HL Deb 27 June 1890 vol 346 cc141-72

in rising to call attention to the Papers relating to the organisation of the Army in India, and especially to the recommendation of successive Governments of India in favour of the abolition of the existing arrangements for the command-in-chief of the Madras and Bombay Armies, said: My Lords, although I propose to confine myself strictly to the single point adverted to in the notice which I have laid upon your Lordships' Table, I fear such is the importance of the question, that I shall have to take up a larger portion of your Lordships' time, and to request your indulgence to a greater extent than I should have desired, but I will endeavour to compress my observations within the briefest space which is consistent with making intelligible the case which I have to present to you. The single point of our great military organisation in India, to which I am anxious to invite your attention, relates to the existing arrangements for the chief commands of the Madras and Bombay Armies, those two Armies which are known as the Armies of the Minor Presidencies. It will be within the knowledge of most of your Lordships that the Madras and Bombay Armies have separate Commanders-in-Chief, and are also administered by separate Military Departments. The Commander-in-Chief in India is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Bengal Army, but for the other two Presidential Armies, there are distinct officers bearing that title, and exercising in the main the functions which attach to it. No doubt the Commander-in-Chief of the Army in India has now for a considerable time exercised, especially with regard to the British troops in that country, a certain amount of general control and direction, but for practical purposes of dis- cipline and administration, the Armies of Madras and Bombay are under the command of their own Commanders-in-chief, and under the Military Departments connected with the Governments of those two Presidencies. Now, my Lords, it is very easy to see how this system sprang up, and the necessity which originally existed for an arrangement of this kind, because when those separate Armies were first brought into existence there were no railways, there were no electric telegraphs in India, and there were interposed between Madras, Bombay, and Bengal, vast territories of independent and often hostile native princes, so that it would have been practically—and I might almost say physically—impossible for one Central Commander-in-Chief in India to attend immediately to the discipline and administration of Armies at such vast distances from each other, and separated in the manner I have described. But, as your Lordships are well aware, a vast change has taken place in India since those days. Railways have been, made connecting almost every part of the country with other districts, electric telegraphs are to be found everywhere, and by the processes of conquest or lapse, or annexation, or in some other way, most of those independent native States have disappeared, and there is an uninterrupted geographical communication between the three Presidencies. It is not to be wondered at that as the consequence of changes of that description it should now be thought by many persons, and as, I venture to say, I shall show your Lordships in a few moments, it has been thought by four successive Governments in India that the time has come for making a large and fundamental alteration in this system of separate administrations for the different portions of the Indian Army. Changes, of a similar kind have been made in the military organisations of almost every country in the world, as the result of similar changes and developments to those which have taken place in India. My Lords, this subject was first largely gone into at the time when my noble Friend the Earl of Lytton was Viceroy of India. He, in the year 1879, appointed a very influential Commission to inquire into the organisation of the whole Indian Army. That Commission had upon it such Civilians as the late Sir Astley Eden and the present Sir Charles Bernard, and it had upon it also generals so well known and so highly distinguished as Sir Frederick Roberts, General Sir Napier Campbell, and General Macpherson, besides various other Commissioners, all of them in their way men of distinction, whose names I need not detail to your Lordships at the present moment. No doubt, my Lords, the principal object which Lord Lytton had in view in establishing that commission was, as I have always understood, that of inquiring whether it was possible to make important reductions in the military expenditure of the Government of India. It was appointed at a time when the financial condition of India was unsatisfactory, and when it was supposed to be a great deal more unsatisfactory, as I have always thought, than it really was. That, I have no doubt, was the principal object of my noble Friend; but he always professed and always entertained as an object of not less importance, though possibly he might have thought of less urgency, the rendering of the organisation of the Indian Army more efficient. My Lords, it must always be borne in mind that the Presidential system of command, as it is called, had been gradually broken into, and impaired and weakened and altered before this Commission was appointed. A great measure of financial centralisation had taken place, the expenditure up m the Army had been brought altogether under the control of the Government of India, and in that way, among many others, the Presidential system has been impaired and broken into. What was left of it was imperfect, and, as I think I shall show your Lordships presently, it was hampering and inconvenient. I have often heard it said that this system of Presidential command is a great oat-growth of long experience, and an organisation that has been built up by the accumulated experience of many years. That is quite a mistake. The Presidential system was established, as I have said, under totally different circumstances from those which exist at present, and what has gone on from those days has nit been the building up of a system the foundations of which were established a C3ntury ago, but it is the breaking down at all points of a system which was established in tolerable perfection at the time it was first set up. Lord Lytton's Commission went very fully indeed into the whole question, and made a very complete, elaborate, and most able Report. I am afraid, my Lords, that that Report and the Papers connected with it have never been laid upon the Table of your Lordships' House, but they have been laid before the other House of Parliament, and, consequently, I am free to quote from them in the course of my remarks. That Commission, after a careful consideration of the whole question, reported to Lord Lytton's Government at the commencement of 1880; and their Report was immediately taken into consideration by that Government, but, as your Lordships are aware, Lord Lytton did not remain long in that year in the position of Viceroy of India—he resigned in the month of April or May, and his Government, therefore, were only able to send home a Despatch forwarding the Report of the Commission with certain Minutes by some Members of the Government. They were not able to go into the subject fully themselves, and to give a deliberate opinion as a Government upon it. Those Minutes show, no doubt, that there was considerable difference of opinion among the Members of Lord Lytton's Government upon the particular point to which I am now drawing your Lordships' attention. But there was no doubt whatever of Lord Lytton's own opinion upon the subject, because in a very able Minute which he wrote, and which has been sent home and laid before the other House, he used this language— Under the present system the Armies of Madras and Bombay are neither independent Armies nor portions of one great Army of India. All the evils o£ provincialism are maintained without that complete independence which were it proved to he desirable could alone justify the maintenance of the control at present exercised by the Local Governments. As I have said, Lord Lytton was only able to record his opinion upon the more salient points of the Report, and when I went out and succeeded my noble Friend, in 1880, the Report had only been sent home with those recorded opinions, and it was placed in my hands just as I left this country. I need scarcely tell your Lordships that, with an Afghan war upon my hands, I was not anxious to take up this question, or to go into the consideration of the very large matters which were involved in it, and the Government with which I had the honour to be connected had no opportunity of doing so until in the course of the following winter of 1881 it was