HC Deb 01 April 1903 vol 120 cc861-87
CAPTAIN BALFOUR (Middlesex, Hornsey)

said this was not a subject on which he could pose as an expert, and he must rely upon those who who had a more intimate knowledge of India and the ways of the India Office to deal more fully with that matter. The grievance of Indian civil servants naturally filtered through their relatives and friends, and his attention was drawn to the matter by some of his constituents, who desired that he should draw the attention of the House to the grievances of certain Cooper's Hill students. Upon going into the question, he found that it was one upon which many—like himself—would be ignorant, and therefore he thought he ought to explain as clearly as he could the history of the Cooper's Hill College, and under what inducements those who formed the college, joined it, and went through it into the Indian Civil Service Coopers' Hill College was established for Indian Civil Engineers in 1871. Before that time the Indian Public Works Department had been recruited by engineers, known as the Stanley Engineers, by competition, after examination in England. That system had broken down, owing to the dissatisfaction with the conditions of the service, and by the year 1868 it was impossible to obtain recruits for the Public Works Department of India. The Government of the day desired to establish a college in this country, to which there should be public competition for entrance, and which should supply in future the engineers for service in India. Sir George Chesney was the first president. The college was widely advertised, and a prospectus was published which gave the conditions of service and the value of the emoluments that might be expected to be received, and like all other prospectuses, it put these matters as attractively as possible, in order to secure recruits for Cooper's Hill College. The college was not established without opposition by this House, and the Government of the day announced that by this college they were establishing a service in India which would be on a level with the two great services of that country, the civil and the military. That induced keen competition, and recruits came forward in great numbers for admission to the college, and everything seemed to be in a most prosperous state. But the conditions held out in the prospectus were not fulfilled, for when the first students from the college got out to India they found the Public Works Department of India, after the breakdown of the Stanley Engineers, had been filled up by civil engineers from wherever the Indian Government could obtain them, and the institution was never put on a level with the Civil and Military Service of India. The result of that was that after 1874 the prospectus which held out these advantages was altered. Therefore, he only wished to draw attention to the grievance of those students who entered the college from 1871 to 1874, when these glowing prospects were held out in the prospectus and were not fulfilled. The supply of students fell off, and competition for entrance into Cooper's Hill College practically ceased.

Those candidates who entered the college between 1871 and 1874 entered the Indian Public Works Service between 1873 and 1877. It was necessary to state that fact because he should have to allude hereafter to the engineers of 1873 and 1877, and he desired it to be distinctly understood that these were the same people as the students of Cooper's Hill between 1871 and 1874; that is to say, they were the students who entered the college at the time this particular prospectus was issued. The complaints of the engineers of Cooper's Hill College of that date were not based on any loose statements made by individuals, nor were they mere grievances put forward by irresponsible persons. The sources from which he had drawn his facts were the letter of the present Viceroy to the Secretary of State for India, and the reply of the Secretary of State; these were public papers which any one might procure, and read with interest, provided they did not become bewildered by the maze of figures. There were other grievances of the engineer service of India besides these particular grievances, and those grievances were entered into by this House in 1890, and means were taken in 1893 to remedy them, but the steps then taken did not affect the particular grievances of these Cooper's Hill students with which he now desired to deal. The Viceroy of India said that the retiring scheme of 1893 gave very inadequate advantage to the officers appointed between 1873 and 1876, very few of whom had been able to avail themselves of it, and in addition to that the special grievances of the Cooper's Hill engineers were not considered. The special grievances of Cooper's Hill engineers were ruled by the Chairman of the Committee to be beyond the competence of the Committee. There was a letter from the first president of the college, Sir George Chesney, which also was not laid before that Committee. The special grievances of these Cooper's Hill engineers were three, one was for compensation to them owing to the depreciation of the currency of India; secondly, payment of their pensions in sterling, that was to say, taking the rupee at 2s., and thirdly, compensation on account of the fact that the rate of promotion had not corresponded with the promise held out in the prospectus which induced them to enter Cooper's Hill College and the India Public Works Service. These grievances were submitted to Lord Curzon, who went fully into them, and who dismissed practically the first two at once, saying that the expressions in the prospectus did not in themselves justify a claim for the pensions being paid in sterling. But it must be remembered that it was originally intended that their service was to be placed on an equality with the two great services of India, the pensions of which were paid in sterling.

