British Parliament over First World War – 3 Aug 1914

Read through, what you will find is that, Edward Grey, without even notifying the Parliament, without even seeing all the doors of negotiation, dragged Britain into a war which it no way is concerned about. The members dissenting the view are literally irritated at the way things are progressing – the government is deliberately driving the show towards war. The points highlighted cite the hypocrisy of the government of the day and nothing more. What did they gain? A few more territories and a belligerent Germany which destroyed itself in another war more devastating, and along with it, brought down the British Empire permanently.

Sir EDWARD GREY I want to give the House some information which I have received, and which was not in my possession when I made my statement this afternoon. It is information I have received from the Belgian Legation in London, and is to the following effect:—
“Germany sent yesterday evening at seven o’clock a Note proposing to Belgium friendly neutrality, covering free passage on Belgian territory, and promising maintenance of independence of the kingdom and possession at the conclusion of peace, and threatening, in case of refusal, to treat Belgium as an enemy. A time limit of twelve hours was fixed for the reply. The Belgians have answered that an attack on their neutrality would be a flagrant violation of the rights of nations, and that to accept the German proposal would be to sacrifice the honour of a nation. Conscious of its duty, Belgium is firmly resolved to repel aggression by all possible means.
Of course, I can only say that the Government are prepared to take into grave consideration the information which it has received. I make no further comment upon it.

Mr. MORRELL I assure the House I feel very strongly and keenly the responsibility of my position. I hope the House will give me a short hearing while I endeavour to put before it, as clearly as I can, the reasons why many of us—and I believe I speak for a good many on this side of the House—feel unable to agree with the Government in the policy they are now pursuing. I am quite ready to admit that the Foreign Secretary made, as he told us he did, every possible effort to secure peace in Europe. The only question we ask ourselves is whether, since the failure of his efforts, he has really made a sufficient attempt to make fair terms with Germany, and to secure the neutrality of this country in the war which has unhappily broken out. First of all, let me deal with what he said. The right hon. Gentleman has told us he admits there are no formal obligations binding this country to intervene in this war. None whatever. No formal obligation with regard to France, at any rate up till yesterday. As regards the letter of 22nd November, 1912, which he read out to this House, I submit that it is conclusive from that point. That letter perfectly and clearly intimated to France that we could not undertake to support her in a European war, and, as he fairly put it, it was entirely open to this House, and it is so even now, to decide whether we are going to intervene in this war at all.
We may consider our own interests, or rather we may consider and are bound to consider the views of those who send us hereto this House when we are dealing with a question of this sort. What are the two formal reasons which are given us why it is essential for us, at the present time, to undertake warlike operations against Germany and Austria? There are only two reasons. They are, in the first place, that we are bound to protect the Northern coast of France, and, in the second place, that we are bound to intervene to prevent any passage of German troops across Belgian soil. In spite of the cheers which have greeted this statement, I venture to think that the right hon. Gentleman in the speech he made went some way to supply the answer to those two reasons that he urged. With regard to the coast of France, he made it perfectly clear that the German Government had offered to this country, that if we would pledge ourselves to neutrality, Germany would undertake not to attack the northern coast of France. That was an undertaking which was cheered from this side of the House and which found a good deal of sympathy.
But the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that that was far too narrow an engagement.
Then I come to the second point—to the question of Belgium. I want the House to realise that we are not dealing with a country which refuses all negotiations. Germany has never put herself in that position. She has not said, “We refuse to negotiate; we claim the right to march our troops across Belgium, and we claim the right to attack the coast of France.” That is not what Germany says. I quote the words of the right hon. Gentleman as I took them down. “They would guarantee Belgian integrity”—[An HON. MEMBER: “At the end of the war!”]—and to that the reply was, “We cannot bargain away our interests in Belgian neutrality.” In other words, we are asked now to involve this country in all the perils of this great adventure, because, forsooth, Germany is going to insist on her right to march some troops—[Interruption.]—because Germany insists on her point of view. I am quite prepared to admit that if Germany threatened to annex Belgium, or to occupy Belgium, or if she disregarded the rights of nationality, we might be bound under our Treaty Obligation to go to war to protect Belgium. But what, after all, is the actual fact? What is it we are asked to do? We are asked to go to war because there may be a few German regiments in a corner of Belgian territory. I am not prepared to support a Government which goes to war under those circumstances. We are not merely proposing to go to war for inadequate reasons, but we are doing even more than the Belgian Government are asking us to do. As I understood the right hon. Gentleman, the Belgian Government asked him if he would give diplomatic support, and the reply was that he did not think diplomatic support was sufficient. We have to consider whether it is worth the while of this country to do more even than the Belgian Government asks us to do, in order to have the privilege of intervening in a European war. I do not agree with it. I do not think that these two reasons, although they may be diplomatic reasons, are the real reasons why we are going to engage in this perilous venture. I believe we are going to war now because of the fear and jealousy entertained in this country unfortunately, and fostered by large sections of the Press—the fear and jealousy of German ambition. I believe that is the real reason why hon. Gentlemen opposite are asking this country to go to war, and I do not think there would be any war fever in the country except for the demands made by the Party opposite and their supporters in the Press. At any rate, I believe I am justified in saying it is abundantly clear that it is this fear of Germany which is to-day driving us to war. I ask myself whether we have not in times past suffered enough, paid enough treasure, and paid enough of the blood of the subjects of this country in order to preserve what John Bright once called that “foul fetish—the balance of power in Europe.” I ask myself, too, whether we now can be sure we shall preserve that balance of power.
The right hon. Gentleman said very little about Russia. Let us remember that in going to war in this way we are going to war just as much to preserve the despotism of Russia as to interfere with German ambition. For my part, although I have no particular love for the German Empire, or for German methods, I have still less love for Russia or Russian methods. Without engaging in a war to support despotism, in my opinion it is perfectly possible for the right hon. Gentleman and the Government to arrange an honourable neutrality with Germany, a neutrality which would be perfectly honourable to this country. I regret very much the policy we are pursuing. I regret it still more because I think the country is being rushed into war without its knowledge. No one a week ago could have foreseen that we were going to take a step like this. After listening to the right hon. Gentleman and the reasons he has given, while we must admit the strength of his speech and its sincerity, I say I do not believe he has given a sufficient reason for our undertaking at this time, here and now, the terrible peril and danger of involving this country in war. I have only one other point. The right hon. Gentleman said, at the end of his speech, that we shall not suffer much more if we engage in war than if we stand aside. He used words to that effect. It was an unworthy remark in an otherwise able speech. It was a pity he should appeal to the British people on these grounds. If we engage in war, we shall suffer in our own country, and we shall also suffer, I believe, as regards our influence in Europe. I regret very much at the end of eight years the best you can say of the policy which has been pursued—of the Triple Entente—is that it should have landed us into such a war as this.

Mr. WEDGWOOD I represent, in this House, some 70,000 people in the Potteries, and I think it is about time we here considered what those people are going to endure during the coming months. The right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench told us in his wonderful Jingo speech—can anybody deny that it was a Jingo speech —that the Army and Navy were ready, to the last trouser button, to do their duty. But he did not tell us that the Local Government Board of England was ready to do its duty. He indicated that this country would suffer as much if it went to war as if it did not go to war; that the destitution, the collapse of our trade and credit would be equally bad whether we went to war or not, therefore, why not go to war? He did not indicate that in this country we should spend hundreds of millions of pounds, which otherwise might have gone to tide our people over the awful time to come. Perhaps hon. Members have not conceived what is going to happen during the next fortnight—orders cancelled, no remittances coming in, men sacked by the hundred thousand or the million from their employment, people getting payment with paper and unable to buy provisions at an already rising price. What arrangements have the Government made for storing provisions in this country? They have made arrangements for looking after the armament firms, but what about the people who are stopping at home, the people who are going to suffer starvation, who, in the final resort, are going to raid the country and take food if they cannot get it otherwise? They are not being considered. Those are the people we are here to consider. I think hon. Members must realise that this is not going to be one of the dear old-fashioned wars of the eighteenth century over again. This is a war in which it is not going to be a question of feeding your armies, but of feeding the people left behind, in which it is not a question of victories at sea, but whether you can get employment for the people who are starving in our big cities. It is a question whether you are going to destroy the civilisation built up on a vast organisation and on a small pin-point of credit.
When you have knocked away the credit, which is the very basis of that organisation, you have to face in this country not a matter of battles, but a matter of sustaining a civilisation which it has taken us centuries to build up. You know how that civilisation will topple down. We have felt it already here, in the increased price we have paid for our food. We can get credit and people will let us buy goods for they know that a Member of Parliament is still good enough for a “fiver.” But we know that other people have not got that credit and cannot buy anything, because people will not give away provisions for a piece of paper.

Mr. CROFT made an observation which was inaudible in the Exporters’ Gallery.

Mr. WEDGWOOD Will the Empire, will Canada, send us food supplies?

Mr. CROFT Yes.

