October Offer

regarding India’s constitution, of His Majesty's Government 18 October 1939


Statement by the Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, on “War Aims ' and “War Effort ', 18 October 1939'


   What are the intentions and aims of His Majesty's Government relation to India?  I cannot do better in reply to that question than to refer to the statement made on behalf of His Majesty's Government and with their full authority, by the late Secretary of State for India in the House of Commons on the 6th February 1935. That statement makes the position clear beyond a shadow of doubt. It refers to pledge given in the Preamble of the Act of 1919, and it makes it clear that it was no part of the plan of His Majesty's Government to repeal that pledge. It confirms equally the interpretation placed in 1929 by Lord Irwin, as Viceroy, again on the authority of the Government of the day, on that Preamble, ‘that the natural issue of India's progress as there contemplated is the attainment of Dominion Status '. I need not dilate on the words of that statement. They are clear and positive. They are enshrined in the parliamentary record. They stand as a definite and categorical exposition of the policy of His Majesty's Government today, and of their intentions today in this end, the future constitutional development and position of India. I would add only that the instrument of Instructions issued to me as Governor-General by His Majesty King-Emperor in May 1937 lays upon me as Governor-General a direction so to exercise the trust which His Majesty has reposed in me ‘that the partnership between India and the United Kingdom within our Empire may be furthered to the end that India may attain its due place among our Dominions '.

   That is the policy and that is the position. These are the intentions of His Majesty's Government. Let me go on to say another word about the Act of 1935. That Act was based on the greatest measure of common agreement which it was possible to obtain at the time when it was framed. It was based, as is well known to all of us, on the common labours of British and Indian statesmen, and of representatives of British India as well as of the Indian States over a long period of years. All parties were at one stage or another closely associated with those deliberations….

…His Majesty's Government recognize that when the time comes to resume consideration of the plan for the future federal Government of India, and of the plan destined to give effect to the assurances given in Parliament by the late Secretary of State, to which I have just referred, it will be necessary to reconsider in the light of the then circumstances to what extent the details of the plan embodied in the Act of 1935 remain appropriate. And I am authorized now by His Majesty's Government to say that at the end of the war they will be very willing to enter into consultation with representatives of the several communities, parties, and interests in India, and with the Indian Princes, with a view to securing their aid and co-operation in the framing of such modifications as may seem desirable.

   I have, I trust, in what I have just said, made clear that the intention and the anxiety of His Majesty's Government is, as stated in the Instrument of Instructions to the Governor-General, to further the partnership between India and the United Kingdom within the Empire to the end that India may attain her due place among the great Dominions. The scheme of Government embodied in the Act of 1935 was designed as an essential stage in that process. But I have made clear in what I have just said that His Majesty's Government will, at the end of the war, be prepared to regard the scheme of the Act as open to modification in the light of Indian views….