HL Deb 24 July 1902 vol 111 cc1124-32

asked the Under Secretary for India what the Secretary of State intended to do with Coopers Hill College, whether he would take any steps to secure fair play in India to the Coopers Hill men, and whether, now that the college was almost entirely devoted to the military and engineering instruction of British and Colonial students, the Secretary of State, as guardian of the interests of the Indian taxpayer, would claim a refund by the British Exchequer to India of the cost of Coopers Hill College. The noble Lord said that the Government of India was entirely disconnected from His Majesty's Government. The expenses of the India Office were paid for by India, and therefore he did not see that there was anything to prevent His Majesty the Emperor of India from continuing the Secretary of State for India in office after the other Members of the Government had given up their seals, except the fact that the English Treasury was continually sponging on the Indian Exchequer, which perhaps made it necessary that the Secretary of State for India should always change with the Government. He might have visited Coopers Hill, and been introduced to the President, but for the sake of freedom of speech he had not done so, because on one occasion after a long conversation with the late Lord Beacons-field on the subject of his book "Lothair," Lord Beaconsfield had said something in confidence, and afterwards he (Lord Stanley) did not remember what point was said in confidence, and so felt tongue-tied as to the whole conversation. He was aware that the noble Earl the Under Secretary would give a negative answer to the last, Question on the Paper, but the noble Earl would have to prove that India still had an interest in the college. Some history of the college might be gathered from the speeches delivered by its presidents and by Secretaries of State for India at the yearly public day of the college in July, when a portion of the students left at the end of the course of study; and he desired as much as possible to confine his remarks to their testimony. The college was founded under the auspices of the Duke of Argyll; it was sufficient to say this to establish that the college was intended for the benefit of India and with a view to economy. He could not help thinking that the best way to make engineers was to adopt the method in vogue in the case of architects and lawyers, and place them in the office of a man who was already eminent in the profession; but, as it was, a college was decided upon. In 1875 Lord Salisbury expressed his satisfaction, and that of all those connected with the college, at the successful results achieved, but complained, in the course of his remarks, that some of the students thought, when they had once got to India, that all their exertions wore over, and that they had nothing to do but repose on their laurels. The speeches of Lord Salisbury were the best in the collection, for he took more trouble than any other Secretary of State to go into detail, his knowledge of railway management enabling him the better to understand the subject. Lord Salisbury said— Whereas very great proficiency is shown in the knowledge of Buddhist and Hindoo architecture, the same proficiency is not shown in estimating the value of bricks and mortar. Now, far be it from me to say a word indicating the faintest disrespect for Buddhist and Hindoo architecture, but in the relation to the Government of India in which I happen to stand, you will, perhaps, pardon me if I attach more importance than you seem to do to the excellence of estimates in architecture, because I attach importance to the exercise of that economy of which accurate estimates are the foundation. Other complaints of a similar nature had been made of the want of knowledge of the first rules of arithmetic on the part of these students. In 1881, the noble Duke the Lord President of the Council, then Lord Hartington, in announcing the throwing open of the college to the kingdom at large, said of the college that— It had been entirely dependent on India, and it had given back to India almost all the men it had drawn to that institution. Circumstances had rendered it necessary to reduce the number of engineers to be sent out from this branch of the public service for some time to come…. The college had taken a step this year in the direction of independence. It had now a Board of Visitors, among whom were some of the most distinguished engineers of the present day…. The college was now about to invite to its walls all comers, and would offer to the kingdom at large, and the colonies, as well as to India, the opportunity for securing a training in that institution, This measure was good, so far as it went, to increase emulation, and to maintaining a full number of students. The noble Duke went on to say that it would he a source of great regret to him if the reduction in the number of appointments in India, hereafter to be offered to the students, should cause a cessation of the connection between the college and the Indian Public Works Department. The noble Duke also said he felt some wonder that the students had time for anything else but to be examined. Lord Salisbury had also commented several times on the effects of over-pressure put upon students. In July, 1881, a teacher of Hindustani ceased to be employed at the college, and the last examination in Hindustani and Indian history was held in July, 1882. This was a greater breach with India and Indian interests than the opening of the college to all comers. It would not do for those who managed the college to shelter themselves under Lord Salisbury's words in 1875— Hindustani, it had been said, opened up the path between the English and the natives of