HC Deb 29 June 1860 vol 159 cc1201-12

I beg to ask the right hon. Baronet, the Secretary of State for India, Whether the Papers of which the want was so much felt during the debate of last evening are now forthcoming; and if not, whether he can explain the cause of the delay in their production?


I felt it my duty last night, in consequence of what occurred during the debate, to make inquiry into the circumstances connected with the papers relating to the mutiny of our army in India, a portion of which I now hold in my hand. They are very voluminous, and some of them have not yet been printed. I referred for information on the subject to the Military Secretary of the Indian Department, and I have found the circumstances to be as follows. My hon. Friend the Member for Perth (Mr. Kinnaird) asked me early in February, whether there would be any objection to the production of these papers, and I said that he was perfectly welcome to them, if they were moved for as an unopposed Return. My hon. Friend accordingly made a formal Motion for them on the 15th of February. They were prepared in the military Department of the India House, and they were given to the private Secretary of my hon. Friend on the 20th of March, and on the 22nd. of that month they were laid on the table of the House, and ordered to be printed. They were afterwards sent for verification to the Military Secretary of the Indian Department, and I am sorry to say that some delay took place in revising the papers. The Military Secretary thought that he was going on fast enough, as long as the other papers were not sent to him, while we waited to forward the further documents, until he returned the first portion revised. The whole series of Indian papers amounts to about 800 pages, but there was a portion of them referring to the case of Sir Charles Trevelyan, which being a personal question, we thought it desirable should be pressed forward as much as possible. This is the course that has been pursued, and this has been the cause of the delay. I do not wish to blame either the printer or the Military Secretary, although like the Earl of Chatham and Sir Robert Strachan, they certainly have been waiting for one another. But at this present moment there are about 500 pages printed, and there still remain 300 pages to be printed, and I may add that the matter was not brought to the notice of my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of the India Board, until the 27th ultimo, when he received a note stating that an hon. Member of the House had been inquiring about the papers, and the steps which he took upon that information evince every desire on our part that the printing should be proceeded with as rapidly as possible. The Military Secretary is, in common with the Council, entirely opposed to the amalgamation, and the House will easily judge that if there has been any delay on their part, it has been quite unintentional, and has certainly not been with the view of furthering the course that I have proposed.

On the Motion for the Adjournment of the House to Monday next,


I wish to take this opportunity of stating briefly the course which we propose to take with reference to the order of business for to-night and the early part of next week. Objection was taken last evening to going on with the discussion upon the Bill for the Amalgamation of the European forces in India, upon the ground that papers which were said to be necessary to the formation of a proper opinion on the subject, had not been placed in the hands of hon. Members. I hope, however, that my right hon. Friend, the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman), will waive his objection to going on on Monday with the discussion on the second reading of the Bill, provided a portion, if not the whole of the papers, are in the hands of hon. Members on Monday morning, and on the condition that the Committee on the Bill should be put off until the whole of the papers are in the hands of hon. Members. If that should be agreed to, of course the order for to-night will be put off till Monday. I am sorry to say that my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General is confined to his house by indisposition, and therefore is not able to be here to-night to go on with the Bankruptcy Bill, which is the next order of the day. I should hope that under these circumstances the House will agree to going into Committee of Supply, to enable my right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to proceed with such Estimates as he is prepared to go on with.


