§ MR. HORSMAN,
in rising to call the attention of the House to the state of Public Business, especially in regard to Indian Legislation, said, the last observation of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer suggests a repetition of the question whether we are to expect the Session to be eternal; and that is the point to which I wish to direct the attention of the House, because, unless we are prepared to look the condition of public business in the face, and take stock of it, we are likely not only to suffer great embarrassment, but also to incur no small amount of responsibility. Parliament has been sitting since the month of January, and we are now arrived at the 27th of July. The business is in an unusually backward state, and that which is most backward is the financial business. We know that after the last Supply day Parliament cannot rise for ten days. We were to have gone into Supply to-night, but Supply has been indefinitely postponed, and with it the termination of the Session. I will tell the House shortly what is at this moment the position of its financial legislation. We have passed the Navy Estimates, but a considerable portion of the Army Estimates remains. We have still to consider the Educational Vote, 297 which may or may not create discussion. We have still to consider the question of fortifications irrespective of the Vote of £430,000, which may possibly give rise to a good deal of discussion, and all the Votes for the non-effective service. We have still £2,000,000 to vote for the army. Of the Civil Service Estimates, which include seven classes, besides Civil Contingencies, we have almost all to vote. The whole amount to be voted was £7,492,000, and we have still £6,152,000 to vote. In those Estimates there are no less than 194 Votes, many of which will cause considerable and some lengthened discussion. Notice has also been given of many Motions upon going into Committee of Supply, the discussion of some of which will occupy a whole evening. On Monday next we go into the discussion of the question of fortifications, and it appeared to be the opinion of the House last night that that discussion would not terminate in one evening. I do not know whether the Government are likely to have Tuesday. It was stated by the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. M. Milnes) that that is not probable. If they do not obtain that day, next week will be mostly taken up with the question of fortifications. On the following Monday we have the discussion on the paper duty, which is likely to be a prolonged debate terminating with a division, and may take more than one night. On the next night we have the consideration of the spirit duties, upon which notice of an Amendment has been given, and we have that interesting question of hops which was raised just now, and also the malt duty to consider. Therefore we may fairly conclude that these financial questions cannot occupy less than at least a fortnight to come, and that we are not likely to have an evening for an ordinary Committee of Supply until towards the middle of August. Then comes the question whether we are likely to have a Committee of Supply in the morning. Although fifteen Bills upon the Paper and two Notices of Bills have recently been withdrawn, there are still upwards of forty Bills with which the Government are going to proceed, and which are to be discussed and passed by this House. There are many Amendments to these Bills, some of which are long ones, and one contains upwards of 300 clauses. I think that after this statement the House will feel that, even if we were in a condition for business, and everything went as smoothly as we could wish, he would be 298 a very sanguine man who expected Parliament to rise before the month of September. The House, however, is now in a very unsettled state as to its legislation; and I venture to say that no man who looks into the state of business can safely predict on what day, even in September, it is likely to rise. I am not speaking carelessly upon this question. I have looked very minutely into it. I have consulted high authorities, and those who are most likely to be informed upon the subject, and I believe that there is a general opinion among them that it is now very difficult to say on what day Parliament will rise. A short time ago we did hope that we might get up on the 20th, 24th, or towards the end of August. That hope is now receding very rapidly, and the mere fact that Supply is so indefinitely postponed, and that we cannot rise until ten days after the last day of Supply, show how distant is the prospect of our adjournment.
It is a very serious thing that so much of the most important legislation—especially the financial legislation—of the country should be put off till the last week or fortnight, or three weeks of the Session. It is a great public injury and wrong, and I do not hesitate to say that if it had been the practice of Governments in former times it would of itself have produced a cry for reform which could not have been resisted. I know no greater injury that can be inflicted upon the country than that you should have four or five months wasted upon measures which are not passed, and that all the most important financial and other legislation should be hurried over in the last two or three weeks of the Session. Then, as if this was not enough, we have now before us—what is an entirely new sphere of legislation—five Bills on Indian subjects, and are expecting two more. [An hon. MEMBER: The Indian Budget.] Yes, and the Indian Budget, of which no notice has been given. This is a point upon which I do not wish to touch on this occasion in any spirit of criticism or hostility towards the Government. I wish to place before them exactly the facts which are deserving of consideration, and if the noble Lord at the head of the Government will have the goodness to listen to me, without prejudice as without partiality, I think that I can convince him that he will consult the honour of the Government as well as the convenience of the House by not pressing those measures. I 299 wish to stow the noble Lord that the Government is in a false position upon this question of Indian legislation, because I think I can prove to the common sense of every man in the House, that whether from inadvertence or from whatever cause it may be, they have not complied with the requisitions of the Act of 1858. If that is so, I am sure that they will do best at once to acknowledge their mistake and withdraw the measures which they have introduced. The House must remember that in the Act of 1858, hasty and imperfect as that measure was, Parliament showed its sense of the magnitude of the question and of the difficulties and responsibility which attached to the administration of our Indian Empire, and endeavoured to establish securities for making that administration in time to come effective. The great security which it endeavoured to establish was giving to the Secretary of State the assistance of a Council of experienced men, who might aid him in the administration of Indian affairs. Parliament looked forward to the possibility of a Secretary of State being appointed without previous knowledge of Indian affairs, and who might be chosen rather from political considerations than on account of his fitness for the office, and it therefore thought it wise to provide that he should have the assistance of a Council of able, experienced, and distinguished men who were sure to possess the knowledge which very possibly he might lack. But the views of Parliament were so much better stated by the noble Lord the Foreign Minister, who took a prominent part in the legislation of that day, than I can hope to do, that with the permission of the House I will read his remarks. The noble Lord said:—No one flan overrate the benefit to be derived by the Government of India if the Secretary of State were assisted by eminent men intimately acquainted with Indian affairs.And he states in another place:—I cannot imagine that the Secretary of State should be so unwise as to restrict the members of his Council to mere routine duties, burying them beneath the load of papers which arrive from India, setting them to work which might be as well performed by under-secretaries and clerks, and not consulting them on all points of Indian policy. The Secretary of State who acted in such a manner would ill discharge his duty. I think the Secretary of State may derive most valuable assistance from his Council with regard to important questions of policy, revenue, administration of justice and war. The Council ought to be independent. The Bill, therefore, contains these two elements of a good measure—a Secre- 300 tary of State who is supreme when he chooses to be so, and an independent Council who can give him advice.That was wise and sound doctrine, and in that Act Parliament carried out the views so clearly explained by