HC Deb 17 February 1891 vol 350 cc873-908
(6.33.) MR. BUCHANAN (Edinburgh, W.)

I rise, Sir, to call attention to the Presidential system of Government in India; and to move— That, in accordance with the recommendation of four successive Governments of India, the system of separate Presidential commands in Madras and Bombay should be abolished, and that the entire administration of all the Indian Armies should be made over to the Commander-in-Chief in India, acting in direct communication with the commanders of the local Armies and under the direct orders of the Government of India. The question which I have undertaken to bring before the House to-night is one which I do not urge on my own authority as important, but which is looked upon as of the greatest importance by the Government of India. It is one that has formed the subject of continued representations made from time to time to the Secretary for India, ever since the year 1879. I would, in the first place, remind the House that the words I have used in this Resolution are not words of my own, but that they are words which have been employed in despatches that have been addressed to the Government of India; and it is a question in which I am supported by the weight of Indian official opinion and the authority of Indian experts, both civil and military. This authority I may say is overwhelmingly on one side, and the words in my Resolution that the entire administration of all the Indian armies should be made over to a Commander-in-Chief in India, acting in direct communication with the commanders of the local armies of India, and under the direct orders of the Government of India, are those of Lord Dufferin, the earlier words referring to the recommendation of four successive Governments of India being those of Lord Lansdowne—in fact we have the declared opinions of four successive Governments of India in favour of my proposals—namely, of that of the present Viceroy, Lord Lansdowne, that also of the previous Governments of Lord Dufferin and Lord Ripon, and in addition to these we have the opinion of several members of the Government of Lord Lytton, and of Lord Lytton himself. The House will recognise that these four Viceroys were men of different Parties, and who would approach such a subject from different points of view. In addition to these noble Lords who held the office of Viceroy of India, you have also a long list of distinguished men, occupying high civil and military positions in India thoroughly in favour of this proposal. I will not trouble the House with the names, but will only ask hon. Gentlemen who are interested in this matter to look at the list of individuals who have formed part of the Government of Lord Lytton and the successive Governments of Lord Ripon, Lord Dufferin, and Lord Lansdowne, to enable them to see that I am fully borne out in my statement. Not only have the Governments of all these Viceroys expressed the views I have referred to, but that of Lord Dufferin's, on two separate occasions, made earnest representations in favour of the principle embodied in my Resolution. With regard to military opinion in India I will only refer to it for one moment in order to put before the House the fact that we have more than once had the opinion of the present Commander-in-Chief in India. Sir Frederick Roberts, expressed in favour of my view. We have also the strong support of the late Commander-in-Chief, Sir Donald Stewart, and amongst others, who may be said to represent home military opinion in India, the opinions of General Chesney and General Wilson, military members of the Viceroy's Council. The materials before the House, by which it may be guided in forming its opinion on this subject, are to be found in three different Blue Books that have been issued at different times—in 1884 and in 1887, and again last year, in the correspondence which has been issued to the other House of Parliament. I may also refer to the slight discussion which took place in this House upon the subject in the Budget of 1883–84, as well as the further discussion which took place in the House of Lords last Session. I shall endeavour to state the case I have to put before the House as briefly as possibly, and I shall also endeavour to put facts I have to advance as clearly as I can for the judgment of hon. Gentlemen. I do not propose to go back to the ancient history of this question. Practically it all dates from the year 1879, when, coincident with the discussion which took place in this House on Indian expenditure, Lord Lytton, who was then Viceroy of India, appointed the Simla Army Commission to consider the whole subject of Indian Army adminis- tration and expenditure. Now what is the present system? I presume it is within the knowledge of Members of this House that as far as the Army is concerned it comes to this—that the Madras and Bombay Army have separate Commanders-in-Chief, and are administered by separate military Departments attached to the local Governments. The Commander-in-Chief is also Commander-in-Chief of the Bengal Army. The Commander-in-Chief in India undoubtedly has a certain general control over all the armies in India, but all questions of discipline and administration of the armies in the Madras and Bombay Presidencies are decided by the Presidential Commanders-in-Chief and the Military Departments connected with the Governments of each of these Presidencies. This may be taken as a very general statement of the position which, as I understand it, is occupied by these two armies. Now, as far as the local service of these two armies is concerned, the grievances that have arisen would not, I think, have been so great as urgently to demand a remedy, but it was owing to the fact that the command of the Northwest frontier of Southern Afghanistan was under the Bombay command, and that of Lower Burma, before it was annexed to Upper Burma, was under Madras—it was owing to these two facts and the military operations on these two frontiers that difficulties and confusion has arisen which has given rise to continually pressing demands by the Government of India to the Home Authorities for the abolition of the Presidential system of command. The Presidential system, as it continues to exist, in civil and military matters in Madras and Bombay, is not an administration carefully built up in accordance with the results of long experience, but may be said to be the survival of past history and tradition. Undoubtedly that state of things is due to the fact that our conquest of India started from three bases, namely, that of the West coast, that from the mouth of the Ganges, and that of Madras, and in consequence we had three separate armies for what were three separate dependencies. But the new India, with a Governor General as the central authority solely responsible to the Home Government, is constituted under a totally different system; and the political theory of Government now is that there should be in the Viceroy in Council one individual responsible to Parliament and the British people for the whole administration of that great Dependency. Now, I should like to say that, as I read the papers and correspondence that has taken place between the Government of India and the Home Government, there is no intention whatever of doing away with the armies of Bombay and Madras as local forces, and, as far as mere terminology is concerned, if the commanders of these forces desire to retain titles of Commanders-in-Chief, no objection could be made to their doing so. Those who look at those Papers will see that if the principle I am indicating is carried out, in all probability these forces of Bombay and Madras will be better able to discharge their duties as local forces. Then there is another point to which I desire to call the attention of the House. This proposal, as set forth in the correspondence of the Government of India, is not one for mere centralisation, but for carrying out a system of unity of command, unity of responsibility in the Government of India, and in regard to everything that concerns the Army administration of India. This point is particularly dwelt upon by successive Governments of India, who have urged the matter upon the attention of the India Office. Lord Lytton put it in this way: He said he considered the Government of India should be based on a water-tight compartment system, and the Governments of Lord Ripon and Lord Dufferin favour the views I have put forward, neither of them desiring centralisation, but a proper organisation of the forces. Hon. Members who look at the General Order drawn up by Lord Dufferin's Government will be able to see how the Government of India is prepared to carry out its scheme in detail without actually centralising, but rather by the providing for greater localisation of the forces in the civil and military arrangements of India. Something of a practical nature was done many years ago when the Military Accounts Department was amalgamated, the principle of amalgamation was then conceded, and from that time forward the Governments of Madras and Bombay have been unable to make any alteration which involves the slightest increase of expenditure without consulting the Government of India. The system of amalgamation, as the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary is well aware, has been further carried out during the last 10 years. The Government of India and the Secretary of State for India have already marched a very considerable way in the direction of carrying out the abolition of Presidential commands. What we urge upon them at the present time is that they should go a single step further and really do away with them as liable to cause very considerable danger in time of war, as well as serious inconvenience. Now, Sir, as I stated, the Simla Army Commission was appointed by Lord Lytton in 1879, and it reported in the same year. But the Government of Lord Ripon had no opportunity as Government of considering the Report. Lord Lytton himself wrote a very strong Minute in favour of the recommendations of the Commission, and particularly of this proposal. Then came the General Election. Lord Ripon's Government did not take up the subject at all spontaneously. They were especially instructed to do so by the India Office in a telegram from the Secretary for India, the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale. Getting those instructions, Lord Ripon took up the matter thoroughly, and in a series of despatches during the year 1881 they dealt with all matters contained in the Army Commission Report, and they recommend the adoption of the bulk of the proposals, including the main proposal of the abolition of the Presidential commands. Lord Kimberley, after long delay in July, 1883, was willing to carry certain minor recommendations of the Government of India, but he refused to abolish the Presidential commands, basing his refusal principally on financial grounds. The Government of India had not been able to show that the financial saving would be quite as much as he had been led to expect and believe by the Government of India. But taking part in the Debate which took place in the House of Lords last Session, Lord Kimberley showed that his