Mr. WEDGWOOD If they will feed my Constituents, I will sit down at once, but I know they will not. Starvation is coming in this country, and the people are not the docile serfs they were a hundred years ago. They are not going to put up with starvation in this country. When it comes, you will see something far more important than a European War—you will see a revolution.

Mr. EDMUND HARVEY I hope the House will believe me when I say it is with a real feeling of pain that I rise to differ from many of my personal friends and from Leaders whom I honour. I do not want to say one word which will make the situation more difficult. I want to recognise to the uttermost the magnificent efforts that have been made by the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues during the last fortnight on behalf of peace. One knows that the strain must have been almost intolerable, yet I feel that it ought to be possible, even at this late hour, to make yet further efforts, and not to abandon the case, as he seems to have done, as hopeless. We have had offers made from Germany, both of which he felt to be inadequate in themelves, but might they not have been, and even yet be, the basis for further negotiations? Could it not be possible, even at this last hour, for Great Britain to say that if there were no attack made on the coast of France, and if Belgium were respected, Great Britain would remain neutral? So far as we understand there has been no definite offer like that made to Germany. Surely even at this last hour, in the interests of peace, that ought to be possible. My hon. Friend has referred to the sentence of the Foreign Secretary, in which he spoke of the loss to this country being almost as great if we did not go to war as if we did. I do not think merely of the loss of property, terrible as that may be, or of the suffering which it will involve to the poor, terrible as that will be. Surely we may ask the Government to think of the terrible sacrifice of human life, of the thousands of homes that will be made wretched in this country and in other countries, if this country participates in the war. If we can save that loss of life, not in our own country alone, but in other countries as well, it would be worth while that we should make the utmost efforts, even at this last moment, on behalf of peace. I am convinced that this war, for the great masses of the countries of Europe, and not for our own country alone, is no people’s war. It is a war that has been made—I am not referring to our Leaders here—by men in high places, by diplomatists working in secret, by bureaucrats who are out of touch with the peoples of the world, who are the remnant of an older evil civilisation which is disappearing by gradual and peaceful methods. I want to make an appeal on behalf of the people, who are voiceless except in this House, that there should be a supreme effort made to save this terrible wreckage of human life, that we may not make this further sacrifice upon the altar of the terrible, bloodstained idol of the balance of power, but should be willing to make great sacrifices of patience in the sacred cause of peace.

Mr. KEIR HARDIE I desire for a very few minutes to intervene in this Debate. Both Houses of Parliament have passed, with absolute unanimity, a Bill for the relief of the Stock Exchange. We Members, from these Benches, offered no objection, but we now demand to be informed what is going to be done for the relief of the inevitable destitution which is bound to prevail among the poor? As the Foreign Secretary informed us, whether we take part in the conflict or not, there is bound to be much suffering. That involves starving children. Will the Government pass with the same promptitude as we have done the Bill for the relief of the Stock Exchange and the business interests, the Bill to compel education authorities to feed hungry school-children? We ask for an answer. We are far more interested in the sufferings of the poor than we are in the inconvenience to members of the Stock Exchange. Most of the Members of this House have a more direct interest in the Stock Exchange than they have in the sufferings of the poor. [HON. MEMBERS: “No, no!” “Shame!” and “Name!”] The proof of that will be found if the same promptitude be shown in redressing and alleviating the poverty of the poor as we have shown in the other case. What action is to be taken, not merely to ensure a sufficient food supply, but to safeguard the public against being robbed by food speculators? Surely that issue is urgent and important! Not only will workers be thrown out of work by the million—it will not simply be by the thousand, but by the million—but the unscrupulous gang who form the food ring will take advantage of the war crisis to rob the poor more than the market justifies. They have already commenced, without justification of any kind. We are entitled to demand from the Government—not merely to request, but to demand—to be informed what action is to be taken to safeguard the interests of the working classes in the crisis we are now approaching.
One word more. The decision of the Government has been come to without consulting the country. It remains to be seen whether the Government and the House of Commons represent the country on this question. So far as some of us are concerned—here I do not speak for the party with which I am connected for the present moment, but for myself personally—we shall endeavour to ascertain what is the real feeling of the country and especially of the working classes of the country, in regard to the decision of the Government, We belong to a Party which is international. In Germany, in France, in Belgium and in Austria, the party corresponding to our own is taking all manner of risks to promote and preserve peace. [An HON. MEMBER: “Why do they not control the German Emperor?”] I am asked, why they do not control the German Emperor? For the same reason that we do not control the Liberal Cabinet—we are not strong enough. But we are growing. My point is that in all these countries the party corresponding to our own is working strenuously for peace, and especially throughout Germany. I confess that I heard with a feeling akin to wonder this afternoon the refusal by our Foreign Secretary on behalf of the Cabinet, even to consider the offers made on behalf of the German Government to keep this country out of the dispute. If the neutrality of Belgium can be secured after the war, if the Germans offer not to bombard the coast of France—if these can be made the basis for further negotiation, then every form of justification of the Cabinet for going into the war will have been taken away. I say respectfully to the House that some of us will do all we can to rouse the working classes of the country in opposition to this proposal of the Government, but especially we have the right to ask what action is now going to be taken to alleviate, as far as possible, the sufferings of those who are bound to be hard hit by war, whether we take part in it or not. Our honour is said to be involved in entering into the war. That is always the excuse. I suppose our honour was involved in the Crimean War, and who to-day justifies it? Our honour was involved in the Boer War. How many to-day will justify it? A few years hence, and if we are led into this war, we shall look back in wonder and amazement at the flimsy reasons which induced the Government to take part in it.

Mr. PONSONBY I feel that I cannot remain seated at what I feel to be the most tragic moment I have yet seen. We are on the eve of a great war, and I hate to see people embarking on it with a light heart. The war fever has already begun. I saw it last night when I walked through the streets. I saw bands of half-drunken youths waving flags, and I saw a group outside a great club in St. James’s Street being encouraged by members of the club from the balcony. The war fever has begun, and that is what is called patriotism; I think we have plunged too quickly, and I think the Foreign Secretary’s speech shows that what has been rankling all these years is a deep animosity against German ambitions. The balance of power is responsible for this—this mad desire to keep up an impossibility in Europe, to try and divide the two sections of Europe into an armed camp, glaring at one another with suspicion and hostility and hatred, and arming all the time, and bleeding the people to pay for the armaments. Since I have been in this House I have every year protested against the growth in the expenditure upon armaments. Every year it has mounted up and up, and old women of both sexes have told us that the best way to prepare to maintain peace is to prepare for war.
This is what they have led us to—those who were foolish enough to believe it. It was inevitable that if Europe continued to arm, if every nation bled the people in order to furnish new ships and new guns, to grind all the people who devote their energy, their labour, and their enterprise to one sole object, the preparation for war, war will take place. Still I do not even at this moment wish to see the horizon entirely black. I believe there is still a ray of hope. I regret the tone of the Foreign Secretary’s speech. I felt that it was in keeping with the scenes I had seen last night. But still he declared that not yet has the fatal step been taken. The House of Commons has treated those of us who are protesting to-day with the greatest patience, but it is right that those of us who hold these views should express them. It is by this House of Commons that the decision must be taken, and however small a minority we may be who consider that we have abandoned our attitude of neutrality too soon and that every effort should still be made to do what we can to maintain our attitude of peace towards the other Powers of Europe, I think in the country we have a very large body of opinion with us. War is a very different thing today from what it has been before. We look forward to it with horror, and men who have not got money, and must have food, and cannot buy it, will take it. We have scenes of that sort to look forward to. In the future, which is so black, I trust that my fellow countrymen will not embark on this light-heartedly and in a spirit of aggression. I trust that, even though it may be late, the Foreign Secretary will use every endeavour to the very last moment, disregarding the tone of messages, and the manner of Ambassadors, but looking to the great central interets of humanity and civilisation, to keep this country in a state of peace.