The Committee of 1890 went into the question of pensions in connection with the other grievances which were brought before them and recommended that pensions should be paid upon the scale of 1s 9d. to the rupee; that was the pension that would be paid to the Cooper's Hill engineers. But the Viceroy did not absolutely condemn their prayer: he recommended that in consequence of the special claims of the Cooper's Hill students not having been before the Committee and having regard to the promises held out to them in the prospectus, this matter of pensions should be considered on its merits The real point was the third one, namely, that the rate of promotion had not been in accordance with the promises held out in the prospectus. It must be remembered that this was not the prospectus of a private college; it was an official prospectus prepared with the knowledge of the Indian Government and the Secretary of State for India of the day, and of Sir George Chesney, and therefore it must be regarded as having been issued by the authorities. In fact there was proof of this, because a paragraph was inserted in it, which held out the prospect to the students that when on furlough their allowance should be paid in sterling, taking the rupee at 2s. In deciding certain furlough claims some years ago, Viscount Cross went into the whole question, granted furlough allowance on these terms, and said he had been legally advised that, "although a certain statement in the same prospectus was inaccurate, the prospectus virtually constituted a contract with those who joined before the correction was made." That was fifteen years after. The promises as to promotion were made in a leaflet attached to this prospectus. At the end of a table, prepared to enable candidates to judge of their prospects of advancement, it was explained that from various causes promotion in the past had been somewhat more rapid than might be expected in the future. The expression "somewhat more rapid" would not lead anyone to expect a great difference between the past and the future. But the difference, for example, between the number of years given in the prospectus leaflet and the actual time taken for the promotion of executive engineers to Grade 1 was no less than seven years. Lord Curzon had examined the grievances complained of, and framed a rough estimate of the losses which the officers might have sustained, had set against them the value of other concessions subsequently made, and had suggested— The simplest and most convenient method of satisfying their claims if it should be decided that they were entitled to favourable consideration. The Secretary of State, in his reply, however, said he could not accept the view of the Indian Government that either the prospectus or the leaflet could be held to imply a guarantee of promotion. He also said no trace of the leaflet could be found in the India Office, and it was impossible to say by whom and on what authority it was issued. It was possible that the noble Lord's advisers might have suffered from loss of memory, and that it was not easy to find pigeon-holed documents.


said he could not accept that statement for a moment; the hon. Member must not make that insinuation. The records had been carefully searched and there was no record of this leaflets and it was impossible to say from whence it came.


accepted that statement and repudiated any intention to cast a slur on the India Office. His hon. friend the Member for Central Hull would tell the House what he knew of the leaflet, the author of which was believed to be Sir George Chesney, the president of the College at the time it was issued. He had shown how the prospectus was construed by successive Secretaries of State, and how they acted with regard to furlough allowances. What had been said had not removed the ground for thinking that the leaflet was just as official as the prospectus. Upon the question of the prospectus he might quote the opinion of the Government of India that there was some foundation for a consideration of the grievances based upon that prospectus. The Government of India, on the spot, knowing the work which had been done by the engineers of India, and knowing the circumstances under which that work had been done, might be supported by some hon. Members, at all events, in the view taken by their officials. He would not call it an injustice, but at any rate disappointments had been meted out to those who entered the service when certain advantages were held out to them which had not been fulfilled. In the official answer it was stated that other services at times had suffered from the same causes, and had received no compensation. Other hon. Members, more acquainted with the conditions of India than he was, might in the course of this debate be able to point to at least one instance where something approaching that had been done, and they should not altogether debar considerations of this kind on the ground of precedent. What were the advantages which were considered to counterbalance the claims of the memorialists for the loss they had sustained in consequence of their promotion having been very much slower than was anticipated? What were those advantages? They were these. In the first place there was an increase of pay in the higher grades; and secondly, there was a pension to be given after twenty-five years service, including furlough, instead of after thirty years service, excluding furlough. The promise held out by the Under Secretary for India in 1871 comes in here. In the year 1871 a deputation of students waited upon Sir George Chesney asking that the rules of the Civil Service in regard to including furlough in the period of service reckoning towards pensions should apply to them. Sir George Chesney consulted the Secretary of State for India, and he afterwards informed the students that those rules would be applied to them, There was a certain amount of delay in carrying out that promise, but they were accustomed to delays, especially in matters which required the application of public money and considerable correspondence.

In the year 1876 the engineers in India from Cooper's Hill brought their grievances before the President of the College, and he went into the matter and promised that their claims should be considered. He consulted the Secretary of State for India, and the order was given that furlough should reckon towards pension. There was, therefore, the question remaining of increased pay and the advantage of leaving the service after twenty-five years instead of after thirty years service at a higher pension. What was the view taken in the Viceroy's letter as to that? Although it might be to the advantage of some individuals to leave the service earlier than they would otherwise do, it might not be to the advantage of all of them. When he claimed his pension a man would probably be about fifty or fifty-five years of age. Hon. Members would realise that a man at that age in the public service would be likely to have a period of exceptional expense upon him, and this would perhaps be more so in the Indian service than in any other service, because a man in the Indian service would not be likely to marry so soon as an individual living in this country. The age he had mentioned was just about the time of life when a married man was fitting out his family for the work before them, and it was a period, therefore, when there was a very heavy strain put upon his finances. It might very well be that many individuals who would not wish to retire just at that time of life would strain every nerve to go on with their work so as to have as large an income as possible to meet the heavy expenditure at that period of their lives. That point was fully recognised in the Viceroy's letter, which stated that— So far as the men of the year 1874 were concerned, it may be observed that the concession then proposed only amounted to permission to retire a few months earlier than they could have done otherwise. It is true that in forwarding their applications we supported them on the ground that the promotion which it had been found possible to give them had been far worse than that which they had been led to expect when they entered the college; but we did not suppose that the offer of the special terms proposed to the officers of the years concerned, who might be willing to accept them, would satisfy the claims of other men of these and of later years who had suffered from retarded promotion. There was more evidence in the letter, but he did not think he need read any more to make it clear that the Viceroy differentiated between the claims of those men who suffered from retarded promotion, because they wanted to go on with the service and get the income rather than retire. There was another aspect of the question. Would it be to the advantage of India that civil servants should retire when in full possession of their powers, and able to do good service for the Government of India? Some of those who accepted pensions at an earlier period had come home and done eminent service as civil engineers, and although they were delighted to have their services in this country, they were a great loss to India, and it might be that India had suffered thereby. The Viceroy in his dispatch, balanced very carefully the advantages and disadvantages in the case of these men, and he went into an elaborate series of calculations, showing the probable losses sustained. He summed up the whole situation by endeavouring to consider whether it was possible to make out the case of each man by elaborate sums showing what each individual could have lost by the slow promotion in the service, and he believed their claims would be amply satisfied if, instead of basing the compensation calculations as to the losses by retarded promotion, the India Office would consent to pay them their pension at 2s. per rupee, instead of 1s. 9d. The House would remember that although the Viceroy did not recommend that that proportion of their appeal should be accepted on its merits, he did allude to the fact that hopes were held out to them that the profession of engineers at Cooper's Hill College should be put on a par with the other Indian service, and that entailed that their pensions would be paid in sterling, and not according to the fluctuating value of the rupee.