view in this respect was very considerably modified. No doubt from that time continuous representations have been made by the Government of India, and by every Viceroy since the year 1883. In the year 1885 a change was made in our Indian military policy owing to the Russian advance Upon Afghanistan. Then measures were passed for increasing the Army of India, and also for fortifications, especially on the frontier of Southern Afghanistan. The matter was taken up by Lord Dufferin in a despatch which he wrote, and which appears in the Blue Book of 1887. The noble Lord the Member for Paddington in October, 1885, agreed to some of Lord Dufferin's recommendations, but he declined to sanction the measure for the abolition of Presidential come mands, on the ground that the change could not be carried out without legisletion. In 1888 we got the second representation of Lord Dufferin's Government on the subject. They had experienced the difficulties of the situation at Quettah, and in the intervening years they had further experienced the difficulties in Burma. Lord Dufferin wrote a most admirable despatch on the 1st June, 1888, urging this as an eminently necessary reform to be sanctioned by the Secretary of State for India. Immediately, or almost immediately, on the receipt of it, the Secretary of State for India telegraphed for particulars of the mode in which this scheme could be carried out, if it was to be carried out. The Government of India set themselves to work to do this, with the result that we have in this Blue Book the draft general order, and other draft orders. Hon. Members will have an opportunity of considering how thoroughly practical those proposals are, and into what detail the Government of India were prepared to go. Hon. Members who have read the despatches are entitled to assume, as most men would assume, after the Secretary of State had instructed the Government of India to go into this detail, that the principle was already conceded. I am perfectly certain that anyone who reads the despatches will conclude that the principle had been conceded. It was a very great disappointment—a disappointment forcibly expressed by the Government of India themselves when, in the middle of 1889, Lord Cross, the Secretary of State for India, wrote to the Government of India that while he was prepared to sanction several other reforms he was unable to give his assent to the proposal for the abolition of Presidential commands, basing his refusal on the ground that legislation would be required. Now, the question I should like hon. Members to consider is, how is it that the Government of India have so continuously during the last 10 years been pressing this subject on the attention of the India Office? It will be seen from the official correspondence that the Government of India is still as eager in insisting upon this fundamental recommendation being carried out as it was before. The reason is as much a political as an administrative one. In times of peace things get along; there is confusion, but there is no great harm done. But in time of war the Government of India, when active operations are entered upon, has to put the whole military control under the Commander-in-Chief. We find that what took place in Southern Afghanistan had its effect upon the various individuals and authorities who are in favour of this proposal, more particularly upon Lord Lytton. It also had its effect upon the present Secretary of State for War, who in discussing the Indian Budget in 1882, said— All he could say was that at the time of the Afghan War it was proved to him conclusively that the system as it stood was unsatisfactory. He believed there was great truth in the remark made by a distinguished General at that time when they were employing troops both from the Bengal Army and from the Bombay Army, that the result was that they were not operating against Afghanistan with one Army, out that they were exactly in the same position as if they were employing two allied Armies. There could be no doubt that such a system as that caused very great inconvenience and was eminently unsatisfactory. But in October, 1881, Lord Ripon's Government used even stronger language— We believe that to any impartial mind it will be manifest with respect to the operations in Lower Afghanistan the war was carried out with all the disadvantages and with none of the advantages attendant upon the operations of allied armies. Appointments to high command were made by one authority, while the sole responsibility for the result rested upon another. There were all the jealousies, all the delays, all the recriminations which are incidental to war carried out under such unfortunate conditions. I do not think any statement coming from a responsible Government like that of India could possibly be stronger than that. It has been confirmed by speeches delivered since in the House of Lords by Lord Ripon. That was the effect of the operations in Afghanistan. The same effect was produced upon the mind of Lord Dufferin and his advisers by their experience in Quettah and Beloochistan. They say— With this experience on record, we regard with apprehension the possibility of our being called upon at any future time to undertake more extensive military operations while hampered by so faulty a system, which violates all the recognised principles of sound military administration; and we feel that we shall be incuring a grave responsibility if we did not once more place on record the sense of the danger to India of allowing the reform so strongly advocated by our predecessors to be postponed any longer. That I think is equally forcible and equally impressive with the statement of Lord Ripon's Government as regards their experience in Afghanistan. I could further strengthen it by what has been said by Lord Lansdowne's Government, in the year 1889, and by the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India himself. In, a despatch which he wrote to the Indian Government he speaks of these Presidential commands as an evil. I think we may fairly conclude from his despatch that he looks forward to the time when the evil will be not only mitigated, but done away with. On what ground, then, has the India Office hitherto declined to sanction the proposal made so forcibly and frequently by the various Governments of India? The argument with regard to finance was laid great stress upon by Lord Kimberley, though his Lordship no longer appears to entertain that view so strongly. The ostensible reason of the noble Lord (Churchill) at the time he was Secretary for India, when he refused the reform, was that legislation would be required. I quite allow that at the time of the noble Lord's despatch, October 1885, there was a General Election in prospect, and that legislation on this subject at an early date was hardly possible. I also agree that to some extent, in the summer of 1888, Lord Cross was justified in pointing out this difficulty of legislation. But now no such difficulties exist. I quite recognise that the India Office is justified in not bringing forward legislation such as this of a technical character until it can fully depend upon an overwhelming consensus of military opinion in its favour. But what I say is, that they have already shown us they have an overwhelming consensus of opinion in their favour, and they would not meet with any substantial opposition to such proposals if they brought them forward. I admit that undoubtedly there may be circumstances which might render difficult such proposals. In a speech delivered in 1882 by the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (Lord Hartington)—a very remarkable speech delivered on the Indian Budget—he told us that at that time there was a distinct difference of opinion amongst the members of the Indian Council upon the subject, and that the large majority of them were adverse to the proposal of the Simla Army Commission. He went on to state— It is natural that the Council should be opposed to any large and sweeping changes. The Council of India does not represent the prevailing opinion of the Indian Administration. It represents the opinion of 5 or 10 years ago or even longer, and the Council of India will always be of a Conservative character, and will very rarely go to the length which the actual Government of India are prepared to go. That is the statement made by the noble Lord in 1882. But it must be remembered that the personnel of the Council has been largely changed since that time, and I venture to hope that they are no longer in a position of utter hostility to this proposal of the Indian Government. But there is another Department at home, which has something to say upon this subject, and that is the War Office. In a Debate in the House of Lords we have had the Commander-in-Chief himself stating his opposition to this proposal, and as hon. Members are aware very often the War-Office, under various Governments, and not this Government only, is very apt in considering matters relating to the Indian Army—to consider them from the point of view of the British Army, and not look at Indian interests. What we want to insist upon in this Debate is that these eminently exclusively Indian questions should be considered from the point of view of whether they are good or bad for India, and decided accordingly. I can quite understand there may be interests connected with our home army which might militate against the abolition of these Presidential com- mands. They are posts of high dignity, and are often bestowed upon officers who have distinguished themselves at home, and have no Indian military experience. There are other considerations which no doubt induce the Army Authorities at home to retain these offices, but the interests of India should be made absolutely superior to all professional interests at home. I hope I have been able to show that this proposal has been urged by people in high authority in India and by successive Governments of that country. We have had statements from Lord Ripon that he would not like the responsibility of undertaking another war outside the frontiers. We have had Statements from Lord Dufferin that there is great danger in not carrying this immediately, and from Lord Lansdowne that the carrying out of this reform is essential to the efficient defence of the country. Lastly, we have the statement of the Secretary of State for India himself that the present system is an evil; therefore, I think, we are justified in urging that no other interests, professional or departmental, should stand in the way. We desire that Her Majesty's Government, should give a fair consideration and a renewed consideration to these representations of the Government of India, and endeavour to put a little pressure, if necessary, upon their colleagues for a speedy carrying out of this reform. We should urge upon them, therefore, that if they have not already done so to take further steps to have the Army in India in the state in which all those responsible for Indian Government say it is necessary it should be if it is to adequately discharge its duty of the defence of that country against external foes. I beg, Sir, to move the Resolution that stands in my name.

