HC Deb 02 August 1889 vol 339 cc231-62

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [25th July], "That the Bill be now read a second time."

Question again proposed.

Debate resumed.

* SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy)

I consider this Bill to be one of great importance, and I must express my surprise at the Government having tried for months, without sufficient discussion, to pass the Bill after 12 o'clock at night, when those who are opposed to it happen to be away. Not only I, but many Members who sit on the Benches opposite, have a good deal to say about this question. The Bill is a most important one, and I must say I think we have been hardly used in having had the Bann Drainage Bill put down before it. It was only by accident that I found out that the Bann Drainage Bill was not to be proceeded with, and it is only because I happened to intimate to several Members who are interested in this Council of India Bill what I had discovered, that anyone at all interested in it is present to discuss the measure. In the few words which the Under Secretary for India addressed to the House at five minutes to 12 the other night, he spoke of the Bill as intended to effect an economy in connection with the Council of India. Well, in my opinion, if this be a matter of economy, that economy might be effected in another way by a reduction of the salaries of the Members, instead of a reduction of their numbers.

MR. T. C. BARING (London)

I rise to order. To the best of my knowledge, the hon. Member has already spoken on the Motion.


The hon. Member is entirely wrong. I was speaking at 12 o'clock the other night, when the Debate stood adjourned, and I think it very wrong on the part of the hon. Member to attempt to burke discussion. I am sure that the gentlemen serving on the Council would be willing to serve at reduced salaries of £800 instead of £1,200, most of them having either pensions, annuities, or other employments. I said the other night that I believe a large reduction in the number of members of the Council means the beginning of the end—the beginning of the attempt to get rid of an independent Council and the approximating of the body to the position of mere Civil servants. I doubt whether the Council is as efficient as it ought to be, and I think we ought to make it efficient or get rid of it altogether. The burning point of this most important question is whether we are to have a real Council to control the Secretary of State for India and to act as a buffer between Parliament and India, or to have a limited number of councillors whose advice the Secretary of State may take or leave. I say you ought not to make the change now proposed without a full and complete inquiry, but limited to the machinery in this country for controlling the Home Government of India. That is an inquiry which was promised by the noble Lord the Member for Paddington when he was Secretary of State for India. That promise has been repeatedly made to us by different Secretaries for India. We have been repeatedly promised inquiry into the Home Government of India, but no less than 31 years have elapsed since we formally took over the Government of India, and yet the long-promised inquiry has not come. It has always been acknowledged that inquiry is absolutely necessary in regard to the control of the finances of India. The Act regulating the matter has been open to a variety of constructions, and has led to great differences in practice, and the question is whether we are to have a Council entrusted with real power of controlling, or a mere body of expert advisers to the Secretary of State. The intention of Parliament by the Act of 1858 was to make the Council analogous to the Board of Directors of the old East India Company, which acted as a kind of buffer between Parliament and the Indian Government. One of the clauses of the Act is to the effect that the Council is, under the general direction of the Secretary of State, to transact the business in the United Kingdom in relation to the Government of India. No doubt subsequent clauses give the Secretary of State power in exceptional cases to overrule the Council, but that is a very different thing from governing by the Secretary of State advised by the Council. The power of the purse is a very great power. Who controls the purse controls the country. By another clause of the Act of 1858 the Secretary of State has no power in financial matters to overrule the Council, and in such matters he can do nothing without the consent of the majority at a meeting of the Council. That seems to me a very strong provision indeed, and one that puts the Council in a very independent position. And I have authority for that reading. I find that the Under Secretary for India, who, always ready enough and successful enough in claiming for his Department whatever authority was its due, when pressed as to the question of finance asserted that the House had carefully divested itself of control over the finance of India. But notwithstanding this declaration, it was different in the India Office. British Ministers who had held office as Secretaries and Under Secretaries of State did not like to be controlled at all, and therefore they did all they could to whittle away the control over the finances intrusted to the Council of India by Parliament. The doctrine that had been held by several Secretaries of State was that the finances were not controlled at home, but that they were controlled by the Government of India; and attempts had been made successfully to restrict the control of the Council to petty grants of money made in this country. If Her Majesty's Government wish to weaken or destroy the Council of India let them do so fairly in the light of day by a measure aiming at its object directly and frankly explained to Parliament, and not by a measure of this character, attempted to be rushed through its stages at midnight and at the fag end of the Session. Let the country have a fair opportunity of considering all that was involved. We must remember that India is an enormous empire with an enormous income, great provinces, and a vast population whose interests there must be great difficulty in representing. As a matter of numbers I do not think 10 is sufficient. For years there has been no representative of Bengal, with its 70,000,000 of people, nor of Assam, and the Central Provinces, and Burmah. These are great departments which are not represented, and which ought to be represented. My hon. Friend, who is likely to second this Motion, has a Motion on the Paper which seems to be very reasonable, and which suggests that there is no representation of the medical department, to which India owes so much, and to which, in future, I hope we will owe a great deal more. I think it is most desirable that on the Council of India you should have a representative of medical men. And I believe it is not so much a matter of money if you desire to establish a Council which shall control the Secretary for India, for there are plenty of Anglo-Indians of great experience and ability, who seek not so much for money as for honourable employment in connection with India; and many admirable men, both paid and unpaid, would render most excellent service to the country. For my part, I very strongly object to that part of the Bill which does not directly diminish the number of he Council, but leaves to the discretion of the Secretary of State for the time being whether he will do so. Seeing the period of the Session at which we have arrived, I do not think we ought to hurry the matter. At the present time there is only one vacancy in the Council. It might he filled temporarily, and the Government might grant a limited inquiry, not going into the whole question of the Government of India, which I grant is far too large. ["No!"] That is my opinion. I should be very glad if we could get it to be a large inquiry; but I ask for the limited inquiry which the noble Lord the Member for Paddington promised. This Bill only deals with the Home Government of India, and I want the inquiry before anything is done. I hope, therefore, that the Government will not press this Bill too hurriedly at the fag-end of the Session, but that they will take a little time, and give the inquiry promised, and then, if necessary, bring in a Bill next year.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, "This House, while approving of any economy or reduction of salary that may he possible, does not approve of a serious change in the Council of the Secretary of State without a full inquiry into the constitution and working of the official body in this country by which the Government of India is supervised."—(Sir George Campbell.)