The points which he had endeavoured to lay before the House were, in the first place, that the terms held out in the prospectus, and the terms held out in the leaflet which they knew was attached, and which there were grounds for believing was as official as the prospectus itself, were not fulfilled. Those men went out to India to give their services in a tropical climate, and they had not got what they hoped to get when they entered the service. In the second place, the Indian Government had considered their memorial and had made a favourable report in regard to it. He did not wish in any way to blame the noble, Lord the Secretary of State for India for not accepting the suggestions thrown out. He knew it was the duty of the Secretary of State for India to rigidly guard all the interests of the Empire. At a time when economy seemed to be so much in vogue, not only on the Opposition side but also upon the Ministerial Benches, one could not blame the Secretary of State for India for endeavouring to fulfil that obvious duty. But the servants of the Civil Service in India were just as much the public servants of this country as any other, and although the Secretary of State was the guardian of the national purse those servants bad a right to lay their grievances before the House of Commons, just as much as any other individual in the British Empire. All they asked for was that a Select Committee should be appointed to consider the grievances alleged, just as a Select Committee was appointed in 1890 to inquire into the condition of the Indian Civil Service, although that Committee did not inquire into the particular grievances which he had endeavoured to lay before the House. If this Committee were appointed and agreed with the view taken by the Secretary of State, the hands of the Government would be strengthened. If the Committee decided in favour of the recommendation of the Viceroy the situation would be ended, and he did not think any blame would thereby attach to the Secretary of State for India for refusing to accept the Viceroy's suggestion. He did not think any slight could be put upon the noble Lord by any decision the proposed Committee could arrive at. It would be an independent Committee whose decision would be looked upon as final by those who had signed the memorial to the Viceroy.

When the Under-Secretary of State for India introduced the proposal for the Cooper's Hill College, in 1871, he held out glowing prospects of what he expected the engineers would do. He told the House how they would be able to build railways, construct a network of canals throughout the country, and reclaim tracts of desert land. He believed those men had fulfilled every expectation which the Under Secretary of State for India then indulged in. He believed that their work had been a blessing to India and a credit to themselves and this country. Surely it was a most unsatisfactory state of things that amongst men who had done such good work for so many years in the public service there should be this dissatisfaction, grounded simply on the non-fulfilment of prospects held out to them when they entered the service. That must be an unsatisfactory condition of things in any public service, and, as a mere matter of policy, surely it would be better that those grievances should be investigated by an independent Committee, so that an end might be put to them. These men should be treated with absolute justice, and he thought the matter could only be settled by being referred to an impartial tribunal. He begged to move the Motion standing in his name.

SIR SEYMOUR KING (Hull, Central)

said he rose to second the Motion, and, in doing so, he wished to protest against this question being decided by the pressure of the Party Whip. Surely, if there was one thing that the civil servants of the Crown were entitled to, it was to look to the House of Commons as their ultimate Court of Appeal. They were not making am attack upon the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India, or the Government, but they were asking simply for the appointment of an impartial tribunal to arbitrate between the Secretary of State for India and his Viceroy. Surely that was a matter upon which it was hardly necessary to call in the power of the Government Whips. Of course they would have to submit to the inevitable, and all they could do was to put before the House of Commons and the country the case as it appeared to them. They were convinced of the merits and justice of the case which they were putting before the House. He would sum up the case under three heads. First of all they maintained that the Viceroy and his Council were correct in the view they took that the claims of these Senior Cooper's Hill Engineers were at any rate justifiable; in other words that promises of promotion had been made and hopes held out which had never been fulfilled. Secondly, they maintained that the improved terms spoken of were absolutely illusory in meeting or satisfying the grievances of these men. And thirdly, they contended that the suggestion of the Viceroy and his Council was an extremely moderate proposition, and a very small grant in satisfaction of the claims which had been put forward. They thought this was a proposition which ought to have been accepted by the Secretary of State for India, who had put forward grounds which they considered were erroneous, and based upon a misapprehension of the facts. One thing which seemed to him to stand out most, after a careful reading of the papers connected with this case, was how little personal investigation the various Secretaries of State had given to the matter, for they appeared to have always accepted the statements brought before them by their permanent officials.

