HL Deb 19 April 1869 vol 195 cc1069-94

My Lords, I have to lay on the table a Bill the object of which is to alter the tenure by which members of the Council of India hold their offices, but which does not, with one exception, propose to make any alteration in the functions or powers exercised by that body; and this being a point of some importance, I am anxious for a short time to crave the attention of the House. I should not, however, have thought it necessary to offer any observations, had not the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury) suggested, on the second reading of a Bill the last stage of which is fixed for to-night (Governor General of India Bill), that it should be followed up by the second Bill introduced by the late Government, and that it would be expedient, if not necessary, to deal with the financial veto of the Council of India over the Secretary of State. Having examined the question as carefully as we could, it is the opinion of Her Majesty's Government that no change in that respect is necessary; although I am bound to admit that, if the present law were precisely such as the noble Marquess described it, I should agree with him in the necessity of amending it. I cannot better state the question which he has raised than, by quoting the words he used in a speech delivered at Manchester last autumn; and I do not quote them for the purpose of controversy, but simply in order to explain to the House, in language the clearness and precision of which could not be exceeded, the exact point which we have to consider with regard to the financial veto of the Council. The noble Marquess said— I do not know whether it is sufficiently carried home to your minds that in reference to every question in which expenditure is involved—that is to say, as you well know, in reference to every question of every kind, because I believe there is hardly any question in which expenditure is not involved directly or indirectly—the Indian Council have the power of absolute and conclusive veto by a bare majority over the decision of the Secretary of State. That, in the opinion of the noble Marquess, is the present law; and, if that were, indeed, the fact, I should quite agree with him as to the necessity of dealing with it. I hope, however, to satisfy the House and the noble Marquess himself that he has been somewhat misinformed. In the first place, it is to be observed that the 3rd clause of the Act of 1858, which transferred the nominal government of the Company to the Crown, specifically deposited, not in the Secretary of State in Council, but in the Secretary of State alone, all the powers formerly exercised by the Court of Directors and by the Board of Control, whether jointly or separately, "save as hereinafter otherwise provided"—that is to say, except as altered by the subsequent clauses of the Act. Now, two questions arise from this enactment—what were the powers formerly exercised by the Board of Control, and how far were those powers altered or affected by the subsequent clauses of the Act of 1858? As to the first point, I need hardly remind the noble Marquess that the powers formerly vested in the Board of Control were absolutely despotic. By Mr. Pitt's Act of 1784 the whole power of the Government of India as well in the disposal of the revenues of India as in other matters were vested supremely in the Board of Control, and this in three different ways—First, the Board might alter to any extent it pleased any draft despatch drawn up by the Court of Directors; secondly, if the Court of Directors kept silence upon any question and refused to send in any draft despatch within fourteen days after a demand to that effect, the Board had the power of drafting a despatch itself and sending it to the Directors, directing its transmission to India; while, thirdly, through the machinery of the Secret Committee upon all purely political questions which were defined by the Act, it had the power of itself issuing orders directly to India without their going through the hands of the Court of Directors at all. The Board of Control, therefore, as representing the Crown, was under that Act absolute and despotic on all questions affecting the government of India, including the disposal of its revenues. It may be asked, was there no limitation whatever on this power; was there no financial veto left to the Company over the government of the Crown? To that, I reply, that by an Act passed four years subsequently such a veto was actually given; and this Act and the circumstance under which it arose show plainly the origin of that veto and its nature and extent. Very shortly after the passing of the Act of 1784 there was a serious danger of war with France, and alarm being felt in this country with regard to the safety of our Eastern dominions, the Government of Mr. Pitt proposed to send out four regiments for their defence. The proposal was at the time agreed to by the-Court of Directors; but, the alarm passing away, they said they no longer required these troops, and refused to pay for them. Mr. Pitt told the Court of Directors they had no right to refuse to pay, as the Government had the right to send, the troops for the safety of the dominions of the Crown. The Directors, however, took counsel, which to a cer- tain extent fortified them in their opinion; and it was argued that the terms of the Act of 1784 were so general that they did not necessarily imply that the Board of Control had power to order payment for these troops out of the revenues of India. The consequence was that Mr. Pitt applied to Parliament, not for a new enactment, but for an Act declaratory of the intentions of the previous Act—the very question raised by the noble Marquess being thus raised in 1787–8 by the Court of Directors against the power and influence of Mr. Pitt. One of the most memorable debates of that most memorable time arose upon this, the Bill being vehemently opposed in one House—and indeed to some extent in both—and it being ultimately carried by majorities which, though considerable, were smaller than those which Mr. Pitt then had at his command on other subjects. Mr. Pitt avowed—for the first time, as Mr. Fox said—that he meant by the Act of 1784 to take into the hands of the Crown the complete and absolute control of the Government of India, including the disposal of its revenues. But objections being urged against the scope of this declaratory Act, he agreed to introduce two clauses defining certain circumstances and cases in which the Court of Directors were to have a financial veto on the action of the Crown. Mr. Pitt, having stated in the broadest terms his desire to keep in the hands of the Crown the whole government of India, made this answer to the objections that had been urged— The next objection which had been stated as dangerous to the Constitution was the possibility of the Commissioners perverting the application of the revenues of India, for the purposes of creating undue influence, by directing any increase of salaries or perquisites of their servants abroad; or in the improper distribution of gratuities, to the prejudice of the true interest of the service. With respect to these he was extremely desirous of providing every check, and for this purpose he had prepared two clauses; the first was to prohibit any increase of salary to the Company's servants abroad; the other was to prohibit the Board from ordering any gratuity, &c."