the noble Lord. The Act of Parliament, when it comes to the duties and procedures of the Council, says:—The Council shall, under the direction of the Secretary of State, and subject to the provisions of this Act, conduct the business transacted in the United Kingdom in relation to the Government of India.There can be no doubt as to the meaning of that clause, which is, that in all matters of Indian administration the Secretary of State shall act with the assistance and advice of the Council. The Act goes on to say:—All powers by this Act required to be exercised by the Secretary of State in Council, and all powers of the Council shall and may be exercised at meetings of such Council, at which not less than five members shall be present. … Meetings of the Council shall be convened and held when and as the Secretary of State shall from time to time direct; provided that one such meeting at least be held in every week.It goes on further to say:—In case of difference of opinion on any question decided at any meeting, the Secretary of State may require that his opinion, and the reasons for the same, be entered in the minutes of the proceedings, and any member of the Council who may have been present at the meeting may require that his opinion, and any reasons for the same that he may have stated at the meeting, be entered in like manner.The House will observe how careful Parliament was that everything that was done by the Secretary of State and by the Council should be recorded, and recorded, moreover, expressly for the information and subsequent judgment of Parliament. The Act goes on to say:—Every order or communication proposed to be sent to India, and every order proposed to be made in the United Kingdom by the Secretary of State under this Act, shall, unless the same has been submitted to a meeting of the Council, be placed in the Council Room for the perusal of all members of the Council during seven days before the sending or making thereof, except in the cases hereinafter provided; and it shall be lawful for any member of the Council to record in a minute-book, to be kept for that purpose, his opinion with respect to each such order or communication, and a copy of every opinion so recorded shall be sent forthwith to the Secretary of State.Then comes the 25th clause, to which I beg the special attention of the Government and the House. It is a clause with which I think the House will agree with 301 me in saying the right hon. Gentleman, I the Secretary of State, has not complied. It is as follows:If a majority of the Council record, as aforesaid, their opinions against any Act proposed to be done, the Secretary of State shall, if he do not defer to the opinions of the majority, record his reasons for acting in opposition thereto.The House will see the peculiar importance of these provisions, and the excessive care with which Parliament at that time entered them in the Act. The reason is obvious. We felt the responsibilities, difficulties, and dangers of Indian administration. We appointed a Secretary of State who should have the assistance of a Council. When they differed the Council were on their part to record the reasons of their difference from the Secretary of State; and the Secretary of State was on his part to record the reasons for his not acting in accordance with the opinions of the majority of the Council. The object was that when any measure was submitted to Parliament, Parliament might see the reasons on the one side and on the other; and, exercising its own power of review, it might upon that full information, form its own judgment as to the course which the Legislature should adopt. I do not think that, upon these points, there can be any difference of opinion.
But now I shall show the House the very false, embarrassing, complicated, and inconvenient position in which we are placed by the recent Indian legislation, or attempt at legislation. I think it is manifest, considering the difficulties of the subject, that Indian Bills should be brought before us after due consideration, and with ample time given to the House for the discussion of all their principles and details. What has happened in the course of the present Session? We have at the present moment five Bills before the House. Notice was given of two others, which have, however, subsequently been withdrawn. There is another Bill coming down to us from the other House, and we have found it impossible as yet to extract any answer as to when or whether there is to be a financial Budget submitted to us, although I understand it is intended to raise an Indian loan. What are the dates of the Bills actually before us? The Indian Army Bill, which, in my opinion, is the greatest change that has been made in any part of Her Majesty's dominions within our recollection, was read the first time on the 21st of June. The East India Stock Bill was 302 introduced on the 10th of July. Notice was given of two Bills, of which it would be difficult to exaggerate the importance, especially of the one regarding the Civil Service. Those Bills were to have been introduced on the 23rd of July; but from the opposition which was threatened, and the objections which were made, the Secretary of State withdrew that notice. The Superannuation Bill was introduced on the 24th of July, and the Senior Member of Council Bill, and the Admiralty Jurisdiction Bill, were brought in on the same day. So that six of the Indian Bills were intended to be introduced after the 23rd of July. We have asked whether there is to be a financial Bill. I have repeated that question twice, but we cannot get it answered, and when the financial Bill is introduced, if it is to be introduced, it will be at a time when three-fourths of the Members of this House will have left London, and when they will not have an opportunity of even seeing the Hill The Secretary of State stated the other night the reason why he had introduced his Bills so late. He said there was a great deal of business going on in the early part of the Session, and he waited until the paper was somewhat cleared. That a Gentleman of his official experience should believe that as the Session lengthens the bill of fare is shortened, is, to say the least, rather curious. My experience of the House tells me that the nearer we approach August, the Orders of the Day become more numerous and more difficult to get through. But, as a proof of the obscurity in which Indian legislation is involved, I may cite the Bill which I hold in my hand, and as to which I gave notice to the Secretary of State that I would to-day ask a question. I learn from the Minutes of the other House, that a Bill has there been introduced under the extraordinary title of the Coast of Africa Amendment Bill. What does the House think this Coast of Africa Amendment Bill is? It gives power to the Secretary of State to transfer the whole of Her Majesty's dominions in India to the Colonial Department. It is a Bill ostensibly to amend an existing Act for the government of our settlements on the coast of Africa and in the Falkland Islands; but it is so framed that it will have the effect I have stated. After reciting that—Whereas by an Act passed in the 22nd year o the reign of Queen Victoria, entitled, an Act for the better government of India.303 And that—Whereas it is expedient to withdraw some of the said territories in India from the operation of the India Act.It enacts—That it shall be lawful by an order to be by Her Majesty made, by the advice of her Privy Council, to order that any of the said territories mentioned in such order shall be withdrawn from the operation of such Act.The meaning of the Bill so far I do not think will he very clear to the House. But it goes on to say that the provisions of the said first Act (namely, the Coast of Africa Act) shall be extended to all territories so withdrawn as aforesaid, and to all the possessions of Her Majesty, not having been acquired by cession or authority, &c. So that in fact power is given in this Bill to transfer the whole of Calcutta and our Indian empire to the Colonial Government. I believe the fact to be that some time ago it was considered desirable to transfer an outlying part of the Indian dominions, on the Straits near Singapore, to the Colonial Government, and this Act was brought in for that purpose; but, instead of taking power to transfer that territory only, the Secretary of State for India proposes to make away with the whole of our Indian empire. I believe I am correct in stating that this Act has not yet been submitted to the Council of India. I will only ask when all these Bills are introduced so late in the Session, whether the responsibility of the Secretary of State is not immensely aggravated by the fact that the most important of these Bills has not been submitted to the approbation of the Council of India. Is not that another reason for asking the Government to postpone legislation of this kind?