As regarded his first point, he thought it had been established by the very able and clear speech of his hon. and gallant friend the Member for Hornsey. The hon. and gallant Member had given admirable reasons for the basis upon which these claims rested, and he had dealt with the inducements held out in the prospectus and the leaflet. In consequence of the non-fulfilment of these promises many excellent men had left the Indian service. In this respect he might mention the resignation of Sir Alexander Binnie, who resigned on account of the treatment he received. What a loss to the Government of India that was, and all because the system of promotion showed that he had little to hope for by remaining in the Indian service. Did they mean to tell him that this feeling originated except from some real and deep grievance? Was it simply a question of a lot of men going together, because they wanted something better than they had got? Nothing of the sort. These men were transfused with the idea that they had been ill-treated. He had studied this question for years, and he could not understand how his noble friend had arrived at the conclusion that these men had not been grievously wronged, and that, therefore, they were not entitled to compensation. Sir George Chesney, who knew as much about the matter as his noble friend, and who had been interested in it from beginning to end, said:— Never was there such a block in any branch of the public; service. If reference be made to the prospect held out to the men in the college prospectus from year to year, I think it must be admitted that faith has not been kept with them. I submit that every fair-minded man will recognise that there has been a clear breach of faith. In view of these statements would any representative of the India office get up in this House and attempt to justify the following, which was contained in a despatch from the Secretary of State for India to the Viceroy— And I desire to add, for the instruction of your Excellency's Government, that these two petitions and the recommendations which you have felt yourself bound to make concerning them, illustrate forcibly the grave inconvenience of the course followed by your Government in dealing with this matter. The petitions were from two poor widows, whose husbands had died in the service of their country—one from cholera when on foreign service, and one when engaged on irrigation works. It really was too absurd and vexatious that the Viceroy and his Council should dare to re-examine claims already adjudicated upon by the India Office, and submit the latter to the "grave inconvenience" of having to justify itself in public for rejecting demands which the Indian Government thought ought, in justice and mercy, to be reconsidered. The view he was urging was not a prejudiced view of an individual. It was not the view of an outsider or of a privileged class. It was the view of the Government of India itself, the employer of those men. What the House of Commons was now asked to do was to appoint a Select Committee to say whether the view of the Government of India, which was on the spot and knew all the circumstances of these men's careers, was correct, or whether the armchair politicians at home knew more about the matter than the Viceroy of India.

He passed on to the India Office view that these claims were wiped out by the improved rates of pension which had been given. He did not deny that improvements had been made in the service. If improvements had not been made the}' would have had no more recruits coming forward. It was a necessity of the situation to make some improvements in the service. All he would say on that point was that every one of these advantages wag taken into consideration in the elaborate examination made by the Government of India, and at the end a large debit balance was brought in against the Government of India. Briefly, he might say that the advantages were of a two-fold character. There were advantages with regard to the amount of pay and the amount of pension. So far as the pay was concerned, it was nothing approaching what these men were entitled to on the expectations which were held out to them. As to pensions, the improvements which had been made were fully and thankfully recognised by these men, but they said they did not wish to leave the service for which they had paid high fees to qualify, and which they entered because of the high pay which, alas! they had never received. The compensation offered by the Government of India was moderate. It was suggested as a final settlement of all questions that the pensions should be paid at the rate of 2s. per rupee instead of 1s. 9d. The average pension of these men was something like 5000 rupees, so that 3d. per rupee on this would mean £62 10s. a year. He had taken a good deal of pains to investigate this matter. In the case of Harrington he had calculated that he had been paid 67,804 rupees short of what he would have received if promises had been kept. Was that nothing to be considered? The Government of India made the average loss 22,000 to 25,000 rupees. As to the number of men affected by this matter, there were 198 at the beginning; forty had died, two having committed suicide; twenty-eight retired in 1893, and fifteen in 1899, and there were 115 left. The cost of the increase, therefore, amounted to only £7,187. At the maximum it would not be more than £10,000, which would be reduced as the men died off. That would be a small amount to pay for the removal of the ill-feeling prevailing, and in satisfaction of an admitted and long-standing grievance. One of the reasons stated for not granting the claim was the very great length of time it had been before the House of Commons. His noble friend said that there must be finality somewhere. He said that his predecessor decided the matter in 1895. But he was afraid that his predecessor had hardly applied his intellect to a deep consideration of the subject, judging by a letter he signed. He could only suppose that the right hon. Gentleman never read the papers himself, for he wrote as follows— The causes of the evils from which the memorialists represent that they suffer, are the fall in exchange and the slow rate of promotion in the Department. There is nothing in the representations of these officers that was not brought to the notice of the Select Committee of the House of Commons, who reported upon the alleged grievances of the Uncovenanted Civil Servants in July, 1890, and various measures have been passed by your Government with a view to alleviating the evils resulting from the fall in exchange, and to removing the block of promotion in the Department. I am unable to see any ground in the representation contained in the memorials now forwarded for according exceptional treatment under these heads to the petitioners. He was himself a member of the Select Committee, and, therefore, he happened to know what passed. So far from the statement being accurate that the claims were before them, the fact was that they were never considered by the Committee. An attempt was made to bring them before the Committee, but his right hon. friend the Member for Cambridge University, who was Chairman, interposed at once, and said it was not within the competence of the Committee to deal with them, and, accordingly, he ruled them out. There was never any further attempt to bring them before the Committee. This showed how little Secretaries of State looked into matters for themselves, and how much they depended on the letters put before them for signature.

