§ *THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
, who had given notice "To ask His Majesty's Government whether it is proposed to place any portion of the cost of the troops in South Africa upon the revenues of India; and to move for any Papers relating to the subject," said: My Lords, on Friday morning last those who take an interest in Indian affairs were startled by an announcement that His Majesty's Government contemplated making a demand upon the Indian Government to pay a portion of the cost of certain troops who are to be kept 1095 in South Africa, upon the ground that those troops would forma more available reserve for India than if they had been retained in this country. I said that those who were interested in matters of this kind were startled when they found this announcement in the new-papers, and I think, my Lords, that it was very natural that that should be the case, be cause this proposal is one altogether inconsistent with the principles which have up to now guided the financial relations between India and this country. Hitherto it has been the rule that India should pay every sixpence of the cost, direct or indirect, of the troops in India, but beyond that payment I have never beard, I certainly have never known, of any attempt being made to cast upon the revenues of India a portion of the cost of those troops of His Majesty who might be available for purposes of reserves for that country. It has sometimes been argued that we were unduly hard upon India in some of the demands we made upon her in reference to the payment of her own garrison. Some persons have objected to the fact that she was made to pay for the cost of all the recruits that were required for the British Army in India, and also her due proportion of the pensions of those who had served in that country. But, my Lords, beyond that our demands have not hitherto gone, and I think that this new departure is one fraught with great danger to the financial condition of India.
There has been recently, as your Lordships know, a question between the Government of this country and the Government of India in respect to the payment of certain additional charges for the pay of British troops. Against that charge, at least to the full amount, Lord Curzon made a vigorous protest. I am sorry that the Papers in which these facts are brought forward have not been laid before this House, but they were moved for by a private Member in the House of Commons, and therefore, not having been presented to Parliament by Command they have not been laid before us. It will be seen that there was a strong feeling on the part of the Government of India that even that demand, at least to its full extent, could not be justified; but that demand, my Lords, whether it showed due con- 1096 sideration to the finances of India, or whether it did not, was a demand which we must admit fell within the principles that have hitherto guided the financial relations between the two countries. It stood altogether upon a different footing from the demand which is now made, because the present demand is one for the payment of a portion of the expenses of those troops which are to be stationed in South Africa on the ground that they constitute a more available reserve for India than if they had been stationed in this country. The total number of these troops is to be 25,000, and the total extra charge for them is to be £ 1,500,000.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
That was Mr. Brodrick's statement in the House of Commons. Well, my Lords, that is an entire abandonment of the principles which have hitherto been adopted. The charge hitherto, as I have said, has had reference solely to the troops that are in India. I am speaking, of course, of a time of peace. This proposes to place a charge, the exact amount of which we have not been told, upon Indian revenues for the purpose of troops available for reserves. The whole British Army is the reserve of the Army of India, and I cannot see, if such a demand has not been made before, how it can be brought forward on the present occasion with any justice. At all events, it is a demand so grave as affecting the finances of India that at least it ought not to be pressed, except with the full consent of the Government of India, and after the most full consideration of it in all its bearings. But, my Lords, it is said that this demand is to be made because these troops, being in South Africa, will be more available for Indian purposes, and will reach India from South Africa more speedily than they would reach it from this country, and therefore, being a reserve for India, India ought to pay a portion of their cost. It seems to me that that is an argument which cuts both ways, and that if it is fair that India should pay a portion of the cost of these troops because they form an available 1097 reserve for her purposes, the British Treasury ought to pay a portion of the cost of the troops in India because they afford a generally available reserve for this country.
