HC Deb 27 April 1897 vol 48 cc1142-66
* MR. J. HEYWOOD JOHNSTONE (Sussex, Horsham)

rose to call attention to the grievance of the Officers of the General List (Indian Army) in the matter of their pensions; and to move:— That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the grievances of the officers on the General List of the Indian Army in the matter of their succession to Colonels' allowances, and to report to the House thereon. He pointed out that the officers felt that they had a real grievance to complain of, and that there was no tribunal to which they could appeal except the House of Commons. He could not. conceive why it was that the Government, who were so ready to refer every controversial question to the consideration of a Committee or a Royal Commission, should have hesitated to refer this matter to a Committee. The Government had been very prolific in appointing Committees and Royal Commissions. These officers felt they had a legitimate grievance, and the question was of serious importance to them, because it represented a loss of something like £400 a year. They claimed that they were entitled to Colonels' allowances. It was felt by them also to be a hardship that officers who were their juniors in the Service should have the advantage of the privileges which were denied to them. One case had been brought to his notice in which an officer who had served in command of a regiment did not receive his Colonel's allowance, while his second in command and actually his junior in entering the Service did. These were officers who joined the Service between 1859 and 1861, and were nominated under the old conditions of things by the directors of the East India Company. Every one joined under the same conditions as the officers of the East India Company's Service. They were appointed by the directors; they paid their passage out to India, and they had to this day to subscribe to the old East India Company's funds, established for the relief of widows and orphans. At the time when these officers were nominated, their future position was uncertain. The Mutiny was scarcely at an end, and there was a question in the minds of the authorities at home as to what would be the future of the East India Company's Service. When nominated, each officer was asked to sign a paper, which continued, among other questions the following:— Have you been informed that all the appointments now made are to be subject to any alterations that may be decided on? He thought the last words were of considerable importance in estimating the position of these officers at the present day. What was the position of affairs at that time? First, considerable variations had been introduced in the wording of that question from time to time. When it came under the consideration of the India Office, it stood there simply "subject to any alterations that may be decided on," but the India Office, in considering these claims, bad more than once altered the phraseology, turning the question into one asking these gentlemen, if they accepted their appointments "subject to any alteration which may be subsequently made in the condition of service." The explanation was perfectly plain and simple. It was to be found in a Despatch written by the Secretary of State for India to the Viceroy on September 30, 1859, in which a communication was made in reference to the probability of some change being made in the constitution of the Indian Army. It was decided in December following by the Government that all future appointments should be made "subject to any alteration that may be decided on." This showed the reason and the intention of putting the question to those gentlemen who had been appointed. A Royal Commission was sitting at that time to decide on the future position of the officers, and on what lines the Indian forces should be reorganised. He contended that the words "decided on" imported a conclusion of the matter at the moment under consideration. It was not subject to any alteration hereafter; it was subject to any alteration which might be decided on. He suggested that the House must lay weight- on the word "decided," and the answer to that was to be found in the Royal Commission which was sitting to decide on the future of the Indian Army. The Henley Clause gave particular privileges and rights to those who had served in the forces of the East India Company; but- while the officers did not base their claim on that clause, or on the fact that as cadets they were appointed as officers of the East India Company, they did base their case on the fact- that they were officers of the Indian Army. The Henley Clause stated (21 and 22 Vic. c. 106, 1858) that the officers were— to be entitled to the like pay, pension allowances and privileges, and the like advantages as regards promotion and otherwise as if they had continued in the service of the Company. Then, according to Section 57 of the same clause, it was— lawful for Her Majesty, by Order in Council, to alter or regulate the terms and conditions of service under which persons hereafter entering Her Majesty's Indian Forces shall be commissioned. Any Order in Council was to be laid before Parliament, but he had searched, and he did not believe any such Order could be found which purported to alter the conditions of the service under which these gentlemen joined. They were officers of the Indian Army, and as such were entitled to those rights and privileges which had since been taken away. There was a distinction between the Honourable East India Company's Service and the Indian Army. A great deal of the confusion which had attended the consideration of this particular question was due to the fact that no sufficient distinction had been drawn between the officers of the East India Company's Service and those who belonged to the Indian Army. The officers for whom he was speaking claimed—and claimed rightly—to be officers of the Indian Army. That they were entitled to that position was made sufficiently clear by the Governor General's Order of 1861. When these officers arrived in India, the condition of things was an uncertain one. It was not known what their future was to be. But the result of the Royal Commission was practically that the Indian Army was split up into three divisions. There was the local list, comprising those who opted to serve in the local forces in India; there was the general list, comprising those who volunteered for the general service of the Crown; and there was the Staff Corps, created fur the first time, of which every officer who had since joined