Sir A. MARKHAM I think the House must feel that the speech we have just listened to, and those remarks in particular relating to the Foreign Secretary, were really quite unjustified. No man during the time I have been in this House has presented a case more free from bias, and in a more even manner before the country than the Foreign Secretary. Since the entente commenced in this country I have always opposed it for the reason that, in my opinion, unless it was accompanied by a similar undertaking to Germany, we were likely to find ourselves in a time like this in a very grave position. No one has striven more to impress upon the Government the necessity of maintaining peace than I have, as only a humble Member on the back Bench, but at the same time there can, I think, only be one issue arising out of this question which the House of Commons has to decide, whether we in this country are going to respect the rights of small States, or whether we are going to allow a large dominant Power in Europe to sweep out all these small independent States. At the time of the Boer War, the hon. Member (Mr. Keir Hardie) was fighting for maintaining the individuality of small States. No self-respecting country can admit the right of a great power in Europe to over-ride and beat down a small nationality. We in this country have stood for the rights of small States, and we cannot become a party to allowing Belgium to be over-run by Germany in reliance on a promise from Germany, which I for one do not for a moment believe, that at the end of the war Germany will hand back to Belgium what she has already undertaken by solemn treaty not to violate. I think the House in this great crisis must remember this. This great Empire to which we belong has not been built up on the foundation of allowing close to our shores a great Power to be erected which might be a menace to the interests of the British people.
If we falter this time, we falter, in my opinion, for the end of the British Empire, for the reason that no self-respecting people on the Continent will ever believe that we, who have stood for liberty in the past, will stand for it again. Therefore, when we are told that this war will be unpopular, as we know it is unpopular, in the country, it is for us to take a courageous stand and say that it is for us, as a House of Commons, to decide what is right and what is wrong. For the reason that the country does not know the truth of the matter the issue is unpopular, but are we to be guided by what is popular or unpopular? We have to do what is our duty. If we do our duty to the State to which we belong, and in the material interest of the State, great though the sacrifice be, we ought not to shrink, whatever the cost in blood or treasure may be, from doing what is our duty towards the country, which has been handed down to us by our forefathers. The hon. Member (Mr. Keir Hardie) said it was the duty of the Government first to protect the interests of the workers, who will undoubtedly suffer most in this war. I have no doubt in my own mind for the moment that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet will give that their first consideration. It is no use the hon. Member saying they have never done it before. They have never had the opportunity of doing it before. During the time this Government has been in office we have, mercifully, been free from the horrors of war. But I have no doubt myself that the Cabinet and the Prime Minister will see to it, with the great industrial communities in this country, that every step the Government can take to alleviate these people’s sufferings will be taken. The hon. Member also said that this would be an opportunity to raise prices on the community. I can only tell him, speaking for one of the largest groups of mines in this country, that I gave instructions yesterday, on no consideration, to allow the price of coal to be raised one farthing above what it is at present. That will also be the wish and the desire of all who wish well to their country. We do not wish to use this opportunity for the purpose that the hon. Member thinks. Therefore, having listened to the speech of the Foreign Secretary, all doubt in my mind vanished, and I shall, to the best of my ability, give him every support in the policy he has enunciated.

Sir ALBERT SPICER It is with no pleasure that I intervene in this Debate. I desire, in the first place, to dissociate myself from anything which has been said with regard to the light or harsh way in which the Foreign Secretary spoke this afternoon. I believe he has made every effort up to the present to keep this country out of the great conflict which is threatened, and it is because I believe that that day has not yet passed that I intervene now. I represent an industrial constituency, and I know only too well from the experience of the past how the masses suffer in these crises and in these states of war. They are the first to suffer. They suffer all the way through, and they are the last to recover. Many of us have reserves that enable us to maintain an easy position, and I only intervene at this moment because I have the feeling that the Government may still, with increased effort, keep this country in a neutral position. It is perfectly true that Germany has not said all we want her to say, but I listened to their first propositions with some hope if the negotiations were still continued. After all, there is the balance of power, and I believe in the balance of power, but I do not want to put one nation in such a superior position over others, and, therefore, I do feel that one would only be betraying one’s responsibility if one did not say this word in urging the Government to proceed with their negotiations, because I quite admit that if these negotiations cannot be brought further, we shall be justified in taking up a certain attitude. I am prepared to back the Government in any measures for defence, but I do plead with them to do what they can to prevent our adopting the offensive, and I am encouraged by the speech of the Foreign Secretary to hope that they will proceed with further negotiations to enable this result to be arrived at.

Mr. ROWNTREE I quite agree with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for West Leeds (Mr. Harvey) that in common with all the House we are indebted to the Foreign Secretary and the Government for their untiring efforts in the cause of peace, and I want to join with my hon. Friends who have already spoken in urging them not to give up the effort. As I listened to the Foreign Secretary I felt that his speech was really the most striking condemnation of the policy of the balance of power that one could think of, and I did regret—it was not unnatural, I admit—the tone that he adopted towards Germany twice or thrice in his speech. One of the points that will come out clearly when we look back on these negotiations is that no Power has done everything that was right, and just because we naturally complain of the tone and the attitude that Germany has adopted so we cannot, and we must not, I think, refuse to look fairly at any offers that they make. I cannot believe that it is impossible yet to obtain from Germany the two assurances that the Foreign Secretary specially desired—the assurance with respect to the Northern and Western coasts of France, and the assurance with respect to the integrity of Belgium. I know it is a difficult thing to get an assurance. I know it is a difficult thing to maintain the integrity of a country. I remember not long ago that we guaranteed the integrity of Persia, and yet we have seen that integrity done away with by Russia, and we have been able to do very little to support the promise that we made. I do appeal to the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister, who, after all, stand higher in the public: estimation of Europe and the world than almost any other statesmen, not to give-way yet in their efforts for peace. For whom are we going to fight? We are going to fight for Russia. We shall argue that it is chiefly because of France, and yet we know that it is for Russia that we are going to fight. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Morrell) that that is not the civilisation that England wishes to fight for at the-present time. I cannot help thinking that if this Government is going to increase the power of Russia at the expense of Germany, she will find in the near future that her difficulties are largely increased. I think of the frontier of India, I think of Afghanistan, and I think of Persia. We are going to increase enormously the power of Russia, and I think we shall have these difficulties to face at a very early day. Ay! and do not let us forget that when we go to war against Germany, we go to war against a people who, after all, hold largely the ideals which we hold. I do not mean the beaurocracy, I do not mean the military element, but the German civilisation is in many ways near the-British civilisation. We think of their literature, we think of what they have-done for progressive religious thought, we think of what they have done for philosophy, and we say that these are not the men we want to fight.
I still think that if the Government will exercise patience—I do not say that they have not exercised it already, I only ask them to exercise further patience—and if they will try to come to an arrangement with Germany on the two points I have mentioned—points, I admit, it is necessary to come to an accommodation upon—I believe that there is the greatest work still to be done in the future. How is this war to end? If you possibly can arrange, England wants to keep free from this war, so that those engaged will have the inestimable benefit of having the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary to act as great mediators. You may laugh at that, and yet I ask you honestly to consider who is going to settle this war, unless it is these two right hon. Gentlemen who should be in a position to act in the settlement that must come, because you have in the last resort to appeal to reason and not to force. The more patience they exercise, the longer their exertions to bring Germany to a proper frame of mind at the present time, the greater will be their influence when the real time for settlement comes. I do appeal to them not to give up hope yet. I want to take this opportunity of raising my voice against England going into this war. The Foreign Secretary said that this House would have an opportunity of saying Yea or Nay to any proposition made, but I regret to think that already he has very largely pledged the House by the answer he gave to the French Ambassador on Sunday, and I, as a very humble Member want, at any rate, to take this opportunity of saying that I for one will having nothing to do with this war.

Mr. LESLIE SCOTT I wish to raise a question, really on a point of Order, and for the convenience of the House. There are some important questions on the Paper in my name and in the name of the hon. Member for the Wilton Division of Wiltshire (Mr. Charles Bathurst) relating to the Government proposals as to the National Insurance of ships and cargoes in the event of this country being a belligerent. These questions were postponed at the suggestion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer who intimated that he would make a statement on the whole subject in the course of the Debate. It would be for the convenience of the House that the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s statement should be made soon.

Mr. LLOYD GEORGE The Government are considering very carefully the all-important question of food supply in the event of war. The question that was put by the hon. and learned Gentleman is, of course, one of the very first we have to take into consideration, and we have arrived at a decision with regard to that. We have arrived at a decision with regard to the question of war risks, and the protection of our cargoes and ships. I do not know that I really could, to-night, give a full description of the steps which we intend taking, when the mind of the House is occupied at the present moment with the much greater issues of war. Tomorrow I propose to give a detailed account of the steps we propose to take, and I think that will meet the convenience of the House. But I should like to say one word to correct a misapprehension—a serious misapprehension—which my hon. Friend behind me has been labouring under in regard to the Act of Parliament we have introduced. I can assure him that is not a measure to protect a small section of the business community. It is essentially a measure for the protection of the whole of our credit system, and unless you take steps of that kind a collapse might ensue, which might throw hundreds of thousands, and even millions of workpeople out of employment. I think it would be very unfortunate for the workmen of the kingdom if they were to have that impression on their minds to-morrow morning, and the Stock Exchange only comes in because of the difficulty of realising securities in order to support the market. Therefore, it is very important that I should take this first opportunity of correcting a most serious misapprehension.


Herbert Samuel, British Parliament discussion on Section 93 of the Government of India Act, 06 April 1943

My Lords, you will have appreciated the comprehensive and able statement which has been made to-day on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, and will have particularly welcomed the fact that it has been made by the noble Earl, Lord Munster, who, after a period of active war service, has now returned to resume what was already a promising Ministerial career. We who are accustomed to sit on these Benches naturally follow with close and keen interest the development of the Indian situation, for the cause of Indian nationalism has always been of special concern to British Liberalism. We recall how the first great constitutional step forward during the present century was made on the initiative of Lord Morley—the Morley-Minto Reforms. That step was carried further by the initiative of the Secretary of State at the end of the last war, Mr. Edwin Montagu; and, when the discussions took place which resulted in the passing of the Government of India Act of 1935, it was Lord Reading and Lord Lothian who played a large and perhaps a decisive part in the course of the preceding negotiations.