SIR WILLIAM PLOWDEN (Wolver-hampton, W.)

I beg to second the Resolution.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, in accordance with the recommendation of four successive Governments of India, the system of separate Presidential commands in Madras and Bombay should be abolished, and that the entire administration of all the Indian Armies should be made over to the Commander-in-Chief in India, acting in direct communication with the Commanders of the local Armies and under the direct orders of the Government of India.


Mr. Speaker, this question, as the House has ascertained from the speech of the hon. Member, is an extremely technical one, and though nothing could exceed the lucidity with Which the hon. Gentleman explained it, I think it must after all be left to the, technical advisers of the Secretary of State for India to suggest the proper solution of the difficulty. The hon. Member did not quite do justice in his speech to the Report of the Simla Commission of 1879, which has been the foundation of all subsequent procedure in this matter. When the Simla Commission, was appointed in 1879, there were very real dangers and disadvantages in the then existing system of Indian Military organiation. That Commission proceeded in a most careful and exhaustive manner to examine branch by branch into the whole of the military organisation. They made a great number of practical recommendations which affected every branch of the military service in India. They pointed out where there were duplicate offices, where there was division of control, and they showed that, as the organisation then existed, the Commander-in-Chief was unable in time of war, to rely with confidence on receiving proper support from the local Armies, and that, on the other hand, the local Commanders-in-Chief possessing an imperfect knowledge of the objects and nature of the military operations undertaken at headquarters, were unable to give proper assistance. This Commission recommended the abolition of the Presidential system as one among a great number of practical suggestions which they made. This recommendation was forwarded in due time to Lord Kimberley, at that time Secretary of State for India, and was carefully considered by him.

THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON (Lancashire, Rossendale)

At that time Lord Ripon was in office.


