HC Deb 06 May 1878 vol 239 cc1420-49

I beg, Sir, to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Whether he is able to give the House any information respecting the renewed negotiations which are stated to be in progress between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of Russia; and, whether he is able to hold out any hope of an early assembling of the European Congress? I should wish, also, to ask the right hon. Gentleman a Question, of which I have given him private Notice, relating to a subject which it is, perhaps, desirable should be explained as speedily as possible. That Question is, Whether he is able to explain why the decision of Her Majesty's Government to despatch a Force of Indian Native troops to Malta was not communicated to Parliament before the rising of the House for the Recess, the public announcement that that step would be taken having been made the day after Parliament separated for the Holidays?


Sir, with regard to the first of the Questions which the noble Lord has asked me, I am at the present moment only in a position to say that active negotiations have been and are now going on, and that it would be, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, exceedingly disadvantageous to the public service were any general discussion to be held upon this subject at the present moment. I may, however, say with reference to one matter of interest to which reference was made before the rising of the House, that the negotiations which Her Majesty's Government have been carrying on with regard to the disturbances in Thessaly have now been conducted nearly to an issue, and we have every reason to believe that a pacification upon equal terms will be secured. With regard to the last Question of the noble Lord, I can only say that the decision of Her Majesty's Government to order a certain number of Indian troops to Malta was one arrived at some time ago; but that it was not thought necessary, nor is it according to practice, that such a decision should be communicated to Parliament. It will, however, be our duty, as early as is convenient—and I hope it will be very soon—to lay before Parliament an Estimate of the cost of that Expeditionary movement; and that, I think, will be the most convenient time for raising any discussion it may be thought desirable to raise upon the subject. I do not see the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) in his place; but even in his absence I wish to take very brief notice of a statement made by the right hon. Gentleman during the Recess, in which he charged Her Majesty's Government, and myself individually, with having deceived the House. I do not think it generally desirable to take notice of statements made in this manner, neither do I wish to discuss the matter now; all I desire to say is, that I hope if the right hon. Gentleman has any charge of that kind to make, he will lay it before the House, and in a form which will afford an opportunity of answering it. There is a small matter of routine which I ought to mention now, relative to the Business of the House. It was understood before the Recess, that after we met again Public Business should begin at a quarter-past 4. I therefore give Notice that to-morrow, and on subsequent days, we shall propose to take Public Business at a quarter-past 4, if the Private Business will allow of it.


said, he desired to bring before the House a subject of considerable importance, and to put himself in Order, he should conclude with a Motion for Adjournment. He had no desire to interfere with the Business of the House; but he felt the matter to which he wished to direct attention could not bear a moment's delay. It was one that intimately touched the Privileges of the House and the authority of Parliament. After what the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said, he (Mr. Fawcett) was not going to say a word about the position of the negotiations which were now pending; for it would be a serious responsibility for a private Member to take upon himself to raise a discussion on the subject of the negotiations after he had been appealed to by a responsible Minister. And with regard to what the Chancellor of the Exchequer had just said about his (Mr. Fawcett's) right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, he could only say this—that he was not going to charge the Chancellor of the Exchequer with intentionally misleading him. He knew the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not intentionally mislead any Member of the House; but this he did wish to say, in the most distinct manner, that, although it was not the intention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to mislead him, he, and at least 100 other Members of the House, had been misled. And it was not their own fault that they were misled. If the English language had not lost its plain and distinct meaning, he should say it was natural, and that there was no other course but that they should be misled by the speech which the Chancellor of the Exchequer made immediately before the adjournment for the Recess. It would be in the recollection of hon. Members, that before the Recess, he (Mr. Fawcett) proposed a Motion to shorten the proposed Recess by a week. He withdrew that Motion against the wish of some of his Friends; but he felt it was impossible for him to divide the House after what he regarded as "the eminently satisfactory statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer." He had read that statement again within the last hour, and he adhered to the expression he used on that occasion—namely, that in the face of so eminently satisfactory a statement, he felt it impossible to divide the House. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said—"I beg to assure the hon. Member for Hackney, who has brought forward this Motion, and I beg to assure the House most distinctly, that there has been no change in our policy." No change in our policy! If the bringing of an indefinite number of our Indian troops, for the first time, into Europe, to be engaged in a European contest, was not a change in our policy, he (Mr. Fawcett) did not know what a change in our policy was. There could not be a change of policy which could raise a more important Constitutional question affecting this country, or a question of more vital importance affecting the Government and the finances of India. What was the meaning of their Mutiny Bill, the passing or the withholding of which was among the dearest and most cherished privileges of Parliament? It was that they might not be overborne by a large standing Army. Why was it that they voted every year, most carefully and most scrupulously, the number of men who should constitute their standing Army? It was because Parliament might keep a tight hand on the strength of the standing Army. It was not for him to go into history on that occasion, or he could show that there was no Constitutional principle which their forefathers thought of greater importance to preserve. But what was the position now? The numbers of the Indian Army were not limited. They might have 200,000 men in that Army this year, and 500,000 next year. The Government might decide to bring 70,000, or 170,000, or 250,000 of that Army into Europe. [Ministerial cheers.] He was glad of that cheer, for the House was now beginning to discover from it the intentions of the Government, and the country would see the gravity, the peril, and the importance of what had been done. And then the Chancellor of the Exchequer might come down to the House, and, in a few light sentences, say it was not according to custom that Parliament should be informed on the subject. How could he say that, well knowing that Indian soldiers had never before been brought into Europe to engage in a contest; and that, therefore, there was no precedent to justify what had been done? About what subject was it necessary that Parliament should be informed, if not about this? He (Mr. Fawcett) believed he was speaking the opinion of the great majority of those sitting near him, when he said that they would far sooner have squandered and wasted millions of English money than that the Government should have started upon this course of bringing the troops of India to fight European battles without consulting Parliament. If they could do that, it seemed to him that there was no single matter which they could not do as an Executive without consulting the House of Commons. What was the use of Army Estimates, and of voting a certain number of men, if a week or two afterwards they were to be told that an indefinite number of soldiers were coming from India, but that it had not been thought worth while to inform Parliament? Would it not have been worth the while of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to inform Parliament what would be the cost, and how the expenses were to be borne between England and India? The House knew nothing of the relative charges to be borne in India and the relative charges in England. Again, look at the question as affecting India. We were responsible for the good government of India. There was no one who had given any attention to the question of the government of India, who did not feel that you could not raise a question of so much vital importance connected with the government of India as the bringing of Indian troops into Europe and their possible return to India, either flushed with victory, or crushed with disaster. ["No!"] India had been deprived of 7,000 troops, and we were told that the Government were going to deprive her of 7,000 or 8,000 more. But, whether that was so or not, 7,000 had sailed from Bombay. From this dilemma there was no escape—either before these 7,000 troops sailed from Bombay the Indian Army was extravagantly large, or, at the present moment, India was inadequately supplied with troops. Either she had been paying, whilst her finances were in a critical and crippled condition, to provide a Reserve for this country, or she had at this moment 7,000 less troops at command than were necessary for the safety of the Empire. When it was considered, as a matter of taxation, that these 7,000 troops cost more than had been raised by the increased salt duty imposed upon famished millions in India, the importance of this matter to the finances of India would be seen. But, what was more important than all, was that it was necessary that the House should do something to prevent this thing being repeated; because, according to what the Chancellor of the Exchequer had just said, it was not necessary that Parliament should be informed on this subject. The House did not know what was going to be done with these troops. According to the opinion of some of his Friends, to whose opinion he was bound to pay respect, there was nothing to prevent the Government, now that they had started on this career of coming to the help of poor enfeebled England with the resources of the Indian Army, from landing 70,000 or 80,000 Indian troops in London without consulting Parliament, and then asking for a Supplementary Estimate. However unimportant the Government might consider the matter, he knew he was expressing the opinions of many, both inside and out of that House, when he said they were determined that such a thing as this should not be done without Parliament being consulted, and the advice of the House of Commons taken, or they would do all in their power to protest and remonstrate against it. He now begged to move the Adjournment of the House.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Fawcett.)


