§ On Report of Resolution being brought up,
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
Mr. Speaker, I rise with considerable doubt and hesitation to address the House upon a subject of the deepest interest. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer asked leave before the Easter recess to introduce a Bill for the future government of India, and to transfer the government from the East India Company to Her Majesty the Queen. I thought at that time it would not be respectful to the right hon. Gentleman, to the Government, or to this House, to state any very decided opinion with regard to that measure. It has since been laid before the public, and great objections have been made to it. Those objections are very generally felt, and I confess they appear to me to be 859 sound. I believe that the opinion expressed by the hon. Member for Birmingham, (Mr. Bright) when the Bill was first introduced, was an opinion founded on substantial reasons; but I cannot but see that if, when the Bill is proposed for a second reading, it is to be met by these objections, and if every objection that can be stated is to be brought forward in a discussion in the whole House, and the Government then have to defend their Bill, that that is a course which cannot but lead to a discussion considerably partaking of a party character, which, I think, will be most injurious to the question itself. Now, we must consider that the question of the Government of India is one not only of the deepest interest, but one with respect to which it might be said that we are treading on ashes hardly covering the smouldering fire. Such being the case, Sir, it would be most desirable, if possible, that we should have some opportunity of discussing the measure by which the House might arrive at a conclusion as to what its opinion is in reference to the future government of India, without raising a debate of the character I have just mentioned, and without discussing parts of the measure, into which I will not now enter, but to which great objections are very generally felt; indeed, so generally that I think the propositions in question would hardly meet with success. Now, Sir, in referring to what took place on former occasions I find that the greatest change, perhaps, that has been made since 1784 is the change made in 1813, when the East India Company were deprived of their monopoly, and the system of restriction and monopoly was changed to one of free trade. On that occasion Lord Castlereagh introduced into this House, in a Committee of the whole House, a series of Resolutions on which a Bill was founded. Lord Liverpool, when announcing in the other House of Parliament the course to be adopted, said that it was an advantage that all the main propositions should be placed under several heads; that each head should be fairly and fully discussed, and that the Resolutions should be afterwards submitted to the House of Lords, for then the two Houses might agree on general principles before the Bill was introduced. That course, no doubt, involved considerable discussion and considerable time in the Committee; but when the Resolutions were agreed to there was very little discussion on the Bill, which passed in the course of 860 that Session. Now, Sir, there are three ways, generally speaking, in which this question is looked at. There are some persons who would wish almost to see reconstituted, in another name, the Board of East Indian Directors, with the power of initiating as an independent body. In this manner the name would be changed and the substance retained. Another plan of dealing with the question is that on which the Bills of the noble Lord, the head of the late Government and of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer were founded —namely, the appointment of a Minister of the Crown aided by a Council for the government of India; and the third plan is that which has been stated to-night in the petition from Manchester—namely, the appointment of a Secretary of State, similar to other Secretaries of State, with subordinate officers, and without a Council. Now, Sir, I do not wish to enter into the merits of any one of these plans; but, I think, that if Resolutions upon the subject were discussed in a Committee of the whole House, we might be enabled to ascertain what the opinion of the House is as to the mode to be adopted, whether we wish to retain, under another name, the East India Company; whether we wish to have a Council, and if a Council, how far that Council is to be independent, and how to be composed; and if neither of these plans be accepted, whether we should have a Secretary of State without a Council, and only with the usual subordinate officers. In fact, a full opportunity would be afforded of discussing these and other points which are of very great importance. It seems to me that if the Government should adopt the course I have suggested, although there may be an apparent loss of time in the first instance, we shall, I apprehend, save time in the end. If, however, the Government should not think fit to submit Resolutions to a Committee of the whole House, I am aware that it would be very presumptuous on the part of an individual Member of Parliament to propose such Resolutions. At the same time, I feel so strongly the great inconvenience that must ensue from proceeding with the discussion of a Bill which must necessarily undergo considerable alteration in Committee that I deemed it my duty to state to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and to the House that the only mode, as it appeared to me, of avoiding these difficulties and of bringing 861 the subject under the dispassionate consideration of the House, without any party discussion would be to proceed by way of Resolution. If that course were taken, we should not have much difficulty in our future proceedings, but I must say that there would be great difficulty in discussing in Committee upon this Bill many important questions, which, from the wording of the clauses, are mixed up with points of inferior and subordinate interest. I think, therefore, it would be much more convenient to discuss such questions by Resolutions, which can be altered and amended more easily than the formal clauses of a Bill. It appeared to me, so long ago as December last, that the course I have suggested was that which the Government ought to pursue with reference to this question. We have seen the plans proposed by two different Governments, and I think neither of those measures would receive the full concurrence of the House without undergoing very considerable alteration. I do not know whether Her Majesty's Government will be disposed to adopt the suggestion I have made, but I could not forbear offering it to their consideration and that of the House.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQDER
Sir, it must be obvious to every Member of this House that in dealing with so important a question as the government of India the course suggested by the noble Lord would be much more convenient than that which has been proposed by two Administrations. I am perfectly ready to admit that course is one more adapted to the convenient discussion of a question of so much importance. I am also free to admit that Her Majesty's Government, having during the recess had this subject under their consideration, are not insensible to the advantages of such a course. But the House will recollect that when the first legislative step was taken on the subject during the present Session, the noble Lord opposite (Viscount Palmerston) proceeded by way of Bill, and that course was so far sanctioned by the House that they permitted the Bill to be introduced. There being then, as it appeared to us, a general feeling on the part of the House that no unnecessary delay should take place in legislating for the government of India, the present Administration followed the example of their predecessors, and also laid before Parliament the policy they recommended in the shape of a Bill. The two Bills are now in precisely the same 862 situation in the House. The principle of neither of them has been adopted; but in both cases permission has been given for their introduction, and both have been read a first time. There is no doubt that if, in the first instance, we had proceeded by Resolution, although considerable discussion would undoubtedly have taken place, yet when we advanced to legislation we should have found our task greatly facilitated, and probably, in the long run, no great delay would have occurred. It is impossible not to feel that, under present circumstances, we may anticipate very animated and prolonged discussions on this subject—perhaps even a party struggle— while there is no prospect of that speedy and satisfactory settlement of the question which is, I believe, desired by the country. Having introduced a Bill into this House, I should have felt great difficulty in now asking them to consider a series of Resolutions on the same subject; but after what has fallen from the noble Lord, I certainly shall not shrink—if it be agreeable to the House—from proposing Resolutions. At the same time I may say for myself, and I am sure I only express the feeling of the House, that, after the expression of opinion to which the noble Lord has given utterance, such Resolutions could not be in abler hands than his own, or brought forward with more weighty authority than they would receive from his advocacy. I can only say that if the House thinks it expedient that this course should be adopted and that instead of deciding by a single vote upon the many and various questions involved in the Bill, we should have an opportunity, by considering Resolutions in a Committee of the whole House, of discussing more amply and completely the principles which are to form the basis of our legislation, I, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, shall offer no obstacle to such a course. I think, however, the House must feel that if we take that course, it ought to be adopted without any unnecessary delay. Two Bills have been already introduced on the same subject and are in the same position, and if we are to obtain an opinion in a Committee of the Whole House as to the main principles on which an Act for the future government of India shall be framed, I think it is necessary that we should proceed without delay to the discussion. As the noble Lord, therefore, was the first to mention or recommend this mode of proceeding, and as he possesses in this House 863 an authority which no one has more honourably earned, or more deservedly exercises, I must say it would he more agreeable to me if he would propose the Resolutions; but, as I before said, I shall not shrink from the responsibility of doing so. There is one point, at all events, upon which we are all agreed—that no unnecessary delay should take place in dealing with the subject; and therefore the earliest day that can be given up consistently with the public interests shall be appropriated to the discussion of the Resolutions. Of course it will be our duty to facilitate this discussion; but I think it is very important that the financial statement should be made on this day week. Indeed, there are many reasons which, had it been possible, would have induced me to take an earlier day for that statement; but we shall be ready to give up Friday week, or this day fortnight, if the noble Lord should elect to propose Resolutions. I should hope that, under these circumstances, the noble Lord will allow the House to see the Resolutions as soon as he possibly can. I shall await with interest the decision of the noble Lord. I believe the course he recommends, with all the high authority he possesses, is one which will be conducive to the public interests, for we shall then have an opportunity of expressing a formal and mature opinion upon those points respecting which great misconception exists as to the plan proposed by the present Government. I cannot but believe that if we had an ample and complete discussion upon all the principles involved in the transfer of the government of India from the East India Company to Her Majesty —as to whether undivided responsibility should be intrusted to any officer, whether he should be assisted by a Council or not, whether such Council should be purely nominative or partially elective, what should be its mode of procedure and what its duties—if we had the opportunity of coming to a distinct Resolution in each of these points, the task of legislation would afterwards be comparatively easy. I hope I may be allowed to express my wish and expectation that if the course suggested by the noble Lord should be adopted, the important question of the government of India will not only be most amply and completely discussed, with the advantage of the knowledge and experience possessed by many Members of this House, but that the discussion will be devoid of any party feeling, and that when we have arrived at 864 a conclusion, whatever it may be, upon the principles of government to be applied to India, the country will be satisfied that the plan upon which we may determine will conduce to the "safety, honour, and welfare of Her Majesty and Her dominions."