When that Bill was passed, and when democratic Assemblies were elected under its provisions in the Provinces of India on a broad franchise, with Indian Governments responsible to them, we regarded that fact with the greatest satisfaction. We looked upon it as a triumph of constitutional democracy, by far the greatest achievement in that sphere that had ever come about in any oriental country. A year or so later I went to India in order to study the working of that Constitution, and, after visiting most of the Provinces and many of the States, and talking to some hundreds of people of all grades, classes and communities, I formed the very clear opinion that the Provincial Constitutions were working with remarkable success. Tributes to that success were paid by all who were in a position of authority, from the Viceroy downwards, and the fact was a matter of universal gratification throughout the whole of the British Commonwealth. Within the last  few weeks a book has been published, the second part of the report of Professor Coupland of Oxford, who had been sent to India by Nuffield College to make a survey of the constitutional situation. This second part, with the title Indian Politics1936 to 1942, gives a careful review of the successes and the non-successes of the Provincial Assemblies and Governments, and on the whole reaches the conclusion that their achievements were admirable. They maintain firmly law and order. Your Lordships will remember that at the time of the Round-Table Conferences that was a subject of great anxiety—anxiety whether freely-elected Assemblies and Governments could be relied upon to maintain with firmness and success law and order in the great territories that were put under their rule. Those doubts, those anxieties were relieved by the course of conduct of those Ministries in the two-year period—a period all too short—during which they remained in office. In social legislation they had a remarkable record. Agrarian, industrial and educational reforms were carried of great scope and with great rapidity, and they were able, as it was anticipated they would be able, to carry far more drastic measures in that sphere than would have been possible to any alien Government, no matter how well disposed. The Budgets of the Provinces as a whole showed on social amelioration a doubled expenditure, and we Liberals felt that our faith in constitutional democracy had been justified. While through the history of the last fifty years we of course condemned the occasional outbreaks of disturbance and outrage, on the whole the aims and polities of the Indian national movement commanded our sympathy and our support. And what is true of the Liberal Party is true also, I think I may say, of the Labour Party, who shared and continued the Liberal democratic tradition.To our deep regret, of recent years there has come a divergence. The Congress Party, by far the best organized, the most active and most effective of the Indian Parties, has to a great extent thrown over the democratic philosophy which it has purported to defend and to promote. In spite of what has just been said by the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, it does show signs of turning towards totalitarianism. Not that it regards Mr. Gandhi as a dictator—I do not think he  is—and the Working Committee of Congress plays a very large part, although undoubtedly under his strong personal influence. But they are a single Party claiming to speak for a whole nation, and they have insisted that the elected Ministries in the Provinces shall be subject to the instructions of their Working Committee and those within the Congress whom they term the “Higher Command.” Next to Mr. Gandhi the most distinguished figure and the most eminent figure in the Congress ranks is undoubtedly Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who has been designated by Mr. Gandhi himself as his successor, and whose ability and self-sacrificing devotion to the cause in which he believes, his lofty character and his great intellectual powers have made him a striking figure in the politics of India. In November, 1937, Pandit Nehru, referring to the electorate under the Provincial Constitutions, wrote as follows:

“That electorate plumped for the Congress candidates”—

that was in the Elections that had recently taken place—

“not because of their individual merits but because they represented the Congress and its programme. The vote was for the Congress. It is to the Congress as a whole that the electorate gave allegiance and it is the Congress that is responsible to the electorate.”

These are the significant words:

“The Ministers and the Congress Parties in the Legislatures are responsible to the Congress, and only through it to the electorate.”

And when the war came in September, 1939, and the Congress Party took a hostile attitude to the action of the Government of India at that time, the Working Committee sent instructions to the Congress Ministries in the Provinces where they had majorities in the Assemblies to resign, and they did resign. They resigned, not because they had lost the support of their Assemblies and were subjected to votes of censure, not because there was any movement of dissatisfaction among the people, not because it was their own desire to resign because they felt themselves unable to fulfil the tasks they had undertaken, for it was well-known that they resigned with the greatest possible reluctance, and were sorry indeed to put an end to the beneficent activities in which they were engaged. They resigned because, while de jure they were responsible to their electors, de facto they were responsible to the Working  Committee of the Congress, the High Command, to a Party Committee. That is not democracy, that is totalitarianism. It is essentially the same political creed as animates Nazism, Fascism, and Communism. The Congressmen used to appeal to the principles of Macaulay and Mill, of Gladstone and Bright, but those great men would have profoundly disapproved this course of action, and undoubtedly would have sternly condemned it. Best organized and most active as they are, they are a Party and nothing more. And India is unhappy in that the line of Party division is the worst that any country can have: it is a division according to religious communities. The Congress undoubtedly would desire to include the Moslems within its own ranks, and there was a short period during its campaigns when it did secure a very large measure of Moslem co-operation. That is not so now. At the Provincial Elections where, as your Lordships know, the seats are allocated to a great extent according to communities, there were 424 seats, taking the Provinces as a whole, which were allotted to the Moslems. The Congress was only able to contest 58 of those seats with Moslem Congress candidates, and of those 58 they won only 26, and most of them were in the North-West Frontier Province, where the conditions are altogether exceptional. If you take the population of India as a whole—now approaching 400,000,000—the non-Congress sections, Moslems, Indian Christians, Sikhs, and the Scheduled Castes of Hindus number 183,000,000. The remainder, the Hindu community—and Congress is essentially a Hindu organization—number 206,000,000. So that the elements that support Congress, even if regarded as being entirely pro-Congress, which of course they are not, just as the other sections are not unanimously anti-Congress—still if you take in bulk the Hindus on the one side and the other communities on the other side, together with the Scheduled Castes (who are definitely in opposition to Congress), you have a proportion of 206 to 183. Therefore Congress can claim, at best, barely more than one-half of the population of India. Yet in the totalitarian spirit they claim to speak for the whole. Mr. Gandhi, when he called upon the British to quit India, said it would be for Congress to “take delivery.” The Moslems, of course, in no degree accept that position, and in no circumstances will assent to the solution which Congress proposes. They have claimed, in fact, what I regard as a most deplorable proposition—the division of India into at least two separate sovereign States, the policy of Pakistan. In August, 1942, the Moslem League Working Committee appealed not only to Indian opinion and British opinion, but to the whole of the United Nations, when they passed this resolution to which I would invite the very special attention of your Lordships. This is the resolution of the Working Committee of the Moslem League, which undoubtedly represents the political mind of the great bulk of the Moslem population:

“Having regard to the oft-repeated declarations of the United Nations to secure and guarantee the freedom and independence of the smaller nations of the world, the Working Committee invite the immediate attention of the United Nations to the demands of 100,000,000 Moslems of India to establish sovereign States in the zones which are their homelands and where they are in a majority.”

That is a very formidable development of the Indian situation. Those of us who believe in the principles of democracy cannot adhere, in all cases, to the simple principle of majority rule. That will apply in countries which are substantially homogeneous, like Great Britain, France, or the United States as it has now in effect become; but it cannot apply to countries where there are fundamental divisions, whether of race or religion, and divisions on matters which the people care more about than for anything else. It does not apply to countries like Ireland or Palestine or India. This divergence between Liberal opinion in this country and Congress has been accentuated by the fact that the Congress Party has not yet frankly recognized that. Mr. Gandhi has indeed said “there can be no Swaraj without a settlement with the Moslems,” and has used similar expressions on many occasions; but as yet Congress has made no suggestion of any sort or kind which would achieve such a settlement. Democracy means government by consent of the governed, and it is quite clear that democracy based on the principle of majority rule in India would, so far as the one-fourth of the Indian population who are Moslems are concerned, not mean the consent of the governed. There is a further divergence. This war which is now being waged in almost every part of the world is unquestionably a major crisis in the history of the world. That being so, all minor issues ought to take second place. The Parties in this country recognize that and have put aside, at all events for the time being, their controversies in order to unite in common action for the defence of world liberty. This country has, almost with unanimity, come forward in defence of these principles. But if this country, which, after all, had not been directly or immediately attacked by Germany, or if Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, or the United States had abstained from action, as Congress India has abstained, or as Eire has abstained, then indeed the principles of freedom everywhere would have gone under. We are fighting not only for our own liberties but for the liberties of India and of every other country, and those who now stand aloof are doing less than their duty to mankind. I mentioned just now the name of John Stuart Mill, who once wrote this:

“History is an unremitting conflict between good and evil powers in which whoever does not help the right side is helping the wrong.”

That is a principle which far surpasses any considerations of mere domestic politics. It is a pity that the leaders of Congress do not realize that glory is not to be won for the cause of India by abandoning the cause of mankind. They have not merely abstained from action. At first their policy was, if not to support, at all events to put no hindrance in the way of the war effort of this country and its Allies. But that was changed. Deliberately Congress proclaimed a formula which was shouted in the streets and became the slogan of the crowds in many parts of India. This was the formula:

“It is wrong to help the British war effort with men or money. The only worthy effort is to resist all war with non-violent resistance.”