The real point, however, is whether the Secretary of State for India has complied with the provisions of the Act in having neglected to produce the recorded reasons of the Council of India, and his own recorded reasons for acting in opposition to their opinion. The Secretary of State in a previous debate said he did not feel that under the provisions of the Act it was necessary to consult the Council. He said, "I am only bound to consult them in the acts I perform as Secretary of State, but this amalgamation is not the act of a Secretary of State, but of the Cabinet, and therefore I am not bound to consult my Council upon it."
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that a reference to a past debate, and an attempt to answer 304 it, was directly contrary to the rule of the House.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, he had understood that the right hon. Gentleman was replying to the reasons given by the Secretary of State in a former debate.
§ MR. HORSMAN
The right hon. Gentleman has published his reasons. He has avowed them in writing, and they are on the table of this House. [Sir CHABLES WOOD: Hear, hear!] The distinction he draws is that if he does an act as Secretary of State he is bound to consult the Council, but not if he, does an act as a Member of Parliament. But what is the common sense of the Act of Parliament? Does it not intend that the Secretary of State for India shall be the adviser of the Cabinet on Indian affairs? And does it not also intend that the Council of India shall be the adviser of the Secretary of State? Above all, if a question be so important as to be raised to the rank of a Cabinet question, does it not obviously follow that the more important the question the more essential it is that the Secretary of State shall have the advice of the Council? The intention of the Act was that every Act of Indian administration—still more every important Act—should be submitted by the Secretary of State to the Council, and that he should obtain their advice and communicate it to the Cabinet. The Secretary of State may, no doubt, override the Council, but in that case Parliament has provided that he should record his reasons, so that Parliament may judge of their sufficiency. It is said that the right hon. Gentleman introduced this Bill, not as Secretary of State, but as a Member of Parliament. That, however, is a most untenable doctrine. We never heard of a Chancellor of the Exchequer bringing in a Budget merely as a Member of Parliament, or of the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary making a speech on foreign affairs as Member for the City of London. Every separate departmental act is done on the responsibility of the Minister who is the head of that department, and the Secretary of State is bound to comply with all the provisions of the Act of Parliament. I say that the right hon. Gentleman has disregarded the provisions of the Act. He has evaded the intentions of Parliament, and as he stands before the House in the position of not having complied with the law, 305 that is a good ground for refusing the legislation he proposes, and also affords a ground to the Government for withdrawing the Bill. At the late period of the Session at which we have arrived, when it is impossible for a full consideration to be given to a tithe of the business on the table, I put it to the House whether we ought not to urge the Government to clear away this large branch of Indian legislation which has been hastily entered upon, and cannot now be satisfactorily settled.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
I have to thank the right hon. Gentleman, in the first place, for having given me notice of his intention to allude to the subject of Indian legislation; and, in the next, for the calm and temperate tone in which he has made his remarks. Before I advert to the more serious part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, I hope I may be permitted to dispose of the matter relating to a Bill now in the House of Lords, the account of which excited, not unnaturally, the amusement of the House. I must disclaim any responsibility for the preparation of any portion of that Bill, which I never saw until I received a copy, sent to me by the right hon. Gentleman this morning. The fact is, the Colonial Office proposed to introduce a Bill for the purpose of amending the Law relative to the Governments of the coast of Africa and the Falkland Islands. A question has been pending for some time as to the advantage of transferring the Strait settlements from the Indian Government to the Colonial Office, and a petition had been received from the inhabitants of Singapore in favour of that island being so transferred. So far as the Government of India were concerned, we were quite willing to accede to that arrangement; and after taking the opinion of the Governor-General, we intimated to the Secretary of State for the Colonies our approval of the transfer. To that letter we have received no answer. However, it seems that the Under Secretary for the Colonies prepared this Bill, and inserted in the draught certain words to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, thinking it might be a convenient opportunity for taking Parliamentary power transferring Singapore to the Colonial Office. The Bill was brought to the India House, and the Assistant Under Secretary, Mr. Melvill, sent an answer back that it was impossible that those provisions could be admitted into the Bill. The copy sent to the India House was a 306 mere draught copy; but by inadvertence, as it appears, the Bill was introduced into the House of Lords containing the words in question. The India Office, however, had nothing to do with it.