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, it was perfectly plain that, when he stated that he thought it would be presumptuous on the part of any private Member to bring forward such Resolutions as he had suggested, he did so on the supposition that the Government might altogether decline to take such a course. As, however, the right hon. Gentleman said he would not shrink from discharging the duty, he (Lord John Russell) must say that the framing and proposing these Resolutions, was one which ought properly to remain in the hands of her Majesty's Government.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
I am very glad to hear what has just fallen from my noble Friend, because I rose at the same time with him to express my utter astonishment—however able he may be, and however competent to deal with any subject which can be brought before this House— at the notion which ran through the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that a question of this vast importance should be suffered to fall into the hands of a private Member, and should not be brought forward with the authority, and upon the responsibility of the Government. I am not one of those who concur in the opinion which has been too prevalent of late days, that the Government should be called upon to undertake legislation on all sorts of petty subjects. It was not so in former times, and I think it a cause for regret that the practice should prevail now. At the same moment, there are questions of primary importance which the Government ought certainly not to intrust to other hands, and none can be of more importance, than questions affecting the government of the largest of our dependencies, and of the millions of people under our rule in India; if there is one subject more than another which ought to be brought forward on the responsibility of Her Majesty's Ministers, it is such a question as this. I must confess, therefore, I was surprised to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer indicate even the possibility that the Government would abdicate their duties on a matter of this primary importance. On all occasions, I have, I hope, in reference to Indian legislation, taken a course utterly independent of party; I have always en- 865 deavoured to avoid party considerations in Indian affairs. So completely will I pursue the same course now, that I will not even indicate an opinion as to the merits of the Ministerial Bill. This, however, I will repeat—and I am sure there are not five Gentlemen in the House of Commons who will differ from me—that the subject is one which ought only to be brought forward by the Government; and if they arc willing to abdicate their functions, I do not believe that the House of Commons will not permit them to do so. Respecting the other point alluded to, I confess I do not see any advantage to be derived from the proposed mode of proceeding by way of Resolution. My noble Friend has quoted the precedent of 1813; but, as far as my memory serves me, that precedent does not apply to the present condition of things. In bringing forward the India Bill of 1853, I referred to that precedent; but in 1813 there were a great number of questions to be dealt with, which have long since been set at rest, many of them referring to trade and navigation, which must necessarily have originated in a Committee of the whole House. As far as I remember, Lord Castlereagh, on that occasion, moved no fewer than fourteen Resolutions—of which one referred to the government of India, another to the trade with India, a third to the trade with China, and a fourth to the powers of the Governor General in Council; and I believe fourteen different subjects were comprised in those fourteen different Resolutions. That, however, is not the case now. All those subjects connected with Indian trade and navigation, and even with the government of India, in India, are now withdrawn from our consideration, and are referred to, in neither of the Bills before the Mouse. When the question was mooted in 1853, the propriety of proceeding by Bill or Resolution was brought before the Cabinet; and the Cabinet, of which both my noble Friend and the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gladstone) were members, came to the conclusion that it was not desirable to proceed by Resolution, the question being so much more simple than in 1813, but that the proper course was to introduce a Bill, comprising the subjects which it was intended to