the Indian Army had been a member. All the officers who belonged to the East India Company's Service were given the right of choosing to which of these Services they would belong. The Governor General's Order, No. 960, of 1861, said:— According to the; declaration made by these young officers, they have no choice, but the option may lie given them, in common with oilier young officers of the Indian Army, to volunteer for general or local service or for Staff Corns. He laid stress on the words "in common with other young officers of the Indian Army," because those words clearly indicated that they were officers of the Indian Army, and this option was given to them, in common with other officers of the Indian Army, to volunteer for general or local service or for the Staff Corps. They volunteered for the local, service. In a Despatch dated July 31, 1862, Sir Charles Wood, the then Secretary of State, dealt with the whole question. Apparently the Government of Bombay had recommended that each Lieutenant-Colonel should he promoted to a colonelcy, and receive a Colonel s allowance after the expiration of ten years. Sir C. Wood decided that:— all officers -who may have held the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel on January 1, 1862, will also be entitled to promotion to the superior grade of Colonel, with Colonel's allowances, if the step come to them in the ordinary course, before the completion of 12 years' service as Lieutenant-Colonel; but when these Lieutenant-Colonels have been removed from the lists the promotion of those whose Commissions hear date on January 1. 1862, or subsequently, will only be made, as in the Staff Corps, after 12 years' service in that grade. Here it was clearly laid down that those officers who attained the rank of Lieu-tenant-Colonel after January 1st, 1862, would be entitled to a Colonel's allowances after 12 years' service as Lieu- tenant-Colonel. In this Despatch Sir C. Wood also said:— The principle upon which the succession to Colonel's allowances of officers of the Indian Army who have not joined the Staff Corps or the new Line Regiments is to he hereafter regulated, is to be considered as determined by this arrangement. Here, then, they had this 12 years' arrangement clearly laid down, and it was expressly stated that the principle upon which the succession of these gentlemen to Colonels' allowances was to be regulated was to be considered as determined by this arrangement. He did not know whether the India Office proposed to rest their case upon the ground that these gentlemen were not officers of the Indian Army. If that was their intention, he would refer them to the official Army List for this year, where they would find the names of these gentlemen under the head of "Indian Army, General List." The next Despatch to which he would call mention was the Despatch of June 17, 1864, written by Sir C. Wood to the Governor General of India. It began by raying that— it was also considered desirable, on general grounds, to remove, as far as possible, all distinctions between the officers of Her Majesty's general and Indian Armies, and to form them prospectively into one united body, retaining for the Indian officers in the meantime such advantages as were peculiar to their service. Here it should be observed be distinction was drawn between the Indian officers and the general officers—in other words, between those on the local list and those on the General List. The distinction drawn was not between officers of the East India Company and the officers of the "Indian Army." Sir C. Wood went on to say:— It might perhaps have prevented a good deal of misunderstanding if the measures for these various objects, which were distinct in themselves, had been undertaken separately, but so much was inevitable, and it was so desirable that the full extent of any changes should be known at once, and that men's, minds should not he left in uncertainty as to their future condition, that it was determined to carry into effect, without loss of time, all the measures required for the changes which were to be made. Those were grave and serious words, and the men who read that Despatch, and determined their future careers on the wording of that Despatch were entitled to rely upon it. In view of that declaration, it passed belief that in 1882 a new and further change would be made wholly to their disadvantage. In the 19th paragraph of the Despatch the Secretary of State said:— It appears that of the officers of the Indian Army who joined the Line Regiments the whole of the Artillery and Engineers, and those who joined the Staff Corps, have been generally benefited by the change. Then came the words: — If to this number be added the whole of the officers who entered the Service since 1858 on conditions subject to any change that might be introduced into the Service, it will be seen that there will remain a comparatively small number who can have any real cause of complaint. Showing clearly that these officers (for there were none others to whom this description could apply) were to be "benefited by the change." A subsequent paragraph of the Despatch ran:— The general promotion of the Indian officers will be accelerated, and to every officer, including the Cadet who entered the Service so lately as December 1861, his promotion through every grade, with the pay thereunto belonging, as if the whole native Army of India had been kept up is assured, and his right to Indian pension is maintained. These extracts showed what assurances were given to the officers on the General List of the Indian Army, to whom alone they were applicable. In another paragraph these words occurred:— Nor is it probable that more than a very few eases can occur in which an officer will not attain the Colonel's allowance after a shorter total period of service, even though he may remain rather longer in the grade of Lieutenant-Colonel. Then the 81st paragraph stated:— With this measure the arrangements as regards the officers of the Indian Army will be closed. The advantages which have been conferred upon the majority of those officers have already been pointed out. and it cannot be doubted that under the system now established the officers of the Indian Army will, for the most part, attain to the several regimental grades, including that of Colonel, with Colonel's allowance, in a shorter period of service than they would have done had the several Staff Corps not been formed and had no change in the constitution of the Indian Army taken place. He did not think a more explicit pledge could be given to any body of men than that which was given in the Despatch of 1864 from which he had read. That that was the view taken by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton was clear from an answer the right hon. Gentleman gave to a question put by Sir Richard Temple in 1895 on this subject. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir Henry Fowler) said:— The passage in the Order of 1864 refers to the prospects of promotion and pension under the rules then in force, including the succession to the Colonel's allowance; but as regards the officers who entered the Service since 1858, this promise is subject to any change that might be introduced into the Service. The House would see that the right hon. Gentleman distinctly called it a promise —["hear, hear!"]—a promise that these officers should have the right of succession to the Colonel's allowance after 12 years' service as Lieut.-Colonel. He now came to the last Act. The House would hardly believe that 18 years afterwards—in 1882—although in the meanwhile entrance into the Staff Corps had been closed to these gentlemen, entrance into which would have secured to them this allowance, they were told that instead of getting their rights after they had served 12 years as Lieut.-Colonel, they were to be put on a pension of £750 a year, which meant a clear and absolute loss to them of nearly £400 a year. Thus these particular gentlemen had been singled out from among all those serving in Her Majesty's Indian Army for this treatment. After relying on the promise given in the Despatch of 1864, and after having done good service for Her Majesty, they were told that instead of being entitled after 12 years' service as Lieut.-Colonel to the Colonel's allowance, they were reduced to a pension of £750 a year, and were told to be thankful for that. He need hardly say that he had no personal interest in the case of these gentlemen. ["Hear, hear!"] He had taken it up as a matter of duty. He had been exercised in his mind to see what possible answer could be made to the claims of these. Gentlemen. Of course, he was well aware that the Government had always the power to deal with those in their service as they pleased; but power was one thing and right was another—["hear, hear!"]—and he did not propose to discuss the question from the basis of what it was in the power of the Government to do, but from the basis of what was the right and honest thing to do. He believed that considerable reliance was placed on the declaration which these gentlemen had signed, but there could be no question that all the subsequent alterations and emendations did not exist in the original answer received. Then, again, the question had sometimes been raised that these gentlemen were not officers in the Indian Army, but to this day their names appeared in the official Army List as such, so that that ground of objection disappeared. Again, it had sometimes been repeated in the voluminous correspondence on the subject that these officers were better off than they might have expected to be; but they had not got what had been promised to them, and they were not so well off as they had a right to expect. The probability of succession to the Colonel's allowance had been considered by a Committee, whose finding was embodied in a Despatch, and he found that that Committee reported that the 12 years' term was two years in excess of the fair term, the average of which had been a little over 10 years; so that these officers might fairly have expected to get their Colonel's allowance after 10 years' service as Lieut.-Colonel. ["Hear, hear!'"] Then, finally, they were told that the assurance given in the Despatch of 1864 had been fulfilled. These gentlemen would not be asking the House to consider their ease that day if that assurance had been fulfilled, and he believed it would pass the ingenuity of the noble Lord to make out that it had been fulfilled in any shape or form. ["Hear, hear!"] He had not elaborated the ease as he might have done. He had felt it his duty to put it as shortly, and he hoped as intelligibly, as he possibly could before the House. What he was asking for was not n decision of the House on the claims of these gentlemen, but that they might be referred to the impartial judgment of a Select Committee, and he failed to see why Her Majesty's Government should refuse that. The Government seemed to have made it a Government matter in issuing a Whip of four lines against the Motion. He had always thought there was a lack of the sense of proportion in those who were responsible fur Government Whips. A Whip of three lines only was issued on the Necessitous School Boards Bill. That showed the comparative importance which the Government attached to a Measure like that, and the investigation of the conduct of a department of the Government for which they themselves as a Government could not be in any shape or form responsible. ["Hear, hear!"] The Government had shut the door against anything like inquiry into this question, and had made it a Government matter. There was a passage in Lord Macaulay's Essay on Lord Clive, to the effect that the strength and foundation of British rule in India was that the Sepoy, however humble and poor he might be, felt that under the rule of the Company his bread and salt were assured to him, however long he might live. If that was so with the Indian soldier, should it be less so with the English officer, who had led him in many hard-fought and difficult engagements? ["Hear, hear!'] That was the view taken in early days under the Honourable East India Company, and now it was found, in contrast to that, that no inquiry could lie made into the manner in which the India Office from time to time had treated these men who had served them so well. He could imagine only one thing more damaging to a Government than an accusation that they had treated harshly and unfairly those who had done good service in years past. ["Hear, hear!"] To such an accusation any Government might be exposed and no harm was done, but when those who had an opportunity of having such an accusation honestly and fairly inquired into turned away from it and endeavoured by all the means at the disposal of a Government to shut the door against inquiry into it, there was only one conclusion likely to be drawn. ["Hear, hear!"] He felt that this ought never to have been made a Government matter. These gentlemen had a strong and legitimate grievance, as he had shown, and he would, therefore, conclude by moving the Resolution which stood in his name. ["Hear, hear!"]

