HC Deb 06 August 1866 vol 184 cc2090-4

said, he would beg to ask the Secretary of State for India, Whether any, and, if so, what steps have been determined on with a view of finally remedying the grievances under which the Officers of the Local Army of India have now so long laboured?


Sir, we have come to the conclusion to offer to the officers some remedy for the grievances which have existed for so long a time; but I will not now enter into an explanation at any great length of what the proposed changes will be, for such explanation would carry me very far beyond the ordinary limits of a reply to a Question. I will, however, attempt—especially as this matter, though it may not excite very great interest among a large number in this House, intensely interests a large class outside — to describe the principal features of the measure which it is proposed to adopt. I will not now deal with those grievances which only apply to a limited number of persons, but will refer to those which apply to the whole Indian army; they relate principally either to the Staff Corps or to the bonus system. In 1861, when Lord Halifax instituted the Staff Corps, he took out of the Indian army all officers who had held Staff appointments for a certain length of time and formed them into a Staff Corps. This Staff Corps, however, was constituted on a system of promotion different from that which prevailed in the Indian army. In the Indian army promotion was strictly by seniority, but in the Staff Corps officers were promoted entirely by length of service. The inevitable result of that was that promotion in the two branches, which stood side by side, proceeded at a different pace; and officers taken out of the Indian army and put into the Staff Corps, if they came from regiments where promotion was going on very slowly, found themselves by the operation of the system of the Staff Corps very soon promoted over the heads of officers senior to themselves, whom they had left behind them in the regiments. This was felt as a great grievance by the officers of the Indian army. The matter was referred to a Commission, presided over by Lord Cranworth, and of which other persons of eminence were members, and they determined that the grievance alleged by the Indian officers was genuine. To remedy that grievance Lord Halifax issued a brevet, which had the effect of giving army rank to the officers remaining in the Indian regiments equal to that which they would have gained if they had gone into the Staff Corps. Nevertheless, there still remained the grievance that this brevet rank thus given to the regimental officers was rank without pay, and therefore that the senior officer saw the junior promoted over his head—not with regard to army rank, but with regard to pay. This was felt as a serious grievance; and there was yet another grievance connected with the Staff Corps. The officers taken to the Staff Corps left their names behind them on the list of the regiments, so that they blocked up the promotion of officers junior to them; and these junior officers had the aggravation of seeing the Staff officers enjoying not only, as they thought, better pay and promotion, but blocking up the promotion of others just as if they had not been taken to the Staff Corps. There was this further aggravation, that the occupation of the Staff Corps being more healthy than that of the Indian army (and in the Indian army every officer is interested in what accidents might happen to his senior) vacancies were not likely to be created so rapidly in consequence as in the Indian army. Her Majesty's Government have had, therefore, to consider how to meet these grievances. In stating the remedy which they propose, I am breaking no official confidence by saying that this part of the measure was agreed to by the late Government, and that, therefore, we share the responsibility of it, in some degree, with them. The measure proposed is this — whereas Lord Halifax originally only allowed Indian officers who had served on the Staff service to join this valued and envied Staff Corps, it is now proposed that all officers, who belonged to the Indian army before the amalgamation, shall be allowed to join the Staff Corps without any condition or undergoing any test whatever. So the summary of the matter is this — we say to the Indian officers, if you think a Staff officer is better off than you, we give you the position which you think more advantageous. We think that this is a measure which should satisfy any grievance the Indian officers feel on this head. With regard to the matter of bonus, the change of Government had taken place before any decision with respect to it was come to, and therefore upon this point the responsibility is our own. The House is, no doubt, aware of what is known as the bonus system. In the Indian army promotion was by seniority, and to prevent a block of promotion it was the practice for the officers to club together and raise a fund with which, as it were, to pay their superiors, below the rank of lieutenant - colonel, to retire, and thereby bring about promotion much earlier than otherwise would have been the case. When a certain number of Indian regiments were disbanded, and junior officers ceased to be appointed at the bottom of the list, the obvious result was that those who bad risen to a high rank and wished to retire were disappointed in the hope they had entertained that they would be bought out by the subscriptions of the officers below them. Lord Cranworth's Committee distinctly decided that the Parliamentary guarantee did not extend to the bonus. I believe the Parliamentary guarantee did not cover that system, and the Indian officers were in error in urging it. But, putting the guarantee aside, I think it is clear that if your servants have been largely damnified by any sudden or unexpected act of yours, the principle that is and ought to be observed in every branch of the public service is that we ought to do something to compensate them. And assuredly if there is any branch to which we should desire to apply that principle it is to those who risk their lives in our defence. Viewing the matter in that light, and not in the least questioning or attempting to reverse the decision of former Governments, we still thought it our duty to attempt in some way to meet the complaints of officers on this head. Now, the House will observe that the subscription of a bonus had for its immediate object to get a step of rank. That step carried with it increased pay; therefore, the object of that subscription was to a certain extent obtained. The officer got his advance in rank, and, of course, increased pay earlier through the subscription than otherwise. If he had not purchased out his superior officer, he would have had to remain longer in his inferior grade. Therefore, I say, the Indian officer has already got to a certain extent compensation for his subscription. We have no intention to pay that over again; but our proposal is this: — We understand it is stated by several officers that they have not received full compensation in that way—that they paid a very much larger sum than they had any immediate chance of receiving, in the hope that when they came to retire they would receive compensation from the subscriptions of their junior officers. Our proposal is that in each Presidency a committee shall be appointed which, as soon as an officer retires, shall inquire into his case in order to ascertain how much money he is really out of pocket in payments to officers who have retired, and the loss, whatever it be, the Government propose to make good to him. [Mr. STANSFELD: With interest?] No, not with interest. Considering the enormous stimulus to promotion that has taken place, the many advantages that officers have received, and that you never in practice give compensation to public servants for the whole of their loss, we think that interest on neither side should be allowed — either for or against the officer. The House, and especially those hon. Members who take an interest in Indian matters, may wish to know what this operation is likely to cost. We have had it calculated by General Hannyngton, a very competent authority on such a subject, and his view of the matter is that it will cost about £160,000, extending over twenty years. I think the charge will probably come much heavier in the earlier portion of that period, but it is impossible exactly to predict in what proportions it will come. My belief is, as far as I have been able to examine the figures, that this is an outside and maximum estimate, and that the expense will fall far short of that. But even if it should reach that amount, the House will not think it too much to remove a sincere, though it may be a mistaken, sense of injury from the minds of Indian officers. I will only conclude my answer to my hon. and gallant Friend by saying that I hope he will use his influence, if he is satisfied with this arrangement, and that all others who have taken up the case will use their influence, to do all they can to put a stop to a system of agitation most mischievous to the Indian service and most inconsistent with the ordinary attitude which officers ought to assume towards the Government. I do earnestly hope that as far as this House is concerned we may now close this thorny and disagreeable subject.


said, he wished to know what period of service would be allowed to officers?


For colonels appointed before 1862 it will be reduced from twelve to ten years. The officers to whom compensation for bonus will be given on retiring must be officers retiring below the rank of lieutenant-colonel.