§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [9th May], "That the Bill be now read the third time."
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. HUSSEY VIVIAN
said, one of the grounds on which he had moved the Adjournment of the Debate on a previous night was his belief in the illegality of the action of the Government in bringing the Indian troops to Europe. He was confirmed in that view by reference to the opinions of high legal authorities expressed in previous Parliamentary debates. He need not, however, pursue a subject which would be fully discussed on the Motion of which the noble Lord had just given Notice. Another ground for his Motion had been his belief, that the conduct of the Government in not communicating to the House at the earliest possible moment their intention to move Indian troops to Malta, ought seriously to engage the attention of the House. He felt that a slight had been put upon Parliament. It was evident that at the time when the Chancellor of the Exchequer made his Financial Statement, he was aware that the Government had decided on bringing over those troops, and that that operation would cost a good deal of money. The House had been told that the Government had at that time accepted the measure in principle; but it seemed likely that it had been meditated 1726 fully a week before. That view was borne out by the circumstance that, on March 28, Lord Derby said—The Cabinet have arrived at certain conclusions which, undoubtedly, are of a grave and important character, and in the measures which they propose I have not been able to concur.Those words had been used a week before the Budget Statement was made, and it had been generally thought on that side of the House that Lord Derby, in speaking of conclusions and measures in the plural, had wished to indicate that his resignation was not entirely due to the calling out of the Reserves. It was true that when the Prime Minister rose, he attributed, with the adroitness of which he was master, the noble Lord's resignation solely to the calling out of the Reserves, many hon. Members of the House of Commons who were present, and who had watched the course of the Prime Minister in former days when he was in the Lower House, were not misled by this. If there was any grave measure decided on involving the expenditure of money, the House had a right to expect that it should be made a party to it. Nothing concerned the House more nearly than financial measures, and yet a week after this important decision had evidently been taken by the Government, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had made no provision for the expense which was about to be incurred. He had read with the greatest attention the speech of the right hon. Gentleman in introducing the Budget; but he could not see any intimation of the most indirect kind that it was intended by the Government to ask for further Supplies. The Chancellor of the Exchequer undoubtedly stated that the Naval and Military Departments had committed themselves to an expenditure beyond that which had been brought into the Vote of Credit, and that a considerable sum would have to be provided for the calling out of the Reserves; but he never intimated—what must have been in his mind at that time—that the Government intended to bring over Indian troops to this country. He made no statement with respect to that proposal to the House, and he made no provision for the necessary outlay. That was so serious, that he could not let this Bill pass its third reading and let it go forth to the country that no 1727 one came forward to challenge such a course. The Government, in fact, had taken, in reference to the matter, the most high-handed course he had ever known—that of bringing over troops from a foreign country. ["No, no!"] Not a foreign country! What was it, then? These troops were not within the control of Parliament; they were not within the Mutiny Act; and they were not voted by this House. He would advise hon. Gentlemen opposite, who were so willing to accept the bringing over of these troops, to look back upon the debates of 1775, and see what course their Predecessors—the country Gentlemen of that day—took. A Tory Government was then in power. Lord North was in the height of his power; it is recorded that he treated the question with unbecoming levity; but the course taken by the country Gentlemen convinced him that he would not be allowed to have his own way. They separated from his Party, and forced him to bring in a Bill of Indemnity, for they knew well how to uphold the rights and honour of Parliament. Into the legality of the question he would not enter. That was a question which would be debated hereafter; but the Government, at any rate, had pledged the House to an expenditure which it must vote, or he did not know how the money was to be found. Suppose the House was to refuse this Supply, which had been illegally incurred—and they would find the greatest Constitutional lawyers of past days said that such expenditure had been illegally incurred—who was to pay? In the first instance, the Indian Revenue was to advance the money. Would the hon. Member for Hackney be satisfied that the Indian Government should pay the money? Would it come out of the pockets of Her Majesty's Ministers? Lord North had no hesitation in agreeing to introduce his Bill of Indemnity, because he said it would tend to keep his head on his shoulders. Now, the heads of those right hon. Gentlemen whom he saw opposite to him were not, he imagined, at the present moment in danger; but were their purses? They had brought troops from India without the consent of Parliament, and if Parliament did not provide the money required, who was to pay it? No doubt, the Government relied on their majority; and it was true they had at their back 1728 a majority who followed them generally with the same simplicity as a flock of sheep followed their leader. They could not, however, always count on that; and, certainly, if he and those who sat around him on the Opposition benches were upon the other side of the House, the front bench would not have dared do such things; for there was in the Liberal Party that independence which would have turned its Leaders out of Office without the smallest hesitation if they had violated the Constitution in the way in which he believed it had been violated in the instance to which he was referring. He was delighted to hear the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate)—one of the true Constitutionalists in the House— behind their backs—[Laughter]—well, not behind their backs, but as one of their supporters who sits behind them —criticize the action of the Government from a constitutional point of view. It was worthy of him, and just what they might expect from one who really valued the Constitution. If this money were to be found, it must be by increasing taxation, or by adding to the Debt; and he should like to know which course it was intended to pursue? They were now voting the third reading of the Bill that provided the Ways and Means of the year, and yet they had an indefinite amount of expenditure before them which had been in no way provided for by the Government. Was it not, he would ask, a monstrous position in which the House was thus placed? It was a position which the House, to his knowledge, had never before been called upon to accept. Was the necessary outlay to be met by taxation, or by increasing the Debt? That was a question to which the House was entitled to have an answer before it passed the third reading of the Bill. Not only was this matter not brought before Parliament at the proper time, when it was considering the financial position of the country, but no communication was made for a fortnight afterwards, although the House sat for 12 days—from the 4th to the 16th—after the Budget was brought in. For 12 days the House was kept in ignorance; but, on the 17th, the day after Parliament rose, this matter was communicated to the newspapers. Was that, he would ask, a proper mode of dealing 1729 with Parliament? He regretted that the Prime Minister was not in the House, because, if he were, he (Mr. Vivian) should use terms of a much more unmeasured character with regard to this proceeding. His own belief was that the Government was under the glamour which his Eastern mind cast over them. He did not see in their action anything of the Anglo-Saxon mind. There had been a want of frankness, a want of candour—another word rose to his mouth, but he would not utter it—a representing of the objects in view in one way when they should really be represented in another. That did not impress him with the reverence for British statesmanship which he had always desired to entertain. They had sent the British Fleet into the Sea of Marmora with a lie in its mouth—was a British Fleet ever sent any where with a lie in its mouth before? They said that they sent it through the Dardanelles for the purpose of protecting the lives and property of British subjects; but no one would dare to state now that such was its object. Why did they not come forward to state the real purpose for which it was sent there? They sent it there so that they might assert their right to a voice in the settlement of the Eastern Question. He did not agree in the course taken. It was an act of blustering and swash-bucklering; but when they did it, why did they not come forward and speak out their minds? Then, look at the question of the Vote of Credit. The Government said they wanted it to give them strength in the Congress; but we now knew what their views about the Congress were. A very small question had arisen; he, at least, thought it a very small point, and so did the rest of Europe; but it had prevented the meeting of Congress, and no one knew whether it would ever meet. There was not a single Power in Europe which agreed with the British Government in the objections they had taken.
§ MR. C. BECKETT-DENISON rose to Order, complaining that the hon. Member was not addressing the Chair.