SIR SEYMOUR KING (Hull, Central)

, in seconding the Resolution, asked for the indulgence of the House if he traversed again some of the ground covered by his lion. Friend; but this grievance of officers in the general list was so intricate in itself, and depended so much on the interpretations of warrants and dispatches that he was bound to trespass on the patience of the House to a certain extent, and to ask for the indulgence hon. Members were always ready to give. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University, who dealt with this matter as Under Secretary for India on a former occasion, stated, in opening the case for the Government, that he believed the subject was one which hardly anyone understood, and which no one could solve. He could only say for himself that for years he had studied this question, and the more he studied it, the more difficult and the less clear it seemed. He agreed with his hon. Friend that it was next to impossible to make the subject thoroughly clear to Members of the House except through, the medium of a Select Committee. That was. why they appealed for a Select Committee. He knew his noble Friend would say that he was quite able to put before the House how they ought to vote on this question, but all he could say to his noble Friend and the House was this—if they could make out a primâ facie case for an inquiry, they were entitled to it. ["Hear, hear!"] He thought that his lion. Friend had made out such a case. Now, what would his noble Friend say? He would say that he was advised by his Departmental advisers that these gentlemen had no case; but most people who had gone into the facts, as he had conscientiously done, were convinced that they had an excellent case. He thought that that was the interpretation placed on the warrants and dispatches. Of course, lie did not blame his noble Friend for the attitude which he assumed. He was more or less at the mercy of his military advisers, but if his noble Friend said that he was only taking the same view which had been taken by every other Secretary of State, he could only reply that that was one more reason why they should come to that House. What was the good of arraigning the officials before the Secretary of State? Why, his noble Friend was their mere mouthpiece in that House. He said, on behalf of those whose cause he advocated, that they were willing to trust the House of Commons, and if it was satisfied, after inquiry, that they had no case, they would abide by that decision. As matters stood, the only appeal they had was to people who had already prejudiced their claims. He had, as he said—and the House would believe him—gone very carefully and honestly into the facts, and he had endeavoured to understand the question, and, looking at it impartially, had come to the conclusion that there was a legitimate claim on the Indian Government. These officers had rendered their services when India was passing through its most critical moments, and now their allowances were not to be granted. The hon. Member proceeded to read a number of extracts from orders and dispatches bearing on the claims of the officers, and urged that the whole circumstances called for investigation. One extract he quoted was the following" statement of the Military Secretary, who said:— The General list Officers were appointed to the Indian Army subject to any alterations in the conditions of service which might hereafter be determined on. He asked hon. Members to mark the wording of that sentence—" the conditions of service which might hereafter be determined on." As his hon. Friend had pointed out, there was not one syllable about "hereafter" in the original. What was said in the dispatch confirming the form of declaration was that they were to be subject to any alteration in the conditions of the Service, meaning, of course, the whole Indian Army, and meaning the alterations then being considered by the Royal Commission sitting on the reorganisation of the Army. In 1858 the exact wording was:— All future appointments of Cadets should be made subject to any alteration that may be decided upon. Why? Because a Royal Commission was sitting. What alterations were contemplated? Alterations suggested by the Royal Commission. When, therefore, the Cadets agreed to abide by any alterations that might be decided upon, it was quite clear they agreed only to the alterations to be made by the Royal Commission. Yet it was now- pretended that this "declaration"—this agreement—not only debarred the General List Officers from the advantages which the General Order of 1864 "assured" and "maintained" to them in common with all officers of the Indian Army, but bound them to accept "any alterations in the conditions of service which might thereafter be determined upon." The words of the General Order of 1864, which was an honest and straightforward document, described the General List Officers as officers who entered the Service on "conditions subject to any change that might be introduced into the Service." It did not say "might or may hereafter be introduced." Such were the weapons which the India Office placed in his noble Friend's hands, and he had no doubt the noble Lord would make the best use of them. He dared say the noble Lord would trot out again the question of expense, but he would undertake to prove, if a Committee were appointed, that the expense would be very small indeed. Of course his noble Friend would produce numerous figures to contradict him, but that, again, would be obvious proof that the House was not the place to decide such a question. It was not across the floor of the House of Commons that the question could be settled. What was wanted was some small independent tribunal. He could not understand why his noble Friend resisted the suggestion made, unless there was something they knew nothing of in the background, and that he could not believe for one moment. There was no doubt his noble Friend did betray great mistrust of the House of Commons, and perhaps he was wise in doing so, because that mistrust was the strongest evidence of the strength of their case. The noble Lord was afraid to let the case go before a Committee, because he knew what the decision of a Committee would be; he knew that justice would be done there. What was the course the noble Lord had pursued? He had not left them free and unfettered to decide this matter, a matter which was purely administrative, and in which Party obligation was in no way at stake. He had seen a good many four-line Whips, but he had never known such a Whip issued in order to enable a Department to avoid a free inquiry. He asked the noble Lord to remember that if it was excellent to have a giant's strength, it was tyranny to use it like a giant. It was unworthy to invoke the aid of a big majority in jockeying 58 poor officers out of their rights. Just as he would refuse to be dictated to on a question like this, he hoped and believed there were many Members of the House who would not listen to the Front Bench, whether it was occupied by Members of this or that Party. Both Front Benches were tarred with the same brush. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton was just as bad as the noble Lord. They all knew that whichever side was in, there was no justice to be got out of a man when once he got on the Front Bench. Let him end as he began. They had not the slightest fear of the House of Commons. They asked for justice. They did not ask hon. Members to pronounce any opinion on the merits of the case. They simply asked to be allowed to go before an impartial tribunal, and not to have their case decided by a packed jury as it were. Before an impartial tribunal he undertook to prove their case up to the hilt. ["Hear, hear!"]