said, he desired to speak in no Party spirit, but rather in the character of an old Indian official who had had some experience of those subjects. It was unnecessary that he should say very much on the Constitutional phase of the question, as it had been so forcibly and emphatically handled by the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett). The House must admit his hon. Friend was right in saying that a very great Constitutional question was raised by that act of the Government. The bringing of Indian troops into Europe was a course that had never been adopted before, and it was a totally different matter from the calling out of the Reserves at home. It was not foreseen in either their civil or their Army constitution, and the question it raised—a very difficult one, which had been noticed by one of the great public journals—was, by what military law were these Indian troops to be governed when they entered a British Colony in Europe? The people of this country had long been most jealous of a standing Army, which could not be maintained except under an annual Mutiny Act. In India, on the other hand, a different state of things prevailed. There they had no free Government or Parliament, and they had a Mutiny Act, which was not annual, but perpetual, passed under the authority of the Indian Legislature. When the English Mutiny Act was under discussion the other day, the question was asked whether that Act was applicable to Indian troops? and it was then distinctly stated that it was not. Therefore, if those Indian troops were to be governed at all, it must be under the Mutiny Act passed by the Indian Legislature, whose powers for some purposes were not absolutely confined to India, but extended to the old Indian limits of the Cape of Good Hope and the Isthmus of Suez. He did not see, however, how they could extend beyond those bounds. Therefore, it was a question, when they had brought those Indian troops to Malta, whether they would have any law to govern them by. If, when they were at Malta, they would be governed by Indian military law, he did not see why they might not some day be brought to England to be governed by the Indian perpetual Mutiny Act, in which case Parliament would have no control in the matter. Then came the question, how was provision to be made for the payment of the troops? The expense, which would no doubt be very great, had not been contemplated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget. Did the right hon. Gentleman intend to meet this expenditure by asking the House to re-commit the Inland Revenue Bill, which was down for third reading that evening, in order that he might impose an addition to the income tax and to the tobacco duty, or to the duty on malt? The question was a very serious one, and would involve the expenditure, not only of hundreds of thousands of pounds, but possibly of millions. No doubt, in so important an affair, Lord Napier of Magdala had been consulted. Whatever that noble and gallant Lord did, would, he was sure, be very well done, and in military matters the Government would be safe in his hands. But there was no concealing the fact, that as regarded expense Lord Napier of Magdala was one of the most lavish men. They knew how soon an Abyssinian Expedition, hardly larger than that now ordered from India, was run up to a cost of £9,000,000 sterling. In all probability a very heavy expenditure would be incurred by despatching Indian troops to Europe; and yet, as he had observed, not one word had been said by Her Majesty's Government as to the manner in which they proposed to meet that expenditure. Looking at the matter from the point of view of an old Indian, he confessed that he was inclined to believe that, at the right time, and in the right place, and under proper circumstances, it would not, perhaps, be a bad thing to relieve the strain on the home population by utilizing Indian soldiers for some kinds of service. Such a measure would be justifiable in two cases—first, either as an experiment made at a fitting time and under fitting conditions; and, secondly, when our resources were strained to the utmost by a great war, and we must have recourse to all the men and means we could command, from whatever quarter derived. Now, the despatch at present of a few regiments from India could hardly be treated as more than an experiment, and he did not think that this was a fitting time for making such an experiment. They should remember President Lincoln's advice—"Don't swop horses when crossing a stream"—for, if ever men were crossing a stream, we were in that position at this moment. It might be said The Times correspondent had told them that the measure had succeeded. Now, they were all much indebted to The Times for its admirable foreign correspondence. That great journal maintained the very best men in every country in Europe. In India, its famous Special Correspondent during the Mutiny, developed a new art. But in ordinary times, it was very difficult to get good correspondents; when everyone was either in office or in business. He thought The Times was the only paper which had regular correspondence from India; at any rate, it was the only paper which got its correspondence by weekly telegram, and thus it had a peculiar influence on opinion. For a long time it was very lucky in a succession of excellent men, but it was the general Indian opinion that at this moment it was not so fortunate. Old Indians thought there was nothing they so little knew as the real opinions and feelings of the Natives; but this correspondent was ready, the very day after a great measure had been promulgated, to tell them that the Hindoos looked upon it as throwing lustre on their race, and on the next day that the Native Army were enthusiastic about it. At the end of a few days, they received more detailed accounts of that enthusiasm. He suspected that they were very much exaggerated. At the same time, he did not doubt that they had a substratum of fact. The Sepoys were a very practical people. What they were influenced by was not so much political enthusiasm as the prospect of the increased pay and plunder—loot, as it was called in India—they were likely to get; and he had no doubt that the very liberal terms offered sufficed to bring them away from India very well pleased. But let the House not deceive itself; and he warned the Government, that the terms on which we were served by our Indian Sepoy troops were such that we dare not order them off on foreign service as we would an English regiment, and that we must, in one shape or another, bribe them to go. That was, in fact, what we had done. Supposing some 7,000 Native troops, all told—a mere bagatelle from a European point of view—had been successfully despatched from India, that Force would be enough intensely to irritate Russia and to induce other Powers to look askance at us; enough to serve as a menace, but not enough to give effective aid to our troops in case of war. The selection of the Expeditionary Force seemed to have been made with a view fairly to distribute the honour among the different Presidencies of Madras, Bombay, and Calcutta, and to satisfy all sensibilities. They were good enough troops in some ways; but, with regard to the question of efficiency, most of them would be unable to cope with first-class European troops. Probably, in the 7,000 men who had been ordered to Malta, it would not be possible to find more than two battalions—the 31st Punjabis and the 2nd Goorkhas—fit for severe European warfare; but they would be thoroughly good and well-officered troops. There was also a small force of cavalry, which, however useful it might some day prove itself in the case of a long campaign in the open, would be enormously expensive and very useless while maintained on a rock like Malta. Again, it was another and a very grave objection to the action of the Government, that we had no absolute right to bring troops through the Suez Canal. Hitherto we had done so for ordinary relief purposes on sufferance, having established no right to carry our troops through the neutral territory, and if we were to do so now for purposes of warlike demonstration, we should not only offend Russia, but should create a dangerous precedent which other nations might possibly use for hostile purposes. He could not see why, if our transports carried troops from India through the Suez Canal, someday vessels of war might not appear before Port Said and insist on going through the Canal to Madras and Bombay. The Canal ought to be neutralized, and for the future to be used only for the purposes of legitimate commerce. Another word as to the cost of Native troops. In India, the Native soldier received about £10 per annum, and was not expensively paid; but the men selected for despatch to Malta would be very differently treated, and would receive not only the batta, or extra allowance for foreign service, but also a free kit, free rations, and free quarters. They would thus be "all found," and have a clear cash payment of 1s. a-day, while no European soldier received so much; and he doubted whether we were prepared to have Native soldiers serving side by side with Europeans, and receiving larger pay. Then there was the expense of transport to be considered, and the House would remember that it was more expensive than that of European troops, that European soldiers could be mose closely packed on board ship, and that the Indian soldiers would require more camp followers than Europeans, that their cookery was a less simple affair, and that the voyage was a longer and more expensive one than from England to Malta. That cost would, no doubt, amount to an enormous sum before the troops got back to India. Supposing even that the first experiment encouraged us to bring Indian troops to Europe in such numbers that they might be seriously effective, they could not do so so easily as was thought. What would be their position if, during a great war, they had to rely upon their Indian troops? The Native Army consisted of 120,000 men, all told, and from these it would be necessary to deduct great numbers for guard and garrison duty all over India for the maintenance of peace and the security of the Indian Dominion. Again, three-fourths of the Natives were not men who could be trusted to fight in Europe, and all they had, therefore, was an available force of some 25,000 or 30,000 Sikhs, Patans, Goorkhas, and Dogras, all of whom could not be sent away. It must be understood, that if we desired to raise a large number of additional troops in India, that there were no Reserves, as service was for life; and if it were necessary to treat India as a recruiting ground, it would be found that the manufacture of soldiers would be a very long process, and that the recruits would literally have to be taken from the plough-tail. The Punjaub alone yielded a race of men fit for such services. No doubt, when we first occupied India, the country swarmed with soldiers; but that state of things had entirely passed away, and we could only picture to ourselves the condition of India in that respect by imagining the state of England without the Militia, and the Reserves, and the Volunteers. In time, if liberal terms were offered, a very large number of recruits would be obtained, but they were not immediately available, and would be very expensive. Nor could he forget that the great objection to any very considerable increase in the number of the Native troops, even if they were found able to compete with European troops, was the difficulty of getting rid of them when they were one with. It would be necessary either to maintain them, or to give them a bonus and disband them. The former course was bad for economical reasons, and the latter for political. He came, then, to the conclusion that, we had in one part of India a great Reserve of men who might be very useful in the course of a long struggle, but whose services could not be rendered effectively in other circumstances, and would not be justified by the attainment of any secondary object. Looking, then, to the dangers and difficulties he had pointed out, it was clear that a step like that the Government had taken ought not to be resorted to until war was really upon us; but, as the thing was now done, he would simply ask the Government to inform the House under which Mutiny Act the Native troops were to be governed, and whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer intended to provide for the expenses without re-casting the Budget?