§ MR. HUSSEY VIVIAN
said, he had not taken part to any extent in the debates of that House, but he had sat long in that House; and he thought he knew the Rules. They were told that none at all, or only a very small portion, 1730 of the £6,000,000 would be expended; but a large part of it had been spent in warlike preparations. He could not understand how anyone was justified in spending such a large extra sum of money in warlike preparations, unless they thought war must ensue. He would not attempt to go into the general matters of the Eastern Question; but he would say again that he thought the Government would tender him their thanks, or ought to do so, for affording them an opportunity of explaining the course which they had taken on this occasion. He implored hon. Members opposite not to be led away by any Party motive to support measures which were opposed to the best interests of the country. He had no object to serve, so far as Party was concerned; but he prayed hon. Members to consider the responsibility of employing Indian troops within the dominions of this country—in Gibraltar or in this Kingdom. By the action of the Government, and by the concealment of their action, they had involved Parliament in a great expenditure, without its consent. That course was unconstitutional and illegal, and a slight had been cast on hon. Members on both sides; and it behoved the Government, on the earliest possible occasion—the present time—to explain to Parliament why it was that they did not communicate to Parliament at the time they came to the resolution, that it was their intention to bring over the Indian troops, and why they did not include the expenditure in their Budget.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, I am not aware whether it is the desire of the House at present to enter into a full discussion of this question; but I feel it necessary to rise at once, after the observations which have fallen from the hon. Member for Glamorganshire (Mr. H. Vivian), to make some statement with respect to the points to which he has called attention. I wish to bring under the notice of the House the very peculiar way in which the hon. Gentleman has raised this matter. There are two distinct questions that may be considered. There is, in the first place, the most serious and important question whether, in advising Her Majesty to order the despatch of troops from India to Malta without the previous approval or consent of Parliament, we have been guilty of a breach 1731 of constitutional propriety. If we have so offended, there can be no doubt at all that we have incurred a grave responsibility, and that the matter is one which ought to be fully discussed and decided by Parliament. Notice has been given this afternoon of the intention to challenge our course upon this matter; the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) also intends to raise the question; and there can be no doubt that it is the right and duty of Parliament to discuss the course which has been pursued, to put the Government upon their defence, and to have a clear understanding whether what has been done has or has not been constitutionally right? But my hon. Friend the Member for Glamorganshire does not desire to raise that question at present; and I think, therefore, that it may be more convenient to argue it on a future occasion. It is not, I think, for the convenience of the House, that it should be discussed upon the third reading of a Customs Bill, upon which it is impossible to take the sense of the House upon the grave issue that has been raised. It will certainly be more convenient to reserve it until the Supplementary Estimate is brought forward, or until a direct Motion on the subject is made. Then, there is what may be called the subordinate question—namely, whether, assuming that the course which has been taken has not been unconstitutional, the Government are not still to blame for not having, as a matter of frankness and respect towards Parliament, and also on the ground of public convenience, made known their intentions at the time the Budget was brought forward? As I understood the hon. Member, it was this second question alone that he desired to raise. If so, the course he has pursued has been a most inconvenient one; for, while professing not to argue the question whether the measure adopted by the Government has been constitutional or not, he has, throughout his remarks, assumed that it was unconstitutional. Of course, if we are to assume with him, that we have been acting unconstitutionally, and taking a step which subjects us, if not to the loss of our heads, at least to an enormous pecuniary penalty, surely it is scarcely worth while to consider whether we have been wanting or not in courtesy? The major offence is one that entirely overrides 1732 the minor. If the hon. Member wished to challenge us upon the comparatively narrow ground of the financial effect of our policy, he should have abstained from complicating his statements with some of the general remarks he made upon our course and policy. He should have abstained from raising a question as to the ground upon which the Fleet was sent to the Sea of Marmora, which is really a part of the larger question of our general foreign policy. I will not follow him into this part of his speech; but I must emphatically repudiate and condemn his statement, that the Fleet was sent into the Sea of Marmora with what he is pleased to call a "lie in its mouth." When we come to discuss that question fully, I shall maintain that the grounds on which the Fleet was sent into the Sea of Marmora were truly stated. That there have been changes in the situation, that varying circumstances have rendered it necessary for us from time to time to take steps and contrive measures which were not previously contemplated, is perfectly true. That is a part of the history of the whole of these diplomatic transactions, and can only be properly considered in connection with the subject as a whole. Such statements as that to which I have referred can only be made for the purpose of prejudicing the House. I must also challenge the extraordinary doctrine laid down by the hon. Member, that no nation is justified in expending money in warlike preparations unless it intends going to war. If that doctrine were correct, we should be very great sinners indeed; because, whether wisely or not, we have certainly been proceeding throughout upon the principle that it was our duty and our highest policy to spend money on warlike preparations in order to secure peace. Having said these few words, which have been forced from me by the remarks of the hon. Member for Glamorganshire, I will now come back to the point upon which the House has a perfect right to demand an explanation—namely, why it was that I did not make any statement to the House at the time the Budget was introduced, or in the course of the 12 days that elapsed between the introduction of the Budget and the rising of the House for the Easter Recess? If I am asked why I made no reference to this matter in the Budget speech? my answer 1733 is simple—because I was not in a position to do so; because it could not be said that the measure had been determined upon in such a manner as would enable me to present anything whatever in the nature of an Estimate to the House. It will be convenient for me to mention one or two things. It was on the 27th of March that the principle of calling upon a certain number of the troops from India to go to a Mediterranean garrison was considered by the Cabinet and was accepted in principle by the majority of the Cabinet. On that Wednesday, the question, being then put in a general and broad form, was discussed in the Cabinet and was accepted by the Cabinet, and that was the last meeting of the Cabinet attended by my noble Friend Lord Derby; and on the 28th—on the Thursday—his resignation was placed in the hands of Her Majesty. As soon as Lord Derby had resigned, there were changes necessary in the various Departments, and those changes affected two Offices particularly concerned in dealing with this question—the War Office and the India Office; and it was not for two or three days that these appointments were finally made, and that the present Secretary of State for War entered upon his duties, and that my noble Friend (Lord Cranbrook) went to the India Office. They undertook their Offices when the decision had been taken that in principle the calling of the troops from India was a measure that it was desirable and right to take. But, between the decision that the measure is right in principle, and that it is to be adopted, the House will perceive there is a considerable interval—and it was the bounden duty of my two right hon. Friends to consider, very carefully, the possibility of giving effect to this decision—the mode in which, the extent to which, and the time at which, effect should be given to it. For that purpose, it was necessary they should enter into communications, not only between themselves, but with the Government of India; and so it was that, at the time I made the Budget Statement in this House—the 4th of April—though, of course, I was aware that the measure was approved in principle, I could not have said—if I had been questioned upon it—whether that measure would or would not come to be adopted in practice at all. I could not have said 1734 that the difficulties in discussing details would