—[Hansard, Parl. History, xxvii. 152.] Two clauses were accordingly inserted which defined the financial veto which he proposed to leave in the hands of the Court of Directors. They were in these terms— It shall not be lawful for the Commissioners for the affairs of India to give, or cause to be given, any directions ordering or authorizing, by any despatches sent to India, the increase of the established salaries, allowances, or emoluments of any office in the service of the said Company beyond the amount at which the same are now fixed by the Court of Directors. It shall not be lawful to give, or cause to be given, any extraordinary allowance or gratuity, &c."—[28 Geo. 3, c. 8. s. 3.] Now, it is obvious that the object of this veto was to prevent political jobbery—to prevent the Minister of the Crown from using the revenues of India for the purpose of acquiring political influence by bribing the servants of the Company. That was unquestionably the only financial veto of the Company up to 1858. The question next arises, what was the change made by the Act of that year? I must remind the House that the avowed object of that Act was to transfer whatever remained of the nominal government of the Company to the Crown; and I need hardly say that, if anything in it really had the effect supposed by the noble Marquess, Parliament must have utterly failed in that object, for, instead of transferring to the Crown all such powers as remained in the Company, it must have transferred to the majority of the Indian Council the whole power of political administration, as far as that administration affects the administration of the revenue. That, surely, is not a very likely interpretation to put upon any words of the Act of 1858, for it is morally impossible that Parliament intended to give the majority of the Council powers which were never exercised nor claimed by the Court of Directors, and which would virtually place the whole administration of India, so far as expenditure is concerned, and including, of course, the power of peace or war—powers formerly possessed by the Crown—in the hands of a majority of the Council. It was absolutely impossible that such could have been the intention of the Government. As a member of Lord Palmerston's Administration I can say that such was not the intention of that Government; and, I believe, it was quite as little the intention of the Government of Lord Derby, which actually had the conduct of the measure that transferred the government of India from the Company to the Crown. What is the excuse for this interpretation of the Act of 1858? The words are simply these—and your Lordships will observe how closely they follow the obvious intention and purpose of Mr. Pitt's original financial veto— The expenditure of the revenues of India, both in India and elsewhere, shall be subject to the control of the Secretary of State in Council, and no grant or appropriation of any part of such revenues …. shall be made without the concurrence of a majority of votes at a meeting of the Council."—[21 & 22 Vict. c. 106. s. 41.] The words are "no grant or appropriation." I take it the word "grant" is strictly parallel with the financial veto as defined by Mr. Pitt. It means the grant of money to individuals, the increase of salaries, or the making, without the consent of the Council, of any gifts which may be perverted for political purposes. The word "appropriation," I admit, is not quite so clear; but I think that those who drew the Act were hardly aware of the manner in which financial operations are conducted by the Government of India. In this country, of course, all expenditure is voted by Parliament, and an Appropriation Act is passed sanctioning the application of the money to particular purposes; and I quite admit that, though the Secretary of State would have the power to order any services to be performed, yet, if the majority of the Council could veto the payment for those services, they would have it in their power to checkmate the power of the Secretary of State. But, according to the usual practice of the Government of India, no system of vote or appropriation is necessary for the payment of services in India, and it is the opinion of all whom I have consulted, including the Law Officers of the Crown, that under the present statute it is unquestionably in the power of the Secretary of State for India to order in India any service which may appear to be required. Payment for this service is made in India, and the disallowance of that payment is not competent to the Council, without the sanction of the Secretary of State. It follows from this argument—which I believe to be well founded both upon the historical facts of the case and the words of the Act—that the Secretary of State is supreme in all matters whatever, except simply such matters as were included under the principle of the financial veto of Mr. Pitt—that is, direct grants or appropriations of money to persons either here or in India which might be made for purposes of political jobbery. That I believe to be the state of the law; and if it be, I need hardly say that it makes the Secretary of State practically supreme in all matters, whether they do or do not cost money—because there is no question that with regard to political services which do not cost money he is absolutely supreme, and may even send out despatches without the knowledge of the Council at all; the only restriction being that if he over-rules the majority of his Council on any question, except those that would formerly have come before the Secret Committee, he is bound to record his reasons, which is, I think, a very reasonable precaution against rash or hasty decisions on the part of the Secretary of State. Having said so much, I need hardly proceed further to explain that we do not think, it necessary to diminish at all the power of the Council as it now stands, which is simply a power of advice and consultation, the Secretary of State being able in all matters to over-rule the Council; only, as I have said, if he does so he must record his reasons for taking that course. I confess that I have sometimes been pained by the language which is frequently used towards the Council of India. I am quite aware that every body which does not sit and act and vote in public is liable to considerable misapprehension and considerable jealousy. I must add that the Council of India, although as to all their acts the Secretary of State is strictly and exclusively responsible to Parliament, are necessarily exposed to considerable jealousy and even sometimes to considerable animosity, on account of the course which the Government is sometimes compelled to take with regard to the schemes of persons who may have projects of their own—with respect, for example, to commercial undertakings. I will mention a practical instance with which, I believe, the noble Marquess is not wholly unacquainted. During the few months I have had the honour of holding Office I have received three or four Petitions from some of the most popular Chambers of Commerce in England—and many more were addressed to the noble Marquess and to my immediate predecessor, Sir Stafford Northcote—in favour of a survey for the purpose of making a telegraphic or railway communication between Eastern India and Western China. Now, at a time when the hands of the Government of India are more than