations which have been conveyed by His Majesty’s Government to His Majesty. While formal announcement must await the passing of the Bill, His Majesty has intimated that he is prepared to accept these recommendations as soon as the Bill is passed. The recommendations are in favour of the present Viceroy as Governor-General of India, and of Mr. Jinnah as Governor-General of Pakistan.
I wish to add that the recommendation of Lord Mountbatten is also welcomed by the Muslim League. I am also informed that the Muslim League have agreed that he should be chairman of the Joint Defence Council which will be responsible for central administration of the Armed Forces until such time as India and Pakistan are themselves in a position to administer them. I am quite sure the House will agree with me that this recommendation shows that Lord Mountbatten has carried out his duties in India with complete impartiality, and has won the confidence of all the people of India. He has expressed his willingness, in the special circumstances, to serve in this capacity, at all events during the transition period.
I wish here and now to pay my tribute to Lord Mountbatten. Great benefits to the future of the whole continent of India would have followed from his appointment as Governor-General of both the new Dominions. However, this is not to be. As constitutional Governor-General he will, of course, act on the advice of his Ministers in all matters. Nevertheless, he has built up a remarkable position for himself with both parties in India, and his wise counsel and his great devotion to the public cause without any thought of his own personal position will, undoubtedly, prove a most beneficial factor in the future development of the whole continent of India.
Turning to Clause 6, this deals with the powers of the legislatures of the new Dominions. The aim of the Clause is to put the new Dominions in the same position as that in existing Dominions; that is to say, that they should not be fettered by any of those limitations which are appropriate to Colonial legislatures. The position of Dominion legislatures is set out in Sections 2 to 6 of the Statute of Westminster. This Clause, though different in actual form from those Sections—because, of course, the Statute of Westminster dealt with Parliaments actually in being, and those Parliaments were subject, theoretically, at the time to certain restrictions—has, in substance, I am advised, precisely the same effect.
Clause 7 (2) deals with the Indian States. The House will remember that the Cabinet Mission, in their memorandum of 12th May, 1946, informed the States that His Majesty’s Government could not, and will not in any circumstances, transfer paramountcy to an Indian Government. With the transfer of power to two Indian Dominions, it is necessary to terminate the paramountcy and suzerainty of the Crown over the Indian States, and, with them, the political engagements concluded under paramountcy and the mutual rights and obligations of the Crown and the States which derive there from. The reason for this is that they all depended for their implementation on our part, on the continuance of the responsibility of Great Britain for the Government of India; and with the transfer of power to two Dominion Governments it would be impossible for the British Government to carry out these obligations. An important element of those rights and obligations concerns the protection of the States against external aggression or internal subversive movement, and the methods whereby the paramount Power has in the past influenced the policy of the States so as to enable it and them to fulfil such undertakings. A feature running through all our relations with the States has been that the Crown has conducted their foreign relations. They have received no international recognition independent of India as a whole.
With the ending of the treaties and agreements, the States regain their in dependence. But they are part of geographical India, and their rulers and peoples are imbued with a patriotism no less great than that of their fellow Indians in British India. It would, I think, be unfortunate if, owing to the formal severance of their paramountcy relations with the Crown, they were to become islands cut off from the rest of India. The termination of their existing relationship with the Crown need have no such consequence. In fact, already a large number of the States have declared their willingness to enter into relationships with the new Dominions, and some have been represented in the Constituent Assembly of India. It is the hope of His Majesty’s Government that all States will, in due course, find their appropriate place within one or other of the new Dominions within the British Commonwealth, but until the constitutions of the Dominions have been framed in such a way as to include the States as willing partners, there must necessarily be a less organic form of relationship between them, and there must be a period before a comprehensive system can be worked out.
But, quite apart from the political relationship between the States and British India, there have grown up through the years financial and economic relations— relations on such matters as posts and telegraphs, Customs and communications— which it would be disastrous to terminate immediately. The proviso in Clause 7 (1) is designed to secure the continuance of the existing arrangements in this field until there has been time for detailed negotiation between the parties. After the transfer of power, more detailed and binding arrangements will need to be concluded between the Dominions and the States Governments, and it may well be that these arrangements will, in their turn, be superseded by a more organic co-operation between the States and the Dominions. But these later arrangements will, of course, take time to work out, and the transition of the States from the lapse of paramountcy into a free association with the new Dominions is a process which will require proper discussion and deliberation.
We welcome the active steps being taken to set up States Departments of the new Dominions to handle negotiations with the States Governments. We trust that this will facilitate the negotiation of the arrangements to which ‘I have referred. If I were asked what would be the attitude of His Majesty’s Government to any State which has decided to cut adrift from its neighbours and assert its independence, I would say to the ruler of that State, “Take your time and think again. I hope that no irrevocable decision to stay out will be taken prematurely.”
Clause 7 (1) (c) is related to Paragraph 17 of the Statement of 3rd June, which said: Agreements with tribes of the North-West Frontier of India will have to be negotiated by the appropriate successor authority. The effect of the Clause will be to leave it open to the Constituent Assemblies of the new Dominions to initiate negotiations for fresh agreements with the Jirgas, or tribal assemblies, who are the treaty-making bodies empowered to enter into agreements on behalf of the tribes. As the House is aware, these tribal areas are not part of British India. They are not administered by officers of the Government of India. Relations with them are governed by a series of treaties and agreements which confer jurisdiction in certain matters on the Crown. In practice, this jurisdiction is exercised by the local political authorities. The termination of these agreements will place the tribes and the appropriate successor Government in a position freely to negotiate fresh agreements.
Clause 7 (2) deals with the omission from the Royal Style and Titles of the words “Indiae Imperator”and the words “Emperor of India.” I should explain to the House that a change in the Royal Style and Titles is not a matter for the United Kingdom alone. As the Preamble to the Statute of Westminster makes clear, it concerns the other members of the British Commonwealth as well. But for practical reasons it has not been possible for such Parliamentary action as may be necessary to be taken in those other countries simultaneously with legislation here. The House will, however, be glad to learn that, as a result of consultation with the Prime Ministers concerned, I am authorised to state that the other Commonwealth Governments agree to the proposed change in the Royal Style and Titles, and are prepared to take such steps as they consider necessary to obtain the consent of their Parliaments. It may be. therefore, that some time will elapse before this subsection can become operative.
I think, perhaps, it will be convenient if I state here what is the position with regard to the India Office. With the termination of all British control over the Indian sub-continent, the historic office of Secretary of State for India will come to an end. The conduct of relations with India will fall within the sphere of the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations. For a transitional period there will, no doubt, be, in relation to India and Pakistan, a considerable volume of work, much of it of a winding-up character, which would not ordinarily fall within the range of the functions of the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs. This will add considerably to his responsibilities, and in order to assist in this work, I am proposing to appoint a Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations. This will be one of the posts allowed under Section 2 of the Re-election of Ministers Act, 1919, as amended by the House of Commons Disqualification (Declaration of Law) Act, 1935, commonly called that of “Minister without Portfolio.” There will, consequently, be no need for legislation, but I shall be submitting a recommendation to His Majesty the King for filling this post in due course.
In Clause 8 temporary provision is made for the exercise of powers of legislation by the Constituent Assemblies. The House will recall that the original plan of the Cabinet Mission was for the setting up of a constituent assembly for the purpose of framing a Constitution for all India, which would then be brought before Parliament as expressing the desires of the people of India. However, that Cabinet plan was not carried out in full, but the Constituent Assembly, which the Muslim League decided not to attend, has been at work for some time upon the framing of a constitution, and it is proposed that a Constituent Assembly for Pakistan should be formed as soon as the procedure indicated in Clauses 2 to 4 has been carried out.
The decision to set up two Dominions instead of waiting for the formulation by a Constituent Assembly of a’ new Constitution has, of course, altered the whole situation. It has become necessary to provide for Legislatures in India and Pakistan as from 15th August; and these Legislatures, besides having general legislative powers, must have also constituent powers—that is to say, they must be legislative bodies set up for the dual purpose of performing the ordinary functions of a Parliament and of making Constitutions. The problem to be solved was to get a Parliament at work in the two Dominions where there were no Constitutions actually in being, while, at the same time, providing for the framing of the new Constitution. Well, a solution has been found by adapting the India Act, 1935, with necessary adaptations as the basic Constitution for the time being for both the new Dominions, while giving the Constituent Assemblies the status of Parliaments.
Of course, the House is well aware that the Act of 1935 provided for a Central Legislature and Provincial Legislatures and for the division of powers between them. It is an immensely long and detailed Act, which, as some of us remember, took months of work in the framing, and in the preliminary consultations, and in passing through this House. It was designed for a united India. It now has to be adapted for the service of two Dominions. It contained many limitations on the powers of the Legislature, and gave, among other things, extensive powers to the Governor-General and to the Provincial Governors to act in their own discretion. The proviso in Clause 8 in effect sweeps away all these special powers and is intended to place the Governor-General and the Provincial Governors in the position of Dominion Governors-General—that is to say, they act only on the advice of their Ministers.
Clause 3 protects the existing position as between the Centre and the Provinces until other provision is made by a law passed by the Legislature. It will be realised that the intention is that when the new Dominions begin to function there should be in existence a body of law which can be amended by the Constituent Assemblies and subsequently by any legislatures that may be formed to take their place.
I said that the Act of 1935 will be, in the first instance, until other action is taken, the basis of the new Constitution, with necessary adaptations. Clause 9 sets out the machinery of adaptation. This is to be done by order of the Governor-General. If hon. Members will refer to Clause 19, the definition Clause, they will see that, up to the appointed day, 15th August, the powers are exercisable by the Governor-General within the meaning of the Act of 1935, that is to say, by Lord Mountbatten, but after that date, where the Order or Act affects only one Dominion, by the Governor-General of that Dominion; where it concerns both Dominions, by the two Governors-General acting jointly. I must admit that the powers given here are very wide. That is inevitable in the nature of the case. The Governor-General has to bring the Act into operation. He has to effect a division between the two Dominions, dividing the powers, rights, assets, property, liabilities, et cetera.
I should like to mention here that the Indian leaders have agreed in principle in the setting up of an arbitral tribunal to which should be referred any questions regarding the division of assets and liabilities on which the two Governments cannot reach agreement. The question of the composition of that tribunal is still under discussion. But, besides these duties, the Governor-General has to make the adaptations required in the Government of India Act, 1935, in order to make it the new constitution for the time being. He has in particular the task of arranging during the transition period for the carrying out of services which are vital to the interests of both the new Dominions. The House will realise how great is the problem of dealing with such matters as railway and other communications, the reserve bank, the monetary and fiscal systems, and, of course, defence— to mention only the most obvious examples of those services which have hitherto been operated in the interests of the whole of India. Clearly, it must take time before the separate systems can be set up, and for definite agreements to be made between the two Dominions.
Provision must be made by some method—it may be by joint delegations from the two Dominions—for carrying out all these various activities during the transition period; and it is for this reason that such wide powers are given to the Governor-General. It would, of course, have simplified matters if the same person had held the position of Governor-General in both Dominions; but it has been decided otherwise. It is clear it can only be worked effectively by agreement between the two Governors-General. These powers of the Governors-General will come to an end on 31st March next, unless terminated earlier by the Dominion Legislatures. There is a similar though rather smaller problem involved in the division of the Punjab, Bengal, and possibly Assam. Accordingly, these powers are also given to the Governors of those Provinces, but only up to 15th August. I call attention to Subsection (3). That gives retrospective effect as from 3rd June in order to cover actions by the Governor-General and the Governors taken in anticipation of legislation. The House will realise that much has to be done in preparation which is not strictly within the 1935 Act.
§Mr. R. A. Butler (Saffron Walden) Is it clear that, in view of the announcement made about the two Governors-General, no Amendment will be necessary to the Bill, in view of the interpretation Clause at the end, which provides for that?
§The Prime Minister I think no Amendment is needed. I think the interpretation Clause makes it quite clear.
§Mr. Molson (The High Peak) I should like to ask one question for the purpose of elucidation. When the Governor-General makes an order under Clause 9, presumably he does not act on the advice of his Ministers, but acts, I take it, in the exercise of his individual judgment. If the Prime Minister looks at Subsection (2), where similar powers are given to the Governors of Provinces, it is expressly stated that they are to exercise their individual judgment. I assume, therefore, that the Governor-General also will exercise independent judgment, and will not act on the advice of his Ministers.
§The Prime Minister No, the hon. Member is not correct. These powers are given to the Provincial Governors only up to 15th August, and, therefore, they act on their own individual judgment; but thereafter the Governors-General will be acting on the advice of their Ministers.
Clause 10 (1) deals with the position of the Services. The House will recall that in the White Paper published last April His Majesty’s Government made plain their position with regard to the Services, and all pledges then given by His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom stand. It was then stated that the Government of India accepted liability for pension earned by service under the Secretary of State, whether by civilians or by members of the Defence Services. Clause 10, which has been inserted at the express request of the leaders of the Indian parties, provides for maintenance of the existing conditions of service, as well as of compensatory rights, in the case of those members of the Secretary of State’s Services who continue to serve (he Governments of the new Dominions.
As regards persons who have been in Government service, whether Central or Provincial, but whose service has not been specifically under the Secretary of State, I am happy to be able to announce now that the leaders of the Indian parties have guaranteed the existing terms and conditions of service to all their employees, including Europeans. This guarantee covers pensionary and provident fund liabilities. and excludes any question of discrimination between Indian and non-Indian. But it cannot, of course, be regarded as an abandonment of the general right of any Government to revise the salaries of their servants from time to time. It is, however, recognised that, among the liabilities to which I have referred above, there is one category for which His Majesty’s Government have a special responsibility, namely, towards Europeans who served in the Secretary of State’s and analogous Services. We intend to invite the new authorities to negotiate, in due course, an agreement whereby a capital sum in sterling will be set aside to cover this liability. Meanwhile, those concerned have the assurance of His Majesty’s Government that they will receive the pensions to which they are entitled.
The next three Clauses are rather technical. They deal with the Indian Armed Forces, the British forces in India, and the Naval Forces. I think it would be convenient for any special points in that regard to be brought up perhaps during the Committee stage. There are, however, some important matters which I should like to explain. First, with regard to the partition of the Armed Forces. For the purpose of dealing with the question of partition there has been, since 7th June, a Partition Committee of the Interim Government consisting of two representatives of each of the two parties, with the Viceroy as chairman; and a number of expert committees have been set up to work under this Partition Committee.
This Committee’s function was to examine the steps to be taken to set up machinery for carrying out the partition. It was really a fact-finding body, with the duty of making proposals and not of reaching final decisions. It was also decided that as soon as any one Province had declared in favour of joining a new and separate Constituent Assembly the Partition Committee should be replaced by a Partition Council. That Council should consist of two of the top-rank leaders of Congress and two of the Muslim League, with the Viceroy as chairman. This Council was set up on 27th June, and it was announced on 1st July that the Partition Council had reached agreement on the general principles to govern the reconstruction of the Armed Forces. The House will have seen that announcement, and a very important agreement was arrived at.
Until the division of the Forces is completed, and the two Dominion Governments are in a position to administer them, all existing Armed Forces in India will remain under the administrative control of the present Commander-in-Chief, who will, in turn, be under the Joint Defence Council, consisting of the Governor-General or Governors-General, the two Defence Ministers, and the Commander-in-Chief himself. There was a question about the two Governors-General; the original contemplation being, one person holding both positions. It has been agreed that Lord Mountbatten should be chairman of this Council. The Commander-in-Chief will have no responsibility for law and order, no operational control of any units, except during transit from one Dominion to another, nor any power to move troops within the borders of either Dominion. With regard to the British Forces in India at the transfer of power on 15th August, the British Armed Forces will immediately start to be withdrawn from India. This withdrawal will be carried out as rapidly as shipping permits, and is expected to be completed by about the end of this year.
I think perhaps I can deal shortly with the remaining points of this Section. Clause 12 (1) declares that the British Army, the British Air Force and the Royal Navy when in Indian waters are under the direction and control of the United Kingdom Government and Service authorities. This, of course, is consistent with the Dominion status of India and Pakistan. Clause 12 (3) provides for the civil and military authorities continuing to offer the same facilities as heretofore for the British Army, pending their evacuation, and requires the Governor-General, by his orders, to facilitate their evacuation. I should say that the phrase “and in the other territories” refers to the tribal areas and the States, and is intended to ensure that the Indian civil and military authorities extend to the British Forces whatever facilities they may secure for their own Forces in such territories.
I will here refer to the Third Schedule, which sets out the modifications of the Army Act which have to be made for the British Army so long as it remains in India. The general principle of the modifications is to remove all powers of interference by the Governor-General and other civilian authorities in India with the internal affairs of the British Army in India, while preserving their powers and duties so far as they do not amount to interference of this kind. Clause 14 again is technical. It is essentially a transitional Clause dealing with the position of the Secretary of State and the Auditor of Indian Home Accounts. I will only note that under Subsection (3) the advisers of the Secretary of State provided for under the 1935 Act will now cease to function. Clause 15 is, I think, self-explanatory. Clause 16 confirms the separation of Aden from India, which was effected by Section 288 of the Government of India Act, 1935. I do not think the position with regard to divorce or as to existing laws requires any detailed explanation.
Before I close, I should like to deal with certain other matters. First, in regard to the relations between this country and the new Dominions, as the House is aware; it has been our intention that there should be negotiated and concluded, simultaneously with the transfer of power, treaties or agreements covering matters arising out of the transfer of power in India. Owing to the course of events in India, it has not been possible for such agreements to be negotiated. It is only since the statement of His Majesty’s Government of 3rd June that it has become clear that the transfer of power will be to two separate States. The areas to be included in those States are not yet completely delimited, and their Governments have not yet been constituted. It has, therefore, not been possible to negotiate agreements with the succesor authorities, though it is our intention to begin such negotiations when the new Indian Governments are in the saddle. Apart from matters arising out of the transfer of power, there are other important matters on which we hope to have negotiations with the Indian and Pakistan Governments. We desire to establish, by free negotiation, dose, cordial and effective arrangements with both new Dominions in all fields affecting our common interests, and particularly in regard to defence matters and in the economic field.
I have endeavoured to explain to the House the general purposes and provisions of this Measure. There will, no doubt, be many points of detail which hon. Members will raise in the course of this Debate and on Committee stage. It will be the object of my right hon. Friends and myself to give the House the fullest information and explanation in our power, but there will inevitably be some matters on which it will not be possible to answer with precision, for this Bill is unlike other Bills dealing with India. It does not lay down, as in the 1935 Act, a new Constitution for India, providing for every detail. It is far more in the nature of an enabling Bill—a Bill to enable the representatives of India and Pakistan to frame their own Constitutions, and to provide for the exceedingly difficult period of transition. Ever since the Cripps’ Mission, it has been the desire of successive Governments that the future constitution of India should be framed by Indians and not by the British. Had the Cripps offer been accepted, a Constituent Assembly might have come into being immediately after the end of the war. What has had to be done hurriedly, might have been done at greater leisure. We might have been spared some anxious years. But it is no good crying over lost opportunities.
The Measure now before the House offers, I believe, the greatest measure of agreement possible of attainment, and it is, I think, the best service we can do for our Indian fellow-subjects to pass it into law. We must all regret the division of India, but despite this grave drawback, we should, I think, welcome this new chapter in the history of the Commonwealth and Empire. That Indian Dominions are to be set up and this House is relinquishing its control and responsibility for the Government of India is not, as a few would have us believe, a sign of weakness. It is, on the contrary, a sign of the strength and 2462 vitality of the British Commonwealth. There have been great Empires in the past in which many nations have been brought together in one polity, but they perished because their rigidity of structure did not allow of growth, and because the peoples which composed it were subjected to the will of one dominant ruler or one dominant race.