be overcome. In fact, the communications were then going on; and it was not until the 12th of April—as late as that—that the first telegram was sent from this country to India authorizing any preparation whatever to be undertaken. That telegram was this. It was from the Secretary of State for India to the Government of the Viceroy—Preparation for sea transport sanctioned. Malta is the destination of Native troops to be sent from India.That was the first authority given, and that was given on the 12th of April. On the 16th of April the Viceroy telegraphed that the troops had been detailed for embarkation, and that the necessary orders had been given. Of course, communications had been going on; but it was not until the 12th of April that any orders were given authorizing the spending of any money, and it was not until some days afterwards that the final orders were given. Now, the questions which we must put to the House, and the questions which hon. Members ought to ask themselves, are two—first, was it necessary—was it the duty of the Government before taking any step of this kind—to have obtained the approval of Parliament? That is a question which at the present moment is sub judice. It is a question which we are to argue when the proper occasion arises, and upon which we shall feel ourselves bound to argue that we were not bound by any such obligation. But, if we were not subject to any such obligation, was it expedient at that time, when we were making these inquiries, considering the details of the measure and considering its difficulties, was it desirable that we should, before our minds had been finally made up, have brought the matter before Parliament and raised discussions upon questions which might have been questions of embarrassment and difficulty? That is a matter which we had to consider. I think the House will see that there may have been considerable inconvenience even on the present occasion; and to have laid that down, then, as a principle for all future times, would have been exceedingly embarrassing; because, if the moving of troops, being on the hypothesis within the power of Her Majesty, is to be arrested and discussed, and all the doubts pointed out, then 1735 serious difficulties might arise, and the hands of the Government might be seriously impeded. But, I am asked, what has become of the constitutional control of Parliament over the employment of Her Majesty's Forces? Well, I say, the constitutional control will be untouched in this matter. I wish to point out that the House must always bear in mind that the question they have to consider is, whether the preparations that are made are to be regarded as made in contemplation of war or in contemplation of peace? Now, if the question is to be regarded as in contemplation of war—if it is supposed that war, unhappily, is to break out—it will undoubtedly be a duty to come to the House and make very different financial proposals from those which have been made, and Parliament will maintain its complete and full power of refusing Supplies to enable the Government to carry on war. On that point there can be no doubt. But, supposing the question is one of dealing with the military resources of the Empire in the expectation of peace, the question is raised, whether there is anything in the act that has now been done which so disturbs the financial arrangements of the year, as to justify anyone in saying that the financial arrangements submitted on the 4th of April were arrangements which would have been viewed in a different light if this particular measure had been decided upon and had been communicated to the House, and formed part of the Estimates laid before the House? With regard to this, I venture to say that it is altogether fallacious to say we are committing Parliament to any large expenditure for which no provision was made, or that the Budget would have been different to any extent if the details of this movement of troops had been settled upon, and had been distinctly stated to the House. I wish to point out that the expense, talked of as one of enormous magnitude, is not likely to be anything like the amount which some hon. Gentlemen seem to contemplate. The mere expense of bringing 7,000 troops from India to Malta is an item which I am not at present able to state precisely in figures; but it is an expense which will be of moderate dimensions, provided the troops are only brought there for a short time, and that further necessity does not arise for their employ- 1736 ment on active service. If that necessity arises, then the condition is changed, and then we should have to come with other proposals and other Estimates before Parliament; but, assuming that this is only to be regarded as one of those measures of precaution which we have thought it right to take, the expenses will be of a comparatively insignificant character. Now, what was the nature of the Budget which I submitted on the 4th of April? I wish hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to pay particular attention to the nature and structure of the Budget? I did not attempt in that Budget to provide for everything that would have to be spent within the year. I called attention to the fact that there was a considerable sum which had been spent in the preceding year, and paid for by the issue of Exchequer Bonds, which must be redeemed within a limited time. I stated that there would be a certain amount required for extinguishing the ordinary deficit for the year. Besides that, I said there would be Supplementary Estimates for carrying on the Services analogous to and continuous of those for which the original Vote of Credit of £6,000,000 had been granted. And what I proposed to do by asking for the additional taxes was, if these Ways and Means were given to me to extinguish both the deficit that was anticipated for the year, to pay off Supplementary Estimates, and leave a margin over towards the extinction of the Debt that remained from the previous year. I said the Supplementary Estimates might be £1,500,000. I said frankly that I could not say precisely what the sum would be. I calculated that, with the amount which the Army and Navy stood pledged to, and which would enable the Reserves to be kept on foot for three months, the sum of £5,000,000 would very probably be expended, and I proposed that that amount should be extinguished within two instead of three years as I originally proposed. If it should happen that an additional £500,000 should be required for moving these troops, it would make very little difference—it would only be that we should extinguish so much less Debt in the time. Even if the cost should run up to £750,000 or £1,000,000, it would only amount to this—that we should not be able, out of the ordinary means granted this year, to pay off so much of the Debt incurred in 1737 the previous year; but the taxes, if continued for another year, would enable us to pay off in the time originally contemplated—three years. That was the general financial position; and it was not a matter of that vital importance to the Budget, that I should include that which I was unable to give. It would have been quite impossible, on the 4th of April, while my right hon. Friends the Secretary for War and the Secretary for India were examining the question in detail, and when it was quite possible that from day to day they might have found it encumbered with difficulties which would have prevented any action being taken, to have mentioned the matter to the House, and still more to have made it part of an Estimate. Only consider what might have happened, supposing I had come forward, on loose information, with a chance Estimate for the movement of these troops? We might have found that it was not convenient, and not possible to move them. What would have been the effect of proposing to bring the Indian troops, and then not bringing them? Why, it was just one of those movements it was important to keep secret till its success was insured. I wish it could have been kept secret longer—it was rather a 'surprise to me that it got out so soon as it did. I should have been glad if it could have been kept secret until the troops were quite ready and on the point of starting, because it was just one of those movements—assuming that Her Majesty's Government had the right to make it—which they were bound to order in such a way as to do all in their power, humanly speaking, to make it successful. If it were a bad and audacious thing to take the step at all, and to take it on our own responsibility, it would have been much worse than an audacious thing—it would have been most blameworthy and almost criminal—if we had taken such a step without taking all the precautions in our power to make it safe and successful. We believe we are justified by the letter and spirit of the Constitution in the act we have taken, and I believe, when we are challenged on the point, we shall be able to justify all we have done. We do not in the least shrink from a full discussion and any searching criticism that may be passed upon us. This we will say—that in what we have done we have acted, as 1738 we think, for the best, and on our own responsibility; and we shall, as soon as possible, lay before Parliament an Estimate, which shall give the House an opportunity, if it does not take any other, of pronouncing on our conduct, which we place, with the greatest confidence, in the hands of the House.