bring before the House. If that was the decision in 1853, still more, as it seems to me, ought a similar course now to be pursued, because, from the present Bill, is necessarily omitted 866 much which was contained in that of 1853. The only topic for our consideration at present is, in what form the home Government should be constituted; and upon that point, I think there is no practical difference of opinion in this House. We have had a protracted discussion on the subject; and, during that discussion, only one person expressed an opinion adverse to the principle of the change proposed by the late, and by the present Administrations, namely, to put an end to the trust exercised by the East India Company in the name of the Queen, and to hand over the government to the Crown, that government to be administered by a President and Council. Now, suppose we come to a Resolution on this point, it can only serve as the foundation of a Bill. The late Government made that proposition the basis of their Bill, and it was affirmed by a large majority; the present Government have made a similar proposition, differing, however, as to the mode of constituting the Council. We are all agreed in substituting the authority of the Crown for that of the Company, and only differ as to the constitution of the Council which is to assist the President; I do not see how we shall advance ourselves in the slightest degree by the proposal of Resolutions, which must be afterwards converted into a Bill, rather than proceeding by a Bill in the first instance. Unless Her Majesty's Ministers have changed their minds—I do not know how that may be—as to the best mode of governing India; unless they think now that the proposal they have made is not a good one, and ought to be abandoned, I do not see what is to be gained by adopting the course suggested, rather than to proceed with the Bill they have already introduced. On the contrary, I think we shall only be wasting so much valuable time, and shall find ourselves, after all, at precisely the same point at which we have already arrived—unless, as I have observed, the Government wish for a decent mode of withdrawing their Bill.
Sir, I only rise to express my concurrence in the opinion just expressed by my right hon. Friend (Sir C. Wood). I shall not say one word as to the measure now before the House. What struck me very forcibly with regard to the proposition of my noble Friend (Lord J. Russell) is this: that in a question relating to the government of India — a question second in importance only to our own "Parliamentary government at home—I 867 think we ought to take every precaution, especially in the present state of the House and of parties, not to set a precedent which may be found hereafter to he both inconvenient and dangerous. While we have a responsible Government it ought, I conceive, to be left to thorn to propose a measure for the government of India on their own responsibility. I am sure the House has no disposition to look upon this measure in the light of a party question. We are ready to consider it with every desire to help the Government; but let us, however, have one Government at a time. The House will do well to refrain from entering upon the discussion of any measure which is not brought before it by the responsible advisers of the Crown. I do not know that much is to he gained by the suggestion that Her Majesty's Ministers should give up the Bill and adopt the advice of my noble Friend. We are already late in the Session. We cannot, I apprehend, have the Resolutions moved in Committee, till the beginning of May, and the whole business of the country is still upon our hands. We have as yet only passed some Votes on account, and we have passed no definite Vote upon any subject; and if we are to go into Committee of the whole House in the beginning of May, a great deal of time will be wasted in discussing each of the Resolutions before we can arrive at a point for the foundation of a Bill. That is a practical objection; but in addition to that, I strongly object to any other course than this: that whatever proposition be laid before us, it ought to come from the Government, responsible to the country; and we ought to deliberate upon it under their sanction. Therefore, though I gladly admit the great weight which the authority of my noble Friend would give to any Resolution he might bring forward, still I prefer that this question should be left entirely in the hands of the Ministers of the Crown.