—As I understand that we shall have the greater portion of the papers relating to the Organization of the Indian Army in our hands on Monday morning, and that the Bill will be read a second time on Monday evening, with the understanding that the Committee on the Bill shall be postponed until we have the whole of the papers in our hands, I think it would be better, for the convenience of the House, that we should defer the Debate until Monday. But I think it is necessary to state what the papers are which we require, and in doing so, I must beg to call the attention of the House to the very singular statement which has just been made by the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State for India. He told us this morning, two or three times over, that the delay in the production of these papers did not rest in any way with his department. He said that he had presented these papers three months ago, and that the fault of their non-production lay entirely with the printer, and another Member of the Cabinet got up and stated also that it lay with the Printing Committee. I am informed that the right hon. Baronet has been going about the House, from one hon. Member to another, asking them to put a question to him on this subject, so as to anticipate any statement that I might make. I have heard to-day that those papers were sent to the printer, but that the right hon. Gentleman has had them taken back from the printer to the India Department, and that they have been in the right hon. Gentleman's department ever since, and unless I am incorrectly informed, at 1 o'clock this morning, when the right hon. Gentleman said that those papers had been for three months with the printer, and that no fault was attributable to him in the matter, those papers were still in his department, and had not been returned to the printer. Now, is that true, or is it not? If it is true, then I say an amount of carelessness has been displayed, which is scarcely credible on the part of a Cabinet Minister, for last night he sought to carry the House with him, by stating, three times over, that these papers had been three months out of his hands, and in the hands of the printer, and that the fault of their non-production rested entirely with the printer, when at the very moment he knew that they were in his hands, or in the hands of a subordinate of his department. Now, I ask again, is that true? I have not had time to make myself perfectly certain upon all the details, but I have reason to believe that these are the facts of the case, which the right hon. Gentleman has now attempted to anticipate by saying that the question was one which lay between the Military Secretary and the printer. But now, passing from that point, I wish the Government and the House clearly to understand why we want those papers, and why we consider them as a necessary preliminary for the satisfactory discussion of the Bill. Last year the Government introduced a Bill to maintain a local army in India, and this year they have introduced a Bill to repeal the Act of last year, and the Secretary of State, in introducing that Bill, stated to the House, as a ground of justification of that change of policy, that circumstances had since August last come to the knowledge of Her Majesty's Government which were not known to them last year. But, Sir, I endeavoured to show the House last night, from a telegram which I read, addressed by Lord Clyde to the Governor General in 1858, that those circumstances were known to the Government at the time, and therefore that change of policy appears to have been based upon something which they have not thought fit to explain. I also stated that I had reason to know that the right hon. Gentleman had not dealt frankly with the House, as to certain other papers which had been presented; that he had given to this House papers professing to be complete, but which were only extracts; and that important portions had been omitted from papers which he professed to give entire. It was quite open to the right hon. Gentleman at once to have refuted that statement, and to have challenged investigation upon it; and so far from expecting that he would have voted for closing the debate last night, before he gave an explanation, I should have thought that he would have been the first person to have insisted that a division on the second reading should not be taken, until an opportunity for explaining these matters had been afforded to him. But the right hon. Gentleman remained perfectly silent—glued to his seat—and thus, in the opinion of many hon. Members of the House, he thereby allowed judgment to go against him by default. Under such circumstances, I felt myself justified in insisting that that Bill should not proceed until we had the papers before us, to enable us to judge whether the reasons on which this change of policy was justified, had any existence except in the right hon. Gentleman's imagination, or were based upon more substantial grounds. Now, Sir, I wish further to say that, when the papers are produced, I trust that they will be the real thing for which we ask, and that the right hon. Gentleman will produce the real papers that we desire. The right hon. Gentleman has just told us that they contain 800 pages of printed matter, and he said last night that when produced, they will not afford us much assistance. Then the delay has occurred from the encumbering of those Returns with an enormous mass of matter which no one desires to have, but there are important and interesting documents which we do desire, and we do expect to have—we wish to have all the early despatches of Lord Clyde and Sir William Mansfield—we wish to have a continuous and unbroken narrative of all those circumstances which have been miscalled a mutiny in the European force in India. I moreover understand that within the last day or two, protests from various Members of the Council have been lodged with, and are in the hands of, the right hon. Gentleman. If so, I trust that those papers will be also produced, and I trust that they will be the real papers that we ask for, because I must say, after what I showed from my Lord Clyde's telegram last night, and after the statement of the right hon. Gentleman himself this morning as to the papers having been so long out of his possession, and the fault being in the office of the printer, I think that the House is justified in looking with great vigilance indeed, to all the proceedings of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to this matter.