expressly directed to do so by the then Secretary of State for India, Lord Hartington. It was at Lord Hartington's special direction that we took up the Report and went into the matter, and we did so very fully. We sent no less than 15 Despatches upon the subject to the India Office, dealing with the Report in all its parts, and with the exception of a difference of opinion upon this very question with which I am now dealing on the part of the gallant officer who was Commander-in-Chief in 1881, Sir Frederick Haines, the Government of India were upon this point at all events, and upon almost every other point, absolutely unanimous in their recommendations. Sir Frederick Haines differed from us, but he was succeeded by a man possessing, I think I may say without question, the largest experience, probably of any living mar, of the Indian Army, and upon military affairs in India, I mean Sir Donald Stewart, and my gallant friend Sir Donald Stewart cordially concurred in the recommendation of the 'Government with which I was connected, is did all ray other Colleagues at that time. I should remark here that the military member of the Council, who is, of course, required to be very well acquainted with these matters, and who is a distinct officer from the Commander-in-Chief, was General Wilson, who had been for a long time secretary to the Military Department of the India Office, 4ind who had been specially selected by Lord Hartington to be sent out there, the office of Military Member of the Council having become vacant at the time when this subject was under consideration. Upon this point, my Lords, we also took exactly the same view as had been taken by the Commission and by Lord Lytton himself as Viceroy, and we recommended that the office of Presidential Commander in-Chief in the two Minor Presidencies and the two Military Departments of Madras and Bombay should be tibolished—that the Madras and Bombay Armies should be commanded by two Lieutenant Generals, that the special Military Department should be got rid of, and that the unity of command so established should be placed in the hands of the Commander-in-Chief in India. But I should ask your Lordships to particularly bear in mind this point, both as to the Government of Lord Lytton and as to that with which I was connected, that we never proposed for a moment the abolition of the separate Armies of Madras and Bombay. In reference to this point, I may mention that Lord Lytton used in his Minute what, I think, was a very pertinent expression; he spoke of the Armies of India as being "like water-tight compartments." We never proposed to alter that watertight compartment system; we objected to the maintenance of separate Commanders-in-Chief and Departments, just as Lord Lytton himself objected to them. Indeed, the Commission went further in that very direction, and proposed to divide the Bengal Army into two portions, so that instead of having three water-tight compartments there would have been four. The Government I was connected with were unable to adopt that recommendation, for reasons which I cannot enter into at the moment; but I am anxious your Lordships should clearly understand that when we proposed, for reasons which I will lay before you briefly in a moment, that the separate Commands-in-Chief and Military Departments of Madras and Bombay should be abolished we were not anxious or desirous that the separate Armies should cease to exist. We thought that that was an important portion of the military organisation, although experience has shown (and that is an important matter) the difficulty in the present day of really and strictly maintaining that separation with our present increased means of communication in India. We found when we came to look into the matter that the Bombay Army was very largely recruited from among the Punjaubees. Sikhsand Pathans make very good soldiers, and the Bombay Government was always peeking to get such men into its ranks, thereby upsetting the water-tight compartment principle; and we had to lay down stricter regulations than had been previously in force in order to prevent this, if I may so term it, "poaching upon the proper manor" of the Bengal Army, though I am afraid those regulations were not always successful in preventing the continuance of the practice. The proposal which the Government with which I had to do submited to the Secretary of State, was that the Presidential Armies of Bombay and Madras, being maintained as separate bodies, they should be brought more directly under the unity of command of the Commander-in-Chief in India, and that the two officers who had been hitherto called by the names of Commanders-in-Chief in Madras and Bombay should cease to hold that title, that they should be called Lieutenant Generals, and that they should be strictly under the direction of the Commander-in-Chief in India and of the Military Department of the Government of India. Now, my Lords, it has been some-times said by the critics of this proposal that we were the advocates of an extreme system of centralisation. That, I venture to say, was altogether a mistake. We did not desire more centralisation. On the contrary, we submitted several proposals in exactly the opposite direction, especially tending, among other things, to give greater financial latitude to the commanders of the local Armies. I very well recollect that my noble Friend Lord Kimberley, who was Secretary of State for India at the time, seemed to think that was going too far in the direction of decentralisation by giving greater financial latitude to the Commanders of those Armies. My Lords, I merely mention this matter in order to show that it was from no desire for centralisation that those proposals were made. The principle upon which we desired to base the organisation of the Indian Army was the principle of unity of command, not of close centralisation. On the contrary, we would have given as much latitude as we could to the local commanders, but we desired to secure that which, I venture to say, is essential to any military organisation in the present day and under the conditions of our time—we desired to secure complete and undoubted unity of military administration in the hands of the Commander-in-Chief in India. Our main object, my Lords, I may say in respect to this part of our proposal, was an increase of efficiency, but we believed that some economy, though not a very large economy, would result from this part of the proposal. Some doubts have been thrown upon that matter, and I do not want to enter into any controversy about it. I have said that I believe the economy which would have resulted from our proposal would not have been a large one; but in the present financial condition of India, I think even small economies are not to be despised. But the principal object we had in view was increased efficiency by the securing of that unity of command which appeared to us to be so essential. Now, my Lords, the views which the Government of India of that time entertained were not founded upon theory; they were founded upon practical experience. That which Lord Lytton had found during the part of the Afghan War which took place when he was Viceroy, I found equally during the part of it which occurred while I held that office. It was the practical experience which we both had of the inconveniences and difficulties and confusions which resulted from the then existing system which made us believe that it was of essential importance that a change should be made in it. My Lords, of course a great many matters connected with a question of this kind are not matters which can be introduced in a public discussion; but I think I may, without impropriety, allude to one at all events of the very marked difference in the position in the Government of India towards the Army of Bengal and towards the Armies of the Minor Presidencies. When the expedition was sent to Candahar, after the unfortunate battle of Maiwand, the Government had to select the troops to be sent out. That expedition was ordered by telegraph, and was lequired to be despatched with the greatest possible rapidity. Accordingly, the troops were put on the march as soon as might be. The names of the officers who were to command the Bengal Brigades were duly submitted to the Government of India by the Commander-in-Chief in India, and I felt it to be my duty as Viceroy to consider and inquire into the position and services of the officers who were so recommended. The Government of India and the Viceroy as representing it were responsible to Parliament and to the public for the appointment of those officers; and, of course, it was our duty to make all the inquiries we could as to their qualifications. But when I came to do the same thing with regard to the Bombay Brigades and asked for