HL Deb 03 July 1893 vol 14 cc637-48



, in moving a humble Address to Her Majesty for copy of letter from Sir Thomas T. Pears to the Under Secretary for War, dated the 9th of August, 1872, said, he had ascertained from his noble Friend opposite (the Earl of Kimberley) that there was no objection on his part to the production of this letter, and he would have moved for it without saying a word, but that circumstances had arisen which made it expedient he should make a short statement to explain the nature of the Paper. A few weeks ago their Lordships' attention was called by Lord Northbrook to the home charges made against the Government of India, which were now becoming a more and more important subject of discussion every day. A better proof of it could hardly be given than the speech delivered the other day by the Secretary of State for India to a deputation, in which he pointed out the difficulties in which the Government of India was now placed with regard to Revenue and Accounts. There was no doubt that those difficulties arose to a large extent from the home charges made against the Indian Revenue by the Government here. Since that, a step on the part of the Government had been announced which he hoped might have a favourable effect. He did not intend to rush in where angels might well fear to tread—into that terrible currency question in which he did not profess to be an expert, for it was one of the most difficult and obscure subjects which could occupy public attention. But, at all events, he con- sidered that the noble Earl had at last moved in the right direction towards the establishment of a gold currency in India. The intermediate stage, of which he could not approve, was giving an artificial value to silver. The step of giving a general monetary value to the rupee seemed to be inconsistent with that principle, though it might be found that an important saving would be made to the Government of India in its home remittances, which would enable the Government to balance its accounts. The noble Earl told the deputation which waited upon him that India, as a whole, its trade and commerce, were in a thriving condition, but that the Government, as regarded Revenue, was in a position of serious difficulty. That fact made the question of the home charges a matter of great urgency and importance. In his speech in the House the other day, in answer to Lord Northbrook, the noble Earl gave a very fair account of the arguments used in the communications between the different Departments—the India Office, the Treasury, and the War Office—upon this subject. He represented the isolation in which the India Office was placed and the difficulty it was habitually under in dealing with those two important Departments, the Treasury and the War Office. The Paper now moved for threw an important light on the subject, especially in the circumstances under which it was written. Their Lordships would remember that in consequence of the Indian Mutiny it was resolved to abolish the Company's local European Army. He had the honour of recommending that measure, of which he had charge, in their Lordships' House, and well remembered the great objection to it entertained by Lord Derby, Lord Grey, and others, and it was also opposed by many of the old Civil servants in India; but he thought the balance of argument was in favour of the amalgamation of that Army. It seemed to follow upon the assumption of the government of India by the Crown. The Company had become a mere name, and when the Crown assumed in reality as well as nominally the administration of the Government of India it seemed a natural thing that the European Armies should be amalgamated, and that they should no longer remain a local European force. The East India Company had raised a large force of European troops. They began with one Infantry regiment for each Presidency, afterwards increased to two; and at the time of the Mutiny there were three regiments for each Presidency, besides about 7,000 Artillery, a force of about 16,000 Europeans, in addition to the Native Armies. The East India Company and the Government of India had had, of course, under that system a long experience of the cost of raising their European troops in this country, and they found they could raise them at an average cost of about £26 per man. The European recruits had not cost the old East India Company more than that. When the amalgamation came into force the Government had thrown upon them the additional expenses entailed, especially under the re-organisation which took place at the time. He had then the honour of holding the Office now filled by his noble Friend opposite. After that change had come into full operation it was found at the India Office that, instead of the European troops costing £26, the new cost was £63 per man for the Infantry and £136 for the Cavalry, imposing, therefore, an enormous new charge upon the Revenues of India. That was 22 years ago, and some of the details had escaped his memory when the previous discussion took place. One of the most unpleasant episodes through which he had ever passed in his public life had been brought to his recollection. When that was discovered the India Office determined to send a remonstrance to the War Office and Treasury on the enormous cost of the home charges. At that time Lord Cardwell was at the War Office, and Mr. Lowe was Chancellor of the Exchequer. The letter to the War Office was dated September 8, 1871; but no answer was received till April 24, 1872, seven mouths afterwards. That answer was couched in most aggressive terms; it took no notice of part of the letter of September 8, 1871, as to the possibility of obtaining European recruits more cheaply, and it announced an absolutely new principle—namely, that no abatement would be given, and that India would be liable to pay, in proportion to the troops she used, the full expense of the home establishment. The India Office was entirely isolated, and had to fight its own battles; and during the six years he was there, only on two occasions were they able to bring questions before the Cabinet. They saw that it was absolutely necessary to protest against the new principle laid down by the War