Question proposed "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

* SIR W. GUYER HUNTER (Hackney, Central)

Mr. Speaker, I find by the rules of the House that I am precluded from submitting the Amendment which I have on the Paper, in consequence of one having been proposed by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy, and I can, therefore, only express approval of its terms— That no change in the constitution of the Council of India will be accepted which does not make provision for a medical officer being placed on that Body. I think the Council of India is not a sufficiently representative body. It was established in 1858, on the transference of the Government of India from the East India Company to the Crown. By the Act of 1858 it was settled that the Council of India should consist of not less than 15 members. By Clause 10 of that Act it is provided that the major part of the Council shall be composed of persons who have served or resided in India 10 years. Clause 16 states that after its first formation the supplying of vacancies in the Council shall rest with the Secretary of State. How is it, then, I would ask, that during all those years between 1858 and the present time there has not been an Indian medical officer appointed to the Council? If the Council it is to be a representative body, surely it is only reasonable and just and fair that a medical officer of Indian experience belonging to one of the largest Departments of the Government of India should be entitled to a seat on it. Since the Indian Council was instituted there have been many Indian medical officers who have received the fullest confidence of the Government, and were decorated by the Crown on account of the way in which they have carried out the important duties confided to them. Statistics of the greatest importance affecting the health, welfare, and prosperity of 250 millions of people are received from the Medical Department in India every year by the India Office; and yet there is not an officer on the Council of India who is, in my opinion, in a position to deal with them. Clause 10 does not in any way preclude a medical officer from being appointed, and I therefore ask how it is that a medical officer has never yet been appointed to deal with these huge statistics received every year from India? The present Bill contemplates a reduction of the Council from 15 members to 10 at the option of the Secretary of State; but before such a power is conferred on the Secretary of State, I think some inquiry ought to be made into a matter which is of such grave importance to the people of India. I trust that the House will take into serious consideration the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy, and not pass the Bill until there has been a full inquiry into the constitution of the Indian Council.

* MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)

Sir, I have no intention to oppose this Bill, which is a small one. I suppose the Government will at once say that it is difficult enough to get a small Bill through this Session, and that a large one would be impossible. But I have some justification for making one or two observations. Very early this Session I obtained a first place in the Ballot for a Motion relating to the Government of India at borne and abroad. I am deprived of that by the Government. I obtained afterwards a second place, and was deprived of that, too. The difficulty of those who consider the Indian question is that there is no occasion with you in the Chair, Sir, on which it is possible to be sure of any discussion relating to Indian affairs. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy has moved an Amendment, which, if it became the substantive Motion, I should ask to amend, because I utterly differ from him in thinking that any such limited inquiry as he proposes would be sufficient or useful. The reason why I do not oppose the Bill is that it is better to have some economy than none at all. But the economy is not made certain by this Bill. It is in the discretion of the Secretary of State for India for the time being, and there is a very strange peculiarity of change in the wording of the Bill, so far as it deals with these appointments. I do not know whether it is a draftsman's peculiarity, or whether there is a hidden meaning in it. The Bill speaks of these appointments by Her Majesty; but, for some reason or other, the Secretary is substituted for Her Majesty. I quite agree, if the appointments are to be on Ministerial responsibility. There is the difficulty, in relation to the Secretary for India, that we have no means of objecting to him. In the case of every other Member of the Government, the salaries being paid out of the Votes, we have some opportunity of dealing with the various questions which arise. The whole cost of the Indian Home Government is paid by the people of India; the House has no control over it; and there is no manner of means by which we can make the Secretary for India or the other Indian officers amenable to this House, except in direct Vote of Confidence in the Government, which it would be almost impossible to get anyone to listen to. I object that there is much greater need of the general reform of the Legislative Councils than the reduction of the India Council. I object that there is no evidence that the Council of the Secretary of State for India keeps itself en rapport with the Indian people. And it is perfectly certain that there are no sort of relations between it and the English Parliament. The only thing the Secretary for India does, in answer to questions he may be presented with from different portions of this House, is to give us as little information as he possibly can and when it is of comparatively little use to us. If that is all that the Council for India does, I say there is no justification for its existence. I understand the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy to be puting in a sort of plea in formâ pauperis for a number of estimable gentlemen connected with the Government of India, with a view to their employment here. That is not a view which commends itself to my mind. There is no evidence, as far as the House of Commons can deal with the matter, that the Council is of the slightest help to the Government of the country. It is suggested that people of India regard it as standing between them and many legitimate reforms, and that they are therefore opposed to its continuance in its present form. When next Session comes, if it ever arrives, I propose to try and submit a scheme of reform for the Council of India, and I can only now express my deep regret that the Government should bring in this amending Bill not dealing with the whole affairs of India, but limited to such a small matter, withholding at the same time all information concerning it. Apparently, the Under Secretary for India has made no inquiries into this matter. If he has, he has kept the result to himself; but I do suggest that the answers he has given in the House this Session have shown his utter incapacity with regard to it.