exactly the same information with regard to them which had been given to me with respect to the Bengal officers, I found two things—in the first place, that that information did not exist in the Archives of the Government of India in the same way, and to the same extent as it existed with regard to the Bengal officers; and I found also that the Bombay officers had been appointed, before their names had been approved by the Government of India, by the Bombay Government to the command of their brigades, and were on the march towards the scene of action. Of course, under those circumstances, even if I had hesitated with regard to the qualifications of any one of those officers, I could not, unless the case was of the most flagrant description, have exercised the power of controlling the choice which had been made. I merely mention this, my Lords, to show how th3se questions do affect matters of the gravest importance in connection with an Army in the field. I could go into the practical difficulties with respect to several other matters of military organisation as shown in time of war, but I will not do so; I will merely venture to ask your Lordships to take my assurance that those difficulties were cropping up almost constantly. Well, my Lords, we sent home those proposals, and they were rejected in July, 1883, partly, perhaps, because we did not make the exact nature of our proposals as clear as we ought to have done, and therefore they were not thoroughly understood; partly because the saving which we thought we should make by them was contested at the India Office—the saving was in itself, I will admit, never supposed to be a large one; and possibly partly from a fear of change and from a want of that experience which we possessed who were actually concerned in the administration of the Indian Army, and who had been so recently engaged in carrying out the operations of war. This part of our proposal, therefore, my Lords, fell to the ground, and there was an end of it for the time. Well, my noble Friend Lord Dufferin succeeded me at the end of 1884. He was in no hurry to deal with this question. Four years elapsed before he wrote his Despatch upon the subject; but in June, 1888, having given to the question, as the time that he took shews, the fullest and the most careful consideration, he again addressed the Government at home on the subject. And, my Lords, you will observe that my noble Friend, like myself, had had actual experience of the operation of this system in time of war, because he had been engaged in the supervision of the military operations which took place in Burma; and if you will turn to his Despatch in the Blue Book on your Lordships' Table you will see that it is a great deal upon the Burmese experience that he rests himself, and it is by facts derived from that experience that he illustrates and defends his recommendations. I hope your Lordships will allow me to give the words of my noble Friend's Despatch, for they are much better than any I could employ myself. They have the full weight of his authority, and they have not merely the authority of Lord Dufferin himself, great as it is, but of the whole of his Government. Lord Dufferin wrote on the 1st June, 1888, to the following effect. Ho bad been alluding to these Burmese difficulties and inconveniences which I have just touched upon, and he goes on:— It will be readily understood how much embarrassment and confusion such a complicated procedure is calculated to bring about. With this experience on record we view with apprehension the possibility of our being called upon at any future time to undertake more extensive military operations, while hampered by so faulty a system which violates all the recognised principles of sound military administration; and we feel that we shall be incurring a grave responsibility if we did not once more place on record our sense of the danger to India of allowing the reform, so strongly advocated by our predecessors, to be postponed any longer. We now, therefore, submit to your Lordship our earnest and deliberate opinion that the time has come when what still remains of the Presidential system should be finally abolished; and the entire administration of all the Indian Armies should be made over to the Commander-in-Chief in India acting in direct communication with the Commanders-in-Chief of the local Armies and under the direct orders of the Government of India. My Lords, these are very serious words. The opinion expressed there is a very grave one. It is exactly coincident with the opinion which I had myself formed from the experience I had had, and I remember that I used to say when in India that I should be very sorry indeed to be responsible for the conduct of a great war under the system which existed at that time. That view is here fully and entirely confirmed by the opinion expressed by Lord Dufferin and his Government, and it is confirmed by them, as your Lordships will sea, after a most prolonged and careful consideration of the whole question. Well, my Lords, when that Despatch of Lord Dufferin arrived in England, what course did the noble Viscount opposite take? He sent a telegram to Lord Dufferin requesting that the Government of India would prepare a General Order upon the subject in full and minute detail. Here are the words— A General Order in draft giving effect to the measure; also drafts of all Orders to be thereon issued by the Commander-in-Chief for all arrangements in minute detail. My Lords, the Government of India undertook the task, and there is given here in this Blue Book a very long General Order, prepared with the greatest care and in the most minute detail. It occupies the chief part of the Blue Book, and it certainly might have been supposed that after that had been done, the principles upon which that general Order was founded, would have received the sanction of the noble Viscount opposite; but as I shall show your Lordship in a moment, that was not the case. But I wish to strengthen my case yet further by another brief quotation from the opinion of my noble Friend Lord Dufferin, because, with this draft Order, there was sent home a Minute by Lord Dufferin, and in that Minute he thus described the leading principle upon which the draft General Order was founded. Therefore, in saying that the principle which I am advocating is the leading principle of that General Order, I am only repeat my what Lord Duffarin said. The leading principle of those proposals was that the Army administration should be so contrived as to permit decentralisation in such military business as was not of the first importance, while the supreme financial and administrative power should remain in the hands of the Governor General in Council, and further that the Commander-in-Chief in India should be placed in command of the whole Army of India, instead of his powers being confined chiefly to the control of the Bengal Army. In respect of the organisation of the Indian Armies, it is desired to maintain in-the most complete manner the separation of the Bengal Army from the Armies of Madras and Bombay; and then the Minute refers to the recruitment of Armies in the other-parts of Hindostan and in the Punjaub. That is the leading principle upon which that General Order was framed, and it is to that leading principle that I am asking your-Lordships' attention tonight. I should parhaps mention here that Lord Dufferin's Government in one minor respect differed from the recommendations of previous Governments. They retained the titles of the Commanders-in-Chief at Madras and Bombay. They did not propose to call them Lieutenants-General; they proposed to leave them the title of Commander-in-Chief, although they subordinated diem altogether for-the purpose of unity of command to the Commander-in-Chief in India. That is a very minor matter. I daresay Lord Dufferin's Government may have been wise in taking that course, and certainly it is not a point on which I should think of raising any difference of opinion. Well, my Lords, this elaborate scheme, prepared at the call of the noble Viscount opposite, was sent home to England, and was, I have not the least doubt, by the time it took, fully considered by the noble Viscount and his Council; and the result, I regret to say, was that the noble Viscount did not feel himself in a position to accept, at all events at present, this part of the proposal of the Government of India. I will give the words of the noble Viscount in a moment; but he did accept (and in doing so he did much good)a great many of the minor proposals of the Government of India, all tending in the direction of getting rid of this Presidential system. He pulled out more stones; he destroyed the structure still further; he rendered it more liable to fall down than it was before. It