§ MR. DODSON
said, that without entering upon the Constitutional question, they were entitled to consider the finances of the Government for the year, which he would proceed to discuss, merely remarking that the £6,000,000 were voted to strengthen the hands of the Government on entering a Congress, the meeting of which it had been doing its best to prevent. The Budget was open to a graver charge than that it disturbed the relations of direct and indirect taxation, and that graver charge was that it was inadequate to the financial requirements of the country. The right hon. Gentleman passed on to next year a deficit of between £1,500,000 and £2,000,000, to be met by £600,000 of arrears of income tax. Thus deliberately to start with a deficit was bad in fact, and bad in appearance to the eyes of foreign countries. It was, in fact, objectionable, being as if we were in danger of war, and to foreigners it would suggest that the nation which boasted through the mouth of its Prime Minister that it could carry on an indefinite number of campaigns, shrank from the burden of partial preparation for war. It was admitted that the expense of moving the Indian troops was not provided for, and it could be provided for only in one of four ways—either there must be increased taxation and a Supplementary Budget, or the charge must be left as a remanet to next year, or the new Sinking Fund must be suspended, or there must be a loan. Every one of these courses was objectionable. If they were to have recourse to a loan, they would be proceeding further on the evil course on which they were already launched—boasting of paying off Debt by this now Sinking Fund and increasing the Debt at the same time. Thus they created a delusion; because, while people were led to believe that great efforts were being made for the reduction of Debt, they were contracting Debt in another form. It appeared to him that the right hon. Gentleman might have provided, and ought 1739 to have provided, for the expenditure necessary for the transport, pay, and maintenance of these Indian troops in the Budget which he recently introduced to the House. The right hon. Gentleman told them that the calling of Native troops from India was in principle adopted by the Cabinet on the 27th of March, that Lord Derby resigned on the 28th, and that the change of Offices caused delay; but the phrase resolved upon in principle was a very elastic term. He found by a telegram, which had appeared in the daily newspapers of the 7th of April from Calcutta, only three days after the Budget was introduced, but nine days before the House adjourned, that the intention of the Government was known and understood in India. All furloughs, it was said, were stopped, and an Expeditionary Force of Native troops was regarded as certain, whether for the Persian Gulf or elsewhere was uncertain. He could understand, as the right hon. Gentleman had stated, that the actual order for the troops to embark was not given till the 12th; but he could not reconcile the telegram from Calcutta with the suggestion that no preparations were authorized till the 12th. How could that be reconciled with the fact that five days afterwards the details of the expedition were announced in this country? He hoped the Secretary of State for War would give some explanation of this. If the matter were so far decided, both in principle and in fact, while the Budget was under discussion, the right hon. Gentleman could and should have given the House some information at least approximately with regard to this expenditure, as he did for the Army Reserves. At all events, he should have mentioned, when the Budget was under discussion, that he would have a further Supplementary Estimate to lay before the House for an expedition about to start from India. The only reason the right hon. Gentleman had to offer the other night for his reticence was, that keeping back the information had kept down the expense of transport. How this could be was not apparent, as it prevented competition on the part of shipowners; but now he told them there were other reasons. When the Government was going to take such a step as this, it was important to 1740 its success, he said, that it should be kept secret. He hoped the Secretary of State for War would explain, when he replied, in what way the success of the movement of bringing Indian troops to Malta depended upon secrecy. If the Government intended to land those troops in order to strike a sudden blow upon an enemy, he could understand the importance of secrecy; but he could not understand the importance of secrecy in the mere bringing of 7,000 men from India to add to the garrison in Malta. On the contrary, it appeared to him that the argument went all the other way. Had the Government really desired to produce an effect upon the military Powers of the Continent, and to show what resources England possessed, surely it would have been desirable to have stated in the House what they contemplated doing—to have said—"We have these forces, and are bringing some of them to Malta; we have more behind, and we will bring them also, if necessary." To have said that, and to have obtained the assent and consent of Parliament to what was proposed, would have produced an undoubted effect in Europe. They would have strengthened their position, instead of now subjecting themselves to criticism ex post facto for conducting this matter in a manner which almost seemed to give rise to a doubt whether they could have induced Parliament to adopt it. He thought the right hon. Gentleman opposite had treated the House rather cavalierly the other night in regard to this question. He had stated that the bringing of these troops from India to Malta was neither more nor less than a direction for them to move from one part of the Empire to another—ordering a regiment from Aldershot to Hounslow, or vice versâ—he had spoken as if the step had nothing striking or novel about it; and he had said that there was no necessity to communicate that step to the House, and that, in such cases, it had not been the practice to do so. He would tell the Chancellor of the Exchequer something which it had not been the practice to do. It had not been the practice to bring into the Dominions of the Crown in time of peace troops which had not been voted by Parliament either as to the number of men or as to money. The right hon. Gentleman told him that 1741 the constitutional control of Parliament remained untouched, as it would have the opportunity of refusing the Supplies if it disapproved of the step which had been taken by Her Majesty's Government. That was no doubt true. Yes, theoretically true; but, as these troops out of India could not be charged upon India, Parliament would have no option, and must provide the money. Moreover, when they were dealing with troops peculiarly circumstanced, as the Indian Army was, they ought to be specially jealous of the rights and privileges of Parliament; the Government ought to have consulted the wishes and disposition of Parliament before bringing them out of India. He should like to fortify himself by citing an authority on this subject greater than his own. On the 3rd of March, 1864, General Peel stated, with reference to the employment of Native Indian troops in China and the Straits, that if any part of the Native Indian Army could be thus employed without a Vote of that House, the Crown would have a force altogether removed from Parliamentary control. None of these checks—the Mutiny Act nor the Votes of men or of money in Supply—applied to the Indian troops. The result of the points insisted upon by General Peel was, that in subsequent years, both the men and the pay of the Native Indian Army employed out of India in Hong Kong or the Straits Settlements were voted by Parliament. There would be found in the Army Estimates, with scarcely any interruption from 1864 to 1871, Votes for these purposes, until in 1872, those troops were recalled to India, and were replaced in Hong Kong and the Straits Settlements by British troops. The right hon. Gentleman said that the expense with regard to this expedition would not be very great. Well, "great" was a relative term, and the House would know, when the Supplementary Estimates came before it, what the cost would be. But in 1871, the cost of 1,750 men of the Native Indian Army maintained in the Straits Settlements or Hong Kong amounted to £50,000 and if the cost of the troops now despatched to Malta were proportionate, a rule of three sum would show that the expense of the pay, maintenance, and transport of these troops would be considerable addition to the deficit of 1742 the right hon. Gentleman. It was said that the transport, the pay, and maintenance of these troops were to be charged on the British Exchequer. Were they to understand that the pay thus spoken of referred only to the extra pay the troops were to receive in consequence of coming out of India, or did it include their normal pay, and that India would be relieved of that charge? [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: The whole pay.] He did not know whether he need follow the right hon. Gentleman further on the structure of his Budget, which was of a very loose character, and left much to next year and to the chapter of accidents; but it appeared to him no light matter, on financial grounds, that the Budget should be so loosely constructed as to begin by leaving a large deficit to stand over to another year, and while the Budget was under discussion, a considerable addition was made to that deficit. It was no light thing if we were to have, immediately after the first Budget of the year, a Supplementary Budget and additional taxation. As a matter of sound finance, he contended that the first and foremost of the duties of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was to endeavour, in the Budget he submitted to the House, to lay before it the whole estimated Expenditure and the whole of the Ways and Means, so far as it was in his power to do so, for the entire year. That was what the right hon. Gentleman had not done. Of course, emergencies would arise. An emergency was something unforeseen and unexpected; but was this unforeseen and unexpected? It was no such thing, and an approximate Estimate might as perfectly well be given of this expenditure as of that for the Army Reserve or the extra labour in the Dockyards. If they once admitted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer might, in the first instance, submit a loose Budget, then an extraordinary Budget, an amending Budget, or a rectifying Budget or Budgets, with the multifarious names familiar to Continental financiers, then the control of the House over the finances of the country was virtually gone. If such a course were sanctioned avowedly or tacitly, the House would be forced to appoint a Standing Finance Committee, to watch from month to month the shifting Estimates of Expenditure and Reve- 1743 nue. He must say that the step which the House induced the right hon. Gentleman to take on the third reading of this Bill—namely, to give the House an opportunity of considering the financial position of the Government as a whole by the light of the new revelations we had had—was perfectly justified by the circumstances, and he thought that, on consideration, the Government itself would come to the conclusion that no other course ought to have been followed.