Sir, I do not rise to discuss this question generally, but to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, before he makes any observation upon the remarks of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett), to explain a phrase which he was understood to use in answer to my noble Friend the Leader of the Opposition. My noble Friend asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer to give some explanation as to why this measure on the part of the Government was not communicated to the House on the day of its rising, and I understood the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say that the decision of the Government was arrived at some days previously, and that, in his opinion, it was not necessary to communicate it to the House. If that sentence has the meaning it would seem to bear, it propounds a doctrine against which every man who sits on this side of the House must protest, and against which I should hope most hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House would protest; also, because, if it means anything at all, it means this—that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as the direct Representative of the Crown in this House, can go on and claim the right to employ the whole Indian Army—for there is no distinction between one regiment and the whole for any purpose whatever, either in Europe or elsewhere, or in England. I shall be glad to hear from the Chancellor of the Exchequer on what grounds he can support the bringing of the troops to Malta and not here? Of course, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has considered the question, and is prepared to answer it; but it is right we should know what is the limit to the doctrine which the Government on the part of the Crown asserts. I should like to know, whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer lays down the rule that, without the consent of Parliament, without communication with Parliament in any form, the Crown claims the right to employ the whole of the Indian Forces for any purpose whatsoever? Because, if so, that is contrary to the doctrine which I have always understood to belong to the Constitution of this country, and I cannot for a moment believe that that is what the Chancellor of the Exchequer intended to assert. In this country for generations the English people have taken precautions—wise precautions and safe precautions—that the Armies of the Crown, shall not be employed without the knowledge and without the consent of Parliament. It has not hitherto been necessary, because the case has not hitherto been contemplated, to apply the same Constitutional safeguards and precautions to the Armies of India. I do not wish to express any decision at this moment at all adverse to the policy of the Government. I am speaking only of the manner in which this policy has undoubtedly been put into effect. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer adheres to the assertion that this is a thing which can be done, and which ought to be done, without any communication with Parliament, I say, we are then in the face of a very grave Constitutional question. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says he will bring forward an Estimate; but it might be that it would not be necessary to bring forward an Estimate. It might be that the Revenues of the Indian Government would be found adequate to supply these Forces. Does the Chancellor of the Exchequer assert that if there was an Indian surplus the Government need not come to Parliament for any authority; but that they might employ the Indian Revenue to furnish the Crown with Armies for European purposes or for English purposes? [Mr. ASSHETON CROSS: No, no!] I shall be glad to hear his explanation on that point. I am sure the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not think that any Member of the Opposition is not justified in asking that question of the Government. I ask it, not in a hostile spirit; but, wanting to know exactly the relations in which the Crown stands to Parliament in matters of this sort, I did not wish to pass by that sentence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for fear it might bear an interpretation which he did not intend should be put upon it. I cordially agree with the hon. Member for Hackney, that no one desires to impute to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for a moment that he desired to deal with the House otherwise than with a spirit of perfect frankness. We certainly have had no occasion to complain of the want of willingness on the part of the Government from time to time to communicate such information as they thought consistent with the public service; but I confess I have some difficulty in understanding how it was that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should have been able, on the day of adjournment, to say that nothing had occurred which should give occasion for increased anxiety. I confess that the meaning to be attached to these words very much depends on the animus recipientis; but it so happened, that next afternoon, I met my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), who had asked from the Government the explanation which they gave. I met him just at the moment when this news of the Government ordering troops from India came out in the evening papers; and all I can say is, that it did give us very much increased anxiety. We both asked whether it could be possible that the Chancellor of the Exchequer knew of that when he gave the answer the day before? I presume, from what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, that his real meaning was that this resolution had been taken some time previously. It would appear that this is, in fact, one of the measures of the Government—I do not know how many of them there are yet undisclosed—which Lord Derby said had led him to withdraw from the Cabinet. We know, that at the time when Lord Derby resigned, in order to remove public anxiety, it was stated by the First Minister of the Crown that the measure intended to be taken was the calling out of the Reserve Forces, and innocent-minded and ignorant people concluded that that was the only measure. By degrees, however, measure after measure reveals itself, and we were certainly told by Lord Derby that there were more than one. Finally, this measure is taken to bring the Indian troops to Europe. I do not say it is wrong; but it is, at all events, a very grave measure—a very novel measure—certainly a measure seriously affecting the internal policy and organization of our Indian Empire and the relations of England with Europe. And then the Chancellor of the Exchequer expects us to be satisfied with a single sentence to the effect that the measure was decided on some time, and that the Government did not think it necessary to communicate it to Parliament. I do not think that that is a situation with which the House of Commons will rest content in the presence of the Government. I do not think the House of Commons ought to rest content with it. Whether the measure is right or wrong—upon which point I will offer no opinion—I do say the House of Commons ought not to accept the situation of being told by the Government that a measure of this gravity and this consequence, whether in relation to peace or in relation to war, is to be determined on by the Government, and the House of Commons is not to be told. I can quite understand that if we were at war, or even if war were imminent, that there might be strong reasons for a Government keeping back its policy, in order that they might be able to strike an immediate blow. They can give to Parliament afterwards explanations why they did not reveal it. But that was not the case here. I do not know when the order was given, or when the order was sent; but, at all events, the Government did not keep their own secret; although they did not think it necessary to communicate it to Parliament, they allowed it to be communicated to the public within 24 hours after the House rose. Therefore, it is impossible to believe that it was necessary to keep it back from the House of Commons; because, if it had been necessary on the grounds of public policy, they would have kept it back from other quarters. In order that the Chancellor of the Exchequer may give us fuller explanation, in order that we may understand the relation in which the House of Commons stands to the Government in reference to this measure, and other measures of a similar character, I have put these Questions.