said the hon. Member for Horsham had made a very able speech, but he very naturally based it on information supplied to him. He did not wish to interrupt the hon. Gentleman when he was wrong, indeed, had he done so it would have been necessary to interpolate a correction at every sentence. He thought he would be able to show, in the course of his remarks, that there never was a weaker case put before the House of Commons than the present. But before he dealt with the question of the appointment of a Committee, he desired to say there were certain sentiments enunciated by his hon. Friend with which he entirely agreed. He agreed that the Government were bound to keep faith with those they employed. He further agreed that the Government had no right whatever to wriggle out of an engagement by the ambiguity of the language employed; but after all, the Indian Exchequer and the Indian tax-payer had their rights just as much as anybody else. What was the object of the appointment of a Select Committee? It was to reverse the decision of successive Viceroys, of successive Commanders-in-Chief, of successive Secretaries of State, and of every military and civil member of their respective Councils for the last 16 years. There was an absolutely unbroken record of authority against this case, and it must be remembered that military opinion dominated the Indian Government to a greater degree than it did any other administration in Her Majesty's dominions. It was a matter of notoriety that the arrangements made by the Indian Government in connection with these servants were far more generous and liberal than those sanctioned by this House or the Treasury, and, therefore, a very strong case must be made out before the House would attempt, to interfere with the Indian Government, and put upon the Indian revenue a charge which the Indian Government considered an injustice. What was the case which his hon. Friends bad presented? It was that these officers had been robbed—the hon. Member for Hull used the word jockeyed—out of their right to Colonels' allowances. But these officers were allowed Colonels' allowances; they were entitled to a certain establishment of Colonels' allowances. The number of Colonels' allowances to which this particular branch of the service was entitled was 13. These officers claimed that they had an unlimited right to Colonels' allowances, but the East India Company in the past and the Queen's Government since had always put a limitation on the number of Colonels' allowances, with one single exception. What had made this case complicated was that a number of facts, wholly extraneous to the case, had been dragged in in order to give colour to it. There were two sets of facts kept entirely distinct. The first related to the reform and re-organisation of the Indian Army after the Mutiny, and the second related to those officers who joined the Indian Army subsequent to the date of the transfer of authority. He thought he would be able to make it clear that both his hon. Friends had been misled in the statements they had made. The Indian Mutiny was a terrible Imperial disaster, but it was largely caused by the defective military organisation of the native army in India. It was, therefore, self-evident that as soon as the Powers of the East India Company were transferred to the Crown, the first duty of the Crown would be thoroughly to reorganise the native army. Great sympathy was felt with the European officers of the Company, many of whom had died at their posts during the Mutiny, and though the rapid rehabilitation of British influence in India was largely clue to the skill and valour of others, there was a strong feeling in the House of Commons that when the transference of powers took place the officers of the old Company should not be prejudiced by the change. While the Bill was before Parliament, a Committee was formed for the protection of the interests of these officers, and the Committee entered into various negotiations with the Government for the insertion of words, and ultimately certain words contained in the well known "Henley Clause" were agreed to. Those words were extremely wide, and were such as no Parliament nowadays would assent to. It was laid down that these officers— shall be under the same obligation to serve Her Majesty as they would have been to serve under the said Company, and shall be liable to serve within the same territorial limits only ….and be entitled to the like pay, pensions, allowances, and privileges, and the like advantages as regards promotion and otherwise as if they had continued in the service of the said Company. Those words applied to the old East India Company's officers alone. They were purely retrospective in their action, and a subsequent clause was inserted applying to all the officers who came in afterwards:— It shall be lawful for Her Majesty from time to time, by Order in Council, to alter or regulate the terms and conditions of service under which persons hereafter entering Her Majesty's Indian Forces shall be commissioned. There were, therefore, two sections in the Act. Under the one came all the old East India Company's officers, and under the other came all those who joined subsequently to 1858. What his hon. Friend wished to do was to transfer the officers under the latter section to the former. If that proposal were assented to, he must say distinctly that it would be a gross breach of faith with the Indian Government, on whom the Henley Clause had placed a tremendous obligation. In the work of reorganising the Indian Army, the Henley Clause was a millstone round the neck of the Indian Government. They could not move in any direction without coming into contact with the guaranteed interests of the old officers. In the old days the Army was organised under a system analogous to that in this country, and promotion was strictly by regimental seniority. To every regiment were attached some 30 officers, on the average; and to every battalion was apportioned one Colonel's allowance and no more. After the Indian Mutiny, half the battalions disappeared. Various Commissions reported in favour of reductions, and the Army was reduced from 250,000 to 120,000 men. An entirely different system of officering was also introduced—the irregular system, first applied to the cavalry and then to the infantry—under; which the number of officers attached to a regiment was reduced to less than one-fourth of the old number. And yet, the Indian Government had to give to every single officer the same pay, allowances, and promotion, as would have existed if the old system had continued. Commission after Commission was appointed to see that the terms of the Henley Clause was complied with, and concession after concession was made to meet the difficulty. The first of these concessions took the form of the Order read out by the hon. Member, giving Colonels' allowances after 12 years' service as full Lieutenant-Colonel. That Order applied only to the officers of the old East India Company, and was in no sense applicable to the officers whose case was brought forward by his hon. Friend. In 1866, when the present Prime Minister was Secretary of State for India, a further Commission had reported that, notwithstanding all the concessions made, the guarantee clause had not been fulfilled as regarded the colonels' allowances to the old officers, and in despair the Government made a tremendous concession to those officers. In order to have a free hand in future in dealing with all those military problems, on which the security of India depended, it was necessary to buy out all these officers; and the Government allowed them to come into the Staff Corps, and, after 12 years' service as Lieutenant-Colonel, to obtain Colonels' allowances without regard to the number on the list. Now his hon. Friend wished to apply those terms to the officers who had joined subsequently to 1858. Every military authority admitted that from the laxity of wording in the Henley Clause the reorganisation of the Indian Army had cost India millions more than would otherwise have been necessary; and Parliament ought to be very careful before adding to the already heavy non-effective charges of the Indian Army. As to the officers whose case had been brought forward by his hon. Friend, every one of those officers joined subsequently to the termination of the powers of the East India Company.