The British Commonwealth of Nations survives today, and has survived through the strain of two great wars, precisely because it is not static, but is constantly developing, and because it has throughout the years steadily changed from an Empire, in which the power of control rested with Britain, to a partnership of free peoples inspired by common ideals and united in a common interest. We are now proposing to welcome two new Dominions into that full partnership. We shall, I am sure, all wish that they will long remain with us, and that the friendship which united so many British and Indians, despite all the strains of recent years, may continue and extend ever more widely. My hope is that we may forget past differences and remember only how often and in how many fields of human endeavour Britons and Indians have worked together in harmony.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§Mr. Harold Macmillan (Bromley) In the absence from this Debate today, for reasons which are universally regretted, of my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), to whom the Prime Minister has paid a most graceful tribute, it has fallen to my lot to voice the views of the Opposition on this memorable occasion. We all deplore that at such a time the House should be deprived of the wise guidance and vast experience of the Leader of the Opposition, based upon so long and devoted a service to the Crown, and fortified by his supreme gifts of exposition and eloquence. In these circumstances, I can only ask the indulgence of my fellow Members. The Second Reading of this Bill in the Imperial Parliament in the year of grace, 1947, is an important and, indeed, a historic moment. There is no Member of the House, whatever may be his views or party affiliations, who can fail to be moved by the last stage in this unique story. If I may be allowed to say so without impertinence, I should like to congratulate the Prime Minister on the lucidity. moderation and dignity with which he has performed his tormidable task.
For over 300 years, as the Prime Minister reminded the House, there has been a close association between Great Britain and India. The British connection with India falls into four major divisions. From the middle of the seventeenth century to the middle of the eighteenth century, the aims of the British were purely those of traders. They had no aspirations to military power or territorial aggrandisement, but the gradual decay of the Mogul Empire from within, and the anarchy which followed, forced the British to take up arms in their own defence, and by a series of strange and dramatic episodes, they found themselves at last, almost unwittingly, in the seat of Empire. The next period was that of strategic conflict, arising from European rivalries. The political history of the British in India begins in the eighteenth Century with the French wars in the Carnatic. Between 1745 and 1748 the French almost drove the British out of India. After the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle only Madras was left to us. In the next 12 years, by the genius of Clive, the French were expelled, and British authority firmly and finally established. From Clive’s second governorship the third phase in this long story begins.
The theme of trade and conquest are now succeeded by the new dominant motives of administration and expansion. Administrative reforms in the hands of Hastings, Bentinck, Metcalfe and many others began to build up those processes by which the hearts’ of the conquered population were gradually won over to venerate, as well as obey, their alien rulers. The policy of expansion was, at the same time, pressed too ruthlessly. I think it is now clear that the Mutiny of 1857 was largely the result of Lord Dalhousie’s policy. At any rate, after a life of nearly two and a half centuries, the fate of the Company was sealed. In 1858 this House passed an Act for the better government of India. For the next 50 years the Indian scene is dominated by the skill and devotion of its administrators, following the broad purposes of 19th century idealism at its best. In that period immense progress was made in every field.
During those years was built up that devoted body of soldiers and civilians who have served India so well, and who are still India’s loyal friends. Never, in the long course of history, has an alien nation given so much of its best Service in India became a family tradition and affection for India a legacy from father to son. Nor should we think only of those who rose to great distinction. To humble members of these services, administrative and technical, to the collector, the commissioner, the health officer, the famine officer, the police, the judiciary, to all these, both British and Indian people owe an immeasurable debt. By the achievement of this period of our rule in India, the British stand justified. Much will be left in the material sense—railways, dams, irrigation schemes, health services and the like—but perhaps the greatest contribution which the British genius has made has been the sense of equal justice, incorruptible and unchangeable, carried out equally for Hindu and for Muslim, for the poor as for the rich, the humble as for the exalted. This has set a standard of equity unrivalled in the history of the world.
Then, as the Prime Minister reminded us, at the turn of the century, and especially dating from the Morley-Minto reforms, comes the last of these great periods, the preparation for self-government. To this task, British Government and British people conscientiously set their hand. We may say that it is unique in the history of the world that a ruling nation should voluntarily and deliberately prepare to surrender its authority on so large a scale. This policy, as the Prime Minister said, has been agreed by all parties. The story of two generations has been the steady determination on the part of various Governments at home and of the Government of India, to prepare the way for Indian self-government.
As early as the ’90’s the first councils were formed with Indian membership; the long history of various reforms has been the evolution upon this steady purpose. It has been followed, regardless of misunderstanding and obloquy, both in India and, less justifiably, at home and abroad; but in spite of all recriminations, it has been steadfastly pursued by the British people as a whole. Perhaps some of those who have so long maligned the British purpose at home and abroad may stand ashamed today. On this purpose there 2465 has never been any division among British parties. The methods, not the objective, have been the matter of dispute.
Finally, at the time of the so-called Cripps Mission in 1942, the Conservative and Liberal, as well as the Socialist, Members of the Churchill Government, were in agreement with the broad proposition to offer self-government to India. We asked, however, two essential conditions. First, that there should be agreement between the two major parties in India, Hindu and Muslim. Second, that Dominion status, as the phrase goes or, as I am content to say, Commonwealth membership, should be a reality and not a mere legal fiction. It should not be used to change from one day to the next from membership of the Commonwealth to complete severance of the link; but a fair and reasonable trial should be made on both sides, so that the advantages and the disadvantages to India of membership of the Commonwealth might be properly tested and in India, races, religions and parties be able to consider coolly where their interest and affections lay.
During the war, no agreement could be reached. After the war, the Cabinet Mission, in spite of good will, failed to reach an agreement, or rather, reached a form of agreement so equivocal and slender, that it was immediately repudiated on all sides. The Prime Minister said, perhaps truly, that it is unprofitable to go back to the past, but I must, in justice, remind the House that during all this time the Conservative Party maintained a most considerate reticence. We have not pressed debate unduly; we have not in any way incommoded the efforts of the Government and great as were, and are, our apprehensions, we restrained our criticism. The plan of the Cabinet Mission failed. The various interpretations of the scheme reached such a point of confusion as to make it generally unacceptable and unworkable.
A new situation was then created by the Government announcement of 20th February last. This decision to leave India by a fixed date in 1948, whether or not proper arrangements had been made for the transference of power, seemed to us an abdication of duty. We opposed it, upon two grounds, First, because the fixation of a date seemed to us an improper method for dealing with so great a question; it indicated a certain levity towards the immense responsibilities we had. Second, we felt that it was inconceivable that the British should in fact bring the story of over 250 years to an abrupt end without being certain that proper provisions were made, if not for the discharge of our obligations, at least for the continuance of orderly government. It was not, therefore, the mere fixation of the date to which we objected, but the abandonment of duty without any clear scheme by which the obligations we were unable to fulfil could be firmly placed upon other shoulders. Many difficulties sprang from that fateful decision. It made it almost certain that the two main parties in India would fail to reach any joint agreement, except an agreement to differ. It destroyed, for the present at any rate, all hope of preserving the unity of India.
Perhaps the greatest contribution which the British connection has made to India is to preserve, indeed to create, the political and economic unity of that vast medley of religious, races and peoples who inhabit the sub-continent which we call India. To the long series of devoted public servants who have given their lives to India, it would always have been felt a terrible disaster if that unity had been disintegrated. Somehow to maintain it, at the same time as making provision for complete India self government, was the underlying problem that was partially solved by the Act of 1935.
The decision of the present Government to leave India at a fixed date shattered, once and for all, the hope of unity. The only question which arose was whether the partition of India, now clearly necessary, could be achieved by peaceful methods or not. Partition which seems so easy a word to us Europeans, accustomed to minor groupings and small populations, is no clean-cut solution of age-long problems and processes. Enormous minorities will remain, however successful may be the work of the Boundary Commissions, on either side of the many frontiers. There is the possibility of Indian irredentism on an immense scale. Trieste, Trentino, Ireland, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and all the other minority problems of the world fade into insignificance compared to these. Moreover, there are other peoples, neither Muslim nor orthodox Hindu, in large numbers 2467 and of warlike character, who have a long tradition of loyalty to the Crown, who will be separated and divided, for instance, the Sikhs. Therefore partition, superficially attractive, like so many other superficially attractive remedies, has within it its own inherent dangers. The partition of the Punjab fills us with apprehension, and partition of Bengal is a most delicate and dangerous undertaking. Nevertheless, we can only repeat, with satisfaction, that peaceful partition is better than civil war.
At this point, in a confused and dangerous situation, we must pay tribute to the work of the Viceroy. His efforts have radically altered and improved an almost desperate situation. He has been able to secure that partition should take place under conditions which reduce as much as possible the danger of a clash. The frightful blood bath which seemed to threaten India is, at the moment of our departure, at any rate, avoided. Immense as are the technical difficulties of making a fair distribution of assets, tangled as may be the problem of arranging that Pakistan should be in every sense a viable State, grave as are the dangers of India not being merely partitioned, but ultimately Balkanised, serious as may be our apprehensions as to the unworkability of the whole process, yet we on this side of the House must not endanger, but must welcome, a plan which avoids the most pressing and immediate dangers. It is largely the character and personality of Lord Mountbatten which has achieved this happy result, and to him we pay our tribute.
At the same time, we must hope with the Prime Minister that in this partition are also the seeds of some form of future unity, at least of co-operation. The common services, transport, aviation, and the like, must be arranged to serve Pakistan and Hindustan and the States. A joint foreign policy and a joint system of defence seem inevitable if the peninsula is effectively to resist foreign aggression. It is to be remarked that very swiftly following these disturbing movements has come a claim from a foreign Power for annexation of an Indian Province. This has been immediately repulsed by His Majesty’s Government and the Government of India, at least up to 15th August. But, after 15th August, it will only be if the two Dominions stand shoulder to shoulder that the whole weight of the Empire can be available for their common protection. It is indeed good news that a Joint Defence Council has been agreed for the preliminary purpose of dividing the Army. I trust that that council may develop into an instrument of strategic defence.
I pass now to the second benefit which, in what seemed a black situation, the Viceroy has been able to obtain. That is the condition which my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford and his supporters insisted upon at the time of the Cripps Mission of 1942, which we have always held to be an indispensable condition if the long process towards self-government is to be carried out honourably and smoothly; that is, the willingness of the Indian States, Pakistan and Hindustan, to remain within the ambit of the British Commonwealth of Nations with, of course, all the freedoms of the Statute of Westminster. I must here frankly say that my right hon. and hon. Friends and I do not much like the Title of this Bill, “Indian Independence Bill,” the more so because I understand that it is a phrase which does not result from any Indian request, but is due to the sole initiative of British draftsmen. This phrase seems to us to dwell too much on one aspect of the Commonwealth system, for it is the peculiar glory of the free nations which comprise the British Commonwealth that they are both independent and inter-dependent. Of course, in a sense every Dominion is independent; Dominion status implies complete autonomy, complete freedom, complete sovereignty, but that freedom, that autonomy and that sovereignty are exercised in an undefinable and almost mystical union, within the circle of the Crown, of all the nations of the Commonwealth by which and through which they mutually defend their mutual rights and interests. I would say that there are many nations in the world today which nominally have this position of independence and freedom, but which cannot in fact exercise it. I wish the nations of Europe had independence and the inter-dependence equal to the nations of the Commonwealth.
Into our free association, therefore, we gladly welcome the new States of India and Pakistan. Let them make no mistake. We believe that experience will 2469 show them how great are the advantages. We do not seek to hold them against their will, for the obligations of the members to each other in voluntary co-operation may be very heavy. Nor must it be disguised that the decision—and I think it is a wise and statesmanlike decision—of the. leaders of the Congress Party and Muslim League, to remain at this stage within the Commonwealth is one which places on us and all other members of the Commonwealth prospective and potential burdens which it would be wise not to ignore. It places upon us, for instance, moral obligations for defence, to carry out which effectively I am not sure how far we have provided ourselves with the effective material instruments. It is a melancholy fact that inevitably the process of dividing the present Indian Army, in order later to rebuild it into two armies, will create for years to come a serious weakening in the defence of India. It is, therefore, all the more important that the new Dominions should rapidly range themselves with the general body of the United Nations.
If we recognise the two major advantages of this agreement between the Muslim League and Congress and the decision of their leaders to remain within the British system of Commonwealths, we must not disguise from ourselves upon how slender a foundation the whole fabric rests. We cannot but have many apprehensions and misgivings as to the practical outcome of the future. Moreover, there are other serious considerations which weigh deeply with my right hon. Friends and hon. Friends. It is a rule of statesmanship, sometimes, alas, more honoured in the breach than in the observance, that in order to meet agreeable accommodation with interested parties with whom you may have been in conflict, it is not wise, indeed it is morally unjustifiable, to forget obligations to those who have long given you their trust and confidence. We have great obligations in India. The Muslims have been provided for; but we have also obligations to the many minor-ties in British India—the Anglo-Indians, the Sikhs, the millions of the depressed classes, primitive tribes and much else.
This House has always been much moved in particular by the problem of the Scheduled Classes. Dr. Ambadkar’s name is welcomed and deeply respected here. We had hoped in the structure of a new constitutional Bill provision might have been made for their protection. That, of course, it would be beyond our power to secure enforcement after we have severed our direct connection with India must be admitted; but the fact that provision had been made in the Bill in black and white, open for all to read and backed by opinion throughout the world, would at least have given to the minorities some sense of security. I would, therefore, express the hope that the Indian political leaders should announce publicly that they personally will do their utmost to see that the new Constitutions provide a liberal treatment for the weaker communities within their States.
We have also obligations to all members of the services in India, civil or military, covenanted or non-covenanted, British or Indian, who have given the best part of their lives to the service of the Crown and whose loyalty to India is undoubted. Many of them feel anxious about their future and about the security of their pensions, provident funds and conditions of service. We were very glad to hear from the Prime Minister, and we welcome the statement made on behalf of the present Indian authorities, that they will recognise these obligations, but nothing can relieve the overriding obligation that rests upon us as well.
I come next to the States. Their destiny is not even mentioned in this Bill, except negatively. All treaties and agreements in force at the date of the passing of this Act between His Majesty and the rulers of Indian states, all functions exercisable by His Majesty at that date with respect to Indian States, all obligations of His Majesty existing towards Indian States or the rulers thereof, and all powers, rights, authority or jurisdiction exercisable by His Majesty, all agreements or treaties between His Majesty and any person having authority in the tribal areas—all these, are unilaterally dissolved and abrogated. What a long story is ended by the final words of this chapter. What memories of comradeship or conflict, of wonderful loyalties, of battle and peace, of victories gained in common— above all of the firm and devoted association with the glorious reigns of the Empress Victoria the Great and succeeding Emperors.
Clause 7, which I have summarised, sounds like the final end, but I cannot believe that is the only message which will go from this House to the Indian States. We warmly approve the decision of His Majesty’s Government to resist the pressure to transfer paramountcy to the successor governments. They have been very wise in that. I was glad to hear, or think I heard, the Prime Minister say that the States were to be absolutely free in their choice as to whether or not they should join one or other of the new Constituent Assemblies; whether they should subsequently join one or other of the Dominions as they emerge from the Constituent Assemblies, or whether, finally, they will declare themselves free and independent sovereign authorities. I trust that this is true not only in words but in fact, because there have been disturbing rumours reaching us of a good deal of moral and even physical pressure which has been exercised, perhaps by misunderstanding of some of the official statements made in India or elsewhere.
It must not be forgotten that the partition of India on what was largely and what is, indeed, still a religious basis throws a heavy strain upon the States. For they have always, and successfully, resisted the development within their territories of bitter communal strife. This explains the hesitation of some of them, at any rate, in allying themselves with one or other of the two new Dominions which are partitioned not on a geographical, not on an economical, but purely on a religious foundation. I hope, therefore, that before the end of this Debate the Government may be able to clarify the position a little further. They have said that the States are to have freedom of choice. I hope that they will make it clear that if it should prove that any of the great States, the important States, are unable to find a satisfactory method of association with one or other of the new Dominions, His Majesty’s Government will be willing and ready to enter into satisfactory relations with them. Surely, the flexible instrument of British constitutional development, on which the Prime Minister rightly congratulated us, is capable of finding a suitable formula of association by which their loyalty and devotion to the Crown may find a new expression in harmonious association with the British Commonwealth, and with the United Nations.
As the Prime Minister stated in his concluding review, this Bill is not, of course, a Bill to make a Constitution for British India. It is, to use his own phrase, an enabling Bill. It brings into being two Dominions and it transforms the present Constituent Assembly and the new Pakistan Assembly into bodies. that will be both constituent and legislative. It throws upon these organs the task of framing their own constitution. It states nothing as to many vital questions, the judiciary, the railways, the monetary system and a host of other matters. It makes no provision in the Bill itself as to the arrangement for settling the complicated problems of all Indian services and assets which will have to be divided between the two Dominions. As drawn up, the Bill merely contemplates providing the Governor-General, should the two Dominions agree, with the formal right under Clause 9 to make all such necessary orders and provisions as to resolve the great problems, the host of problems, which must arise from these tremendous constitutional changes.
I have not been able yet quite to fit in what we have been told today as to the recommendations for the new Governor-General with the provisions of Clause 9, I cannot help feeling that it was drawn on a somewhat different plan. Nevertheless, as I think the House must understand, this is really the legal technical machinery in order to provide that agreements that are reached should be made legally effective, and we must depend now on the good will and good sense of the two Dominions through two Governments, supported and advised by the Governor-General, to reach agreeable arrangements and implement them by the provisions of this Clause. I, for one, if I may be allowed to say so, am very glad indeed to hear that the Viceroy has decided that it is his duty to accept the post which has been offered, because I think that on the Viceroy staying in India in whatever may be his capacity—Lord Mountbatten being present in India—a great deal of the hope which we have of fair and good arrangements depends.
Since this is not a constitutional but an enabling Bill, we do not propose to treat the conduct of the Bill in this House as we would if it were a comprehensive constitutional Measure. We shall not attempt to move the many Amendments which would be necessary to clothe it with the detail and the elaboration of a constitutional act. We shall, therefore, be content, although with considerable Debate, to regard the Committee stage as primarily one of elucidation and explanation of the meaning, purpose and effect of the various Clauses.
Parliament was informed a year ago of the Government’s intentions, which we regarded as an abdication of their duty. This Bill is better than that, for it throws upon the Indian people now the major obligation of a great task. How are we to balance good and ill and how are we to make an evaluation of the position? Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House are not responsible for the developments which have taken place since the fall of the Coalition Government in the last two years. We have had great apprehensions and misgivings, but we fully recognise that there is in this Measure an opportunity better than that in existence a few months ago. To this salutary change the personality of the Viceroy has much contributed. This opportunity which, if it is grasped and exploited, may be of benefit not only to India but to Great Britain, because I believe that underlying the bitter conflicts between the politically minded classes in India and the Government, there is still a close and even intimate association of our people and the peoples of India which is the product of long association, and which cannot and indeed ought not to disappear. It may even be strengthened in the years that lie ahead.
I began by tracing, however cursorily, the various phases of the British connection with India. By this Bill the political phase comes finally to an end. His Majesty’s Government will no longer be responsible for the administration of India. Yet so intertwined are the roots of British and Indian life for nearly 300 years that I believe the association of Britain with India, and of India with Britain and with the Commonwealth has in it still the hope of a fruitful, prosperous and honourable relationship. Let us, therefore, at this moment first remember with trust and pride those British officials, civil and military, and those British people in commerce and industry, who have served India well for so long a period. So well have they served her that they have always been able to call to their aid deep affection and loyalty from the Indians with whom they have worked. They have sometimes been the butt of foolish criticism from their compatriots and from foreigners. Today, let us forget all that and pay grateful tribute to their memory.
Let us pray that in this new sphere that is to begin the association between the British and Indian peoples on a new basis may be productive of great good to both. The English language is a permanent element in Indian life. Indian education, both in the humanities and science, is intimately linked with British institutions. The British system of justice is a lasting gift to India. In these and in intimate and sympathetic pursuits of the ethical and moral traditions of both elements, the pooling of technical knowledge and the free association of commercial interests, above all, in the great family of nations which comprise the British Commonwealth, let us hope that out of the darkness and uncertainty of recent years we may yet be destined to follow together in friendly comradeship, the road of co-operation and progress.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§Mr. Hopkin Morris (Carmarthen) I should like to join with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) in congratulating the Prime Minister on the great speech he has made on this Bill. However, there is something much more interesting than that, and it is that each party in the State when it has been in power has been filled with that sense of justice and liberty which is always becoming to the champions of liberty. It is to the Conservative Party that the credit belongs of having framed the Constitutions both for Canada and, 33 years later, for Australia. As the Prime Minister reminded us, it is to the Liberal Party that South Africa owes its liberty, and today we are seeing the Socialist Party extending the same liberty to the great sub-continent of India. The three parties alike have the interests of justice and liberty at heart.
