HC Deb 08 April 1859 vol 153 cc1565-8

said, he would beg to ask the Secretary of State for India whether, in consequence of the appointment of Mr. Peacock to the Chief Justiceship of Bengal, it is the intention of the Government to recommend that the vacancy thereby created in the Council of Calcutta should be filled up by a person competent, from experience and skill, to superintend and remodel the Finances of India.


said, he would take this opportunity of answering the various questions which had been addressed to him. The first related to the locality in which the Indian business in this country was to be carried on. He always listened with great respect to anything which fell from his hon. and learned Friend opposite (Sir E. Perry), but he thought that he rather exaggerated the importance of a change from the city to the West end, when he said that it would seriously influence the conduct of the Indian administration. No person was so much interested in this question as the Indian Minister for the time and his Parliamentary Secretary, to whom it was very inconvenient to be separated by about half an hour's journey from their colleagues and from that House. He had to consider this question in August last, and having found that all the political departments could not be accommodated in the building in Cannon-row, he thought, on a full consideration of the balance of inconvenience, that it was better to remove the whole department to Leadenhall Street, where it was now, than to have one part of the business carried on in Cannon Row and another in the city. The hon. and learned Gentleman had suggested that accommodation might have been found by occupying the houses in Manchester-buildings. No doubt that might have been done by, though probably not without, the authority of an Act of Parliament, but those premises would have required refitting from foundation to roof, at an expense which it would have been unwise to incur for a merely temporary purpose. It had been determined that a new India Office should be erected upon the site in the neighbourhood of Downing Street which the Government was about to acquire, and the delay which had occurred in the commencement of the works had arisen solely from the legitimate and natural desire of that House to have an estimate of the expense, and to see the designs both for this and the Foreign Office before they were acted upon. The elevations and general designs were now ready, the preparation of the working drawings would be proceeded with, and as soon as the House had pronounced as to the style to be adopted they would be prepared to proceed with the erection of the India Office. The expense would, of course, fall upon the Indian revenue, and therefore there would be no occasion to wait for a Vote of that House; but as the India Office and the Foreign Office would form portions of the same plan, and were to be in the same block of buildings, a decision could not be come to on the style of one of these offices without involving a decision on the style of the other. He did not think, on the whole, that it would, under these circumstances, be desirable to go to expense in making additions to the building in Cannon Row. In the meantime, however, a telegraph had been laid down between Leadenhall Street and Cannon Row, and by this means a great saving of trouble had been effected. With regard to the other question, as to the appointment of a financial member of Council, he must observe, that when he said it was the intention of the Government to send out some person versed in finance to fill the vacant place in the Council at Calcutta; that intention was conditional on their being able to find a person fit for that duty, and willing to go out. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite had expressed a doubt whether, according to the existing law, such an appointment could be made. For his own part, he did not think that it would be a violation of the spirit any more than it was of the letter of the Act. The spirit of the Act clearly was, that one member of the Council of the Governor General should be a man not connected with the civil service of India, not connected with the Indian administration, but sent out fresh from England, to introduce, as it were, an English element into the Council. There was no doubt that originally this provision was made in order that the Government might have the benefit of the services of a gentle man of the legal profession. There were, however, no words in the Act which rendered it necessary that the person to be appointed should be a lawyer, and as our present necessity was to have in the Council some one competent to deal with financial concerns he did not think that it was putting a strained construction upon the Act to comply in that manner with the requirements of the public service. As the hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to doubt the legality of the appointment he would take an opinion upon the subject; but even if that doubt proved to be correct it would only affect the question as to whether the person sent out would have a seat in the Council; because it would be easy to send out a gentleman under the name of a commissioner and to pay his salary out of the saving which would be effected by not filling up the vacancy in the Legislative Council.