I notice that whenever an Indian question comes before the House a certain number of hon. Members are anxious to have a count, while the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy is always ready to extend the subject of the Debate. On this occasion the question before us is exceedingly limited, and it is contained within one clause. There is a great deal to be said for what the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy has stated as to the necessity for some inquiry to be made in regard to a certain Constitutional matter; but that is not the business before the House, and we must confine ourselves to discussing the provisions of this clause. Now, I see it is provided that the Secretary of State, if he thinks fit, shall place on record his intention to abstain from filling up any vacancy on the Council. Supposing, however, that a vacancy occurs on the Council, and the Secretary of State does not record "his intention to abstain from filling any vacancy in the Council of India," it is possible that the vacancy might remain for an indefinite period, and I think that such power should not be left to the Secretary of State. There should be some sort of proviso introduced into the clause stating that such intention shall be recorded within a specified period so as to render it obligatory on the Secretary of State either to fill the vacancy or record his opinion within a short period of time. There are many other points concerning the India Council which I should like to deal with, but I fear they do not fall within the scope of this Bill. It has often occurred to my mind that we might have fresher blood in the India Council. There is no reason why men serving in India and passing from appointment to appointment should not pass, say, five years in England and then resume their careers in India. In such a case the man appointed would not remain long enough in England to forget his Indian work, or to deviate from the rules and traditions of the Indian Service, while his experience in both countries would be fresh and valuable to both. As the India Council is merely a consultative body, it might also be of advantage to introduce two, or probably more, experienced, trained, and highly-placed natives of India on it, so as to more amalgamate the Home and Eastern opinions into that Indian Empire, which is after all, as Mr. Disraeli said, a matter of considerable importance to this country. I think also that a consultative body of Indians might advantageously be constituted in India. One great defect in India as compared with this country is the Empire lacks a great and expressive body of upper middle class, and middle class; while we in England are a compact, well-organized body right through the social system from the Sovereign to the masses. There should be a sort of Council in India somewhat resembling our Privy Council, on which Indian gentlemen of the highest positions could be called up to serve when the Viceroy should chose to receive them. Such a Council would, I think, enable the Viceroy to consult Indian opinion, and to receive suggestions on any great or delicate question of taxation or political change, and thus to render this Body a channel for communicating with the taxpaying population of India.

MR. J. G. SWIFT MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)

I do not think I should be justified in forcing a Division on this Bill, although I must confess that I am opposed the principle which it embodies. I look upon it as a feeble attempt to change the administrative system of India, while I cannot help thinking that any effort to grapple with the reform of Indian Administration ought to be complete, final, and far-reaching. Now, Sir, this is a proposal to reduce the number of members of the India Council from 15 to 10. What is this Council? I have no hesitation in saying that the India Council, whether designedly or not, is so afraid that it screens from the eyes of the people of this country the true nature of our Indian Administration, which is a despotism, pure and simple. The India Council is one of the many contrivances—and some of them are of astonishing ingenuity—by which the people of this country are kept unenlightened on Indian Government. Mr. Disraeli, in 1851, asked what is the Government of India? Now, Sir, I do' not know in whom the Government of India lies or on whom to fix the responsibility, but I say that this Council of 15 men is one of the many screens by which the responsibility of officials to this House is kept in the dark. John Bright once compared the Government of India with that of Russia; he said that both were precisely the same, only that the population of India was three times that of Russia. I imagine that hon. Members who have preceded me in this Debate will agree that any true and effective reform of this Council ought to lie in the direction of placing it in touch with the people of this country as well as with the people of India; to make it, in short, a truly representative Council. I do not think that at the present time there could be an absolutely elective Council, but I do say that the representative element might be gradually introduced both as regards India and as regards the people of this country. I think the introduction of this Bill is a striking testimony, small as it is, to the efforts of the earnest men, among whom the junior Member for Northampton stands foremost, who have in season and out of season pressed the subject of India on the attention of this House. I do not, however, think the Bill will do much good; on the contrary, it is rather calculated to do harm, but it is significant as showing at all events that the Government are conscious of what is happening there; it shows that they are keenly alive, first of all, to the growing interest and sympathy of the people of this country with India; secondly, to the rise of public opinion in India itself; and, thirdly, to the necessity of making special provision for the great calamities and famines which occur there. This Bill is really a kind of concession to the feeling in England that something must be done—a kind of salve to the national conscience, But, after all, what is proposed is a poor remedy. To reform the Government of India by knocking five men off the present number of the India Council is simply to give a shabby coat of moral whitewash to the sepulchre of corruption and misgovernment in India. I think the term "Indian experience," as applied to members of the Council, is too vague; it might cover the case of an hon. Member who has travelled for a few months in India.

An hon. MEMBER

Ten years' residence in India is the qualification.


I thank the hon. Member. That point had escaped my notice in the examination of the Indian statutes. After all, what do the members of the Council do? what power have they? They have a right to enter a protest, if they do not appove of the action of the Secretary of State; but as a fact, from 1858, when the Council was established, down to the present time, there is no record of a single protest on their part, and we are utterly in the dark as to what goes on in the Council. Should all the 15 object to the action of the Secretary for India, they have no power to stop him; he can carry the day in spite of them. In fact, they seem to do nothing but receive their salary. The Government of India is an irresponsible Government, and I agree that there should be a complete and thorough investigation into affairs connected with Indian Administration in this country. The proper method of reform is not to reduce the number of the members of the India Council by five, but to modify its constitution and introduce the representative principle. We want this country to take into its own hands the direct responsibility for Indian Government; we want the Indian Government to become directly responsible to Parliament. An Act was proposed during the Premiership of Lord Palmerston, which provided that the Secretary of State for India should be assisted by nine officials, and it was very bitterly opposed. Then came Mr. Disraeli's Act, which proposed that the Council of India should consist of 18 people, nine to be nominated by the Government, and the remaining nine to be obtained by some system of election; for instance, four were to be nominated by English natives in India, and five were to be elected in great commercial centres—such as London, Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow, and Belfast. That, however, was not carried. I do suggest that instead of initiating reform by reducing the number of the India Council, it would be better to introduce the elective principle as far as regards five of the members, of whom two might be elected by the English population in India, for one of the bitterest complaints of Englishmen in India is that they have no voice whatever in the management of the affairs of that country. There is a still stronger objection to the Bill, and that is that the Council of India as it stands is a complete reversal of the system under which it was established, and any change in the Council at the present time would be to endorse that reversal. I am sorry there is no one of Indian experience on the Treasury Bench to answer me.

SIR R. N. FOWLER (London)

The Secretary for War is here.


Move the adjournment of the Debate.