was, perhaps, rather an insidious policy on the part of the noble Viscount, and I confess I should have been glad if he had adopted a bolder policy, for I am afraid that the rubbish left behind by the removal of those stones is likely to encumber the administration of the Indian Army for some time to come. What he said was this, in a Despatch to Lord Lansdowne's Government— I regret to have now to inform your Lordship that for the present, at any rate, I find myself unable to enter into the large question of military organisation which has been so ably put forward. I am advised that, in order to give effect to any measure for the withdrawal of the Armies of Madras and Bombay from the control of those Governments, recourse must be had to Imperial legislation. Her Majesty's Government consider that such a course would be highly inexpedient, as it would certainly give rise to discussions, which must cause delay prejudicial to the Public Service, and I cannot deem it advisable to consider the re-construction of the Indian military system on any less comprehensive basis than that advocated by your Government. My Lords, that might be taken to be a diplomatic mode; of saying that the Government did not like to bring a Bill for this purpose into Parliament, and that they thought it would be difficult to pass. I shall have a word to say upon the argument put forward in that form in a moment; but the noble Viscount's language is that the discussions which must arise "would cause delay prejudicial to the Public Service," by which I understand him to mean, that the discussions arising on the passing of such a Bill through Parliament would necessarily take some time, and that during that time every question with regard to this military organisation must stand over. I venture to differ from my noble Friend in that respect. It seems to me that he might not only have done upon his own authority all he has done—that he might have pulled these stones over which he so properly rejoices out of this antiquated structure just the same, but that he might have made a clean sweep of the remaining rubbish by bringing a Bill into Parliament and settling the question once for all upon that basis, which he truly says is the only real basis upon which it can be settled. My Lords, that Despatch was received not by the Government of Lord Dufferin, but by the Government of Lord Lansdowne; and now we arrive at the administration of a fourth Viceroy in connection with this question. And what was the opinion of Lord Lansdowne's Government upon it? Your Lordships will recollect that Lord Lansdowne's Government might, if they had liked, have loft that part of the question alone. The decision of the noble Viscount upon it was, so far, final for the time. His other directions related to the remaining matters which I have called the minor points. But so strongly did Lord Lansdowne's Government feel the importance of this question that they would not pass it by—they would not let it alone though they might have done so if they had liked, but they recurred to it again and expressed in the very gravest terms their view of the question. This, again, is the unanimous language of Lord Lansdowne's administration— Four successive Governments of India have thus supported the proposals which were put forward by the Army Organisation Committee 10 years ago. The alterations proposed in the administration of the Army are not merely for the purpose of remedying inconveniences, but to impart a practical and working form to an accidental organisation which, in course of time, has developed into a cumbrous and complicated machinery. We desire, therefore, once again to place before Her Majesty's Government our conviction that it would be a misfortune of the greatest moment if this Amendment of the military administration which we consider to be essential to the efficiency of the Army in this country should not be carried out in the breathing time of peace, which we fortunately now possess, and if the desired change so persistently and impartially advocated by the Governments of India were to be postponed until the disastrous experience of war should force upon Her Majesty's Government the necessity of effecting this most necessary reform of the Indian Army System, My Lords, it is impossible for any Government of India, with the respect which they owe to Her Majesty's Government at home, to use stronger language in regard to any kind of reform than that which I have just read to your Lordships. What, then, is the position in which the matter stands? It is this: you have had four successive Governments of India all combining to recommend this change—perhaps I ought to say, to be strictly correct, four successive Viceroys, because the united opinion of the Indian Government in the case of Lord Lytton's Viceroyalty was not recorded on the subject. You have had all those Viceroys supporting this change and three of them unanimously supported by their Colleagues in the Government. I need not remind your Lordships that those four Viceroys were men of very different characters and training. They were men belonging to different political Parties, and I should imagine that we all went there with no preconceived opinion upon this subject. I can say that for myself, and I have no doubt it was the case with my noble Friends. We all went thoroughly into the question; three of us had experience of war as well as peace, and the whole four came to the conclusion that it is a matter of the gravest moment that the administration of the Army in India should be put upon such a footing of unity of command as that which was pressed upon the noble Viscount opposite by those four Governors. My Lords, in these proposals you have had men like Sir Donald Stewart and Sir Frederick Roberts, two successive Commanders-in-Chief fully agreeing, and giving them their most entire and cordial support; and I confess can hardly conceive a stronger case than this for calling upon Her Majesty's Government to take steps to deal with this question upon, as the noble Lord says, the only satisfactory footing upon which it can be dealt with. My Lords, the English Government in India ought always to be in a state of perfect preparation for war. It has always been my view—and I desire to say that this is no mere view of my own, for I have heard the same opinion expressed by others of greater experience and knowledge of India than myself—that the Army in India ought to be ready to take the field at any moment upon a telegraphic command from the Government of India. You cannot secure that perfect efficiency unless you have a sound system of organisation, and you cannot have a sound system of organisation unless you secure that unity of command which is found to exist in every great military organisation throughout the world. I do, therefore, most earnestly submit to Her Majesty's Government that they are incurring a very grave responsibility in resisting the urgent demands and disregarding the repeated warnings they have received for so long a time. If they had brought in a Bill, and it had failed, then that responsibility would not have rested upon them; it would have rested upon others. But when the noble Viscount opposite practically tells the public not in this country only, but in India, that this great reform spoken of in such very strong language by successive Governments of India cannot be carried out simply because a Bill cannot be passed through Parliament, I do venture to say that I think an argument of that description is one which might be fraught with serious consequences. I do not think it is an argument with which this question should be met; and if the hesitation of Her Majesty's Government to deal with this most important matter rests solely upon that ground, as it appears to do, then I do say that Her Majesty's Government are called upon by a very urgent demand to take this question into their serious consideration and to deal with it in the ensuing Session. Some steps, as I have already said, have been taken by the noble Viscount, and, if he will allow me to say so, I desire to give him every credit for those steps; but the principle, which is a wrong principle, remains, and it remains to obstruct and hamper the Public Service, and to weaken our Military Administration in India. I do, therefore, urge the Government to re-consider the matter and to do their part to give effect to the reiterated proposals of four successive Viceroys who have had practical experience of the working of the present system in peace and in war, and who, differing in a great many other things in regard to Indian questions, have been absolutely unanimous in saying that the present system is one which they would regard with the greatest alarm if it were in existence at a time of serious peril.


