HC Deb 20 May 1875 vol 224 cc643-9

, in rising to move— That the relations of the War Department with the India Office, as regards British Troops serving in India, are unsatisfactory and prejudicial to the public interest, said, the Judge Advocate General, when asked a Question on this subject some time ago, said it was part of a much larger question, and could give no assurance that anything would be done. Up to the year 1858, when the Department of the Secretary of State for India was first created, there had never been any doubt in the minds of soldiers of the British Army as to what their position was when they were ordered to proceed to India; but since then an extraordinary state of confusion had arisen, and he felt that unless something were done to remedy the existing unsatisfactory state of things it would lead to serious evils. At the present time no man serving in India could tell, when he had a grievance, to whom he ought to refer it—whether to the Commander-in-Chief at home or to the Commander-in-Chief in India. Similarly, he could not tell who was responsible for the redress of grievances. With regard to the question of enlistment, and as to how far the British Treasury was to be drawn upon in order to have efficient and able soldiers sent to India and at the proper age, he had observed that the India Office had done its best to put heavy pressure on the War Department in order to promote what was called economy, and the result had been an inferior article. They wanted disciplined and efficient men, of good constitution, and possessing intelligence, to serve in the Army, and he could remember the time when in India it was held almost worth while to convey soldiers on elephants' backs, instead of killing them on the march, every man being so valuable. Originally, the European troops in India numbered about 8,000. About the time of the Mutiny they consisted of 12,000. In 1859 an Act was passed enabling the Secretary of State for India to levy 30,000 Europeans to serve in India, independently of the rest of the Army. Thus they had the India Office and the War Office in the same country levying different forces—a system which it was soon found could not work—and it had to be done away with. It was felt that the British force which garrisoned India should be part and parcel of the British Army, and should take their turn of service in India with the rest of that Army. For several years past a correspondence had been going on between the Secretary of State for India and the Secretary for War on this subject, but nothing had been settled. When the present Ministry came in, the matter was in such a state of confusion that they referred the whole thing to the arbitration of a very able man—Mr. Bouverie, formerly Member for Kilmarnock. When the present Army Estimates were introduced, they were not informed whether those differences had been settled; and he should be glad to hear from the Secretary of State for War what was the basis on which recruits were to be sent out to India; whether they were to be efficient soldiers or only raw recruits; and whether the financial difficulties of the India Office and the War Department had been adjusted in a manner that would be satisfactory to the country. To enlist a man under certain promises was one thing, and to fulfil those promises appeared to be another. A serious complaint was made by the India Office on account of the increase of 2d. a-day to the pay of the soldier, granted some time ago. The India Office said they had not been consulted on the matter, and that they could get their men for less money in the market. A little inquiry on their part might have shown them that they could not; but it showed that there was no proper co-operation between the two Departments. That increase of pay was brought forward by General Peel, and fully discussed in that House, and it was unanimously approved. In 1870, as a further inducement to men to enter the service, short service was established, and afterwards, in order to obtain their Reserve, power was given to the Secretary of State for War to allow a man after three years' efficient service to go into the Reserve. Now, service in India had been regarded as a pleasant service, because the men were used to greater comforts there than they had at home; and when a regiment was ordered home, the Government, for its own advantage and to save expense, held out inducements to the men to remain in India, and many availed themselves of those inducements. On the other hand, many men did not wish to remain out there, and the opportunity of going into the Reserve acted as an incentive to the men to behave well and get home. That question was raised, among others, before a Committee in which the hon. Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) took an active part; and a suggestion appeared to have been thrown out whether it would not be well that faith should be broken with the soldier out in India. That suggestion, as appeared from this evidence, was, that although a circular had been sent out giving the commanding officers of regiments power to say that a man who had served well for three years should have leave to retire into the Reserve at home, that arrangement should be interfered with. When those things occurred and became known, it was hardly surprising that it was not so easy to get recruits as they could wish. The Army ought to feel that it was dealt justly by, and that it could rely on those whom it trusted. He should like to know how it was that a Warrant affecting the Army at large could not be put in force in India. The Committee which sat last year had distinctly recommended that the various matters which had been brought under their consideration should be settled before the next Session of Parliament; but when he the other day had put a Question on the subject he was told that nothing could be done without the Correspondence. It had been said, he might add, on the part of the representatives of the India Office that they had been taken unawares, suddenly finding that a large burden was to be thrown on the revenues of India, and that they were quite unprepared for the responsibility. The Under Secretary of State for India last year informed the House that the allowances to officers under the system were upon a large scale, and that they derived from them considerable emolument. There was, however, he thought, some misunderstanding on that point, for they remonstrated with the Commander-in-Chief in India, who, he believed, had written strongly with regard to it more than once, and yet, would the House credit it, that up to the present day not a single answer had been sent to those letters, and that the officers had been left for three years without any notice having been taken of their complaints? Now, what he wanted to know was who was responsible for this. Was it the War Office, the India Office, the Commander-in-Chief in England, or the Commander-in-Chief in India? When the Secretary ship for War was constituted it was distinctly agreed that the holder of that office should have the entire responsibility of the British Army, wherever it was, and that the Commander-in-Chief was to be his military adviser. It appeared, however, that the India Office acted in a perfectly independent manner. It was a great reproach to the country that it had taken 16 years for a man to endeavour to redress the grievances so much complained of. He looked forward now in hope that explanations would be given showing that there was a concord between the two Departments which might restore the past concord to the whole service. Looking at our own position and the condition of affairs in the East he trusted that we might have a cheerful Army upon which we might rely on all occasions. The hon. and gallant Gentleman concluded by moving his Resolution.


