HL Deb 04 August 1853 vol 129 cc1243-5

presented a Petition from the East India Company in General Court assembled, under the common seal. The petitioners complained that the Bill now before their Lordships, though professedly founded on principles of continu- ing the government of the East India Company, actually deprived the Company of their undoubted right to elect their own Directors, by providing, first, that the number of Directors to be elected should be greatly reduced; second, that those retained should be selected in a manner highly objectionable; and, thirdly, that to the Directors so selected were to be added a certain number of gentlemen chosen by the Ministers of the Crown from among persons who had resided ten years in India; that the number of Directors had been fixed in the Bill without any distinct inquiry as to the nature and extent of the functions to be discharged, in the absence of any recommendation by any Committee of Parliament, and in the face of the solemn protest of the Court of Proprietors and of the Court of Directors; that in the opinion of the Court, the extent of our Indian Empire, the various condition of its inhabitants, the changes necessarily resulting from the political circumstances of the country, and its relation to England, and the actual emergencies of the public business, urgently required that the Court of Directors should be rather strengthened than weakened; that while they had no pretensions to claim as of right any share in the administration of Indian affairs, and no disinclination to have associated with them in the choice of the Directors any persons to whom Parliament might see fit to confer that duty; and while they disclaimed all desire to meddle with the government of India, unless their participation therein was beneficial to that country and to England, yet they solemnly protested against a course of proceeding to be justified only by the existence of proved delinquency; they therefore prayed their Lordships to preserve unabated the efficiency and independence of the Court of Directors, and to amend the clauses proposing to reduce the number of Directors, and authorising the appointment of nominees by the Crown. In presenting this petition, he (Lord Wynford) must say that, considering the increased duties required of the Directors by the new provinces which had been attached to the empire since the last Charter was granted, it was too much that their Lordships should be called on to reduce the number of that body. Indeed, he thought it would be more consonant with their duty, seeing the extent of business to be accomplished, to increase rather than diminish the numbers of the Directors. He wished their Lordships to observe that this petition did not emanate from the Court of Directors, but from the Court of Proprietors, and that the only desire of that body was to see the affairs of India properly administered, and the government of India in connexion with this country firmly established.


said, he was quite sure that the House would receive with respect any representations that were made on this subject from any large body of Her Majesty's subjects; but at the same time he thought the effect of the change proposed to be made in the constituent body of the Directors was not such as to call for the strength of language used in the petition just presented by the noble Lord. With regard to the nomination of a portion of the Directors by the Crown, the object of the Government was not to strengthen their own hands in the government of India—for by the existing law it was well known to their Lordships that the absolute power resided in the hands of the Government—the object was to secure the services of some of the old servants of the East India Company, who declared that the annoyance, delay, and expense of the canvass, prevented them from becoming candidates for the Directorship. With regard to the number of Directors, he could not concur in what had fallen from the noble Lord. He thought that eighteen was a very large number for carrying on the executive government of any country, however large it might be; and the actual reason for having eighteen instead of twelve was, that it was believed the larger number would, to a certain degree, be less likely to be influenced by other than considerations of public interest than a smaller body. He trusted that the House would receive with respect the representations of the petitioners, but that in any division that might take place they would not yield to their request.

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