I should have thought that His Majesty's Government might have recollected that it is not so long ago that they had the benefit of the troops in India. You wanted a reserve and you turned to India. If it had not been for the troops obtained from India at the outbreak of the late war, before any steps had been taken for the effectual defence of the colony of Natal, the Boer invaders would not have reached Ladysmith alone, they would have taken Ladysmith and they would have taken Pietermaritzburg, and when ray gallant friend Sir George White arrived at Durban he would have found himself shut up there by Boer besiegers. But you pay nothing for reserves of that kind. You wanted troops for China, and you went to India. But you pay nothing for reserves of that kind. Even at this moment a certain number of Indian troops are in Somaliland. I do not want to press that, because it is a small matter; but there they are available for Imperial purposes, and if you are to say to India that they must pay a portion of the cost of the troops in South Africa as forming a reserve for India, they may justly reply that we must pay a portion of the cost of the troops which they maintain, and which this country uses as a reserve from time to time for her own purposes. It seems to me that to that contention there is no answer. I cannot conceive what the answer will be if it be given. If the Government admit the justice of the contention, and if they intend, at all events in the future, if not in the past, to pay for troops kept in India which they may use for reserves, then I submit that Mr. Brodrick will get very little out of his proposed bargain. It is not India that will benefit by this, it is South Africa, and on that pant I will say a word in a moment.
But before I pass to that part of the question I should like to ask to what extent the Government can show that the 25,000 men that they are going to keep in South Africa will be able to get to India materially quicker than they 1098 could if sent from this country. We all know that South Africa is, geographically, much nearer India than England is, but it is not merely a question of geographical position. It is also a question of transport, and I hope we shall be informed in the course of this evening what are the chances of getting transport rapidly for these troops which are to be sent to India. I am a little doubtful about the large amount of freight which can at any time be procured suddenly in South Africa. It may be very large and very valuable, but at the present moment I am slightly sceptical on the subject, and I am more sceptical because, when that point was raised in another place, Mr. Brodrick said—We have thought all about that. We could yet freight from South Africa and from India.No doubt you can get freight from India, but then Bombay is not close either to Durban—which, by the way, is not a first-rate harbour—or to Cape Town. You have got to take up your freight in Bombay, and then send it empty to South Africa to fetch the troops. Will His Majesty's Government be good enough to say what amount of time they really think will be saved to India in obtaining those reinforcements if they are kept in South Africa rather than in England? I confess that I think it will be very slight. It may be a fortnight, it may be three weeks; but does the Government really believe that there is going to arise suddenly in India such an instant danger that you cannot afford to wait for a week or two before you send out these reinforcements, which, by-the-bye, Mr. Brodrick says are not to be first-rate men. They are to be men to occupy fortresses and stations while the other troops go to the front. Whence is this sudden attack to come? I know that there are a certain number of people in this country who go to bed every night under the conviction that there are 100,000 Russians buried underground on the other side of the Hindu-Kush, but I do not suppose that is the view of His Majesty's Government. I cannot conceive what is the extent of the danger which is pressing, or is likely to press, upon India which would make it to her 1099 advantage that she should pay a considerable sum towards the cost of these troops, which are to be maintained, as I contend, for other purposes in South Africa.
It is not India that will benefit by these troops, but, as I have said, South Africa. Mr. Brodrick admits that. He admits that the presence of 25,000 men in South Africa will be a great advantage to the inhabitants of that country. There is no doubt about it. South Africa will profit by the heavy expenditure which the presence of that number of men will involve. But are they going to pay anything? Is the country in which these troops are to be quartered to make a contribution towards their cost? The language of Mr. Brodrick on this point was singularly indefinite, and, indeed, rather mysterious. He spoke frankly enough of the pecuniary advantages which would be gained by South Africa from the presence of these troops. He said that the large expenditure incidental to the maintenance of this force would, naturally contribute considerably to the prosperity of these colonies; that that was a matter which must be considered with regard to the extra expenditure which was incurred; and that it would no doubt be the subject of consideration by those concerned. That is not the language used with regard to India—the language used with regard to South Africa is very vague and indefinite—and it may mean that South Africa is to pay something, or it may mean that she is to pay nothing. I ask His Majesty's Government to tell us to-night whether it is intended that South Africa should make any contribution or not.