With that slogan thousands courted arrest and imprisonment, and some 20,000 were, in fact, convicted in the courts and most sent to short terms of imprisonment. Then, finally, in the name of non-violence, they let loose a movement which was characterized in many places by the utmost violence. Of that the White Paper gives conclusive proof, and gives clear proof also of the complicity of Congress leaders  in the disorders. There were disorders in which one thousand people lost their lives and material damage was done to the extent of more than £1,000,000. Lastly in this movement came Mr. Gandhi’s fast, which was an utterly illegitimate method of political controversy, levying blackmail on the best of human emotions—pity and sympathy. If it had been right for Mr. Gandhi to carry on his campaign by such a method as that, then it would be equally right for anyone else who feels deeply in any great cause to do so. If that were to become a method of political agitation, and if it were in any degree successful, it would mean that the management of the world’s affairs would be more irrational, confused, and unsuccessful than it is to-day. The only thing creditable to Mr. Gandhi about that fast was the ending of it. Meanwhile the Cripps Mission had been sent to India. Many of us in this House for two or three years were very active in criticism of the Government with regard to their Indian policy, or lack of policy. We were continually complaining that the Government had taken no initiative and the uniform answer was given from the Government Bench that it was not for the Government to take any initiative, that it was useless to do so, that it was only when the Indian Parties themselves had agreed that any progress could possibly be made. Then suddenly the Government, very wisely, changed their view, accepted all that we had been saying, withdrew all that they had been saying and sent Sir Stafford Cripps to India with very comprehensive and definite proposals. They chose the best spokesman who could be chosen and by general assent he discharged his task admirably. That the proposals were very comprehensive was all the more remarkable since it was done under the Premiership and with the authority of Mr. Churchill, who, in the controversies before 1935, had taken an opposite view. There was a breakdown in the Indian negotiations, but it was on points which would never have given ground for the collapse of those negotiations if there had been any real desire on the part of Congress to arrive at any settlement. Where there is a will there is a way, and a way would easily have been found if Congress had wished to come to a settlement. But that was a moment  when Burma had just been occupied by the Japanese; the Andaman Islands also; there were air-raids on Colombo; the Eighth Army was standing on the defensive and its guns could be heard in Alexandria. The Germans were advancing on Stalingrad and into the Caucasus. It was a year ago to-day, April 6, when the Congress Committee sent to Sir Stafford Cripps a rejection of British proposals. That was the day on which for the first time enemy bombs were falling on the mainland of India, in the coastal towns of the Province of Madras. One can well understand that in the councils of the Congress Party at that moment there were many who would say: “Why should we have a settlement at this moment, and share in responsibility for the conduct of events and accept the invitation to take an active part in the war?” “Britain,” they would have said, “is clearly unable to defend India any more than she has been able to defend Malaya and Burma, and if India is to be conquered why antagonize the conquerors? At the best there is likely to be a long war; why should we share responsibility for imposing the hardships, and sacrifices, and restrictions that are inevitable upon the people? Let there be no settlement; let the British go now and leave the consequences to chance.” That was the view that was taken.Mr. Gandhi has made a clear pronouncement as to that. It has been reported in two versions. The White Paper gives one version and Professor Coupland’s book gives another, the same in substance but verbally slightly different. I will quote that because it is not exactly the same as the White Paper which your Lordships have. In Professor Coupland’s book Mr. Gandhi is quoted as saying on May 24, 1942:

“Leave India in God’s hands, in modern parlance, to anarchy, and that anarchy may lead to internecine warfare for a time, or to unrestricted dacoities. From these a true India will rise in place of the false one we see.”

That is not democracy. Democracy stands for good government, orderly government, strong government, and so far as British Liberals are concerned we would not consent, in the supposed name of liberty, to Britain marching out of India in order that chaos may rush in, with confusion, riots, civil war, and economic collapse. For that to be the end of 200 years of beneficent, constructive and pacific  British activity in India would be an ignominous ending indeed. It would hold this country up to the scorn of our contemporaries and to the just censure of posterity in this country, in India and all over the world. So the hands of the friends of Indian nationalism in this country are tied by the doings of Congress itself and we must feel, since the Cripps Mission, that it is not the British Government which ought to be the object of our criticism. We may regret minor points, we may regret some action that has been taken in minor matters, we may regret the tone of pronouncements and publications that have come from Downing Street and New Delhi, not always very happily phrased. It is not only important what you say, but also how you say it. This White Paper itself may be very good journalism but it is not so good as a State document. We may urge that there should be a change in the constitutional position of the Viceroy, as I urged in the last debate, for reasons which I then gave and which I will not repeat, a change which would put the Viceroy in the same position as a Governor-General of the Dominions, would make him a true Vice-Roi, and would enable him to appoint some Indian statesman as a Prime Minister and to constitute an Indian Government. But such points could not bring a solution so long as Congress takes the attitude that it does and so long as the Moslem League adheres to its present position. We must await a change in the atmosphere in India, and perhaps there may be brought about by military victories a change in the atmosphere not only in India but everywhere. Meanwhile, to come to an end, the only new suggestion that one can make—it is not wholly new for others have made it—is that since the active politicians have brought matters to a complete deadlock and that deadlock seems likely to endure, would it not be possible, in order to help some change of atmosphere to take place, to relegate the matter from the active politicians to the realm of the political scientist, to let some studious exploration be made into the possibilities of various forms of Constitution applicable to the conditions of India? The principle of the majority rule having brought us to a dead end, what other possible principles might be applied? Professor Coupland himself is now engaged on the third part of his report which will deal with the constitutional possibilities. Nothing could be better than if Indians themselves, and perhaps on the initiative of the political science departments of the great Indian universities, were to take the initiative here, perhaps with the co-operation, if they so desired, of constitutional authorities of the United States and of this country. Meantime, this House has no alternative but to support His Majesty’s Government here and the Government of India, in the measure which is now before us to-day and any other measures necessitated by the intransigence of the Congress Party. We rejoice in the staunchness of the police, the Civil Service and the troops in India under conditions of great danger and difficulty. We rejoice at the enlistment of 1,500,000 volunteer soldiers in the Indian Army and the other Services. We rejoice, too, in the vast material resources that have been made available for the conduct of the war from India, and we hope for and look forward to the day when, in a Council of Asia, such as was adumbrated in the Prime Minister’s great broadcast of a few weeks ago, with a wiser leadership than has been vouchsafed to-day, India may be able to take a full and helpful part in world affairs.

William Birdwood, British Parliament discussion on Section 93 of the Government of India Act, 06 April 1943

My Lords, in the position I hold as father of the Indian Army I would like to convey my most grateful thanks, and those I know of all my brother officers, to the noble Earl for what he has told us of conditions in the Indian Army. About that I had no doubt, because I am convinced that the great traditions of the Indian Army for 150 years will be always maintained throughout the war and for all time to come. I hope I need not apologize for addressing your Lordships today. I do so because it happens that I was born in India, where I followed a father who for some thirty-five years had been in the Indian Civil Service, and left, I believe, as one of the best-loved men India had seen. He followed his father, who was for some time in the Honourable East India Company’s service. I myself was fortunate enough to serve almost continuously for forty-six years in India, where I have been followed by both my son and my grandson now serving in my ​ old Indian regiment. I venture to mention these details of family affairs in the hope that your Lordships will believe that after all those years of close connexion with India. I have many good friends there, a great proportion of whom are those Indians with whom I have served all my life.