More than that, the speech which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley has delivered, representing as it does the view of his party, shows that the three parties in Britain are united upon the Measure now brought forward by the Government. The machinery in 2475 the Bill is, no doubt, important in itself, whatever may be said in regard to elucidation of the various Clauses, but important as the machinery of the Bill may be, the really important thing here is the large measure of agreement which has been achieved between the parties concerned here in England. The spirit behind the Bill is the really important issue, because it gives it security and whatever stability it may have. The free institutions of any country do not in the last resort, depend for their stability upon the law, nor upon whatever constitutional machinery has to be made. I am not saying that those are not important, for they are; but the first essential in the maintenance of free institutions is the spirit which animates all sections of the community.
The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister rightly paid a tribute to the great achievements of the Viceroy, but there have been efforts made by the previous Viceroy and by other holders of that office. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade and his colleagues did excellent work, paving the way I have no doubt for this greater achievement, and he and they ought to share in the thanks of the House for what they did. The Prime Minister called attention to the services that this country has rendered in its administration over the long period of its connection with India, and he stated that that service conformed largely to the highest standards of the British race. Our civil servants have gone there and have come away without enriching themselves. They have been content with their salaries and their pensions, and have given great service and shown a sense of fair play and of justice. That sense of fair play and of justice is a contribution made by this country which will, I think, be lasting in the life of India and in the other new Dominions which have been created.
Whether India and Pakistan will live together and come to a common understanding is a matter first and foremost for them alone. We cannot do more than encourage them. They have to solve their problems themselves. It is true that questions abound which can become difficult, but it depends upon how one looks at the situation. The boundary can be regarded as the frontier which 2476 separates two territories; on the other hand, it can be regarded as the frontier where two civilisations meet; and if India looks upon it in that way, there is hope yet for a united India. The difficulties of different rights, different traditions. different languages and great distances have been known to us in Europe. and we have not solved them. In fact, we are far from solving them in Europe. and we cannot expect India to solve them quickly if we cannot do so ourselves. It may be a better thing for the ultimate union of India that there should have been a division, however unfortunate we think it now. Unity does not rest solely upon a form of union between very different views; nor does liberty rest on that basis in the last resort.
The House may remember a poem by Browning in which he draws attention to the three souls in one soul. The first soul is the one that works, looking down to the earth—the material part, with the belief that you cannot establish Utopia except upon the earth. But although looking down, it also looks upward through the soul that feels and wills, although even when you have reached that level in human institutions, the material organisation of society divides society, however common the interests may be. This is an essential characteristic of man. The unit which the mind provides, and which the tradition of civilisation provides—the intellect—is not necessarily a corporate unit. It may also be divided, as it is in Europe. The third soul is the unity of the soul and the spirit. If that illuminates both the thought and the work of the Indian people, then there is hope for the prosperity of both.
Once the details of the Bill are agreed upon in broad outline by the different sections and become really operative, what we really hope now is that they will be implemented and that the same spirit that is given to this agreement for the time being, will not be lightly dismissed with a reversion to divisions between the people. There is promise of success in the fact that India herself has requested the Viceroy to remain as Governor-General. Whether or not it would be better that he should be Governor-General of both India and Pakistan, the fact that he remains Governor-General of India with the goodwill of Pakistan is the important factor. It does not matter whether he is the 2477 Governor-General of Pakistan, but it is important that he should have the goodwill of Pakistan when he is Governor-General of India.
It is a great thing that this important representative of our country commands the confidence of races as widely different as the Indian races—with differences as acute as those which activate them—and it says a good deal for the respect which has grown out of their experience of the British administration, an administration based on the character of the British race and their love of liberty. It will crown, not only in the eyes of India but in the eyes of the world, the belief of the people of this country in the freedom of man to govern his own affairs. The fact that this Parliament is handing over to this great race the right to determine their own affairs without interference is an act without parallel, as far as I know, in the whole of the history of man. It is an act which might well be imported to Europe and is a great lesson to Europe in its present state. It is also a great lesson to Asia. I hope that this act will be observed by the whole world, and that the spirit which animates this House today in giving freedom to India will animate India with the same tolerance towards its minorities.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§Mr. Richards (Wrexham) I think I am expressing the view of the House when I say that we were very disappointed, particularly on this side, by the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan). I know that he does not represent all hon. and right hon. Members opposite, but it seemed to me that he had really not learned anything, and had not developed at all in the direction of assessing the fundamental claims of India to which the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris) has just referred. On the other hand, I think that the Government are to be very sincerely congratulated upon the determination and speed with which they have approached this most difficult Imperial problem that has been facing us now for some time.
There was no analogy upon which to work, as was said by the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen. The case of Canada is not an analogy at all It is true that there were two races in Canada, in feud, the British and the French, but 2478 they shared a common European tradition. The same thing is true of South Africa, and one was very glad to hear the Prime Minister pay a tribute to the great and heroic work done by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman when, almost immediately after the end of the Boer War, he gave self-government to the Boers in South Africa. In India there are not just two races; there are a score or more and, as we have heard several times today, they are hopelessly divided on the question of religion. I think that it is probably true to say that what constitutes nationalism in India is not essentially a difference of race or language, but the religious differences which for so long a time have divided the country into various sections.
It requires a great deal of courage on the part of the Government to recognise this and to recognise that this kind of nationalism could not really be amalgamated without recognising these essential differences. It would be interesting to know—history would like to know— exactly who brought the Government round to this point of view. They have for a long time been moving in this direction, but they have been moving, as we all know, in the direction of keeping India as a unit. Who persuaded them that that was an impossibility under present conditions, and that they must recognise these very fundamental differences between the two sections in India, which we all hope will eventually lead to an amalgamation of the two nations later?
This House was really getting rather tired of the reiterated statements of the last Secretary of State for India. He used always to say that this House and this country were quite prepared to give India Home Rule, provided they could sink their differences or come to some agreement. We all realise that agreement between people of this kind was almost an impossibility, and that it was the duty of the Government to do something definitely to bring them together. I agree entirely with what the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen said about the great work that was done by the President of the Board of Trade. That was the first attempt to break the impasse, and the results of his visit to and effort in India are still to be found there. Progress from that point has been much easier than it was previously. However hopeful his mission looked at one time, it proved 2479 eventually to be a failure, and for some time I was very much afraid that we would drift again into the position of leaving the Indians severely alone and letting them, if they could, fight it out or come to some agreement of their own. But the Government had the courage again to send out three Members of the Cabinet in order to try to solve this very difficult question, and the recollection of their visit and of their very sincere endeavours to bring the two parties together is still fresh in the minds of all of us.
Their conception was to try to, retain the unity of India, and at the same time to give India a very considerable and complete measure of autonomy. That again failed, although the plan was a very ingenious one and certain steps were taken to put it into operation; but apart from a few suggestions that were accepted and put into operation in connection with the Constituent Assembly, the thing failed, and failed for one main reason. A large body of Indian opinion—the Muslim League as it is known—stood entirely outside. It was very difficult for the Government, having spent a lot of time, having sent out to India three of its most eminent Members and having worked hard at a solution of the problem, to abandon this position once again and to recognise that a united India, at the present moment at any rate, was an impossibility.
What we are witnessing today is a complete departure from the point of view and a recognition of the fact that we have to set up not one Dominion but two Dominions in India. The Bill is concerned with the setting up of two Dominions. Some of us are very apt to criticise Mr. Jinnah in this respect, and to say that he is the evil genius of the piece. Mr. Jinnah is a very formidable figure in the fife of India, and he has undoubtedly had a very considerable success at the polls and elsewhere in putting forth the Muslim case. If we take a long view of it, it is all to the good when all is said and done. It is well that in a country like India, which is very largely socially and politically amorphous, a specific point of view should be quite definitely crystallised, as Mr. Jinnah has managed to do it.
We know now that there are, roughly speaking, 100 million Mohammedans who 2480 are not prepared, at the present time, at any rate, to co-operate with the Hindus, and are determined to stand out. As I have suggested once or twice already, it is greatly to the credit of the Government to have recognised this and to have established not a kind of unified India but the two Dominions, India and Pakistan. We must recognise, on the other hand, that Pakistan raises very difficult questions indeed. The territory of Pakistan is not contiguous nor is its population homogeneous, and it will be very interesting to watch how this Dominion will fuse itself together and constitute a unitary State. One part of it is in the Northwest region, a very poor part of India. The other part is in the far east. Hundreds of miles separate the two parts. It must be very difficult for the Government of Pakistan to know how to correlate those two sections of the same State. It will be interesting to watch the progress it makes. Its -economics are equally difficult, because the Northwestern parts are very poor indeed. and the resources of Pakistan will not compare with the resources of India.
Another element of difficulty is that whichever State gets the North-Western Provinces and the Provinces beyond must bear the brunt of the defence of the North-West Frontier. Here we have a problem of a comparatively poor State which will be forced in some way to undertake the defence of the North-West Frontier. But, of course, that is not for this House to do, seeing that we are transferring the power to these new Indian Dominions; it will be for them to reach the solution of this difficult question. However, I am sure that we all rejoice that the Government have seen fit, despite the difficulties, despite the disappointment of not having a unified India, to face the situation frankly and to recognise that the only immediate solution is to set up two Dominions with equal power and’ enjoying an equal degree of freedom. When they have been accustomed to working in that way, the sincere hope of this House is that they will learn to work together and will gradually build up something like a united India.
As the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen said, you cannot force unity on people. I know a very small nation where there has been an attempt to force 2481 it into unity with this nation, but I think I am expressing the view of those people when I say that still, deep in the heart, is something which separates them very definitely and sincerely indeed. That is I feel the danger of trying to force unity on two peoples like the Muslims and the Hindus, who have not only different ideas but diametrically opposed ideas, whose traditions from the beginning of time have been absolutely different. You cannot force people of that kind to live together if they do not want to do so, and I am glad that the Government have recognised that point of view. I am sure we are all happy this afternoon that this House of Commons at long last, after several struggles, is transferring to the Indian people the working out of their own destiny. They have already absorbed many of our best traditions. For example, they are deeply versed in their love of liberty, to which the hon. and learned Member has referred. They have absorbed a great deal of our culture. We hope that with their own indigenous culture, with their own extraordinarily rich traditions, they, too, will contribute largely to the levelling up of the life in the East, and will lead other nations as well to recognise the benefits and the advantages of self-government.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§Sir Stanley Reed (Aylesbury) May I ask the indulgence of the House for what I hope will be a comparatively brief period while I make my contribution to this Debate? I ask for the indulgence of hon. Members because I give my own personal opinion only, and I owe responsibility only to myself and to those with whom I lived and worked in India. Speaking with that personal responsibility, may I say at once that I welcome this Bill; I welcome the form of the Bill; I welcome the timing of the Bill. All those are three valuable points in it as it has been presented to us by the Prime Minister today.
Some criticism has been made of the name of the Bill—the Indian Independence Bill. I am not very concerned with names but, if I had to choose one, I would call it the Fulfilment of India Bill, for throughout it and throughout all the steps which have led to its presentation, it has to my mind one outstanding and dominating characteristic—it is the fulfilment of our “concept and trust,” in 2482 Burke’s words, of all our work in India, and it is a fulfilment of the agreed policy of all parties in this House when the President of the Board of Trade went there in 1942 on his historic mission. It seems to me that it expresses that fulfilment in what should be the most appropriate and effective manner. After all, the keynote of the message which the present President of the Board of Trade took to India with the agreement of all parties in the Coalition Government, was that we would charge India herself with the framing of her own constitution, and we would abandon the complex and hopeless task of attempting to frame another Constitution for India on the Floor of this House.
The only difference between that agreed policy of 1942 and the machinery set up in the Bill today, is that, whereas the agreed Constitution was to have been endorsed by Parliament, Parliament has now given to India full mandate and authority for the framing of her own Contribution without interposing the second stage of bringing it back here for endorsement, and, possibly, long and acrimonious Debate. I welcome equally strongly in this Bill the wide powers given to the Governor-General, and the Governors, of the several issues as they arise, because after all, in an enabling Bill of this character and in the situation as it exists in India today, the paramount necessity is a reasonable speed in carrying out our definite policy of fulfilment. Arising out of all delays has hung the spectre of a progressive decline in administration, and also the lamentable increase in civil strife. That is largely due to the paralysis of uncertainty which is hanging over India, and has been hanging over India, and to the emasculating feebleness of a divided responsibility. Therefore, the sooner that responsibility is definitely, clearly and in-eradicably fixed upon the Indian people, through the machinery of their own constitution, the greater should be our hopes and our confidence of the emergence from the present decline in administration, and from the threat of civil strife which hangs rather heavily over that land.
So, on all these grounds, I wish to extend to this Bill—subject to any examination in Committee and further elucidation which may be required—my entire and whole-hearted support. However, it is deplorable that on this great day of the fulfilment of our work in India, of our pledges 2483 to India, that there should hang this tragedy of division in the land where we have built up unity over a century and a half. The one proposition I cannot accept, the one proposition I must rejeut, is that the fixing by the Government of a definite time-table made this division inevitable. On the contrary, I would say this. We have learned by long and bitter experience not from today or yesterday, but going back at least 40 years, that self-government in India to which we are irrevocably pledged, is extraordinarily difficult, if not unattainable, without division. The vast opportunity of unity embodied in the Act of 1935 arose from the fact that it was never put into operation at the centre. So now we have come to the stage when responsibility for full self-government is unattainable without division, and we reluctantly accept it, not as a permanent condition, but in the earnest hope that there will come from present partition a close union which will secure for all parties within that union a feeling of confidence in the preservation of their religion, their culture, and their economic and social rights.
Apart from that, there must be on a great historic occasion like this a certain pang that the long association of the Crown with the Indian States should be severed. To me that is a rather bitter feeling. For many years of my life I was in the closest association with the Rulers of many of the Indian States, with the late Maharajah of Bikanar, an eminent soldier-statesman, the Maharajah of Gwalior, one of the shrewdest Maratha Rulers, and many others. I remember very well Lord Curzon saying of the Princes and of the States that they were pillars of the Crown. As I look over our history during the two great wars I can say there was no sacrifice they were not willing to make, and no effort they were unready to put forward in the common service of the Crown, the Commonwealth and the Empire.
It has always been an unquiet thought to me, and a rather humiliating thought when friends have told me that they have found the people happier in the Indian States than they were in British India. In all my contacts with these distinguished men I have always ventured to press for two things. One was to come within the Government machine as it develops; the other to bend all their efforts to building up in their own States, a form of 2484 administration which would carry on their work, without depending entirely on the personality of their successors. We have now come to the time when that old historic connection must be changed, and there is to be an association of the States, with the new Dominions.
With the withdrawal of our para-mountcy, and with the lapsing of our treaties, the States become, without embarking on constitutional niceties, independent today. Yet their future is strictly bound up with the whole future of India. Already we have seen developments of a rather striking character. We have seen many of them associating themselves with the Constituent Assembly. If we look at a map of India, at the diversity of Baroda and Gwalior and the Southern Maratha States, we appreciate why this should be so. There are over 600 of these States, large and small, and in Kathiawar, Central India and the Southern Deccan, they are forming a confederation, which is all to the good. But in the case of the major and more homogeneous States, the decision must lie with them. The suggestion has been made that we should, on request, enter into contractual relations with some or all of these major States outside of the ambit of one or both of the new Dominions. I am a timorous and cowardly man in many respects, and I have many fears and anxieties, but I have one overmastering fear, and it is lest this country should enter into obligations, in a spirit of altruism, which it cannot discharge, and then lay itself open in the days to come to a charge of breach of faith and of letting down our friends.
So I would ask the Government to think many times before they enter into any such arrangements, and never to accept any responsibility we could not fulfil. We have certain anxieties in connection with the Scheduled Classes and the Anglo-Indian community. There again, do not let us be under the slightest delusion. The Scheduled Classes’ main difficulty, is not political, it is social. The future of the Anglo-Indians lies within the country itself, and with the Governments of that country; and we should not lead them up the garden path again by promises which we cannot carry out or by mere words, words, words, even if written in a treaty or constitution.
Therefore I accept the Bill, I accept the two Dominions as the only possible solu- 2485 tion of the Indian situation today which is consistent with out definite pledges and our definite guarantee. I hope no one will be under the impression that I am glozing over difficulties and problems. The Prime Minister today spoke of the work of the Boundary Commissions of the East and West Punjab as affecting the Sikh Community. The Sikh is a very dour and dogged man. We have problems connected with the future of the Northwest Frontier, although those may not be so great. I think defence has loomed too much in our discussions. Oddly enough, as far as it has gone, the problem of the Army has proved one of the easiest for which to find a solution. But there are vast problems which almost baffle solution connected with the Customs, with the debt and the service of the debt, with currency and communications, central taxes and the sterling balances, all built up on a strong central and unified administration. It will be hard indeed, and will demand the best brains available and a spirit of co-operation to find a solution.
This brings me to my final point on which I would like to speak rather warmly. If I address myself to it with some emotion I hope the House will forgive me for I feel very deeply on this subject. I think it would be very rash to suppose that the Indian leaders now called upon to take up this tremendous responsibility for the Government of India, are not themselves profoundly aware of the nature of the task they are willing to shoulder. May I recount a personal experience? After the Act of 1935 came into operation, I was back in India in one of the Provinces where Home Rule had been established under its provisions. The Prime Minister happened to be a friend of mine since his student days. He rather surprised me by saying, “We accepted office with fear and trembling. We have very little administrative experience, no united party, no Press.” I feel that these men who have given long service to politics in India and Pakistan are fully alive to the tremendous responsibilities they have to undertake. I think they are looking to this House and to this country with rather watchful eyes to see what is our reaction to their work and to their actions. We have rightly heard today very much of India’s debt to Britain, our immense services in establishing unity—the rule of law, 2486 a common language, a tradition and custom based on the Christian ethic and all that that means, the sacrifice and devotion of a great company of civil servants and of men in commerce and industry, of missionaries and of English women who have set themselves the task of helping their sisters in India towards emancipation. All those things we know and feel intensely.
I wish to speak of the other side, that is, Britain’s debt to India, which is sometimes forgotten in these and other discussions—of the great position it has given us in the world by an association of a century and a half; of British commerce warmed, nourished and extended by our intimate relations; of the field for adventure opened to tens of thousands of our younger sons and cadets of our houses, who found there a freer and more ample life than they could have found in the narrow confines of these islands; and. above all, that friendship, abounding generosity almost unlimited, which whole families of Englishmen have found in India, and which is a precious memory with them and with us today. That true recognition of our services to India which. believe me, Indians really fee] when political passion is put aside and all sense of inequality is dropped, and our recognition of India’s services to us in directions I have briefly sketched should be vividly before us.
Let us go forward then, on this great day in the history of the human race, this greatest day in the history of the British Commonwealth and Empire, when we are passing into the hands of the Indian people the tremendous responsibility for peace, order, good government and the protection of a growing population of 400 million against hunger, with the recognition of the services of both sides; above all in a spirit of confidence, a spirit of trust and a spirit of helpfulness and patient co-operation with them in this immense task which they have undertaken. So let us, lacking nothing in devotion, nothing we have in power, in our resources and strength, dedicate ourselves to helping them forward in the immense duty which is now committed to them, help them along the thorny path upon which they have now entered. Let this day, this hour of fulfilment, be marked by an irrevocable fact—the pledge of the best we have, the utmost we can do to lighten 2487 the task which we have been proud to remit to them.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§Mr. Sorensen (Leyton, West) I am quite sure that all of us have been inspired by the eloquent words of the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed). It is equally heartening that on both sides of the House there are those who welcome what he has said. I am certain that many of us agree with the sentiments he has expressed, especially his exhortation to the Indian people to respond to the present opportunity, and in the deep desire that in the days ahead they may not only show an example to the world, but continue in terms of close friendship with this country. I rise, not merely to welcome the Bill, but also to express my regret, which I am sure others also share, that this Bill, unfortunately though perhaps necessarily, endorses the partition of India. I am quite sure that the majority of Indian people and the majority of those of us in this House equally regret that apparently inevitable necessity. But even though India must now be divided, I am equally certain that all of us desire to express good will to Pakistan and its future inhabitants, as well as to India as a whole. Although some of us have striven in a very modest and amateur way to secure an India that should be both united and free, and regret, therefore, that it is free but not united, nevertheless that has never meant, and does not now mean, that we withhold any measure of good will to those who thought otherwise, and who, behind the leadership of Mr. Jinnah, have carved out this truncated Pakistan in that great Indian sphere.