full of schemes of railway and telegraphic communication in their own country—schemes for which it is extremely difficult to provide the necessary funds—I fear the day is still very distant when we can enter into projects of communication between Eastern India and Western China. At the same time, being myself fond of geographical discovery, I should be glad to see an exploring expedition which might give us important information with regard to these countries. But when the proposal came before the noble Lord who has recently become a Member of this House, with such advantage to its deliberations, and who was then Governor General (Lord Lawrence), he interposed the strongest objections to the scheme. He said that the country was occupied by warlike and barbarous tribes, that the exploring party would be exposed to difficulty and danger, and that a most expensive border war might be entailed upon us by the proposed survey of the countries lying between Eastern India and Western China. The various Chambers of Commerce have, I believe, been urged to make this request chiefly by a gentleman who is most enthusiastic on this subject, and the refusal to comply with the Petitions which they have presented has been attributed to Members of the Council. Now, I believe that, under the powers I have described to your Lordships, it would be competent for the Secretary of State at this moment to order that such a survey would be undertaken. The cost would be defrayed out of the revenues of India, and the payment could not be disallowed by the Council. But I confess that, for my own part, I am not willing to be responsible for over-ruling the decision of the Indian Government that such an expedition would be highly inexpedient, because extremely dangerous; involving us, perhaps, in a costly border war, and putting us perhaps to the cost of another Abyssinian Expedition to recover the officers who might be captured in making the survey, or in avenging them if murdered: I say I am not prepared to over-rule upon that question men who must necessarily be far better informed than Chambers of Commerce in this country. I only mention this as one of the cases in which objection has been made to the course of the Indian Government—that course being attributed to the Council, whereas the responsibility really rests with the Secre- tary of State. I shall now proceed very shortly to explain the nature of the measure which I am about to lay before your Lordships. The Council of India being, as I have said, a Council not generally of control, but mainly of advice, it is most important that the Council should be strong, and, above all, fresh in Indian experience. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) said the other day that the responsibility of the Secretary of State ought to be only checked by the ordinary checks of constitutional government in this country; but I entreat the noble Marquess to remember that the Departments of the Government in this country are practically so overworked that it is almost impossible, except upon the very greatest questions, to bring the opinions of the Government to bear upon questions of Indian administration. Upon some great question it is, of course, the duty of the Secretary of State for India to fortify himself by the opinion of his Colleagues; and, in forming that opinion, it is most important that the Cabinet should have before them the opinions of a body of men who have had personal experience in India, and who enjoy a perfect and intimate knowledge of all the difficulties which beset the various questions to be dealt with. I must add that, with regard to the great bulk of Indian questions—even those of such importance as to affect taxation, the religious customs of the people, and, above all, the land tenures of India—the Secretary of State is practically left alone to consult with the members of the Council, and it is therefore most important that they should form a strong body, possessing all the knowledge and the fresh experience which it may be possible for Parliament to secure. I cannot doubt that the life tenure under which the members of Council now hold office is adverse to this object in this respect, that it deprives us of that quicker current of Indian experience which it is most desirable the country should have. If Indian officials who have seen much service are appointed to the Council for life when they come home, it is almost a necessary consequence that the Council should in time become unduly old. But things are changing very rapidly in India. A popular writer speaks of '' the unchanging East;" but as regards India that expression is no longer accurate. India is no longer "unchanging," because European civilization and inventions are being rapidly introduced into that country; railway communication is altering the whole condition of society; and every question of finance, together with many questions even of land tenure, are affected by these changes. It is therefore necessary that the members of the Council should have both an intimate and a recent experience of India; and, for these reasons, the Government agree with their predecessors in thinking that the tenure of office should not be for life, but for a fixed period of years, and we propose that the period should be one of ten years. The Bill provides, as an almost necessary corollary, that members whose term of office has expired should not be eligible for re-appointment except under certain special conditions. It is obvious that, if you make the members of the Council eligible for re-appointment after the expiration of their term, there will be a serious risk that their re-appointment will become a matter of course—it would be an invidious thing not to re-elect those whose term of office had expired—and it appears to me that, upon the whole, you will have obtained at the expiration of ten years the best services that can lie got from a man who has already served a considerable period in India, and that it is desirable that at the end of that period his services should cease. It must at the same time not be forgotten that a large portion of the Council need not be composed of "old Indians"—of men who have been already in that country. The majority of them must be men of Indian experience, but seven of them may be persons who possess no such experience; and it is unquestionably the fact that, at the end of ten years, if you introduce young men into the Council, you will be obliged to part with the services of some individuals who may be even better for the purposes of the Council than when they were first introduced into it. For this reason the Government propose to insert a clause in the Bill which will permit the Secretary of State to re-appoint, for a further period of five years, any member in respect of whom he shall be able to place on record a Minute to be laid before both Houses of Parliament stating that his re-appointment is desirable in the public interest. With that exception, we propose that the period of service should terminate at the expiration of ten years. The late Government proposed that the salary of a member of the Council of India should be raised from £1,200 to £1,500 a year, and that the system of pensions, which, as it now stands, is placed on an awkward footing, should be abolished altogether. We, having considered that proposition, are of opinion, on the whole, that no adequate