Sir, I am as far as possible from being disposed to complain of any remarks which have been made by the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt), or on the discussion which has been raised by the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett). I think it was only to be expected, and it was clearly right and natural for Members of this House that they should, at the earliest period which presented itself, put Questions to the Government on this matter, and claim for the House of Commons the discussion of the step which Her Majesty's Government have thought it their duty to advise. I can only say that when we are in a position—which I hope will be very shortly—to bring forward the Estimate of the expenses attending this movement of troops, opportunity will be given for full discussion of the various points which have been suggested in the speeches to which we have just listened and the other questions which will then, no doubt, be raised. There are, however, matters upon which I think I ought at once to offer some explanation. I was very brief in my answer to the noble Lord opposite, because I felt almost certain that this discussion would come on, and because I thought it would be more convenient to wait to give explanations in answer to what might be said. Now, I would like to make one or two remarks with reference to the observations which have fallen from the hon. and learned Member for Oxford. There is no doubt whatever that this is a very important step; but it is, at the same time, a step which, after all, when you come to regard what it is, is neither more nor less than a direction-given by Her Majesty for the moving of a portion of Her Forces from one part of the Empire to the other. And, though it is a movement which will undoubtedly come under the notice of Parliament, and over which Parliament holds the control, which it holds over all movements of British Forces—that of the right of withholding or challenging the Supplies asked for the purpose—yet, so far as the order given to Her Majesty's troops is concerned, it is an order strictly within the proper Constitutional Prerogative of the Crown, and one which Her Majesty has as much right to give as to order any portion of British troops now in England to proceed to Gibraltar, or Malta, or anywhere else. Then, I am asked why notice was not given of this step before? Well, the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite has himself suggested to our consideration what it seems to me might have suggested itself to any mind—that, in a movement of this kind, it was not desirable that there should be any premature discussion or disclosures until the necessary arrangements were completed. The decision was arrived at in principle some time ago; but the arrangements had to be made in India, where they required time, and where they could be satisfactorily completed only by the observance of secrecy. It would, indeed, be inconvenient in every way, that there should be any premature publicity with respect to them. The hon. and learned Gentleman says, that, as a matter of fact, the Government allowed the matter to transpire within 24 hours after the rising of the House. Well, there was no communication made on the part of the Government, and I may say that the Government generally were not prepared for the matter becoming known so soon. It, however, became very well known in India, in consequence of the preparations which were necessary, and which were hurried forward in order to enable the troops to sail before the Monsoon. But, under any circumstances, I may frankly say that we should not have thought it our duty—even if we had not foreseen that the matter would become public within so short a time—to have made a communication to Parliament with respect to it until the arrangements had been completed. There was no reason why it should be done, and we saw much inconvenience in premature discussions and disclosures on the subject. The question of transports, as one instance, would have been complicated if any premature discussion arose. But the hon. and learned Gentleman says that if this is a power which the Crown claims, and which is to be recognized, very serious consequences may follow, and we must be prepared for some very serious results. It is contended, that it may happen that a large Force, or some Force, may be brought from India into the United Kingdom. The hon. and learned Gentleman says, again—suppose the Indian Revenue were in a flourishing condition, it might be claimed by the Crown to make use of a portion of the Indian Army, the expenses coming out of the Indian Revenue, without coming to Parliament for Supplies; and that, in that way, the power of Parliament might be evaded. Now, in regard to the first point—the question of bringing the troops to England, I believe I am right in saying that that would be contrary to the Bill of Eights, and that it is a step which it would be impossible for any Minister of the Crown to advise should be taken, because it is distinctly contrary to an Act of Parliament. "Movement of the British troops from one part of the Dominions of Her Majesty to another," does not authorize the bringing into the United Kingdom of any troops that have not been authorized. That is recited in the Preamble of the Act. With regard to the employment of the Indian Revenues for the purpose of enabling Indian troops to be used by Her Majesty, that has been distinctly provided against by an Act that was passed somewhere about 1856 or 1857—[An hon. MEMBER: 1859.]—after the Persian War. That Act, passed in 1859, as I am reminded, provides that the Indian troops cannot be employed beyond the limits of India or paid for out of the Indian Revenue without the consent of Parliament, and that Indian troops can only be brought outside the limits of India for the purpose of repelling invasion, and they can only be paid for by funds supplied by Parliament, or with the consent of Parliament. With regard to the Question out of which funds the troops will be paid for?—I may say we propose that the entire expense shall be borne out of the Imperial Exchequer, and that India shall be entirely relieved of any charge in respect of them. Therefore, the House will see that the proposal will be one of a character that will not be open to the objections taken by the hon. Member for Hackney, though I should be prepared to say that the question was one in which the interests of India were involved as a part of the Empire. For, in fact, they are very much affected by events which may possibly come. However, I will not raise the question, because it is one which more properly belongs to the discussion which may take place when the Estimate is proposed. With regard to the Question of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) whether I propose to reconstruct the Budget in consequence of this?—I have to assure the hon. Member that that is not my intention. I would remind him that, at the time I brought it forward, I stated that there would be Supplementary Estimates, and that they were not being lost sight of in the arrangements I was then proposing. That, again, will be matter for discussion on another occasion. The Act under which the Indian troops will serve in Europe will, I apprehend, be the Indian Mutiny Act. That, however, is a question which I would rather leave to my legal Friends to discuss. I would now say a word with regard to the inconsistency alleged to exist between what I stated on the day before the Recess, and the step which I was aware was about to be taken. The House will remember that I was asked, whether there had been any change in the policy of Her Majesty's Government, and whether any fresh cause of anxiety had arisen? In reply, I stated, and stated with perfect truth, that there had been no change in the policy of Her Majesty' s Government, and that there was no fresh cause for anxiety. The policy of Her Majesty's Government, as we have declared over and over again, is to endeavour to bring about a peaceful and satisfactory settlement of the grave questions that have been raised, and at the time Parliament rose we did not see—as, indeed, we do not see now—any reason whatever for thinking such a settlement less probable than we had previously thought it. On the other hand, we never disguised from the House or the country, from the first, that we might be disappointed in our hopes, and that we thought it right, in the general interests of the Empire, to adopt certain measures of precaution. The sending of troops from India to Malta is one of those measures. I may add, also, that on the eve of the Recess I spoke more particularly with reference to rumours which had been going about, and which had attracted the attention of hon. Members of this House and elsewhere, as to complications and unsatisfactory proceedings which made us appear to be in a less satisfactory position for the business in which we were engaged. I said, in reference to that, that there was nothing which made the situation less favourable, or that gave increased cause for the alarm that had previously existed. I stated, at the same time, that Her Majesty's Government did not conceal from, themselves that the situation was an anxious one. That, I believe, was a perfectly legitimate, frank, and satisfactory statement. It was far from our wish to conceal anything which we thought might properly be made known, and certainly there was nothing further from, my intention, or from the intention of the Government, than to deceive the House. I hope we may not require to go further into this discussion at the present time; but I quite feel that it will be within the province of the House, and will be the duty of the House, to discuss these matters when the Estimate I have referred to is produced.