While on this point he must draw attention to another and most serious matter. One of the most important documents bearing on the question was withheld—he did not say deliberately withheld—from the Committee. He referred to the Public Works despatch of January 28, 1890. It was not included in the papers which were laid before the Committee. Of course his noble friend was in no way responsible for that, because he was not at the India Office then. But his noble friend was not justified in saying that it would have made no difference, and would not have seriously affected the judgment of the Committee, He could say with certainty that if the despatch with the relative minute had been before the Committee they should have been inclined to recommend the 2s. rupee for the engineers of that year. That despatch was totally unknown to the Committee, and it was not till 1896 that by an accident Sir George Chesney's minute was obtained. That document impressed the Indian Government, as was evidenced by the correspondence. They said— It has, however, been represented that the omission of the Select Committee to make any special recommendations in their favour should not be regarded as decisive, because it appears from the answer given by your Lordship to a question asked in Parliament by Mr. Kimber on the 7th of August last that our Public Works Despatch, No. 15, dated January 28, 1890, to which Sir George Chesney's minute was appended, was not included among the papers laid before the Committee. We think that, if these important papers were not laid before the Committee, it may fairly be contended by the memorialists that the fact that the Special Committee did not make any special recommendation on their behalf should not be regarded as in itself precluding a further examination of their claims to a payment of pensions at a higher rate of exchange than that which was proposed as a minimum by the Committee, and we recommend therefore that this prayer should be considered by your Lordship on its merits. Repeated efforts had been made since 1896 to obtain the production of this despatch, and repeatedly the request had been refused. This despatch very largely destroyed a good deal of the argument in the letter of his noble friend. On the question of the famous leaflet the hon. Member said, that after all it was on this that the claim for compensation was largely based. Was or was not that leaflet issued with the authority of the India Office? The Secretary of State said that no trace existed in the records of the India Office of the leaflet, and that it was impossible to say by whom or under what authority it was issued. He did not know how the records of the India Office were kept, but it seemed mysterious that no file was kept of the prospectuses or leaflets which were issued by that office.


The Secretary of State said there was no record in the office of this particular leaflet.


said he knew that the leaflet was drawn up by Sir George Chesney and issued under the authority of the Secretary of State. He was quite certain that his noble friend would not dispute the credibility of Sir George Chesney as a witness. He was one of the most accurate of men.


Nobody has ever denied that the prospectus was issued by authority, but what the Secretary of State said was that there was no record of the leaflet.


said the minute of Sir George Chesney distinctly declared such a statement was attached to the prospectus, and from personal knowledge he knew it was the leaflet in question. How different had been the treatment of the covenanted service of the North-West Provinces when there was a block of promotion in 1882. The difference between what they were receiving and what they were led to expect was paid to them in cash. That was exactly the claim these public works gentlemen were making at the present time. A few years ago he heard the noble Lord say in the House that the Government were bound to keep faith with those whom they employed, and that they had no right to wriggle out of an engagement by the ambiguity of the language employed in making it. In this case ambiguity of language had given rise to expectations which had not been realised. The Government of India had expressed in the clearest manner their opinion as to what should be done, and if his noble friend still thought that they were in error, he entreated him to submit the question to the decision of a Select Committee of this House—the most impartial tribunal in the world—and by the decision of that Committee they would abide.

Motion made, and Question put, "That a Select Committee be appointed to consider the grievances alleged by the Senior Cooper's Hill Engineers, now belonging to the Public Works Department of India, to exist as a consequence of their promotion and emoluments falling short of the expectations held out to them when they entered the service."—(Captain Balfour.)


said that his hon. friends who had moved and seconded the Motion seemed to be under the impression that his noble friend the Secretary of State for India was prejudiced on this question. In that they were mistaken. It was recognised that this was a case which excited naturally a great deal of sympathy, and his hon. friends were therefore fully justified in bringing it before the House. He congratulated his hon. friend the Member for Hornsey on the great ability he had shown in working up his case, and the extremely temperate language in which he had presented it to the House. He was not quite sure that he could pay a like compliment to his hon. friend the Member for Hull. The hon. Gentleman said that he did not wish to express any lack of confidence in his noble friend the Secretary of State for India, but he then proceeded to endorse the view of the memorialists that successive Secretaries of State, including his noble friend, had been guilty of breach of faith.


said he must correct the noble Lord. He had never accused the Secretary of State for India of breach of faith; he had simply quoted Sir George Chesney.


said that anyone who lead the circular which had been sent to Members of this House must have been under the impression that the Government of India had given a general support to all the claims of the engineers, that they took the same view as Sir George Chesney—that the Secretary of State had committed a breach of faith, and that the Secretary of State had repeatedly refused even to reconsider the case at all. Not one of these statements had the slightest foundation. So far from refusing a reconsideration of the case—and of course it was not to be taken as the same thing as a reversal of a previous decision—the Secretary of State had, as a matter of fact, taken the trouble to go into every one of the grievances, including those which had been before previous Secretaries of State, and the Select Committee, and to state at length his reasons why he did not think fit to grant the claims put forward by the memorialists. The Government of India, too, actually repudiated two of the claims, and did not give an unconditional support to the others. They said in the most express terms that their purpose was only to state the case for the information of the Secretary of State. The view which the Government of India took about the compensation which these men ought to receive was entirely conditional on the view of the Secretary of State as to the extent to which we were bound by certain pledges which were alleged to have been given. The claims which the Government of India supported conditionally were three in number. They rejected altogether the claim for compensation in respect of depreciation of currency. They did, however, ask for the reconsideration of the claim of these men to be allowed to draw their furlough pay in rupees at the exchange value of 2s. a rupee. Now, that concession was asked for and was voluntarily conceded by the Secretary of State to men who entered the college between 1870 and 1874, on the ground that they entered the college on the faith of a prospectus which stated that in reckoning furlough pay ten rupees would be taken as the equivalent of £1 sterling. That concession, therefore, was refused to men who were appointed subsequently to 1874.