reason exists for increasing the salaries of members of the Council. We believe that £1,200 a year is a sufficient sum to secure the services of the very best men, seeing that the duties to be discharged—though the work is undoubtedly of the very highest importance—are not very arduous, and that responsibility of the highest degree does not attach to their performance. We concur with the late Government in thinking that it is not necessary to continue the pensions on the very awkward footing provided by the existing law. No pension is allowed for any particular term of service, but it was open to any member of the Council, who might be wholly incompetent for the performance of the duties of his position in body or mind, to retire on a pension of £500 a year, on obtaining a medical certificate to that effect. Now, there are many men who, in the natural course of things, can be hardly what they once were, but who would, nevertheless, decline to apply for a medical certificate—and who, perhaps, could not obtain one if they did—stating that they were wholly incompetent in body or mind; and thus it comes to pass that members of the Council may be placed in a position which is embarrassing to themselves, and is inexpedient for the public interests. Considering, however, that the present members have a Parliamentary title for life, we propose that, although there should be no pension for the future, such of the present Councillors as may choose to do so may, after a period of ten years, retire on a pension of £500 a year. With these alterations the Council of India will, I believe, be better able to perform functions which are very important, although not quite so high as they have been described to be by the noble Marquess, and will be better able to advise the Secretary of State in the discharge of the immense responsibility which rests upon him in the exercise of those large powers which the law has given him over the government of India.

The noble Duke then presented a Bill to amend in certain respects the Act for the better government of India.


The remarks which the noble Duke has made on some observations of mine render it necessary that I should say a few words on this occasion, with which I should not, under other circumstances, have troubled the House. I am extremely glad to find that the noble Duke has thought fit to consult the Law Officers of the Crown, and that he has ascertained that the powers of the Council are not so anomalous as I imagined them to be. I must, however, in my own justification, state that, although I did not go through the formal process of consulting the Law Officers of the Crown, I did not come to the conclusion on the subject at which I arrived without taking what I believed to be the very highest opinion on the matter, and without knowing something of the minds of those who framed the measure of 1858 and pushed it through Parliament. After having taken such steps as I deemed to be sufficient to learn their views, I thought that the Bill did what it was intended to do from its wording—place the Secretary of State in relation to his Council much in the position which the Crown occupies in reference to the House of Commons; that is to say, that he was not restrained formally from doing any act by the provisions of the law, but that the power of the purse was given to the Council—thus making them like the House of Commons in matters of high policy practically supreme. This was the conclusion at which I arrived; but I do not think it necessary to dwell on what appears to have been an error, and I am glad to hear the statement on the point which we have heard from the noble Duke, because it appears to me to put a very satisfactory termination to the controversy. We are now informed that the Secretary of State is alone responsible for all the acts of the English Government in the government of India, and if any observations which I have made have led the noble Duke to adopt the course which he has done with a view to clear up the matter, I cannot regret that I have made them. As to the Council generally, I entirely concur with the noble Duke in thinking that a great deal of injustice is often done to them in attributing to them acts which are really the acts of the Secretary of State or of the Indian Government; and there is this advantage in clearing up the law on the subject—that responsibility henceforth will entirely be thrown by public opinion on the shoulders of those by whom it ought to be borne. With respect to providing means of communication with Western China, I also agree with the noble Duke in the decision which he has come to, and the reasons for that decision which he has given. It is most desirable, in my opinion, that facilities of communication should, as far as possible, be promoted with Western China; but I, at the same time, feel that it would be highly impolitic to allow any commercial interests whatever to lead us to adopt a course which might bring upon us the disgrace—I can use no lighter term—the misery, and the cost of another war like that in Abyssinia. The noble Duke has, therefore, in my opinion, acted rightly in coming to the conclusion, if he has received information that this enterprize would be attended with danger, to suspend its prosecution for the present. I would, however, entreat him, in the event of seeing his way to its prosecution at some future period, without running those risks to which he has referred, not to confine his views entirely to the construction of a railway between Rangoon and the Western States of China. The nature of the country would, I believe, render the construction of a railway next to impossible except at a frightful cost; but it by no means follows that, because a railway is impossible, an ordinary road would be impossible also, and, if a fair-weather road were constructed it would, of course, tend to the increase of commerce. I quite admit, however, that if the native States do not assent to the construction of such a work, the plea of the danger likely to be incurred is absolutely conclusive, and that so long as things are in that position the enterprize must be dropped. As to the Bill, the provisions of which the noble Duke has just explained, I would observe that I should like to see it contain a clause for the purpose of remedying a defect which, I think, exists in the present constitution of the Council of India—I allude to the mode of their appointment. They can- not be appointed, as Lord Palmerston originally intended, by the Crown alone; and the power of re-election was conceded by the Government of 1858, under circumstances of great peculiarity, to obtain a temporary object. I do not at all blame the Government of that day for making the concession, for without it they could not arrive at any satisfactory legislation on the subject; but, as times have changed, the reasons which justified that course have disappeared, and I can now see no reason why these should form an exception to all other appointments, and why they should not be bestowed by the Crown, which is by far the fittest agency to discover and reward merit. I trust, therefore, the noble Duke and the two Houses of Parliament will take the question into consideration whether there is any ground for maintaining in this respect for a longer period the present anomalous state of things. There is another point, which, perhaps, will be discussed more appropriately