§ MR. A. MILLS
said, the right time to raise the question as to whether the action of the Government in this matter had or had not been constitutional, would be when the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition brought forward his Resolution, and therefore he did not intend to discuss the subject now. He only wished to make one remark with respect to what fell from the hon. Member for Glamorganshire (Mr. H. Vivian), which ought not to remain uncontradicted. The hon. Gentleman spoke of the Indian Army as "a foreign army," as if they were mercenaries, and seemed to think he had found a most important precedent in what the country Gentlemen had done in 1775, when Lord North employed Hanoverian troops in the American War. The hon. Gentleman called upon the House to do what the country Gentlemen did in 1775, when they entered a patriotic protest against the action of the Government. But the cases were not parallel. The Hessian and Hanoverian troops employed by George III. were, as everybody knew, employed under Treaty between this country and other Powers, and Parliament did quite right to protest against the action of the Government of that day. But, when the hon. Gentleman asked the House to do what was done in 1775, he could not have consulted Parliamentary History to much purpose. A Gentleman named James Lowther—he did not know whether he was any relative of the right hon. Gentleman who now bore that name—moved a Vote of Censure on the Government for their action with regard to the Hessian troops, and, on a division, the Government of the day had a majority of 220 against 83. He hoped any similar Motion of Censure on Her Majesty's Government would be attended with the same result. It seemed to him that we 1744 formed a part of a great Empire, and that we ought to be very careful of what we said about our fellow-subjects of the Indian Army. If the hon. Gentleman had looked into the Indian Mutiny Act, he would not have spoken of the Indian troops as he had done, or of the action of Her Majesty's Government as if it had been of the same kind as that of the Government in 1775. Under the Indian Mutiny Act, all recruits made the following affirmation:—I—solemnly affirm in the presence of Almighty God that I will be faithful to Her Majesty the Queen, Her heirs and successors, and will go wherever I am ordered by land or sea, and will obey the commands of the officers set over me, even to the peril of my life.He maintained that this placed the Indian soldiers, as regarded their military position, on the same footing with soldiers serving in this country, and there was no reason to suppose that there was the slightest difference between the relations of the Imperial Government to these troops and those of any other of Her Majesty's Forces; which, by the Acts of 1858 and 1860, had been completely consolidated in one Imperial Army. He had no desire to enter into the constitutional question; but, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Dodson), and others outside the House, had cited precedents confirming their view of the case, he might remark it was well known that the Native Army of India had on several occasions been employed out of India—namely, in Persia, in Egypt, in Abyssinia in 1867, and twice in China—he believed in the years 1841 and 1860. He defied anyone to show that there was the slightest difference between those cases and the present one. The simple question was, whether the Crown was invested with the power of moving troops without the consent of Parliament? He thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer had disposed of the question of urgency and secrecy in the conduct of this business. With regard to the composition of this Force, the Government had the necessity imposed upon them of being very careful as to the mode in which, and the time when, they should communicate their decision to Parliament. Considering that we had only a small standing Army, it was a good thing to bring Indian troops to our aid in dealing with this emergency, as he might term it. 1745 The right hon. Member for Chester (Mr. Dodson) seemed to speak with contempt of the notion of an emergency, and said that an "emergency" must necessarily be something "foreseen." This was not so. It was at the present moment an "emergency" for the Government to pass the third reading of the Bill; but it had been foreseen a long time ago, and the same was the case with our national "emergency." This was not necessarily an act of defiance; but it was intended to prove to Europe that the Parliament of England would support, and was supporting, the Government in resisting any aggression or any breach of Treaty that might be threatened. The Government were responsible for carrying out the arrangements in such a manner as to secure success. The action of the Government in removing these Indian troops had, in his judgment, contributed more than anything which had been done for a long series of years to bind to ourselves upwards of 200,000,000 of British subjects who were our fellow-subjects in the Indian Empire.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
thought the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. A. Mills) had proved too much; and ventured to ask, if the act of Her Majesty's Government in bringing Indian troops to Malta was to produce the good effect upon Europe which the hon. Member said it would, why did not the Government do it in the face of the world and with the sanction of Parliament? Why was this act, which was said to meet with admiration from Europe, done in a way which could only be said to be technically within the power of the Government, and certainly contrary to the ordinary practice of any constitutional Government that ever existed in this country? The other night he (Mr. Henry) seconded the Motion for Adjournment, because he was much struck by the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which had been repeated today, that the movement of the troops had, in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, become known somewhat too early for the convenience and advantage of the country. The right hon. Gentleman even expressed a wish that the movement had remained concealed a little longer, in order that it might be quite sure of succeeding. What was the success desired by Her Majesty's Govern- 1746 ment? He would prove by dates that the chief object was to get the Budget passed before any discussion upon the matter could be raised in Parliament. That involved a grave charge against the Government. The right hon. Gentleman had fixed the date, and had told them that it was determined, at the Cabinet Council of the 27th March, that the troops were to be called from India; but it was also at that Cabinet Council that the decision was taken to call out the Reserves, which was followed by the resignation of Lord Derby. This was the beginning of an entirely new policy, and the bringing of troops from India was of immeasurably greater importance than calling out the Reserves. The Government took Parliament into its counsel about the Reserves; but the calling of the troops from. India they did not communicate to Parliament, because they knew perfectly well that the act was of doubtful legality, or, if not absolutely illegal, was certain to cause great discussion and meet with opposition in the House. During the last few years they had been subjected to a policy which proceeded from the Oriental tendency of mind to theatrical effect and surprise, which was to be found in the Prime Minister; but which, he thought, could never have found favour with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Within the last two years, there had been a very noticeable change in the practice of the Government. The Government at one time used to answer Questions candidly, keeping nothing in the background, giving explanations, or refusing to give explanations; but of late the Government seemed to revel and delighted in mystery and theatrical effect. The speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to-night was a speech which might have proceeded from some person who was a master of technicalities, and was of a forensic character —such as might be heard in a Petty Sessions Court. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told them he did not know how much it would cost, and, therefore, could not propose an estimate; but such an evasion as that was of no avail when a constitutional question of this kind was before the House of Commons. What was the use of bringing these 7,000 Indian troops to Malta, except to show the world that if they could do that, they could 1747 bring 50,000 to this country, and that would not involve a small expenditure. The House would be able to see that the intention of the Government was simply that the Budget should pass without comment. Unusually strong efforts were made before the Recess to bring the Budget through the House, and if it had not been for the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell)—to whom the House was not always ready to recognize its obligations, and who had insisted on the adjournment of the discussion upon it until after the Recess—they should not have had the opportunity at the present moment of discussing the unconstitutional conduct of Her Majesty's Government. He (Mr. Henry) had not attempted to criticize the general conduct of Her Majesty's Government on Eastern affairs, nor had he said one word as to the wisdom of bringing troops from India; but he solemnly protested against the system of which the Government seemed now to be enamoured, of doing things behind the back of Parliament for the purpose of producing the surprise and admiration of foreign countries. This country had been strong hitherto; its diplomacy had been straightforward, and it had exercised great influence and had maintained its reputation abroad; because, whatever Government was in power, other foreign countries knew that the Minister, in all important matters, would be backed by a majority in Parliament. As it was now, nobody could tell what was the next surprise in store. It was just as competent for the Government to bring over a number of friendly Fingoes, who were fighting our battles at the Cape, or a troop of Maories from New Zealand. These were surprises against which they had a right, and it was their duty, to protest; and it was on that ground that he ventured to second the Motion for the Adjournment of the House the other night, in which he expressed his earnest hope that hon. Gentlemen on both sides would not even now allow the Budget to pass without recording a very strong protest against the conduct of Her Majesty's Government.