I most earnestly hope and believe that in the course of time this partition of India will be bridged. For one thing, if it is proven in the days ahead that the Hindu minority within Pakistan and the Muslim minority within India have nothing to fear, but can live together in terms of sympathy and comradeship, that should surely supply the cement which will ultimately unite these two peoples of India. Again, if within Pakistan on the one hand, and India on the other, these two communities are dwelling together in peace and comradeship, surely it will come to be realised that there is no reason why the whole of India should not equally include those and other communities, dwelling in 2488 the same atmosphere. It may take some time before this desirable stage is at last achieved, and it would certainly be a mistake prematurely to try, so to speak, to rush the position and induce that which can only be achieved after some time has elapsed. That does not mean we shall withhold our earnest hopes and prayers that human beings in India, whether in Pakistan or the vaster part of India, will in the end realise that though experimentally for a time they have drawn apart, it has only been in order that they may later come more closely together.
It is significant that there are other minorities, Christians, Parsees, and Sikhs, who are prepared to live henceforth in this Dominion of India, and who though they have sought for legitimate safeguards, have nevertheless secured them to their own satisfaction. Is it too much to hope that those who live in Muslim Pakistan will come to realise the same thing? Certainly it would be lamentable if that division reduced the prospect of co-operation. Those of us who possess a religious faith regard it as part of our being and, naturally, we cherish its qualities. There may be great differences between our own personal faith and Hinduism on the one hand or Islam on the other. Nevertheless one always hopes that there are those in all the faiths who try to find the highest common denominator. Surely one can be found in Islam and Hinduism as well as in Christianity, in the recognition of the fact that whatever the pattern our faiths may be we must at least learn to dwell together in concord, neighbourliness and friendship. If that can be proved in the days ahead, though we may regret the present partition, we shall see that wall of partition dissolve in due course.
There is another element in India to which inadequate attention has been drawn today, and that is the significance of the Indian States. Some 80 million or more people dwell within those States, some of which, I understand, have already declared their intention to be independent, now that British para-mountcy has been withdrawn. I recognise fully that from the legal standpoint perhaps no other step could have been taken by us than to leave them to their own devices, in recognition of their independence. I cannot help wishing, however, that some way might have been 2489 found which would have secured for the people of those States greater recognition of their human rights than is likely to take place than by merely releasing from paramountcy their somewhat despotic rulers. I want to make myself quite clear in this respect. Legally speaking, I suppose nothing else can be done. A treaty was made. That treaty has been renounced, paramountcy has been withdrawn, and I suppose this means that automatically authority then passed to the rulers of those Indian States. But that does not alter the fact that those rulers, even though they may be as estimable as was asserted by the hon. Member for Aylesbury, nevertheless are despotic rulers. They are not democratic representatives.
One must not forget the fact that we are now leaving to these rulers, whether they be benevolent or otherwise, some 80 million human beings who, surely, have as much right to enjoy the new democratic atmosphere of India as those who dwell in what is called British India. I can only hope that the Indian rulers themselves, the Princes, the Rajas and Maharajas, and all those who undoubtedly have very great responsibility, will see their way towards uniting either with Pakistan on the one hand or India on the other. I hope that they will voluntarily recognise what a disservice they will be rendering to India if they try to hold themselves aloof and that, indeed, they will demonstrate more than anything else their real devotion to India by voluntarily relinquishing their own despotic inheritance. I hope that indeed they will try to make India an India comprehensive of all the people of India, without princely islands segregating and separating the Indian people and thus likely to promote division.
Reference was made by the Prime Minister, quite rightly, to the service rendered by many English people in India. There is no reason why that service should not continue to be rendered. There is no reason why the spirit of devotion and service which has characterised numbers of English men and women in the past should not still be amply poured out in India. It need not in the future be said that such service is associated with ulterior motives. Now without qualification; without suspicion, those British and other peoples not of Indian stock who care to go to India 2490 to live there or who remain outside India but have a genuine love of that country, can give of their best disinterestedly on behalf of the Indian peoples. Further, I would add that there has been little mention save by the hon. Member for Aylesbury—and then only by implication—of the great service rendered to India not by Englishmen and women, but by Indians themselves. That has been a service rendered not merely to India but to the whole world.
I think we should register a note of profound gratitude to those great lovers of freedom who for many years have striven for the liberation of India, not merely for the benefit of India but for the benefit of Britain as well. Indeed, for Britain to be released from the embarrassing position of a conqueror is a service to Britain. So long as friendship existed on the basis of conqueror and conquered, whatever benevolence may have been displayed, and undoubtedly on occasion this has been displayed, whatever splendid services may have been rendered, and undoubtedly they have been rendered, it does not alter the fact that we were in the position of a conqueror over another people who judged themselves to be conquered. That is now to disappear and, with its disappearance, Britain is to be all the nobler, as India will be all the freer.
I would, therefore, voice my very warm congratulations to His Majesty’s Government in the step they have taken. I know full well that there are those who rather cynically declare that we are getting out while the going is good. I will agree that the circumstances are such that in the course of some years from now, if not months, we should have had to quit India. But the difference between quitting India of sheer necessity, ungraciously and grudgingly, and quitting India deliberately and with dignity, is indeed very great. It is the difference between leaving India with bitterness, rancour and malice brooding in the atmosphere, and leaving India with hope, confidence and goodwill. The British Government have taken the step, not merely of necessity but in consistency with their own democratic profession, of saying to India, not that we grant freedom to India, but that we recognise India’s intrinsic right to be free to work out her own salvation. I give my most warm congratulations to the Government, and I 2491 am inclined to feel that there are now many on both sides of the House who can share my appreciaton of their decision.
My final point is that India undoubtedly has profound problems, as have we and, the rest of the world. It is not for us condescendingly to lecture India. We can advise as from one friend to another. No doubt she will look to us for advice and we will look to India for advice. I most earnestly trust, for the sake not only of the millions of human beings in India but for the sake of the whole human race, that India speedily will demonstrate to the world how energetic she is in her determination to rid herself of some of the great burdens and abuses which unfortunately still remain in that country. I refer, for instance, to the appalling poverty of the Indian people. But there is not only that. There is the ignorance, disease, superstition and the subjugation of their womenfolk. These are but some of the problems which India must solve. They are not only Indian problems; they are human problems.
It is for that reason I hope and believe that, in the days ahead, India will show how she can tackle and solve her own problems. In so doing, she will be rendering a great service to her own people and to the whole of the human race. If I have played any small, humble, obscure part in contributing towards what I feel is a moment of hope and inspiration for mankind, I feel indeed deeply moved at the privilege which has been mine. We should all realise that now India is to be free there is no need to hold back and say our task is over. We may have a new and constructive task. Let us see that we render our new service well and, in hope and confidence in the future, may we anticipate a rich response from India. Together, the Indian human beings on the one hand and the British human beings on the other can, in free fellowship, show our age how the world can be re-made not on the basis of ill-will but on the basis of mutual aid, respect and free comradeship.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§Lieut.-Colonel Sir Cuthbert Headlam (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North) I have listened to a good many Indian Debates in this House and also when this House was another place. I remember hearing 2492 Lord Morley move the Second Reading of his India Reforms Bill as long ago as 1908. I supported the Act of 1935, but never before have I opened my mouth on the subject of India in Parliament. Now, however, I feel that I would like to make a few remarks about this Bill. I have always been one who realised that sooner or later it would be our task to hand over the government of India to the Indian people. I have always realised that the Home Rule promised to India when the Crown took over the government of that country, must be given to India at some time or another when it was judged that the Indian people were ready for self-government and could work together for the common good. I am not, therefore, one who’ is at all startled by this Bill, or fearful as to what it proposes.
I have never believed that it would be possible to establish a single united India if there was to be self-government, and that is why I was always rather doubtful when I supported, as I did, the Act of 1935; but I did so on the assurances of many friends of mine, official and otherwise, who knew India well, that Home Rule was inevitable, and who seemed to consider that Home Rule was a feasible proposition for the whole of India. Never myself having had the advantage of visiting India, not even for the short space of time considered sufficient by some people to learn all about the country and its problems in a few weeks’ tour, during which, I understand, they usually stay with officials of the British Government and not amongst the Indian people—never having had that experience—I have always felt that I must accept the views given to me by those of my friends who were really experienced in Indian affairs, either by their official or other connections with the country or by their military duties, and, therefore, I voted in support of the Act of 1935. But I never really was satisfied, as I have already said, that it would be possible, at any rate, when self-government was first initiated in India, to have a united central authority running the whole of British India, and my reason for that was that there was a tremendous divergence between the Indian peoples, and especially between the Hindus and the Muslims; and I would point out to 2493 the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken that religious differences are more dividing than almost any other differences which divide mankind. I do not think we can possibly expect to have a united India under self-government for many years to come, and then it can only come by agreement among the Indians themselves. We should remember that we could never have established our position of paramountcy in India had there been union among the Indian peoples. We could not possibly have maintained our position in India as the governing race if the whole of the Indian races had been united against us, and it is because of that fact that we have remained so long in India. To say that we would have been there had the peoples of India combined against us, is, in my view, quite absurd.
Therefore, I think it is true that but for the fact of this lack of unity among Indian politicians, there might have been an Indian settlement some years ago. It was because of their inability to agree among themselves that delays took place and it was impossible to come to a decision. I have no doubt that the new Viceroy was given instructions to bring about a decision as quickly as he could, and he has done so, and, I think, very effectively. I do not mean by that that I think the times are going to be very easy in India for some time to come. There is no doubt that partition will be an extremely difficult thing to effect satisfactorily, and when it has been effected and there are two separate Dominions in India, we still have to face the fact of all the defence, social, economic and financial difficulties which it will entail. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. MacMillan) alluded to them in his speech, and there is no need for me to deal further with them. I am quite certain, however, that the difficulties are going to be intense, and will mean that, unless there is a great deal of give-and-take between the ruling races in India, considerable trouble and discord must be expected.
That brings me to the point which I have in mind—the risk of anarchy. I have always been disturbed in my mind whether it would be right for us to leave India when there were such differences in political opinion there and when great communal disturbances were going on.
2494 Ought we to leave the great mass of the population of India living in conditions which might well lead to every kind of disorder and possibly to civil war? It is because I believe that the partition which has been made will reduce this danger that I accept it. I have feared the anarchy which I felt might be provoked. I realise the necessity for the maintenance of law and order, and I understand that the Government are taking due steps in this direction. I think this Bill may do much to maintain the intimate relationship between this country and the subcontinent of India, and I have been fearful lest union, when it came about in India, as it was visualised by some of the political leaders in India, might lead to India leaving the British Commonwealth. I think that such a policy would be a disaster for India and a terrible loss to this country. I hope that these two new self-governing Dominions will remain within the Commonwealth. They will strengthen the Commonwealth, which will, in turn, be able to support them. I believe that the British Commonwealth is the greatest institution in government which the world has ever seen, and that the larger it becomes and the greater it grows, the surer I am that it is the best instrument for preserving the peace of the world.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§Mr. Lester Hutchinson (Manchester, Rusholme) I am afraid I do not share the optimism of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken, nor I believe does the Prime Minister. I was very pleased that the speech of my right hon. Friend made it clear that he entered upon this new plan very reluctantly, though he regarded it as a material advance on the plan which this House approved last March. One must have every sympathy with the Government, torn between the conflicting and uncompromising demands of Hindu and Muslim politicians and must realise that they were faced with a dilemma which called for the judgment of Solomon, but, when Solomon has finished, not only by bisecting the country, but by cutting it up into small pieces, I hope that his judgment will not be so universally acclaimed as it is today.
I am sure that we are leaving India more or less in the same condition as we found it after the collapse of the Mogul Empire. We are leaving India with a 2495 number of independent, or semi-independent States. We have divided it into Hindustan and Pakistan, and we have abolished, as far as I can see, any form of central government. In these conditions, we are undoing what we ourselves have achieved, because if there is one thing we did achieve in our history in India it was to weld together all the conflicting forces of India into a nation. Now, by accepting the principle of partition, we are undoing the great work that we did in India. On the question of Indian union or division, I would say that this is not a separate problem; it is merely two aspects of the same problem, which is that of Hindu-Muslim differences, and until we can find some solution to Hindu-Muslim differences, there will be no peace or stability in India.
I do not believe that these differences are as deep as they are sometimes made out to be. It is true that it is very easy to excite them by political and other means, but I have found that when bodies of men, both Hindus and Mohammedans, are bound together by a common economic interest, they work together loyally and in a friendly manner, and there are no differences whatsoever. When in India, I particularly noticed that the riots were mostly confined to certain quarters, and that the respectable working parts of the city were left completely untouched. Nevertheless, we have to face the fact today that these communal differences have been artificially stirred up to such an extent that, to my mind, the division of India constitutes a very grave danger, and one which we shall have to face.
I do not think that partition is going to solve the differences; it is merely going to accentuate them. Imagine a situation where there are two Powers on a territorial basis, each with a powerful army based and recruited on religious principles, without any attempt whatever being made to heal those essential differences. In my view, that would create the danger of catastrophe. There are many other difficult problems to be faced as the result of partition. Presumably, both Pakistan and India will pursue separate foreign policies. If, for example, Congress India should enter into close relations with Russia, and Pakistan should join the Saad Abad alliance of Turkey, Irak, 2496 Persia and Afghanistan, which the Soviet Government regard as anti-Russian, what is going to be the repercussion on Indian and world foreign policy? I believe that partition, to which the Government have been forced, contains many serious problems and dangers which we must keep in mind as a basis of responsibility.
The right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) referred in detail to the problem of the Indian States. This, also, raises some very serious questions, some of more importance than others. To begin with, what is going to happen to the Province of Berar? The House will remember that this Province, when it was found to be suitable for growing cotton, was taken over from Hyderabad by Lord Curzon’s administration in 1902. I believe that the only compensation the Nizam received was the alteration in his title from “Highness” to “Exalted Highness.” But the point remains that Hyderabad is now claiming the return of the Province. I think it has every justification for the claim. On the other hand, I hope that the Government will not accede to it, because I do not think it would be to the benefit of the peasants in Berar to return to the despotism of an independent State of Hyderabad. What we must know is what are our commitments towards those new independent States which we are creating?
To my mind, the Indian States, politically speaking, are remarkable examples of the survival of the unfittest. They would not have existed without the might of the paramount Power behind them. If the strength of the paramount Power is going to be withdrawn, can it be expected that the people in those States are going to tolerate their feudal conditions, side by side with the progress of modern India? If they rise against their Princes, what is going to be the function of Britain in her separate treaties with the States? Are we to be expected to repress such risings as we recently had to do in Kashmir? The problem of the Princes, I believe, is one which hits the whole basis of the scheme, and one which has to be looked at very seriously, because, if we are going to enter into any particular treaty commitments which force us to be used as instruments of Princely despotism, then the whole basis of the Indian independence plan will fail from the very outset.
There can be no peace or stability in India unless it is realised, as I believe to 2497 be the truth, that the problem is not mainly a religious or political one, but is essentially an economic problem. As long as the annual income per head in India is only £4 10s. there can be no peace or stability there. I hope that the British Government will give encouragement to those forces of progress already working in India for a higher standard of living conditions, because, without it, the Indian problem will be a constant burden on the world. The first essential for India is a radical system of agrarian reform. This must lead to a generally higher standard of living, because without such economic reforms the mere transferring of power from Britain to the Indian zemindari, or to the money barons of Calcutta is not going to bring back happiness and prosperity to the Indian people.
It must be accompanied by a radical policy and economic reform. I believe this will benefit India; it will help to solve the communal problem by binding Muslims and Hindus close together in a common endeavour to improve their economic status. It will also provide us with the market which we need in India. Let us not forget that the loss of the Indian markets before the war was not due at all to the cheapness of Japanese cloth; it was mainly due to the loss of buying power by the people who constituted that particular market. By encouraging a higher standard of living in India we shall be helping ourselves as well.
I share the wishes of the other speakers in this Debate that we may continue to be on the closest possible relations with India. I believe that in the past we had a common history. The black aspect of it should not be dwelt upon too much by either side. We should get together as closely as possible in our own mutual interests. We must hope that the Indian people in their new experiment will find, not only freedom, but wealth and prosperity, because their wealth and prosperity will also be ours. I hope that my fears of the future will not be justified, and that my forecast will prove to be incorrect, because, as an obscure back-bencher, I have nothing but good will towards this scheme to give freedom, wherever it is tried. But whatever happens—and this, I think, we on this side must remember with pride—it is to the eternal honour of the present Government that they re- 2498 jected the principle of exploitation and oppression of one people by another.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon) I am sure that the House has listened with very great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Rusholme (Mr. Hutchinson), whose experiences in India have been manifold. I should like to say that I find myself in entire agreement with almost everything he has said. It seems to me that this tremendous experiment, which is about to be launched, is one of those things which this House is always able to do when it shows its faith and belief. It is, I believe, an act of faith, and even something more, because, after all, it is the first time that the British Commonwealth of Nations has ever invited people, other than white people, to be equal partners in that Commonwealth. That is a tremendous step to take, and it is one which I believe we must all welcome, because peoples in the East are on the move, and they have to find their niche somewhere.
The association and fellowship in the British Commonwealth is something that can lead the peoples of different colours, races and religions along the common path of economic progress, where we must concentrate less on politics and more on economics, science, health and all those things which would benefit the Indian people. We may also hope that the example of this experiment may possibly be followed by Burma and other countries and that we may see something which will bring stability where at present there is great risk of instability in that part of Asia. The Prime Minister in his opening speech today drew attention to the fact that, in 1909, Mr. Asquith introduced a Bill for the union of South Africa. He used these words which I think are very apposite today: This Imperial Parliament, without distinctionon of party, regards it”— that is, the Bill— as one of the greatest steps that has ever been taken in our legislative history. By free concerted action, communities which only a few years ago seemed to be fatally…divided by history, by sentiment and even by interest, all worked together to make this a component part of the British Empire.”—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th August, 1909; Vol. 9. c. 1657.] A tremendous success has resulted from the so-called experiment of that time, and 2499 I believe that if we have faith, we can continue to help the peoples in India. As the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed) said, this will be regarded as a great day of fulfilment and the starting point of a new relationship between ourselves and India. But there is one thing which we must remember. Although this Bill will, I am sure, be passed without a Division, and with the strong support of all hon. Members, it will not remove those tremendous problems which are confronting India at present in a way which, perhaps, is not appreciated very generally in this country or, indeed, in Europe. I believe it is absolutely essential that one message should go out from this House to both Pakistan and India; namely, that the administrative difficulties which will confront both those Dominion Governments are such that we ought to be prepared to lend any assistance we can. That assistance should come not only from this country, but, as her sister Dominions, from every other Dominion who will find in this an opportunity, not of trying to usurp the authority which we are giving to these Dominion Governments, but to provide them with that extra experience from the vast resources in the other parts of the Commonwealth which might assist them in agrarian reform, by improving methods of cultivation, in irrigation and in all those things which are so necessary.
While there are these problems—and there are many—we must not blind ourselves to the fact that great assistance has been given by engineers, missionaries, including women, and by an enormous number of people outside the ranks of government, and that there is still an opportunity for them to continue that kind of work. I think it would be most unfortunate if it were thought that there will not be the same opportunities as have existed in the past for people with the spirit of adventure and knowledge to go out there and help in every way to do what is necessary to raise the standard in India.