My Lords, I am not at all sorry to have heard from the noble Marquess the speech which he has addressed to your Lordships' House. I am quite aware that this is a matter which has engaged the attention of the successive Governments of India for a long time past, and that not only the noble Marquess, but other Viceroys have taken the same view: that Lord Dufferin felt the necessity for a change very strongly, and that Lord Lansdowne is undoubtedly of the same opinion. Now, the noble Marquess said that when the matter was first considered by him, he and his Government very properly took a great amount of trouble to investigate for themselves before they ventured to address the Government at home upon this particular subject, and that in a Despatch which they sent home they went fully into the matter and put forward every argument they could use in order to further their views. Now, I should like to consider for a moment how that Despatch was received by the Government of the day. The noble Lord (the Earl of Kimberley), who sits next to the noble Marquess, was at the India Office at that time, and it fell to his lot to frame the Despatch which was to answer this pressing demand of the Indian Government. The noble Earl went very fully into the matter, and he alleged certain reasons why he did not feel inclined to accept the decision of the Government of India upon this point. I should like to read to the House one or two sentences from that Despatch to show, at all events, how the matter was viewed at that time by the Government of the day when the noble Earl was Secretary of State for India. The passage is at paragraph 37 of the Despatch where Lord Kimberley was alluding to the weight of authority for and against the change. I do not think the noble Marquess made quite enough of that particular point. He says— There is no doubt that the Military Authorities in this country, as well as in India, have been very much divided upon this point; and although it is perfectly true that four successive Viceroys have pressed the Government at home to take the course proposed, it is equally true that there is a very strong weight of authority on the other side among military men. That, no doubt, was felt by the noble Earl to be the case when he penned this Despatch from which I am reading a few words. He gives certain names of people as being strongly opposed to this particular plan, and then he says— I mention these names, not as outweighing those of others who support the scheme, but in order to show that I could not press the measure on Parliament on the ground that there is a general agreement in favour of the scheme on the part of military and administrative officers who have been consulted, but that, on the contrary, I should, have to say there is a considerable body of experienced opinion opposed to it. This opinion, I should say, is shared by the majority of those Indian officers of military experience who have been consulted in this country. Therefore, the noble Marquess must not take it that all the opinion is in his direction; quite the reverse; because when the noble Earl came to discuss the question with his military advisers here (and Sir Donald Stewart was one of them at the time if I am not mistaken) he found that the great weight of military authority was against the noble Marquess instead of in his favour. The Earl of Kimberley's Despatch goes on at paragraph 53— On the whole, I have come to the conclusion, for the reasons I have explained, that it is not expedient to ask Parliament to legislate for the purpose of giving effect to your recommendation. He was not afraid of a Bill not passing, but that it was inexpedient to present one— Your Lordships will, I am sure, understand that it is with much regret that Her Majesty's Government find themselves unable to adopt a measure which all the Members of your Government support; but looking to the direction of military opinion upon the question, to the political objections which may be urged to the proposed changes in the constitution of the Madras and Bombay Armies, and the absence of proof of financial saving, they do not find such a weight of authority in its favour as would justify them in recommending to Parliament such an extensive and fundamental change in the existing military system. The Despatch which the noble Marquess had sent home, and which had been, as he has told us, so carefully prepared, was clearly also very carefully considered by the Government of which the noble Earl was a member; and after weighing every consideration and argument that could be urged by the 'noble Marquess in favour of his proposition they were prepared upon their own judgment to decline to adopt the proposal, and they came to the conclusion that it was not expedient to ask Parliament to make this fundamental change which the noble Marquess pressed upon them to make. So the matter ended; the Government of the day went out; and I think the next time the matter was pressed upon the English Government was when Lord Randolph Churchill was in office. He had to consider the question with his military advisers, and he came to the conclusion it was not expedient to bring a Bill into Parliament on the subject, that it would require a Bill, and there was no time at that period of the year for it. It was on that ground, I believe, that he objected to taking any step. He stated in his Despatch of the 29th October, 1885— It could not be carried out without an Act of Parliament being passed to give effect to it Under existing circumstances such a course would be, for the present at any rate, altogether impracticable, and need not, therefore, be taken into consideration. Then the next Despatch which came from India on the matter was one addressed to myself. I also went very thoroughly into it, and I certainly consulted all the Military Authorities I could upon the point. No one was more strongly against the proposal than the illustrious Duke, the Commander-in-Chief in England; and certainly no one ever wrote to me more strongly against the proposal than the late Lord Napier of Magdala. He was opposed to it very strongly indeed. That, in my opinion, strengthened very much the view which my noble Friend the Earl of Kimberley had taken, that as all the Military Authorities were certainly not on one side on the subject, we should have to move with considerable caution in regard to it. Having satisfied myself that an Act of Parliament was absolutely necessary, if the measure was to hi carried out, and having satisfied myself that if I brought it into this House I should have been opposed by such very good authorities as I have already mentioned, I did not think there was much chance of a Bill of that kind, in the present state of public opinion, and of military opinion, passing through Parliament. Therefore, I had to consider what was the best thing to be done. I did not like to delay the other reforms, which I thought were so very useful and desirable. I did not think even if a Bill could be brought in it would be wise to attempt to carry out this particular measure; at the same time I thought I would cast about to see whether, with the assistance of my noble Friend, I could not carry out a certain amount of reform which would remove a great many of the difficulties the noble Marquess has alluded to, and which the Commander-in-Chief in India said stood in his way in approaching this matter. I will take the opportunity of saying that I am glad the noble Marquess approves of these reforms, such as they are. They all had a tendency and were in the direction of lessening the Presidential system, and they are certainly in the way of giving much greater power to the Commander-in-Chief without centralisation. The Military Accounts had already been dealt with, but we dealt with a great many more matters, and we put the Commissariat, the Transport, the Clothing Department, and the Military Works all entirely under the Commander-in-Chief; so that I think we have gone a long way towards removing a great many of the difficulties which, no doubt, the Commander-in-Chief did feel were pressing upon his position. Now, my Lords, I am not at all saying that this matter of what remains of the Presidential commands is not a question which really does not want great consideration, as my noble Friend says. I quite agree with that, and I think that very likely the Debate which the noble Marquess has initiated to-night may call the attention of military persons still more to this matter than has been the case hitherto, so that we shall be able to get further judgments upon the matter. But, my Lords, I think the divergence of authorities I have cited is quite enough to warrant any Government in saying you must be quite certain you are right before you take this revolutionary step; but when you have made up your mind that it should be taken, take it by all means. I must confess that I think the Government of India, in the last Despatch they wrote upon the matter, placed their case a little too high. I think they put it a little too strongly, because I do not think they would or could, under the system which goes on, now feel the disadvantages to which the noble Marquess had formerly alluded. For the moment, supposing there was a great war, the Commander-in-Chief in India knows perfectly well that the whole of the Army that was engaged would be practically placed under his command. The Army in Burmah is placed under his command. If the point is taken that he would be in difficulties, owing to not having the powers which he wanted for other purposes, the reforms I have already inaugurated would practically do away with the other mischiefs which the noble Marquess alluded to in his Despatch; and, therefore, although I cannot promise that Her Majesty's Government will bring in a Bill to effect this purpose, I can inform him that the whole matter is still under the consideration of the Secretary of State in communication with the Government of India, not simply in reference to this matter of the Presidential commands, but to other matters connected with the different regiments belonging to those Armies. Bat one thing I think I may lay down without contradiction—that is, that it would never do to be continually tampering with these Armies. I think when any reform is resolved upon there ought to be something like, if not finality, sattlement for a time about it. I do not mean mere financial reforms. But when you have made up your mind to carry out substantial reforms, do let them be fixed, at all events, for some time to come. It is not fair to keep the Army of India unsettled and uncertain as to what its future is to be. When this step is taken it ought to be taken after due consideration, and when we have obtained a greater consensus of military opinion upon the subject than up to the present moment we have had.