I had the extraordinary good fortune as a young man to join what I regard as the very finest of Indian Services, a service composed of the yeomen of India. The men in that service are not rich men, they are all poor men, but all with a small stake in the country, owning their horses, their saddlery and their equipment. They were men whom I got to know so well that, when on several occasions I had to leave India on active service, I had no hesitation whatever in leaving my wife and children entirely to their care, knowing they would willingly give their lives for them if necessary. There was a time when I was one of some half dozen British officers with 625 Indian ranks. In those days we lived in the very closest touch with our Indian ranks. I feel, I may say, thankful that it was before the days of the advent of the motor car, because motor cars seem to have brought hustle and bustle into the lives of all of us, so that no one has the time to know his fellow men or to take an interest in their lives in the way we could when we had horses as a link between us. I had the good fortune in those days to traverse India from Chitral to Cape Comorin, and from Lashio, on the Chinese frontier, to Baluchistan. It was impossible not to get to know the people really well, for I marched with my regiment from Central India to the Afghan border, a long trek lasting four months, daily riding with my Indian comrades. We stopped at the villages through which we passed, getting into touch with the village authorities and playing football and cricket with the villagers.
One got to know people better in those days, when one had to water one’s horses at the village trough, than in modern days when one fills up at the petrol pump. In later years, when I left my regiment and was a more senior officer, I had the good fortune to visit every year what are known as the Canal Colonies in the Punjab, for which my noble friend Lord Hailey was to a great extent responsible. There great numbers of old soldiers were ​ given Crown lands, generally on what were called horse-breeding terms. I would spend my days riding round renewing acquaintances with old friends and discussing with village elders their various interests, which mostly concerned the state of their crops or the iniquities of Canal officials in refusing, unless they were bribed, to give them the water to which they were entitled. After I had retired to the little one-roomed mud hut in the village which was reserved as a guest house, there would presently come in a furtive figure who would sit beside me, and after looking round to make sure that no one was listening would say, “Sahib, can you get Government to send an English judge in place of the Hindu?” I would go on to the next village and there the request would be whether I could not get an English officer sent in place of a tyrannical Mahomedan.
I think your Lordships will realize that, looking back on that period, one feels that one really did get to know men in that way. Sometimes a sidelight would come when, overhearing a few words of conversation, one was made to realize how much was hidden and how much one did not know. It makes one dread to think of the ignorance of some week-end globe trotter who came out to India, with of course no knowledge of the language, and who had to place himself more or less at the disposal of an Indian politician in order to get information, some person perhaps out of touch with the tillers of the soil, who form 90 per cent, of the population of India. Those are the real people of India.
Will your Lordships excuse me if I digress for a short time into Indian history? I feel that it is quite impossible otherwise to see how it is that the state and government of India have changed, I feel your Lordships may agree for the better, and that as a result of our rule there has been very great benefit to the people of India. The first date I would mention is a long time ago when Gautama Buddha came on the scene, about 400 B.C., and the next date is 250 B.C. when the Emperor Asoka reigned in Northern India and had his capital at Taxilla, whence he marched to Orissa, where we are told he slew 100,000 and drove back 50,000 prisoners as slaves. We are told that in those days famine was so terrible that children were sold to slavery and the very Brahmans were reduced to eating dogs. Yet we hear that time talked of as India’s halycon days before a white man had set foot on her shores. Then there is a big gap until Mahmud of Ghazni invaded in 999 A.D., coming from Afghanistan and penetrating as far as Somnath, where he destroyed the temple with its great idol said to have been full of precious stones and carried off the gates.
In 1200 the first of the Moguls—Ghengis Khan—invaded from Afghanistan and established an empire. We may say, perhaps, that the Mogul Empire reached its zenith under Akbar in 1556 when the Moguls ruled a country right away from Kabul down to the banks of the Narbada, which flows into the Indian Ocean some hundreds of miles north of Bombay. South of that river the Moguls of course had big territories at Hyderabad, Bijapur and one or two other places. But south of the river generally the Mahrattas held sway. I will not say that they ruled but they swept over the whole country, devastating, destroying and burning everything they possibly could. In 1530 we come to the advent of another people who have very much influenced our British Army, the Sikhs. In 1530 a Hindu Fakir arose who used a cry which had been raised before in Israel: “Ye take too much upon yourselves, ye sons of Levi.” And he established the Sikh theocracy. They resented the Brahmins’ tyranny and their worship of hundreds of gods. The Sikh Guru Nanak rose and said: “I will have one god and one god only,” and him the Sikhs still worship. From that date the Sikhs had most terrible struggles with the Moslems. The Mahomedan rulers fought and fought them but they, like oppressed people generally, persevered and finally they rose to their zenith under Ranjit Singh in 1840. Most unfortunately on Ranjit Singh’s death the Sikhs, who were a very turbulent people, could not be restrained any longer. Since those days, however, they have become one of the most trusted, loyal and hard-fighting of the races whom we now employ in the Indian Army.
It is interesting to recall that the Honourable East India Company established a factory at Madras in 1639, to be followed twenty years later by a factory in Bombay. Perhaps it might also be of interest to mention that the island of Bombay, which had come to our Crown ​ in the time of Charles II as part of the dowry of Catherine of Braganza, was thought of such little value that it was sold to the Honourable East India Company for the enormous sum of £10. There is still one more invasion which took place, that of 1761, when Nadir Shah came down from Persia and got through the Punjab into Delhi, which he destroyed to an enormous extent, murdering thousands of people, and finally carrying off with him to Persia the famous Peacock Throne of Shah Jehan which has never since been seen. That was the final invasion of India. Since then the population of India—and we have had some say in the matter—has not only doubled and trebled, but has doubled and doubled and trebled and trebled itself, and now we have eleven Provinces and no fewer than 560 Indian States—some of them big, some of them very small, some of them merely small landowners’ possessions, but of sufficient interest, I think, to warrant people using very large maps when they come to study the Indian question.
I would like to emphasize that our advance in India was never made with any design of conquest whatever. Time after time we were called upon to go to the assistance of people, and often most unwillingly we had to respond to the call for there was no alternative. That was at a time when India was simply a den of robbers. Pindaris and dacoits roved all over the country destroying cities, robbing and murdering all in their way, and no one attempted to stop them, or could stop them. No man in those times could count with certainty on reaping the harvest which he had sown. And yet again that has been referred to by historians as India’s golden age! Golden, certainly, within the Emperor’s palace, within the palace of Akbar at Agra and of Shah Jehan at Delhi, but at the gates there were the most abject, hopeless squalor, poverty, disease and starvation. Nobody held out a hand to alleviate these conditions. There was absolute and complete indifference to the well-being of the poor and no attempt to feed the starving. We took no man’s land except by treaty with Princes, and we exacted no tribute.
It may interest your Lordships to know roughly what the Mogul tribute was in those days. It was this, “A man shall keep for himself of his produce sufficient to feed himself and his family and to provide seed for the next crop. The balance belongs to the State.” That was the tribute paid before our arrival in India. Now all over India the cultivator ploughs the land wherever he wishes with the absolute certainty that he will be able to reap the crops which he has sown. Railways, provided mainly through British engineering and with the help of British capital, have spread all over the country. They carry food to any districts threatened with famine, and where famines were constant they are now practically unknown. We have dug 20,000 miles of canals irrigating 30,000,000 acres—four times that of any irrigation possible in the whole of Europe—and incidentally we have built 250,000 schools. Surely that record in itself should be sufficient to justify us, and not only to justify us but to make us feel an enormous pride at the way in which we have administered India. But I feel that the greatest outcome of our humanitarian policy has been the way in which we have looked after those millions of unfortunate people known as Untouchables—inarticulate, illiterate outcast of many classes and creeds. Those people in days gone by were looked after by nobody, but they are looked after by us now in a way never before attempted. Another matter in respect of which we can take credit is the abolition of that appalling performance known as Suttee. That was brought about, I think, when Lord William Bentinck was Governor-General in 1832.
In another place a short time ago, there was a good deal of discussion about the Legislative Assembly but no mention was made of the fact, and I do not know that it is generally understood, that there are three estates—the Council of State, corresponding to your Lordships’ House, the Legislative Assembly, corresponding to the House of Commons, and the Chamber of Princes. And we must remember that for over a hundred years we have made definite treaties with the Indian Princes that we will be responsible for their honour and their country and will safeguard them in every possible way we can. These treaties we cannot possibly ignore. I have just mentioned the enormous number of States in India. The largest is Hyderabad, ruled by the Nizam, with a population of 15,000,000 and a revenue of £6,500,000. The Indian States altogether cover 700,000 square miles, with a population of 82,000,000. I think that very often it is not realized what a ​ very large proportion of the people of India are governed by their own Princes, whom we have promised to uphold so long as they behave themselves.
I had the privilege for over five years of being a member of the Council of State. During those years, I am glad to say that I formed the closest relations with members of the Council of State and of the Legislative Assembly. When one got to know them well, one could not help realizing what a deep gulf divided many of them the one from the other. It was evident that large numbers would never be prepared to accept Congress domination. Take the 95,000,000 of Mahomedans. The Mahomedans regard us Christians as Ala Qitab, Followers of of the Book, and as such they are prepared to tolerate us and to regard us in a very different way from the way in which they regard the worshippers of idols, for whom they have no use whatever. Then there are 50,000,000 of the Depressed Classes, those unfortunate people who are also quite unwilling to accept Congress domination unless we can give them absolute and definite guarantees for their safety.
I was not in your Lordships’ House when the noble Lord, Lord Wedgwood, who I regret to see is not here to-day, mentioned the fact that out of the 400,000,000 people of India we ought to raise a very much larger Army than we have done. I gather that he is under the impression that we might enlist almost the whole manhood of India in our Armed Forces. I hardly think the noble Lord could have been aware that among those 400,000,000 there are large numbers to whom the bearing of arms and the idea of fighting are loathsome and impossible. There are, for example, the Jains, for whom the killing even of a fly is an absolute sin. There are a great many Brahmins who loathe the idea of being asked to take up arms. It is utterly impossible, at any rate in my opinion, to contemplate arming the whole manhood of India, even if we had the arms available for them. To try to do so would be to sink to the level of the Nazis, which I am sure is the last thing that we would wish to contemplate.
I dare say that your Lordships have often heard, as I have heard, the accusation brought against us in India that our rule there is governed by the three words ​Divide et impera. I wish that the people who make that accusation would come into the open and give definite examples of where we have shown such an attitude. I can say with absolute honesty and sincerity that on going about the districts, as I have done, with one civil officer after another, I have never found anything approaching that attitude. On the contrary, the civil officers have gone out of their way to urge people to pull together, and have done everything that they possibly could to form a united India. And, of course, there is no doubt whatever of our determination to honour our word and to grant real self-government to India when India is in a position to undertake it, as we hope that she may be at the end of this war, and when we may hope that the many minorities there may feel satisfied that their safety is assured under Congress rule.
We have no need to apologize, however, for our guardianship of that great country; rather must we have feelings of real pride and honour in the fact that for the last hundred years we have safeguarded the interests of the people of India with justice, with real and true sympathy, with care and with honesty. During all that time, in fact, we have been the sole cement which has held together those very divergent people. It would surely be cowardice for us to think of abandoning that position, unless we can feel confident that the poor and humble minorities will ‘be safeguarded, as we hope may be the case when Indians can come together and have a Government in which all can participate.
The noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, mentioned Pakistan. Your Lordships probably realize what is meant by that word. The Mahomedans, under the leadership of Mr. Jinnah, a very able and astute politician, have definitely decided that they are not prepared to enter a Government formed of all classes, and they demand that the Mahomedans shall have rule over the five Provinces—the North-West Frontier Province, Baluchistan, Sind, the Punjab and Bengal—which they call Pakistan. In those five Provinces the Mahomedans are in a majority, but in each of those Provinces there are enormous numbers of Hindus, while scattered over the rest of India there are very large numbers of Mahomedans. As an example of what I can see might be the result of ​ the Pakistan policy I will take the Punjab, a Province which I know well, and which was ably governed for many years by my noble friend Lord Hailey. In the Punjab there is a preponderance of Mahomedans, but there are also 6,000,000 Sikhs, the people to whom I referred a short time ago, and with whom we were engaged in our great wars in 1842. The Sikhs are a very hard-fighting, virile, determined, obstreperous people, who are not for one moment going to accept Mahomedan domination, and they have said so.
We can imagine what the state of that country will be if we withdraw—absolute anarchy and chaos, and the most appalling and bloody fighting ever known, with tremendous casualties on every side, because the country is inhabited by very hard-fighting people. I think that there can be no doubt that that is what would happen in the Punjab. One has only to think of what happens now in the Communal riots. Thank God, we do not know in this country what a Communal riot is. In India a Communal riot starts in some ridiculous way—a Hindu will throw a pig into a Mahomedan mosque, or Mahomedans will go past a Hindu temple playing brazen music—and before you know where you are a riot has started, like fire in dry grass. Murders take place, and then the cry is always raised: “Where are the British troops?” That cry is raised even by those who in other circumstances are demanding the withdrawal of British troops from India.
Let me conclude by saying something with which I hope most of your Lordships will agree. I am convinced that the Christian faith and Christian morals are the one and only cement which binds our civilization together; if they go, the world will become a den of thieves. If we go to the origin of this terrible war in which we are now engaged, I believe we may feel that it arises largely from the fact that Nazi Germany dethroned Christ, and in His place set up the man Hitler as their god. I am certain that our repugnance towards Nazi ideology and Nazi methods is entirely shared by people of other faiths who form part of our great Empire. Just as I believe that Christian faith and morals dominate the world, so in this smaller sphere of India and also, shall I say, in the sphere of Palestine, I cannot but feel that it is we of the white race, we Britishers, who have been able to hold ​ together the Mahomedans and the Hindus in India, and the Mahomedans and the Jews in Palestine. I should feel sorry for a man who was responsible for breaking that link, unless he is definitely assured that peace will reign and that the rights of minorities will be properly recognized if and when the British withdraw.