§ MR. RYLANDS
Sir, I should not have taken part in this debate but I feel, that as an independent Member, I ought to take this opportunity of protesting as strongly as may be against the course taken by Her Majesty's 1748 Government. The right hon. Gentleman told us on Thursday night, when he very reluctantly agreed to the Adjournment which enables us to discuss the third reading of the Budget Bill, that he could not tell what it was that the Adjournment was proposed for. I hope the right hon. Gentleman sees now that those who supported the Adjournment of the Debate had some reason for wishing it to be adjourned. Why, the discussion of this Budget—this most unexampled Budget, considering the circumstances under which it has been introduced—is most Important; for the taxation of the country is a matter which ought to be considered very seriously by this House at all times, and especially when we are laying additional burdens on the country, and when the country is suffering from almost unparalleled financial difficulties. The Budget Bill, as my hon. Friend the Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry) has pointed out, was introduced before the Recess, and the greatest pressure was put on the House so as to pass the stages of the Bill with the least possible discussion, and the effect of it was that this Budget, which will impose a very large amount of taxation on the country, was actually hurried through its stages without any sufficient discussion; and the House, instead of enforcing economy upon the Government, had abdicated its functions in obedience to the cry raised by the noisy "Jingo" Party. The Government has made use of its position in the House and in other places, in order to excite in the public mind the belief that there was some great national emergency which ought to induce hon. Members to give carte blanche to the Government. The result is, that at the present moment, while Her Majesty's Government are spending far more money than has ever been spent in a time of peace, there has been scarcely anyone bold enough to raise his voice in opposition to that expenditure. Let me just remind the House for two or three minutes of the fact, that the ordinary Expenditure of the country—for the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer divides his Budget into ordinary and extraordinary Expenditure, which, I think, is a very dangerous precedent—that the ordinary Expenditure this year has amounted to a sum which is altogether unexampled. I find, that under the Estimates of the right hon. 1749 Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that he proposes that we should raise taxes—leaving out of view the amount received from the Post Office, the Telegraph Service, Crown Lands, and Miscellaneous Receipts—to the extent of £70,000,000, for the present year. Why, Sir, in 1870–1, the total amount of the Expenditure in the Army and Navy and Civil Charges, and on account of the National Debt, amounted to £63,000,000; so that, in point of fact, there is an increase, since 1870–71, of over £7,000,000 a-year in the taxes imposed on the country. But while the ordinary Expenditure is rapidly increasing, we are now threatened with an extraordinary Expenditure, which is positively going on by leaps and bounds; and not only is there this very large amount of extraordinary Expenditure, but we are brought face to face with this fact, that over and above that extraordinary Expenditure, the Government are adopting measures which will necessarily cost a very large sum of money. I entirely agree with the former speakers in complaining, that when we were asked by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to consider the proposals in his Budget, not only did he not give us the full information which we have a right to expect, but, I think, in the course of his speech, he used language which was actually calculated to mislead the House, by diverting its attention from the possibility of any such extraordinary Expenditure as that which the Government now contemplate. I noticed that when the right hon. Gentleman—and I have now before me a report of what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said on the subject—alluded to the possibility of increase of Expenditure, he particularized the class of expenditure under the Vote of Credit, and he told the House that any further sums which the Government might require would be for analogous purposes to those which he had provided for in the Vote of Credit. It was quite clear that the assurance that additional Expenditure under the Supplementary Estimates would be incurred for purposes analogous to those provided for in the Vote of Credit, would necessarily divert the House from any idea that the Expenditure was to take the form which it was now clearly shown to take. Now, the right hon. Gentleman, I think, has entirely failed in giving any sufficient reason for thus withholding information 1750 with which Parliament ought to have been furnished. The Government had met the complaint that they had withheld from the House before the Recess the fact of their intention to bring over the Indian Native troops, by alleging their desire to maintain secrecy in the matter for diplomatic reasons; but that plea was altogether inconsistent with their course of action throughout the negotiations, which had erred on the side of too much openness and menace. We had Parliament called together at an early period, and the idea that the Government were about to take some extraordinary measures for the maintenance of British interests was then anticipated. We had a Vote of Credit of £6,000,000 at the time when it was believed that the money would not be spent. I have no doubt in my own mind that the real reason why this matter was not mentioned to the House of Commons was because it was a great innovation—a great interference with the Constitution of this country. I do not intend to go into that ground, which will be occupied in a subsequent debate; but I cannot help feeling that if the Government had come down before the Recess, and had announced in a fair and candid spirit that they did intend to take this unusual step of bringing these Indian troops, in order to assist in the British policy which the Government intended to pursue, any such intimation would have received the serious consideration of the House of Commons. I have no doubt that there would have been a very long and a very animated debate on that question, and that hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House would have been willing to sacrifice, if necessary, their Holidays to discuss the course which the Government proposed to take. I have no doubt that the object of the Government in keeping back this information was to get rid of the opportunity of Parliament discussing this innovation in the practice of the Government in this country; and I cannot help believing that one great object that the Prime Minister had in view was to create a new precedent in regard to the management of the affairs of this country, and that he would get, by means of this innovation, without any discussion, or the previous knowledge of Parliament, under the seal and authority of the Royal Prerogative, the right to bring the Native Indian troops into Europe. 1751 I am strongly of opinion that the course taken by the Government is one which is a slight to the House of Commons, and detracts from the Privileges of Parliament. I shall not go into the constitutional part of the matter; but I cannot help differing from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when, in reply to a criticism on the conduct of the Government, he said they had a constitutional right to despatch troops from India; but that, under the Bill of Rights, we might rest assured that no Indian troops could be brought into this Kingdom. If we are to have the sort of interpretation which the Government seem inclined to put on Acts of Parliament, I do not see that we have any certainty of protection under the Bill of Rights. I am quite aware of the difficulties that we are placed in on this side of the House in maintaining the rights of Parliament. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Glamorganshire, who spoke with such effect, that if the Liberal Party had occupied the Treasury bench and had attempted to strike this blow at the public rights of the House of Commons—I have no hesitation in saying they would have found many Liberal Members who would have resisted such a proceeding on the part of the Government. I can recollect in the last Parliament, when our Friends sat on that bench, and when what were called the "Collier and Ewelme Scandals" took place. Even in such a matter as that, there was an outcry raised on the Opposition side of the House, which was responded to to some extent by hon. Gentlemen who were supporters of the Government. Such things as these, through which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich was held up to public odium, were insignificant and contemptible events compared with the serious actions now being taken by the Government. Are we, as the House of Commons, to allow the Government to take a course, the effect of which, if persisted in, will make our discussions, when we are voting Army and Navy Estimates, a mere farce? It is part of the constitutional functions of Parliament to control the Expenditure of the country. When we get into Committee of Supply, we have the opportunity, in the first instance, of voting that a certain number of men and no more shall be employed for ser- 1752 vice in the Army for the current year. We then have the opportunity, on the Money Vote, of discussing again whether the number of men we have is not more than sufficient. Subsequently to the Committee, we have the Report to the House, upon which further debate may arise—we have then the Mutiny Bill fixing the number of men, when we might refuse, on any of its stages, the number of men proposed by the Government. Yet all these safeguards are destroyed by the course adopted by the right hon. Gentleman—not a single safeguard I have alluded to is maintained by the right hon. Gentleman, except the single one that I suppose at some future time he will come down and ask us to pay the bill now incurred. It is all very well to say we can vote against its payment. This is only an illusory pretence. The money will have been spent, and at that time we shall be told that it is utterly useless to reject Votes for sums of money which have already been incurred. I say we shall have no control whatever if the present precedent is permitted and established; the effect of it will be, that if the House were to Vote that there should be a less number of men in the Army, then the Government would at once turn round and bring a number of men into Europe from India—they would order men occupying European garrisons home, and supply their places with troops from India, without at all consulting Parliament, and so render the decisions of Parliament nugatory. Are hon. Gentlemen content to sacrifice all the Privileges of Parliament which our forefathers fought for—and, I may almost say, died for? Are we so degenerate a race of men—men who have public rights and Parliamentary Privileges—are we so degenerate, that, under the direction of the Government—who ought to be the main protectors of the Privileges of Parliament, but who choose to be—must I say—traitors to the duties devolving upon them—are we, because they are prepared to tamper with them, to sacrifice our rights? Well, I do not know how far on the other side of the House we shall receive any sympathy in this matter, and their action in the past does not give me great encouragement; but I would ask them to raise their minds beyond the mere differences between the two sides of this House 1753 with regard to the policy of the Government in reference to the Eastern Question. If they are right, even in the main lines of their policy, it does not prove that they are right in taking this course—in employing troops from India without the consent of Parliament. I do not know what steps may be taken hereafter; but I hope we shall have an opportunity of recording our Votes against the course of proceeding adopted by Her Majesty's Government; and I hope, when the time comes, we shall not find ourselves without support from hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House in our endeavour to maintain the ancient Privileges and constitutional rights of the House of Commons.