The sound principle is that which used to be called the Cardwell principle—that British colonies in which troops are quartered should pay for those troops. You are going to keep such a large force in South Africa that that principle might be suspended for a time if she paid an appropriate contribution towards their cost. But whether South Africa pays or not has nothing to do with this question with regard to India. I contend that His Majesty's Government have no right to cast this charge upon the Indian revenue. It has never been done before. 1100 Troops in England have always been available as reserves for India, and you have never asked her to pay a single shilling; and her troops, for which she has paid to the uttermost farthing, you have always been willing to use for Imperial purposes when occasion required. I cannot help thinking that in real truth this question of reserves is a mere excuse. The Secretary of State wants another £1,500,000, and does not know how to get it. He did not like taking more than he could help out of taxation, and he has turned, in his perplexity, to India, thinking that he might get something from her. It is not just, it is not right, that you should treat India in this way. You dare not put a charge of that sort on your self-governing colonies—you know you dare not—and you turn for the contribution to India, where you think you have the power of enforcing it. You ask her for a contribution which you would not ask from Australia or any of the other colonies. Take the case of Canada. The Canadian frontier is a long frontier and one difficult to defend. I believe the colonial troops in Canada are excellent troops, but the reserve of Canada is here in England. If Canada were to be threatened with a danger,—which God forbid!—she would turn to us for her reserves, and she would rightly turn to us, but you are not going to ask Canada to pay anything for those reserves beforehand. You are not going to ask her to make any contribution to the military expenditure of this country. Why should you ask India to do that which you do not ask Canada to do? I shall be told, I daresay, that this matter is still under consideration, and, as Mr. Brodrick said, that "communications are passing between this country and India upon the subject." I venture to say that this is not a proposal which ought to have been submitted by the Cabinet of this country to the Government of India; that it is a proposal so inconsistent with the whole of our financial policy in regard to that country that if it had been asked for by a particular Minister, the Cabinet—if there is such an institution still in existence—ought to have rejected it; and I say yet further, and 1101 still more strongly, that if communications are going on at this time, with the Governor of India upon the subject, nothing ought to have induced Mr. Brodrick to allude to it in the House of Commons. That is not the way to treat the Viceroy of India: and if these official communications are still going on, it was indeed an occasion for a little of that reticence of which we have not, perhaps, too much among our public men in the present day.
I do not know what Lord Curzon will say to these proposals, but I think the correspondence which was laid before the House of Commons shows that he is ready and anxious to resist any proposals that he thinks are unjust to India. There is another question, and a grave one too, which I should like to ask. Has the Secretary of State in Council been consulted on this subject, and are there any Minutes by members of the Council upon it? because, if so, we are entitled to see those Minutes. Another very grave aspect of this question is that if the proposal is carried out you will have succeeded in doing that which is by no means easy to do in India—you will have succeeded in uniting Europeans and natives in one common cause. I have hero an extract from a telegram from India giving an account of the view taken of this proposal by the Englishman newspaper, of Calcutta. The noble Marquess the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs knows the Englishman very well. It is the leading European newspaper in Calcutta, and I believe the noble Marquess will agree with me when I say that it represents the general views of Europeans, and especially of the non-official Europeans of that capital. This telegram states that the Englishman has published an article on the proposal submitted by Mr. Brodrick, and proseeds—The journal strenuously protests against the suggestion that India should be asked to pay a portion of the cost of the maintenance of the troops in South Africa. The impost would be unjust, as the reason given for it is trivial. Rather England should pay a portion of the cost of the troops in India, which have repeatedly come forward in Imperial crises.That is the opinion of a leading newspaper in the capital of India—a newspaper which generally desires to support a Conservative Government, and which 1102 would not have made that statement so strongly unless it was convinced that it was echoing the general feeling of the European community. There can be no doubt as to the view which the natives will take of this matter, and what you will do by this proposal, if you persist in it, will be to unite Europeans and natives alike in common complaint against a proceeding which they consider to be unjust, and which I am compelled to say seems to me to be unjust also.
I have great confidence in Lord Curzon. He is a man of ability, and, I believe, of firmness of character. He has shown determination in the telegram contained in the papers to which I have referred. I hope, therefore, that he will resist this proposal, and it is partly that he may feel that if he does resist it there are those in this country who will sympathise with him, that I have ventured to bring the matter under your Lordships' notice to-night. If he resists it, and his resistance is successful, well and good. It will still be much to be regretted that the Government of this country should have made such a proposal at all. But if Lord Curzon were to object and were to be overruled, I say, without the slightest hesitation, that you would raise up a more mischievous discontent throughout the length and breadth of India than has been created by any English Government within the last fifty years. We are invited in these days to take very strange measures to keep the Empire together. I do not think the British Empire is moribund, and I do not think it is going to fall to pieces; but you must remember that India is a part of the Empire, that India is the greatest dependency of the British Crown, and I assure you that you cannot afford to act towards India unjustly, or to treat her sentiments with indifference and disrespect. I beg to move for Papers.