If my right hon. Friend will pardon me, I have the names here of the directors who nominated them.


said that he thought his hon. Friend had fallen into error. What occurred was that the whole of the powers of the Board of Directors ceased, and were transferred to the Secretary of State in Council, But a certain number of the directors were on the Council, where, however, they no longer acted as directors. So careful were the Indian Government, that they put under the Henley Clause all the officers who up to that time had been nominated by the East India Company, but who had not actually joined the Service. His hon. Friend had referred to the Report of the Commission appointed to inquire into the terms under which those officers should serve. His hon. Friend must know that that Commission laid down that all these officers came in under the new conditions. It was idle to pretend now that they did not know they were coming in under the new conditions. They went out to India, and were put on the general list; but in 1861, after two years, the reforms in the Indian Army had so far established themselves that certain alternatives of service were offered to these young men. They might join the British regiments, which had been transferred from the Company to the Crown, taking with them the Indian pensions, but having no claim to Colonels' allowances, or they might join the Staff Corps—a service which had been instituted for the purpose of officering regiments on the irregular system. In that corps the promotion was regulated by length of service, and the officers were entitled to Colonels' allowances at the ratio of 1 to 30—the old ratio under the Company. Some of the officers selected the one service and some the other. Between 1861 and 1866 every officer on the general list —all those whose claims were advocated by his hon. Friend—could have joined the Staff Corps; but all did not, because they got better terms by remaining on the general list. When this tremendous concession was made in 1866, officers were requested to join the Staff Corps before a certain day. Having done that, they were entitled, after a certain term of service, to full Colonels' allowances. There were a certain number of officers of the general list and from British regiments who had come in between 1861 and 1866, and the question which the Indian Government had to consider was whether this exceptional privilege should be extended to those officers. For the purposes of uniformity, and to avoid having to deal with men on the same list in different ways, that concession was extended to the limited number of these men then in the Staff Corps. With the exception of this special concession of 1866, the ratio maintained had always been that of 1 to 30. His hon. Friend talked about "robbery." The facts showed how groundless was that charge. Under the Order of 1864 the old rates of pensions were, after 20 years' service, £191, which was raised by the new Order of 1882 to £250; after 24 years' service £292, raised to £365; after 28 years' service, £365, raised to £500; after 32 years' service £456, raised to £700; and after 38 years' service £456, raised to £700. With the fullest desire to do justice he had looked carefully into the matter, and had found an absolutely unbroken record of official opinion against the claims put forward on behalf of these officers. But he was desirous, before coming to a final conclusion, to consult an authority higher than a Committee of the House of Commons—he meant the Military Committee of the Council of India, consisting of Field-Marshal Sir Donald Stewart, Sir Archibald Alison, and General Gordon; and he asked them to look into the matter, with the result that they had reported as follows:— There are no grounds for admitting the claim that all the officers of the General Lists of Cavalry and Infantry should receive the Colonel's allowance after 12 years' service as substantive Lieutenant-Colonel. This concession was originally granted in 1862 to officers of the East India Company's Army, whose names were borne on regimental cadres and on the gradation lists of Cavalry and Infantry in the three presidencies, and was subsequently extended in 1866 to all officers of that army and to all officers who joined the Staff Corps on or before, the 12th September 1866. The officers of the General Lists were not officers of the Company's Army, and consequently not under the Henley Clause of the Act of 1858, which guaranteed to the latter pay, pension and promotion, 'as if they had continued in the service of the said Company.' The officers of the General Lists were appointed by Her Majesty to Her Majesty's Indian Military Forces after the transfer of the Government of India to the Crown, and the 57th Section of the Act gave Her Majesty full power to frame new regulations as regards pay, promotion, &c., for all these officers. There is no foundation for the statement that, by orders issued subsequent to 1858, the officers of the General Lists acquired the status and privileges of officers of the Company's Army. The General Order of 1864, on which they found their claim, stated that to every officer, including the Cadet who entered the service so lately as December 1861, his promotion through every grade, with the pay thereunto belonging, as if the whole native army of India had been kept up, is assured, and his right to Indian pension is maintained." This assurance has been fulfilled. The officers of the General Lists have received their promotion at rates quicker than those previously prevailing, their pay has been improved, and their pensions are considerably higher than the Company's rates. They were given an establishment of 13 Colonels' allowances, that is, at the rate of one to 30 officers, which was the ratio originally fixed for the Staff Corps, and more than this they had no reason to expect. It cannot be maintained that the Order of 1864 gave them a right to a concession granted in 1866 to a different class of officers, in order to remedy a grievance alleged to have arisen from non-fulfilment of the guarantee given by the Henley Clause of 1858, which did not apply to the General Lists. It was said that this was a small matter—that there were only a few officers concerned; but if the House appointed a Committee to investigate the conditions under which those officers had enlisted, they would have to inquire into the cases not only of those on the effective list, but of those who had retired from the effective list in the belief that the decisions of the Secretary of State were final. He would ask, Would this claim be granted if it were to apply to English revenue? ["Hear, hear!"] It seemed to him it was a claim that the House could not possibly assent to. At the present moment there was great sympathy with the Indian Government, and proposals had been made from both sides of the House that assistance should be given to the Indian Exchequer to enable them to tide over the temporary difficulties against which they were now contending. He did not think that they needed that assistance. He believed the Indian Government would manage to struggle on, provided they got fair play and were protected from Motions of this kind, which he was sure would not, be moved if they were to apply to the English taxpayer. ["Hear, hear!"] He undertook that there should be a complete fulfilment of any contract or engagement made by the Indian Government in regard to these officers, and he would take care that the Indian Government did not get the advantage of any ambiguity of phraseology in those contracts or engagements. Therefore he thought he had the right to ask the House to protect the Indian Government from this Motion, which he should characterise as one of the most unjustifiable raids ever made upon the Indian Exchequer.