Before the consideration of that Report had been concluded at the India Office, the Earl of Kimberley had become Secretary of State. In 1883, after full consideration of the proposals of the Government of India, the proposal for the abolition of the Presidency Armies was rejected by Lord Kimberley and rejected by him on its merits. It was not alleged that there was any difficulty in obtaining time for legislation in Parliament, or that military difficulties existed, but the proposal was rejected on its merits; and I, do not think the hon. Member, has quite sufficiently indicated to the House the reasons that induced Lord Kimberley to reject it. They are given, in a Despatch of the 26th July, 1886. He says— Looking at the differences of military opinion, upon the subject"— So far from there being an overwhelming consensus of military opinion there was a difference. He says— Looking at the differences of military opinion on the subjects, and to the political objections which may be urged against the proposed reconstruction of the Madras and Bombay Armies, and the absence of proof of financial saving, I do not feel justified in recommending the abolition of the Presidential Armies. But instead of beginning by abolishing the Presidential Armies, the Secretary of State of that day commenced the work of Army reform, which has been continued, by successive Secretaries of State down to the present hour, by dealing, one by one, with all the other suggestions made by the Simla Commission in 1879, and by gradually removing every one of the dangers brought to the notice of the Government. There again, the hon. Member has scarcely done justice to the reforms in the military administration of India, which have been carried out by successive Governments of India and successive Secretaries of State. The British troops have always been under the command of the Commander-in-Chief, and so far from the British troops in this country having a strong motive in resisting the abolition of the Presidential Armies, they have very little personal interest in the matter. Since the date of Lord kimberley's Despatch refusing to abolish the Presidential Armies, the following reforms have been carried out:—The Punjab Frontier Force has been entirely placed under the Commander-in-Chief in India, the Military Account Department has been centralised, the separate Commissariat has been abolished. We have now only one Commissariat Service, the change being made by the present Secretary of State only a short time ago. The whole Transport Service has been placed under one head; the Ordnance has been placed under one head; Clothes, Military Works, Military Education, and the judge , Advocate General's offices have been centralised. There is now one single department under the Government of India for all these offices for the whole of India, and the financial powers of the Commander-in-Chief have been very greatly extended. The effect of these various reforms is that at the present day the objections which could have been justly made in 1879, and which were justly made by the Commission, have been met and done away with, and there is really at the present time, as the Government of India pointed out, very little left to be done in the way of reform. There is now no strong ground why the House or the Government should proceed immediately to make any further change. And, in deciding as to further changes, what, perhaps, is the most important consideration of all is the political aspect of the question. The political considerations involved in the question of abolishing the control over the Native Armies of Madras and Bombay, at present exercised by the Presidential Commander-in-Chief, are the considerations which should weigh most with the House in making them hesitate to interfere in this matter between the Secretary of State and his technical advisers. In all the circumstances of the case I can say that when the proper moment has arrived at which the question of the connection at present existing between the Provincial Governments and the Provincial Armies is ripe for consideration, the reform recommended by the Simla Commission in 1879 will be finally carried out. In the meanwhile, it is said that great difficulties may arise in time of war. I believe hon. Members of the House can be perfectly easy on that score. The changes that have been made have entirely precluded any risk whatever in-time of war. In the case of Burma, reference to which was made by Lord Dufferin in a Despatch, there was no marked difficulty in carrying out the actual military operations in upper Burma. The difficulty which was experienced was a difficulty as to commissariat and transport, because while the troops employed in Upper Burma were under the command of the Commander-in-Chief in India the Com- missariat and Transport Departments were, according to the regulations, under the command of the Commander-in-Chief in Madras. There was thus a certain inconvenience in Burma owing to divided control, but that has since been done away with. The Commissariat and Transport Departments are now centralised in the office of the Commander-in-Chief in India, and if the operations in Upper Burma had to be conducted now, there would be no cause for difficulty in those Departments. I think the hon. Member and the House may feel quite safe on that score. Now, why should the Secretary of State decline to make the further change which the hon. Member suggests? I think I have shown the House that no strong reason for that change has been advanced. There has been no proof of danger or difficulty, and no necessity for the reform has been made out. What may be advanced against the change? In the first place, there is a difference of opinion among military authorities. So far from their being unanimous on that point I may say that, undoubtedly, they are divided. My hon. Friend spoke of the military advisers of the Indian Council being unanimous upon this subject. I may tell him that they are by no means unanimous, but that there is a marked difference of opinion between them on the matter. The hon. Member has called attention to the fact that the Commander-in-Chief is opposed to this proposal, and if it comes to be discussed in detail in this House, or in another place, there would probably be a great difference of opinion expressed. Then, again, another reason which I may advance against the adoption of my hon. Friend's Motion is, that there is no financial advantage to be gained from it. Indeed, the financial advisers of the Government of India have come to the conclusion that the change would be the reverse of economical. The third reason is a practical one. It is, that this change cannot be carried out without legislation, and everyone must admit the difficulties of carrying through Indian legislation in the course of the present year. Since I have held the office of Under Secretary for India, I have tried year after year to carry Indian legislation through, but among the Bills which my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury has massacred each year there have always been two or three of my bantlings, and I should be very sorry to undertake any further Indian legislation under these circumstances, unless a very great demand should be shown to exist for it. I do not think the Government would be justified in introducing a Bill which is not urgently required, and the discussion, of which would undoubtedly take up a considerable portion of the time of the House. The fourth reason that I have to advance is, that surely it would be better to wait and see the effect of the reforms which have already been introduced, before endeavouring to carry out these further proposals. I hope that the House will see that these are sound argument infavour of not adopting the Motion of my hon. Friend; and without wishing to undervalue the efforts he has made, I trust the House will admit the desirability of leaving the decision of these highly technical and difficult subjects to the advisers of the Crown.

(7.29.) MR. CAMPBELL-BANNER MAN (Stirling, &c.)

I must acknowledge the fairness with which the right hon. Gentleman has dealt with the question before the House, but I wish to demur at once to one sentiment which, he expressed at the commencement of his observations. It was to the effect that, because this was a highly technical matter it ought, therefore, to be left entirely for the decision of the technical advisers of the Government. I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it would be presumptuous on the part of any ordinary person, such as the right hon. Gentleman or myself, to attempt to override by the mere weight of our authority the technical opinion given by the more competent advisers of Her Majesty But the business of the political administrator is to distinguish between the technical and other opinions he receives. You have many persons who give you technical advice, and surely the administrator is not to stand helpless in the presence of those different gentlemen with their technical advice, but he is bound to exercise his common sense and judgment in determining the nature and character of the advice that should be adopted. What strikes me—approaching this subject, as I confess, with very imperfect knowledge of the details —what strikes me as strongly in favour of the course advocated by my hon. Friend behind me, is that we have Government after Government in India coming back to the charge upon the Secretary of State at home and always urging the necessity of this great change. I am quite agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that much has been done in the way of reforming the system of Army organisation in India; many of the reforms recommended by the Simla Commission have been adopted, but this question is still not settled to the satisfaction of the Government in India, and the right hon. Gentleman, when he says that almost every grievance and difficulty has been removed by the steps taken by the Government, omits to observe the fact that the last Despatch we have from the Government of India—and couched in terms so strong that the words deserve to be read to the House—was written after they were informed that these changes were to be introduced. I am right, I think, in this, that the Despatch of the 5th July, 1889, was written with the full knowledge that it was the intention of the Government to carry out all the reforms indicated. The Despatch from the Secretary of State for India, to which it was a reply, had enumerated the different measures which the Government had determined to carry out;— that the Commissariat and Transport Department should be placed entirely under the Government of India, and so with the Clothing Department and other branches. And I should like to know from the right hon. Gentleman, as I do not wish to treat the matter in the least degree controversially—I should like to know whether any other alterations of that nature have been introduced in addition to those specified in that Despatch! With the knowledge that the reforms were to be made, which the right hon. Gentleman has enumerated, the Government of India say this— We agree with your Lordship that although these measures fall short of the larger scheme of reorganisation which has been submitted to you and to your predecessors, they will, when carried out, accomplish an improvement in the military system which cannot hut be advantageous to the efficiency of Her Majesty's Army in India. They go on to urge the reform, with regard to Presidential commands, which they had urgently pressed on the Government at home, and they use these very strong expressions— Four successive Governments of India have thus supported the proposals which were put forward by the Army Organisation Commissioners ten years ago. The alterations proposed in the administration of the Army are not merely for the purpose of remedying inconvenience, but to impart a practical and working form to an accidental organisation which, in the course of time, developed into a cumbersome and complicated machinery. We desire, therefore, once again to place before Her Majesty's Government our conviction that it would be a misfortune of the greatest moment if this amendment of the military administration which we consider to be essential to the efficiency of the Army in this country should not be carried out in the breathing time of peace which we fortunately now possess, and if the desired change so persistently and so impartially advocated by the Government of India were to be postponed until the disastrous experience of war should force upon Her Majesty's Government the necessity for effecting this most necessary reform of the Indian Army system. I am well accustomed to the consideration of various army schemes at home, and I never knew any proposal that was not both supported and opposed by a great weight of military opinion; but let it be remembered this is no mere political or theoretical reform which is urged by some persons interested in the question in a speculative way; here are the men who are actually responsible for the safety of our Indian Empire, the Viceroy and his Council,, including Sir Frederick Roberts, the Commander-in-Chief, and General Chesney, signing this Despatch, which speaks of it as A misfortune of the greatest moment if this amendment of the military administration which we consider to be essential to the efficiency of the Army in this country, should not be carried out, and who speak of it As this most necessary reform of the Indian Army system. These expressions were used, not half a dozen years ago, before the other changes referred to, but used in the very Despatch which acknowledges the announcement of the intention on the part of the Secretary of State to introduce those minor changes. What I want to get from the right hon. Gentleman, or someone on the part of the Government, is, has nothing more been done in the interval that has elapsed since that time beyond the changes referred to in the Despatch? I began by saying this is a matter on which possibly few individual Members of this House can express an opinion of much authority. For myself, I base my opinion on the authority of those responsible persons in India who did not take up the matter suddenly, who did not form, any speculative view of it, but impressed by the necessities of the case And under a full sense of their responsibility, urged again and again on Her Majesty's Government that this should be done, and have continued to urge them in the terms I have quoted, even after subordinate changes have been made. That, I think, is an ample justification for my hon. Friend behind me having brought forward this Motion. I do not suppose, and, in fact, it was obvious from the tone of his speech that he did not bring it forward in any hostile spirit; we merely wish to impress upon the Government the fact that this strong representation has been made from India in favour of this great reform, and we wish to know how far the Government either have gone or are prepared to go in that direction. There is considerable force in what the Under Secretary of State said, that it is desirable to allow a little time to elapse in order that we may see how these changes that have been introduced work, and how far they may effect the purpose we all have in view. But, in the meantime, I think good has been done by public attention being directed to this matter in this way, and I trust, before; the Debate closes, we shall have even more ample assurances from Her Majesty's Government than have yet been given, that the object which my hon. Friend behind me has advocated, if not fully attained has been, at all events, very nearly accomplished.