§ MR. WALPOLE
Sir, the only reason why I rise at all is in consequence of the observations of the right hon. Gentleman who has just resumed his seat, seconding those which fell from the right hon. Baronet (Sir C. Wood). I think both those Gentlemen have mistaken the purport and intention of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer's remarks when he acceded, or at least intimated his willingness to accede, to the proposition of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell). In point of fact, my right hon. Friend said 868 distinctly that he would not shrink from the responsibility, which I agree with hon. Gentlemen opposite properly belongs to the Executive Government, of proposing to the House any measures with reference to so great a question as the government of our Indian empire. My right hon. Friend said the House was in possession of two Bills, one introduced by the present, the other by the late Administration; and, this being the case, that it did not become him as the organ of the Government here to abandon a proposition which he himself had made as the organ of the Government to the House, unless he found, agreeably to his own opinion, that hon. Members thought it would be better, for the discussion of the question, to proceed in a Committee of the whole House. I fully agree with my right hon. Friend that when you are attempting to introduce a Bill comprehending several distinct and important principles, it is advisable (and that is the ground which Lord Liverpool took in 1813) that those distinct principles should be canvassed, discussed, and, if possible, decided beforehand, so that when the House comes to deal with the measure itself, they shall find that the main principles have been already determined upon in Committee. A further advantage of taking such a course would be that you would have an opportunity afforded by the forms of the House of ventilating the question in every possible point of view, instead of merely discussing the principle which it involves upon the second reading of a Bill which may embrace more principles than one, and which also may be supported and opposed upon more grounds than one. Therefore, though I agree with the right hon. Gentleman (Sir C. Wood) that the precedent of 1813 was created partly because of the notion that questions of trade were involved in the Bill—for on questions of trade, as the House is aware, their discussion in Committee of the whole House is thought reasonable—[Sir C. WOOD: IS rendered indispensable.] Yes; but the proposal rested its merits also on other grounds than those of free trade—namely, that the questions introduced were so various that it was thought by Lord Liverpool better and more respectful to the House that they should proceed by Resolution in a Committee of the whole House, rather than by Bill. The House seemed to me to indicate, by their cheers during the speech of the noble Lord the Member for London, that they would prefer that 869 this question should be dealt with after the precedent of 1813, and that the matter should be referred to a Committee of the whole House, in order that they might come to a deliberation and discussion of this important question with as little reference to party feeling as possible. That being the case, I only rose to say that the Government had no intention to abdicate their functions, duties, or responsibilities, but that they would discharge them to the best of their ability; they hope with satisfaction to the House, if that be possible — with satisfaction to the Queen, who has called them to office—and with satisfaction to the country, whose welfare they are bound to consult.
I hope the House will allow me to make one observation on a remark which has fallen from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He expressed a hope that party feeling might, as far as possible, be banished from our debates. I must entreat the House with all the earnestness of which I am capable, not to allow party feeling to mingle with this important question. All the great authorities on Indian questions—I would particularly refer to the late Lord Mctcalfe,— declared their opinion that India would be in the greatest jeopardy the moment matters affecting her interests were discussed in this House with reference to party interests. In that opinion I believe every man whose opinion is worth having heartily concurs. It is not, of course, to be expected that the Court of Directors, the representatives of the East India Company, should acquiesce cheerfully in a measure abolishing their functions, believing as they do that they have exercised those functions beneficially for the Natives of India, and honourably to themselves; but I can speak for myself, and I believe I may speak with confidence for my colleagues in the Direction, that as soon as it is made clear to us that it is the determination of Parliament to take India out of the trust of the East India Company, and to place it directly in the hands of the Crown, we shall, without reference to party feeling, give our best assistance and aid to perfect any measure which the House in its wisdom may deem best for the future administration of India. It has always been the pride of the Court of Directors that, whatever the political opinions of individuals might be, as a body they had no party leanings; they kept themselves free of all party associations in matters affecting India. I am certain they 870 will continue the same course now; and I entreat the House to adopt the same course, for I am sure that in deliberating upon a proper form of government for the greatest dependency which any country ever possessed, it would be an eternal disgrace to us if we refused to sanction the measure which it deemed best calculated to promote the future welfare of India, by whatever Government it may be introduced.