The one great distressing thought which one always has is of the vast mass of people in India who cannot read or writ, the difficulty of communication, and the fact that 50 per cent. of the villages are sometimes cut off from being reached at all. The field is so enormous and the 2500 difficulties are so great, and I do not believe that in my lifetime we shall see unity in India. We must accept the situation and, by moving towards the common interest of economic development, strive to remove the difficulties which now divide the people. We have accepted so much help from India in our times of trouble that, whatever may be the difficulties in which India finds herself, there will always be in this country people of good will who would go out there and help. Furthermore, by India becoming two Dominions of the British Commonwealth, we are offering to the Indian people that common citizenship of which we are all so proud, and which will give to those Dominions the status in the world they have so far never had.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock) I rise to congratulate the Government on what I think is the most far-reaching Measure that has ever been introduced into this Parliament. It is the result of patient and resolute statesmanship in the face of very great difficulties. The attainment by India of her independence, which she has so long sought, is momentous not only in her own history but in the history of the whole world. Indian self-government was dimly foreseen by Macaulay in 1833. From that date it was accepted as our aim in India, and was first clearly stated in 1917. What India expected of the reforms in 1919, what she hoped for in 1935 and what she demanded in 1942, is now being freely given. I think “given” is probably the wrong word, because we are not giving India freedom. India is attaining it. She has won this freedom.
This is really an historic moment, for one-fifth of the world’s population—400 million—are now getting their political independence. Dominion status has been granted before, but it has always been granted to colonially settled European peoples. This time it is being given to the original native population. To my mind, this is not only the vindication of Empire; it is also the test of Empire. I know there are many people who state that as soon as the British leave India, there will be chaos. Among some sections of the people that is a typical but, to my mind, erroneous assumption of our indis-pensability.
I feel that, from the Governments that were set up in India after the 1935 Act, 2501 the Governments of Mr. Rajagopalachari, of Mr. Khev and of Sir Sikandar Hyat Khan in the Punjab, we have had Indian Governments that have been a credit to India and to our rule in India. One hon. Member said that we are leaving India as we found it. I am sure he must realise that, as we have given to the Provinces all but autonomous governments, to rule themselves democratically, and as they have been able to do that as a result of British rule, within a framework of democratic tradition and history, they are by no means as we found them. The very fact that India is demanding and obtaining self-government is itself a vindication of that part of our rule. We were pledged to India, under the Act of 1858; and, after an attempt at control through a commercial and private empire, we made what by now is a fairly well known decision to nationalise. We pledged ourselves to give equal protection to all religions, and to admit all subjects of the Crown, without regard to race or creed, to all offices and positions, at the same time guaranteeing the rights of the Princes The rights of the Princes have been maintained and in the latest break they are being returned to them. We have given equal protection to all religions. To my mind the step we are now taking is the logical result of carrying through our commitments of 1858 to give to all subjects of the Crown, without regard to race or creed, any office or position.
I regret that it has come to the partition of India, because one of our achievements in India—an achievement that verges on the miraculous—is that, in a medley of races, creeds, cultures and languages, we have been able to build up any form of unity. It is now going. I deprecate very much that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan), who led for the Opposition, even suggested that the reason for the partition of India was the fact that His Majesty’s Government laid down this time factor of British withdrawal. I feel that he was rather labouring to gloss over his own party’s record of very recent months. He talked of reticence. I can remember no reticence, but one rather disgusting phrase on the day when the Prime Minister announced the new Viceroy’s appointment. There were no congratulations to Admiral Lord Mountbatten that day. The congratulations came after Mountbatten carried out 2502 his work. If I speak with deep feeling on the matter it is because I was listening carefully that day, and because I happened to have served with Mountbatten in S.E.A.C., and realised that if any man could achieve what was to be achieved in India, it was the man who did what Mountbatten did in Burma, and who did so much in Indonesia.
I think partition is the logical result of the trend of India’s political development-not from this year, but, rather, from 1909, when, with the Morley-Minto reforms, we first took the step of reserving seats for any one particular community. By 1921, when we had the separate communal electorates, we had side tracked unified development, and taken the path of development on communal lines. That has led inevitably to what is happening today. It might have been possible in 1942 to have retained the slender fabric—and I am quoting the words of the right hon. Gentleman—the slender fabric of India’s unity. But remember how slender that fabric is. Remember how slender it was in 1942. There was no sign of real Indian unity then, and we may as well face it. The men who are today leading the new Dominion India Government, from 1942 until the end of the war were in prison. There was no national unity in India. The only slogan on which one could get national unity in India was an anti-British slogan.
Sometimes, as we watch hon. Members paint a historical picture of India, one would think India was a complete paradise. Far from it. When I talk of India I do not talk of Calcutta or Delhi—least of all of Delhi—or Madras, or even Deolali. I think of all India, and of the villages. There is the true India. In India’s 750,000 villages, July’s torrid heat is pouring down on the parched fields. The villagers are idle for months with nothing to do, and facing the probability of famine in a short time. What does this Bill mean to them? It can mean nothing or it can mean everything. It depends entirely on the Indian leaders who assume control of their people’s, destiny. I think of those villages, poor, miserable, filthy, with their festering-fringes on which, throughout India, 40,000,000 live and die, and never know-what it is to be properly fed.
We are bringing those villagers one hope, the hope of Indian self-rule, 2503 because we realise that the difficulties and obstacles that retard Indian progress now can be removed only by Indians. We can no longer legislate social changes as we did in the past. We cannot wipe out untouchability. We cannot wipe out the inferior status of the women of India— or the dirt, the disease, and the poverty. That is something for India’s leaders to do. I would say that I hope that India’s leaders recognise that fact, and recognise that they are responsible for the ultimate unity of India. War has destroyed India’s rather top-heavy economy. There is the danger of famine and there are dangers of industrial strife. Let India’s responsible leaders realise that poverty and disease do not discriminate between religious communities. Let them rule in that spirit, the spirit of the people, and this Bill will be a real contribution to India’s progress and felicity.
§ 7.19 p.m.
§Mr. Gammans (Hornsey) I do not want to say very much about the great underlying principles of this Bill, because I want to refer very briefly to one aspect only of it, and that is the future of the domiciled Europeans and the Anglo-Indian community; and I sincerely hope that the Under-Secretary of State, when he comes to reply, will be able to say something about it. I do not think that, on the general question, the views, the hopes and the aspirations of this House could have been better expressed than they were in the sincere and eloquent speech of the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed). Today, this House is divesting Great Britain of a charge which has lain upon us for 200 years—the responsibility for the millions of people of India. Whatever may have been our shortcomings during that time, we have given to India what she never had before, and what possibly she may never have again: security from external aggression and freedom from internal anarchy. The trouble is that as we have laid down our charge, we have not been able to hand over to the people of India a united country. When this Bill becomes law, India as we have understood it for the last 200 years, as a political unit, will cease to exist. India from now on will be a geographical expression, like “Europe,” “Asia” or “Africa.”
2504 The only other point I wish to make on the general principles of this Bill is one which has been made by other hon. Members on both sides of the House, namely, to express the hope that the division of India will not go beyond the two Dominions, and that those two Dominions will be able to work together not only for mutual defence, but also in economic matters. Because the price of failure if they do not do so will probably be that at least 40 million people will die. Hon. Members may argue that 40 million people seems an exaggeration. But is it an exaggeration? The population of India has increased by five million net every year. That enormous number of people. many of whom live on a bare level of subsistence anyway, just keep alive because India has been peaceful and united. If the fundamental unity of India is destroyed, or if peace goes, then anything up to 40 million people may die. Not merely by violence—although a good few may die by violence—but simply because the resources of India, divided in this way, will not be sufficient to keep them alive. All we can hope is that those who now control the destinies of India will realise the price of failure if they cannot agree amongst themselves.
Let me now turn to the Anglo-Indian community, or the Eurasians, as they used to be called. Many of them hope and feel that they can still find a home in India. But many do not. They feel that in the growing tension between Hindu and Mohammedan there will be no place for them, and that, in fact, there will be active discrimination against them. Their religion, their culture, their food and their way of life differ fundamentally from those of the two great religious communities of India. The point I wish to make is that these people are our kith and kin, and we have a special responsibility towards them. In the early days of the East India Company, European soldiers were encouraged to marry Indian women by the gift of a cash bonus, and it is largely from those marriages that the Anglo-Indian community has come.
What does the Anglo-Indian community ask for? As I said just now, some of them are quite content to remain. They are asking for several things. Some are asking that they should be allowed to form a homeland of their own in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Now, I know the 2505 difficulties. The Anglo-Indian community is predominantly urban, and if they went to live in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands most of them would have to earn their living on the land. Incidentally, I hope the Under-Secretary of State will tell us what is to be the future of the Andamans and the Nicobars. They are in no sense a part of India, and I should have thought that the Minister of Defence would have felt that the retention of these Islands, at any rate for the time being, under the direct control of this country, was essential for our Imperial defence. Another possible solution for the Anglo-Indian community problem is that they should settle in one of the other great Dominions. I believe some of them have already approached Australia, and I am wondering whether His Majesty’s Government in this country can tell us if they have done anything to approach the Government of Australia with regard to the settlement of these people there.
And what about settlement for them in this country? Many of these people are highly skilled technical men and women; and at a time when we are told there is a shortage of manpower in this country I believe a home could be found for some of them here. There is also a great shortage of high technical skill in Malaya. Could we not find some means whereby they could go there. Many members of the Anglo-Indian community have specialised in work on the railways, and in the telegraph services. Cannot we find some openings for them in the Colonial Service throughout the Empire? Will any effort be made by His Majesty’s Government in this country to satisfy their legitimate aspirations, or are they to be told that they must fend for themselves, and that we wash our hands of them? Here is a community which has stood by us in good times and in bad: a community whose loyalty to the Crown has never been questioned. If they feel they can find a home in India, no one wants to disturb them. But if, for any reason, they wish to go elsewhere, I say it would be a shameful and a disgraceful act if we were just to abandon them, and make no attempt whatsoever to find them a new home.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§Mr. Thomas Reid (Swindon) Unfortunately, I have been unavoidably absent from the first two hours of the Debate, so I 2506 cannot go over the ground covered by the first speakers. In fact, I had not intended to speak at all until I heard the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Rusholme (Mr. Hutchinson). He stated that we have divided India, and reduced India to a position similar to that obtaining when we took over India from the great Mogul Empire. I am sorry ?to have to say this, but I think those two statements constitute a travesty of the facts, and are entirely inaccurate. My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) pointed out, quite rightly, that we have established almost autonomous democratic Provincial Governments in India, which did not exist under the Mogul Empire. And India is not in the state of chaos that she was in during the decline of the Mogul Empire. As for dividing India, it is an absolutely false charge of which to accuse us. Even Mr. Gandhi stated publicly the other day in India that the present Viceroy did everything in his power to preserve the unity of India, but was forced to accept the principle of partition because the people of India had divided India.
The same is true of the Princes. Some of them have already decided to set up independent States. We did not incite them to make that declaration. We did not divide India. I have argued this question inside my party for the last 12 years or so, on our Imperial Committee and I can assure the House that not a member of that Committee—most of whom had experience of India or Colonies—ever suggested anything in the nature of a splitting up of India into Hindustan and Pakistan. To a man, we were in favour of a united India. All along, the Labour Party has been in favour of a united India. But, quite wisely, our Government said that the people of India must decide this great issue, and not we.
There has been some talk about the despotism of the States. The position of the States is that they were always independent States, except that they allowed their foreign policy to be managed through the Viceroy, and now that the paramountcy powers are to be withdrawn they will be completely independent States. I deny the suggestion that these States are despotic. Anyone who knows India knows that in the bigger States they have their Parliaments, their Legislature and Ministers, 2507 It is perfectly true, that they are not democratic States, but if hon. Members went to the State of Mysore they would come away with this question in mind: Was there, or is there, any part of India better administered than Mysore? I deprecate this easy talk, running down the Princes, or of interfering in their affairs.
The hon. Member for Rusholme asked: Are the British Government going to enter into commitments to repress risings in these States? Why suggest there may be risings? Why incite people to indulge in rising by making such suggestions? It is for the peoples of these States, which are independent States, to decide whether or not they want democracy. I hope, for my part, that they will throw in their lot with the Governments of India. Anyone who knows the position of these States, realises that in many respects they depend economically, politically and in other ways on the rest of India. Like the rest of India, the States will do what they deem right, if they are not interfered with from this end, and if they are allowed to carry out their own wishes.
The hon. Member stated that the problem of India is essentially an economic one. I have read many books on India written by experts, and I have met people who have lived in India all their lives, and I have never met anyone who does not say that the fundamental problem in India is a religious problem. This new-fangled idea of explaining everything as an economic problem is a travesty of human nature. I know that our great Foreign Secretary, in trying to rehabilitate Europe, realises that the religious, political and other divisions are so great that the only hope of getting nations to work together is to proceed on an economic basis. He is trying to get people to work together on an economic basis, who otherwise would not co-operate, and I entirely agree with that policy, and hope the same thing can be done in India, to get these people, divided by race and religion, to cooperate economically lest they be destroyed by famine. But human nature is not guided by economics alone. Economics are not the key to human nature.
My hon. Friend said that the average income in India is about £4 10s. a year, 2508 I have considerable knowledge of Indian statistics, and I can assure the House that they are not very reliable. In that huge sub-continent, it is impossible to get the staff to work out correct statistics, although they are fairly correct. Whatever the annual income of the people may be, it is not £4 10s. per head—that is absolutely wrong. The annual income is certainly more than that, but I do not know what it is exactly nor does anyone else.
My hon. Friend began to lecture Indians on what they should do by way of radical economic and agricultural reforms and the rest of it. These are matters to be left to the Indian people and to the new Governments, and the less we in this House interfere and advise the better. On the other hand, I listened with the greatest pleasure to the speech of the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed). It is very fortunate that this House has amongst its Members a man so deeply versed in Indian politics during his lifetime, and with a progressive outlook at the same time. His speeches on India have been most valuable. One thing he said, with which I entirely agree, was that whatever we do, we should not enter into commitments with Indian States, or with the Indian Governments, or anyone else, which we cannot fulfil. I consider that to be extremely sound advice. I do not know what commitments the Government intend to enter into with the two Dominions, but I hope that this advice will be borne in mind, not only in regard to India, but also in the case of Burma.
The statesmanship of the Labour Government in the management of this Indian problem has been superb; it has been statesmanship of the highest order. Can hon. Members deny the wisdom and the foresight of the Labour Government in dealing with this formidable problem? What would have happened if we had tried to hang on to the governance of India and to continue our rule? How many divisions of troops should we have to have there at the present time? What chaos and disorder would we have caused, and what bitter memories should we have left behind when we eventually had to leave India? As I have said, the policy and statesmanship of the Labour Government have been of the highest order, 2509 Although the vast majority of the people of this country do not understand the intricacies of the Indian problem, practically all men and women in this country are behind the Government in their policy, simply because the tradition of our race is to spread liberty throughout the Empire, and because the people of this country have an instinct for doing the right thing. Whatever they may or may not know of this terrible problem, I suggest that they are entirely behind the Government.
I do not intend to try to lecture India. It is for the Indians to decide these matters for themselves. I know, apart from the religious and other differences, there are great differences among the people in India. Some are very pacific, and others are very warlike. I know there is a danger, which has been referred to of a breaking up of internal peace in the future, but as a back bencher and lover of India, and as one who knows India, I want to send this message to my friends out there: It takes all sorts to make a world, and pacific people and warlike peoples are both needed. Each have their merits, and their defects, and to those who are thinking of starting violence in India, I would pass on the great words of John Milton: Peace hath her victories No less renown’d than war. I hope that this message will be heard in India.
There is no other country in the world which could have done what we have clone in our recent dealings with India. Both sides of this great House of Commons welcome this enormous transfer of power. It could not have happened anywhere else. In any other country parties would have been divided, with some wishing to quit India, and others wishing to stay. We have a united House of Commons approving this great act of independence for India. In spite of the enormous difficulties ahead, and in spite of the awful religious problem, and the population problem referred to by the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans), which is a formidable one—the population during British rule having increased from 150 million to over 400 million—we sincerely hope that the new Governments of India will make a success of this great experiment. ‘My last words are: “Advance India.”
§ 7.39 p.m.
§Brigadier Low (Blackpool, North) The hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) has done a lot of my work for me. He has correctly dealt with a lot of the inaccuracies put forward by some of his hon. Friends. Quite naturally, he has not tackled one of the inaccuracies, made, I think, by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), who made such a bitter attack on my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan). He seemed to think that we on this side of the House were entirely illogical in supporting this Measure, because we voted against the Government on 20th February. It has always seemed to me, since 3rd June, that this new scheme of the Government is proof of the badness of the scheme of 20th February Be that as it may, I do not intend to go into the past. I have always made it clear that I have believed in the fulfilment of India’s independence, to use a phrase of my right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed).
§Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North) Of the Prime Minister.
§Brigadier Low And of the Prime Minister. My position is quite clear. The distinguishing mark of the scheme which is to be enacted in the Bill is that what was British India is to enter the British Commonwealth with full status as two Dominions. The importance of the Bill is not confined to the fact that it represents the end of the responsibility of the British people for affairs in India and creates for the people of India a framework within which, if it is used wisely and if they so wished, the Indian people can achieve unity as well as independence; it is important because it is the first occasion on which we have handed independence to a non-European people to govern themselves. Whatever we may say now, it may well form a precedent in subsequent years when we come to do the same generous, unselfish act to other peoples whose interests we now look after.
The Bill is important for one other reason. It allows for the inclusion in the British Commonwealth of what are known as the Indian States. They were not in the Commonwealth before. The Bill allows their inclusion without any decision about their application for mem- 2511 bership being reached by the present full-status members of the Commonwealth. I think it is true to say that we allow those States to come into our Commonwealth as full members of the Dominions only with the permission of India and Pakistan. That may be a precedent for the future. I make no comment upon it, but I think it is a departure from anything we have thought of before. The Bill is important not only to Britain and India, but to the whole of the Commonwealth. It is upon the Commonwealth aspect that I particularly wish to concentrate this evening.
I will, first, deal with the question of defence. There is no doubt in my mind that the inevitable splitting up of the Indian Army into two, alters the balance of strategic manpower throughout our great Commonwealth. This is a matter which His Majesty’s Government obviously have faced. I am concerned a little that the names adopted for the two Dominions, “India” and “Pakistan” may have upon the unifying force of the Indian Army an effect which is not intended by any of the leaders in India. In the past, recruits to the Indian Army have been taught, “We are Indians; we are not Muslims or Hindus.” Largely because of that teaching, communal differences have been kept out of the Army. A Frontier Force, Punjabi Muslim rifleman was taught to think that he was an Indian. From 15th August such soldiers as he will be taught to think of themselves as members of Pakistan, and not of India. I do not know whether that is a point which has occurred to His Majesty’s Government. I do not want to spend a long time on the point or to attach too much importance to it, but it is a tragedy that a part of India should have taken to itself the name of the whole. It is a tragedy because it will have some influence in later years on the chances of India’s becoming unified again. I am not too much of an idealist to realise that the chances of unity in the immediate future are not great. Therefore, unifying forces that exist should be kept undepleted and unhindered, as far as possible.
In his opening statement, the Prime Minister told us that British formations and units would be withdrawn from India as soon as possible after 15th 2512 August. I should like to know, tonight if possible—there may be another stage of the discussion when the question can be answered—under whose operational command British troops will be after 15th August, between that date and the time when they leave India? This is of much greater importance than just the words “operational command” might signify to Members of the House.
My last point relates to the influence of the Bill upon Commonwealth defence. I hope that the new Dominions will appreciate that we in the British Commonwealth all have a part to play towards our common defence. I hope that they will, as soon as possible after 15th August, help us and the other Dominions to do all we can together to repair the damage to the balance which will have been upset by the splitting of the Indian forces. There are great problems, which it is not right that we should tackle now. No doubt the Minister of Defence will notify us about them at a later stage. We must be alive to the fact that calling Pakistan and India Dominions is not the end of the matter. It means that they have not only rights but duties towards the sister members of this great British Commonwealth.