said, he did not wish to protract the debate after the promise of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to give an early day for the consideration of the question. Speaking from an Indian point of view, he should like to challenge the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that this was a question of no more importance than bringing a brigade of troops from Gibraltar to Malta. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: I did not say so.] He did not dispute that it was competent for the Crown to order a brigade from India to Malta, just as British troops were ordered to Malta, or to any other point; but, speaking upon the strength of Indian experience, he did say that this was a question fraught with most momentous issues. It was the first step towards the reversal of maxims of policy that had been acted upon by the great statesman who had had charge of Indian affairs since the Mutiny. He would not be justified in relying on his own authority, but he took that of Lord Canning—with whom he (Mr. Laing), as Finance Minister, was instrumental in reducing the Native Army of India from 300,000 to 125,000 men—one whose maxim was that it should be laid down as an axiom for the Government in India that the Indian troops should not be removed from that country. In India, danger was from within, and not from without. He did not deny that our Indian Forces were perfectly loyal and ready to go on foreign service. The danger was not from any active disloyalty; but there was a great variety of races in India, who were liable to be swayed by feelings with which we could only be imperfectly acquainted; and the old regimental system, under which European officers were, so to speak, the fathers of the regiments, having been practically broken up, it behoved us to maintain a very firm hold on India in a military sense. Now, our hold on India, he contended, would be seriously endangered, if we removed our Indian troops from the garrison duty they were performing, and transformed them into a powerful Army, with a martial and roving spirit. A much larger number of European officers would be required to keep them in check than at present, and the strength of our European Army in India would also have to be increased, so as not to tempt the Native troops to rise against us by allowing them to feel that they were stronger than we. The result would be an enormous increase in the financial burdens of India. He must condemn the step which the Government had taken. Was it not a farce, that the House of Commons, who were taken into the Councils of the Government on all questions of finance and taxation, on a question of this kind of vital importance, and adverse to precedent, should be totally ignored, and should be told that this was a step the Government took on their own authority six weeks or two months ago, and did not think it worth while to mention it to the House?