Office, for its danger could hardly be exaggerated, that India was bound to pay a proportion of the cost of the entire machinery of recruiting and training under the existing organisation. There was no limit on the expenditure thrown on the Government of India. And not only was that principle laid down by Lord Cardwell and Mr. Lowe, but they claimed to go further, and distinctly intimated that they reserved their right to charge against the Government of India further indirect expenses. The War Office were kind enough to give a hint of the number and variety of subjects on which India might be called upon to pay. The reserved demands made by the Imperial Government upon India included the cost of the military staff at head quarters of the British Army in proportion to the troops employed in India, which would take in the whole cost of the Horse Guards; the regimental staff of all corps which might be employed in India; the full cost of relieving regiments; the full cost of educational establishments, the cost of experiments in arms and ammunition, the cost of rewards to inventors, and the cost of medical, engineer, and other officers in education. This meant that India was called upon to pay a tribute to this country. Under his responsibility to the Government of India he felt it was impossible to let that Despatch stand without entering a very strong-protest against it, and the Paper he now moved for was a copy of his answer. It had been contended that the Imperial Army was in reality the Army of Reserve of India. That was one of the great arguments put forward at that time, and it was still used in the Departmental contest which the India Office had to sustain. But the fact was just the reverse, and the Indian Army was a reserve for the Home Army, having been employed over and over again for military purposes not strictly connected with the Government of India. Possibly one-third of the British Army was kept in India. It was said that, consequently, India should pay one-third of the cost of the British Army, including the home charges, which he held constituted an unjust and illegal tribute to England. On looking into the matter the India Office discovered that the Native Army had been largely used as an Army of Reserve for Imperial purposes. At the time he wrote that Despatch, only in three cases had the Imperial Army acted as the Army of Reserve of India. It had done so in 1846 in the case of the Sutlej Campaign, when some two or three regiments, not more, were sent out; in 1849 in the case of the Punjaub Campaign, and in 1857–8 in the case of the Indian Mutiny. On the other hand, native Indian regiments had been employed abroad in the Imperial Armies in 1801 in the expedition to Egypt, in 1810–11 in the expedition to the Mauritius and Java, when Indian troops were largely used by the Government; in 1842 in the Chinese War, when six native regiments were sent from India; in 1855 in the Crimean War, a war entirely unconnected with India, when considerable reinforcements of troops were sent from India to the Crimea; in 1856–7 in the expedition to the Persian Gulf, when no less than 11 native regiments were sent from India; in 1859 in another Chinese War; in 1860–1 in the New Zealand Wars, which were purely Colonial; in 1867 in the Abyssinian War, when 12 native regiments were used; again in the Russian scare Indian troops were moved, and in 1881 in the Egyptian War. Indian Forces employed in the Imperial Service were paid out of Indian Revenue, but English Forces employed in India were saddled on India from the day the order for their embarkation was issued. In his view, these charges were exceedingly unjust, and were illegally exacted from India. The sums chargeable against Indian Revenue were regulated by 21 & 22 Vict., c. 106, the words of which were, "for the purposes of the Indian Government alone. "He did not profess to be a lawyer; but he failed to understand for what purpose the word "alone" had been introduced if the principle laid down by the Treasury and War Office could be maintained that a large part of the home charges and cost of the English Army were to be thrown on the Government of India. The letter for which he now moved was the record of the argument of the India Office on that grave question, which from day to day and from hour to hour was assuming greater importance in the minds of the people of India. In presence of the silver question it was becoming most serious, and would not cease to be so in spite of any tinkering with the currency which any Government might undertake. He desired as far as he could to assist his noble Friend and the India Office, which he knew had a hard battle to fight in this matter; and he fully recognised the difficulty of his noble Friend's position, when everything was made to depend upon a successful Budget. On the other hand, he would be sorry to say anything which would excite unnecessary jealousy and suspicion in the minds of the people of India, though he certainly thought they ought not to be called upon to pay anything in the nature of a tribute, or more than the actual charge of our troops when employed in India, which was the old legal and Constitutional principle. Yet he thought the balance of benefit was enormously against India, and in favour of England. We had only to consider what India would have been but for English rule to see the enormous benefit she had derived from it. It was no exaggeration to say that our government of India was such a government as the world had never seen before. The Roman Empire in its greatest extent was not so wonderful. We governed 180,000,000 men of opposite races and religions, sometimes fanatically opposed to each other, and governed them more quietly, calmly, and peacefully than we could govern our own people in Ireland. He desired to say nothing which would diminish the loyalty and sense of obligation which the Indian people felt and ought to feel towards us; and it would have the worst possible effect if there were any suspicion aroused in India that, for the purposes of making convenient Budgets or of Party Government, the people of India were being charged with expenses which ought really to be defrayed by the Home Government.