With respect to the other four Bills to which the right hon. Gentleman has alluded, two are of pressing necessity, the object of the first being to remove doubts as to the authority of the senior Member of Council, which have only recently arisen in consequence of Sir James Outram being obliged to leave Calcutta for ill-health; and that of the other to make provision for the payment of the superannuation allowances of persons who have served both in England and India. The purpose of a third Bill is to provide a great convenience to the public by transferring to the Bank of England the payment of the dividends of the East India Company; and I do not think that these are Bills of a nature requiring a great deal of discussion. But the main and more serious part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech referred to my conduct in introducing Bills to Parliament without the concurrence of the Indian Council, and he quoted the words of the Act of Parliament correctly enough on this point, though he appears to have misapprehended their effect. I perfectly agree that as Secretary of State for India, I must, except in a particular case, act with the Council; but the 23rd Clause prescribes the course of proceeding. It declares that at a meeting of the Council, at which the Secretary of State shall be present, his determination is, in certain matters, to be decisive, and the members of the Council, as well as the Secretary of State, may record their opinions whether they dissent or assent. But there is no obligation upon them to record their opinions unless they like. The words of the clause are these:—"And in case of difference of opinion on any question decided at any meeting." It follows, therefore, that the question must be submitted to and decided at the Council, in which case, if any difference of opinion arises, the Secretary of State and any members of the Council may require that their opinions and reasons should be entered in the Minutes of the proceedings. The 23rd Clause comprehends all that relates to the proceedings which take place in the Council. Any matter brought before the Council must be dealt with in the way prescribed by that clause, and in no other way. The 24th Clause provides for cases in which the Secretary 307 of State takes a step without submitting it to the Council. It declares that every order or communication proposed to be sent to India, and every order proposed to be made in the United Kingdom by the Secretary of State shall, unless the same has been submitted to the Council, be placed in the Council Room for the perusal of the members during seven days before the sending or making thereof; and all the members of the Council may record in a minute-book their opinions with respect to such order or communication, and a copy of every opinion so recorded shall be sent forthwith to the Secretary of State. Nothing is more clear than that it is in the power of the Secretary of State to address a letter to India without submitting it to the Council. But, before he sends the letter, he is bound to place it on the Council table for seven days previously, and every member may record his opinion, a copy of which is to be sent forthwith to the Secretary of State. That is to provide for many cases which might arise, such as the absence of the Secretary of State; and in these cases the opinions of the Council must come before the Secretary of State before any such letter could go out. The 25th Clause also prescribes what is to be done by the Secretary of State in such last mentioned case; a majority of the Council record their opinions against his proposal, namely that if he does not defer to their opinions, he shall record his reasons for acting in opposition thereto. Thus it will be seen that the 23rd Clause points out the course of proceeding where a measure is brought before the Council. The 24th and 25th Clauses prescribe the modus operandi where a measure is not brought before the Council. And this is the first time I have heard the interpretation put upon the Act by the right hon. Gentleman, for in the Council itself, as far as I am aware, no one has entertained such an opinion. It has never been claimed by any member of the Council that I am bound to record my reasons, in the event of my overruling the majority of the Council, provided the discussion takes place in the Council.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
That is perfectly true. When the Council disapprove any step taken by the Secretary of State in Council they are empowered to record their dissent; and, in like manner, the 308 Secretary of State may require that his opinion should be recorded, but he is not obliged to do so. Well, I proposed to send a letter to the Commander-in-Chief to suspend recruiting. That was an executive act of the Secretary of State. Some of the Council objected to the letter, and all of them had a right to record their opinions. The case is clear enough. If the matter is discussed in Council the members may record their opinions or not, as they choose; if it is not discussed in Council, then, supposing that the Secretary of State acts by himself in opposition to the majority of the Council, he is bound to record his reasons. I am speaking in the presence of the noble Lord (Lord Stanley), who will, I think, concur in what I have said; and this is an answer to the legal question raised by the right hon. Gentleman. In my executive capacity I am bound to consult the Council; but in bringing forward a measure on the authority of the Government I maintain that I am not bound to consult the Council. I am speaking of the obligation to consult them, and to do so in such a way that they may record their opinions.
The question of the Indian army, on which this matter arises, was not a question which the Council could deal with. It was a question to be decided by the Government and by this House, and in a matter of the kind I was not fettered by the obligation of consulting the Council. I confess that I think it would have been wrong if the Act had contained any such obligation. On a former occasion I held the office of President of the Board of Control, and as such I constantly introduced Bills without consulting the Company; and the change effected in the government of India, in 1853, was brought forward by me on the authority and responsibility of the Government. As I have always understood it, the Act of 1858 was to give more direct action, and to impose greater responsibility on the Minister for India; yet if the construction put upon the Act by the right hon. Gentleman were adopted, the Secretary of State would be more fettered than the President of the Board of Control was. Such a construction, therefore, is in utter contradiction to the whole spirit of the Act. Upon this question of the Indian army allow me to observe that there is no difference of opinion between the two great leaders of party in this House. In a speech delivered by the right hon. Gen- 309 tleman (Mr. Disraeli) in 1858, I find him expressing this opinion:—A few nights ago I announced that it was our intention to ask for a Royal Commission to examine into the whole question of the reorganization of the Indian army, and when the result of their labours has been submitted to the Government, the Government will come to a conclusion which, no doubt, the new Indian administration in England will be most useful in carrying into effect, but we cannot leave a subject of that magnitude to the mere domestic Government of England or India, and that, and other questions of the like importance, must be dealt with by other means, and provided for by different machinery.The clear meaning of these words is that the question must be decided upon by the Government. The Government would have introduced a Bill, and the right hon. Gentleman said, as I do, that the Indian administration in England would be most useful in carrying it into effect. My noble Friend acted in precisely the same way. The late Government came to a decision on the subject of the Indian army. It was never brought before the Council; and, as I read the Act, I do not think it contained any obligation to do so. As the late Government proposed to act, so have we acted, and in doing so I think we have taken neither an illegal course nor one contrary to the spirit of the measure of 1858, or the intentions of those who introduced it. I did not act upon my own responsibility, but in conjunction with the whole of my Colleagues in the Government, and I say that it would have been contrary to the whole scope of the Act of 1858 to have done otherwise. When the right hon. Gentleman counsels delay I beg him to bear in mind the fact of the case. If we are wrong, reject the Bill. I quite agree that this is a most serious and important Bill. The gallant Member behind me (Colonel Sykes) says the safety of India depends upon it. So say we. But he considers the safety of India is involved in the maintenance of a local army, while we think it would be promoted by the adoption of one uniform army. The subject is of vast importance. We, of course, feel it, and we feel also our responsibility. We have as an act of public duty introduced this measure, or we should not have involved ourselves in this course, and I should not act, as I regret to do, in opposition to the opinions of the noble Lord who preceded me in office, and against the wishes of many members with whom I have to act in the Indian Council, but I 310 have been actuated by an imperative sense of duty.