said, it had been stated by three hon. Members opposite who had addressed the House—namely, the Members for Hackney, Orkney, and Kirkcaldy—that the employment of Indian troops out of India was a matter fraught with danger to Indian finance. [Mr. FAWCETT: I said in Europe.] Well, geographically, Malta might be said to be not in Europe, but in Africa. As the hon. Member for Hackney so limited his observations, he should address himself to the remarks of the other two hon. Members. Indian troops had been employed in both the China Wars—in one China War since the Indian Mutiny. They had also been employed in Abyssinia, and a Vote of Credit was taken for £2,000,000 for the purpose of conducting the Expedition to that country. The expenses of their employment were then, as they were proposed to be now, borne out of the Imperial Exchequer. Again, they were employed in Persia. So that it was altogether erroneous to speak of the present step as being an experiment, or as being one for which there was no precedent. When the matter came to be more fully discussed, it would be seen that it was not an experiment, but a step which, when taken on former occasions, had proved of the greatest possible advantage. The Army of the Queen had been gallantly aided by the Army of the Empress of India. They had fought side by side on many fields, and he believed that the course adopted by Her Majesty's Government would show that they were prepared to put forth the full strength of the Empire, should the occasion arise for doing so.


regarded the question raised by the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) as being a good deal more than a mere matter of punctilio. The Abyssinian War had been referred to; but, at the commencement of that war, it was perfectly understood by the House that Indian troops were to be employed—that fact was known when the Vote of Credit was asked for. But, on the present occasion, the House had not the slightest conception, when the Vote of £6,000,000 was asked for, that such a course as that referred to was about to be adopted. It might be right that Her Majesty should employ her Indian Forces in the manner proposed; but why, he asked, was the Imperial Parliament not to be informed of the fact? For his part, he should much have preferred, under the circumstances, that the Government had employed mercenary rather than. Indian troops. Let the House look at the position in which it stood. The House ought to consider the effect of the acts it had passed for the government of India, for the regulation of the Indian Army, and for the adoption by Her Majesty of the title of Empress of India. There were not wanting writers of authority, who declared that the House of Commons must be prepared to abdicate many of its functions. Statements to that effect appeared in periodicals of much influence, and he trusted the House would take care that its internal difficulties were not used to prove its incompetency, and to beware lest a belief in its incompetency might not be used to deprive it of the active exercise of that Constitutional control, which appeared to be imperilled by this step—not so much by the step itself as by the reticence of Her Majesty's Government. Her Majesty's Ministers said that these military preparations were measures of precaution. If that were so, why should Her Majesty's Ministers not have consulted that House previous to the adoption of the measure? The Government, it appeared, had made up their minds some time since to use the Vote of Credit for this purpose. ["No, no!"] Perhaps, then, the Vote of Credit was exhausted; and, if so, why had they not proposed their measure and produced their Estimate before the step was taken? It was, he thought, one which the House would do well to view with Constitutional jealousy.