(7.40.) SIR RICHARD TEMPLE (Worcester, Evesham)

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stirling, who has just sat down, very properly said where technical authorities differ it is very difficult for a politician to distinguish between them. I think I am a politician in that position, because I, for many of the best years of my life, wag a Member of this very Government in India, whose authority has been already quoted this evening, and had the honour of serving in both the minor Presidencies and conducting the Government in one in time of war. Well, Sir, I may endeavour in a few moments, without detaining the House unduly at this late hour, to answer the speech of the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Buchanan), who introduced this subject. He quoted, and very properly quoted the concensus of opinion, but the concensus of what opinion? The opinion of four successive Governments in India. No one desires to speak with greater respect than I do of the Government of India; all my prejudices and predilections are in its favour, but still, as a Member of this House, I may venture to say that in all Imperial institutions the besetting fault of official men is ambition—the tendency to aggrandise the particular Government or Department; the particular Presidency or Province to which they happen to belong. Even the men about the Government of India are not exempt from this failing. Again, the great danger of modern times in India is excessive centralisation. The first English statesman in India who saw that was the late Lord Mayo. For many years an endeavour has been made by Governments in India to decentralise in all Imperial matters, and I venture to say that, where there has been success it has been in those places in which there has been decentralisation; and where the management of affairs has been placed in the hands of the Provincial Government on the spot, still there is a tendency to the incessant concentration of all authority in all Departments in one great Government at Simla. That is a position the Government of India cannot be qualified to sustain; instead of being an administrative Government itself, it is to be a supervising Government over seven or eight Local Governments in a great Empire—it is to be the duty of the Government of India not to govern itself, but to supervise other Governments. Now, Sir, as regards the consensus of opinion of the Government of India—is there any consensus of opinion on the part of the authorities of Madras or the authorities of Bombay or the authorities in England connected with India? We have heard of the differences of opinion which exist here, but I can assure the House there is still greater difference of opinion in India itself. We only hear one side of the question, but in India there are far greater differences of opinion upon this question. Well, Sir, the hon. Member for Edinburgh stated that India ought to be in water-tight compartments. That is a phrase he has borrowed from a great master of phrases—the late distinguished Viceroy, lord Lytton. With that phrase I concur; but would the House consider for a moment what is the application of the phrase to the subject before the House? It is that you must have three Native Armies in India, with little or no reference to the European troops. It is solely a question of Native Armies. In the nature of things, owing to the varieties of language, of races, of climatic conditions, there is no other way in conducting the various wars and arranging the Military Service. And there is an additional reason. When these Armies were first constituted there was no difficulty in getting recruits; now there is some difficulty, and that is an additional reason for the Government of the country availing themselves of all the recruiting fields throughout the great Indian Empire. If you must have these three native Armies, they have different wants, different sentiments and prejudices, and, what is more, there are different interests. Therefore, it is essential that the various interests concentrating themselves into three great corps of the Indian Empire, that each corp should be under its own particular head, and that head should be the Commander-in-Chief. It is a matter of the gravest importance to mate that Commander-in-Chief as great as possible so that he shall fill the largest space in the eyes of the native troops. Hitherto it has been the policy to maintain that position. Now, apparently desiring to concentrate all authority in itself, the Supreme Government propose to degrade the office of Commander-in-Chief to that of Commander of an Army Corps. The House heard that passage so strongly Expressed, as quoted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stirling (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman). You heard the governor of India said— It would be a misfortune of the greatest moment if this amendment of the military administration, which we consider to be essential to the efficiency of the Army in this country, should not be carried out in the breathing time of peace. Now, really, what is this momentous Amendment? Why, the lowering of the office of Commander-in-Chief to that of a Commander of an Army Corps. I desire to speak with the greatest respect of the Government of India, but, after all, it is a human institution, and I appeal to this House whether these expressions have not the tinge, at least, of exaggeration? Will the House believe that the question whether the Commander-in-Chief, either of the Madras or the Bombay Army, shall retain the status and rank of that office, or whether he shall be called Commander of an Army Corps, and whether this change be so carried out or not in a time of peace is such a question that to defer its decision would be a misfortune of the greatest moment? I say, language of that kind carries with it half, at least, of its own refutation. What has been, historically, the effect of the present constitution of the Army—each native Army with its own Commander-in-Chief; each with its own separate interests? Why this: that in the dark days of the mutiny, when the Bengal Army revolted, the Bombay and Madras Armies, though not free from the infection or contagion, nevertheless hesitated to revolt. To any man who knows the history of that time it is patent that had there been but one Army, divided into so many local Army Corps, the danger of the Mutiny extending would have been even greater than it actually was. Undoubtedly, one of the causes of that providential deliverance of ours was the existence of the very system the hon. Member for Edinburgh desires by this Resolution to destroy. It is good, on the whole, for the Army there should be these Presidential commands instead of Commanders of Army Corps. I will not dwell on the financial aspect of the case after what has fallen from my right hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for India (Sir John Gorst), but as an old Finance Minister of India I can assure the House that several times I have considered whether a substantial saving could be effected by abolishing the office of Commander-in-Chief in the two minor Presidencies. But I never was able to make this out. Something has been said about how the system has worked in the time of war, and something also has been remarked about two allied forces, instead of one united force. Well, Sir, I venture to say that that dictum will not stand the test of thorough examination. How does the system operate when war breaks out? The Government of India settles what the military operations shall be, and who the officer shall be who is to command in the field. These questions having been decided the troops from Madras or Bombay are ordered to be sent to the seat of war, where they are entirely and absolutely under the command of the General commanding in the field, and not under the command of their own Presidential Government. There is a perfect system of organisation, no Imperial confusion, to use the hon. Member's term, and the success of the combined operations has been undoubted in all the wars ever conducted in India. I thank the House for listening to these remarks, and I will not prolong them. I have said enough, I think, to show there are high political reasons connected with the discipline and supervision of the men and officers in the Native Army likely to strengthen their loyalty and make them feel confidence in the Presidential Authorities under whom they are to work, keeping their minds, thoughts, and sentiments fixed on their own proper spheres, and preventing them from combining for any purpose that is inconsistent with the safety of our Imperial interests. (7.55.)

