HC Deb 10 March 1853 vol 124 cc1422-30

said, I that there had been an understanding with the late Government that the Irish Members should be more fully represented on the India Committee. Their attention had been called to the subject by an hon.! and learned Member, who showed that while vast sums were paid to the Protestant clergy in India for the charge of about 50,000 people, as well as for the support of the Mahomedan and Hindoo religious, not one farthing had been given to the Roman Catholics, who were very numerous. The Roman Catholics were even deprived of the money left to them i for religious purposes by members of their faith. What he complained of more particularly was, that there was a systematic practice of excluding Irish Members from Committees of the House, unless on questions connected with Ireland. India had exerted an enormous influence over this Empire, and yet Irishmen had been as far as possible excluded from that country, though the names of Wellington, Keane, and Gough proved they had not been inferior to Englishmen or Scotchmen in promoting the interests of the British Empire on that great continent. The first man who ever gave a check to the system of peculation which had existed in India was an Irishman, who, when President at Mysore, had refused a bribe of 100,000l. to sign some State paper. But there were other reasons why Irishmen should be on this Committee, and they were, that the interests of the country at large were directly opposed to the interests of the East India Company, and that the Committee should be placed in a condition to I give an independent consideration to the | whole question of our Indian Government, The only Irish Member on the Committee was the hon. and learned Member for Ennis (Mr. J. D. Fitzgerald). The way in which this practice of excluding Irish Members worked was well shown by the recent debate on Kilmainham Hospital, where it was adduced as a reason for destroying that establishment that a Committee of the House had reported against it. But, on inquiry, it turned out that the only Irish Member on that Committee had voted against the portion of the Report referring to Kilmainham. It was proved to the Committee that the cost of keeping a soldier at Kilmainham was 5 per cent less than that of keeping him at Chelsea, and yet the Committee, instead of following the natural course, and recommending the pensioners of Chelsea to be transferred to Kilmainham, advised that the latter should he abolished altogether. As to the two Gentlemen he proposed to add to the Committee, the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. Bowyer) possessed the full confidence of the Catholic clergy, was perfect master of the subject, and had been in communication with the learned prelate Dr. Carew with respect to the treatment the Roman Catholic Church received in India. The other Gentleman he wished to propose, was the hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. Kenneday) not alone for the protection of the interests of the Catholic Church, but really for the enlightenment of the Committee itself, as the hon. and learned Member was thoroughly acquainted with the want of the means of communication between different parts of India, and, would, therefore, be able to draw out information from the witnesses as "to the necessity of that want being supplied.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Select Committee on Indian Territories do consist of thirty-three Members."


said, he really thought it very confusing to attempt to settle the question of adding two Members to the Committee on Indian territories by reference to what had been done with respect to Kilmainham Hospital. It was mixing up matters which had no relation whatever. [Mr. F. FRENCH: I submit they have everything to do with it.] Their only relation to each other was their being combined in the same speech. Besides that, he protested against any such connexion. The hon. Member pro- posed now the addition of these two Gentlemen to the Indian Committee. It was a matter of great regret to him to hear the hon. Gentleman propose them on grounds which it would be very much better not to introduce. The hon. Member, too, was not accurate in his statement that there was a systematic practice of excluding Irish Members from Select Committees, excepting on subjects immediately connected with Ireland, and he found the means of contradicting him in the very paper in which the hon. Gentleman's notice of Motion appeared. There was a notice on the paper of his hon. Friend (Mr. J. Wilson) to propose the names of the Committee on Life Assurance Associations. That subject was not exclusively Irish. It was extremely English, and very highly Scotch. There was a vast number of Assurance offices in England, and a large number in Scotland. In Ireland there were very few, and those few were doing business to a comparatively small extent. Yet, if the hon. Member looked at the names about to be proposed on that Committee, he would find there were those of the hon. Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. G. A. Hamilton), and of the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. J. Ball). He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) protested against trying the composition of this Committee upon the ground of the number of Protestants, or the number of Catholics. It was not really a question of what quantity of money was to be assigned to Protestants, and what quantity to Roman Catholics. It was not that they were going to consider, but the interests of nearly 120,000,000 of men, neither Protestants nor Catholics. They were, however, their fellow-creatures, whose interests they were bound to consider. The Committee, he contended, was carefully chosen and well-chosen. They had a selection of the best men for the examination of the subject. It so happened that Irish, Scotch, and English, had all their representatives upon it. He found the names of two Irish Members, the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Chichester Fortescue)—[Mr. FORTESCUE expressed dissent.] It appears that the hon. Gentleman's name was withdrawn. At all events, there was the name of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Whiteside), and the Irish Members had an able champion in him. He considered it absolutely necessary for the House, if they wished to pay due regard to the constitution and composition of Committees, to have fixed rules in the management of them. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. French) had ample opportunity, on a former occasion, to raise the question. A number of those previously on the Committee, himself amongst the number, accepted office under the Crown, and their names were consequently withdrawn. Why did the hon. Gentleman not make his proposal when their places were filled up? The hon. Gentleman had allowed the present opportunity to go by, and having allowed it to go by, he came forward now to propose to modify the rule of the House by an alteration of the number of the Committee. That alteration, he ventured to say, was very highly objectionable. They were under extreme pressure in obtaining Gentlemen to serve on Committees, The number of election petitions and private Bills was so great, that it was almost impossible to supply the demand. The Indian Committee was already composed of thirty-one Members, well selected, fairly representing all the various portions of the House, and containing the most competent men to deal with Indian affairs. The hon. Gentleman, having allowed the proper opportunity to slip by, now wanted to alter the number of the Committee. He therefore hoped the House would abide by the rule, and not consent to qualify it on this occasion. The number of the Committee was very large, and the inconvenience of an increase would be extreme. Encouraged by the hon. Gentleman's success, other Members, doubtless, would be proposing to enlarge the Assurance, and other Committees. He hoped the House, therefore, would stop the evil in the beginning and adhere to the rule, and reject the Motion of the hon. Member for Roscommon (Mr. F. French).