The question has been asked who requested this measure—who wants it? My answer is that the great majority of this House approve it. 282 Members voted for it, 51 against it. The right hen. Gentleman may have a contempt for majorities, and may consider his wisdom superior to the collective wisdom of the House; but as the only mode I know of taking the collective opinion of the House is by majorities, and when we have a majority of five to one in favour of this Bill, I am justified, despite the right hon. Gentleman's sneer, in saying that the collective wisdom of this House has approved the course we have taken. I have heard no one who is acquainted with the posisition and feelings of officers in India who does not deprecate delay above all things. Decide the question in one way or another, but decide it, for there is a perfect stagnation in the army in India, and a feeling of discontent has arisen, which will certainly not be lessened by any protracted delay. They say, "Decide against us if you will, but decide at once, and let us know what our prospects are for the future." I will conclude by quoting the words of Sir Bartle Frere, a distinguished Indian servant, and a member of the Council of the Governor General, whose opinion is adverse to the course we are taking, but who, above all things, desires that some decision should be come to. Sir Bartle Frere says:—The feverish uncertainty as to their position and prospects of any large body of public servants is, under any circumstances, a great evil, and I believe in the present case that, unless it be allayed by a settlement of the questions now pending, which so vitally affect the officers of the army, it may prove the root of national calamity.I will only further beg hon. Gentleman who appear here as the advocates of officers in the Indian army, whose position and emoluments we do not propose in any way to injure or diminish—I would beg those hon. Gentlemen to bear in mind that delay is the great evil. Reject the Bill if you will, but let us not have protracted discussion and delay. I believe an adverse decision would be ten times better than, continued suspense.
MR. T. BARING
If this measure be of the high importance which the right hon. Gentleman attributes to it—and I,; too, believe it to be of that importance—I then I must say we could not discuss it 311 under more unfavourable circumstances. If Her Majesty's Ministers attach to the safety and good government of India that importance which they now allow it to possess, why was this measure introduced so late? The noble Lord has told us that he considers this question of such importance, that he will sit here until Christmas to dispose of it. I have no doubt that in such agreeable company all here would be willing to sit until Christmas. But whether we sit till Christmas or not, I trust that we shall sit long enough to consider and understand a measure the great importance of which the right hon. Gentleman allows. But if they believe it to be so important, has the conduct of the Government been consistent with that belief? "When did they first feel a sense of the importance of this subject? Was it in June, when they introduced the measure? Was it in July, when they gave information about it, or when they gave the successive details demanded by this House? Let the House remember, if this measure possesses the importance now attributed to it, it was the duty of the Government to anticipate its introduction by giving every possible information. "We should have had information as to its necessity, as to the opinions of those who were conversant with the state of India and the sentiments of those who had long experience in that country, as well as of the details by which this measure will be carried out. I never believed that the right hon. Gentleman, nor any one in office, would conceal information; but I do believe that the Government of India now do not attach that importance to the duty of giving information to this House which the change in the mode of administration of Indian affairs has rendered necessary. Recollect how India is now governed. It is governed by the House of Commons. Perhaps it is not so easy to govern it thus, and possibly my right hon. Friend feels the difficulty of governing it in that manner. "What do we see now? In all that relates to the ordinary government of India this House takes little apparent interest, for it is usually almost empty when these matters are disposed of, and we shall only have a full House when some subject which agitates the public mind and excites public feeling is brought under discussion. "We find now a measure of the greatest importance to India introduced in the month of June or July, at the latest period of the Session. The financial measures relating to India are only intro- 312 duced when there is no one here to listen to them, or to question their correctness. But, if this House is to govern India, it is incumbent upon the Secretary of State to furnish us with ample information as to the necessity for the measures he introduces. But has that course been pursued here? We have had tardy information, we have had the reasons for dissent on the part of the Council but lately laid before us, and when my right hon. Friend talks of his majority of five to one for the second reading, let me ask what has been the effect of those reasons for dissent upon the minds of many hon. Members who formed a part of the majority? Let me ask whether all those hon. Gentlemen are now convinced of the necessity for what the right hon. Gentleman calls a uniformity of organization of the army, or that a mere question of symmetry justifies this great measure. The country will ask why did you do this, and how will you carry it out? "We now know nothing of the system of organization and regulation to be adopted in India. "We have this Bill brought in in July with very imperfect information as to the motives of the Government in introducing it in opposition to the unanimous opinions of the Council. My right hon. Friend says that technically, by the Act of Parliament, he is not bound to express his reasons for dissenting from the opinions of his Council. In point of fact, he says he is not bound to pay attention to his Council. But the House has more right to say, if he does not give answers to his Council, he ought at least, at an early period of the Session, when there is time for consideration, to record his own opinions in his place in Parliament. He says the Council can state their opinions, but he is not bound to answer them; but if there ever was a department of the State in which it was incumbent upon him who is at the head of it that he should clearly expound his opinions and state the reasons on which he introduces a Bill in this House, and in time for full discussion, it is that over which my right hon. Friend presides, and particularly so as you have excluded from this House the members of the Council. "When you have debarred those who could give information on the subject from this House—when he is the sole organ of that Council, it is the more incumbent on him to afford every information. I ask any one who reads these papers, has any information been afforded to the House and country in time to allow us to legislate 313 fairly on this subject? Is the state of the House and public business such as enables us to perform our public duty to India? Is it fair to India that you should change a system, which has lasted so long and achieved so much, and against which so few charges can be brought—the sole blame being that they believed in the noble Viscount, as to the demand for fresh enlistment money? Is it, I repeat, fair to India, is it honest to England, is it just to this House, at this period of the Session, when hon. Gentlemen and the public at large are but gleaning the crumbs of information the Government have thrown out to them, that we should be called upon to adopt a measure in haste, which, if it passes this House, must pass not, I trust, owing to the ignorance of hon. Members, but through the scanty information afforded to them, and which must pass through "another place," where it can hardly be fully discussed, but where information will be given which will not tell to its advantage? Is this the moment to ask the House to legislate on a matter which the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Charles Wood)—which the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston)—which everybody who knows anything of India must be aware is a question vitally affecting the maintenance of our Indian Empire? Why, if there be any danger in delay that danger rests on the Government. Why did they bring in this measure so late? But we are told adjournment is worse than rejection. We know well by experience that is not the case. Adjournment brings reflection. We know it is not by a hasty decision, it is by the consideration of every question, by stating the reasons for every measure—not by adopting any proposal merely because it is the offspring of this or that Government, but by a system of legislation which is the child of knowledge, of statesmanship, that you can alone maintain the empire and promote the welfare of India.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, I concur with the right hon. Gentleman who brought this subject under our consideration in regretting that so much business, so much important business, has accumulated so late in the Session; but at the same time I would repudiate the accusation which by implication he has made against Her Majesty's Government of being the cause of that accumulation.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Just so. Everybody knows, and therefore it is needless to refer to it, that in the early part of the Session questions undoubtedly of very great importance and interest, which it was the duty of Her Majesty's Government to bring under the consideration of the House, tended to produce the result which in common with the right hon. Gentleman I certainly regret; but when lie goes a step further and endeavours to make out of that state of things a reason why measures of great importance now pending should be thrown over and postponed till another year, I cannot acquiesce in the conclusion he thus draws. It is true, no doubt, that satisfactorily to dispose of the bulk of business which still remains to be transacted, it may be necessary for the House to sit till a later period than perhaps is the usual course of business in this House; but, at the same time, we have only to look back to former years to see that it is not unexampled that the business of the House should not be concluded till nearly the termination of the month of August.