I hope the natives of India will see how their interests are treated in this House by the Government of India. I have the interests of the natives at heart; I have the interests of suffering humanity at heart. I have taken the trouble to go into these matters; I make certain charges against the Government of India; and if those charges are wrong then they ought to be refuted. Why is the responsible Minister of the Crown not present tonight? Again, I repeat that this Council is one of the many contrivances for concealing from the people of England the true nature and the despotism of the Indian Government. I will take the hint of my hon. Friend and move the adjournment of the Debate, on account of the Under Secretary of State for India not being in his place, or perhaps I had better do it at the conclusion of my speech. I charge the Indian Government with having reversed their policy since 1870. I say the original arrangement was that all Government measures should be initiated by the Indian Government and reviewed by this Council of 15 gentlemen, and that, finally, the Secretary for India should either approve or veto the Bill. But that is now all reversed. This Council is a mere gingerbread organisation. I ask the House to bear this in mind, and to attempt to realise the sufferings of the 200 millions of their fellow-subjects in the far East. Let it exercise its great powers on behalf of these people, let it appreciate its vast responsibilities towards them. For whom does this Council legislate? Whom does it advise? The State income of India which these gentlemen have the power of dealing with, is almost an incalculable sum. It amounts to £77,000,000, and of that amount not one penny is contributed by the free will of the people. In 1837 the income of the United Kingdom was £30,000,000 less than that of India is now. I have always found that Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House, when their instincts as gentlemen and Christians and human beings are appealed to are ready to respond to the appeal, and I ask them to look at the facts of this case in the interests of humanity, and not to allow matters of this kind to be rushed through the House of Commons at the fag-end of the Session with only a few Members present and the Under Secretary of State absent. Any reform of this Council should in my opinion be based on the elective principle. If there were only 15 members elected even by the English speaking people of India, would the Under Secretary stay away now? Of course he would not. His 15 members are simply Gentlemen who will envelope him in a cloud of irresponsibility. My hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir G. Campbell) has said he is glad Indian affairs are not administered on a Party principle. Theoretically he is right, but I am sorry in some respects, for I think that if this were a mere Party question we should have numbers of men present on both sides of the House. It being a question which affects the happiness of millions, we have not a responsible Minister of the Crown present even to read what his Indian instructors tell him. Fox, in 1797, went out of power, and lost wealth and many friends on account of an Indian principle. I was recently reading some of Fox's private correspondence at the time the Debate was coming on that was to crush him, and he said— I do not care for myself. I do not care for my future career. I have felt it incumbent on me, and my imperative duty when so many millions are, I know, dependent on my exertions, to do my best for them. Where, I ask, is that feeling now? Are we to abandon these people? Certainly, as far as I have power in this House I will not do it. I will now move the Adjournment of the Debate.

MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)

I think the Motion is quite justified. I listened attentively to the speech of my hon. Friend. It showed not only deep feeling for the people in India, but a close acquaintance with the facts bearing on their condition, and I think it is not considerate to the House, and not fair to the people of India themselves, that the Minister who ought to attend to this business should not pay my hon. Friend the ordinary respect of being present during the Debate. By way of emphasizing the complaint of my hon. Friend, I beg to second his Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Mac Neill.)

THE SECEETAEY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. E. STANHOPE, Lincolnshire, Horncastle)

The Government are not able to assent to this Motion for Adjournment, and I am surprised that, of all people in the world, the hon. Member for Donegal should have made it. He has made a speech to which he expects the Government to reply, and, in order to give them the opportunity of replying, he moves the Adjournment of the House, and so prevents them replying. I am quite sure that on second thoughts he will see that it is much better to afford us an opportunity of replying to his arguments. I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for India (Sir John Gorst) is not present. His absence is unavoidable, but I think he is one of many who were not aware that this Bill was likely to come on at this time. It is quite true that my hon. Friend represents the Government of India, but it is also true that the Government of India is represented by Her Majesty's Government as a whole. I do not allow for a single moment that India is represented solely by my hon. Friend. Every Member of the Cabinet is as responsible, and much more responsible, than my hon. Friend the Under Secretary.


As the right hon. Gentleman undertakes to reply himself, and explains the absence of the Under Secretary, I hope my hon. Friend will withdraw the Motion for the Adjournment.


I beg to withdraw the Motion.


I would remind the House that my right hon. Friend the Secretary for War was, during three years, Under Secretary of State for India, and during the five subsequent years represented the Conservative Party on Indian questions on the Front Opposition Bench, so I think the House will feel that it will not suffer by the Government of India being represented on the present occasion by my right hon. Friend.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question again proposed.

* SIR E. LETHBRIDGE (Kensington, N.)

