§ EARL GRANVILLE
I wish to ask the noble Earl opposite if he has any objection to state whether there has been any communication between Her Majesty's Government and the Court of Directors on the subject of the Bill which they propose to introduce into the other House to-morrow evening, and, if there has been any communication, whether it has been verbally or in writing; and if in writing, whether there would be any objection to lay the correspondence on the table of the House?
§ THE EARL OF ELLENBOROUGH
The House of Commons having by a very large majority—I believe a majority of 146— decided, after hearing Lord Palmerston's speech in introducing his India Bill, in which it was proposed that the government of India should be transferred from the Court of Directors to the Crown, that that Bill should be brought in, it became perfectly impossible that the Court of Directors could for any long period continue to conduct the government of India. The position of the East India Company became from that moment, with respect to the government of India, very little more important than that of any other body of English gentlemen. I have, therefore, had very little conversation or communication with the Chairman or Directors of the East India Company until to-day, when I placed, quite confidentially, in the hands of the Chairman and Deputy Chairman a copy of the Government Bill. I have had no communication in writing with the Chairs or Court.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
I quite agree with the noble Earl that the majority of the House of Commons having virtually 705 decided the question of transferring the government of India from the East India Company to the Crown, it became perfectly impossible to carry on the government of India through the medium of the East India Company; but I do not see how that circumstance should have made any change in the noble Earl's views with reference to communicating with the East India Directors. However, I am glad that Her Majesty's Government have adopted the course which they have followed, because it somewhat exonerates us from the charge which was made against us—that we ought to have communicated with the East India Company more fully and earlier than we did. If I recollect aright, when the noble Earl formed part of the Administration of Sir Robert Peel, he was said never to consult Sir Robert Peel, who was then at the head of affairs; and I must say that if we may judge from what has taken place within the last few days, he is pursuing a similar case with regard to the noble Earl now at the head of Her Majesty's Government. When my noble Friend below me (Earl Grey) presented a petition from the East India Company to this House a short time ago, the noble Earl accused the then Government of not consulting the Court of Directors upon the subject of the proposed change, and said we were not competent to legislate on the subject without the assistance of the Court of Directors. I think that it was then stated that the noble Viscount, then at the head of the Government, had six weeks previously sent information to the Court of Directors of his intention to propose a change in the government of India; and, as in the present case, the Bill itself was given to the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the East India Company a day or two before its introduction. Well, my Lords, the noble Earl (Earl Grey) then stated that if the change which we were about to propose was a small one, it was an act of the grossest discourtesy not to have given the Bill sooner to the Court of Directors; and if it were a large change, then it was monstrous that the Court of Directors should not have the fullest opportunity of taking the matter into consideration. Now, my Lords, it appears to me that unless the Bill about to be proposed by the present Government be exactly the same as our Bill, the noble Earl and the Government have laid themselves open to precisely the same charge which was brought against us. If the Bill is exactly the same as our Bill, then, of course, 706 there could be no question of communicating with the Court of Directors, and, indeed, no necessity for introducing a new Bill at all. But if the Bill differs from our Bill, whether in a smaller or lesser degree —although I do not wish to urge a charge against the present Government — still I think that they are as much open to blame as we were said to be on the former occasion. I merely state these matters, my Lords, because I find, with some degree of satisfaction, that the present Government, now that they have taken the place which we had the honour to occupy, in many cases follow in our steps, and in other cases where they accused us of doing little they themselves do still less.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
I cannot admit that there is the slightest ground for the charge which has been made by the noble Earl either against my noble Friend, or against Her Majesty's Government. What was stated upon the occasion to which the noble Earl has alluded was that, if it were intended upon the part of the late Government altogether to do away with the East India Company, or to introduce any sweeping change, then that it was not fair not to give them some information previously with regard to the proposed change. Now, my Lords, that question of the removal of the East India Company from the government of India was, as my noble Friend has stated, practically decided by the vote of the House of Commons, and so far, undoubtedly we shall follow in the steps of the late Government as regards substituting another machinery in lieu of the Court of Directors. But, as I stated upon a former occasion, when I announced the intention of the Government to introduce a Bill upon the subject, although in some respect we shall follow the Bill introduced by our predecessors, yet we shall introduce certain important provisions, which we hope will render the Bill not liable to the serious objections, which were plainly intimated in the House of Commons upon its introduction against the Bill of the late Government.
§ EARL GREY
As I have been referred to as having presented the Petition from the East India Company, perhaps I may be permitted to say a few words upon the present occasion. Upon the occasion of presenting that Petition I referred to the correspondence which had taken place between the First Lord of the Treasury and the Court of Directors. In that correspondence Lord Palmerston informed he Court of Directors that it was the inten- 707 tion of the Government to introduce a Bill for placing the Government of India under the direct authority of the Crown, and of thus superseding the Company as the instrument of Government. The Directors asked to he informed upon what ground it was proposed to introduce such a Bill, and also what was the general nature of its contents:—and they received a short and most unceremonious answer. I then expressed an opinion, and I still retain it, that it would have been for the good of the public service, if it became necessary to make a change in the government of India, to consult the Directors of the East India Company, among whom were gentle- men of great experience, with regard to that change. I think that the present Government have made a mistake in not availing themselves of the experience of those gentlemen; and I protest against the doctrine of the noble Earl that, because the House of Commons have resolved by a large majority that it is expedient to legislate on the subject, that in the mean time, before any Bill is passed, the Court of Directors is to be looked upon as a non-existent body, having no more right to be consulted than any other body of English gentlemen. By the law of the land the Court of Directors are a part of the governing body of India, and I deny that they are to be passed by, or to be considered as entitled to no more consideration than private individuals with respect to any step that Parliament may take as to the future government of that country. I must add that I do not think the regularity or dignity of our proceedings is consulted by this sort of sparring between the late and the present Government, when there is no question before the House. It is utterly irregular, and contrary to the order of our proceedings upon a notice, not upon your Lordships' paper, but given privately by a noble Earl on this side to a noble Earl on the other, to interfere with other important business standing on the paper. I do trust that this irregularity will not become habitual in this House.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
I merely asked for information respecting a Bill intended to be introduced by the Government, and it is the constant practice in this House— and of no one more than the noble Earl opposite—to give a private notice of a question to the head of the Department to which it relates, and to put the question without any notice being on the paper.
§ EARL GREY
Nobody ever objected to a mere question for information being put 708 without notice being inserted in your Lordships' paper; but it is a totally different thing to attempt to enter into the comparative merits of two Bills upon the same subject. It is always the practice to put a notice upon the paper when that course is intended to be pursued. I have invariably given notice of any question of mine which I thought might lead to a discussion.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
I quite agree with what has been stated by the noble Earl opposite (Earl Grey) as to the irregularity of our present proceeding, and I am quite willing to take my share of the blame he has cast upon those who have taken part in this discussion. I only hope that he may succeed in his attempt to amend both sides of the House.
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
said, that his noble Friend (the Earl of Ellenborough) had not said that no intercourse had taken place between himself and the Court of Directors on the subject of the Government Bill. What he said was, that no intercourse had taken place in writing, but that there had been some in conversation. The noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) seemed to think that because the late Government had been charged with discourtesy to the East India Company, it was quite right to bring the same charge against the present Government.
§ House adjourned at a Quarter to Six o'Clock, till to-morrow, Half-past Ten o'Clock.