HC Deb 13 August 1896 vol 44 cc746-7

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for India whether his attention has been called to the state of the British Army in India, as reported by The Times correspondent at Calcutta, in their issue of the 11th inst., wherein it is stated that nearly 4,000 men are in hospital from preventible contagious diseases, and that the state of the Army is getting worse day by day; whether the attention of Her Majesty's Government is to be seriously drawn to this matter during the coining Recess; and, whether he is now prepared to state to the House that during the coming Recess, in conjunction with Lord Lansdowne and the Governor General of India, stops will be taken for an Inquiry, either by Royal Commission or by Select Committee of this House, with a view to taking measures that may, once for all, as regards this painful matter, place the British Army in India in that state of efficiency in which the people of this country and of India desire to see it, and to bring about which they pay some 25 millions of money every year?


I have seen the statement in The Times to which my hon. Friend refers. As stated by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury on Friday last, in reply to Questions by the hon. Members for southeast Essex and Hoxton, Her Majesty's Government will consider the propriety of some Inquiry to decide whether the alleged increase of disease is correct.

MR. JAMES STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)

asked the Secretary of State for India whether his attention had been called to the various memoranda of the Army Sanitary Commission, and to the following conclusions which they state:— The facts, so far as we can ascertain them, lead us to the conclusion that a compulsory lock hospital system in India has proved a failure, and that its reinstitution cannot, consequently, he advocated on sanitary grounds. We believe that the best practicable means of diminishing the prevalence of these diseases is to he found in establishing a system of voluntary lock hospitals, and in providing the soldier, as far as possible, with healthy occupation and recreation; and whether any steps had been recently taken to bring these views before the cantonment authorities, or to carry them into effect?


I am aware of the opinions recorded by the Army Sanitary Commission on this subject; but what I want to ascertain is, not the opinion of individuals, even when acting officially, but the facts relating to the health of the Army.


May I ask whether Her Majesty's Government propose to institute an Inquiry by Royal Commission or a Select Committee of this House?


I should not like to commit myself to the exact form which the Inquiry will take; what I think is an Inquiry by a small number of impartial persons would be best. ["Hear, hear!"]

MR. M. M. BHOWNAGGREE (Bethnal Green, N.E.)

asked whether the Inquiry would be here or in India?


The Inquiry will take place here.