I must say I share very strongly the regrets that have been expressed that the Government have felt it to be their duty to press on this unfortunate Bill at the fag-end of the Session, and at a period when so many hon. Members who take an interest in the question are absent from the House. The hon. Member for Donegal (Mr. Mac Neill) laid much stress on the fact of the absence of my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for India. I do not attach much importance to that fact, though I am quite sure my hon. Friend will regret very much that he was not present when he knows that this Bill has come on. In support of what was said by the hon. Member for the City of London (Sir R. Fowler), let me say that there is, perhaps, no Member of the House unconnected officially with India, whose words are more thoroughly accepted upon Indian questions, than the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. Stanhope). I regret the course Her Majesty's Government have felt it their duty to take, all the more because I am convinced that my noble Friend the Secretary of State for India and my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State are, in pressing on this Bill, animated by admirable motives in themselves. I have no doubt that the motive that they have put before the House prominently—namely, that of saving £6,000 a year to the taxpayers of India, is the real and sincere motive which influences them, but behind them are those who have motives other than that very excellent one. I say that is an excellent motive; and any proposal that tends to cut down the home charges of the Government of India deserves the full and most careful attention of the House. The reduction of the home charges of the Government of India is in my opinion what ought to be the key-note of every Indian financial reformer; but surely it will be admitted by the Government that some sort of inquiry as to the best form of reduction of expenditure ought to be instituted before rushing through a Bill of this character almost without explanation, merely on the ground that it does save £6,000 a year. After all, what is £6,000 when we consider the enormous charges that are placed on the taxpayers of India for the sustenance of the India Office year after year? It is a mere bagatelle; and, therefore, I think the House before it assents to the proposition to make this infinitesimal reduction in the expenditure in the India Office, might fairly demand to be informed whether there are not other means of saving which would save a great deal more, and do no greater harm to the efficiency of the administration of India. I maintain that this reduction of expenditure begins at the wrong end. It is almost generally admitted that the power of the Secretary of State is rather too large than too small. It is universally admitted that his knowledge of the special wants of India must rather be too little than it can ever be too great, and that the only check or control over the despotic power of the Secretary of State in exercising the supreme ultimate power over the affairs of India is the advice of this consultative Body, the Council of India. I do not wish to attribute ignorance of Indian affairs to the noble Lord who now rules at the India Office, because I am aware he has given his best attention to, and endeavoured to inform himself of, every concern of the great dependency of India; but it is almost in the nature of things necessary that the supreme ruler of all the India Office, the Secretary of State, should be, to a large extent, ignorant of the special circumstances of the various provinces of India. I maintain that to diminish the number and the authority of those who constitute a check on the despotic power of the Secretary of State is clearly to maim and to injure that check; it is clearly to quench the sources of light to which the Secretary of State can alone look to obtain a correct appreciation of the various facts that are put before him. This Bill might fairly be called a Bill to render the Secretary of State absolutely despotic, and absolutely independent of Indian public opinion. Probably it will be said that ten is a number sufficient to attain the objects for which the Secretary of State's Council is constituted. Before we can assent to the proposition that the number of 10 is sufficient, and that the number of 15 is therefore redundant, it is only fair the House should obtain from Her Majesty's Government some information as to the present constitution of the Secretary of State's Council, and as to how far it is representative of the various countries that form that great Empire, and of the very numerous and divergent interests that have to be considered in India. In the first place, I would ask Her Majesty's Government to inform the House whether there has been any attempt made to obtain upon the Council of the Secretary of State any representation, whether adequate or inadequate, of the opinion of the natives of India. I would ask, are there any representatives of the Princes and the Chiefs of India, those whose hereditary rank or present position there entitles them to consideration in these matters? It will not do for the Government to tell us they could not induce these Princes and Chiefs to come over here. Why, in the Distinguished Strangers' Gallery of this House we sometimes see these Chiefs. We meet them at various social functions in the City of London. We know, as a fact, that they do come and reside for long periods of time in this country, and I do think that if the Government were to make the attempt there would be very little difficulty in obtaining some adequate representation of the Princes and Chiefs of India in the India Office at Westminster. I ask, has there been any attempt made to obtain a representation of the opinion of the English educated natives of India—that class which is sometimes called, I hope not opprobriously, the Baboos of India? I am convinced there is not a single official connected with the Government of India who would not gladly welcome some opportunity of consulting that opinion and of knowing what are the wishes of that increasing and important class in India. The junior Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) attempts to speak on behalf of the English educated natives. He speaks with great ability, great intelligence, and great industry; but, of course, he does not speak with that authority that would attach to the utterances of an Indian gentleman speaking in the Council Chamber at the India Office. Then, again, my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney (Sir Guyer Hunter) has already laid before the House the claims to be represented in the Council of India of that great Medical Service which, from the earliest period in the history of our connection with India, has taken a most important and honourable share, not only in their own scientific and technical work, but in the general administration of the Empire. There are also many other great scientific and technical Departments, to which allusion is often made in the House of Commons, and which are sometimes known as the Uncovenanted Departments. The members of these Departments are more numerous than those of the regular Civil Service, and yet, never in the history of India, has a single representative of these bodies ever found a place in the Secretary of State's Council. Now, let us consider for a moment whether, apart from the question of representation, it is expedient that the members of the Council should be diminished. Surely, first of all, we should inquire whether it is not possible that some methods might be devised for improving and strengthening that Council. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir G. Campbell) told us very rightly that the best thing that could happen for the interests of India would be that the Council should be not only thoroughly representative, but also should have more power to insist upon its opinion being listened to by the Secretary of State. I do not for a moment suggest that the expert advisers of the Secretary of State should be permitted to have power by law to override the settled opinion of the Secretary of State, still less the settled policy of Her Majesty's Government. This House recognises that in all Indian questions, as in all other questions, the policy of Her Majesty's Government must be paramount, and that, therefore, no experts, whether at the India Office or anywhere else, can be allowed to override the opinion of the Secretary of State and the settled policy of the Government. But I do think there might be some method devised by which the experts at the India Office should be strengthened rather than weakened, as they will be by this Bill. I would suggest they might have the power of demanding the publication of the Minutes of Dissent, which we know are recorded at the India Office. What happens at present? The Minutes of Dissent are put in the pigeon holes and never heard of again. [Mr. STANHOPE: They can be moved for. It is suggested they can be moved for in this House. Yes, but if they are moved for how often will the Government produce them? I have known occasions when they have been moved for, I think, by my right hon. Friend himself, and when they have been refused. If the experts had power by law to require the publication of the arguments by which they had endeavoured to influence the the opinion of the Secretary of State, it would be a very different reform to that which is proposed by my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State—namely, to do away with a large section of the Council altogether. I admit that, in all probability, the abolition of a large number of the technical expert advisers of the Secretary of State will render the life of the Secretary of State and the Under Secretary of State, and especially the life of the Permanent Under Secretary, and of permanent officials, a somewhat easier one. Possibly there will be less friction; but I maintain that friction is a wholesome element in our Administration, and ought not to be absent from the India Office any more than it is absent from any part of our Administration. Why, the policy of the Government in every other Department of the State can be discussed here in Committee of Supply, can be discussed at full length, conversationally and otherwise; but there is absolutely no opportunity for a free and general discussion of the grievances of the 200 millions of our Indian fellow-subjects. Therefore it is all the more necessary that this Council to whom falls the power and the duty of offering to the Secretary of State the advice which might otherwise be offered in this House, should be strengthened rather than weakened. If that Council be done away with, it is quite possible there will be no impediment, or, at any rate, very little impediment, to any attempt to carry out all the elaborate theories that have been worked out in the arm-chairs of philosophers in England. But that is not what we want in the administration of the Indian Empire. There is no one who feels this more than the Secretary of State for War. Therefore, I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman and to the Government to listen to the protests that have been made this evening unanimously from every part of the House against this Bill, the effect of which will be to increase the despotic power of the Secretary of State, and to perpetuate his unavoidable ignorance. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy, and then, on the strength of the inquiry, to come down to the House and present us with a full and elaborate measure of reform which will confer lasting benefit on the Empire of India.