The moral I should draw from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman is, not that the House should fly from its duties, and from lassitude or impatience to get away neglect to dispose of matters which it is competent to deal with, but that hon. Gentlemen should set their shoulders to the wheel, devote their minds really to the transaction of business, and abstain—I do not mean anything disrespectful or disparaging—from taking up more of the time of the House than is necessary for the useful and practical enforcement of the opinions which they entertain, and of the arguments by which those opinions are to be supported. But now I must say that what has passed this evening is rather a departure from the course which I should join the right hon. Gentleman in recommending, because we have as the first Order of the Day, after disposing of the Motion of adjournment till Monday, the India Army Question. Well, that has been the subject of discussion for now a considerable period of time upon the Motion for adjournment. The hen. Gentleman who has just sat down has made an animated speech, not specially on the question of the Indian army amalgamation; but he even went back to the I question settled two years ago, the abolition of the East India Company. A great portion of that speech was occupied in en- 315 deavouring to show that Parliament ought not to have made the change the did make. I submit that that question would have been infinitely more appropriate if the hon. Gentleman had waited till the Speaker left the chair on going into Committee on the Amalgamation Bill, and that discussing by anticipation the measures which are coming on in the regular order is not a practice which tends to the despatch of business, or to bringing the Session to a termination at an early period. Having said this much, Sir, I should be really acting against my own opinion if I went at any length into the statement which has been made; but I must take leave to say that I think much of the argument used on this Indian question rests on what appears to be an entirely false conclusion—namely, that there are to be two Governments in this country, one the responsible Government, responsible for the conduct of all the affairs of the empire, and the other an irresponsible Government, to be established peculiarly for the government of India. Because if it is not true, as quoted by the right hon. Gentleman from a speech of my noble Friend last year, that the Secretary of State for India is to be supreme in his Council, if the Council is to be a co-ordinate authority, not responsible to any human being, then that Council being appointed by the Act—very unfortunately, I think—for life, you are establishing an imperium in imperio, you are establishing a Government totally at variance to the fundamental principles of a representative Government and free constitution. There cannot he a more unconstitutional doctrine entertained than to contend that the opinion of an irresponsible Council is to be taken against the opinion of the responsible Government of the country for the time being upon questions of this Imperial and extensive character. I quite concur that the amalgamation of the Indian army is a most important measure. Important it is in one sense. That is to say, my opinion is, and always has been, that the creation and maintenance of a large local army in India is pregnant with the utmost danger to the maintenance of our Indian Empire. I have been asked whence I derived that opinion. My answer is, I derived it from my own convictions. It is an opinion I entertained very strong from the moment the subject was first mooted. That opinion has been strengthened every day—strengthened by what has been said in its favour—strengthened 316 also by much that has been uttered against it. It is all very proper to have a local force of a small amount in a particular colony. You may have a small local force at Malta, or at the Cape, or in Canada, but to constitute, as it is now proposed, a local army of 40,000 men in India, irremovable from that country, would he, I say, to deliver the destinies of India into the hands of a praetorian band, a course pregnant with the utmost danger to the Imperial authority. And I contend that there could not be a more fatal proposal adopted by this House with regard to that great and important empire. Therefore I meet the question as one of the utmost importance, but important in quite a different point of view to that in which hon. Members opposite regard it. However, I will not go into that question now. We have been discussing the question of adjournment for four hours, only twice as long as the time occupied by my right hon. Friend, in explaining at full length all the reasons upon which he founded his proposal. My right hon. Friend, on the 12th of June, stated here at full length all the reasons, and I never heard a more masterly speech than he made on that occasion, taking as he did a general and comprehensive view of every bearing of the question and now he is reproached by hon. Members opposite, who probably did not hear the speech, with not having stated the full grounds for his measure. I should merely entreat the House to permit us to get rid of this Motion and go into Committee on the Bill, when every hon. Member will have a most appropriate occasion for expressing his opinion. We think the measure so important that if the House is not able to come to a decision on its merits to-night, I shall think it my duty to postpone the Motion on the Fortifications, which stands for Monday, to go on with this question instead. I hope, however, that the House will come to a decision to-night.