§ MR. AYRTON
also rose to deprecate the idea that the question of the future government of India should be treated in a party spirit. He had, however, feeling that the measure of the present Government in reference to that subject was one which was not entitled to support, deemed it to be his duty to lay upon the table of the House a notice to the effect that, when the Bill came on for second reading, he should move that it be read a second time that day six months. The expediency of withdrawing the Bill, and proceeding in the first instance by Resolution, had subsequently been discussed; but he must say that he, for one, could not perceive the wisdom or the advantage of that course. If the House was simply to be furnished with Resolutions which were to embody some mere abstract propositions, no practical utility could, in his opinion, be the result: whereas, if those Resolutions were to be framed with that detail which would be necessary in order to explain clearly to the country the principles which were to be applied to the future government of India, they would be as long as the Bill itself. He trusted, therefore, the Government would abide by the course which it had in the first instance adopted, and which the House had twice sanctioned; that it would afford an opportunity for the discussion of its measure upon the broad principles upon which it was founded, so that the House of Commons should be enabled to pronounce an opinion upon it one way or the other. If all wisdom was to be found in Manchester, then the House of Commons ought, perhaps, to go there in search of it. But, for his own part, he did not think it necessary to go beyond the walls of the House itself in order to frame an efficient measure for the administration of our Indian empire. If the Government should decide upon proceeding by Resolution, he hoped it would do so in a shape as full and ample as the Bill which had been laid upon the table of the House.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I entirely concur with my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford, (Mr. Mangles) in the opinion that so important a subject as the future government of India ought not to be made a party question by the House of Commons. It is far too serious a question to be made the shuttlecock of political parties. For my own part, I am perfectly prepared as well as desirous to discuss any arrangement with respect to it which may be submitted to the House on its own merits, and with a due regard to the grave consideration which it involves. Indeed, so deeply impressed am I with the importance of any arrangement which we may establish for the future government in India that, although I think it high time that the administration of the affairs of that country should be transferred from the East India Company to the Crown, yet I should prefer leaving things as they are rather than pass a Bill which should be objectionable in its chief parts. We know, in some measure, the inconvenience which may arise from deferring to another year the settlement of this great question; but we could not by any means calculate, with an equal approach to accuracy, the evils which might result from a defective organization of the future government of India. I shall not now give expression to the opinion which I entertain in reference to the Bill of the present Government; but with respect to the proposition more immediately under our consideration, I would beg to submit that the method of proceeding by Resolution is not applicable to the present state of things, and would be a departure from the ordinary practice of the House of Commons. There are, it is true, certain matters connected with trade, and so on, in which our rules require that, before any Bill affecting them is introduced, a Resolution upon which it might be founded should be agreed to in Committee of the whole House. These rules, however, are limited to a certain description of subjects, and the question of the government of India, at least, as it is presented to us, does not, I apprehend, fall within their scope. We are not, therefore, obliged by any regard to them to proceed by way of Resolution in the present instance. In fact, if such were the case, both the late Government as well as that which is now at the head of affairs would have been equally guilty of a violation of the forms of the House. As, however, the course which was adopted by both Administrations has been sanctioned, I cannot help arriving at the conclusion that no Parliamentary ne- 872 cessity for proceeding by Resolution can fairly be said to exist. If it be supposed that the proposed arrangement for the future government of India contains any principle so important that it is expedient it should by itself be discussed in Committee of the whole House, that principle must be the one which constitutes the foundation of both Bills—namely, the transfer of the government of India from the East India Company to the ordinary advisers of the Crown. Now, that principle, I apprehend, is admitted not only by the House, but by the country; and we should be altogether going backwards in our proceedings if we were to discuss again the expediency of its adoption. If that principle be admitted by both parties, and by all persons who have paid much attention to the subject, there will then remain as subject-matter for these proposed Resolutions only the details of the Bill. Now, only see what an inconvenient precedent it would be to establish if we were to say, that when the Government or a private Member wished to introduce a Bill, instead of taking the trouble of framing the Bill so as to contain all the provisions and regulations which the Government or the private Member may think expedient, the House should be called upon to pass the future clauses of the Bill in the embryo shape of Resolutions, leaving it to somebody else afterwards to adapt those Resolutions to the form of clauses in the Bill. Why, it would be in the first place a great waste of time, because the House would have to go twice over the same matter. The decision upon either occasion might depend upon the accidental presence of Members at the time of the discussion; not only would it be a loss of time, but it would not necessarily follow that details which had been agreed to in the shape of Resolutions would equally receive the approval of the House when brought forward as clauses in a Bill. Sir, I really think that it is in accordance with the ordinary course of proceeding with the rules of the House and with the convenience of Parliament, that when we have two Bills before us framed in all their details exactly as those who proposed them think adapted to the case, we should proceed to discuss the merits of those Bills; and then in Committee of the whole House we can consider each clause as it is proposed, and each clause can be discussed quite as well as a Resolution which is to form the principle of a future clause. We shall have the matter, too, in a more perfect shape before us, because the principle is put in a working 873 shape when submitted as a clause of the Bill. Therefore it would be a considerable waste of time, and would establish a very inconvenient precedent, if we were now to abandon the Bill before us, go back as if nothing had been done, and begin de novo by proposing Resolutions each of which would be, I apprehend, the representative of some future clause, which, if the Resolution were agreed to, it would be the duty of some one to shape so as to form part of an Act of Parliament.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I wish to make an explanation in consequence of some remarks which fell from the right hon. Baronet the Member for Halifax (Sir C. Wood), who has misconceived the expression I used if he supposed that I intimated any desire to abdicate the duties which I ought to perform either upon this or any other subject. But, having been the organ of the Government in introducing a Bill upon this subject, and the noble Lord the Member for the City of London rising in his place and expressing an intention of recommending some propositions or resolutions, I thought, and upon reflection I still think, I should have been guilty of the utmost arrogance if, under the circumstances, I had undertaken the course the noble Lord had proposed, without the sanction of the House, and with the free permission of the noble Lord himself. If I had adopted any other course than that which I did, I should, in my opinion, have acted in a manner inconsistent with the forms of the House and the conduct of gentlemen. I may add, that I shall place these Resolutions upon the table of the House as speedily as possible, in order that the House may have ample time to consider them before discussing them, and I shall propose that upon this day fortnight these Resolutions shall be moved.