The other matter is this question of the States. I agree that it will be in the interests of India and of the British Commonwealth if as many States as feel so inclined join one or other of the two Dominions. I hope that hon. Members in general will agree that it is an inherent right of any of those States to stay apart as an independent entity if they so wish. If they have the capability of looking after themselves, I hope that His Majesty’s Government will not close their eyes to the possibility of a special relationship between them and the rest of the British Commonwealth. I quite understand the importance of no obligations being undertaken which we cannot fulfil, but that argument is carried too far if we say that just because a large part of India, say Hyderabad, is land-locked, it could never form part of the British Empire, under any system whatsoever. What about Southern Rhodesia? Can that never be a Dominion? That argument seems to me to be nonsense, and it should not be carried to such a length as my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury seemed willing to carry it. To say 2513 that we cannot have a weak country in the British Commonwealth if it is a long way away seems quite nonsense. If we look round the Empire, what about Malta? On that principle we should never have had Malta in the British Commonwealth and we should get rid of it quickly. The argument does not seem to add up at all. But I say again that it does not mean that I am out to encourage any of the Indian States, who have been so loyal to us and to India, to stay apart from those two Dominions
We in this country respect the wishes of the independent States. But I am a little troubled lest on 15th August we may find that some of these States, who have deserved well of us, are placed in a weaker position than they would have been if we had never had paramountcy. I am thinking particularly of any State which happens to have in it the armed forces of what will then be a strange and foreign Government. Take the example of the State of Hyderabad. In Secunderabad there must be about a division of troops under the orders of the Government of India. I hope we shall hear that these troops will be withdrawn, at least as quick as British troops are being withdrawn from the Dominions of India and Pakistan. I consider it important and right that in this interim period we should make the necessary arrangements to see that this happens. It is a duty which we owe to the Ruler and people of Hyderabad.
The last point I wish to make is in connection with the pledges which I was glad to hear the Prime Minister give to the Secretary of State’s servants and the Government of India’s servants. I am sure the House was glad to hear that at last those pledges really had been given, but we must not be led away by pleasure at hearing those pledges, and in seeing Clause 10 of the Bill, without analysing the position very carefully. Those pledges are all very well, but if they amount to nothing the people to whom they have been given should realise it. I except for the moment what the Prime Minister said about a lump sum, but I would point out that Clause 10 does not create any rights which can be enforced in any court in any part of the world. I think that is the true position, and although I realise the difficulties I think it is right to point that out in case these magnificent servants, who have been so loyal to this 2514 country and to India, should think they have something more than they have, in fact, got.
There will be other chances of discussing other parts of this Bill, and I regret very much that we should be so rushed. I know the difficulties, but it is sad that in so great a task as we have undertaken, in handing Dominion status to the peoples of India, we should not have the time we require to scrutinise the scheme. For my part, I shall try to make the best use of the available time. The price of failure to India is ghastly to imagine, and I am sure that on all sides of the House we hope that in the two or three days’ Debate we shall have we shall be able to do everything we can not only to see that there is no failure in India, but that the relationship between this country and India prospers as it has done in the past.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§Mr. Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston) I was a little disappointed to hear that the hon. and gallant Member for North Blackpool (Brigadier Low) was so deeply concerned about the fate of the Indian States. I always regarded him as having not only a wide knowledge of India but a very progressive approach to this problem, and I would like to deal with some of the points he made in a few moments. First, may I say that I agree with those who said that there are great difficulties which are not solved by this Bill? At the same time, I believe it to be the most remarkable Bill ever presented in a free Parliament. One cannot begin to discuss its terms without pausing to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade, who have played so large a part in these events during the last two years and, of course, their advisers. In particular, one must congratulate Lord Mountbatten whose brilliant handling of the situation has smoothed over so many problems. By his initiative and energy he has always kept just one length ahead of situations which threatened breakdowns and has succeeded.
One must also recognise the great efforts of the Indian leaders themselves. As the hour for British departure approached, they suddenly rose to great heights and sank their prejudices for the common good. It must have caused great pain to Mr. Gandhi, after his life- 2515 long struggle, to see the division of India. It has been his noblest act to restrain the annoyance he must have felt, and to refrain from provoking the agitation in India which his undoubtedly great influence could have caused. It is not altogether surprising that some of the vexation and irritation he must have felt should have flowed over in the North-West Frontier Province, where he has, unfortunately, encouraged Ghaffar Khan to work for an independent Pathan State. In all these events of the last few months, Mr. Jinnah has also shown a praiseworthy restraint in not demanding the wider boundaries on which his heart had been set.
Having said that, I ask, what is the situation which this Bill creates? First, it leaves two major problems entirely unsolved: the problems of the States and the Sikhs. I have always. felt that we should have brought more pressure to bear on the rulers of the States during the last two years to give their peoples a greater share in the government of their States. The worst thing we ever did in India was to take away from the peoples of the States the ultimate sanction that a people always have against a bad Ruler —the sanction of revolt and rebellion. By our guarantee to the Rulers of the States, that provided they did not annoy us, or interfere in our broad policies, we would protect them, we have prevented the peoples from having that sanction. During the last two years, we might have done more to strip the Rulers of their power and force them to associate more directly with the rest of India.
§Mr. Molson That is a gross misrepresentation of the facts. It is because we guaranteed the Rulers against revolt in their States that we always insisted on a certain standard of good administration in those States.
§Mr. Wyatt My experience has been very different from that of the hon. Member. In all the researches I have been able to conduct, and the discussions I have had with members of the Political Department of the Government of India, the only grounds I discovered on which the Ruler of a State has ever been removed has been for the most appalling and outrageous immorality. Rarely has it been a question of whether the State has been governed properly. I do not 2516 think anybody could advance a single argument to show that one large State in India had a democratic constitution.
§Mr. H. Macmillan What the hon. Gentleman has just said is a very serious charge against hundreds of years of policy. Does he mean to say that the whole power of the Political Department and authority of the Government of India has not been consistently used to secure that any Ruler who was maladministering his State, or not looking after the interests of his people, should not either be warned or finally removed?
§Mr. Wyatt I most emphatically say that it has been the policy of the Political Department of the Government of India not to remove the Ruler of any State unless his policies conflicted with the policies of British India, or his behaviour was in some way socially scandalous or flagrantly improper. It has never been because of failure to provide for democratic government in the State.
The cessation of paramountcy which is provided for in this Bill does something in the right direction. It is difficult when a. speedy change over is being made to alter things more rapidly with treaties already in existence. As the pressure was not brought earlier, what we have done is the best thing possible. I would urge upon Indians, who feel that we should have done more in connection with the States, that it would have been very dangerous to have provoked the Rulers too far with all the other difficult negotiations that have been in progress during the past two years. But I feel most strongly that the Government should now make a very blunt public statement to the States that their duty lies with the rest of India, and they should make it quite clear to them that they cannot count on any help from Britain in the case of external aggression after 15th August. I think that the Prime Minister might have gone a little further in this direction this afternoon than he did.
§Brigadier Low Would the hon. Gentleman carry that so far as to refuse support in the Security Council or the Assembly of U.N.0. if such an event happened. If there was unprovoked aggression on one of these States and the matter was brought before them, would he not then give His Majesty’s Government support there?
§Mr. Wyatt I think that is a hypothetical question which could be avoided by the policy which I have just advocated. I would urge this on the Government because I feel that, even at this late hour, some Princes have the mistaken impression that British backing might be available in the years to come. I know that it is not true. But they must be disillusioned of that belief now. This belief that the British are to be permanently in India dies very hard, even after the passage of such a Bill as this. It was wrong of Travancore and Hyderabad to divorce themselves from the Union of India. But in the broad sweep of history the fact remains that whoever has the power in Delhi has the power over the Indian States, who economically and in almost every other way are dependent on the rest of India. If strong movements for freedom do develop now in the States they cannot be resisted, and those on the Left Wing in India should realise that the States do in fact hang like ripe plums for the picking. This is not the moment to provoke unnecessary conflict and quarrels between the rest of India and the States. Mr. Patel, the Congress Leader, realised that in his wise declaration last Monday when he offered them cooperation and not domination.
The Sikhs are in a different category. Scattered throughout the Punjab, nowhere in a majority in any single district, they are naturally anxious to preserve their independent entity, but the border line at present envisaged between Pakistan and India runs right through the middle of them. Really their place is in Pakistan where they could all live together in one community and not be separated by a boundary line between two States. It would be in their interest to stay there, and it would also be in the interest of Congress because then there would be a strong and fearless element in Pakistan which would be in support of close cooperation between the two countries. One must in all fairness to the Sikhs point out that they have already behaved with very great tolerance and calmness, which is unusual and very difficult for them, in the position in which they find themselves, and I hope that they may be able to reach accommodation with Mr. Jinnah and that he will have the foresight to meet them more than half way. It will be the duty of our present Viceroy to watch their interest very 2518 closely in the next two months because they have more claim on our good offices than any other single community in India.
Another danger spot in the coming years will be the North-West Frontier Province. Although the Congress campaign for an independent State will have no effect at all in the present referendum, if proceeded with it will gain increasing support and raise difficult problems of the defence of the Afghanistan frontier. It would encourage Afghanistan to repeat the ridiculous claims which have recently been so rightly rejected.
Now I would like to turn to the most significant part of the Bill for this country, that part which establishes two new Dominions. The fact of two new Dominions being created in India is due almost entirely to the honesty and integrity with which the Labour Government have approached India during the last two years. So much of the suspicions of the past have gone away that India itself feels confident that it is worth her while for the present at least to come into the Commonwealth. The right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) evidently does not realise that if we make a country a Dominion and give it its independence it is useless to tell it that it must give guarantees as to how it will treat the Scheduled classes, and deal with other internal matters of that kind, because once a country is a Dominion it must be clearly understood that it is free from all external pressure. It is no good assuming, like the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans), that it is our job to look after the Anglo-Indians once we have gone. I was surprised, too, to hear his remarks in view of the work which Frank Anthony has done for the Anglo-Indians in the last four or five years to assimilate his community with the rest of India.
What are the chances of these two new Dominions staying in the Commonwealth ? There can be no doubt that the Muslim League will wish to remain in the Commonwealth. It will seem to them to be an added guarantee of their security against possible encroachments from the rest of India. It will commend itself to them because of the ties between Muslims and British of recent years, and in particular they will want it because they cannot 2519 develop their country by themselves. Their need of administrators and technicians is so great that they will feel that this is their best chance of getting them and keeping them. Not unnaturally they will also want considerable aid in organising and equipping their Army. Congress, on the other hand, has a long tradition of separatism in every possible form from the British. But it has become clear to their administrators during the last year that there are great advantages for them in staying in the commonwealth. It will be a counterpoise against a Pakistan which is in association with the Commonwealth, and it will give them security in the world. Nevertheless, they will want to drop the title of Dominion fairly soon, and we must make ready for that time now and devise another arrangement and other terms for permanent association between a wholly independent State and the British Commonwealth of Nations. We have devised more difficult things than that before and it will be a solution in the end for India if Congress is finally brought by pressure of their own rank and file to drop the title of Dominion. It may also provide a solution for Burma. The over-riding advantage of these two countries being in the Commonwealth is that indirectly the unity of India is preserved by this joint association and it will give opportunity for inter-governmental committees to function more widely and efficiently. The alien barriers that might otherwise have been there will not be present, and in due course Pakistan and India will be divided only in name.
That Lord Mountbatten has decided to remain Governor-General of India although Mr. Jinnah will be Governor-General of Pakistan, is going to be of great assistance in forging the ties between Britain and the two new States. It was a difficult choice for Lord Mountbatten to make and it was a great compliment from Congress, and it will undoubtedly be a great service to India and to Britain. His presence during the coming months is going to be invaluable, particularly as he will remain Chairman of the all-important Defence Committee and the Partition Council. I feel very strongly that his example is one which ought to be followed by all other British officials in India who are asked to stay in any 2520 capacity. Emotionally and practically, their task may be a difficult one, but they have got a great function to perform of helping the new States to start off on a sound basis and in helping to reduce the violence of the inevitable conflicts which will come.
In having two Indias there is a natural weakening of India as a whole, but the fact that there are two Indias may in itself be partly desirable, because it will lead to a spirit of emulation between the two. One will try to better the other in efficiency and in prosperity. But in any case, it is our duty to help and assist them and to make it clear to India that we are their friends. At the moment there is a very serious misunderstanding about the sterling balances, and an hon. Member in this House the other day contemptuously asked what worthy part India had played in the war and what it had paid in cash towards it. It paid in consumer goods, in inflation, in famine, in blood and sweat, and as well paid in cash. India was a base for Allied operations in Africa, in the Middle East and in the Far East, as well as the base for the defence of India, and it was vital to allied Far Eastern strategy.
On the system of accountancy set up India has paid a total bill in cash of £2,500 million, but by arrangement between the two Governments it was decided that half would be charged for the exclusive defence of India. which is only a fair proportion. India has not got that money. We have had all the money and we ought to give them their half. We may not be able to pay her that money back, at any rate not yet, but it would be most disgusting hypocrisy to say that India has no moral validity in her claim for the money, particularly when India was brought into the war without being consulted. I urge the Chancellor in the negotiations which are going on at present that if we are going to have to scale this amount down not to say that we are going to scale it down because India has no right to the money. If we cannot pay we must say, “We are very sorry we cannot pay. Will you let us off something?” That would be more frank and more appreciated, because nothing can be worse for our future relations with India than dishonesty at this stage.
2521 There are difficult times ahead in India. We have already secured this new stage which is something that amounts to a landmark in history. With India allied to us there is going to be a great bulwark for peace in the Far East. More than that a unique link has already been forged between the East and the West across which friendship will pass to the benefit not only of ourselves but of the world.
The Indian people themselves have got great struggles ahead of them to raise themselves from the level of poverty in which we have had to leave them. It is up to us to do all we can to help in that advance, and if we can do it and help the progressive and democratic elements in India that country may provide an example to the whole world. Their problem is very much the same as that of the Russians at the end of the last war. The Russians had to adopt revolutionary and totalitarian methods to raise their standard of living, and they did achieve a fair measure of success. We have left traditions of democracy and liberty in India, and if they can advance with those principles the Indians will prove to the world that it is possible to raise a poverty stricken economy to a higher standard of prosperity without dictatorship. This Government have given them as fair a start as possible during the last two years. May they go on and take their place amongst the nations as a strong and peaceful Power.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§Colonel Gomme-Duncan (Perth and Kinross, Perth) The hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) has a completely fallacious idea of the majority of the larger Indian independent States. He also has the extraordinary fallacy deep in his mind that the whole of the world is bursting to refresh itself with the fruits of democracy. We believe in democracy here, but there are large areas of the world which do not. Very large areas in India are undoubtedly affected in that way. We have got to be certain that we are dealing with the States fairly and justly as far as we are able to without accusing them of despotism and of all the wrongs which bad States do, because I think that is as unfair as it is untrue. In the few minutes at my disposal I want to try to show 2522 why I support this Bill, because in the circumstances it is probably as good a plan as could be drawn up. The circumstances should have been very different. We would not have got ourselves into this position had the situation been more carefully and thoughtfully handled.
There are two points which I should like to emphasise, and both are of the greatest importance. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) has already touched upon the question of the depressed classes or the Scheduled Castes. There is a glaring omission from this Bill, because it says nothing at all about these people. Up to now we have taken upon ourselves the care of the depressed classes of India. In 1858, which has been referred to as the great occasion when Queen Victoria made her declaration taking over the Indian Government, she said in wonderful words: We hold ourselves bound to the natives of our Indian territories by the same obligations which bind us to all our other subjects, and this obligation by the blessing of Almightly God we shall faithfully and conscientiously fulfil. Yet this Bill, I am afraid, finally dashes the hopes of these depressed classes, because we are handing them over literally to their age-long enemies from whose oppression we have kept them for so many years. We have got to realise that the Hindu caste system is one of the most tightly bound and elaborate systems in the world. However well intentioned it may have been in the past, it is, in effect, probably the cruellest system ever invented by human beings. We are handing back these people whom we rescued from this system, to a large extent to their age-long enemies from whom they will have no redress at all. The obvious suggestion is that being the lowest grade of labourers they have only to withhold their labour and the higher castes will come into line at once. At present that is obviously not practical politics because they have no real form of organisation, nor have they the will, the energy or the vigour behind them to organise for such a purpose. The only hope of justice, of status, or even of decent human kindness for these people has come from the protection and interest of the white man and the Government which he has imposed on that country. That has now gone, I am afraid, or will be when this Bill takes effect.
2523 The second point I want to emphasise is the question of the Indian Army. If I may speak with diffidence as a professional soldier, I feel it is most desperately important that this should be gone into most carefully. In general, to start with, we have to realise that the division of the Indian Army into two will mean, I am afraid—there is no use in burking the issue—the complete breakdown of the one stable and dependable organisation in India today. We all know that in two great world wars the Indian Army has done truly magnificent work, and we know that in time of peace, even in the most desperately bitter communal strife, the great Indian Army has stood firm and has refused to join in and instead has loyally served its country.
One thing, and one thing only, is responsible for that great state of affairs, and it is the presence, the training, the influence and the devotion of British officers. There is nothing derogatory to the Indian Army, officers or men, in saying that. Every Indian officer I have met in all my service has always agreed with that statement. It is far from derogatory—it is a fact. Now under this Bill that one unifying influence is going. Clause II says: …the Governor-General under the…provisions of this Act shall make provision for the division of the Indian armed forces… There is no doubt about it that when that Clause comes into effect this great, well-trained, loyal, devoted and efficient force will literally fall apart into communal spheres, Muslim, and Hindu, from which it has always been preserved hitherto.
From the defence point of view, take a look at the map of Pakistan. One realises what a hopeless situation it is to think that one can defend militarily the State of Pakistan. There will probably be a poorly-officered, poorly-trained and poorly-equipped army for an impossible defence problem. Could one have a worse combination? I think not. One might say, “Who will replace, and how are we to replace, the high-ranking officers who have been responsible for the command and training of these great forces?” What have we coming along among the Indian officers today to replace army commanders, corps commanders, and divisional commanders, without going any lower? Is it really fair, when it takes 40 years to make a commander-in-chief, 2524 to suggest that an Indian officer with perhaps seven or eight or even 10 years’ service can take over, militarily, jobs of that description? It is asking for trouble, and I am afraid that if this is gone on with on these lines, speaking militarily, only disaster can follow.
I now come to another important problem for the Indian Army—the question of the Gurkhas. There is a very great problem here. I have so far been able to get no pronouncement from the Government on the subject of the Gurkhas. The only thing we have seen with anything like even a semi-official flavour to it is a quotation from the Calcutta paper, “The Statesman.” Here we have a martial race with, whether we like it or not, a strong dislike of the Indians. They have given nearly 100 years of loyalty to the British Crown, not to the Indian Government, and we have given them repeated promises. The last I can remember, given by that great Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, was that at no time should the Gurkhas of the Indian Army be called upon to serve other than under British officers. The Gurkhas believed the word of the British Government to that effect, but now we have this article in the “The Statesman” of 14th June headed “Indian Officers for Gurkha Battalions.” It comes from New Delhi. Perhaps I may quote it briefly: It is understand that a start will be made soon in posting Indian officers to Gurkha battalions of the Indian Army…The departure from tradition is a sequel to the recent negotiations between the Government of India and the Nepal Government. The latter have expressed their willingness to continue to lend Gurkhas for employment in the Indian Army. Right or wrong, that statement is the only one which the Gurkha knows anything about, and that has gone right through all the 20 or 30 battalions of the Gurkha Brigade and has set those gallant little men on edge. They see that with the New Delhi imprint on it. Rightly or wrongly, that is all they have had and no statement has come from the Government to say whether that is what is to be done or not. I think it is grossly unfair to these loyal men that they should not be told the truth. The Maharajah of Nepal has possibly given his agreement that his men should serve in the Indian Army. That is perfectly right, why should he not? But it should not be the Gurkhas now serving 2525 in the Indian Army who should be translated into the new Indian Army under Indian officers; they have a direct pledge from the British that they will not be passed under Indian officers, and if we cannot use those men ourselves as Imperial troops—goodness knows, we want them badly enough—those units should be disbanded with great honour and great praise, and then, if they wish, they can volunteer for the new Indian Army. But the pledge is at present that they shall not serve under any except British officers, and I think it is up to us to see that that is carried out. It should be perfectly clear, either in the Bill or in a Schedule to the Bill, that the Gurkha is being specifically excluded from transference to the Indian Army against his wish.