In addition to expressing the regret I naturally feel at the absence of the Under Secretary of State for India (Sir J. Gorst), who is much more recently conversant with the subject than I can attempt to be, I have also to express my regret that I have not heard the whole of the Debate. I missed one or two of the earlier speeches, but much of what I have heard scarcely comes within the scope of the Bill. The hon. Members for Kirkcaldy and Northampton have proposed that there should be a general inquiry into the administration of India, and have urged that inquiry should precede legislation. I quite agree that the time may come, and come soon, when it will be desirable that there should be such an inquiry. There have, periodically, been such inquiries. But this opens out a larger field than is necessary at the present moment. The hon. Members who have spoken have advocated abolition of the Council as it is at present constituted rather than an inquiry into its working. Perhaps it is worth while, therefore, in a few words to explain the grounds upon which the present Council was established, and the grounds upon which I think it may fairly command public confidence. The Council of the Secretary of State does not attempt to govern India, and it was not constituted for that purpose; the Council of the Secretary of State is mainly a Court of Review, and as such it was constituted. When an hon. Member speaks of the Council as an ingenious device for screening the action of the Government of India from the observation of Parliament and this country, all I can say is, that it was deliberately adopted as a means by which the policy of the Government of India should be reviewed and made known to the House of Commons. The three main objects attempted to be achieved in the constitution of the Council are—first, that it should consist of independent members, men who have served their time in India and are selected for the Councils when, for a considerable period of years, they are in a position of absolute independence——


There is a special provision for their re-appointment.


I am quite aware of the provisions of the arrangement to which the hon. Member refers, but I do not think for a moment that any of the eminent gentlemen who have been placed on the Council, and who, I am quite sure, have retained the confidence of the governing classes in India and in this country, I am quite sure that they are incapable of being influenced in their proceedings and their advice by the consideration of whether or not their services will be continued at the end of a term of years. I repeat, they are a body perfectly independent of the Government of the day, and I am bound to say they continually show their independence, differing, as they often do, in the strongest manner from the policy of the Government of the day, and doing their very best to turn that policy in the direction they think best for the good of India. In the second place, the Council is chosen from men of Indian experience, men who have had experience in all parts of India, so that at any given time there are members of the Council who have had experience of any part of India concerned in any particular matter. Lastly, the Council is composed of men with fresh Indian experience. I am sure hon. Members will agree that it is desirable that the Secretary of State should have the advantage of council from men whose experience of India is fresh rather than from men who have spent a great number of years in this country after leaving India. They are men, too, who are entirely independent of our Party politics. That is of foremost consequence to the Government of India, and anything tending to a diminution of that independence of Party politics would inflict a grave harm upon the Government of India. Now, several hon. Members have spoken of the desirability of placing the Minutes of dissent before the House of Commons; but that, I believe, would be one of the most mischievous proceedings that could possibly be taken. There are occasions when, no doubt, it is highly desirable that these Minutes should be produced. There was a famous occasion of which I had full knowledge at the time of the Afghan War, strong feelings were raised among men of Indian experience and there were great differences of opinion on the Council of the Secretary of State, and in such cases I believe it is greatly to the advantage of the country that men of Indian experience should have the opportunity of placing their opinions before Parliament. But if that is going to occur over and over again and, perhaps, every year, the result will be we shall have Members of the Council playing to the Gallery of the House of Commons and not thinking solely and entirely of the interests of India as they do at present. Members of the Council being but human, and possibly Party men, would naturally have in view the presentation of their opinions to Parliament; and it is utterly impossible to conceive that the conduct of the business of India in the Council of the Secretary of State would be so satisfactory as it undoubtedly is at the present time. One suggestion for a change in the Council is that it should become a purely representative body. That is a matter which, as the House is aware, was a good deal considered at the time when the Council was originally constituted. Among other proposals was one that the commercial interests of this country should be represented on the Council. Well, I think, and in this I am expressing my own individual opinion, that there is no danger, constituted as the House of Commons is, of the commercial interests of this country not being fully considered in matters relating to the Government of India. The commercial opinions of the country can be heard in the House of Commons, and they are heard, and they undoubtedly exercise, in regard to Indian commercial matters, an influence which many people connected with India think excessive, and certainly I do not see any reason for increasing it. Then as to the proposal for native representation on the Council of the Secretary of State, that is a suggestion I am sure no hon. Member could make who has thought out the objections and the consequences. It is a suggestion that no Government could think of adopting unless they saw their way to establishing it on a principle very different to that indicated to-day. The question before us now is whether the Council of the Secretary for India is too large or not. There is no doubt that the reduction of the Council in the manner proposed would conduce to economy, and in matters of India administration economy is of the first importance, but the Bill is not primarily based on considerations of economy. The question is whether or not a Council of 15 is the best that can be imagined for the business to be transacted. This is a matter which, as the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy knows, has often been considered both in the House and outside. There have been proposals for 7 members, for 10 members, and again for 18; but every hon. Member who has been connected with the India Office has had to consider the subject. It fell to my lot when I was at the India Office to give close attention to the subject, and I confess the conclusion that I arrived at, and the conclusion that I am sure has been arrived at by almost all who have since been connected with the Government of India, is that the Council is too large. It is composed of members entirely devoted to the service of India who give the greatest possible assistance to the Secretary of State, but what I believe would be achieved by reducing the number of members would be an increase in the sense of responsibility upon each individual Member. The weak point about the constitution of the Council is that with so large a number of Members the sense of responsibility upon each is not sufficiently great. Therefore the ground upon which I would commend the Bill to the attention of the House is, that I believe a moderate reduction of the Members on the Council will tend to increase the sense of responsibility, and will render the assistance which the Council gives to the Secretary of State for the time being more efficient and more satisfactory than it has been in the past.

