HC Deb 19 February 1878 vol 237 cc1974-8

in rising to call attention to the appointment by the Indian Government of Mr. Molesworth Macpherson, first as secretary to the Legislative Council and then as deputy-secretary to the Legislative Department; and to move— That such appointment constituted an evasion of the Law, is unjust to the regular Civil Service of India, and is calculated to bring the Indian Administration into public discredit, said, it appeared, from facts which were unchallenged, that Mr. Macpherson, a young barrister, had been suddenly promoted to the valuable post of secretary to the Legislative Council. The incident was freely and unfavourably criticized in Indian society, partly because of the extreme youth of the nominee, and partly because it was concluded that the authorities, being unable to appoint Mr. Macpherson secretary to the Department on account of his insufficient residence in India, had given him that office with an altered title, and had created him secretary to the Legislative Council. Thus, the secretary ship to the Department was filled by a colourable evasion of an Act, which, as it happened, nowhere made use of the word "Council." Mr. Macpherson was retained in his place till the Viceroy, moved by the public outcry and by his own sense of duty, made another appointment in accordance with the terms of the Act. A solatium, however, was provided for him; and if he could not be the secretary to the Council, he might take the post of deputy secretary to the Department—and, in fact, was at present in that position. They had, he contended, every right to blame the persons at Calcutta for the scandalous abuse of the power entrusted to them; and he was entitled to ask the House, careful as it was of the rights of the Civil servants of India, to give such an expression of its opinion as would serve to safeguard the rights of the young men they induced to go out to India to administer the laws in that country. What, he asked, could be the value of the legal advice or legal assistance of a young man of 18 months' experience of the multifarious life of India upon any question which really required large powers of mind and large training, fortified by lengthened experience of the customs and manners of India? The second appointment to which this gentleman was appointed had been vacated for him by a civilian of 13 years' experience, who had been generally acknowledged to be fully deserving the promotion. This question had been in various forms brought before the House, and he trusted that now his Motion would commend itself to their approval. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving his Resolution.


seconded the Resolution.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the appointment by the Indian Government of Mr. Molesworth Macpheraon, first as secretary to the Legislative Council and then as deputy-secretary to the Legislative Department, constitutes an improper evasion of the Law, is unjust to the regular Civil Service of India, and is calculated to bring the Indian Administration into public discredit."— (Mr. O'Donnell.)


said, there was no doubt that the appointment had been considerably censured in several Indian newspapers. He was not sorry that an opportunity had been given him by the Motion of the hon. Member of stating the facts of the case, in regard to which, as well as the law on the subject, there had been considerable misapprehension. No doubt it would be a very improper thing to evade an Act of Parliament; but this particular appointment did not come under the provisions of the Act to which the hon. Member referred. The Act of Parlia- ment which secured a certain monopoly of the appointments in India to the Indian Civil Service was passed in 1861; but all appointments which were not in the Schedule were not to be considered within the operation of the Act. Some three or four years before that Act was passed, the Charter Act of the Company was renewed, and a Legislative Council was established. The offices in question, which were originally known as those of clerk and deputy clerk to the Legislative Council of the Governor General of India, required a certain technical knowledge in the persons who held them. It was most important that the Acts of the Indian Government should be drafted clearly and intelligibly, because otherwise much difficulty and mischief might ensue, and therefore these appointments had always been held by legal gentlemen, and were outside the scope of the Act. In the middle of last year the Secretary of State received a telegram requesting him to send out a competent draftsman in order that the work of codification, which fell to the duty of the Department, might go on. Sir Henry Thring was consulted in regard to the matter, and several gentlemen, all members of the Bar, were named; but they refused to go to India at the salary offered. The Indian Government were consequently compelled to fall back upon their own resources. There were at the time in the Legislative Department a Mr. Fitzpatrick, a barrister, and a Mr. Jardine, who was also a barrister; but neither of them possessed the requisite technical knowledge. Lord Lytton, who was obliged to leave Calcutta at the end of August, gave power to Mr. Whitley Stokes, a legal member of the Legislative Council, to nominate the most competent person he could find, and in the exercise of that discretion he nominated Mr. Maepherson. Mr. Macpherson was doubtless very young, being only 24 years of age, and had been only 19 months in India; but, on the other hand, he had shown great aptitude for the work, and had had a special training as an equity draftsman and conveyancer. When Lord Lytton returned to Calcutta, he considered this gentleman too young to be put at the head of the Department, and accordingly refused to sanction the appointment. He, however, appointed in his place Mr. Fitzpatrick, who had previously been deputy secretary to the Government of India. Lord Lytton thought that Mr. Macpherson had considerable qualifications, and he therefore nominated him deputy secretary, and the appointment came home to the Secretary of State for confirmation. The Indian Government had thought it desirable to give Mr. Macpherson a better salary than his predecessor had; but the Finance Committee at home had thought there was no reason for increasing the expenditure; and therefore, while confirming the appointment, the Secretary of State refused to sanction the augmented salary. There had been no evasion, colourable or otherwise, of the law. Mr. Macpherson had never applied for the appointment, and the first intimation his friends had of it was seeing it in The Gazette. Indeed, he had made a promising start at the Bar, and his family were disappointed that he had accepted the office. During the short time Mr. Macpherson occupied his post he had shown great aptitude for the work, and would in time become a very valuable public servant. Therefore, there seemed no reason whatever for assenting to the Resolution of the hon. Member. He quite agreed that Parliament ought to take care that there was no evasion, colourable or otherwise, of the Act of Parliament by which appointments were secured to the Indian Civil Service. There had been two rules adopted in regard to appointments which had worked exceedingly well. The first was that the Secretary of State never attempted to nominate anyone in England to an appointment which was within the patronage of the Indian Government. In the second place, the Indian Government had no power to make any fresh appointment, or increase salaries, without previously receiving the sanction of the Secretary of State for India. In the present case, the Secretary of State had, in the exercise of his discretion, refused to sanction the increase of the salary which it was proposed to give to Mr. Macpherson. He hoped the hon. Gentleman, having heard this explanation, would not press his Motion to a division, for in that case he would have no option but to oppose it.


acknowledged the straightforward way in which the noble Lord had met him. He thought the general tone of the noble Lord's re- marks indicated that, in his opinion, something extraordinary had been done. However, he would not press his Motion to a division.


observed there was an association established of the young members of the Indian Civil Service who canvassed every appointment made by the Indian Government. Nothing could be more objectionable; and he hoped the hon. Gentleman would not year after year come forward as their spokesman in that House. When Mr. Whitley Stokes appointed Mr. Macpherson, he did not do so without the full conviction of his competency; and from his knowledge of that gentleman, now a member of the Supreme Council, he was quite sure no one but a hardworking intelligent officer could undertake the duties of the office over which Mr. W. Stokes presided.


protested against the doctrine of the hon. Gentleman opposite, that any class of Her Majesty's subjects was to be prevented from having their grievances brought before the House in a regular and constitutional manner.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.