in the House of Commons than in this House. I doubt whether the pension of the members of the Council, under the restricted terms of their offices, will be large enough to secure the services of the best men. [The Duke of ARGYLL: We propose that no new pensions shall be granted in future.] The noble Duke has the best means of getting information on the subject, but the pensions as fixed are lower than they were originally fixed by the Government in 1858; and now that there are to be no pensions in future I fear you will not be able to obtain the best advice India can afford for a salary of £1,200, which must terminate at the expiration of ten years. No one will give up a lucrative appointment, or the prospect of it, for such a salary, and you will, therefore, be driven, I am afraid, to the selection of an inferior class of men. Now, I thoroughly concur with the noble Duke as to the desirability of having a person occupying the position of Secretary of State—who is so isolated in the responsibility which he has to bear under our Parliamentary system, and who has frequently to bear that responsibility with so little previous preparation—surrounded by men of the highest character and eminence, as has hitherto been the case, to aid him with their counsel. I hope, therefore, the noble Duke will further consider the question of pensions; for, depend upon it, there is no money the people of India will look upon as being better laid out, or which they can better afford to pay, than that which procures for them the best government England can give them; while there is no economy they would have so much cause to regret as that which would result in having inferior Councillors installed at the India Office. Before the Bill passes into law this point will, I trust, receive the serious consideration of the Government; in other respects I think the changes proposed are likely to prove beneficial.


said, he wished to make some remarks on several points referred to by the noble Duke, and he hoped their Lordships would be of opinion that he was warranted in doing so, in consequence of his experience of upwards of six years as Secretary of State for India. An Act was passed, for establishing a Council under the Government of Lord Derby, in 1858; and he was bound to confess that at the time that measure passed he did not entirely approve the proposed constitution of the Council. He should, however, be most unjust and ungrateful to the members of the Council if he did not avow that subsequent experience entirely changed his opinion on this point, as the Council had on all occasions discharged its functions with the utmost efficiency and fidelity. In his belief a Council of advice for the Secretary of State for India was indispensable. Under our Parliamentary system the Secretary of State must be a Member of one or other House of Parliament; and it was very seldom that the previous experience of Members of Parliament was of such a nature as to give them a special knowledge of Indian affairs, and to enable them to deal in a satisfactory manner with a vast population differing in race, language, and religion, not only from us, but also among themselves; and as India must be governed despotically both for our own sake and still more for the sake of the natives, it was indispensable that the Secretary of State should have the means of procuring trustworthy advice. That Minister might indeed derive advice of some sort from persons acquainted with India whom he might accidentally meet, or whom he might invite to his aid, but this would not adequately answer the purpose in view. It was essential that the Indian Secretary should have the benefit of the advice of the best Indian servants, acting under that sense of responsibility in giving such advice as their position on the Council necessarily imposed upon them. Without the assistance of such a Council he did not think the duties of the Secretary of State could be properly performed. He was also of opinion that the changes in the Council should be more frequent than they were at present. In old times, he might remark, India was, perhaps, the most unchangeable country in the world; but since the Mutiny great and constant changes were constantly occurring. Now, it happened that up to the time of his ceasing to hold the office of Secretary of State for India, in the beginning of the year 1866, only three vacancies had occurred in the Council; so that very rare opportunities had occurred for the introduction of new blood, and yet it was essential that members should from time to time be appointed who had a more recent knowledge of what was going on in India than those who took their seats many years ago. Therefore the present length of tenure of office did not, in his opinion, afford sufficient opportunities for change in the members of the Council. He did not himself believe there would be any difficulty in securing the service of the best men. There were a great many men who, on returning from India, found themselves in a somewhat anomalous position. In India these gentlemen had administered large provinces and wielded great and extensive powers over districts larger than four or five English counties; but when they came to England they found themselves in a position by no means satisfactory, and consequently they would be very glad to accept a post of honour and distinction connected with the country in which their services had been performed and the greater portion of their lives spent. This, he had little doubt, would be the result, even if the tenure of the office were limited in the way proposed by the noble Duke. He was inclined to think that pensions were not necessary; but, of course, this was a matter of detail to be considered hereafter. It was, he thought, most desirable to reserve the power of re-appointment for a limited period in certain exceptional instances, for he was acquainted with some cases in which men became much better Councillors after serving ten years than they were on their first appointment. Many Indian servants were only acquainted with that part of the country in which they had themselves served; but after sitting in the Council they became more or less acquainted with what was going on in all parts of India. Other gentlemen possessed of knowledge of other matters—of finance, for instance—but unacquainted with India, had become most valuable members of Council, from having in the Court of Directors learnt much of Indian affairs. He had no hesitation in saying that the oldest member of the Council at the time when he was Secretary of State—namely, Sir Charles Mills, a well-known banker in London, and an old East Indian Director—was the one whom he should have found it the most difficult to replace. Indeed, his successor (Sir Stafford Northcote) had found it impossible to replace him by any person possessing similar qualifications. He thought, therefore, that the power of re-appointment for a limited term in exceptional cases was very properly reserved by the noble Duke's Bill. With regard to the working of the system, he might mention that he had been always supported by a large majority of the Council, and had never failed to obtain their support on all questions of importance. His firm conviction was that any Secretary of State, who fairly and honestly discharged his duties would never experience the slightest difficulty with regard to his Council.