Geoffrey FitzClarence, British Parliament discussion on Section 93 of the Government of India Act, 06 April 1943

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for India and Burma, who had given Notice of six Motions continuing in force Proclamations issued under Section 93 of the Government of India Act, 1935, said: My Lords, I beg to move the first of the six Motions standing in my name. I am obliged to the noble Lord opposite, Lord Faringdon, for kindly removing a Motion which stood in his name on the Paper to-day in order that I might present these Resolutions to the House for approval. The debate which will follow will naturally give noble Lords every opportunity to discuss the general situation which now prevails in India. The purpose of each one of these Motions is to extend, for a further period of twelve months, the Proclamations which have been issued under Section 93 of the Government of India Act. Your Lordships may remember that in that section provision is made for a Proclamation to be issued by the Governor of any one of the eleven Provinces of India if he is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the normal functions of government cannot be carried on. In the six Provinces referred to in these Resolutions such Proclamations have been in force since the collapse of normal constitutional government in 1939, when the Congress Ministries abdicated their responsibilities and resigned their offices at the dictation of the Congress “High Command.” Although there seems to be no immediate likelihood of the Congress Party re-accepting office, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is just as anxious as any of your Lordships to see responsible government restored in these Provinces at the earliest possible moment, and for this purpose the situation is kept constantly under review by the Viceroy and by the Governor of each of the Provinces, who are always on the look out for any opportunity that may present itself.