India; that was all very well, but not so to have an explosion of anger in Hindustani…. All who went out must remember that on them was reposed a vast responsibility. There was no doubt that Hindustani did contain a great number of very bad expressions in the way of objurgation, but, if that was the reason for ceasing to teach Hindustani, why did the authorities not fall back on Persian, which was not open to this objection, and was spoken by educated people in Northern India? It was a language worth studying for its literature, and it would be a stepping stone to acquiring Hindustani. The India Office represented some of the best and many of the worst qualities of the Anglo-Indian. Two years ago the Secretary of State limited the appointments of Indian students to two a year; they could not call that keeping up the college for the sake of the India Office. At the last public day—in 1900—the President of the College, Colonel J. W. Ottley, R.E., said that fifteen students had received commissions that year in the Royal Artillery, and he advocated offering a couple of Royal Engineer commissions annually, in addition to half a dozen commissions in the Royal Garrison Artillery. Colonel Ottley also mentioned that the training of telegraph students at Coopers Hill had been severely criticised by the authorities in India. That seemed to have been the principal defect in the instruction. The India Office had stated two years ago that the students at Coopers Hill were insubordinate. He thought Colonel Ottley deserved to be congratulated on the fact that he had been President of the College for two years, during which no complaint of insubordination had arisen. Coopers Hill College compared favourably in this respect with Sandhurst, which had a bad reputation long before the recent case of incendiarism, He suggested that the President of Sandhurst should be retired; that Colonel Ottley, who had done so well at Coopers Hill, should succeed him; and that an old Coopers Hill man, Mr. de Winton, who had been promoted to the chief engineering position under the Madras Government, and whoso appointment was referred to by Lord Wenlock at the Annual Meeting in 1898, should be appointed President of Coopers Hill College. Mr. de Winton was a civil engineer and not a military man, which would be an advantage. He would say in passing that he thought the thanks of the country were due to the Duke of Northumberland and to Lord Hampden for their recent protests against the methods of militarism, and for upholding civil justice. He hoped the noble Earl would be able to give some information on the subject of forestry. In 1894 Lord Reay, the then Under Secretary, advised the engineers and foresters to endeavour to carry the people with them, and he said— The engineers could not execute any work satisfactorily unless they had the support of the native officials; the foresters would find among the people, even those who could not read and write, a most astounding knowledge of the nature of the forests. Lord Wenlock, speaking in 1898 in the absence of the Secretary of State, said great tact and skill would be required by those who joined the forestry, and their zeal would probably be cooled by the collector, who would have to consider the ideas of the natives who cared more for their cattle than for the forests. He (Lord Stanley) had consulted two ex-Bengal civilians, who told him that there was as much to be said for as against the forestry laws; but, in a letter he had recently received on the subject, from an ex-official from another part of India, the writer described the Forestry Department as a necessary evil, and the most hated of any throughout India. This was owing to this Department aiming at making money, its cutting off the villagers and their cattle from the springs and employing people other than local men who oppress the villagers and levy blackmail from them. He thought that Mr. Groom, the Professor of Botany at Cooper's Hill was too good for the place and for foresters, and that he should be offered the post of Director of Kew Gardens on the next vacancy. Asked what he thought about the Coopers Hill men, the writer said he had known many of them in India, and they were most enthusiastic in their profession. It could not be asserted with any appearance of truth that the College had had that beneficial effect on the Indian Public Works Department that its founders had a right to expect. The construction of the Bengal Railways, even of the most recent, and the consequent floods and malaria close to Calcutta, proved how defective the engineering had been. He believed that the cause of this had been that the Coopers Hill men had never had fair play, and that they were kept down and kept out of all more responsible appointments by the Royal Engineers. In 1886, the President, Sir A. Taylor, compared the training of the Royal Engineers with that of the Coopers Hill men; their preliminary education was not the same. The general drift of opinion was in favour of the Coopers Hill men, as far as regarded their preliminary training; but, on the other hand, it was said that the Royal Engineers could, in consequence of their strict military training, be more fully relied on for carrying out their orders. In some cases, such as insufficient outlets for rain water, remonstrance with headquarters might be better than military obedience. One way of giving the Coopers Hill men fair play and an opportunity of showing what they could do, would be to employ them on work that was much needed, the increase of accommodation for third class passengers at many of the stations of the State Railways. Such work would test not only their skill in building, but also their capacity for attending to estimates and contractors' figures.