(8.30.) Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,

(8.32.) MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith, &c.)

The hon. Member who spoke last was, I suppose, a representative of the divided opinion to which the Under Secretary of State for India referred in his speech. But I do not conceive that the evidence he gave would weigh against the views of the successive Governments of India, whose opinions have prompted this Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for West Edinburgh (Mr. Buchanan); and I do not think that up to the present time anything has been advanced which should induce him to withdraw the Motion which stands in his name. If the situation is so perfect as it has been described to us, why have we had all these reports from successive Governments in India? Why have so many of these Governments been practically unanimous in demanding a change in the present system? The hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham (Sir R. Temple) seems to advocate the preservation of a kind of triple alliance amongst the Armies of India. He spoke of the Civil Government of India being a supervising Government over the minor administrations, but I venture to think that that supervising system is hardly compatible with efficient military command and organisation. The hon. Gentleman might equally have argued that because we have inaugurated County Councils in this country the command of the Militia should be taken from the War Office and placed in the hands of the Chairmen of the County Councils. But we have assumed an opposite direction in the conduct and control of military affairs, and I venture to think that the whole of the recommendations which have been received from India, from, various persons and from various Governments in that country, tend to show that the reform which is now asked for should no longer be postponed. It is not desirable that this subject should be longer treated with anything like silence, even by hon. Members opposite; and I think it would be regarded with much interest by Members on both sides of the House if the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. Stanhope) would give his opinion upon those military proposals affecting the Army in India. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member who spoke last referred to the subject of centralisation. He said that there had been too much centralisation in India, but that contention was, I think, disposed of in Lord Dufferin's Despatch of 1st June, 1888, in which he says— The proposal is one which substitutes unity of general administration of the Indian Armies for the present divided control. It is not a measure of centralisation in the sense of diminishing the authority of those who are immediately entrusted with the command of the different Armies. On the contrary, the effect of the change would he to increase sensibly the functions of the Commanders-in-Chief of Madras and Bombay by restoring to them the direct command of the whole of their Armies, part of which has now, under the progress of events, passed away from their immediate control. The whole subject is one which I think is eminently suited for discussion in this House. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy, who spoke earlier in the evening, that Indian affairs are not likely to progress more prosperously because they are more frequently the subject of consideration by this House. But I think this is eminently a subject on which the House is qualified to express an opinion, and I hope the present opportunity of doing so will not be lost. The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for India gave various reasons against the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for West Edinburgh, but the only one which seemed to have anything in it at all was the one in which he said that any legislative proposal he might bring forward would not receive consideration from this House. Well, if the right hon. Gentleman hatches his chickens so late in the season, it is impossible that they will survive. But if he will bring his proposals early in the Session, at any rate if he brings this specific one, it will not, I think, be the subject of very prolonged discussion in this House, at all events, and it is one which we might very easily pass into law. Another of the reasons which the Under Secretary for India gave us was the financial consideration involved. He said it would cost more money. Well, that is the first time I have heard it suggested that the proposed change would cost more money. I have never heard any good authority state that the change of the system would save very much money, but I have heard it on good authority that the change would rather tend to save money than to increase the expense. At all events, that is a very minor consideration. And the contention that it is impossible that legislation can be considered by the House is very conveniently made use of. It has been made use of before by the Secretary of State for India to the present Viceroy, when he refused Lord Lansdowne's representation on the ground that the change would involve legislative discussion and delays. Why should not a Bill dealing with the reorganisation of the Armies of India be brought before this House and passed? That is what we want to know, and what we have a right to ask.

(8.40.) SIR W. PLOWDEN

It is clear from this Debate that in the first place the Government of India, for the last 10 years located in India, have been of one mind with regard to this matter, and it is also quite clear from the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for India, and his supporter, the hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham (Sir R. Temple), that they are at daggers drawn in regard to the arguments they are prepared to bring forward in support of the present system. I should like the House to notice how extraordinary is the discordance of argument upon this subject. We have from the Under Secretary of State for India a series of remarks showing what have been the many proposals made. I need not repeat them; but I may make a reference to one which seemed to have escaped the notice of the hon. Baronet. I find that the hon. Baronet stated that the greatest success in the Government of India had been due to decentralisation, and that there was the greatest danger in concentrating all the Departments in one great office. Now, already we have the fact that in 10 important particulars power has been taken away from the Presidential commands and concentrated in the Commander-in-Chief in India. Thus, while the hon. Baronet is all for decentralisation, the Under Secretary here is pluming himself on the centralisation that has been effected in these 10 particulars.


I did not commend centralisation, but unity of control.