The second claim, in favour of which the Government of India thought there might be something to be said, was the claim to have pensions paid in sterling at the equivalent of 2s. the rupee. That request was a very old one, and was rejected by the Select Committee of 1890, which was composed of many gentlemen of great ability and knowledge of India, including Lord Cromer, the right hon. Member for Cambridge University and his hon. friend who seconded this Motion. The rejection of the claim was based on the fact that all the prospectuses issued to candidates expressly stated that the pensions should be paid at the annual rate of exchange which prevailed in official transactions. The official rate of exchange in 1890 was 1s. 5d., and therefore the concession given by the Select Committee of 1890, that pensions should be paid at the rate of 1s. 9d. to the rupee, was a very considerable one. It was now suggested that the decision of that Committee ought to be reversed, or, at any rate, that the Secretary of State should re-consider it on the ground that the Committee had not before it the particular Memorandum written by Sir George Chesney. He himself did not admit that a private view, taken by a Government Official however eminent, on a question, not of a legal or equitable claim, but of public policy, would have necessarily affected the conclusion of the Committee in 1890. It was advisable, he thought, that this question should be finally settled once for all. With regard to the question of compensation for the failure of expectations which the Civil servants entertained as to rates of promotion that, in their view, were held out to them when they entered the service, that claim was put before the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton in 1895 when he was Secretary of State for India. That right hon. Gentleman rejected the claim on two grounds—1st, because it had been rejected by the Select Committee of 1890, and 2nd, on the far stronger ground that, since the grievance had been submitted to the Select Committee of 1890, there had been a thorough reorganisation of the grades in the Department with the view of removing the block to promotion. That reorganisation took place in 1893, and there was a further reorganisation of the Department in 1899 for the express purpose of removing the grievances of the men who were appointed between 1874 and 1876, who it was said did not obtain the same benefits from the former reorganisation as the men who entered the service in 1877. Even supposing that was the fact, would not that be true of any reorganisation scheme? It seemed to him that if some men who thought they benefited less from reorganisation, or who had not taken advantage of the terms offered to them, were to be entitled to come up and claim compensation therefor, no Secretary of State would reorganise his Department at all.

That reorganisation was for the express purpose of removing the grievances of the men who were appointed between 1874 and 1876. When the Secretary of State acceded to this claim in 1899 he stated, at the conclusion of his despatch to the Government of India, that it must be understood that the concessions then granted were a final settlement of any claim that might be made with regard to expectations of promotion. If nothing had been done to meet the grievances of these men, the logical course surely would have been to ask for the same kind of remedy which had always been applied to such grievances in the past, viz., favourable terms of retirement for the older men in order to improve the prospects of those remaining in the service. But that was not the present proposal of the memorialists. The Government of India had entered into an elaborate mathematical calculation as to the exact monetary difference between the rates of promotion the men had actually had and the rates to which they thought they were entitled when they entered the Department, and having arrived at the pecuniary result, they cut it down by one half. Instead of proposing a monetary grant to the extent of that one half from public funds they deprecated any such course, and recommended that they should go back on the decision of 1890, and that the men should be granted the privilege of drawing their pensions at the rate of 2s. sterling. They based this recommendation on the ground that, what the petitioners cared most about was not the promotion grievance, but the question of the payment of pensions in sterling which was rejected by the Committee of 1890. The Government did not admit the validity of the claim that had been raised at all, and they held that if they were to accept this proposed form of compensation it would be unfair as between the members of this particular department and all other branches of the services to whom the privilege was refused by the Select Committee, and it would be also unfair and unjust as between the members to whom the concession was given. The Government of India, although they proposed that the concession should be given to the men who were forced to retire owing to ill-health, also proposed that it should be withheld from the men who voluntarily retired. That was a most extraordinary proposition to lay down. A certain grievance was urged with regard to the block in promotion. The Secretary of State in order to meet it proposed a scheme of reorganisation. A certain number of men took advantage of it and were therefore to be excluded from any claim to subsequent compensation, while the men who did not take advantage of it were to be entitled to that compensation. Was not that suggesting that men who refused to accept concessions offered them were entitled to claim better conditions later on?