said, that his name had been placed upon the Indian Territories Committee, but he had consented to have it struck off the list, on the ground that the Roman Catholic Members were not sufficiently represented upon the Committee. The hon. Gentleman whose name was substituted for his own, was the hon. and learned Member for Ennis (Mr. J. D. Fitzgerald).


said, he must assert that the Irish Members were excluded systematically from Committees, except those on Irish subjects. He believed that there bad been great dissatisfaction in India in consequence of the injustice done to Roman Catholics, and at Hyderabad there had been disturbances on the subject; and this formed one reason why Roman Catholic Members should have been nominated to serve upon the Committee. A distinguished Member of that House, the hon. Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. G. A. Hamilton), had never been on but one Committee of a general character. As to Assurance companies in Ireland, if there were not many offices, there were a great many agents. There was not an Irish Member on the Committee of Divorce—a compliment, he supposed, to the fidelity of his countrymen to the marriage tic


said, that he could have been the last to have objected to the admission of Irish Members to the Indian Committee if it had been proposed at the proper time; but he could not forego expressing his surprise that the Irish Members should have suppressed their indignation for twelve months. The Committee had already deliberated on one of the principal portions of the inquiry, and the introduction of two new Members would be a great inconvenience. He hoped, therefore, the House would not assent to the proposition of the hon. Gentleman. He would say one or two words about the progress of the Committee, which he regretted the right hon. President of the Indian Board was not present to hear. The Committee were now continuing their inquiries, although an intimation had been given in both Houses by the Government that they intended to bring in a Bill on the subject during the Session. Now, the Committee which sat last year made a Report, in which they divided their inquiry into eight heads, the first of which, it was stated, would embrace the consideration of the Government in this country, and the other seven were of very considerable importance. They comprised the military and naval departments of India, the income and expenditure, the judicial establishments, the system of education, the local improvements, the ecclesiastical provision, and another head covering all these things—one of miscellaneous topics. Now, if the proposed Bill was introduced upon the first head, neglecting the consideration of the seven others, he contended, as one of those who served upon the last Committee, that that could never have been the intention of the Committee when they made their Report to the House; that they could never have contemplated the introduction of a Bill with reference to one head without including the others he had mentioned. The inquiries of the pre- sent Committee would be of no possible avail unless they led to practical legislation; and if that were not the case, it would be better, instead of adding to their numbers, to discharge them at once from further attendance. If his right hon. Friend (Sir C. Wood) had been present, he should have been glad to know whether the Government were prepared to lay upon the table the Bill they intended for the government of India, or, if not, whether they would indicate to the House whether their intention was to bring in a Bill for the temporary or permanent government of that country—whether they intended to continue the Government, as it had been hitherto usual to do, for a period of ten or even twenty years, or only for such a period as would enable the Committee to continue their inquiry into the subject. The fact was that inquiry ought to have been instituted much earlier than had been done, if it was really expected that legislation was to be based upon the result of their labours. Owing to unavoidable circumstances there had been much less opportunities for the inquiry than were anticipated, even in the time during which the Committee had sat; but, if even this had not been the case, the period allotted for inquiry would not have been sufficient. There ought to have been a great many more examinations of natives of India and of persons who had been in that country. Even as it was, the news of the appointment of the Committee had brought from India many petitions, into the merits of which he did not mean to enter now, but which certainly deserved inquiry, whether the objections were reasonable or not. Opportunities for such inquiry, however, the Committee had had none, and would have none until the measure of the Government was brought in. Now, he was most anxious to see and discuss that Bill; and, in order to allay the excitement which prevailed upon the subject, and to show what the intentions of the Government really were, he did hope they would, before adjourning for the Easter holidays, either introduce their Bill, or, as he had said, state for what term—because that was the great point—it was intended to introduce the Bill at all. Upon that term would depend the value of the Committee; and he thought the Government might, before Easter, state their decision, not upon the details, but upon the duration of the term, which was a point that could not require so much consideration.