He was sorry Lord Reay was not present. If he had been, he would have asked him why he expressed joy at the fact that Coopers Hill students bad not been hampered by the study of any Latin. Cicero's Oration against Verres, and Juvenal's Satire on Proconsuls, would be useful to Indian officials. He contended that it would be grossly unjust to charge India with the cost of the college, and then to make use of it for other than Indian purposes, especially now that Lord George Hamilton had so reduced the appointments of native Indian engineers, and that in 1900 the President announced that fifteen students had received commissions in the Royal Artillery, and that the Indian Public Works Department had received so little benefit from the college. The Secretary of State could plead the great amount of work he had to get through as an excuse for not attending the public day at Coopers Hill College this year; but, in that event, he hoped the noble Earl the Under Secretary would be charged with the duty, and that, in his speech, he would state how many Indian students were now to be found at that college.


My Lords, I have striven very hard during the noble Lord's speech—some portions of which I regret I could not follow—to arrive at the actual points on which he desires information. But I am bound to say that, with one or two exceptions. I am unable to see how in any way the remarks he has made affect the Question on the Paper. With regard to the first part of his Question, last year various changes were made in the constitution of the college, and during the past year a considerable sum of money has been spent on improvements, both outside and inside the college. So far as the Secretary of State can state his views at this moment, the college is intended to continue to discharge the work for which it was originally started. As to the second part of the Question, the noble Lord expressed the opinion that the Coopers Hill men were not treated fairly, owing to the fact that the Royal Engineers were given all the best appointments in the Public Works Department of India. The facts are entirely contrary to that statement. The Royal Engineers have been for a very long time a decreasing element of the Public Works Department, and there is no question now of any unfairness or interference with the rights of Coopers Hill students. As a matter of fact, of the twelve officers who rank as chief engineers in the railway, irrigation, roads, and building branches of the Indian Public Works Department only one is a Royal Engineer. I have taken some pains to get the statistics on this subject. I think the noble Lord must be thinking of a time twenty years past. It is perfectly true that there was then a certain grievance. In 1881 the total number of men employed in the Public Works Department of India, including Bombay and Madras, was 990; of that number 253, or 25 percent., were Royal Engineers. In 1891 the total number employed in the department was 887, of whom 103 were Royal Engineers. The number of Royal Engineers was therefore reduced in that year to 12 per cent. In 1901 the total number employed was 768, of whom 74, or only 9 per cent., were Royal Engineers. The Coopers Hill College began to supply men to the Public Works Department of India in 1873, and now the pupils are filling up all the different grades. But there were men who were appointed under covenants before the Coopers Hill College was started, and these men are naturally the seniors of the department. At the present time the majority of the posts in the secretariat are held by Coopers Hill men. With regard to the last part of the question, it is perfectly true that when there has been vacant accommodation a few Colonial and other students not intended for the Indian Government service have been admitted to the college; but the fees paid by those students cover the cost of their education, and therefore no charge is thrown upon the Indian revenue. Then, again, during the last two or three years it is also true that a few commissions have been given to students in the Royal Engineers and in the Royal Artillery, and this is also considered by the Secretary of State to have a very wholesome effect, as it raises the keenness and the standard of education in the college. It must be remembered that these commissions have been given wholly owing to the fact that great pressure had to be put by the War Office to recruit officers for the South African war, and to the fact that suitable men were at hand in the Coopers Hill College. This has in no way inflicted a hardship on other students, and in no way has it been a burden on the revenues of India. If it is intended—I do not say it is—to give commissions to a certain number of students annually, it is quite possible that the Secretary of State for India will come to some arrangement with the War Office to receive a certain sum of money to provide for the additional cost that may be put upon the college; but that, of course, is a matter on which I can express no opinion, because, so far as I know, there is no intention annually to give commissions to the students at Coopers Hill. When the noble Lord states, as he does in his question, that the college is almost entirely devoted to the military and engineering instruction of British and Colonial students, he states what is quite incorrect because, with these very few exceptions, the college is entirely devote to the education of men for the Government service in India. The president of the Irrigation Commission in India, who has recently returned home, stated semiofficially that he is immensely struck with the esprit de corps and ability shown by all the Coopers Hill men with whom he came into contact. With reference to the noble Lord's concluding remark, I may say that I believe it is the intention of the Secretary of State to be present at Coopers Hill College on the public day this year, and 1 may accompany him.

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