*SIR W. PLOWDEN (Wolverhampton, W.)

We have a new and most curious argument in support of the Bill from the right hon. Gentleman. We were told a few nights ago by the Under Secretary for India that this Bill was advanced in the interest of economy; but we are now told by the more responsible Minister of the Crown that this is not so much a matter of economy as to secure greater responsibility by reducing the number of members on the Council. Of course, the logical conclusion to the right hon. Gentleman's argument would be the Government proposal to reduce this Body, which cannot be relied upon, to feel a due sense of its responsibility, to proper limits. But that is not what is done by the Bill. It is far from what is attempted to be done. The Bill does not reduce absolutely, but only gives a permissive power to the Secretary of State to reduce; and yet we are told by the Secretary for War, in the most guileless manner—in a manner, I confess, we should not have listened to from the hon. Gentleman who represents the Government of India in this House—that the sense of responsibility is to be largely developed by reducing the number from 15 to 10. But the Bill does not reduce the number on the Council to 10.


A discretion is left to the Secretary of State to retain the assistance of any member whose services may be so valuable that it is desirable he should not be excluded from the Council.


Very good; I accept that statement, but an absolute reduction of 15 to 12 would still give room for the addition of gentlemen whose services might be considered indispensable. If the right hon. Gentleman's argument for responsibility is good, the reduction to 12, at all events, should be absolute and. not permissive. I regret extremely that while we are permitted two or three hours for the discussion of a petty Bill like this, we cannot have a single discussion throughout the Session on the great questions that arise on Indian administration generally. Two points have cropped up in this discussion, and one has been dealt with in an extraordinary manner by the right hon. Gentleman. I was grieved to hear him commit himself to the expression of an opinion that it was not possible in any regulated manner to accept the principle of representation on the Council—a principle that has been strongly advocated, not only on this side, but by Gentlemen sitting opposite. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that any such suggestion comes from those who have not thought out in full how the representative principle could be recognised in any way. Now that is a matter that has been thought out.


The representation of natives of India on the Indian Council was what I referred to.


How the representation of the Indian people could be applied to the Indian Council the right hon. Gentleman cannot see, but it is really a simple matter to deal with. Though it has not been prominently brought before the British public it is notorious to those conversant with Indian administration that the representative principle is thoroughly adopted and is at the bottom of the whole system of village administration in Northern India; so you have that as a good starting point. From that system which is admitted and has gone on from century to century in the north of India you might adopt a method that would give a real native representation on the Indian Council. There is no difficulty that the Local Government of India could not deal with in this matter. Upon this special matter—the reduction of the Council—I will only say that a Bill of this nature is most undesirable —we want a much more thorough reform. If it is desirable to reduce the number of members on the Secretary of State's Council it should not be done in a permissive manner, it should be done at once, not leaving open the possibility very much on the cards at present of there being no reduction at all. Economy is a very small matter and does not come within the consideration of the Government; the main and important matter is that the Council should be constituted in the best manner to secure the end you have in view. The right hon. Gentleman speaks of the freshness of experience on the Council, and there I confess the freshness of the right hon. Gentleman's view rather startled me. I take the last case but one of the appointment of a Gentleman to the Indian Council. Sir John Strachey is a distinguished man in Indian affairs, and has held the highest office in India having been for a short time Viceroy, but he was not appointed to the Council immediately on his return home; he was left out in the cold for a considerable time, and not until after he had resided in England for some years was he appointed, and, meantime, men very much his juniors were oppointed. I take this as an illustration to show that the formation of the Council is not precisely carried out in the way indicated by the right hon. Gentleman. I will go a little further in examination of the principle upon which the Indian Council is constituted. It is composed almost entirely I might say entirely of officers who have held high positions in the Indian Government, but who from the very nature of their position, were cut adrift from Indian opinion for years before they left India. The men who really know what is going on in India occupy a much more subordinate position. Those who administer districts or command regiments are brought into touch with native opinion, and can tell you what are the native views; but the men you select for the Council are those who have been Lieutentant-Governors, or who have filled high offices which altogether shut them out of touch with native opinion for years before they leave India. It would be much more desirable to appoint men fresh from active administration, and who would afterwards go back to India. The hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Richard Temple) is ready to repudiate all I have said, and I admit he is a high authority on Indian subjects, but he cannot deny that, occupying the high position he did, he was not able to consort with or listen to the voice of public opinion among the natives of India, and therefore, to that extent he would be a less satisfactory representative than those much younger in the Indian service than himself. I shall oppose the Bill with the greatest satisfaction.

* SIR RICHAED TEMPLE (Worcester, Evesham)