said, the scope of the Bill was somewhat too narrow. Its object was simply to limit the duration of the tenure of office of the members of Council to ten years. The Indian Council required many other alterations in it. It should be nominated by the Crown, and although with regard to the period of office he did not object to the term of ten years, he thought it desirable that the persons selected for the appointment should be officials who had returned from India within five years before the date of their appointment. The number of members should be more limited than was proposed, fifteen being far more than was necessary; whereas, only eight were thought necessary in the Bill introduced by Lord Palmerston's Ministry, of which himself and the noble Duke were members. He now came to the Question which he had given notice of his intention to put to the noble Duke, with respect to our relations with Affghanistan. Much misconception appeared to exist in the public mind on the subject, and it was very desirable that the noble Duke should distinctly state what had occurred in the matter. One of the most fatal events which ever happened was our selecting, some thirty years ago, Shah Soojah as the ruler of Affghanistan—that choice was the beginning of all the disasters which afterwards occurred in that country; and he wished, therefore, to know the facts connected with our having accepted the present Ruler of Affghanistan. He would take the liberty of reading to the House the words used, in 1842, in a Proclamation from India, by a noble Lord (the Earl of Ellenborough)—whom he regretted not then to see in his place—and which were deserving of attention as bearing on that subject. Those words were these— To force a Sovereign upon a reluctant people would be as inconsistent with the policy as with the principles of the British Government, tending to place the arms and resources of that people at the disposal of the first invader, and to impose the burden of supporting a Sovereign without the prospect of benefit from his alliance. The Governor General will willingly recognize any Government approved by the Affghans themselves which shall appear desirous and capable of maintaining friendly relations with neighbouring States. He hoped that in recognizing Shere Ali as Ruler of Affghanistan it was the intention of our Government to act in accordance with the principle laid down in the extract he had just read. He wished, therefore, to ask, firstly, whether any guarantee, expressed or implied, had been given to assist Shere Ali in maintaining his present position; secondly, for what purpose, and on what terms, the sum of money lately given to Shere Ali had been given by the Indian Government—as it had been represented to be a subsidy by certain portions of the Press; and, thirdly, whether any Consul or other British agent was to be established at his Court? It was most desirable that the exact position in which we stood in that matter should he accurately known, and therefore he hoped he should not be thought to be introducing an irrelevant subject if he asked the noble Duke for distinct information on these points, as it was most important that they should not—to use a phrase which his noble Friend the Foreign Secretary had made classical—be "drifted into a war" without their knowledge, as had happened on a former occasion.


My Lords, I am very happy to assure my noble Friend (Lord Lyveden) that his fears and suspicions in respect to the proceedings in Affghanistan are wholly groundless. We have only heard by telegraph of the meeting between Lord Mayo, Governor General of India, and the Ameer of Affghanistan. I think it would be an extremely dangerous thing to govern by telegraph, or even to reply in Parliament upon telegraphs; but I have every reason to believe that Lord Mayo has consistently pursued the same policy of non-intervention and of the avoidance of entangling engagements, which was pursued by my noble Friend the late Governor General of India (Lord Lawrence). So far as my own instructions to Lord Mayo are concerned, they certainly have been to avoid all entangling engagements for the future with Affghanistan, and to maintain the British Government and the Government of India perfectly free in regard to that and other conterminous States. With reference to what passed in the time of my noble Friend (Lord Lawrence), my noble Friend himself will be best able to answer for it; but this much I believe I may say, that my noble Friend telegraphed to Sir Stafford Northcote, then at the head of the India Office, and asked his permission to give certain pecuniary assistance to the Ameer of Affghanistan, and Sir Stafford Northcote replied, on behalf of the Government of Mr. Disraeli, that my noble Friend might pursue his own policy, and that they trusted entirely—as they might well do—to his knowledge and judgment. Having said so much in regard to that subject—on which, of course, I shall be able to answer more fully when we receive the official dispatches of Lord Mayo giving an account of the interview with the Ameer—I will refer to one or two of the questions raised by the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) and my noble Friends behind me. In respect to altering the number of the members of the Indian Council, I cannot say that Her Majesty's Government have any decided opinion that the Secretary of State could not possibly get on with a smaller number of Councillors than fifteen. But this I may safely say, that, considering the immense variety of subjects involved in the government of India—questions of land revenue, questions of military armament, questions of the discipline of native troops, questions of land settlement, and questions of general revenue and finance—I do not think that number is at all excessive for the business to be transacted. Every week we have to decide on questions of administration, of land revenue, of military expenditure, military discipline, and other matters which affect the happiness and the dearest interests of millions of our fellow-subjects in India. I say, therefore, it is desirable, if not absolutely necessary, that the Secretary of State should have at hand, and at his command, the very best advice from the different parts of India and the different branches of administration which it is possible to procure. Remember this, my Lords, that the business of the Council of India is carried on through Committees. You have a Military Committee, a Finance Committee, a Land Committee, and so on; and it is very necessary that the various members of those Committees, some of them having special knowledge, should serve in turn on all these branches. Therefore, although I was a member of the Government which proposed originally a very much smaller number, the experience which I have gained in Office leads me to believe that the number is not too great; and for myself I must say, whatever noble Lords opposite may think, that I am a very great Conservative with regard to institutions which I find practically working well. I think it very convenient that some such number as the present should remain, although you can hardly find two persons who will agree as to the abstract question. I believe the Council works very well; it is full of Indian experience on all the various branches of the administration of the country, and I see no advantage in changing the numbers.