said, he did not think the House very well understood what was going on. Where was the Bill of the present Government? Were they to have a third Bill? Were those Resolutions to be identical with the third Bill? Were they to be different from the Bill or the same— if different, was the Bill to be given up? If the same, were they to have two discussions on the same identical subject? Were they to have three distinct proposals before the House and the country? The Government had brought in a Bill on their own responsibility; but now the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exche- 874 quer seemed very well disposed to seize the first opportunity to get rid of his own measure by a side wind, and jumped with the greatest glee at the proposal of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London for proceeding by Resolutions. But, as far as he (Mr. Bouverie) could recollect the practice of the House—let the Government be weak or strong—it was totally unprecedented for an Administration to bring in a Bill, submit it to the consideration of Parliament, and, when the Bill stood upon the Orders for another stage at an early day, then to throw it aside and proceed with quite a different matter. What was to be the ultimate result of discussions upon those Resolutions? Were those Resolutions to be reported to the whole House? Was the House to be concluded by its votes upon those Resolutions? If the Resolutions did not conform to the Bill, was the Bill to be withdrawn and a fresh Bill brought in? It appeared to him that by such a course Her Majesty's Government was abdicating its proper functions. He must say, whatever might he the opinions of hon. Gentlemen in that House, the public at large felt an intense interest in this question—an interest which could not be exaggerated; and the public would be at an utter loss to understand the course pursued by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ SIR BENJAMIN HALL
I wish to put a question to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer in consequence of the statement he made a few minutes ago. The right hon. Gentleman, when he brought in his Bill, was asked by my noble Friend the Member for the City of London when he intended to take the second reading, the right hon. Gentleman replied on Friday next. My noble Friend then suggested the 19th — Monday—to which proposal the right hon. Gentleman acceded. The House and the country naturally supposed it was the intention of the Government to proceed with that measure. It is not for me to inquire into the reasons for the course pursued by the Government, but it is quite clear that the Government now intend to proceed upon a very different footing. the right hon. Gentleman now assents to proceeding by Resolutions upon which to found a measure for the future government of India. Therefore, Sir, I think. I am fully justified in asking the right hon. Gentleman whether he intends to abandon the Bill which 875 he has already brought in? Does he intend to proceed with the second reading, or will he withdraw the Bill and introduce Resolutions upon which to found another measure for the future government of India?