In conclusion, I would ask the Minister, when he replies, if he will tell us something about this, because it is highly overdue. It is only fair that these people should know where they stand. We are desperately short of men in the British Army and these Gurkhas are very keen to serve with us. Did ever a Government have a simpler problem to solve than that? Twelve months’ service for a British recruit means that he cannot serve overseas, except possibly in Germany. He cannot be an efficient soldier anyway. Why not use these people for our Imperial commitments overseas? They would be grateful, they would be glad to keep with us, and we honestly should be glad to have them. I beg the Government to go into that very carefully and see if a statement cannot be made, and made very quickly. It is an easy problem when they are up against so many tremendously difficult problems, I think that these loyal men are entitled to hear what their fate is to be, and that it shall be in accordance with the pledge which we British have given them.
§ 8.29 p.m.
§Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West) In all my reading of history I have never known of a people who battled so hard for freedom and who have shown so little enthusiasm and so much distrust and suspicion as we have seen about this so-called solution of the Indian problem. Nobody can deny that. Not anywhere is there any enthusiasm for this plan. I hear so much said about how noble we are in making this gesture 2526 to India, but what was there left to us to do? We do not want to go back into the past, but we can go back a quarter of a century when a well known Tory— Joynson-Hicks as he was at the time—at a great Tory gathering could declare, “We have won India by the sword, and by the sword we will hold it.” But the time was reached when we could not hold it. The right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) in the most fulsome language—I have never heard anything like it—has sung the praises of the English people. I was beginning to feel quite buoyant and uplifted, but then I remembered that the engineers, the miners, the railwayman and the transport workers had nothing to do with ruling India, so that they did not come into the picture which was painted by the right hon. Member for Bromley. He was talking about his ‘own kind of people. But as he was describing all the wonderful things we had done for India a question kept hammering in my head—if we had been doing so much for the Indian people, if we had been so concerned about their welfare, why, instead of asking us to get out, were they not begging us to remain?
An hon. Member on this side of the House was cheered to the echo by the other side when he said that the fundamental thing in India was religion. Utter nonsense. He made a sneer about economics and that was also cheered by the other side. But let anyone tell me that story about India and I will ask them why it is after 300 years of association with Britain that the caste system remains, and the untouchables are still there. The answer is very simple, and it is not religious, but economic. While our traders were taking fortunes out of India, we were deliberately holding back the economic development of that great country. That is why the caste system is there. When all the great developments were taking place throughout the world, why was it that in a country like India with enormous natural resources and terrific manpower there was no industrial development? That is the crux of the matter.
This Measure is an advance, a very good advance on what has been taking place in India, though the partitioning of India is a very dangerous development. I do not accept the statement that the people are responsible for partition any more than the people of Ireland were re- 2527 sponsible for the partition of Ireland. The people to blame in that case were the people here and in Northern Ireland, who were running backwards and forwards from Northern Ireland to London and London to Northern Ireland.
Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont) I must remind the hon. Member that we are discussing India.
Mr. Gallacher I was just making an illustration. The same applies in connection with India. The ruling class here with their kindred in India must take responsibility. Now, as a result of the partition, there are hopes among the ruling classes of this country that they can make a deal with the Princes of India, with big business in India and with reaction generally in India so that they can still hold power in India, not directly as before, but indirectly through capital investments and financial connections. I wish to warn this House and the Government. Mention was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley of Afghanistan, which, although he did not mention it, is claiming the North-West Frontier. That is not so serious as another claim that is being made, a claim which this country will find it difficult to face. Now that there is partition, and now that an effort will be made to build up all kinds of financial connections, we have to face the fact that our very dear friends in America, so dear that this country cannot afford them, have their greedy eyes on India, and have already appointed a special committee to make contact with India and to develop financial relations with India, in view of the weakened position which Britain now occupies there. That is a serious situation from the point of view of this country, and it arises from the unstable position that exists in India.
The partition of India creates a very dangerous situation for India and for this country, and it will be a bad and dangerous situation for the masses of the people in India, whether they are Mohammedans or Hindus. The one hope for the future of India is Congress, the great party of the Indian people that embraces Hindus and Mohammedans. Of course it does, although there is such a powerful agitation going on to keep the Mohammedans separated from the Hindus. The fact of the matter is that a considerable section of Mohammedans are associated with Congress and with its work, and it it was not for the powerful agitation that has been continuously maintained in order to keep these divisions, there would be little trouble in getting the masses of the Mohammedans associated with the Hindus in the Congress movement. I am convinced that the future of India and the relations of this country with India will be determined by the Congress Party and our relations with it, and with the Indian Government, as distinct from Pakistan and the Princely States.
Congress has a big responsibility, as have all associated with Congress. It is their task at the earliest possible moment to heal the wounds that exist in India, to unite the people and to find the necessary means to develop the economic resources of the country. If those economic resources are developed Hindu and Mohammedan will work together in industry, they will join together in the trade unions, they will build up together the co-operatives and the Labour movement. Time and time again, at one period in this country, we had terrific fights between the religious factions, incited by all kinds of evil and vicious-minded influences.
But with the development of industrialism, with the building up of the working class movement in the factories, in the towns and the villages, that gradually disappeared and a new unity appears among the working class people. So it will be in India. While I recognise that this Bill provides a considerable step forward, I call upon the Congress Party of India to bring all its influence and power to bear in ending all the feuds that have existed in the country and to bring the people together in unity for real freedom, independence and progress which will raise the masses of India from their lowly position to one which they have never known before.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University) I think that everybody else who has spoken today has been, as is usual on the whole in Indian Debates, more or less of an expert, if I may inoffensively add the words “in some sense or other.” I have no expertness of any kind in the matter and I have no great confidence that I am right in what I am going to say; but I do not feel quite sure that it is wrong, and I feel certain that unless it is surely wrong, it is something which ought to be put upon record at this time. I agree with the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) that there has been in some of the speeches today a rather blithe complacency about the beauty and grace of the gesture which we are now performing. I think we had much better wait before we claim this as one of our most glorious days. I hope as sincerely as anybody here that the fate of this Bill will be to do much good to India and I hope that it is still permitted to add, “and much good to our country, too.” But I think the kind of blithe complacency about it that we have had today from a great many speakers does really almost invite misfortune.
I agree with the Prime Minister that the time allotted for this Bill is not commensurate with its importance. That is the first substantive thing I should like to say. And this is connected with it: even suppose that this Bill were certainly right and altogether right, yet I should not think it necessarily followed that a Second Reading ought to be given to it— on two grounds. One is upon the ground that it might be held that it is because during the last two years, the last five or ten years, if you like, but more particularly during the last two years, the administrative machine has been allowed to run down to the point almost of nonentity that it has now reached—that it is because of that that this is the best thing to do. If that view were held, then anybody so holding it would be entitled, I think, to vote against the Second Reading of this Bill on the ground that it is not a Bill which ought to be given to the Government now in office. I am not advising anybody to vote against the Bill, nor am I proposing to vote against it myself. I am only trying to make plain that it seems to me that doubts ought to be expressed at this stage, and I hang that on the peg of the Prime Minister’s remarks about the inadequacy of the time because that, after all, has been within his control and that of his right hon. Friends. They have done all sorts of things, taking much time, which nobody can pretend were of any great urgency either to world affairs or to our own economic needs, in this House during the last two years, and now that so little time should be available for this Bill, I think rather a constitutional outrage. It may 2530 be that even the time now allotted is more than the House is going to use, but even then there should have been opportunity for almost unlimited debate upon a Bill of this sort and most particularly—if one can say it without getting out of Order— a later stage ought not to be squeezed into a day along with a Privilege question.
I hope the House will agree with me in what seems to me an elementary proposition—that the duty of Government includes the duty to protect. Indeed the first duty of Government, is, to protect. It is the only unforgivable thing in a Government that it does not protect; and secondly it is a part of that principle that a Government should not surrender its exercise of that function without being clear in its own mind to whom it is surrendering it, that it is surrendering it to an authority capable of exercising it and an authority attracting the maximum of consent, and an authority involving the minimum of danger to minorities to what I might call the natural clients, so to speak, of the abdicating or resigning Government. I hope that I carry the House with me in that fair and proper principle. If that is a fair and proper principle, then I say that, even if it be certain that this Bill is the best thing that can possibly be done at this date, it ought not to pass this House with so little explanation as we have had, and I cannot find it easy in my conscience to vote for it and should not, if I thought that anyone was going to divide against it.
More particularly, I was disquieted by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury when he said that the Bill recognises the Congress and the League as “successor authorities.” I am sure he did say this; I cannot pretend that I have read the Bill properly, but scurrying again through the Bill as he spoke, I cannot find that in the Bill, and I cannot think it right that it should be in the Bill. I cannot believe that hon. Gentlemen opposite would regard it as anything but Fascism if anybody but a British Socialist said that he was treating a party organisation, more particularly either a religious or caste party organisation, as a “successor authority” to a great Government. I feel quite sure that the least term of abuse to come from the opposite side of the House, if that was said by anyone but a British Socialist, would be that it was Fascism, and I think we ought to have some explanation of exactly what these words of the Prime Minister mean.
We are not now in the condition that there is certainty of what was required from this side of the House on the earlier occasions when India has been mentioned in this House this year, in March and June, I think—what was said from this side of the House, would be prerequisite to any settlement to be tolerated and even welcomed; that is to say, we have not got that assurance that “agreement between the Indian parties has been maintained in fact as in form,” which was mentioned as a condition; and I do not really think that it can now be denied that we are dropping our responsibilities without knowing to what authorities, on what terms or in what form they are to be handed over. Nor do we know whether the authorities which are to take the thing from us will be wholly or partially the fruits of agreement. In other words, we are giving, as it were, a blank cheque, and a blank cheque without knowing to whom we are giving it, and the “whom” is not in the singular —a blank cheque to two, three, four or more beneficiaries.
Out of the considerations which I have mentioned so far, and I hope I have made them plain, out of these, I would submit to the House that there is a long series of problems upon which every hon. Member of the House ought to feel sure —I will not say that the best desirable is being done—but, at least, (a) that the best practicable is being done, and (b)that it is plainly shown that it is being done. There is a whole series of problems and each one of us must feel a degree of confidence on each of these problems before he can take any positive action to expedite the passage of this Bill; because I beg hon. Members to remember that, if I understand the constitutional position aright, this is the last process of the British Parliament in regard to India. Never again will the British Parliament have anything to do with India, so far as we dare foresee. Very well, I say, on the principle which I have endeavoured to indicate, that there is a whole series of claims for protection, security, for which we have a responsibility, and about which we ought to feel 2532 quite sure that everything that can be done about them has been done, and we ought to be quite clear that it is quite plain that everything that can be done has been done.
I ask hon. Members to search their consciences and to say whether the Government, whose duty it was, has demonstrated those propositions to us about defence, which has been mentioned several times, and about the Gurkhas, in particular, defence—as some hon. Member said blithely, Fortunately, that is now no longer for us”—about the Sikhs, about other minor communities, about the Europeans, and about guarantees for civil servants. I am bound to say I could not follow the Prime Minister on the last point. He did not read that part very clearly, and I did not clearly understand what he said. I thought he described at one point something as a guarantee which seemed to me clearly to be not a guarantee, but I hope, from something he said later, there was a guarantee at another place. To continue my list: the depressed classes, the danger, not only of invasion but also of infiltration from outside, the Indian Army, the British Army in India and, last of all—I want to spend three minutes on this, and then I will stop—the Princes.
No doubt a longer list could be made. All I am saying is that we ought to be plain about each one of these that, in going out we have done, and have made it plain that we have done, everything that could be done for them. If that has not been clearly demonstrated to the House, then I think the Government have not come up to their duty, and the Government have no right to demand the passage of this Bill, or at least its Second Reading. I am not arguing at the moment that it ought not to be passed. [AN HON. MEMBER: What has the hon. Gentleman been arguing?”] I think I have made my argument fairly clear. If hon. Members opposite can make a more intricate argument plainer in a shorter time, I will listen to them any day. About the Princes, and that is the last thing I want to say. I would not set up as an international lawyer, but as I understand the thing, this is a wholesale, one-sided denunciation and renunciation of treaties with our friends, without having consulted our friends. How would hon. Members opposite describe that action if it were taken by anyone not a British Socialist? The wholesale, one-sided denunciation of a large group of treaties with our friends, not at their suggestion, and without consulting them. I do not think it can be said to be less than that. As the Prime Minister pointed out this afternoon, these States do not exist apart from these treaties; they have no international existence at all. I think it ought to have been made plain to us what are the legal and practical consequences of that. Subjects of the State have hitherto had their relations with the British Commonwealth and Empire, and with the outside world, through the allegiance of their Princes to His Majesty, our King. Now, that goes. That is denounced and renounced—as it is rather horribly said nowadays—unilaterally, without any consultation with the other side.
What comes instead? I cannot believe that the British House of Commons ought gladly, blindly and un-questioningly to allow this Bill to become an Act, and to divest itself for the future of all right to be interested in India unless His Majesty’s Government can explain what are the legal and practical results, and can explain to us that there is a morally defensible foundation for this wholesale denunciation of the treaties with the Princes. And the same might be said of the other points I have listed.
§ 8.54 p.m.
§Mrs. Nichol (Bradford, North) I disagreed with a good deal of what the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) said in his opening statement today. But about one thing, I certainly did not disagree, and that was his statement that the final stages in the India story are moving for us all. It has been frequently said today that this is a historic moment. I would like to add my tribute to those of other hon. Members to the patience and painstaking work of the Prime Minister and other right hon. Gentlemen who have laboured so long to find a solution to what has come to be known as the Indian problem. The hon. Member the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) has charged the Government with being complacent. The Government are far from complacent.
§Mr. Pickthorn I did not charge the Government with complacency. I charged many speakers today with it.
§Mrs. Nichol I beg the hon. Member’s pardon, although I do not think the speeches which have been made today have been complacent. Hon. Members who have taken part in this Debate are well aware that the difficulties and doubts in India are certainly not resolved, and they are well aware that the internal politics of India will be difficult and delicate for a very long time. But in the last two or three years we have played our part honourably and well, and India is now on the very threshhold of the freedom for which she has striven and longed.
I do not wish to speak on the question of partition or on other details of the Bill, nor do I wish to refer to the question of the States except to say that I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton (Mr. Wyatt) in his definition of his idea of the relationship of the States vis-à-vis the rest of India. I wish, with others on both sides of the House, to send out a few words of hope and encouragement to the whole of the Indian peoples at this great moment, and especially would I like to send out a message to the women of India. A great task lies before the Indian peoples, including the women, and no one realises it more than they do. Hospitals, clinics, schools, and maternity services are only some of the great tasks which lie ahead, and the women of India are eager to help. There are thousands of splendid Indian women who have worked alongside our own women in the hospitals and schools and in trying to get clinics started. They have been tackling these jobs for a great number of years with our own doctors, nurses and missionaries. They have been fighting a battle against poverty, disease and dirt, and many times great waves of famine have swept over India. They have fought a battle against tremendous difficulties. They now have a new and great responsibility which I know they will shoulder, and they will play a tremendous part in the days which lie ahead.
I feel sure that no Bill which has ever passed this House has carried with it warmer or more sincere wishes for good will and eternal friendship than does this Measure for the independence for India. This Bill will rank as one of the greatest in our history, and I am proud to be associated with a Government which have shown such imagination, courage 2535 and integrity. With other hon. Members in all quarters of the House, I want to say: God speed India.”?
§ 9 p.m.
§Sir John Anderson (Scottish Universities) I think my attitude towards this Bill is intermediate between that of the hon. Lady the Member for North Bradford (Mrs. Nichol), and that of my hon. Friend the senior Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn). My hon. Friend struck a decidedly sombre note at the beginning of his speech, and rather invited anyone to tell him that he was wrong. I am certainly not going to do that; but, as regards the doubts and the misgivings that he expressed, I am disposed to think that the time for expressing those doubts and misgivings was last February, when we were debating the Government’s plan, rather than now, when we have before us the proposals for carrying that plan, or, at any rate, part of the plan, into effect.
We are tonight witnessing the closing scenes of a drama, in which the action will take place, for the most part, off stage so far as we are concerned. How much of tragedy may be wrapped up in the strands of its tangled plot—and there may yet be tragedy—will not be known until the epilogue comes to be written—perhaps, many years hence. So far as what is now being done follows inevitably upon the decision announced by the Government last February, we cannot, in my view, at this juncture profitably offer criticism, although the doubts, misgivings and apprehensions then expressed by many of us may not be by one whit diminished. It was then that the die was cast; and Parliament having accepted the plan. further examination of its essential elements can, in my view, serve no useful purpose, and may well, on the contrary do harm. I have felt bound to make this clear, lest misunderstandings should arise from the very limited scope of the observations which I have to offer to the House at this juncture.
There are, however, matters within what may be taken to be the fixed pattern of the Government’s scheme which can, I think profitably, be further ventilated. Many of them concern points of detail which, no doubt, can most-conveniently be dealt with in Committee. There are only three or four major issues which I wish to bring before the House 2536 now. Before coming to these, I think in fairness I ought to say that, in several respects, it seems to me that events have taken a more favourable course than many of us thought possible last February. It is only fair that one who uttered a number of sharp criticisms then should say that now. I think the improvement, such as it is, is undoubtedly partly due to the patience—the extraordinary patience—and skill with which the Viceroy has handled a very difficult and delicate situation; and I should like to associate myself wholeheartedly with the tributes paid to him by the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan). But I think the improvement is also partly due to another cause —to a change in the Government’s plan
The House may or may not recall that, when we were debating the proposals of the Government last February, I ventured to say that, in my opinion, if there had to be any question of a fixed date, the date should be related to a decision as to whether we were to hand over to an undivided or to a divided India, and that it should not be related to the completion of a constitutional process of indeterminate scope and complexity. What I then ventured to put forward is very much what has, in fact, happened. A definite decision has been taken on the major issue of partition, and there is no longer prominently before us any fixed date for the completion of these complex constitutional processes to which I have referred, for the simple reason that we are handing over responsibility for those to the Governor-General, or the Governors-General, and the Governments of the new Dominions, and they can be carried through quickly or slowly as events may determine. Anyhow, I do say that in my opinion we have now before us something which is a decided improvement on the original plan.
What I have just been saying brings me to the first of the major topics on which I wish to offer some comment. That is, the question of the power of the Governor-General or the Governors-General. The Prime Minister had something to say on that subject. He said—and said truly— that they were very wide. They are, indeed, most remarkable and unusual powers, no doubt for dealing, as the Prime Minister said, with an unusual situation. But when one reads Clause 9 in conjunc- 2537 tion with Clause 19, the interpretation Clause, one has a picture which requires some further elucidation. After the appointed day, quite clearly the constitutional Governor-General must act on the advice of his Ministers. If there were to be one Governor-General for the two parts of India there would be two sets of Ministers. One wonders what one Governor-General would do if they gave conflicting advice. We can perhaps put that out of our minds, although it is provided for in the Bill, in view of the announcement which the Prime Minister has made to the House. But if there are to be two Governors-General, the same problem will arise in a different form, for they have to act jointly, and it seems to me that they may well find joint action impossible because of conflicting ministerial views.
There is no provision in the Bill about what is to happen in the event of the joint action contemplated by Clause 19 in the words in any other case” hey are to be taken “s references to the Governors-General of the new Dominions acting jointly” roving impossible. The Prime Minister referred, I think, to an arbitral tribunal. But if I understood him aright the arbitral tribunal to which he referred was to deal with the division of assets and liabilities. Will not there have to be some new machinery, not provided in this Bill, for coping with a situation such as I have pictured, of disagreement— which is surely by no means unlikely —between the Ministers of the two Dominions ? Perhaps we could have some further statement as to what is in the minds of the Government in that regard, It may be contemplated that any difficulty will be resolved by administrative action.
I have another question to ask in regard to Clause 9 as read with Clause 19. What is to be the position before the appointed day? The Governor-General— and there is only the question here of one Governor-General—has at his disposal all these remarkable powers during that period, and he is deemed to have had them from, I think, 3rd June. Is he to be, in the exercise of these powers, a complete autocrat, a sort of super-satrap, or is he to act subject to any kind of constitutional control? I should suppose the answer is that the Governor-General, up to the appointed day, 15th August, acts subject to the control of the Secretary of State and Parliament. If that is the position de jure,will it also be the position de facto? One hardly supposes that the present Government would look with favour on a plan which involved handing over these tremendous powers, including the power to remove difficulties—the old Henry VIII clause—and the power to amend statutes, to a person, however competent, subject to no constitutional control. I hope that we may have an answer to that, and that we shall not be told that this is a sort of thing which the Prime Minister referred to as being a possible cause of deadlock, if one is, indeed, looking for deadlocks.