§ MR. PEASE
desired to add a few words to the debate, and to put in an humble but emphatic protest against the way in which the House had been treated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer with reference to the despatch of Indian troops. He thought no one in the House would have spoken more strongly than the right hon. Gentleman, if the Representative of any other Government had adopted the plan he had adopted with regard to the financial requirements of this country. The House had before it the third reading of the Bill for Ways and Means by raising the Income Tax and adding to the duties on dogs and tobacco. The right hon. Gentleman knew, when he was proposing that Bill, that he had to meet a larger expenditure than that which he mentioned to the House. When he was asked by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford, on the eve of the Adjournment for the Easter Recess, whether he had any further information to give to the House, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he (Mr. Pease) recollected rightly, said he had nothing further to communicate to the House. Yet, the moment the Adjournment took place, it was publicly known that 7,000 troops were to be sent to Malta from India. If the Government could order 7,000 Indian troops to Malta, they might order 17,000, or any other number they thought fit. Now, how could they know, when they were asked to read the Bill a third time, what the expenditure of the country would be? The Bill was no true representation of what the increased 1754 expenditure of the country would be. He would once more protest against Parliament being treated in the manner in which it had been treated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in withholding from Parliament the information which he possessed, and then moving a long Adjournment, in order to prevent the policy of the Government from being discussed.
§ MR. E. JENKINS
said, that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had professed great surprise that hon. Members should stop the progress of the Bill; but the right hon. Gentleman did an injustice either to his honesty or to his understanding. There were several important points, which would have to be discussed hereafter; but the special question before them that night was a very distinct and clear one, and one of no small importance. Three different issues might be raised with regard to the action of the Government in using the Indian troops as they had employed them in this case. The first would be the constitutional question arising out of the mode in which the Government had undertaken this great innovation; the second would be the question raised by the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, whether legally or constitutionally those troops might be used? and the third was the policy of employing Indian troops at all in European service. The question raised that night was of a highly constitutional character. It concerned the relations and duties of the Government to the House of Commons. It might turn out to be technically true, that the Government had correctly advised the Crown with regard to the action which had been taken in this case; but the point immediately before them was, whether it was proper that the Government, in bringing forward the Budget at a time when they clearly foresaw that they would have to ask for larger Supplies, should so far actually, if not intentionally, deceive the House with regard to the amount of Supplies that would be asked during the year? But they were entitled to go a little further than that. It was not a mere question of the introduction of the Budget; but they happened to know that while the Government were incurring the tremendous responsibility of introducing so great an innovation as 1755 the employment of Indian troops, they concealed that fact from the House, and, but for a mere accident, they should not at that moment be able to raise the question upon the Bill. He thought the country would speak out against the conduct of the Government; and he was surprised both at the apathetic and the enthusiastic spirit of hon. Members on the Ministerial side of the House. He was sorry that there had not been all along a stronger protest from the front Opposition bench against the proceedings of the Government. They appeared ready to subscribe their hands to every-thing which the Government asked them to do. When a Government had a large majority, which was prepared to vote almost anything, how were its wings to be clipped? How was it to be prevented from infringing upon the constitutional rights of the subject and of that House? It was only by a vigorous Opposition, only by an expression from the front Opposition bench of those high constitutional principles which ought to govern Parliament; and even though for a time a majority might succeed in carrying measures which transgressed those principles, yet they knew that the time would come when the tables would be turned, and when it would be possible once more to restore to the country whatever the Constitution had temporarily lost. As a humble Follower of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington), he regretted to say he was only expressing the opinion of a large section of the Liberal Party outside the House, when he stated that they wished, throughout the whole of the discussions which had arisen with respect to the Eastern Question, that the Opposition had been led with a little more vigour and distinctness, and then he would have been followed with a greater enthusiasm. But the answer just put forward by the Treasury Bench was one that did not bear examination. They had been told by the Government that the Crown had a right to come to important decisions upon great questions of foreign policy without regard to that House; and, if so, they could commit the country to an enormous expenditure, and then come down to the House and ask for what was practically a Bill of Indemnity. He would ask hon. Gentlemen on both sides to consider whether the case of emergency which had been put forward as 1756 one of the defences of the Government by the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. A. Mills) had been proved? There was no declaration of war, and no immediate prospect that the troops would be required. One was driven to the conclusion that the true motive of the secrecy on the part of the Government, as regarded the outside world, was not because there was an emergency, but because they did not wish that the House should exercise its constitutional right to intervene and discuss the question whether it was right or politic or constitutional to employ the Indian troops in the manner proposed. Therefore, he looked at the plea of emergency as a mere pretence, and he did not believe there were many hon. Members on the Government side of the House who would get up and defend the Government on that ground. His hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) had pointed out how impossible it would be to exercise an effective control over the Expenditure if Governments, having large majorities, were to act upon the precedent which had been set them in this instance. The truth was that, unless in the case of unforeseen emergencies, it was regarded as the duty of a Ministry to state distinctly what were the whole charges which they had in contemplation for the coming year. That was the regular practice. That had not been done in this case. Comparing the dates given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer with the dates of the passage of the Mutiny Act, it was evident that if the Government had wished to behave in a constitutional manner, they might have taken some action to delay the Mutiny Bill for the purpose of bringing before the House and the country that increase of Force which, without the Mutiny Bill, was believed on that side of the House to be neither legal nor constitutional. Into that point he would not enter; but he could not but feel that at that moment they were justified in offering to Her Majesty's Government every possible obstruction, not only to their foreign policy, but to that part of the domestic policy which was involved in the subject immediately before the House. It would appear that they had reached a stage in this country of government by conspiracy. The Prime Minister and his Confederates—he would withdraw the 1757 word "Confederates," and substitute Associates—the Prime Minister and his Associates in the Cabinet appeared to be assuming more and more to educate the people of England up to a point at which the Government of this country would be able to do things which, certainly, for many years, had not been considered either right or constitutional. If the course which the Government had pursued were to be carried to further extremes, and infringements were to be made on legal and constitutional rights, he could not but feel that the day would come when it would be necessary to make a very strong and cogent protest against such a course of proceeding. It was a singular fact that this country, which for so long a period had been governed upon constitutional principles by its responsible Ministers, should find itself, at last, in hands that trifled with constitutional freedom. The rights and liberties, not only of the House, but of Her Majesty's subjects, it appeared, had, in no small degree, been violated by Her Majesty's Government. He, for one, would enter a protest that night against the course taken by Her Majesty's Government, because he could not but think it was a conspiracy to get this country committed to a course to which a very large number of Her Majesty's subjects were opposed. For that reason, if no one else did, he would divide the House against the Bill.