wished to express his thanks to the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), for showing them on the opposite side of the House that there was one hon. Member on the Conservative side of the House who was prepared to maintain the rights of the House of Commons. He was not then going into the points which had been adverted to by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell); because, although not unimportant, they were comparatively small points. The main question was, whether the Government were treating the House in a fair and right spirit in the course they had taken on the question? The Chancellor of the Exchequer had complained that the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) had charged him with deceiving the House by the statement he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) made before the House separated for the Holidays, nor did he wonder that the right hon. Gentleman should feel inclined to resent such an imputation. He (Mr. Rylands) did not, however, suppose his right hon. Friend intended to charge the right hon. Gentleman with intentionally deceiving the House. But, at the same time, he must tell the right hon. Gentleman, that throughout the country, and not merely amongst hon. Members of that House, when the announcement was made that Indian troops were about to be brought to Europe, there was an impression that the Government had been guilty of a suppressio veri, and that they had not acted frankly in permitting the House to separate under the impression that no step of an unprecedented character was likely to be taken. The right hon. Gentleman, in the speech he made before the House rose for the Recess, assured the House that, if any matter of importance occurred that could be communicated, care should be taken to place the House and the country in possession of it. How, in the face of such a statement, could the House imagine that the Government had already given orders to send Indian troops to Malta? He thought, therefore, they had a right to complain that they had been allowed to separate for the Holidays under an impression that was absolutely, though he would not say intentionally, false. The Government had, indeed, he was sorry to say, adopted the custom of using language in what might be called a non-natural sense, and had, in consequence, misled the House. On more than one former occasion, statements had been made from the front bench which had subsequently turned out not to be accurate. He did not accuse them of intentional falsehood, but of using language liable to misapprehension. When, for instance, the Vote of Credit of £6,000,000 was taken, the House was told that little or none of it would be spent; that it was, in fact, only wanted as an expression of the Confidence of the House of Commons. And yet they knew that as soon as Government got the Vote, they proceeded to spend it as fast as possible. The right hon. Gentleman said, very truly, that it was not out of the Vote of Credit that these troops were to be maintained. But that did not improve the situation. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, when he introduced the Army Estimates at the commencement of the Session, proposed that a certain number of men—135,452—should be engaged in the service of the country. That was the proposal submitted to the House. They had then to consider whether that number of troops was a right one to maintain for the defence of the Empire, and whether they would be justified in voting the necessary taxes to maintain such an Army. But the Secretary of State for War never gave them an idea that behind and beyond these 135,452 men he had the decision of the Cabinet in his pocket to supplement the Army voted by the House of Commons with another Army from India. He ventured to say that there was a grave Constitutional question involved, and that the House would be placed in a humiliating position if, after they had considered what number of men were required for the service of the country, they were liable to see them supplemented by an Indian Army. It certainly seemed to him that even if the course adopted by the Government was not illegal, it was contrary to the spirit of the Mutiny Act, according to which the number of men voted by Parliament ought not to be exceeded without the consent of Parliament. It was a mere subterfuge to say that the Government should be allowed to bring additional men from India without obtaining the previous consent of Parliament. He supposed that they would have another opportunity of entering more fully into the question, and of discussing it under its larger aspects; but he could not even then help saying that he doubted whether, even as a matter of public policy, there was not a serious risk in the course the Government had adopted. He had, at all events, thought it right on that, the earliest occasion which offered, to join in the protest which had been made by his hon. Friend against the course they had adopted as one inconsistent with the rights and privileges of Parliament.


said, he entirely differed from the opinions which had been expressed by the hon. Members opposite. He thought it was a most fortunate circumstance that the Government had ordered the troops from India, because it had shown that a noble spirit animated the Indian Army. There could now be no doubt what the feeling of that Army was. The hon. Members complained that the Government had not informed the House of its intentions in this respect; but they knew that if hon. Members opposite had been informed of those intentions, they would have taken objection to the employment of the Indian troops. He deeply regretted that when the Government were placed in a most difficult position, and when the most important negotiations were in progress, that both out of the House and inside of it, these debates should be raised, the effect of which would be to trammel the hands of the Government and lead Russia to think that the Government had not the support of the country in their policy. He considered the course which was being taken on the Opposition side was most unpatriotic. He could not comprehend the object of hon. Members, night after night, coming down and attacking the Government and then running away as if afraid of the sound they had made—not venturing to divide the House. If hon. Members opposite considered that the feelings they entertained were in harmony with the feelings of the country, then let them take a Vote of that House; but do not let them, night after night, raise, at this important crisis, debates which could only hamper the Government.