said, he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer in thinking it undesirable at this stage to increase the number of the Committee; but at the same time he confessed it would have been more satisfactory to Ireland if there had been more Irish Members upon it. Allusion had been made to his being appointed a Member of many Irish Committees; all he could say was, that doing duty on a general Committee was the severest mode of secondary punishment that could be devised for Members. He thought, however, it was of great importance, in every point of view, that Irish Members should be encouraged to mingle with other Members in discharging the functions of Committees of the House. In the ordinary habits of business, English Members were; perhaps, more distinguished than they were; and he could not fail seeing, that by a cordial co-operation of both in Committees, Irish Members would acquire habits which would not only be useful to themselves, but give weight and assistance to the administration of the affairs of the country and that House. They were all Members of an Imperial Parliament, and it was neither right nor desirable that any particular section of them should be isolated from the rest. He entirely concurred in the importance of laying the Bill before the House at the earliest possible period.


said, the Committee had been appointed by the late President of the Board of Control, who had stated, not as had been alleged, that he would place Irish Members upon the Committee, but that if the number of the Committee was increased, he would then place additional Irish Members upon it. The present President of the Board of Control had simply substituted Members of the present Government for those who had gone out of office, and had continued the same number of Irish Members upon the Committee as his predecessor had done, and had substituted the name of the hon. and learned Member for Ennis (Mr. J. Fitzgerald) for that of the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. C. Fortescue). If the appointment of the Committee had now for the first time come under consideration, he should have been I glad to see more Irish Members upon it; but, at present, any addition to the number which had been decided upon would be very inconvenient in itself, and a bad precedent for the future.


said, he hoped the hon. Member (Mr. F. French) would not trouble the House to divide upon this Motion. As to the general question involved in the labours of the Committee, he deeply regretted to hear that the term talked of for the renewal of the charter was twenty or ten years, when they had from every part of India petitions from natives praying for an opportunity of stating their grievances. He contended that the Committee had no evidence, and were likely to have none, to show the real state of the natives of India, though he really had flattered himself that that would have been done which would have given content and satisfaction to a population so numerous and so important. He hoped Her Majesty's Government would reconsider the matter, and would pause before coming to any decision until that was accomplished which had been promised by two or three successive Administrations—namely, that before the renewal of this charter there should be a full and fair inquiry. It had been intended that the working, the judicial, and the revenue system of India should be fully entered into by the Committee; but it was utterly impossible to do that without hearing something of the facts of the case from the natives who were the sufferers in the event of any mismanagement, and yet it seemed the Government were determined to enter at once into permanent legislation on the subject. He knew there was a strong feeling in the country that permanent legislation ought not to take place until an opportunity was afforded for further inquiry.


said, that while he concurred in the observations which had fallen from the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Napier), he thought that, under the circumstances, the Motion ought not to be pressed. He agreed that Irish Members had hitherto been excluded from Committees; but he would remind the hon. Member (Mr. F. French) that no Committee could be appointed without due notice thereof being given upon the paper, and then was the proper time to oppose its constitution.


said, he regretted the absence of the right hon. President of the Board of Control (Sir C. Wood), which proceeded from unavoidable causes; but had his right hon. Friend imagined that reference would have been made in the course of the discussion arising out of this Motion to the general question of legislation regarding India, he would have no doubt endeavoured to be present. He would now only ask the House to suspend their judgment upon this very important question until to-morrow, when the whole question would come before them.


said, he was aware that when a Committee was named, it was invidious to get up and to take exceptions to a particular Member, He thought, however, that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with whose politics he seldom coincided, had gone beyond his province in lecturing hon. Members. For his own part he felt himself quite as competent to bring forward any measure he pleased, as the right hon. Gentleman himself, his Parliamentary experience being quite as long and as extensive as that of the right hon. Gentleman. As far as the injustice to Irish Members was concerned, that was an evil which had long been felt. He pledged himself, however, so long as he had at seat in that House, he would not cease from his exertions to get this injustice redressed.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 20; Noes 95: Majority 75.