HL Deb 23 June 1874 vol 220 cc293-6

—who had given Notice to call attention to some statements published under the name of Lord Sandhurst, with respect to the conduct of Business in this House—said: My Lords, on Saturday morning I noticed in the newspapers a letter under the signature of Lord Sandhurst, which began in the following words:— The India Councils Bill has passed through the House of Lords in an unusual manner, which has precluded a sufficient discussion of really very important matter. I have, in consequence, through no fault of my own, been unable to state my objections to the Bill as it now stands—objections which, I venture to think, carry some weight with them, and may be worthy the attention of the House of Commons when the Bill is read there a second time. My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lord is necessarily absent on this occasion—that imposes some restraint on me, but I cannot help expressing my regret that the noble Lord, whose oratory we always listen to with such pleasure and attention, should have thought it right to sit silent through all the proceedings on this Bill, and should then fire off his eloquence for the House of Commons. It is very hard that we should be deprived of the eloquence of such a distinguished ornament of your Lordships' House; but I think we have still more cause to regret this if, when he thinks he has reason to complain of the manner in which Business is transacted in this House, he should communicate his dissatisfaction to the newspapers. In my opinion the proper place to object to the way in which Business is transacted here is, for a Peer, the floor of this House. Here such objections can be stated; here they may be answered and any misapprehensions cleared up. I will venture to trouble your Lordships with a few words on this matter—not because I think you would imagine that I had taken any improper advantage, but because these matters excite great interest and attention in India, and I am afraid that if I did not answer the statements of the noble Lord it might be supposed that they were admitted. My Lords, there was nothing unusual in the way in which this Bill passed through the House. I suppose, from his saying that he was unable to express an opinion, the noble and gallant Lord imagines that it was carried through with unusual speed. Lord Sandhurst has not been long in this House; he never was in the other House of Parliament; and the distinguished command he holds has prevented him from giving close attention to our proceedings:—otherwise he would have found that for an India Bill this measure remained remarkably long before your Lordships' House, and received a great deal of attention. I have taken the trouble to look at the time which other India Bills have been before your Lordships. Since the Mutiny Bill there have been three such Bills. First, the Government of India Bill, which transferred the Government of India from the Board of Directors of the East India Company to the Crown. That Bill was one fortnight before the House. Next, there was the India Councils Bill, which established the present Legislative Council under which all Acts concerning India become law. That was before your Lordships 21 days. Lastly, there was the Government of India Bill Amendment Bill of 1870, which made some very important alterations in the mode of legislation, and which contains the clause by which the Natives of India are admitted, under certain conditions, to the covenanted service of that country. That Bill was before you 14 days. This unfortunate little Bill, which, although associated with considerable questions of policy is of itself a minute legislative change, was before the House 24 days; and therefore, according to all the precedents it was not conducted through the House with unusual speed. Then, as to the question of discussion, it is no easy matter to get an India Bill discussed in a full House. If you put it down first on the Notice Paper nobody comes down; if you put it last everybody goes away. I put this Bill in a place which I thought gave it the greatest possible chance of being discussed—between two ecclesiastical Bills. The evening began with the Church Patronage (Scotland) Bill, and ended with the Bishops Public Worship Regulation Bill. I trusted to the first to bring down a House, and to the last to keep it here. I venture to ask whether any ingenuity could have devised a more fortunate position for securing in favour of an India Bill the full attention of your Lordships? I have no reason to complain personally of Lord Sandhurst's letter, inasmuch as he gives his assent to the main provisions of the Bill; but then he writes to the papers to discuss and condemn a clause which he seems to think is contained in the Bill. The fact is that on Tuesday the Bill was read a third time and passed, and the clause to which he objects was struck out before it passed. But on Saturday the noble Lord wrote to the newspapers giving an elaborate condemnation of the clause that had already been executed. That shows the inconvenience of extra-Parliamentary discussions of these matters instead of on the floor of the House. There was a good deal to be said in favour of the noble Lord's views as to that clause. It was criticized here by other noble Lords—especially by Lord Napier—and in consequence of the objections taken to it, but without any pressure, I withdrew it. Lord Sandhurst would have been fully justified in discussing it, but he should have discussed it in this House. I have only troubled your Lordships on this subject, because Lord Sandhurst's misapprehensions printed in The Times might affect some persons in India, although not your Lordships; and also because I wish to protest against so distinguished a Peer reserving for the House of Commons speeches which are due to us.


I think the noble Marquess is quite right in drawing attention to this matter, so as to prevent any misapprehension on this subject in India; I am, however, afraid that certain of his remarks may unintentionally convey the impression that your Lordships were inattentive to measures affecting India. I therefore wish to remind him that of the measures to which he referred two came up to this House from the other House of Parliament, where they had engaged the attention of that House and the public, and although the various stages were taken at short intervals, they were very amply debated. House adjourned at a quarter past Six o'clock, to Thursday next, half-past Ten o'clock.