§ Moved, "That an humble address be presented to His Majesty's Government for Papers relating to the proposal of His Majesty's Government for placing a portion of the cost of the troops in South Africa upon the revenues of India."—(The Marquess of Ripon.)1103
*THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (The Earl of HARDWICKE)
My Lords, the noble Marquess, who is an authority on all matters connected with India, and who has had a long experience of Indian Government, has pictured to us, if I may say so, gloomy anticipations regarding the proposal of His Majesty's Government, and has looked at this question apparently from the point of view of a paragraph in a newspaper called the Englishman, to which he has referred. He commenced by telling us that certain principles existed as regards military expenditure in India, and I shall at a later stage be glad to tie him to that statement. He then went on to say that, so far from asking India to pay the cost of any troops that might be quartered in South Africa, it should rather be the duty of the British Government to pay the cost of the existing troops in India.
§ *THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
I felt that that was an entirely novel proposal, and it was not until the end of his speech that I was able to gather that it was only suggested to him by a paragraph in the newspaper to which he referred. I may as well read the words of the Secretary of State for War, on which the question of the noble Marquess is based. Mr. Brodrick stated that—If a considerable body of troops was held in South Africa in a good climate, to avoid the extra expenditure of keeping them constantly standing idle in India in a worse climate, he thought they might fairly ask for some contribution from India.That is all that the Secretary of State said, and yet the noble Marquess has assumed, firstly, that this proposal is made with only one object—namely, to get the Secretary of State out of a difficulty; and, secondly, that India is to be asked to pay the whole of the extra cost.
§ *THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
Then I misunderstood the noble Marquess. India 1104 is to pay a portion of the cost over and above what those troops would cost were they on the home establishment in this country. I think I can put a different complexion on the question at issue than that which the noble Marquess has put before the House. I would refer the House to statements made by the Prime Minister and by other Members of His Majesty's Government in the earlier stages of the present session, which show that His Majesty's Government have recently had seriously to consider the military strength of India, having regard to the possible invasion of her North-West Frontier. But this question of India's capacity to resist such an attack is not a new one. It has been the subject of correspondence and grave consideration by successive Governments and successive Viceroys for more than ten years past. Without suggesting that this correspondence has led to no result, it must be admitted that up to the present no definite or entirely satisfactory conclusion has been reached. It is admitted, both by the Government of India and by the Home Government—and I do not think the noble Marquess will deny it—that in the event of such an attack the whole resources of the British Empire would, and should, be at the disposal of India.
§ *THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
But the Government of India have naturally been reluctant permanently to increase the number of British troops stationed in India; and even had the Government of India been willing of recent years to defray the cost of an increased establishment I feel it hardly necessary to add that His Majesty's Government, owing to the war in South Africa, would not have been in a position to make that addition to the Indian garrison. In this connection I do not wish to convey to the House the idea that there has been any difference of opinion between His Majesty's Government and the Government of India as to the absolute necessity of additional troops in the event of an immediate outbreak of hostilities; nor do I wish to suggest that there has been any difference of opinion as to the number of troops necessary both 1105 in the first instance and at a later stage of war. What has been in question is the gist of the present subject of discussion. The Government of India have come to the conclusion, conjointly with His Majesty's Government, that on the immediate outbreak of hostilities the present British garrison of India would not be sufficient; and the question then arises whether His Majesty's Government can guarantee to send to India from these shores the necessary force as a first aid within the time the Government of India consider it will be necessary to have them. Assuming that His Majesty's Government do not see their way to guarantee to send that relatively small force—I use the expression "relatively small" as it would be a relatively small force compared to the force that would have to be sent out at a later stage—as a first aid to India, what is the alternative? The noble Marquess has told us the alternative himself. The only alternative is to increase permanently the British garrison; and it has always been admitted that India must pay for every soldier in the permanent garrison. This problem has been fully considered by the Committee of Imperial Defence, upon whom devolves the duty of advising His Majesty's Government in matters of this kind; and in addition to the problem of meeting the requirements of India in the event of war they have also had to consider the strength of the garrison that it would be necessary to maintain in South Africa. My right hon. friend the Secretary of State for War stated the other night in the House of Commons that His Majesty's Government had considered this problem of the maintenance of a force in South Africa from two standpoints—the Colonial standpoint and the Imperial standpoint; and I do not think that a better example could be given to Parliament and the public of the advantages that can result to different and far distant portions of the Empire from the deliberations of the Committee of Imperial Defence than that given by their treatment of these two problems: the security of our Indian frontier, and the force to be maintained in South Africa.