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, the House really was not informed what were to be the Ways and Means for the year—what would be the resources the State would require to meet its Expenditure? Nor was the House as yet informed what amount of military Force in Europe ought to be placed at the command of Her Majesty's Ministers; in other words, what ought to have been the Estimates? There seemed no doubt that the Chancellor of the Exchequer intended to create a Debt—he could not say how much; but he left the House in this position, that it was called on to vote the sum now asked under the impression that it ought to vote a great deal more. It was not within the competence of any hon. Member of the House to propose an increase in the taxation of the country—that was the privilege of the Representatives of the Crown only. Then, he would ask, on what were they to divide? All 1758 the great issues were postponed; and to refuse these taxes would be to diminish the Revenue, which they already knew to be insufficient to meet the Expenditure the House had already sanctioned. To divide in that sense would be absurd. It was his belief that the Government had acted not only unconstitutionally, but illegally, in importing these Indian troops into Malta, and taking them beyond the legitimate sphere of their proper operations, without the knowledge or consent of Parliament. That was a great issue—an issue which could not be decided that night. He thought it a very great issue indeed, having far wider bearings than any which had been touched upon in this debate. He (Mr. Newdegate) could not discuss this question now, as it would be out of Order to attempt it; but it was important for the country to decide, through its Representatives, whether Her Majesty's Ministers had not acted unconstitutionally and illegally in importing these Indian troops into Malta without any previous declaration of Parliament, either by Bill or Resolution. It was true that they could not force these troops into the United Kingdom, because they were precluded from doing so by the Bill of Rights. It was essential to the control of Parliament that the House should know what proportion of the Standing Army, for the maintenance of which it provided, was to be retained in the United Kingdom. If the Executive had the power to replace the troops in the Colonies by these Indian troops, which Parliament did not maintain, they might indefinitely increase the Standing Army, and the House of Commons would lose its legitimate control over what should be the number and employment of the Standing Army. These were not small issues; but, inasmuch as it was not within the Order of the House to debate them now, he should defer what he had to say upon them until he had a legitimate opportunity. Her Majesty's Ministers had lost, at least, one Colleague by these proposals; for they explained Lord Derby's retirement in the most honourable sense. It was unbecoming in the Servants of the Crown to postpone for a single day the explanations that they stated they were prepared to give on this great question.
§ MR. LAING
thought that assertions such as those that had been made by the 1759 hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. A. Mills) ought not to go forth uncontradicted, and he was prepared to prove, when the subject of the removal of the Indian troops was again before the House, that the whole teachings of experience, the policy of all the wisest statesmen who had governed India, and, above all, the lesson taught by the great Indian Mutiny, pointed to the conclusion that any attempt to carry out the policy of creating a martial spirit in India, and especially in the Native Indian Army, would be fraught with the greatest danger to the safety of our Indian Empire. In his opinion, it was very unfortunate that the policy of the Government in regard to the affairs of India had been imported into the consideration of the present Bill. As for the financial aspect of the question, without imputing to the Chancellor of the Exchequer any intentional desire to deceive Parliament, he felt that one result of the unfortunate concealment of the intentions of the Government had been to prevent the House of Commons from giving a full and fair consideration to the financial proposition of the Government. Now, the Budget was unsatisfactory in two respects. Its leading feature was, that in a time of peace, for the first time for a long period, they were acting on the vicious principle of not meeting the Expenditure for the year out of the Revenue of the year, but a remanet was left over till next year; and its other important characteristic was found in the fact, that the attempt to meet the deficit was partial and disproportionate. The framers of the Budget sailed very near the wind, and it was imperative that the Government should show no more expenditure than was absolutely necessary; another £500,000 of expenditure would seriously derange their plans, and to meet the new expense of moving the Indian troops, probably £1,000,000 would be wanted, and additional taxation would have to be imposed. But what provision would be made? It would be most undesirable to put another penny on the income tax, and it would be impossible to find any mode of increasing the indirect taxation which would not be very unpopular in the country. If the country at large thought it right to incur a great expenditure in making warlike preparations, was it not fair, he would ask, that that expenditure—at least till war broke out 1760 —should be met by means of additional taxation levied at the time? If we looked to the moral effect that might be produced on the negotiations, surely to show that the country was willing to submit to additional taxation was a much more powerful weapon to take into a Congress, than the importation of 6,000 or 7,000 men from India to Malta? Now, what he maintained was, that, owing to the unfortunate reticence of the Government with regard to the Bill under their discussion, the House had never yet been placed in a position to consider fairly their financial arrangements with regard to the ensuing year.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, that, without doubt, one of the first duties of the Government was to submit to the House full information upon all questions in which expenditure of the public money was involved. To what extent had that duty been fulfilled in the present instance? The principle of sending the troops from India to Malta had been decided upon by the Cabinet on March 27, and the Financial Statement for the year was made on April 4. But, in his Budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his calculations made no reference to the project which the Government had in contemplation, and, in fact, suppressed information which the country, through its Representatives, had a right to have. But the Government went beyond that; because, on the 16th April, the day on which Parliament adjourned for the Easter Recess, the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated there had been no change in the state of affairs, and Government had no information to give the country. That certainly did not lead the House of Commons to expect any such extra expenditure as this Indian Expedition must involve. Before that, the House had the Estimates and the Mutiny Bill, in which the number of men to be placed on the Establishment and the expenses were indicated; yet, four days before the 16th April, Government gave instructions to the Indian Government to make the necessary contracts for transporting the troops, and of this the morning papers of April 17 gave information, showing that some Members of the Government had been more candid to the Press than the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been to the House of Commons. That he could not but regard as a slight upon the House, whose greatest 1761 privilege it was to control the Expenditure upon public matters. On the same morning, it was publicly known by telegram from India that Government were making the contract there for the conveyance of troops. Knowing something of mercantile affairs, he thought the Government had not used sound judgment in making these contracts. Instead of advertising for a certain amount of tonnage, they went privately to shipowners for separate tenders. Of course, all thought that an extraordinary amount of shipping would be required, and each asked a great deal more than he would have asked had each shipowner known that comparatively such a small amount of transport was wanted. He (Mr. Biggar) believed that much more had been paid for the ships than if the business had been conducted in a business-like manner. Their mismanagement had been the result of trying to do things in too clever a way. The expense had been increased; and, as Ministers and as men of business, the Government should lose the confidence of the country. As the Bill itself was based upon a thoroughly unsound principle of taxation, he should vote against it.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 111; Noes 19: Majority 92.—(Div. List, No. 116.)
§ Verbal Amendment made.
§ Bill passed.