As to the claims which had been based on the existence of the leaflet, he said that he could not say more than had already been published in the correspondence laid before Parliament. The India Office had no knowledge of the leaflet; it was not issued with their authority and they could not accept any responsibility for it. But that document did contain a definite warning, not very happily worded, it was true, that no solid expectations were to be based on the rates of promotion which had prevailed up to 1870. He hoped he had stated clearly the reasons why his noble friend could not accede to the appointment of a Select Committee. He trusted that the hon. Member who had brought forward this matter would think twice before he pressed it to a division. He founded the Motion avowedly on the precedent afforded by the appointment of the Select Committee in 1890. But there was no analogy between the Committee of 1890 and the one now proposed. The former Select Committee was appointed to examine into grievances of a general character affecting the whole class of uncovenanted civil servants, and in order to suggest a remedy which would have some chance of producing finality and contentment among the whole body. But this Committee was asked to be appointed to deal with the grievances alleged to exist in regard to one particular department of the public service, and in regard to only a certain number of individuals. The Select Committee of 1890 was appointed to investigate a fact beyond dispute, viz., the depreciation of the currency and the injury inflicted thereby; while the House was now asked to appoint a Select Committee to examine into a mere hypothesis, the validity of which even the Government of India did not assert, which they at home expressly denied, and which even if admitted would not justify the claims based upon it. The issue presented to the Committee of 1890 was an extremely complex and difficult one; whereas the issue in the present case was so extremely simple that the House of Commons was quite competent to decide it without the intervention of a Select Committee. The Committee of 1890 had to decide a question of general policy, but this Committee would be appointed to arbitrate between his noble friend and these officers. There was another reason he would like to put forward. The origin of the Select Committee of 1890 was a desire of the Government of India for a further inquiry by a Committee of that character. But the Government of India in this case not only did not desire such a reference, but they had expressed the opinion that whatever view his noble friend might pronounce should be final.

He would only add one word in conclusion. He did not agree with his hon. friend that this was a question that merely affected the Indian Civil Service. On the contrary, it was a question of far-reaching and vital importance for every public department. If any individual in the public service who had not received all the advantages he thought himself entitled to when he entered the service was to be allowed to come and ask for arbitration at the hands of a Select Committee of the House, a fatal blow would be struck at the authority and responsibility of the head of every department in this country. In this particular instance they would be striking a fatal blow at the responsibility of the Secretary of State for India. No class was less entitled to ask for a Committee of this kind than these Cooper's Hill Engineers. There was not one of their grievances which had not been submitted before it reached the Indian Council to the strictest and most impartial examination by two Committees of that Council—Committees composed of men who themselves had been eminent members of the Civil Service and who had every desire to deal justly with the claims of individuals and to do that which was most conducive to the interests of the service as a whole.

MR. KIMBER (Wandsworth)

said he wished to put the matter on a somewhat higher ground than it had been placed on by the Mover and Seconder. He quite admitted the inconvenience which the noble Lord had pointed out of nominating a Select Committee, and he could easily understand that the Government could hardly assent to such a Motion. But here was a complaint of old standing; it had been advanced again and again during the last twenty years, and it had so impressed itself on the mind of the Viceroy of India that he had put it forwaards a matter which might be reconsidered. The noble Lord had no doubt been inadvertently inaccurate in saying that the Secretary of State for India had never refused to reconsider this question, for he would possibly recollect that three years ago in answer to a question put in the House, the Secretary of State said distinctly he could not reopen the subject. Did not that mean-that there was to be no reconsideration? He was prepared to admit that it would be extremely inconvenient, and a very bad precedent, to elect a Committee of the House to act as arbitrator between the Government and its employees, but surely this was essentially a case for reconsideration in the interests of the State itself. Yet it was refused.


The Secretary of State not only did not refuse, but he published in great detail his reasons for coming to the same conclusion as he had done in his original despatch.


said he would like to know when the reconsideration was given to the matter. Undoubtedly in 1900 the noble Lord said he could not reopen the question, and if subsequently to that he reconsidered it, he certainly did not inform the House. No doubt the Committee of 1890 was appointed to advise the Government with regard to the general treatment of its employees, but it was admitted that an important despatch from the Government of India, including a letter of Sir George Chesney's, was never submitted to that Committee. He did think the case of a body of public servants who felt, rightly or wrongly, that their lives and careers were ruined, they having spent the flower of their days in a foreign climate, deserved some consideration. There was a sense of injury entertained by a loyal body of public servants who admittedly had admirably performed their duty to the State, and it was most detrimental to the service of the country that a state of things should prevail which left on their minds a feeling that their interests were not considered by their employers, and which produced a heartbreaking sense that they were forgotten, while they were serving their country so many thousands of miles from home. It was to the interest of the State, and it was to the interest of the service, so far as getting good men to join in the future was concerned, that this feeling should as soon as possible be dissipated. He would appeal to the noble Lord to reconsider the whole subject, not with a view to dealing with the claims of these officers as a matter of special pleading, or as to whether they had a legal right, but on principles of equity and liberality. It sounded very much like special pleading on the part of the noble Lord to endeavour to repudiate the letter of Sir George Chesney. It was true that the noble Lord was not responsible for not having found in the pigeon holes of the India Office a document which was there in the time of his predecessors. But the absence of such a document was not a ground why the Secretary of State should not receive evidence from outside of a

reliable and credible character. No one could doubt the evidence of Sir George Chesney, a man of the highest repute, and once a Member of this House. The document was not forth coming on this side, but it was found in India in the hands of one of the officers themselves; and was assumed by the Government of India to be a genuine document. It seemed to him unworthy of a great Department of State that it should take exception to evidence of that kind. He would appeal to the noble Lord to deal with these gentlemen in a spirit of liberality and equity, as entirely distinguished from the document, and to take the matter once more into consideration.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes, 50; Noes, 134. (Division List No. 52)

Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire) Kennaway, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)
Bell, Richard Lambert, George Soares, Ernest J.
Boscawen, Arthur Griffith Layland-Barratt, Francis Spencer, Rt. Hn. C. R. (Northants
Brigg, John Leng, Sir John Strachey, Sir Edward
Caldwell, James Lough, Thomas Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G. (Oxf'd Univ
Craig, Robert Hunter (Lanark Markham, Arthur Basil Tennant, Harold John
Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen) Maxwell, W. J. H. (Dumfriessh. Thomas, David A. (Merthyr)
Doogan, P. C. Rattigan, Sir William Henry Thomas, J. A. (Glam. Gower)
Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark) Remnant, Jas. Farquharson Tollemache, Henry James
Duncan, J. Hastings Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion) Tuke, Sir John Batty
Evans, Saml. T. (Glamorgan) Rose, Charles Day Wason, E. (Clackmannan)
Hayne, Rt. Hon. Chas. Seale- Samuel, Herbt. L. (Cleveland) Weir, James Galloway
Hobhouse, Rt. Hn H. (Somrst E Sandys, Lt.-Col. Thos. Myles Whittaker, Thomas Palmer
Holland, Sir William Henry Seely, Chas. Hilton (Lincoln) Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)
Hudson, George Bickersteth Seely, Maj. J. E. B. (Isle of Wight
Johnstone, Heywood Seton-Karr, Sir Henry TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire) Shackleton, David James Captain Balfour and Sir Seymour King.
Kearley, Hudson E. Shipman, Dr. John G.
Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel Bignold, Arthur Coghill, Douglas Harry
Anson, Sir William Reynell Brassey, Albert Colomb, Sir John Chas. Ready
Arkwright, John Stanhope Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Compton, Lord Alwyne
Arnold-Forster, Hugh O. Butcher, John George Cook, Sir Frederick Lucas
Arrol, Sir William Campbell, J. H. M. (Dublin Univ Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasg.)
Atkinson, Right Hon. John Cautley, Henry Strother Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)
Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.) Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.
Bailey, James (Walworth) Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Cranborne, Viscount
Bain, Colonel James Robert Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich) Crossley, Sir Savile
Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Man'r Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Worc Dalkeith, Earl of
Balfour, Rt. Hn. G. W. (Leeds Charrington, Spencer Dalrymple, Sir Charles
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Clive, Captain Percy A. Davenport, William Bromley
Bhownaggree, Sir M. M. Cochrane, Hon. T. H. A. E. Denny, Colonel
Dimsdale, Rt. Hon. Sir Jos. C. Heath, James (Staff's., N. W.) Pretyman, Ernest George
Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph Henderson, Sir Alexander Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward
Doughty, George Hogg, Lindsay Purvis, Robert
Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers Hoult, Joseph Randles, John S.
Duke, Henry Edward Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (Salop Ritchie, Rt. Hn. C. Thomson
Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin Lambton, Hon. Fredk. Wm. Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)
Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir Wm. Hart Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow Robertson, H. (Hackney)
Elibank, Master of Lawrence, Sir Jos. (Monm'th) Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford
Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas Lawson, John Grant Sharpe, William Edward T.
Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Ed. Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew
Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Man'r Leveson-Gower, Fredk. N. S. Skewes-Cox, Thomas
Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst Llewellyn, Evan Henry Smith, H. C. (North'mb, Tyneside
Finch, Rt. Hon. George H. Long, Rt. Hn. W. (Bristol, S. Smith, Jas. Parker (Lanarks.)
Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne Lonsdale, John Brownlee Stanley, Hon. A. (Ormskirk)
Fisher, William Hayes Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)
Flower, Ernest Macdona, John Cumming Stirling-Maxwell, Sir Jn. M.
Forster, Henry William Maconochie, A. W. Sturt, Hn. Humphry Napier
Foster, P. S. (Warwick, S. W. M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool) Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Fyler, John Arthur M'Iver, Sir Lewis (Edinburgh W. Tufnell, Lieut.-Col. Edward
Galloway, William Johnson M'Killop, Jas. (Stirlingshire) Valentia, Viscount
Gibbs, Hn A. G. H. (City of Lond Majendie, James A. H. Walker, Col. William Hall
Godson, Sir Augustus Fredk. Manners, Lord Cecil Walrond, Rt. Hon. Sir W. H.
Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nrn Martin, Richard Biddulph Whiteley, H. (Ashton-u.-Lyne)
Gore, Hn G. R. C. Ormsby- (Salop Mitchell, William (Burnley) Whitmore, Charles Algernon
Gray, Ernest (West Ham) Montagu, G. (Huntingdon) Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset
Greene, Hy. D. (Shrewsbury) Morrell, George Herbert Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Groves, James Grimble Morrison, James Archibald Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath)
Hall, Edward Marshall Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart
Halsey, Rt. Hon. Thomas F. Murray, Rt. Hn A Graham (Bute Wrightson, Sir Thomas
Hamilton, Rt Hn Ld. G. (Midx Nicol, Donald Ninian
Hanbury, Rt. Hn. Robt. Wm. Percy, Earl TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Harris, Frederick Leverton Pilkington, Colonel Richard Sir Alexander Acland-Hood and Mr. Anstruther.
Heath, Arthur H. (Hanley) Platt-Higgins, Frederick