The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, who has just sat down, must not suppose that I am at this late hour going to answer him in detail, or to discuss with him what may or may not be the value of such knowledge as I have acquired in India in the positions I have held there from the bottom to the top. The only thing I shall allude to is the disparagement which he seems to cast on the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary for War. I venture to assure my Parliamentary comrades that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was distinguished by very sound knowledge of Indian affairs, and that he has preserved his recollection quite accurately, although he has recently been occupied in a different sphere of public duty. This Debate upon a small point regarding the Indian Council seems to have been made a peg on which to hang a discursive dissertation on everything in general regarding India; but may I endeavour to recall the attention of the House for a moment to the real question before us? The question is not whether India is well or ill governed, whether the natives are happy or the reverse, or whether the representative system is good as compared with the present system, but simply whether 15 members or 10 members should be the number of the Secretary of State's Council in London. That is the plain and simple issue the House is called upon to decide. It so happens that legislative sanction is necessary to enable the number to be altered from 15 to 10. It may appear strange that the attention of this sovereign assembly of British Members should be for a moment turned to so small a subject, but it happens to require legislation, and therefore the opinion of the House must be taken. The question is whether 10 or 15 is the best number for the Council. The hon. Member who has just sat down is quite under a mistake in supposing that the Secretary for War said that economy was not to be considered in the matter. What the right hon. Gentleman said, as I understood, was that not only economy but efficiency is to be considered, but certainly economy is not to be disregarded. Why the very Gentlemen who now disparage this economy are those who for years have been urging the attention of the House to the growing home charges of the Government of India, and now the first time an attempt is made to save a few thousands without any sacrifice of efficiency we find them objecting. Now do ten Members constitute sufficient strength for the Council? I will ask the House for a moment to consider what representation the number of ten would give. You might have two distinguished officers as representing the Army, one the European, one the Native Army. You might have three distinguished Covenanted civilians, one for each of the three great provinces of India. You might have one eminent Jurist of the position of the late Sir Henry Maine, one officer of engineers as representing all the great railways and public works in India; you might have a gentleman drawn from the commercial classes of India; one representing the banking community; and you might have one drawn from the medical service considering the growing importance of all matters relating to medical and sanitary science, and I say this in deference to the distinguished authority on my right, the hon. Member for Central Hackney (Sir Guyer Hunter). That gives you the number of ten, and I would ask the House to consider whether that would not give a fair representation of the great elements of Indian Administration setting aside always the question of representative institutions. It is said this reduction would diminish the check upon the despotic power of the Secretary of State. But why? Can it be said that the number of 15 afford a better check than the number of 10? Surely it is not numbers that constitute a check; it is weight, power, and capacity upon the Council? I quite agree with my right hon. Friend, there is more likely to be a sense of responsibility in a smaller than in a larger number. Though I have not had the honour to sit on the Council of India, yet I have had a great deal to do with Councils in my life, and I must say I greatly prefer a small to a large Council. The House must remember also that besides the members of the Council of India, there are Secretaries in each Department, each one an officer of the widest Indian experience, and of the highest public character. And now as to the publication of the Dissenting Minutes of members of the Council. Whenever these relate to any matter of great public importance, and it is of public advantage that they should be published, they can be moved for and given. It will be in the recollection of the House that last year, in relation to an important matter, to which the attention of the House was called, I had the honour to move for some of these dissents, and at once they were granted by the Secretary of State, and laid on the Table of this House. So much for the measure before the House, which, I submit, is well-framed, and deserving of our support. But there are just one or two other things that have been mentioned to-night by the hon. Member for Donegal (Mr. MacNeill) which ought not to pass without challenge from this side. In the first place the hon. Member made remarks reflecting unduly on the zeal and public spirit of the members of the Council in England. No more deserving body of public servants exists. They do not sink into an inert state, as the hon. Member supposes. They are thoroughly representative men of the highest character, of the widest experience, and the most distinguished record, and they continue to apply themselves in the evening of life to their duties and the Public Service with all that assiduity and diligence that they have always evinced in their prime. The hon. Member also said something as to the sufferings of the people of India. Well, I do not deny that there is misery in India, but it is nothing like the misery you have in London or in any centre in Europe or across the Atlantic. From my personal knowledge of India I can affirm that there is no country in the world, civilised or uncivilised, where there is so little misery —apart altogether from the cases of famine—as India. And those cases have served to bring into action some of the most humane and beneficent exertions in the annals of mankind. The hon. Member may shake his head as he likes, but that is the imperishable record which the British Empire in India has achieved. Then some mild sort of aspersion has been thrown upon the House of Commons with regard to its conduct of Indian affairs. I am bound to say that the new democracy under the recently extended franchise has returned more Members to the House of Commons who are acquainted with Indian matters than there have ever been in any previous Parliament. In my opinion the House exercised a wise discretion in relegating its powers to the authorities whom it has by its own legislation constituted in India. It is quite right that there should be a controlling power in England, but you can have only one Executive Government, and that must be in India. The hon. Gentleman opposite and his Friends would transfer the Government of India to this House—to their side of the House I suppose. They look forward to having the Government on their side.


Yes; very soon.


Well, it is the duty of this House to set up a good Government in India, and, having established it, to leave it alone. Supposing the Government were transferred to England I would ask whether this House is fitted to exercise the authority. Looking at the factions into which the House is divided, and the party spirit which governs our debates, we cannot say that it is. In this very debate hon. Members on the other side of the House have all spoken against the Bill, while we on this side are speaking in favour of it.


I beg the hon. Member's pardon. I commenced by saying that I did not oppose the Bill.


I beg the hon. Member's pardon. I did not hoar his speech, and I am sure that with his usual impartiality the hon. Member would not speak against the Bill from a Party point of view. But I think my remark is applicable to the other speeches from the opposite Benches. Then the proposal has been made by the hon. Member for Donegal and the hon. Member for Wolverhampton that an elective element should be added to the Council in London. That is a matter the hon. Member for Northampton has taken great interest in as regards the Council in India, and there is something to be said for it in India. But it is proposed to put Indian representatives on the Council of the Secretary of State for India in White- hall, and I am astonished that my hon. Friend the Member for North Kensington should have advocated that the Indian Princes should be represented on this last-named Council. How are they to leave their States and their governments, and cross over the water to England?


When I spoke of Princes and Chiefs of India, I, of course, did not mean—and the hon. Member will know I could not mean—the Princes of the independent or feudatory States of India, but those great noblemen of India who are customarily known there as Princes or Chiefs.


The same thing applies to the great noblemen. How are they to leave their estates and their great interests in India in order to come and legislate here? But all I desire to do is to express my dissent from any such arrangement. If you had a representative Council of that kind established in London it would gradually claim to absord a great deal of Executive power, and then you will have the people of India subject to a dual Government—one sitting at Calcutta, the other in Whitehall. That would greatly endanger the stability of our Empire in the East. With these few general remarks I beg to record my hearty support of the Bill.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.