HC Deb 15 June 1868 vol 192 cc1598-601

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir Stafford Northcote.)


said, that when the question of the Government of India was under discussion some ten years ago it was evident that it was the intention of Parliament that it should be at liberty to reconsider the mode in which the Council at home should be appointed, and the time at which their offices were to expire. He could not understand, therefore, why it was now proposed to grant the members of that Council pensions at once. The term of office which was suggested in their case by the Bill was in his opinion too long. The great object which it was desirable to attain he apprehended to be the introduction into the Council of men who had recently returned home from India, and who would be able to give the Secretary of State the benefit of the latest knowledge obtained in that country. That object could not, however, be secured if the members of the Council were to receive their appointments for a great number of years. He ventured to think that seven years would be ample time, and as the Council consisted of fifteen members, he would have two of them retire every year, so that a new element might thus constantly be introduced into that body, and that freshness communicated to it which it was of great importance, in his opinion, that it should possess. This plan would open a door for the employment soon after their return home of those who had served their country in India. He wished also to point out that the Under Secretary of State for India was not by law entitled to take any part in the proceedings of the Council, even in the absence of his chief from. London. That he regarded as a most anomalous and unsatisfactory state of things, and he should submit that as the Secretary of State was empowered to appoint eight out of the fifteen members, the eighth should be, ex officio, the Under Secretary, who should take his place in his absence, just in the same way as the Under Secretary for the Home Department transacted its business in the absence of its head.


said, he agreed with his hon. Friend in thinking that seven years was a sufficiently long period for the tenure of office in the case of members of the Council; but he would suggest that there should he a power of re-appointment, because, while it was desirable to bring in those whose information was fresh, it would often be a great disadvantage to the Council to lose the services of some particular Member. Instead of two members being obliged to retire every year, one of the two might be eligible for re-appointment.


said, that when introducing the Bill his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India stated it to be his intention, in the event of its passing, to propose that the accounts of Indian expenditure should be dealt with in the same way as the Imperial accounts, in the respect that they should be submitted to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts appointed every year by the House. Before that was done, however, it was, in his opinion, desirable that that Committee should have an opportunity of considering the whole of the arrangements which the Government meant to make for the audit of Indian accounts. It was intended that the auditor of those accounts should stand in an independent relation to the Secretary of State for India, and that the audit should be one of a real and effectual character; but his impression was that the auditor at the India Office held some other appointment, that so far he could not fairly be called an independent officer, and that the audit was reduced to something like a mere shadow. What he should under those circumstances suggest was, that before any further action was taken in the matter the whole question of the audit of Indian accounts should he referred to the Committee on Public Accounts, so that it might be dealt with thoroughly previous to the third reading of the Bill. Proposals had been made to the effect that there should be an independent auditing of those accounts, as in the case of the Imperial accounts.


said, he thought that the term of twelve years was too long for the tenure of office by members of the India Council. Under the East India Company directors went out every four years and could not be re-elected for a year. The civil servants in India, some of whom returned to England every year, were thoroughly acquainted with the change which the progress of education was making in the minds of the Natives of India, and it would be a great advantage to have such men taken into the India Council at short intervals. At the three Universities of Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay, numbers of Native graduates every year look honours in the examinations, in the same way as at Oxford or Cambridge, who necessarily from their self-respect looked to fill situations of influence, honour, and emolument. Where was the opening for the employment of such men unless the Covenanted Civil Service in India was thrown open to them? He intended, in the Committee upon the Bill, to propose that the duration of the tenure of office by the members of the India Council should not exceed five years, the time for which the Governor General and Governors of the Presidencies and staff appointments were tenable in the army. It might be desirable, as suggested by the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. Stuart Mill), that certain individuals distinguished by capacity for Office should be permitted to retain their posts in the Council for a longer period than others; and power might be given in the Bill to enable the Secretary of State for India to grant this permission in exceptional cases.


said, that the main principle of the Bill was to provide for the service in the India Council of a succession of men coming fresh from India. There were various ways in which that might be done, and when the Bill went into Committee he would discuss the several propositions which had been made; and be prepared to state why, on the whole, he thought the proposal in the Bill the most convenient. In a Council of fifteen members, each employed for twelve years, there would probably be rather more than one new appointment per annum, and, allowing for vacancies, there might be two appointments in every three years. A man trained a great deal of experience in the India Council, and often got more complete views of Indian business after being a year there than he had when first appointed. He should be perfectly ready to adopt the suggestion of the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers), and to refer the mode of auditing the Indian accounts to the Committee on Public Accounts, who, after considering the subject, might make such recommendations as they thought desirable. Though the position of the auditor might be unsatisfactory in respect to his holding another situation, the audit was, nevertheless, efficiently conducted.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Thursday.