My next point is not a technical or constitutional one, but an eminently practical one from my point of view. It concerns the position of the services. I am bound to say that there is much anxiety in many quarters in regard to the position of members of the services of all grades. I have had many representations, as no doubt have hon. Members on both sides I think that there is a very strong case for further assurances from His Majesty’s Government. I am not concerned wholly or mainly with the Secretary of State’s services, because I have had very little doubt that Parliament, after what has already been said, would feel committed to ensure the fulfilment of the obligations of His Majesty’s Government. I noticed that the Prime Minister, in his speech, made that the subject of a specific declaration. So far so good, and I have no doubt that the same holds good for the Army. The Prime Minister’s phrase, which I took down, was rather a curious one. He referred to the Secretary of State’s services and analogous services.” was not at all clear what he meant by analogous services.” perhaps we shall have an explanation of that. In that connection, I would point out that the more precise and specific the assurances given in regard to one section of the services, the greater the room for doubt and misgiving in regard to the others.
There are many members, both European and Indian, in the services outside the scope of the Secretary of State’s and “analogous services,” whatever may be the precise meaning of those words. The vast majority are Indians, but the number of Europeans in various grades and various services is quite substantial. There are the Europeans on the railways, and the Europeans in the miscellaneous technical services. There are the European sergeants of police in the big cities like Calcutta and Bombay. I feel very strongly that the Government and this House have some measure of responsibility towards these people. The Prime Minister paid a very eloquent tribute to the services rendered in India by the men who have gone from this country to fill great positions. I am sure that he would be the first to recognise that quite minor officials, Indians as well as (Europeans, have also rendered great services in their own way.
I would be prepared to draw some distinction in this matter between Indians and Europeans. I think, in regard to the hundreds of thousands of Indians who have served the British Raj in the past with extraordinary fidelity, that we owe them a debt we should recognise and that we should press for undertakings. We ought to have the fullest assurances that there will be nothing in the nature of victimisation of those people because they have served the British Government well. I believe that there would be little difficulty in getting such assurances. I am sure that the Indian leaders are not lacking in generosity or fairmindedness. I do not believe they would resent in any way our representing to them that we felt a responsibility for those who have served us during our time in India. If we had a satisfactory undertaking in regard to the Indians, I believe we could rely upon its being carried out.
The position of the Europeans, outside the Secretary of State’s services, is substantially different. They went out to India, strangers in a strange land. They followed the flag. They served the Crown there. They may or may not remain in India. If they come home, after then-service in India, and find that they are not being treated as they thought they had a right to expect, have they no redress? Are we going to wash our hands of them? I hope not. I hope that in regard to these Europeans we shall frankly recognise a continuing responsibility. No doubt the Governments in India are prepared to accept financial responsibility, but there is a little more in it than that. There is a moral responsibility, and that rests here, in my opinion.
As this is probably the last opportunity that we shall have to raise this matter and 2540 to press for assurances, I hope that we shall be successful in getting those assurances now. No question can arise of the money involved, as that money would be quite insignificant. The numbers of people involved are not so great as to make any substantial difference, but it would mean a very great deal to those people and to their dependants if they had the assurances for which I ask. Whatever assurances the Governments in India may give, governments come and go, and they will be found to come and go even in India. There ought to be assurances given by His Majesty’s Government, with the approval of Parliament, before the withdrawal.
My third point concerns the States. It is a matter about which I confess I feel very uncomfortable indeed. The States have trusted us for a long period of years. They have shown remarkable devotion to the British Crown. If we may expect them to recognise that what is happening in British India, with its consequent repercussions upon them, is inevitable, they, on their part, are fully entitled to expect us to recognise that we have an obligation towards them. Though they will emerge when the Bill is passed as sovereign Powers, fully endowed with complete sovereignty, they will find themselves on the appointed day, by reason of the special relationship in which they have stood up to the present time towards the British Crown, and by reason solely of that relationship, at a great disadvantage, without much of what I may call the essential panoply of sovereignty. They will be without defence forces, or with inadequate defence forces, without representation abroad or the means of obtaining representation abroad, and so on. I say in that regard that we have a moral responsibility of which we cannot divest ourselves by a stroke of the pen. Legal responsibility, formal technical responsibility, is to go. We all know that. The moral responsibility remains.
I suggest to the Prime Minister and his colleagues that the question of our attitude towards the States requires further consideration. There are undoubtedly misunderstandings to be cleared away and there has undoubtedly been a certain number of unguarded statements. The matter arises, as it seems to me, at two stages, and the Prime Minister recognised this in his speech. While the terms of accession of the native States to the new Dominions are under discussion, I think it would be very unfortunate that the States should stand aloof and not participate, so that when the time comes they may be in the best position to decide whether it would not be in their best interests, in the long view—and they have to take the long view—to adhere to one or other of the Dominions. That is my view, and it is one which can properly be expressed in the House of Commons.
But quite different considerations arise, in my judgment, at the second stage, when the terms and conditions of accession have been discussed and settled, and crucial decisions have to be taken. Again I say, frankly, that I would regard it as a happy issue if a very high proportion, if not all, of the States decided that their interests would be best served by accession. But that, surely, is for them to decide, entirely without pressure from outside. I have no hesitation in saying that it is our duty, as I have indicated, having regard to our responsibility for the position in which they find themselves, to do our utmost to ensure that they are not exposed before the appointed day, or thereafter, to any pressure, economic, political, or physical, to take any course other than that which, after due deliberation, they decide is in the best interests of the particular State. After all, the circumstances of the different States differ very widely. There are, on the one hand, small States quite incapable of standing alone, and on the other extreme, there are States like Hyderabad which has a population, I believe, of 17 million. What may be held to be advantageous for some, might fairly be held to be disadvantageous for others.
If certain States eventually decide against accession, however much we might, on broad, general considerations, deplore their decision, we should, in my view, accept it without question, and leave no room for doubt that our good offices would be available to any extent desired, and, in particular, that we would be willing to enter into new relationships with such States without, of course, impinging on the legitimate interests of either Dominion. That we should take any other course seems to me quite unthinkable, and I invite the Government to make their attitude clear in this matter without delay. I would refer, in passing, to the particular case of Berar, although 2542 that might perhaps be more appropriately dealt with in Committee. The position there is a very peculiar one. That is a territory which is under the sovereignty of the Nizam of Hyderabad, whose sovereignty has been reaffirmed by the British Government again and again, but which, for a long time, has been administered as an integral part of British India, of the Central Provinces. I should hope that at the appropriate time we would have a clear statement as to what the position of Berar will be after the Bill has been passed. Berar was the subject of special provisions in the Government of India Act, 1935.
I trust that the Government will recognise that in asking for assurances on these points I am not putting forward any unreasonable request. It has already been made clear that we on this side have no intention of dividing against this Bill, and perhaps it is not too much to hope that in those circumstances His Majesty’s Government might find themselves the more ready to give such assurances as we ask for. I will leave it to the right hon. and learned Gentleman to make such reply as he can, and I hope that I may be acquitted of discourtesy if I do not remain to hear the conclusion of his speech, as he knows that I have a very pressing engagement.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§The Under-Secretary of State for India (Mr. Arthur Henderson) The Debate which has taken place today has been notable not only for the quality of the speeches that have been delivered but also for the spirit of sincerity and goodwill which has been manifested from all sides of the House towards the Indian people. Whatever views one may hold with regard to our connection with India in the past, there is abundant evidence of the great benefits which the British have brought to the Indian people; benefits which will have lasting effects for good in the life of India. I believe that the decisive act upon which we are today engaged may well prove to be the crowning benefit.
The Prime Minister this afternoon recalled to the House that it has not been the view of our statesmen and administrators that India would remain permanently subject to British supremacy. Our statesmen began in the very early days to point the goal of British rule as being Indian self-government. Writing in 1818, Lord Hastings, who was responsible as Governor-General for a substantial expansion of British rule, declared his belief that: A time not very remote will arrive when England will on sound principles of policy wish to relinquish the domination which she has gradually and unintentionally assumed over this country and from which she cannot at present recede. Another prophet of India’s emancipation was Henry Lawrence, who said in 1844: We cannot expect to hold India forever. Let us so conduct ourselves so as, when the connection ceases, it may do so not with convulsions but with mutual esteem and affection. These were prophetic words, “mutual esteem and affection,” because I believe we can justly hope that these sentiments will underlie the new association which this Bill establishes; an association which we believe will enable the new Indian Dominions and the other members of the British Commonwealth to cooperate to the fullest possible extent in the task that lies before us of reconstructing a world broken by war on the basis of freedom and humanity.
A good many points have been raised during this very interesting Debate, and I shall hope, if time permits, to deal with all or most of them. The right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) raised a number of points. His first point, I think, was: How was the position to be dealt with when a difference arose between the Ministers and the respective Governors-General of the new Dominions? Well, I frankly say that I can see no real means of resolving such a deadlock. If you have a difference of viewpoint on the part of the two Governments, it is quite clear that that deadlock and that difference can only be resolved by some kind of action on the part of those Governments, and not by anything we can put into this Bill. He then asked who was to control the Governor-General up to 15th August? The position is as it has been for the past six or nine months. His Majesty’s Government agreed to treat the Interim Government with the same freedom and consideration as a Dominion Government. That is the position today and that position will continue until the appointed day, 15th August. The answer is, therefore, that the Viceroy or Governor-General will continue to be subject to the advice of his Ministers who form the Interim Government of India.
The right hon. Gentleman’s next question was with regard to the Services. He asked what was meant by the term “analogous services.” The analogous services are the various defence forces. The statement of policy which was made by the Prime Minister on 30th April with regard to pensions covers the members of the Secretary of State’s Services and the various members of the Defence Services and for these purposes they are considered to be and are described as analogous services.
§Mr. H. Macmillan This is rather an important point. Does that include what are called the uncovenanted services?
§Mr. Henderson No, and I am coming to deal with that now. It does not cover Europeans who are in the service of the various Provincial Governments and who are not members of the Secretary of State’s Services; nor does it cover such personnel as are in the employment, for example, of the Railway Department of the Central Government. They have their contracts direct with the Government of India or the Governor-General in Council on the one hand, in the case of the Railway Service, and with the Provincial Governments in the other cases. The most we can do is to have got the leaders of the major parties of India to accept the responsibility for pensions and proportionate pensions. Any question of safeguarding their interests under their contracts must be done in another way.
§Mr. Butler What does that mean?
§Mr. Henderson What we intend to do is to cover such matters in the treaty that we intend to negotiate with the successor Governments.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley made a very interesting speech, though at times the language he used seemed rather forceful. We do not object to that, but I was a little disappointed when he declared that the decision of His Majesty’s Government on 20th February, when it was announced that His Majesty’s Government intended to leave India in June of next year, had, in the right hon. Gentleman’s own words, “shattered all hope of unity in India.” I must confess I thought the right hon.
2545 Gentleman had not been paying very close attention to the course of events in India during the last 12 to 18 months, because if he had he must have remembered the efforts of the Cabinet Mission in the spring of 1946, which eventually materialised in what is known as the Cabinet Mission Plan, which it is common ground has failed because one of the major parties refused to accept it.
That only proves beyond all argument that there was such a state of disunity in India as to bring to an end this plan, which can, I think, be regarded as having been a very satisfactory compromise solution of the problem. Therefore, the announcement made on 20th February did not destroy Indian unity, but it did prevent India from falling into a state of anarchy and chaos, and it has led directly to the present situation whereby we are passing this Bill with, I hope and believe, the assent and support of all sections of the House. That is a very different proposition. The right hon. Gentleman raised the question of minorities and in fairness at any rate to the Congress Party, and to the Constituent Assembly that has been meeting for the past six months in Delhi, I might refer him to a resolution which was unanimously passed by that Constituent Assembly, and which provided as follows: Wherein shall be guaranteed and assured to all the people of India justice, social, economic and political; equality of status, of opportunity, and before the law; freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship, association and action subject to the law and public morality. Wherein adequate safeguard shall be provided for minorities, backward and tribal areas, and depressed and other backward classes. The right hon. Gentleman smiles and it may be he is saying that there is not much value in a resolution, but I think we are entitled to take what evidence there is available to indicate what is likely to be the attitude of those who control at any rate one of the new Dominions. I suggest that that constitutes a charter of fundamental human rights of which any country might well be proud, and we have no reason at this juncture to assume that they will not live up to that charter.
§Mr. Molson Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman answer this question? On the matter of the Provincial services, he said that it was the intention of the Government to try to cover that point in a treaty which this Government is going to negotiate with the separate Governments in India. Is it the intention of the Government to try to insert, in that treaty similar provisions for the minorities whom in the past we have safeguarded?
§Mr. Henderson No, Sir. I think that is an entirely different proposition to putting into the treaty safeguards for those who enjoy contractual rights in Provincial and Central Government service. We should not put into the treaty something which will be entirely within the competence of the new Dominions, and I think it would be an indication that we are taking a very poor view of the work they are doing and the results of their deliberations, following the passing of such a resolution as I have just read out to the House.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley both raised questions with regard to the position of the States. I can only say in reply to both right hon. Gentlemen that I cannot go beyond the words that were used by the Prime Minister in his opening speech today, but perhaps the House would be interested to know that a conference is to start tomorrow in Delhi, over which the Viceroy will preside, and which is to be attended by representatives of the new State Department of the Interim Government on the one hand and the representatives of the States of Hyderabad, Mysore and Travancore on the other hand. I think it would be most unfortunate on my part if at this stage I were to seek to express any views as to what the outcome of that conference may be. I would remind the House, in view of the feelings and fears which have been expressed by various hon. Members, of the statement made a few days ago by Sardar Patel in which he said: The States have already accepted the basic principle that for defence, foreign affairs and communications they would come into an Indian union. We ask no more of them than accession on these three subjects in which the common interests of the country are involved. In other matters we would scrupulously respect their autonomous existence.
§Mr. H. Macmillan Is that true? That is an important statement. Is it really the fact that all the States have accepted, in the words that have just been given, unity on foreign affairs, defence and so on? Surely, that is not the case at all ? There 2547 are States who have yet to make up their minds whether to accept it.
§Mr. Henderson Yes, but the Chamber of Princes did agree to enter into negotiations with the Constituent Assembly and in fact appointed a negotiating committee to cover all the matters that would be relevant.
§Mr. H. Macmillan That statement goes far further. If it were really true, it would not be necessary to have the negotiations.
§Mr. Henderson No, Sir. What Sardar Patel is referring to is the acceptance of the principle. He does not say that they have gone beyond the acceptance of the principle, which is a very different thing.
§Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham) Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman not under a slight delusion about this, and making a mistake in reading it? Surely, that does not apply to Hyderabad?
§Mr. Henderson Perhaps I ought to have limited this statement—it is not my statement; I am quoting Sardar Patel—to those which are connected with the Chamber of Princes.
§Mr. Nicholson To make it quite clear —I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way; he is very polite—they are not all members of the Chamber of Princes. That is the trouble, is it not?
§Mr. Henderson I have qualified my statement to those States which are members of the Chamber of Princes, and that certainly excludes Hyderabad, Mysore and Travancore. The importance of the statement is that the conference is taking place tomorrow between the three large States I have named and the State Department which has just been set up by the Interim Government.
There is one other point which has not been raised, but to which I would like to refer in passing, and that is the position of the outstanding Indian sterling debt, comprising the Indian Railway annuities and certain stocks all of which were issued or taken over by the Secretary of State in Council under specific Parliamentary authority and for which the Secretary of State remained responsible under the Government of India 2548 Act, 1935. Having regard to the manner in which these liabilities were incurred and have been administered. His Majesty’s Government intend, as part of the future negotiations with India, to suggest that a sum in sterling should be set aside to cover this liability.
The hon. and gallant Member for North Blackpool (Brigadier Low) raised two points with which I should like to deal. He asked under whom would the British troops be, operationally, between 15th August and the date of final evacuation. The answer is that they will be under a British commander who will be responsible to His Majesty’s Government, although the troops, for administrative purposes, will be under the Commander-in-Chief, India.
The hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) raised the question of the Anglo-Indian community. He asked whether or not it would be possible to organise mass emigration of the members of this community to Australia, or to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, or even to this country. All I can do is to refer him to the reply I made to him a few days ago in which I indicated that the Anglo-Indian Association which is the only recognised organisation speaking for the Anglo-Indian community, have said in terms recently that they are not prepared to sponsor any scheme of emigration.
The hon. and gallant Member for Perth and Kinross (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) again raised the question of the Gurkhas, in which I know he is extremely interested. I have answered Questions addressed by him and others to me on this problem, and I can only state that while it is true some attachments of Indian officers have taken place, there have been no permanent postings, and there is no reason to suppose that anything is being done which will prejudice the eventual position pending settlement between the three Governments concerned. I may add that further discussions are to take place between them.
§Colonel Gomme-Duncan Where do the Indian Government come into this? We have a treaty between Nepal and Great Britain, and the Indian Government have nothing to do with the Gurkhas who are in the Indian Army.
§Mr. Henderson I think the new Government of India will be perfectly free to seek to employ Gurkha troops just as freely as anyone else. The whole question of the employment of Gurkha troops, which affects all three Governments, is being properly settled between them
§Brigadier Low The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that he was going to deal with two points which I raised. He has dealt with one. I do not know whether the other has slipped his memory?
§Mr. Henderson I was going to make one more comment in regard to the employment of Gurkha troops. The hon. and gallant Member will know better than I do that the question of transit is of very great importance when we are dealing with the employment of Gurkhas, and from that angle it is important that we should associate the Government of India with these discussions. To the other question raised by the hon. and gallant Member for North Blackpool I am not in a position to give an answer at the moment, but I will take steps to obtain it.
This is indeed a memorable occasion, marking as it does the closing of an old chapter and the opening of a new one in the relations between the British and the Indian peoples. Britain has written many chapters in the history of human freedom, but never a greater chapter than is being written today in this Bill, enabling, as it does, the Indian people freely to join the British Commonwealth as equal partners. The Commonwealth is not based on a rigid or pedantic legal formula. It represents a spiritual union; its essence is a voluntary association of free peoples who are bound together by common ideals and by mutual trust and confidence. It is a group of nations who know how to live together in peace and friendship and to co-operate to the common benefit of themselves and of mankind; whose way to life is based inherently upon the respect for the rule of law and a recognition of fundamental human rights.
I do not believe that I am claiming too much when I assert that the horrors of war which have so afflicted mankind in the past would cease to be a menace to human happiness if only all the nations 2550 in the world could agree to live together as do those who belong to the British Commonwealth. That is indeed perhaps why the British Commonwealth constitutes today in a troubled and dangerous world a beacon of hope and an inspiration to millions of men and women everywhere. There are those who allege that Britain, in recognising the full freedom of India, is acting under constraint, that her strength is sapped and her influence is waning. Nothing could be further from the truth. Britain’s moral strength and influence was never greater than it is today. The greatness of Britain at rock-bottom does not rest on the size of her territory or the military forces which she can deploy, or in the economic power she can wield. It lies basically in the character of her people, in their political genius, in their sense of justice and in their unshakable faith in humanity. The late Sir Austen Chamberlain declared at Liverpool in November, 1921, that, Now and again in the affairs of men there comes a moment when courage is safer than prudence, when some great act of faith touching the hearts and stirring the emotions of men achieves a miracle that no words of statesmanship can compass. Sir, this Bill is such an act of faith which enables us in all sincerity of purpose to transfer the destiny of the Indian people into their own hands. I received a letter a few days ago from one of the most distinguished Indian leaders in which he expressed the hope that India In her onward journey will have the unstinted goodwill of every section of opinion in England. He went on to say It is only on this foundation that we can build the edifice of future British-Indo relations on the basis of equality, of mutual co-operation and benefit. This Bill, receiving, as I believe it will, the unanimous support of all sections of both Houses of Parliament and of the nation as a whole is not only the recognition of India’s full equality, but also a pledge of our unstinted goodwill
§ Question put, and agreed to
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Monday next.—[Mr. Snow.]
Source: UK Parliament
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