I always admire the facility with which the Under Secretary adopts and puts his arguments, and I accept his disclaimer. But I cannot understand how it is possible to get unity of control without at the same time getting a certain amount of centralisation. The hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham says there is a great danger arising from the desire among statesmen in India to aggrandise their own particular parts of the country. But if that is an argument at all, it cuts the ground from under his own argument; for who are these gentlemen who are desirous of this retention of the Presidency Commanders-in-Chief, but the Provincial Governors and the Provincial Commanders-in-Chief—the very men who, as the hon. Baronet has pointed out, are opposing this change we advocate? He says we must have three native Armies in India. I have not the least objection to that; but I am perfectly certain that the Government of India have no idea of doing away with the three Armies in India, and I cannot understand how the hon. Baronet arrived at the conclusion that we are going to do away with these Armies. He has told us if we do away with these Presidential commands we are doing away with valuable recruiting grounds. I could understand this argument if we only recruited the Presidency Commander-in-Chief. His Adjutant-General his Quartermaster-General, and his remaining staff do this area. But we do not do this, and whatever happens to these officers, we still retain these recruiting grounds for our native soldiery. There was one other topic which was referred to specially by the Under Secretary of State for India. He spoke, and he took some credit for it, of the British troops—I will not say British troops, but Indian troops—forming the Punjab Frontier Force, having been entirely removed from the Local Government and placed under the orders of the Commander-in-Chief. Now, if there was an instance of the absolute necessity of doing away with the Presidential command it is to be found in this example. The Punjab Frontier Force is one of the finest portions of Her Majesty's Army in any part of the country, whether in Great Britain or anywhere else, and those who are aware of the great feats of arms which that Force has performed take the Punjab Frontier Force as as fine a specimen of our Indian troops as we can find. But that body of troops has been transferred from the Local Government of the Punjab to the Government of India and the Commander-in-Chief. Now, I do not think any hon. Member who is acquainted with the conditions of warfare in India would venture to pit against that Force as superior to it the Armies of Bombay and Madras. If there is a special Force to which may attach greater credit than to any other of our Indian Forces it is this Punjab Frontier Force; yet that Force can safely and properly be removed from the local command of the Punjab Govern- ment and placed under the control of the Commander-in-Chief in India. Why cannot that be done in regard to the Forces in Madras and Bombay? We have had certain reasons given to us, but they do not satisfy me. The present proposal has been, recommended at, the express desire of the Government of India for the last ten years, so that this is not the first time the Indian Government have urged their views upon it. It is a repetition of their claim that their opinions should be acted upon—an opinion which has been held from 1879 to 1890, and that claim is just as strong now as it was in 1879. The fact is that the only real ground for the refusal of the demand is to be found in the patronage which rests in the Military Authorities in this country. It is there that we find the dissentient opinion expressed by Military Authorities at home, for that dissent is not expressed by the Military Authorities in India. You have the Commander-in-Chief in India now, as in 1879, expressing the same views as to the reduction of the Presidential commands. I should like to call the attention of the House to the very strong language in the last letter from the Government of India to the Secretary of State for India. First of all, that letter disposes, I think, of the objection raised by the Under Secretary of State for India in regard to this being a matter which would give us no pecuniary advantage, because on page 200 of the Blue Book they urge this abolition of the Presidential commands in the strongest way, on this very ground of securing thereby a financial advantage. That was the Despatch of the 5th July, 1889, from the Government of India to the Secretary of State, and it decidedly disposes of the argument that we are not to expect from this abolition of the Presidential system any pecuniary advantage. They point out also in that Despatch that it was their earnest desire to have this change, and that it was a misfortune that their desire was not attained; and they ask that this amendment of the military system should be carried out now, while there is peace in the country. They say— We desire, therefore, once again to place before Her Majesty's Government our conviction that it would be a misfortune of the greatest moment if this amendment of the military administration, which we consider to be essential to the efficiency of the Army in this country, should not he carried out in the breathing time of peace, which we, fortunately, now possess. Now, we have had debates on this topic in this House before, and the last occasion was when we moved a Resolution on the Indian Budget in 1888. We were not able on that occasion to carry our point, but the arguments in favour of it are just as strong now as they were then. I myself have a letter from a gentleman, unfortunately now deceased, who was President of the Simla Commission, and in it he expressed his indignation that the efforts which have been made by the men who composed that Commission over which he presided had met with such unfortunate ill-success, not from the Indian Government in India, but from the Secretary of State for India in this country.

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

I think that whatever else may be said of this Debate, it clearly shows that the House of Commons, as a whole, is scarcely competent to arrive at a conclusion upon a matter of such detail and of such vast importance to the administration of India. I do not think any hon. Member who has spoken will seriously dispute that proposition. For instance, I find nothing in the speech of the hon. Member who has just spoken which shows that he, or anyone of the hon. Members who have addressed the House, draws his illustrations from personal knowledge or from any knowledge attainable in this country, or so as to be able to express a confident opinion either of what has been done in India, or as to the probable effect of the step which it is now proposed should be taken. The one exception is probably my right hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for India, who has watched very closely the various steps which have been taken; who is able to speak with great authority as to the views entertained by the Government of India; and who, probably alone in this House, is able to appreciate the real importance of many of the details brought under our notice. I, myself, am very much in the position of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman). He very candidly confessed that he approaches the consideration of this subject without any knowledge of recent details, but only with that general knowledge of military detail which he has acquired in the high position he has formerly filled. I feel myself almost exactly in the same position as the right hon. Gentleman. He has spoken to-night of the differences of military opinion on this subject, and he said that, in his opinion, there is no question of military administration whatever about which vast differences in military opinion are not to be found. Well, I entirely agree with that proposition. I am afraid my own experience in that direction is even wider than his own. But I do not think he has given a fair attention to the other consideration which attaches to this subject, and that is, that we have not only a difference of military opinion, but a difference of opinion amongst all the higher authorities who have had occasion to approach this question. We have had four Viceroys of India expressing an opinion in one direction. We have had four Secretaries of State for India of different periods, every one of whom objected on different grounds to the proposal that this step should be taken. I think I may go so far as to say this—that, in my opinion, the difference of opinion that has existed between the Viceroys of India and the Secretaries of State for India has not altogether extended to matters of principle. It has not been altogether difference of opinion on matters of principle that has led to that divergence of view as to the action that should be taken, but it has been because grave doubts have been entertained as to whether the precise time had come for carrying into effect the particular proposals made by the Government of India for the time being. I should like also to say this: This is not a War Office question at all. It is quite true that my connection with the War Office and; the connection of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) with the War Office naturally leads people to expect that we should express an opinion upon a very important question of military administration, but I do think that at the War Office we have really very little to do with it indeed. British interests and the interests of British troops are very little concerned in this matter. If any question ever was so, this is essentially a matter of Indian opinion. It is an Indian question from first to last; and I am bound to add also that, for that reason, special attention ought to be paid to those of Indian experience who are qualified to express an opinion on the subject. The hon. Member who introduced this Motion dwelt upon the danger which might exist in time of war if a reform did not take place in the system of military organisation in India, and he referred to the state of things which existed in 1879. Now, so far as regards what existed in 1879, I entirely agree with him. I expressed an opinion at the time, and everything I have heard since has only led me to form a stronger opinion on the subject. I believe our experience at the time of the Afghan War abundantly shows that the military administration at that time in India was by no means a satisfactory one, and that we might have run even greater dangers than those which were proved to have existed at that time. But the hon. Member has frankly admitted that since that time very great changes have been made. My right hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for India has explained the nature of those changes. I am not qualified to explain them myself, nor have I followed with close attention to detail the alterations that have taken place in Indian military administration. But I am certain from what I have been able to ascertain on the subject that some objections, and grave objections, which existed at that time, have been entirely removed. I am confident that in any matter like this, which involves, we cannot doubt, the gravest questions of military administration, we must proceed by gradual steps. The Blue Book from which hon. Members have quoted to-night, and which showed the opinions of great authorities in India and in this country in respect to this question, amply proves that amongst them all there was this general consensus of opinion that the steps to be taken were grave steps, and ought to be approached with the fullest sense of responsibility; and I believe that is all the more true, because one of the main steps which would have to be taken involves political control over native troops. Now, is there any one man now present in this House who would venture to say that he is competent to express an opinion as to the precise time when political control over native troops in India ought to be transferred from one authority to another? Certainly, having given some attention to the latest knowledge on the subject—I do not think, nor is the Government prepared to say, that the time has come to carry effect any one of the steps which are included in the general terms of the Resolution that the hon. Member has proposed. But I should not like to deal with it in more detail. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs spoke of it in terms of the greatest moderation; but he showed very clearly that the strong bias of his mind was in favour of the general tenour of the Resolution proposed by the hon. Member, and he advanced arguments to show that we must move in that direction. I admit that I have spoken strongly on this question in this House, and I do not now withdraw a word of what I have said. I believe that the system of military administration in India undoubtedly requires that a considerable modification should be made in it. Some modifications have already been made, and it remains for the Government to see whether any of the changes that have been made have been effectual. It is obvious, I think, that every great change that has been introduced requires that any Government that is wise should watch carefully the effects of the steps that have been taken up to the present time, but which may not even yet have been completely carried into effect. Therefore, Her Majesty's Government think it is their duty to watch and see, at any rate for a short time, what have been the results of those measures that have already been undertaken in the way of change. I am prepared to give this assurance to the House: that while we do not wish to pledge ourselves by a Resolution such as the hon. Gentleman has proposed to carry into effect by legislation changes of a wholesale and widely sweeping character; while we are not prepared to interrupt the work of the House of Commons for the purpose of pushing on such a measure on a subject like this which will require, and which ought to require, very serious attention, and which must necessarily occupy a considerable amount of time, we are at the same time ready and willing to say we will take what further steps we may deem necessary to carry into effect whatever experience may prove to be essential to render complete and efficient the Army organisation of India. Before I conclude my remarks, I should like to say this also: The hon. Gentleman has put before the House a proposal which involves, if it be carried, our arriving at a conclusion of a most drastic character, and which would commit the House and the Government to immediate legislation on this subject. Of course, if the hon. Member insists on taking a Division, we shall be forced to vote; but let me ask the House what would be the effect of such a proceeding? The Resolution proposed by the hon. Gentleman would in all probability be rejected, and this House would thereby be affirming that it is not prepared to accept the proposition of the hon. Gentleman. Now, Sir, that is not the spirit in which I desire to approach this question. On the contrary, I desire to approach it in the spirit of one who, to a great extent, sympathises with the principle enunciated by the hon. Member, but who also desires that the House and the Government should be allowed sufficient time to enable them to judge fully and fairly of the effects produced by the measures that have already been taken, in the belief that the time will then come when we ought to take counsel and consider whether or not any, and what, measures may be necessary to carry out the changes that have been suggested.