Moved— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for copy of letter from Sir Thomas T. Pears to the Under Secretary for War, dated 9th August, 1872."—(The Duke of Argyll.)


said, the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) stated very forcibly the main arguments in favour of India in this matter of the home charges, and he would only sup- plement his noble Friend's statement in respect to the Reserve constituted under the Short Service Act, and from which regiments were filled up to their complement for foreign service, in reference to the question whether India got the full benefit of that Reserve, having been put to no charge in respect of it. He had himself, when in India, written a Despatch on the subject. It was not a tenable proposition that the Indian Government paid nothing towards the Reserve. The Indian Government paid for the training of all the young soldiers who served their time in India. Nothing could be more frank than the speech of the Secretary of State for India the other day, when he said that India had been unjustly taxed with respect to the effective and non-effective charges of the Army. But his noble Friend did not say that the injustice would be remedied. These matters were very technical, and it required almost an education in the subject to be able to follow the arguments which might be brought forward. If this were an English and not an Indian question, upon the admission by the Leader of that House and his Colleagues that an injustice existed would have followed an announcement that it would be remedied. It was not a satisfactory condition of things that a Minister of the Crown should make such an admission without being able to say that it should be removed. He hoped, however, that now his noble Friend would be able to say that he had taken steps to bring his Colleagues to his own sense of the equity of the case. Lord Cardwell had admitted before a House of Commons' Committee that India paid more than she ought to pay in respect of these charges for the Army, and permanent officials of the Treasury had made the same admission. But nothing whatever had been done, and it was hopeless to expect that the matter would be taken up by the other House, for its present occupation was too exacting for such an expectation to be entertained. Secretaries of State, Viceroys, and Commanders-in-Chief in India were all unanimous on the question. There could be no doubt that the matter would be discussed in the Legislative Council of the Viceroy of India; and how could a Viceroy resist an Address from the India Legislature to the Crown praying that the question should be grappled with and settled? He trusted that the matter would not be put on one side by the Secretary of State, and that he would distinguish his occupancy of the India Office by putting an end to the difficulty, which, if not remedied, would create uneasiness in the minds of educated people in India. He would suggest that this was a case where the Constitutional rights of the Indian Council might be exercised to the public advantage. The India Council had certain rights with respect to the expenditure of money; and if the Secretary of State for India was unable to effect an arrangement, and if he himself had the honour of occupying a seat on the Council, it would for him be a matter of grave consideration whether he should not decline to be a party to expending the Revenues of India upon the full charges now made by the War Office. The Act provided that no grant or appropriation of any part of the Revenues of India should be made without the concurrence of a majority of votes at a meeting of the Council; and if his noble Friend was unable to effect an arrangement he would be supported by all the authorities that could be brought to bear upon the subject if he declined to be a party to throwing these full-home charges upon India, including such matters as the results of the abolition of purchase in the British Army. Those charges had been admitted to be too high in some cases; and he should decline, in respect of putting on India the results of the abolition of purchase in this country, to pay some portion of the non-effective charge, until he knew how much of that charge was directly to be attributed to the compensation for the abolition of purchase. As to the effective charge, however, he should admit that some reasonable sum might fairly be charged. Even so late as a few years ago, £6 10s. per man was named by the Treasury as the sum payable and was nearly agreed to, and he should take that or some other reasonable figure, and should press upon his colleagues that in all equity the charge should be limited to that sum, and decline to give his vote for any larger charge. A Despatch was addressed by the Government of India to the Secretary of State on March 25, 1890, inclosing an elaborate Paper drawn up by the Military Secretary and one of the principal officers of military accounts in India going into the whole question of these charges, and putting forward the principles upon which the Government of India desired to see them settled. His noble Friend the other day expressed a doubt whether the Despatch could with advantage be laid on the Table of the House, and on that ground he would abstain from moving for it; but if at the end of the present Session nothing had been done in the matter, it was only fair that that Despatch, accompanied by other Papers sent by his noble and gallant Friend on the Cross Benches to the Government of India, should be produced in order that public opinion might be brought somehow or other to support and strengthen the Secretary of State in the difficult position in which he was now placed. In that case he should move the presentation of a humble Address to Her Majesty for copies of financial letter from the Government of India to the Secretary of State, No. 406, of 23rd September, 1874; and of military letter from the Government of India to the Secretary of State, No. 63, of 10th March, 1876. Moved, "That a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for—Copies of financial letter from the Government of India to the Secretary of State, No. 406. of 23rd September, 1874; and of military letter from the Government of India to the Secretary of State. No. 63, of 10th March, 1876."—(The Earl of Northbrook.)