Sir, there have during this discussion been some observations made on the general state of business in this House, and the causes which have led to it, which it would not be consistent with my duty that I should pass over in silence. In rising to notice them I am unwilling to refer in any way to the past, or to rip up anything like old grievances, and I am sure the House will acquit me of any wish to adopt such a course. I cannot, however, help feeling that the remarkable—I may almost say the unprece- 317 dented—condition in which the House finds itself, summoned, as it was, to meet at an earlier period than usual, and with the prospect before it of sitting to a later date than the experience of any of us can recall to our recollection, renders it necessary, if justice is to be done to the subject, that I should advert to those which I believe to be the real causes of a state of things so eminently unsatisfactory. Those causes it is impossible for me to avoid tracing to the circumstances under which the present Government acceded to office, and I hope I need not assure the House that I refer to that event quite in a statistical, and not in a political spirit. The noble Lord who has just spoken admitted the great importance of the question under our notice, but contends that it could not have been brought before the House at an earlier period of the Session because other business, of great importance also, occupied our attention. Now, what, let me ask, was that business? Her Majesty's Ministers on the eve of their accession to office laid down two principles in politics, if I may so call them, the one being that there should be a reform of the House of Commons upon a scale more democratic than that which the late Government had introduced, and that if the Earl of Derby were allowed to hold the reins of power after the general election, our friendly relations with France would be endangered. Events have, however, I think, proved that the late Government did not err in the conclusion at which they arrived as to how far a more democratic measure of reform than that which they introduced would correspond with the wishes of the country; and the House of Commons which had sanctioned a contrary opinion, upon reflection, after due consideration, and after a prolonged debate, has recurred to the opinion which the late Government had entertained. It did not prove the peculiar discrimination of the present advisers of the Crown that they took a contrary course. The Government are not, therefore, I maintain, entitled to plead the importance of their measure of Parliamentary Reform as an excuse for permitting a great portion of the Session to be occupied in discussions which led to no practical result. But it was, as I already stated, urged as a principal ground for want of confidence in the late Government that their remaining in office would tend to endanger the continuance of amicable relations between this country 318 and France. It has, nevertheless, I think, transpired that our policy with reference to France was not of that character which would have precluded the maintenance of a good understanding between the two nations. Indeed, I think it will be pretty generally admitted, particularly after the speech with which the noble Lord favoured us a few nights ago, that the relations subsisting between France and England at the present moment are not of a more amicable nature than when we quitted office. In referring to these two points, the only ones, I may observe in passing, upon which the Vote of want of Confidence in the late Government was based—I do not seek to reproach any man or body of men, nor to find fault with the decision at which the House upon that occasion arrived; I simply allude historically to two pregnant facts. But what, let me ask, was the consequence of that vote of the House of Commons? In the first place, the present Government, who acceded to office as a consequence of that vote, and who ought, in my opinion, if they were really entitled to the confidence of Parliament, to have possessed sufficient discrimination to recognize what sort of measure of Parliamentary Reform. was adapted to the necessities of the times and the inclination of the people, introduced a Bill upon the subject different in principle from that which had been brought forward by their predecessors. That Bill was no doubt a lamentable failure, and a source of grievous disappointment to both sides of the House. But that is not all; this lamentable failure occasioned great loss of time, and to that loss of time much of the unsatisfactory position in which really important business now stands is. in my opinion, to be ascribed.
Now, in the case of the second ground upon which the expediency of our expulsion from office was based—namely, that our friendly relations with France would be imperilled if we were to continue to hold the reins of power,—it became necessary for those who held that view, and who succeeded to the Government of the country as the result of a decision of this House—which I do not wish to challenge and which I merely refer to historically—to prove that there existed between France and England under their auspices an unusual degree of sympathy, and that they were the only statesmen who could produce and carry those measures which would be the happy consequence of that extreme and extravagant friendship be- 319 tween the two countries. We had accordingly laid before us at the commencement of the Session that most extraordinary treaty which was concluded between this country and France, which was, I admit, in the first instance, received with acclamation by the House, but upon which almost every man among us now in his calmer moments looks with regret and apprehension. The carrying out the provisions of that treaty has entailed on the House of Commons immense trouble; it has been the cause of intense mortification, and is likely in the course of a few days, and at the fag-end of a laborious Session, to give rise to another great Parliamentary conflict. Now, I contend that it is in consequence of the Government having been formed on the two principles to which I have adverted, and of the ill-considered, ill-timed, unfortunate, and unhappy measures—whether in the shape of a Reform Bill or of a commercial treaty—which they have, because of their determination to act up to those principles, introduced, that we have wasted a whole Session in the discussion of propositions which have either totally failed and been withdrawn, or have partially succeeded, and while only partially successful, are in a great degree disastrous. The Reform Bill, to carry which Her Majesty's Ministers assumed the reins of office, they have been obliged to abandon, under circumstances on which I care not to dwell. The treaty with France, which they laid before the House with acclamation, is followed by a project for expensive fortifications. And against whom, let me ask, are these fortifications to be erected? Against our only and acknowledged enemy—according to the statement of the Prime Minister—France. To the formation of a Government on false principles, then, and to the necessity for introducing measures to vindicate those false principles, the waste of public time and the almost scandalous position in which the Legislature of England now finds itself are, it appears to me, to be attributed.
I will not dwell, in dealing with this question, on matters of comparatively trifling importance. I will not occupy the attention of the House by travelling back to the period when we met in January, and enumerating days and weeks since allowed to pass away to no purpose. I take the measure before us, one of an important group of measures which affect the fortunes and the destiny of our Indian 320 empire, and in dealing with it I may be permitted to observe that I wish to offer no unfair opposition. I say frankly it is my wish and disposition to support the Government in the policy which in this case they seek to carry into effect. I do not shrink from expressing my adherence to the opinions set forth in the speech which the right hon. Gentleman opposite has quoted. I exhibited no desire since this Bill was introduced to avail myself of any unexpected opposition to the Government upon it with the view of contributing to their embarrassment; but this I must be permitted to say—that I think they would have acted more wisely if, instead of wasting our time by the introduction of moonshine measures of Parliamentary Reform and phantom treaties of commerce, they had come forward when Parliament met, and stating that as by the Bill which was passed two years ago, abolishing the power of the East India Company, you had effected a great revolution in the Imperial relations with India, the necessary consequence was that the House of Commons had assumed and must not shrink from there sponsibility of governing that country with intelligence and an adequate knowledge of those countries; and then if they had come forward with their measures I do not think it would have been a mean Session of Parliament if they had passed measures adequate to the occasion. If the country might have felt a lingering admiration for the glorious career of the East India Company—yet England would have felt, after all, that it was a wise and statesmanlike decision understanding the spirit of the time which had resolved that there should be unity of Government, and that that empire should be no longer found under different rules and different policy—that the Parliament had incurred a great responsibility—that the ministry, sensible of that responsibility, had shown on the first occasion that they were equal to it, and had appealed to the knowledge and thought of Parliament. I say it would have been no mean Session of Parliament; and if we succeeded, after mature and statesmanlike consideration, in passing a measure equal to the occasion, we should have done something to prove that we are not unworthy of ruling that magnificent empire in the East whose destinies have been committed to our care. That is not our condition. No, weeks, long months, have been wasted in attempting to carry out that illusory programme, 321 which was the pretext by which a change of Government was carried. That is the real cause, that is the sole cause, of the position in which the House of Commons is placed, and which, I cannot conceal from myself, has rendered it lower in the opinion of the country than it otherwise would be. At the end of the Session we find ourselves, with exhausted energies, called upon to fulfil the highest and most important duties, and we are obliged to submit to a lecture from the Treasury Bench, telling us that we must talk as little as we possibly can. We may say, of course, what is useful and practical, but we are not for a moment to diverge into any of those considerations which so colossal a theme as India must naturally be supposed to create in the minds of English statesmen. In my mind, Sir, this is not by any means a satisfactory position. This has been, or probably will be, the longest Session of Parliament that has occurred for the last twenty years. We may sit, in all likelihood, to the end of August, and there is very little hope now that we can pass any measures—I will not say of importance, because it is possible that some of these Indian measures may be adopted—but we shall not pass any important measures with that maturity of thought, with that adequate and sufficient debate, which bills of that kind require.