seconded the Motion.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the relations of the War Department with the India Office, as regards British Troops serving in India, are unsatisfactory and prejudicial to the public interest,"—(Colonel Jervis,)

—instead thereof.


explained that if he had not answered the Question put to him in the earlier part of the Session it was simply because his hon. and gallant Friend on that occasion did not conclude with a Motion. There was a Motion before the House on which he desired to speak, and had he replied to his hon. and gallant Friend he would have been precluded from speaking for the remainder of the evening. [Colonel JEBVIS stated that he had made no charge of negligence against the right hon. Gentleman.] With respect to the relations existing between the War Department and the India Office, he (Mr. Hardy) could only say that he had never found any difficulty in carrying on whatever business had to be done. On the contrary, he had always met with ready attention from the India Office whenever a subject was brought under their notice. It was true that a dispute had long existed between the two Offices with regard to the price India ought to pay for recruits; but it had been referred for settlement to a Committee of which Mr. Bouverie was made Chairman, and he regretted that he was not now a Member of the House. The difficulty was one which required the most careful consideration; and, as the negotiations were still going on, it was impossible for him to express an opinion on it at present. With regard to the length of service, there was, he believed, no occasion for disagreement. It was quite obvious to all parties that a longer period of service than three years was desirable; otherwise the cost of sending out recruits to India would become excessively heavy. With regard to the question of Warrants, there could be no doubt that the fixing of allowances, &c, ought to be left to those who had the control of the money in India. No doubt difficulties might arise in consequence of the difference in the circumstances of the two countries, but he was not aware that any had arisen. The Commander-in-Chief in India was always connected with the Army at home, and if there were any difficulties they would, no doubt, be brought under the notice of the War Department. As for the grievances of the officers of Artillery, they were now settled, the new arrangement dating from April of the present year. Upon the whole, he could assure his hon. and gallant Friend that the relations between the two Departments were not of a complicated and injurious character, and he did not think there was any ground for the Motion which he had submitted to the House.


stated that the differences between the India Office and the War Department appeared, from the investigation conducted by the Inter-Departmental Committee, to have arisen, in great measure, from the alterations which had been made in our military organization as well as from the complicated nature of the question itself. The reason why no conclusion had yet been arrived at by that Committee was that the whole circumstances of the case had changed in the course of their inquiry, and they could only decide in reference to accounts in arrear. With respect to the introduction of the short service system, whereby a recruit might be permitted in certain cases to pass into the Reserve after three years' service, nothing could be done by the action of a commanding officer unsupported by a higher authority, so that there was no fear of the new regulation being wantonly applied to the prejudice of the finances of India. His experience in the matter had been that the India Office was fully consulted in all the changes that took place, and he felt sure that this would continue to be the case. On the other hand, it was only right to say that it was out of the question for the Government of India to expect that their organization and system should be framed expressly to meet their ideas. India must hold the second place in our consideration, but he was sure that both the Secretary of State and the Commander-in-Chief would show every desire to meet the requirements of India as far as it was possible for them to do so.


said, he was glad to find that the grievances as regarded the majors of the Royal Artillery quartered in India had at length been disposed of. After three Royal Commissions had sat unsuccessfully as regarded promotions in that branch of the service, it had been found impossible in the Artillery, in consequence of having no system of purchase, to procure a full flow of promotion, and various plans had been adopted in order to remedy that state of things. Some years ago, with that view, it was suggested majors were unnecessary, and forthwith all the majors were made lieutenant-colonels. Lately, however, it had been found desirable, partly with the same object, to provide the Artillery with majors, and, accordingly, all the first captains had been made majors; but they complained—and, as he thought, with justice—that those in India did not receive major's allowance, and that in England majors of Horse Artillery did not receive forage at the contract rate equal to that which was paid to officers of the same rank in the Cavalry branch of the service.


remarked that the most persevering efforts had been made to show that for many years the system pursued by the War Office had been to make charges against the Indian Government which ought not to be borne by them, and that we had been charging for a number of soldiers who ought not to have been charged for. Some of the best informed witnesses had exploded that allegation from beginning to end; but it had since been repeated in every possible way in order to induce people to believe that that country was suffering under that grievance. He regretted that the House was not in possession of the results which had been arrived at by the intermediate Committee; but he believed it could be shown that there was no foundation for any of these charges. The cost of bringing back from India men who, under the short service system, claimed their right to pass into the Reserve at the end of three years and replacing them by other men from home, was, without doubt, great; but he thought it might be avoided by giving the short service men the option, before the time for embarkation came, of transferring themselves to home battalions, or if they went out to India, of re-engaging after the expiry of their short term of service for other six years on receipt of a small bounty.


, in explanation of what had fallen from the Secretary of State for War, said the officers would not be satisfied with payment from the 1st of April last; what they claimed as a right was payment from the date of the Warrant. With the permission of the House, he would withdraw his Amendment. [" No, no!"]

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.