I only wish, Sir, to express in one word my entire satisfaction with the proposal of the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government with respect to proceeding with this Bill. I think it is a most satisfactory arrangement, and I can only say, with regard to the proceedings that took place this morning, that if any suggestion had been made that those papers should be guaranteed to be before the House when we go into Committee, I should have been quite ready to have assented to the second reading of the Bill last night; but the circumstances certainly were rather peculiar. There were many hon. Members who would wish to speak, and whom I am sure the House would have been glad to listen to. Certainly on this very important subject it did strike me as most desirable that no impression should go abroad that at a time when public apprehension was relieved in a great measure in reference to our great Indian Empire, public interest in our Indian Empire and in its prosperity had been abated. I will only add the expression of my hope in confirmation of that which has been said by the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, that those papers, be they memoranda, or Minutes, or protests, or by whatever other name they may be called, of the Members of the Council, will also be laid upon the table of the House, because I think that they would contribute very greatly to elucidate the question at issue, and enable us to form a correct conclusion upon it. I must say, and I beg to be excused for making this observation, that it has been said with regard to myself, and others who have taken a part in this question, that we have ventured to volunteer statements that are unsupported by personal authority here and in India, and that we are certainly in a minority in this House. I should state that the views which I entertain have been supported by three successive Governors-General of India, and they are supported by many of the Members of the Council; and, therefore, it is not correct to say that we are obtruding opinions which are not seconded by those in authority, both in England and in India.


With regard to the Returns granted by the House to my Motion two of them are very important. I have made frequent inquiries with reference to them in the Journal Office, but I can obtain no information about them, and they are not forthcoming. I trust therefore before we are called upon to express an opinion with regard to the second reading of this Bill, those Returns also may be added to the Order of the House.


I am unwilling that this discussion should close without making an observation with regard to a gentleman whose name has often been mentioned by the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for India. I have long been in official communication with the Military Secretary for India, and I am quite certain that no man in this country is more deserving of the confidence of the House of Commons. He is a most honest, upright, zealous, and indefatigable public officer, and I am quite certain that if any delay on his part has taken place in the production of those documents to the House of Commons, it has been entirely the result of his scrupulous anxiety to have them presented to the House in as perfect a form as possible.


I had not supposed that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Horsman) would have rendered it necessary for me to refer again to the statement which I made last night. What he stated last night was, that I had suppressed the papers, obviously because I did not wish the House to be in possession of them at the time when I brought forward my Motion for the amalgamation of the Indian army. It was not a charge of neglect in my Department, as I should have expected, but it was a charge of wilful supression of truth on my part, and of withholding from the House information which might enable it to come to a conclusion different from that which I recommended. My statement was not that they were out of the hands of my Department, and that I knew nothing about the papers, from the time that they were laid upon the table of this House. What I did say, what I did deny, and what I deny again, is that by any act of mine, direct or indirect, I kept back those papers from the House—and in the strongest terms that I can do so, consistently with civility to the right hon. Gentleman, I beg to say that the charge is totally unfounded. The fact is, as I stated last night, not that the papers were all sent back to the India Department, but that the proof sheets were sent from time to time to Colonel Baker for revision, and, as has been stated by an hon. and gallant Member on the opposite side of the House, he is the most honourable and scrupulous, and one of the best public servants with whom I ever was acquainted. His opinion on the subject of the Indian army is opposed to mine, and no one therefore would suppose that he was actuated by any other motive in the world in keeping these papers back, except for the purpose of insuring their accuracy. I have indeed heard that those revised proofs, to a certain extent, have been perused by others. I am not sure that some hon. Gentleman may not have received information of the contents of these papers—but certainly it was not on my part, in any way whatsoever, that the least delay has occurred, in the production or the printing of those papers. Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman says that I shrank from the discussion last night, by voting against the adjournment of the Debate. Certainly I should rather say that those who shrank from the debate were those who voted for the adjournment. I was perfectly ready and anxious that the debate should have gone on last night, and I should have been prepared to take my part, and to justify any portions of my conduct which might have been assailed by the right hon. Gentleman—but it is rather too much that he who voted for the adjournment of the debate, should now turn round upon me, and accuse me of sitting quietly by, without giving explanations which I was perfectly willing to do, and of allowing judgment to go against me by default. According to the invariable practice of the House, the hon. Member who moves a Bill waits for the close of the debate to hear the different arguments which are adduced against the measure, and according to that rule, I was waiting for the close of the debate, and it was the right hon. Gentleman who urged the receipt of those papers, and the hon. Members who voted for the adjournment of the House, who prevented me on that occasion from taking that part in the debate which I otherwise should have done. The right hon. Gentleman how complains of my overlaying these Returns by unnecessary details. He must know, as the House knows, that the Department is bound to answer the Order of the House; and if my hon. Friend the Member for Perth moved for certain papers, it was our duty to return those papers however long they might be. Her Majesty's Government have no wish to withhold those papers, although they do not think that they will throw much light upon the question; but the lion. Gentleman having moved for them, we felt that we had no right to resist the production of those papers. If, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud should find that they are more voluminous than he thinks convenient, all I can say is, that I beg that he will not throw the blame on me. The papers that were moved for were produced, and are now in course of being printed, and they will be placed upon the table of the House; and if any delay has occurred, all that I beg to say is that I am not responsible for keeping back those papers. The right hon. Gentleman has made another charge against me of garbling papers. Perhaps I may be permitted to state what the fact is upon that matter. The papers which are now on the table of the House were extracts from private letters. I thought it desirable that my colleagues in the Cabinet and the Indian Council should see these private letters, and they were printed confidentially for their use. Three Members of the Council prepared confidential memoranda on those extracts, and they also were printed for the use of the Council. Before they had been printed a week, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Aberdeen (Colonel Sykes) moved for the production of those papers, and I stated to him at the time that it seemed to me to be a most unheard-of proceeding that he should move for confidential memoranda of the very existence of which he had no right to be aware.


