HC Deb 08 September 1893 vol 17 cc749-51

Order for Second Reading read.


I rise to move the Second Reading of this Bill, and in view of the advanced period of the evening I will say as few words as possible in making the Motion. The measure is of the simplest possible character. Its object is to unite the Presidential Armies of India into one. To the civilian mind it seems obviously of enormous advantage that all those Armies should be commanded from one centre. The history of the Bill may be stated briefly thus: In the early days of our Empire in India three Armies sprang up in the course of nature. It was an almost inevitable growth—that there should be an Army in each Presidency. Bengal had a certain primacy, which was attributable to the fact that it was under the command of the head of the Bengal Army that the English troops in India served. This system of three Presidential Armies went on unimpaired until the Mutiny. It was then found in practical experience prejudicial to the military service that the three Armies should not be really as well as nominally under one control. After the Mutiny there was expressed on all hands a desire for a closer union of the three. The development of railways and telegraphs made that union easier and more natural. For years the history of the matter has been one long series of recommendations by the Government of India, met by successive concessions on the part of this country. In 1869 the three Military Accounts Departments were amalgamated; in 1876 the Remount Departments were amalgamated. Then came the Afghan War. In 1879 a Commission was appointed; in 1881 the Government of India reported in favour of the union of the three Armies, but it was refused on the ground of insufficient authority. In 1884 the three Ordnance Departments were amalgamated; in 1885 the Government of India reported again in favour of the union, but it was declined, because of the difficulty of legislation; in 1886 the Punjab Frontier Force was transferred to the Commander-in-Chief. In 1888 the Government of India reported again, and then Lord Cross, at that time Secretary of State, though he said that the exigencies of Public Business would not enable him to propose legislation, suggested certain practical steps which conduced to the attainment of the end desired. In 1889–90 the Transport, Clothing, Military Works, Military Education, and the offices of Judge Advocate General were amalgamated. When that was done the amalgamation was practically complete. All that we now ask is that the House of Commons will join with the House of Lords in giving legislative sanction to an arrangement which by this time is pretty nearly established. We have by this time a vast amount of authority on our side. We have the authority of four Viceroys—Lord Lytton, Lord Ripon, Lord Dufferin, and Lord Lansdowne, and of the most distinguished Indian Generals, including Sir D. Stewart, Lord Roberts, and Sir G. White. In another place the illustrious Duke the Commander-in-Chief has expressed himself favourable to the change. The Bill has come here with the full sanction of everybody interested in Indian and military problems. I have said all that need be said about the essential parts of the Bill. There remains one question, accessory and ancillary—namely, whether or not the Commanders-in-Chief shall retain seats in Legislative Councils. On that point I am bound to say the authorities are not quite so unanimous as they are with regard to the main part of the change. The Government of India, reviewing all the circumstances and balancing the authorities were not in favour of these military officers retaining their seats, and my noble Friend the Secretary of State when he moved the Bill in another place moved it with the condition that the officer; should lose their seats on the Legislative Councils. However, he found that military opinion was Opposed to him, and he made a concession on the point which stands in the Bill. I am prepared to maintain that concession. It is not a light matter to disregard the wishes and advice of the Government of India on the point, but I feel that the main purpose of the Bill is so important that it would be a pity to jeopardise it by making an alteration which would ensure the rejection of the measure in the House of Lords. I would ask the House to agree to the proposition I now make, with the added condition that the Generals commanding in Madras and Bombay shall retain their seats on the Legislative Councils.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. G. Russell.)

MR. NAOROJI (Finsbury, Central)

Will the Legislative Councils oppose this clause, and will the Generals be paid?


The Generals are not paid extra salaries in respect of their services on the Legislative Councils; therefore, their removal, if brought about, would not of necessity involve a saving; but it might be held by the authorities in India that when these Generals are relieved of certain duties they might also be relieved of salaries. That, however, is speculative, and I cannot say that that view will be taken.

SIR M. HICKS BEACH (Bristol, W.)

I only rise to say that I think my hon. Friend the Member for the Kingston Division of Surrey (Sir R. Temple) is very anxious to offer to the House some observations on the Bill. I think, in view of his great authority, the Committee stage might be postponed to Monday instead of being taken tomorrow.


Hear, hear!

Motion agreed to.

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