My Lords, I readily avail myself of this opportunity of giving, in as few words as I can, the various ideas suggested to me in the course of this debate. With regard to the Bill now before your Lordships, I must say that its general principles quite agree with my views, my experience, and my judgment. Independent of the lengthened period which I spent in India, I also served in the Council of India in this country five years, and T entirely agree with the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) that it would never answer—that the work could never be done efficiently and properly—if the Council were to be diminished in a considerable degree. In fact, I might almost most say that it would be an advantage to increase the number beyond fifteen. The noble Duke has enumerated some of the different committees into which the Council is divided. I believe at present there are no fewer than eight committees, and every member of the Council has to sit and act on those committees. If the work which comes before the committees were to be carefully analyzed, it would be found that no member could acquit himself thoroughly with regard to the subjects brought before the different committees without a diligent attendance of five or six hours in the Council; and the duties of Chairman, which in my time were taken in rotation, required from seven to eight hours a day. Nobody will think that I mean to disparage the honour or disinterestedness of the gentlemen who served in the Council of India with myself, or of those who may hereafter be appointed; but I must confess, as far as my own feelings are concerned, I should infinitely prefer that the Secretary of State should nominate in all eases, rather than I should be one of fifteen to elect the members of the Council. Then, as regards the allowance to members of the Council, I agree with the noble Duke in thinking—considering the circumstances of the gentlemen who retire from the Indian Administration, civil or military—that the Secretary of State is almost sure to get the services of any of them whom he may desire to ask. Most of the gentlemen who have served in India come home with a bare competence. The pay a man receives in India does not enable him to accumulate more than a very moderate sum; and the pension he has earned, however responsible may be the post he has held, is also very limited. To the best of these men, therefore, £1,200 a year is a very considerable allowance. There is one portion of the Bill, however, to which I object, and that is the taking away of pensions prospectively from those who are to be appointed hereafter. There are two things which lead to the retirement of members—one is their age, the other sickness. Now, it strikes me that it would be a far better arrangement to give a pension of £500 a year after ten years' service, and to provide that persons worn down, in a period of less than ten years, should receive a pension calculated rateably on £500 a year for ten years' service. It is of the highest importance that every one in the Council should be thoroughly fit both in mind and body to do his duty; but, by men of a limited income, it would be felt as a great hardship to be called upon to retire, and to them the loss of salary would be a very serious matter. But such a feeling would be greatly mitigated by the knowledge that, in being induced to retire, a member of the Council would receive some compensation. It seems, therefore, advisable to grant retiring pensions calculated on ten years' service. I think by making such a provision we should more readily induce a Secretary of State to do what I hope he will do—namely, let it be known that if a member of Council does not efficiently perform his duty, from whatever cause, he would have to retire. Now, with reference to the remarks of the noble Lord behind me (Lord Lyveden), I beg to assure him that there is not the slightest danger that anything has been done by me, or is likely to be done in India by my successor, which may tend to bring on anything like the complications, difficulties, and miseries of an Affghan War. I may say that the very object and scope of what has been done was mainly with a view of preventing anything like a colourable necessity for a movement of the kind to which the noble Lord refers. There is no man, I believe, in India—there is no man, I am sure, in England—that would more steadily set his face against anything like aggression or anything like expeditions beyond the borders of British India than I have done in my time. Whether I was supported by public opinion, or whether public opinion was strongly against me, I resisted with equal stubbornness any attempt to induce me to adopt a policy which might lead to any such consequences. During the second Sikh War, in 1848, the late Ruler of Affghanistan, Dost Mahomed—a man of great reputation and force of character, and one who during his life was the only man who was able to hold that country entirely together—took an active part against the British Government, and thereby prevented the late Lord Dalhousie, who was very much inclined to come to terms of amity and good-will with him, from making overtures to the Ameer. But after some years the Ameer gave the Government of India to understand that he was ready to come forward himself to make apologies for the line he had taken during the second Sikh War, and to come to terms of amity and good-will with us. These overtures on the part of the late Ameer must be attributed to the wise and zealous exertions of the late Sir Herbert Edwards, an officer of great mark, whose death is one of the greatest losses that could be inflicted on the Indian service. Sir Herbert Edwards put himself into communication with a son of the Ameer, who was then governor of a border province of Affghanistan, and through him made arrangements with the father. I was then the chief civil and military authority in the Punjab, and with my consent he entered into communication with the son of the Ameer, assuring him that if his father was willing to come forward we should meet him half-way. The result was that the Ameer Dost Mahomed sent down his favourite son to Sir Herbert Edwards. Under the authority of the Governor General of the day, the late Lord Dalhousie, Sir Herbert Edwards made a treaty between the late Ameer and ourselves, which bound England to nothing, but simply declared that all that had passed between us was past and gone, and that no punishment of any kind or sort should ever fall on the Ameer in consequence of the line which he adopted towards us in 1848. On the other hand, Dost Mahomed bound himself to be the enemy of our enemies and the friend of our friends. As the son expressed himself at the time to me, and as the father subsequently remarked, it was a one-sided treaty, which