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, it appeared to him that the House was only at the commencement of difficulties, which would be likely to accumulate as they proceeded. The noble Lord the Member for London had made a proposition that Resolutions should be moved and agreed to, instead of proceeding with the second reading of the Government Bill; and he gave two reasons for that proposition. In the first place he said, the subject matter to be discussed was one that could be better considered in a Committee of the whole House, and next, that such a course would avoid the difficulty of discussing the two Bills relating to India in a party spirit. When the disturbances in India first became known to us, two ideas occurred to every one—first, that the double Government of India must be got rid of; and, secondly, that it would not be easy to find a substitute for it. Two attempts had been made to provide such substitute. The House had before it two Bills emanating from the highest authorities, each proposing a new form of Government; but the only remark he should make concerning them at present was, that they conveyed to his mind a distinct impression of the inherent difficulties of the subject, and how much any Ministry attempting to deal with it must be dependent on the forbearance and aid of Parliament in the performance of their arduous task. The right hon. Member for Coventry (Mr. Ellice) had said the course proposed by the noble Lord was unprecedented; but he (Mr. Horsman) was afraid that the course which the House had already determined to adopt was unprecedented. We called ourselves a practical people; but with nations less practical and Governments less careful and conscientious than the English, there was one approved mode of dealing with those outbreaks or insurrections with which most Governments were familiar. The rule was, first, to suppress disturbance; next, to inquire into its causes, and then to provide against its recurrence. But instead of adopting that business-like course, recommended alike by unvarying precedent and common sense, we had placed ourselves in the anomalous position of framing a new Government for a country in which 876 our Government had yet to be reestablished, and taking legislative precautions against the recurrence of evils of which he did not pretend to know the cause. That was not the only difficulty. They were proposing to adopt a vital change with regard to India, without any preliminary inquiry. That was a course for which the oldest Member of the House could not, he thought, find a precedent. It was in reality to effect a revolution in India—the maximum of change with the minimum of inquiry. But, although there had been no inquiry upon the present occasion, there had been four years ago a laborious, protracted, and valuable inquiry; and that inquiry was the strongest condemnation of the present conduct of the House. The Committee was appointed by the Government of the day, and comprised Cabinet Ministers and many eminent Members of the House acquainted with India. They examined Governors General, Commanders in Chief, Members of Council, and Presidents of the India Board who were conversant with the working of the government both at home and in India. That Committee sat through two Sessions, presented seven Reports, and it appeared that all those witnesses, with hardly an exception, approved, upheld, and recommended the present system in India as the best that could be adopted. The members of the Government upon that Committee concurred in that opinion, the House concurred in it, and recorded that concurrence in the statute which was passed that year. All those persons might have been mistaken, and all the Reports only waste paper; but surely, if only to give a colour of consistency to the proceedings of Parliament, there ought upon the present occasion to have been some preliminaries before proceeding to destroy the form of government which was then created. The House had determined that this was a proper matter for legislation; but it had found that, it was one thing to resolve, and another to execute. There were now two Bills before the House standing for a second reading. They might pass the second reading of two Bills of negative merit in the hope of attaining something positive out of their combination, or they might in a party spirit adopt one of those Bills and reject the other; or they might think it better to reject both and be content to go on for one year more with the existing system of Government, instituting an inquiry before a Committee as to the best means of carrying out the proposed 877 change. He agreed with the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton that there would be inconvenience in the postponement of this question for one year; but that such inconvenience would only be for one year, while the evils that would arise from faulty ov mistaken legislation would be for all time. Being then in this position, that neither of the Bills before the House was satisfactory, and there being before them the danger, which he looked at with great dread, of party feeling being imported, however desirous they might be to avoid it, into the discussion of the rival Bills, it was the interest of all to avoid that difficulty; and therefore, in the dilemma in which they were placed, he thought that on the whole a Committee of the whole House, before which specific Resolutions could be debated was, of the two before it, the wisest course for them to adopt. It was their duty to smooth difficulties rather than to increase them, and therefore, he thought the House was under an obligation to his noble Friend for the suggestion which he had made.
§ SIR B. HALL
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not answered the question which he had taken the liberty to put. What he wished to know was, whether the right hon. Gentleman intended to withdraw or proceed with the India Bill which he had introduced to the House?
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I can only answer that question with the permission of the House, having already spoken on the subject now before it. It is my intention at present, as I think it is the general wish of the House, to propose certain Resolutions, and to do so on this day fortnight. It certainly never entered tnv imagination to give up the Bill which I had the honour of introducing; and I have a conviction that the result of discussing these Resolutions will be to effect such a change—if change be indeed necessary—in the general opinion of the House as that the Bill will in its general spirit be adopted, and that we shall carry it, modified, no doubt, by the criticisms which are brought out in that discussion. I dare say the Bill may be very much changed, but I hope that, improved as it will be by the united experience of the House in this discussion, the Bill will ultimately become the law of the land.
§ Resolutions agreed to.