* SIR JAMES FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)

said that as, like his noble Friend, he had served for some years in the Army, as he had been Under Secretary for India in 1866, when the Commission was appointed, and as his service in India had given him considerable1 knowledge of the position and claims of the officers in question, he desired to say a few words on the Motion before the House. No doubt upon the Paper circulated those officers had a certain case; but the statements made in those Papers must be read with their context. He thought the Seconder of the Motion had put his case on too high a ground. It was not necessary to accuse the Members of the Government and the successive officials who had borne the responsibility of administering the affairs of India, of having robbed these officers. Strong expressions of that kind were only resorted to when there was a weak case. To say that when men obtained places on the Treasury Bench they lost all sense of right and wrong was ridiculous. At any rate, he, having sat on the Treasury Bench, had not been sensible of having had any such loss. He, for his part, thought that the officers of the Old East India Company were treated with great liberality. If any error had been committed at all, it was an error of liberality. If the letter of the law held out the promise of expectation to those officers that they would be entitled to the succession of Colonels' allowances when they had reached thirty-eight years' service, they ought to have those allowances. He could not get over the fact, admitted by these officers themselves, that they had agreed that their appointments were to be subject to any alteration that might be decided on. His hon. Friends who moved and seconded the Motion said that that did not cover the alterations in the conditions of pay and service generally. That was as great an assumption on the one side as on the other. He had looked into this question as long ago as 1866, and he thought then, as he had thought ever since, that it left the Government of India free to make such conditions for these officers' services, after they had organised the service of the Army, as seemed proper to them. He did not think a primâ facie case had been made out for an inquiry by Select Committee, and a Select Committee of that House ought not to be appointed unless such a primâ facie case were made out. ["Hear, hear!"]

* GENERAL RUSSELL (Cheltenham)

said a good many of his constituents believed that a grievance existed. These officers did not wish to have their case prejudged; what they wished was to put the matter before an impartial tribunal. The noble Lord seemed to have jumped to the conclusion that this Committee was going to report against him, and talked about the burden which would be cast on the finances of India. The whole question appeared to him to be a very difficult and complicated one, and he did not intend to enter into it, but what he did contend was that these officers were entitled to have their case examined by an impartial and entirely unbiassed tribunal. ["Hear, hear!"] Secretaries of State for India had always taken advice and been coached by officers of a rival corps—the Staff Corps. They all knew that rivalries and jealousies existed in all Services—in the Army, the Navy, and even, he was told, in the Church. These unfortunate officers could control no votes, but they had passed their lives in India, and served their country gallantly, and therefore he hoped that hon. Members would vote for this impartial inquiry by a Committee of the House.