in his desire to come to terms with us he readily accepted. He would have been glad to have made other arrangements and to have entered into a treaty of reciprocity, by which we should have bound ourselves to be the friend of his friends and the enemy of his enemies; but those terms we decidedly and abso- lutely rejected. Things went on satisfactorily from that day till the beginning of 1857, when, during the Persian War, Dost Mahomed was anxious to recover Herat, which had fallen into the hands of the Persians. He accordingly made overtures to me for assistance, assuming that he would create a diversion in our favour. After some overtures he came down to Peshawur himself, met me there, and went into different matters connected with the politics of Affghanistan. With the approval of the Governor General of that day (Lord Canning) I arranged, during the period of the Persian War, that we should give him a subsidy of £120,000 per annum. When that war came happily to a conclusion, under the terms entered into with the Ameer the subsidy ceased. But in consequence of of the distressed state of the Ameer, and the condition of his finances, I consented to continue the subsidy for some time. Within three or four months from the commencement of this subsidy the Indian Mutiny broke out, and it was fortunate for us that we had come to this arrangement with the Ameer; for the assistance which he received enabled him—partly by his own forces and partly by means of the subsidy—not only to maintain order among his chiefs and subjects, but also to prevent anything like invasion upon our border. After the Mutiny was at an end, having consulted with the Governor General, it was determined that the subsidy should cease, and of this the Ameer was informed accordingly. He remonstrated, stating that he had raised soldiers and incurred expenditure of various kinds—and, no doubt, there was some truth in what he said. With a desire, therefore, to put him in a position in which he could have no ground for complaint, we continued the subsidy till nearly the end of 1858, after which date it ceased. After the death of Ameer Dost Mahomed Khan his sons contested the succession, the Ameer not having selected his eldest son, but the son of a younger wife. The present Ameer is a man of great character, but with certain defects which I need not dwell upon, and a strong party was formed against him. The Ameer sent down to us and asked for assistance, appealing to the treaty which we had made with his father; but my reply was that it was impossible for us to interfere in the contest. The conse- quence was that in the commencement the two parties fought it out. The present Ameer, after some success, was defeated and driven from the throne, and his eldest brother, by general consent, succeeded to power. He turned out to be a man quite incapable of fulfilling the duties of the position to which he was thus raised; he was mild and gentle, and at the same time addicted to vices which rendered him quite incapable of government; he died of an illness, brought on by debauchery, and his brother, who had first sought relations with us, ascended the throne. The Ameer, however, did not fulfil the expectations of his friends, some of those who had gained him his throne fell off, and after some months he was expelled from the country. He, however, received reinforcements which again enabled him to take the field and to contest the throne; but, though successful to a certain extent, the country was convulsed, the principal chiefs were either slain or driven out, and some of them took refuge on British territory; trade was paralyzed and the revenue disorganized. Each party was sufficiently strong to maintain itself against the other, but neither party was strong enough to beat down the other and restore order. There was a general feeling that we should come forward to assist the Ameer, who had partially recovered his authority, to consolidate his power and to put down further opposition. The Ameer sent most pressing invitations to the British Government intreating them to give him aid. After considerable reflection and some hesitation I at last brought the matter before my Council, and, after fully debating all the pros? and cons of the question, it was unanimously decided by us that it would be expedient to give the Ameer some assistance, with a view of affording him a chance of recovering his power, and of bringing back peace and order to the country. Accordingly, I sent him something like £60,000, and I told him, further, that if this money did not suffice I would give him a further supply, and would also aid to a certain extent in the maintenance of a standing army. The Ameer acknowledged the assistance in the most grateful terms, and desired to come down and pay his respects to the Governor General, to enter into a treaty with the Government of India—as his father had done—and to maintain friendly relations with them. It was considered by the Government of India that overtures of this kind ought not to pass unnoticed; and I thereupon wrote to the Ameer and told him what were my views—that I was willing to help him still further in a moderate way; that I could not bind myself by any treaty which would involve obligations on the part of Her Majesty's Government to assist him; but that I was willing from time to time, as circumstances might suggest, and as his own conduct might show that he deserved it, to give him some further assistance hereafter, as I had already done. Things remained in that state until the period of my service as Governor General came to an end. I then placed on record my reasons for having made this arrangement. I suggested that my successor should act on the same policy; that he should make no treaty or arrangement by which we should be bound in any way, directly or indirectly, to interfere in the affairs of Affghanistan; but, until the Ameer should recover his dominion, and consolidate his dominion, that we might from time to time assist him. I believe Lord Mayo has done no more than act on the principles I suggested; I believe there is no intention and no desire to do otherwise, but quite the contrary; and I believe it is the wish of the Government in India and of Lord Mayo to pursue a course strictly in accordance with that hitherto adopted. It must be admitted that we owe the Affghans a debt of gratitude; and if we can, by a moderate outlay—by the expenditure of a few thousands—conciliate them; if we can lead them to forget the misfortunes and the wars of the past, induce them to become good neighbours on our borders, and make them believe that we are really and truly their friends, that will be a great gain; and I think nothing has been done inconsistent with the attainment of that desirable object.

Bill read la; and to he printed. (No62.)