I did not know that they were confidential.


My hon. and gallant Friend has said that he was not aware that they were confidential; but how the fact of the existence of those confidential memoranda was communicated to him I cannot say. I can only say that I objected to their production. I stated, and I repeat it again, that I thought they were not papers which ought to be laid before the House. Indeed, Sir, even if I had wished that those confidential memoranda should have been laid before the House of Commons, it was obviously impossible that those papers could be laid upon the table of the House without the letters on which they were founded; and before I could lay them on the table of the House, I was obliged to telegraph to India to ask the permission of Lord Clyde, Sir William Mansfield, and Earl Canning, to lay upon the table of the House such portions of those papers as I thought desirable. There were some expressions in the letters which had been laid before the Council, which I did not think advisable, or fair to individuals, to lay before the public, and I omitted them, after obtaining the permission of those who had written them. I have now only to say that the extracts which I omitted were of two kinds—one expressing an opinion more favourable by far to my view than anything I had left, and another an expression to which I suppose the accusation of the right hon. Gentleman refers, an expression of Colonel Durand. That is the only case to which I am inclined to suppose this accusation can refer, and I shall be obliged to him if he will state whether I am right in that. The right hon. Gentleman declines to do so. I will, therefore, state to the House that the only instance to which his imputation can possibly apply is with reference to one of Colonel Durand's memoranda. I will state to the House exactly what those facts are. I have no wish to keep back anything that occurred. In Colonel Durand's confidential memoranda there were two paragraphs which referred to a private letter of Sir Patrick Grant, which I did not think it right to lay before the public. I sent for Colonel Durand, and suggested to him that it would be better if those two paragraphs were left out, and he said that he had no objection on his part, except for this reason, that though he had kept these confidential memoranda perfectly secret, he knew that they had been shown about to many persons, and he would not like himself to withdraw any paragraph to which he had put his hand, but that the memoranda were in my possession, and if I chose to take upon myself the responsibility of striking out those two paragraphs he had no objection. I said, I will take upon myself to do that, because, as I do not lay upon the table of the House the private letters of which those paragraphs are part, I think it is better that those paragraphs should not appear." I beg to say that the omission does not in the slightest degree vary, alter, or retract the opinion expressed in the memoranda. I have stated to the House fairly and openly why I left them out. I had authority from Colonel Durand to keep back such portions of private letters as I have mentioned, and it would have been absurd to have left in the hands of the printers paragraphs referring to private letters which do not appear. I do not think, therefore, that I am in fairness open to the accusation of garbling those papers.

Now, Sir, I will not enter into the question of whether I am justified in taking a different course this year from that which I pursued in August last year. I think that the circumstances which I have already stated perfectly warrant that change of course, and I beg to remind the House of this, that when I introduced the Bill in August last, for the purpose of covering an illegality which had been committed by the Government which preceded us, in having a larger local force than was warranted by law, (for by law the limit was 24,000, which limit was exceeded) I stated distinctly the reason why I introduced that Bill, and I stated at the same time—in the middle of the month of August—that the introduction of that Bill was in no way to prejudice the question of the Indian army which we should be compelled to tike up this year.

I must beg pardon of the House for having made these statements. It is certainly no fault of mine, but I think that after the right hon. Gentleman last night and to-day has imputed such motives to me, I could not, with due regard to my character as a Member of this House, avoid making the observations which I have done.

Subject dropped.