HL Deb 21 June 1861 vol 163 cc1378-80

rose to put a Question to the noble Duke at the head of the Admiralty on the subject of the Indian Navy. Having read a passage from the speech of Mr. Laing proposing a reduction of the Indian Navy, the noble Earl said that from this speech he was afraid Mr. Laing was not aware of the original purpose for which this navy was established. It never was intended to place it in a position to contend with any European Power, for everybody knew that in any such contingency a naval force would be sent out from this country. It was created for local purposes only—for putting down piracy, transporting troops and treasure, and other duties which Her Majesty's ships were in the habit of performing in times of peace. So far back as thirty years ago he had calculated that a reduction might be made in the expenses of the Indian Navy by the employment of Her Majesty's ships for these purposes—he calculated the saving by such a change at something like £100,000 a year; but he had always contemplated that the Indian Government should pay for the European force, which might be employed on their requisition by Her Majesty's Government, and that that force should be as much at its disposal as the purely local force. The difficulty was, however, that the Admiralty always reserved to themselves the absolute command of every force which they despatched to any part of the world, and would not delegate it to the Indian Government on any other authority. If the Government of 1846, when he was at the head of the Admiralty, had lasted for a longer period he had no doubt that an arrangement would have been made; but it was brought to a sudden termina- tion, and there had been no opportunity since of renewing the discussion of the matter. He wished to know who was to pay for the naval force to be substituted for that now employed in India. If the Indian Government were to pay for it the reduction of expenditure contemplated by Mr. Laing could hardly be maintained, and if this country were called upon to pay for an additional naval force to supply the place of these ships this would seriously interfere with the surplus anticipated by Mr. Gladstone, As, the Indian Navy was doomed he could not help saying a word in its favour. It was originally called the Bombay Marine, and had performed very considerable service on many occasions. Iii the first war with Ava it performed considerable service; and the first steamer ever employed in war was a steamer belonging to the East India Company. Again, in the China war of 1839, the first iron steamers were employed in that war and were manned by crews in the service of the Company; and it was only due to the Indian Navy to say that it had done good service whenever it had been called upon. If the proposed arrangement were carried out, he hoped the noble Duke, the first Lord of the Admiralty, would take into consideration the; expediency of establishing a Native force of, Arab marines under the command of local officers speaking their language. To every one of Her Majesty's ships sent fop service in the Indian sea? a small body of these marines ought invariably to be attached or, otherwise, these vessels would, often have no means whatever of communicating with the shore, What he desired to know was what arrangement had been made for the purpose of placing at the disposal of the Indian Government a sufficient force of Her Majesty's ships to supply the place of the Indian Navy, and whether the expense would fall upon the Indian or the English Treasury?


said, the question put to him was one of great importance, and had occupied considerable attention on the part; of Her Majesty's Government; but they had not yet come to any absolute conclusion upon it. With regard to the financial part of the scheme, he believed the Indian Government had taken sufficient; funds for this year amply to provide for such naval service as they required, the amount of the service being very much reduced as compared with previous years. A question which had a fur- ther financial bearing was whether the Indian Navy should be entirely abolished, or whether a certain proportion of vessels should still be retained for river service and coasting communication, in the event of the further naval defence of India being intrusted to-Her Majesty's Navy. This was a view which had been favourably considered by the Government; but up to the present time his right hon. Friend (Sir Charles Wood) had come to no definite conclusion. If the British Government were to take upon themselves additional expenditure account of the naval requirements of India, of course it would be but fair to this country that the Indian Exchequer should, to some extend contribute to that expenditure. Thai question had not yet been fully considered, nor whether the Indian Navy should be, entirely abolished, or some portion of it retained. Probably a portion pf the smaller vessels of the Indian Navy should be retained. From all he had heard of this navy, he believed it had always done its duty, and he fully admitted that its services ought to be duly remembered by the House.


said, he had heard with great satisfaction the opinion of Her Majesty's Government in favour of refining the smaller vessels. As to retaining the larger vessels, he would say that if they were retained they would be found valuable in the case of any sudden emergency, because on the breaking put of a war in India before the news arrived in England the Indian fleet might be in action.