My Lords, I am very glad my noble Friend behind me has brought this very important subject before the House, because I quite agree with him that there is, perhaps, no more important question connected with Indian administration than that which has been raised. The noble Viscount has referred to the decision which was given by the India Office at the time when I had the honour to hold the position of Secretary of State for India, and he has quoted what, I think, are certainly two most material passages in my Despatch then written. My Lords, I quite agree with my noble Friend behind me as to the grave responsibility which attaches to any one who has to deal with this subject, and I do not know that I ever felt a greater responsibility than in coming to the decision at which I arrived. It certainly was not come to by the Government to which I belonged with any precipitation, because my noble Friend Lord Hartington, who preceded me, found the question one of such doubt and difficulty that he did not deal with it while he was Secretary for India, and it fell to my lot to give that decision. Now, I cannot agree with my noble Friend in assuming that there is only one side to this question. It seems to me that it is essentially a matter in which you have to balance very different considerations. My own opinion, of course, upon a military subject is abso- lutely worthless, but I came to my conclusion after a very careful consideration and study of the military point sin consultation with the Military Authorities, to whom I had access, India, in regard to such a matter, is not to be dealt with without reference to her peculiar circumstances. There is not the slightest doubt that in a European country, where the population is homogeneous and not in the peculiar circumstances which are connected with India, it would be the best plan to have a central military administration and one supreme command. I do not suppose anyone out of India, who has not a knowledge of that country, would have thought such a system could have grown up as exists there. But that system, as it has grown up, has adapted itself to the circumstances of the case. I shall presently consider how far some of those circumstances have altered. The question is not merely a military one, it is also a political question; and if you put out of sight the political question, and deal with the subject only from a military point of view, I do not think you can justify the decision you may arrive at, whichever way you may look at it, from the merely military aspect. The political aspect of the question is alluded to in my Despatch in a very short passage, which I may, perhaps, be allowed to read to your Lordships. It is to this effect. In paragraph 49 of my Despatch, I say— In confining my remarks lo a few points only of that part of the question, I beg your Lordships to consider that it is from no desire to-under-rate your arguments in favour of the* scheme, but even if their validity were admitted, they would not, in my opinion, be sufficient to outweigh the considerations with regard to the political situation of Madras and Bombay with their Armies, enabling them, in any unforeseen contingency, to act by themselves, without reference to the Central Government. I apprehend that paragraph contains really the gist of the arguments on the other bide. I had the benefit of excellent military advice when I was at the India Office. The Chief Military Adviser of the Indian Council at the time was that able and distinguished man—Sir Henry Norman, and Sir Henry Norman had an extremely strong opinion against the scheme. I consulted, as the noble Viscount has mentioned, all the Military Authorities who I thought could give an opinion of any weight, and I arrived at the singular result that there was, it might almost be said, an equal opinion on both sides, though, perhaps, the majority, as I stated in my Despatch, were against the scheme. Then the noble Viscount stated very fairly the difficulty I felt in going to Parliament under those circumstances, because I could, of course, adduce no authority of my own upon a military question, and I should have been obliged to show Parliament that there was sufficient military authority for the change proposed. I was very well aware that there were many eminent and able men in favour of the scheme. At that time you had Sir Donald Stewart, a man of great experience, and now you have Sir Frederick Roberts, whose opinion is second to none. So much from the military point of view. But, my Lords, the political aspect of the question is one which cannot be lightly put aside. It may have been that Sir Henry Norman, and those who advised me, were too much impressed with their recollections of what had occurred during the mutiny, and may have given too much consideration to the circumstances which arose during the occurrences of that perilous time. But although it may be possible that no such great crisis will ever arise again you never can be certain in a great Empire such as India that you may not have internal troubles to deal with which might greatly embarrass you if the local armies could not act separately. There is, moreover, the consideration of the very great difference between the populations from which the Madras Army is entirely recruited and from which the Bombay Army is partially raised, because it is quite true, as my noble Friend has stated, that a considerable number, and more than Government approve of, Pathans and others not natives of the Bombay Presidency, are recruited in the Bombay Army. There is no doubt that the Central Government in India being placed at Calcutta at so great a distance from Bombay and Madras would not be so completely in touch with the Armies there as the Local Governments. That might formerly have been a serious source of danger, but I admit that the greatly improved communication which we now have in India, both by railway and telegraph, has considerably weakened The Earl of Kimberley the force of that argument. My Lords, I came to the conclusion, with great reluctance and hesitation, that I could not advise Her Majesty's Government to go to Parliament with a Bill. I say that because I felt strongly the responsibility of the position. Lord Lytton, and most of the Members of his Government, and also my noble Friend and his Government, had made strong recommendations on the subject; but, as I have said, I conscientiously believed I had not such a case as would have justified me at that time in proposing to Parliament the change which the Government of India desired. Now, let us see how the matter stands at the present time. It is, undoubtedly, a strong fact that the same opinions have been expressed by two more Viceroys, so able and experienced as Lord Dufferin and Lord Lansdowne, one, after four years of administration himself, having also been connected with the War Office at home, and another, at present in office in India, also with experience himself of military administration. I say, my Lords, it is a very grave fact that they have recorded in the strongest language their opinion that the Government at home will incur the very gravest resposibility if they neglect to carry into effect this reform. And besides that, there are certain arguments in these Despatches presenting new considerations which were not so pressing, or did not exist at the time when at the India Office I had to deal with the matter. There cannot be the least doubt, as I think Lord Dufferin's Government point out, that there have been two changes which very much affect this question—one, the new condition of affairs upon the frontiers of Beloochistan and Afghanistan, and the other, our acquisition of the whole of Burmah. The first is, perhaps, of the widest and most serious significance. We have now occupied a very advanced position in Beloochistan, we have a railway passing through the Khoja Ranges, in what was formerly part of Afghanistan; and we have created at, Quetta a first class military station, which has now become one of the most important military positions of our Indian Empire. It is, of course, essential, from an Imperial point of view, also that this position should be entirely under the control of the Supreme Government as regards the troops stationed there, and yet it may be that the whole of the native troops stationed there are from the Bombay Army, and if that Army were to remain under the Local Government great inconvenience may arise. We must consider the very great change which has taken plase as regards the general military position in India. Formerly we had to provide almost entirely for internal dangers. Now, unfortunately, although affairs happily wear a peaceful aspect at the present time we are obliged to admit that we have upon our frontier a great Power with whom we may one day have to deal. Therefore, the chief military question which the Indian Government have to deal with is the defence of our frontier. For the defence of such a frontier, more especially if we should have to defend it against a European Power, it is of the utmost importance that the administration should be concentrated in the Indian Central Government. My Lords, it seems to me that is an argument which must be set strongly against the argument put forward on the other side, which I admit is one of considerable weight as connected with the internal management of affairs in India. Then, with regard to Burmah. That is now a very large possession. It is garrisoned by the Madras Army. About half the Madras Army is in Burmah, and your Lordships can easily see how inconvenient it would be that that large force should be under the orders of the Local Government at Madras, and not under the control of the Supreme Government.