The cause is obvious to all why so little time is left for the real business of the country. I do not feel that I am justified in this House of Commons, that has placed the present Government in office on the conditions to which I have referred, in making any invidious comments oil those conditions. Although the House of Commons made, no doubt, a great mistake on the subject of Parliamentary Eeform—although it was equally mistaken on the subject of our relations with Prance—I do not think it is the House of Commons that ought to rise up and accuse the Government that has been framed in accordance with those principles which practice has proved to be utterly illusory and fatal. It is ourselves, the minority on these benches, who might prefer these claims and these pleas and objections. We do not. We regret very much the time that has been wasted; but the time thus wasted has been the inevitable consequence of a majority—a bare majority, but still a majority of the House of Commons, choosing to form a Government on principles which 322 every human being knew could not be practised. We knew very well that it was utterly impossible the country could tolerate a measure of Parliamentary Reform, such as was shadowed forth in the programme on which you destroyed the late Government. We, at least some of us, who from our position were obliged to be acquainted with the facts, knew very well that nothing in the history of political misrepresentation could be more false and flagitious than the misrepresentations which pretended that the late Cabinet, in the management of our foreign relations, were false to the interests and the honour of England. We knew very well that when you chose to displace a Government on such pleas, and to form another Administration on such grounds, you were building a house upon the sand, and we knew what must occur. But we are not going to take advantage of your inconsistency or your distress. The government of this country is not to be made a mere game of shuttlecock between parties. You determined, you solemnly determined to form, to establish, and to maintain the present Administration; and they are not to be charged with waste of time by you—you who voted for impossible Reform Bills—you who sanctioned accusations respecting our foreign policy, which, if you had knowledge, you must have known to be false, and which if you were ignorant you were not justified in putting forward as the grounds of your vote. We may have suffered from the course which you have taken, but our business now is to determine what is the best course to adopt in order to maintain the reputation of this House, and to satisfy the fair claims of the country. As far as I am concerned, I shall give an impartial consideration to the measures which Her Majesty's Government may bring forward, even though they are brought forward at the end of July. I shall support them when I think they are consistent with sound principles of government and the true interests of the country. Nor should I have risen on this occasion, when this controversy was taking place between Her Majesty's Government and their general supporters—controversies to which we are now accustomed—had it not been that not once nor twice, but frequently in this discussion, with a composure to which I could not submit with any feeling of self-respect, others besides the noble Viscount, and afterwards the highest authority, the noble 323 Viscount himself, spoke of the present scandalous position of public business in the House of Commons as to be attributed merely to the fact that very important business had engrossed the attention of the House for the first months of the Session. Important business, which really never had any real existence, brought forward merely to fulfil the pledges of faction! I should not have murmured even at this had they not wasted the precious time of the nation; but there is one topic on which I must address an inquiry to the noble Lord. "We heard to-night that the well-considered programme of public business which was announced last night is now to be changed. Now, on this subject I wish that there should be no misapprehension on the part of the House. I ventured to say last night that there was a general disposition to assist the Government—and I believe in the House of Commons, whoever may be the leader, there is always a disposition to assist him, as far as possible, in the convenient management of public business—I ventured to add that I thought we had a right to expect from the Government a spirit equally frank and confiding. Last night the noble Lord made an arrangement at this time of the year still more important than at another, though everything that falls from the lips of a Minister relating to the conduct of public business is at all times important, and that arrangement, though with hesitation, was finally accepted with cheerfulness and confidence by the House. I understand from the noble Lord that on the 6th of August—if the Government proceeded with that measure—the contemplated change in the paper duties would certainly be proposed. I take it for granted, notwithstanding the change the noble Lord has made with respect to the debate on fortifications, the arrangement with regard to the paper duties will under all circumstances be adhered to. [Viscount PALMERSTON: Certainly.] I am glad to receive that assurance from the noble Lord, which I am sure will give satisfaction to hon. Gentlemen at both sides of the House. We shall now enter into the discussion of the question which awaits us, and I shall take the course I think consistent with that which I have previously followed, and with the opinions I have always expressed. I have only risen because when the state of public business has been referred to, the position of the House of Commons has been so treated, that a general impression might go abroad 324 that it was to individual Members, who were only doing their duty to their constituents by expressing their opinions on public matters in this House, that our present mournful condition was to be attributed. It was only because that assertion has been more than once repeated that I have risen to protest against it.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I trust the House will once more permit me to put the question that the House at its rising do adjourn till Monday next. I wish to take this opportunity of saying that not the last, but two or three of the later speeches have passed into the question which is waiting to be discussed; and, if this debate is to go further, I must request hon. Gentlemen who address the House, at all events not to fall into that error.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ House at rising to adjourn till Monday next.