* SIR HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)

said he felt bound to intervene on two grounds. He wished to express his entire approval of the policy which was being pursued by the noble Lord, as well as his admiration for the masterly speech which he had addressed to the House on that occasion. ["Hear, hear!"] He must also say a word or two on the speech of the hon. Member for Hull, who seconded this Motion. He did not think that speech ought to pass unnoticed. He had always demurred in that House to reflections being made on the Government of India, especially when they were groundless. In this country we understood the criticisms which opposing political parties passed upon each other, and upon Ministers with reference to party politics. But when a responsible Member of that House, and especially a Member occupying the position relating to India which the Member for Hull did, distinctly told the House of Commons and the people of this country that the Government of India, as represented in that House by those Ministers whom Her Majesty had been pleased to appoint Secretary of State for India were absolutely devoid of impartiality, that they prejudged every case that came before them, that they were entirely in the hands of their military officials, that if they objected to an inquiry there was something in the background, and that they had jockeyed officers out of their just claims, he could only say that that long catalogue of charges against responsible Ministers in that House was one which he was not anxious to see reprinted in the Press of India. He felt that it was his duty to enter a strong protest against applying that language to the present Government or to their predecessors, or to the Government of the Viceroy in India, or to the Indian Council in Whitehall—["hear, hear!"]—for they were all involved in the sweeping criticisms of the hon. Member.


said he did not intend to convey anything of the kind. He had listened with utter amazement to the right hon. Gentleman. On the contrary, he had said that the right hon. Gentleman and his noble Friend had come to a decision which they believed to be perfectly accurate. He himself, however, honestly took the view that the matter should be submitted to an impartial tribunal.


said he was quite willing to believe that his hon. Friend did; not intend to convey what he said, but he had quoted verbatim the words which had been used. He demurred altogether to the statement that this matter had been prejudged. He believed it had been investigated by five Secretaries of State—the Duke of Devonshire, Lord Kimberley, Lord Cross, the noble Lord opposite, and himself. The hon. Member stated that he approached this question with impartiality, and with a conscientious desire to do his duty. Did the hon. Member suppose that Secretaries of State were incapable of impartiality, or were devoid of conscience or regard for duty? He did not think the hon. Member meant that, but unfortunately he implied it, and he, therefore, wished to enter his protest. After the clear statement of the noble Lord, he was not going into the merits; he would only recall to the House what was the crux of the situation. The same advantages were asked for by officers who had joined the service after the transfer of the Government of India to the Crown, as was granted by the Act of 1858 to the old East Indian Army by the East Indian Government. The hon. and gallant Member who had just sat down said that there was a rivalry between the Staff Corps and other branches of the service, but these gentlemen got all that the Staff Corps got, and were put in precisely the same position. He disagreed totally with the construction which had been put upon the dispatch of 1864, but the real point on which the controversy rested was whether these officers were entitled under that dispatch to what, with all respect to the present Prime Minister, he would venture to call the disastrous concession subsequently made in 1866, by which Colonels' allowances were given to the whole of the officers who were in the old East India Company's service. His opinion was that if the Indian Government had been disposed to press the point they might have been able to deprive the officers on the General List of any Colonels' allowances, but they had been given an establishment of 13. So far as his knowledge extended, he considered the Indian Government had treated their servants with the amplest generosity, and he thought they were treated with special liberality in 1882. There had been, he might almost say, a dozen inquiries, and the matter had been fully and carefully considered, and if the House appointed a Select Committee to inquire further into it, it would avowedly be a declaration of opinion on the part of the House that injustice had been done, and that the case had not been properly investigated. In the event of the Committee reporting in favour of graining these allowances, the House would find itself in a difficult position, for the Government of India was the sole judge of the charges that were to be imposed on the revenues of India. The Secretary of State had but one vote in the Council, and that House had by Standing Orders adapted to the case of East Indian expenditure the same rule as existed with reference to Imperial expenditure—namely, that no proposal could be made for any charge upon the revenues of this country or of India unless it was previously recommended by the Crown—in other words, by the Government of the day. He thought that groundless charges had been made against the Government of India with reference to their expenditure; but it would be a very heavy additional charge if this application was granted, for the noble Lord was quite right in saying that they would have to open the case of every man who had retired and taken a pension. He thought it would be a serious thing if the House of Commons, in spite of the deliberate opinion of the Viceroy and his Council, in spite of the deliberate opinion of five or six Secretaries of State and their Councils, recommended a charges on the revenues of India which every one of those authorities thought ought not to be put upon them, and a burden they should not be called upon to bear. As far as the military question was concerned, surely the hon. Member would not impute to three such distinguished officers as Sir Donald Stewart, Sir Archibald Alison, and General Gordon any jealous rivalries, or a desire to do injustice to any part of the military service. They would be the first to recognise even shadowy claims, if they rested on justice. In the face of their advice, not only to the Secretary of State, but to the Government of the day, and with all respect to the House of Commons, he thought it would be an unwise thing for the House to take a step indicating a desire to reverse the policy which had been pursued, and implying that the Government, both in India and at home, had been influenced by improper motives, or had prejudiced the case, had not acted impartially, and had not done what he himself knew they intended to do, and what the Secretary for India, speaking quite as much for the Opposition side of the House as for his own, said that the Government would always do—whatever was fair and just to the distinguished men who, whether in. a civil or military capacity, had served the Crown in the Government of India. [Cheers.]

The House divided:—Ayes, 55; Noes, 174.—(Division List, No. 187.)