It was under the control of the Supreme Government.


Well, my Lords, although it may be under the control of the Supreme Government for the time, as it must undoubtedly be, it is shown by the Government of India in the Despatches on the Table that there is considerable administrative inconvenience in the present arrangement. Then, as regards the minor reforms. I did something in that direction, but I am glad to say that the noble Viscount has gone farther. That part of the question probably has been carried as far as it can be carried, and it is the great question of the separate armies that remains to be considered. I appreciate very strongly the way in which both Lord Dufferin's Government and Lord Lonsdale's Government have alluded to the importance of maintaining segregation as they have called in the different Armies. That shows, I think, that as far as it can be done they will be kept separate; but your Lordships must not suppose that the mere wish on the part of the Government to keep up this separation is sufficient. Once you have a central control of the whole of the Armies at Calcutta, I feel perfectly convinced that the centralisation principle will overcome the Local Government principle in regard to administration, and, whatever may be the opinion of the Government, military administration in India will necessarily, year by year, take a more centralised character. Therefore, although I acknowledge the justness of the views of the Indian Government with regard to segregation, I think we must set against it the natural tendency to increased central control. I wish the noble Viscount had given us the Despatch of Lord Randolph Churchill. I do not think it contains much that is of very great importance, but it should have been given to your Lordships as part of the history. To sum up the whole matter, I freely confess that in the face of the opinions of, now, four successive Viceroys, extending over a period of 10 years, opinions expressed in the most uncompromising and strongest manner, I feel that I should, if I had to deal with, the question now, have great hesitation in refusing to give effect to their recommendations, and in persevering in the conclusion at which I formerly arrived. It is a very serious responsibility that we should in this matter neglect the opinions of such experienced men, men on the spot who have necessarily a closer and more complete acquaintance with all the surrounding circumstances than we can have. I must also say that from the military point of view, I think the recent experience of Sir Donald Stewart and of Sir Frederick Roberts ought to have great weight with us. I feel bound, therefore, to say, having expressed an adverse opinion before, that if Her Majesty's Government should come to the conclusion that the time has arrived at which they can present a Bill to Parliament for carrying this change into effect it would meet with no opposition from me.


My Lords, upon this subject I wish to offer a few remarks, though it is not one which ever came before me officially, but, of course, I have naturally paid great attention to the Despatches received from India, and especially to the Blue Book which has been laid upon the Table of jour Lordships' House. The difficulty of this subject cannot be more clearly set forth than in mentioning the fact that four successive Viceroys, Lord Lytton, the Marquess of Ripon, Lord Dufferin, and Lord Lansdowne, have advocatsd this change, and that four Secretaries of State for India, Lord Hartington, Lord Kimberley, Lord Randolph Churchill, and the noble Viscount opposite, Lord Cross, have found themselves unable, after full consideration with all the desire which they would naturally have felt to support the recommendations of the Viceroys, to give effect to the wishes of the Indian Government. My Lords, I think I may, as having been myself Viceroy, say one thing without risk of offending my noble Friends who have also filled that office, namely, that when a scheme has been deliberately set forth and advocated by the Government of India, when the men who have framed that scheme had the ear of the Viceroy, it is exceedingly difficult to go back from a scheme which has also received the assent of other Viceroys of India; and I think there must have been some influence insensibly exercised over my noble Friends by the naturally strong feeling of the Military Departments in India in favour of greater centralisation of the Armies in India. My Lords, I am very much in the same condition of mind as my noble Friend (Lord Kimberley) who has just addressed jour Lordships. He has just stated, with great clearness and ability, and with perfect frankness, the difficulties of the situation, and I should, undoubted, with him be disposed to support the views of the Government of India in this matter, but with one important reservation, namely, that I must confess that the Papers, as presented to your Lordships, containing the scheme are not to my mind suffieiently satisfactory to justify the Government in acting. Now, my Lords, that is the practical question before the Government at the present time. The objections to centralisation have been so fully expressed by my noble Friend who last addressed your Lordships that I will not repeat them at length. One great advantage at present is that too great a centralisation of the military administration in the Commander-in-Chief is prevented. My noble Friend Lord Kimberley has frankly admitted that if this scheme is to be accepted it must be assumed that centralisation will take place. I have to represent to your Lordships that, in my humble opinion, that would constitute a very serious danger. Those who have studied the events of the Indian Mutiny must be aware that one of the main causes of the want of discipline in the Bengal Army was the centralisation which existed in the office of the Adjutant-General of the Army in India, and the taking away from the officers commanding regiments the powers they had over their men. I am not for a moment suggesting that my gallant Friend, Sir Frederick Roberts, is likely to fall into an error of that kind; but I do suggest to your Lordships, and I believe it is only common sense, that very able men put into positions of great executive responsibility are apt to think that they alone can act rightly, and to desire to diminish the responsibility of those serving under them. If this plan is carried out it appears to me that every precaution should be taken against such a result as that. I do not find in this very able collection of General Orders, extending over I do not know how many pages, which has been sent home from India, and which I think the noble Lord was quite right in asking for, anything clear upon this matter. I find, on the contrary, some suggestions for Orders which, to my mind, would rather tend to centralisation, than to deter the Commander-in-Chief's office in India from centralising the business of the local Armies. For example, I find in some of these draft General Orders that the approval of the appointment of officers commanding native regiments in the Armies of Madras and Bengal is to rest with the Commander-in-Chief in India. That does not appear to me to be at all necessary. I find, also, on looking at the correspondence which has been laid on your Lordships' Table, a very clear indication of the view taken at present in the office of the Commander-in-Chief in India, that a great part of the detail work connected with the local Armies would have to be sent up to Calcutta. I find, at pages 230–236, that Colonel Harris, the officiating