Sir, I wish to say a few words on this matter. The discussion which has taken place may be very useful, but it certainly has been very prolix; and, as I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Orkney (Mr. Laing), I must say I was surprised that nobody rose to call him to Order. When I listened to the hon. Member's glowing eulogium of Lord Canning, whom he spoke of as the greatest statesman that had ever lived, I could not help thinking that that eulogium reflected some credit upon the hon. Member himself, who was Finance Minister for India in Lord Canning's time. I well recollect that period, and I remember how the Government of the day was very glad to have the opportunity of recalling the hon. Gentleman to domestic life in this country; and I do not know whether that circumstance would lead us to believe he has been so successful, as his remarks would imply, as Financial Secretary to the most illustrious statesman England has ever produced. I certainly did not expect the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) to express his approval of the step in question, but I was sorry to hear him compliment my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) on his intention of going into the same Lobby with him. To hear a compliment from the hon. Member to my hon. Friend on such an occasion is rather distressing. What we want to see is every Member on this side of the House supporting Her Majesty's Government. I generally take an independent course myself, and I am conscious of the value of that course when taken by others; but this is a matter in which we should wish to see hon. Members acting in a unanimous and determined spirit in support of the Government. You may find fault with their policy if you please; you may canvass it if you can; but I am sorry to say my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire complains of what he calls the reticence of the Government. Why, if there ever has been a Government for the last 20 years that has not been reticient, this is the Government. The hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt), to-night, speaking from the front Opposition bench, complimented the Government on the readiness it had always shown to communicate its intentions so far as was consistent with the public service. I wish to point out the grave mistake made by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire. He said that the Government, when it asked for the Vote of Credit, had no idea of bringing over troops from India. I do not suppose that the Vote of Credit had any reference to Indian troops. We know it had none. To-night, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has told us that he will move Supplementary Estimates for the purpose of defraying the expenses that may be incurred in this movement of troops; and the hon. and gallant Admiral has shown that this is no new action—this movement of Indian troops. They were employed in Abyssinia, and they have been employed in China; and now they are being brought into, probably European waters, for the purpose of any emergency for which they may be required. Now, I cannot conceive, except in a spirit of faction, anybody setting out his belief that this is an un-Constitutional measure on the part of Government in endeavouring to employ for the service of the State Indian troops. Surely, if these troops are available for the defence of this great Empire, it cannot be wrong that they should be employed on this occasion? Great emergencies may arise. The Government is anxious to have at their disposal a Force which will relieve the strain upon England without increasing the strain elsewhere, and I cannot see the slightest objection to the course which the Government have thought proper to pursue. Of course, on a subsequent occasion, we shall have an opportunity of discussing this question; but, in the meantime, I should be glad if it went forth to the country that the House of Commons, at all events, the Supporters of the Government, are firm in their determination to support the Government in the policy they are now following, and which they have continued to follow since the resignation of Lord Derby. I am thoroughly convinced we shall only be doing right in supporting the Government in that policy, and by every means in our power within these walls endeavouring to give them that cordial support which I believe their policy fully justifies them in expecting at the hands of the House.


said, that the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel) had complained of all those who had taken the opportunity of raising that question in the House—and, not only that, but the right hon. Baronet had proceeded to bully the only independent Member on the other side of the House who had risen to protest against the action of Her Majesty's Government. It was all very well for the right hon. Baronet to shake hands with the hon. Member as a public testimony of private and personal friendship; but it nevertheless remained before the House, and would go forth to the country, that the hon. Member for North Warwickshire was not able to get up and make some remarks criticizing the action of the Government without another hon. Member rising and protesting against the want of unanimity that had been exhibited. He might say, incidentally, that a pressure was put upon the hon. Member by such conduct as that, which was very dangerous in its effect. But he wished to say a word or two upon the propriety of continuing the discussion. Now, the right hon. Baronet, in endeavouring to apologize for the reticence of the Government, said that it would have been premature to have made the announcement before the troops were ready to move; and he said that one of the things that would have been in question would have been the difficulty of getting the transport service at anything like a cheap rate. Now, every shipowner in that House was aware that the Government had paid twice as much as they would have had to pay if they had announced it to the country. He rather fancied that their excuses would be found to be no more satisfactory. But what had caused his hon. Friend the Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) to get up and protest against the action of the Government was that, for all they knew, probably orders had gone to India for the despatch of 10,000, 20,000, or 25,000 more of these troops to Malta. They wanted to know whether that was the case? and, when he said to Malta, he was reminded that they did not know whither in reality these troops were to be sent. He saw the Home Secretary in his place. Would he tell them where these troops were to go to? The Chancellor of the Exchequer said it was merely a movement of troops from one part of the Empire to the other; but where was it to? Was it to Aden, or Suez, or were they going to occupy Egypt? They were entitled to know. What he complained of was that they had been kept from the beginning of this business in the dark. They were going through a long, narrow, and tortuous way, and they did not know where they were to emerge. He, for one, and he believed others in the House, thought the time had come when they were entitled to ask the Government what was its policy. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had told them that it remained the same, and that now their policy was to endeavour to bring about a peaceful settlement. But who believed that? The right hon. Gentleman, in the ensuing debates, might appeal to European opinion as generally supporting the policy of Her Majesty's Government. But why did the French, the German, and the Italian papers support Her Majesty's Government? Not at all because its policy was a policy of peace, but that it was a policy of menace and of war; because it was an attempt on the part of Her Majesty's Government to bring Russia's nose to the grindstone, or to force her into a long and enfeebling war, which would weaken her for generations. They were entitled to know what was proposed to be done with these Indian troops, and what were the Constitutional grounds upon which this step was to be defended. It might be true, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said, that the Government were within their technical right in this act; but he would ask whether it was always right to carry technicalities to extremes? In a free nation like theirs, looking to the jealousy with which any extreme action on the part of the Monarchy was regarded, the Government might take upon itself to push the limits of Constitutionalism too far; and to advise the Crown to push its technical rights to the very verge of un-Constitutionalism was a very serious step, and might do that which would, by-and-by, shake the stability of the Throne itself.


said, there was one observation of the right hon. Baronet opposite with which he was in cordial agreement. He said they all knew the opinion of the country. Considering what had recently happened in the borough with which the right hon. Baronet was most intimately connected (Tamworth), he should say that nobody did know the opinion of the country better than the right hon. Baronet did. The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) said they liked debates, but not divisions. The reverse was just as true of the other side of the House; but he assured them that they should have a division in this case. They would be altogether false to the principles they were sent to that House to represent, if they did not by their votes protest against the claim of the Government to have a right to bring an indefinite number of troops into England without consulting Parliament; and, therefore, if a Resolution were not brought forward by someone of higher authority, he should move one himself. But a division on the adjournment would not be a fair way of testing the question, and, therefore, for the present, he would withdraw his Motion. As the third reading of the Customs and Inland Revenue Bill came on that evening, he wished to know how the right hon. Gentleman proposed to provide out of the Ways and Means of the present year for the expense consequent upon withdrawing these troops from India? Was the necessary expense to be met by a fresh loan or by additional taxation?

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.