My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Duke and the noble Earl for the observations they have made. I do not differ largely from the views which my noble Friends have expressed, though there were one or two remarks made to which I am disposed to demur. My noble Friends, in putting the case in favour of India, seem to me to go too far; and I do not think that a reasonable and just settlement of this matter is at all likely to be furthered by overstating the case. The real point to consider as regards the various expeditions which have been made by Indian troops is to what extent India was interested in those particular wars. My own feeling is that in some of them India had practically no interest; but, while admitting that, I may cite the case of Egypt as one wherein India had considerable interest. Indeed, the special interest of this country in Egypt, and the steps taken there, were largely influenced by our position in India; and it is only fair and equitable that in those cases where she is interested India should be called upon to bear a proportion of the military charge. The question has been raised as to how far the British Army is a Reserve for India. In speaking upon that subject the other night I had in my mind the Reserves now existing in England, which are the result of the short service system. The Reserves amount to a considerable force, and there cannot be a doubt that, as a Reserve, the force is most valuable to India, and might be called upon to assist India. When I had the honour of holding Office last time but one there was what was called the Russian scare. Large preparations were made for the purpose of taking steps to defend India, and in this country a portion of the Reserves were called out to be sent there. The Reserves obeyed the call in the most satisfactory manner; and if war should have unhappily broken out the Government could have despatched 25,000 of these men to India, where they would have arrived at the most critical moment, and would have supplied India with a most valuable reinforcement. It appears to be thought also that I can compel my Colleagues in the Cabinet to adopt my views on this subject. But when the noble Marquess, who I am sorry is not present (the Marquess of Salisbury), was Secretary of State, he was exactly in the same position in relation to the Treasury of that day, and was not more successful in pressing demands than I have been. The same remark applies to the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Argyll); and, therefore, I do not think that I can fairly be expected to exercise more influence than those noble Lords were able to exercise before me. I can only press this question in the most convenient way. I was rather apprehensive, as I said the other night, that demands might be made upon the Indian Government for further payments; and, being unable to resist present demands, I thought it desirable that I should be in a position to resist further demands. Though I do not say there will be such a proceeding, it is possible that this matter may be made the subject of a large and extensive inquiry; but the opinion of the distinguished and able men who render me valuable assistance at the India Office is that those inquiries have generally resulted in an addition to the burdens, and they look upon them with considerable jealousy. It is exceedingly difficult to draw a line with perfect fairness in this matter, and I am afraid the old saying has here considerable force—"Les absents ont toujours tort." We have to deal here with Departments entrusted with English affairs and English finance, whilst India is far away; and absence in this, as in a great many other cases, prevent Indian questions, important as they are, from receiving all the consideration which I think they deserve. It is of enormous importance that all these matters should receive careful consideration. I trust it will never be forgotten, as the noble Duke has said, in words far better chosen than I could use, what a marvellous fabric the Indian Empire, and what an extraordinary success it has been; and it is an immense glory to the people of this country that such an Empire has been created and maintained. If it is still to be maintained, we must give reasonable care to the great questions affecting its welfare, and such questions are as important as any that can come under the attention of the Government or of Parliament.


My Lords, I did not intend to speak on this occasion, indeed I was not aware that this question was going to be discussed; but as it is one on which I feel deeply interested, I do not like to pass it by altogether in silence. I venture to say, my Lords, that I entirely agree in what the noble Duke has said, and I also agree with the noble Earl on my left (the Earl of Northbrook). I trust the matter will be gone into most thoroughly, and, if possible, settled before the time comes for the preparation of the next Budget; for I feel certain that this matter is one which will not be passed over in India, but will be, no doubt, brought forward for discussion in the Legislative Department of the Viceroy.


said, having had something to do in Parliament with the relations between Imperial and Colonial affairs, he had always considered it a monstrous proposition that Imperial matters should be thrown upon the charge of this country alone. It would be impossible, even if we attempted it from a feeling of pride, for this little Island to fight all the battles of the British Empire at our own charge; and we should not only find it an impossible task, but we should do a great deal more harm than good in attempting it. The whole Empire ought to contribute to Imperial purposes, and certainly each part of it to wars, which specially affected it. The noble Duke said that India had no. interest in the Crimean War; but no part of the Empire had a greater interest in it than India, looking at the position and claims of Russia. India was as much interested as England. And the same statement must be made with regard to the Egyptian and Chinese Wars. If this Metropolitan Island announced itself ready to fight all the battles of the world—if we at home once assumed a sort of grandmotherly position towards the various parts of the Empire, we should soon be involved in all sorts of difficulties. Such an attempt would breed wars everywhere, for, in many cases, it would be absolutely an advantage to the Colonists for England to undertake a war for them. The New Zealand Wars were kept up as long as England sent troops to carry them on, and ceased the moment they were withdrawn.

Motions agreed to.