Adjutant-General of India, writes to the Chief of the Military Department— That the Commander-in-Chief would undertake the larger matters of discipline, equipment, and other matters in Madras and Bombay, which are now dealt with by the Commanders-in-Chief and the Governments of those Presidencies. No words can be larger than those. If that proposal is accepted, the Commander-in-Chief in India would be able to deal with anything connected with the Armies of Madras and Bombay. The answer given by the Government of India was, I venture to think, a very right one. The reply sent to that letter was that— The Government of India consider that it is desirable to leave to the local Commanders-in-Chief the fullest responsibility and authority in regard to the discipline of their Armies. The opinion of the Government of India appears to me to be absolutely sound in this matter; and they went on to say that if sufficient power was left to the local Commanders-in-Chief, hardly any new matters need be sent for the consideration of the Commander-in-Chief at Calcutta. My Lords, the opinion of the Government of India I hold to be the right one in this matter, but I think this correspondence shows that there is even now some vagueness, some failure to make it quite clear, that for all purposes of discipline and minor administration, the powers exercised by the officers in command of the Madras and Bombay Armies should not be interfered with by the Adjutant-General's Office of the Commander-in-Chief in India. Now, my Lords, the opinions expressed by my noble Friends Lord Ripon and Lord Dufferin appear to me to hi as sound and practical as can possibly be. The words used by Lord Dufferin I especially venture to express my entire agreement with, namely— That the decentralisation of military business, and the delegation of powers to the Commanders of Military Forces, is the principle to be aimed at. But I say that further consideration requires to be given to this question, and I am glad to hear that the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for India (Viscount Cross) intends to give that further consideration to it. My Lords, the other point mentioned by my noble Friend Kimberley, as to which I would like to say a word, is the very important consideration as to the possibility of Bombay or Madras being separated from Calcutta. If this scheme is carried out without some provision being made for such a contingency as that, I should like my noble Friend the Secretary of State for India to consider what the legal effect of the alterations proposed by the Government of India in the Army Act would be. What action could the Governments either of Madras or Bombay take in respect to military procedure, supposing that the Army Act was amended in the manner proposed, and all power whatever taken away from the Governments of Madras and Bombay over the Armies of those Presidencies? There is not one of your Lordships who has paid attention to the subject who is not aware of the great advantage to the Public Service which was rendered by LordFlphinstone, when Governor of Bombay, at the time of the Indian Mutiny; and I venture to suggest that, even if this separation be made, at least some kind of legislative provision should be introduced, enabling, in a time of difficulty or crisis, either the Government of India or the Government at home to give certain authority to the Madras and Bombay Governments, if necessity should arise. The two instances, my Lords, may, perhaps, to a certain extent enable your Lordships to understand how full of difficulties this question may be. No doubt, looked upon as a question of military administration, the thing is clear enough. Unity of command, unity of administration—are principles which have guided, no doubt, the Commander-in-Chief in India in the suggestions he has made. But I agree with my noble Friend, Lord Kimberley, that this is a matter which requires to be considered upon broad political grounds, and not upon military grounds alone, and I consider that the former Secretaries of State, who have filled that office for the last 10 years, and the noble Viscount opposite who fills it now, have only done their duty in declining to carry out this measure without a more full and complete consideration of all the different aspects of the subject, and of the precise manner in which the proposal is to be put in force. In conclusion, my Lords, I venture to think it would not be right of my noble Friend the Secretary of State for India to put the responsibility of settling this question upon Parliament. It is a matter which, I think, rests with the Government, and that the Government should be entirely satisfied with the nature of the scheme they have to propose to Parliament and be able to support it by completely and fully answering the military or political objection to it before they present a measure to Parliament.


My Lords, I may be permitted to say a few words though, personally, I feel that I can say much less than the distinguished Members of this House who have already spoken; but I have had opportunities of hearing and judging of the opinion of some of the leading military men in India, and as already the names of two of them, at all events, have been referred to, and their opinions quoted, I can fully endorse every word that has been said by the noble Lord Earl Kimberley, when he expressed his anxiety, on a military subject, not to go against the opinion or against the advice of such distinguished men as Sir Henry Norman and the late Lord Napier of Magdala. I have had numerous conversations, constant conversations with those two distinguished officers, and others—I could name others, but perhaps those two names will suffice. Those distinguished officers, and many others, have all said to me that it would be a most ticklish and delicate thing to interfere with the present arrangements of the three military commands in India, and though, in many respects, centralisation or united command is advantageous, that the disadvantages of change would be so great that they hoped they would not be incurred. Now, I believe Her Majesty's Government has certainly given many Orders lately, or given sanction to many measures which have very much simplified the military requirements in India, and so long as those military requirements can be fulfilled without any organic changes being made, I should strongly urge your Lordships to be very careful and very delicate in introducing any very great alteration, such as that of doing away with the two minor Presidential Armies and combining them with that of Bengal. I am perfectly aware that there is a strong sentiment on the subject in India, and that some people there are desirous of this change, but I do not think, and I am very glad to hear what the noble Lord who has just spoken has said upon that point, that it would be possible now that our administration in India has become so vast, for one man and his surroundings to carry on the work. The duties of the military administration of so vast an Empire are enormous. I regret I was not able to be present when my noble Friend the Marquess of Ripon who has brought this subject forward spoke, but I was detained in another place. I trust your Lordships will forgive me, feeling my own inexperience in Indian matters, for having quoted the opinions and stated the views of men in whom I am sure every member of your Lordships' House has as much confidence as I have myself. I would strongly urge the Government to be most careful in making any alterations in the direction of doing away with the two minor commands.