When I first read the Motion of my hon. Friend I thought it was intended to be much wider in its scope than it has proved to be. It proposes "to call attention to the Presidential system of Government in India," and I thought the hon. Gentleman was going to raise the question of separate Presidencies, in regard to which my own opinion is that separate Presidencies are an inconvenient and expensive survival, which is only justified by those who regard them from the patronage point of view. For my part, I am of opinion that the time has come when they ought to be abolished. But I find that my hon. Friend has confined himself entirely to the military aspect of the question; and, as he has taken that course, I will endeavour to confine myself solely to the military and financial view which is presented by this subject. With regard to the financial part of the question, I have a, very strong opinion. I desire that the Commander-in-Chief—the great officer of the British Army who holds the command of the Armies of Madras and Bombay—should be done away with in the interests of economy and the interests of efficiency. We are told that the whole of the European Army in India is under one Commander-in-Chief, and I think it a very good system which requires that it should be so. I know from personal experience the difficulties that arise from this command of the different divisions of the Army. I think that the arrangement under which the three Armies of India are commanded is a very extravagant and a very undesirable one, and, as far as that point is concerned, I am entirely with my hon. Friend. But, on the other hand, and from a political point of view, I think that the Native Army ought to be divided, and that the policy of such a division is made apparent by the experience we have had of the great Mutiny in India. In my view the success with which we were enabled to meet and overcome that Mutiny in India was very much due to the separation of the Native Armies because, by dividing one Native Army from another, we adopt, as it were, the system of building in compartments, in such a way that if one compartment takes fire the other does not. I hold very strongly the view that while we have in India a general European Army, and perhaps, to some extent, also a General Service Native Army, it is most desirable that this should be kept entirely apart from the Native Armies belonging to the different Governments of India—I will not say, of the Presidencies. It is exceedingly desirable that the Native Armies should at all times be kept under separate control, and that they should not be allowed to come much together. This was a policy which I myself held when occupying the position I held in India and I believe that in this view, which hold very strongly, lam in accord with the majority of the Council of the Secretary for India. It has always seemed to me that the peculiar position of the natives in some parts of India is such that it is most desirable that we should not have too much centralisation, but that to some extent we should adopt the principle of Home Rule in these matters. It appears to me that it is an injurious policy to centralise too much, and that it is always safest and best to keep the Native Indian Armies divided. With regard to the civil aspect of these Native Armies, I think that in matters connected with enlistment, the terms of enlistment, and their general relations to the State, there should be a strong element of local government, and not too much centralisation. From a purely practical point of view, I am very desirous indeed of seeing a certain amount of power over the local Armies maintained by the Local Governments of India. I know how expensive it is in the case of a little war to bring to bear all the heavy paraphernalia of a great centralised Army. On the last occasion when I was serving out in India I thought I might have avoided these little wars; but I was not so fortunate. In the East of India we had a good many little wars. When the Commander-in-Chief had to be appealed to, the result was that everything was done on a great scale, two large forces being sent from different points with different Commissariats and different supplies of material. Those two forces were no doubt successfully "marched up the hill" and then equally successfully "marched down again;" and as they, for the time being, quelled the raids of the wild tribes, they were called upon to subdue, the expedition was, upon the whole, regarded as a very successful one. But after a time those wild tribes became as bad as ever, and I believe they are giving a great deal of trouble down to the present moment. Subsequently I had a good many little wars to contend with, and I found that, by avoiding the necessity of appealing to the Commander-in-Chief and carrying on those little wars in my own way, I was enabled to bring them to a successful issue. As I have said, it is in my view most desirable that in these matters there should be certain powers granted to the Local Governments. I am not sure whether the Punjab frontier of India is now under the control and management of the Governor of the Punjab; but if it be so, it is desirable that he should have certain powers enabling him to manage things in his own way, and that the Commander-in-Chief should not be allowed to annex the Frontier Punjab Force. I am not sure whether Madras and Bombay are parts of India which most require a Native Army; but we have a Native Army in Burma, and I am quite sure that there is no necessity for the large paraphernalia the Commander-in-Chief now has in Bombay. I hope that things are not now as bad as they were formerly. If in the future we are enabled to carry out in reality that which is nominally supposed to be carried out, and if we unite the European Force with the General Service Force, at the same time maintaining the local Native Armies under distinct commands, we shall in that way save a large portion of the expense which has now to be incurred without danger to the Native Forces.

(9.15.) MR. BUCHANAN

Sir, the statements which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War has made were, on the whole, fair. He stated that if further steps were necessary for carrying out the object which the Government of India have in view, the present Government were prepared to take those steps as soon as they found they were necessary or practicable. Under the circumstances, therefore, I beg to withdraw my Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.