Your Lordships will have read in the newspapers last week that the Prime Minister of Bengal had tendered his resignation to the Governor, which  resignation has been accepted The remaining members of Mr. Fazl-ul-Huq’s Ministry have also resigned. With the approval of the Viceroy, the Governor of Bengal has issued a Proclamation which is now in operation under Section 93 of the Government of India Act, but it is to be hoped that quite shortly a new Government will be formed, and in that case the Proclamation issued by the Governor will be revoked. Some months have passed since a discussion on India was initiated in this House, and, as a very new arrival at the India Office, my task to-day will be to endeavour to render an account of recent happenings in India, and to touch also upon topics of general interest to the war effort. During the period now under review, the political situation in India has been overshadowed by outbreaks of violence which have been committed under the auspices of the Congress Party and of its leader, Mr. Gandhi. I have no desire whatever to examine in detail the White Paper which was recently published. Those of your Lordships who are concerned with the problem of India will have made yourselves acquainted with the facts enumerated in that document. It must be crystal clear to all your Lordships, however, that the primary object of that campaign was to force the hands of the Government of India and of His Majesty’s Government at home to surrender the control of government in India to the Congress Party and, in the words of Mr. Gandhi, to “quit India.” With that purpose in mind, and to achieve that object, attacks were launched upon all centres of strategic importance. An orgy of destruction followed. Communications, railways and Government property were wrecked, and an effort was made completely to paralyze all transport, trade and industry. These outbursts gradually spread their evil tentacles to concentrate on those parts of India which were most likely to be exposed to immediate enemy attack. Considerable damage was done, as we know, but happily the state of anarchy into which it was hoped to plunge the country was arrested by the firm and determined action on the part of the Government of India. Law and order were re-established, although spasmodic outbreaks of violence still from time to time occur. I must recall to the memory of the House that the decision of the Government of India to place the leaders of Congress under restraint was reached with the unanimous decision of the Executive Council, which on that day consisted, besides the Viceroy, of eleven Indian members and one European. At the beginning of this year Mr. Gandhi undertook a twenty-one days’ fast “to capacity.” The object of this self-inflicted starvation was to secure from the Government of India his unconditional release. It would be difficult to speculate on what might have occurred if Mr. Gandhi had secured his release, but it is quite certain that the Government of India would have suffered a heavy reverse and Mr. Gandhi would have claimed justification, if not a victory, for his campaign of civil disobedience. But the Government of India stood firm. There was however, one regrettable result of the fast—namely, the resignation of three very able members of the Viceroy’s Executive Council. The reasons for their resignation will be familiar to everyone, but the Viceroy hopes very soon now to be in a position to announce the names of the Indians who will succeed to the vacant seats. I have dealt with some of the political issues prevailing in India to-day and, with your Lordships’ permission, I should like to turn for a moment to deal with another side of the Indian picture—namely, the India of the warrior races. Perhaps I may give the House a brief account of the present state of the Armed Forces in India. The size of the Indian Army confines to expand steadily and recruitment, which is entirely on a voluntary basis, shows no sign of any slackening. It is a remarkable fact that during the period of the internal disorders last year the figures for recruiting reached their highest peak of 70,000 a month, and for the last three months the average voluntary enlistment has still been 60,000. During the disturbances to which I have just referred the Indian Army was employed in assisting the civil power in the maintenance of law and order. Here was indeed a difficult and uncongenial burden, but the task was carried out with the complete loyalty and devotion to duty for which Indian soldiers have so long been renowned. The Governors of Provinces have all borne testimony and paid tribute to the good conduct and friendliness of all troops in their handling of the civil population. Today the Indian Army stands  at over one and a half million strong, and, besides having the largest volunteer Army in the world, it also has the largest force of any one of the Dominions serving overseas in all theatres of war. This Army also includes considerable forces of the Princes, ho have placed the whole of their services at the disposal of the King-Emperor. Your Lordships will have seen the accounts recently published of the 4th Indian Division, which has fought from Abyssinia to the Mareth Line, and also of the 5th Indian Division, and they have both won undying fame and glory. There is another Army about which very little is heard but which is carrying out its vital but monotonous duties of watch and ward on the North-West Frontier of India. It is seldom in the limelight or participating in active operations or giving battle to the Japanese or any other of our enemies, but nevertheless when I recall the constant source of anxiety of these frontier areas to India in the last war, I know how vital are the duties it is fulfilling in order to maintain the peace and tranquillity of the frontiers. We should not forget either the Nepalese battalions which were so readily offered at the beginning of the war by our firm friend the Maharaja of Nepal. Concurrent with the building up of the Army vast engineering projects have been undertaken by the civil population in conjunction with the Services. Quite apart from the military highways that have been built, railways have been improved, enlarged and modernized, and new factories have been constructed. A vast number of aerodromes have been made to meet the requirements of the expanded Air Force. To those of your Lordships who are interested in figures I might mention that the runways that have been laid down would easily make a broad concrete road stretching across the breadth of India from Bombay to Calcutta, a distance of 1,100 miles. The Indian Air Force is the youngest of the Fighting Services. The first flight came into being in 1933 and the first squadron was not completed until 1939. The tenth birthday of the Force coincided with the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of the Royal Air Force, but to-day this Force has been greatly expanded, and in addition to its regular squadrons it also includes the Indian Air Force Volunteer Reserve in which both  Europeans and Indians serve as pilots. This Force has taken its full share in the war.Units have operated in Burma, and besides patrolling coastal waters have also provided air co-operation and support to the Army of the North-West Frontier. I come lastly to the Royal Indian Navy, whose size has increased tenfold since the outbreak of hostilities. Ships of the Royal Indian Navy have served and steamed in all seas, including the Atlantic, and the action of the “Jumna” off Java and of the “Bengal” against Japanese armed raiders in the Indian Ocean are both outstanding examples of the accomplishments and heroism of Indian sailors. But all this effort has placed upon India, both administratively and physically, a strain greater than has ever been previously attempted, and probably as great as the resources of that country are capable of carrying. I turn now to give your Lordships some indication of the financial problem involved, as I am informed that there is a good deal of misapprehension and misconception abroad. Though India has to finance the whole of this effort in the first instance, not all of it is chargeable to Indian revenues and a considerable part is ultimately recoverable from the Imperial Exchequer. We have followed the principle always hitherto followed that India is financially responsible for her own defence, which means in fact that the revenues of India are not applied to the maintenance of Imperial interests beyond the borders of India. For instance, India pays for all Forces, British as well as Indian, as long as they are in India. She pays for the numerous aerodromes that have had to be constructed there and all the military works necessary on so great a scale, because this time the attack threatens from the east and not from the west, where, as the House well knows, the military preparations of India have hitherto been principally made. She has also agreed to pay a share proportionate to her interest in the various factories for the output of war materials which are in course of coming into production. On the other hand, she does not pay for Indian Forces operating outside that country or for materials which may be supplied to Imperial Forces in external theatres of war, nor indeed for those we have to obtain in India for our own use in this country to meet our own wartime necessities. The effect of all this is that, from the beginning of the war up to the present time, India has recovered a sum of £400,000,000 from the British Exchequer, and has spent some £350,000,000 on her own defence. In the financial year which has just been concluded the Indian taxpayer’s share of defence expenditure was no less than £180,000,000 as compared with some £34,000,000 before the war—by Indian standards, at any rate, a very heavy burden. The recoveries which have been made in respect of expenditure by the Government of India and chargeable to us, together with payments for supplies of all kinds through the channels of private trade, have led, as many of your Lordships know, to the accumulation in this country, in India’s favour, of large sterling balances which have been partly used for the repatriation of her pre-war sterling debt. I am told that by making rupees freely available to finance what we need from India, and by receiving repayment in sterling, the Government of India have ensured that exchange difficulties do not interfere with the production in India of the largest quantities of those services and supplies which we need for the prosecution of the war over and above the liability of Indian defence for which India herself is responsible. I hope the House will forgive me for turning to that side of the question, but before I conclude I must come back again to the constitutional side. During the period which I have under review there can be no dispute in any noble Lord’s mind that the political situation has not progressed along the path which we could have wished or anticipated. Therefore we find that the chapter in the tale of India’s advance to complete self-government has yet to be written. All political opinion in this country is agreed, I think, that the issue at stake to-day is not whether India should be granted complete control of her own destinies but only when and how that should be attained. There are many noble Lords in this House to-day who have, at some time or other, been associated with the constitutional issues in India. During the past twelve years—for I think I am right in saying it was in the autumn of 1930 that the first Indian Round-Table Conference met—we have gone forward with speed and determination to find, in concert with Indian political thought, a basis  for the solution of this bewildering problem. We have not, it is true, on all occasions been able to carry the Indian political leaders with us. Indeed, the nearer we have approached, or thought we were approaching, a final solution, as in the passing of the Act of 1935, the sharper became the divisions and the deeper appeared the divergencies within the ranks of Indian political Parties. There is, as I have pointed out, no unwillingness whatever on the part of His Majesty’s Government to transfer full responsibility to India once these internal disagreements have been removed and resolved. No man desires to return to the status quo ante bellum, but no man desires, either, to trust India, in Mr. Gandhi’s words, “to God or, in modern parlance, to anarchy.” We have exerted all our power and influence to obtain a settlement of this question. Proposals, culminating in the Cripps Mission, have been made, but to our regret, and I believe to the regret of all moderate political opinion in India, they have all been rejected. No doubt many noble Lords will recall the late Mr. Gokhale, a wise, strong, and liberal-minded man and one of the founders of the National Congress, who advocated the reform of government in India by steady, progressive, constitutional methods, and who hoped to attain and achieve results by political evolution. The whole of the knowledge that he possessed was derived from a close personal study of the art of government as it was understood and practised in this country. He demonstrated very clearly his own wish for the National Congress to be organized on purely democratic principles, and under his lead the Party represented a real national movement, including amongst its members all classes and all sections of India’s national life. But under Mr. Gandhi’s lead the Congress Party no longer represents the whole of India’s aspirations. The Moslems, who twenty years ago were disposed to cooperate with Congress, became alarmed at the prospect of being permanently in a minority in a Central Government founded on Parliamentary majorities, broke away and set up their own League. That League, which ultimately developed a policy to preserve the political solidarity of their own followers, sacrificed that unity which our association with India had conferred. On the other hand, the  Congress Party has moved far away from Mr. Gokhale’s principles, and has become a body which is imbued with totalitarian tendencies. As I have pointed out, all our efforts to find a basis of settlement designed on the British model have failed, and there is no chance, as I see it to-day, to expect any sudden change of heart. For a large number of years we have made ourselves responsible for educating Indians to the form of democratic government under which we live and thrive. Every Act of Parliament that has been passed has been designed to promote and foster this form of rule in India. We have all of us consistently assumed that our own Constitution is quite adaptable to this sub-continent, and we have always been fully prepared to assist in the export of our system for remaking indeed a constitutional government for the whole of India. I venture to think that, if, before the passing of the Act of 1935, any of His Majesty’s Ministers had suggested that constitutional government based on the system under which we live was impracticable for India, there would have been an outcry that we were challenging the ability of Indians to shape their own government upon the model which we had taught them and which had been practiced so successfully in its home of origin. It would have been further said that we were insulting their political leaders and damaging their prestige throughout the whole world. So, my Lords, any repudiation on our part would have been met by statements to prove our underlying insincerity towards India. But times change and in a changing world amendment is always necessary. Whilst the broad principles of the offer which was taken to India by the Minister of Aircraft Production are still open, I wonder whether the deadlock would be removed and progress made towards a settlement if Indian leaders of all Parties would discuss, with calm and quiet deliberation, the chances of finding a Constitution of their own manufacture—a Constitution not necessarily built upon the institution which we have found best fitted to our own widely different conditions, but one which would nevertheless, afford India a position as a full self-governing State within the British Empire and which, by their own exertions, would be made weather-proof and habitable for all. Surely it is not too late now to ask the  great political Parties in India to solve this problem in their own way. It is quite certain that no exertions on their part can be too great. Wisdom and sympathy are predominantly required but, above all, a spirit of compromise and understanding, must be the sum and substance of any settlement. We should, of course, be prepared to render any assistance and any help to such a body. I am not without hope that when India is confronted, as indeed she must be, with her own position in a post-war world, with all the opportunities that will be open to her and with all the dangers that will persist, the prospect of agreement amongst Indian political leaders may be more hopeful than it is at present. Before I conclude let me finally add this. It is now for Indians to adapt their beliefs to their own unique problems and needs. Let them turn to their task, gifted with vision and foresight, so that they may eventually find an escape from their present perplexities. But until that day arrives when we can announce to the world that agreement has been reached among Indians themselves, the British people cannot surrender to the forces of anarchy and they must continue to be responsible for the welfare and for the peace of this vast land and of its millions of inhabitants. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House approves the continuance in force of the Proclamation issued under Section 93 of the Government of India Act, 1935, by the Governor of Madras on 30th October, 1939, and of his Proclamation varying the same issued on 15th February, 1943, copies of which were presented to this House on 28th November, 1939, and 16th March, 1943, respectively.—( The Earl of Munster.)