The question which the noble Marquess has addressed to me, whether it is proposed to place any proportion of the cost 1106 of the troops in South Africa upon the revenues of India, has already been answered in the House of Commons, and I can inform the noble Marquess that the Secretary of State for India, with the approval of his Council, has placed the proposal before the Government of India; but, inasmuch as the scheme cannot possibly take effect until next year, he has not pressed the Government of India for an immediate reply; indeed, it is the wish of His Majesty's Government tint the Government of India should give the fullest possible consideration to the proposal. As I have said, the scheme is advantageous to India; it is advantageous to South Africa, and, I think, it is in some way advantageous to this country. Let me briefly explain its nature. The proposal is to keep a force of 25,000 men in South Africa. Of this force 12,500 men will be at the disposal of the Indian Government. These 12,500 men would cost in this country £1,000,000, and would cost in South Africa £ 1,750,000; and the Indian Government is asked to pay a proportion of the cost over and above what they would cost in this country. If India had to increase her establishment by 12,500 British troops, it would cost her £1,250,000 a year; and if she did not increase her garrison by that amount she would have to rely on this country sending the troops from these shores within a given time after the outbreak of hostilities. His Majesty's Government are not prepared to give that guarantee, but they are prepared to guarantee that these 12,500 men can be dispatched from South Africa within the specified time; and in making that statement I have authority to say that it is concurred in the naval advisers of the Government.
§ *THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
I am afraid I am unable to answer that question. The advantages of this arrangement to South Africa have already been referred to. A force of 25,000 men may be reckoned, as I think my right hon. friend stated in the House of Commons the other night, to 1107 spend yearly £2,000,000 in the country, and some £2,500,000 are being spent on the building of barracks. The men who have served their time will doubtless in some instances, perhaps in many instances, settle in the country, and there are also four garrison regiments to be maintained in South Africa, many of the men belonging to which will, doubtless, find useful employment there when their term of service is completed. In these circumstances, I think that His Majesty's Government are perfectly justified in asking the Colonial Government to contribute something towards the cost, just as in the same way they are asking the Indian Government to contribute. In looking at the advantages which may result to this country, we are saved from having to increase our establishments. We should have to increase our establishments, if India had to increase hers, for the supply of drafts and reliefs. That we are saved, and this arrangement will enable us to supply drafts and reliefs abroad without in any way dislocating our present Army system.
The noble Marquess referred to the assistance rendered to the Imperial Government by India from time to time in South Africa, in China, and in Somaliland. As regards Somali-land I would only make this one remark, that if it were not for India we should not be interested in Somaliland at all. Perhaps the noble Marquess is prepared to dispute that, but I merely mention it by the way. No one knows more than I do, how willingly and how generously assistance has been given by the Indian Government to this country as during the late war I happened to beat the India Office. The Government of India are always eager to assist in every possible way. It is an advantage to the troops to gain experience of active service, while in time of peace they can be spared from India. Moreover, it is a great saving to the Government of India to allow the Imperial Government to employ their troops. Even last year I believe the saving on the Military Budget to the Government of India was over one million sterling.
The noble Marquess has also referred to the increase of pay of the British soldier, of which the Indian Govern- 1108 ment have to bear their share. There are two classes of payment which the Indian Government have been asked to bear. One is the increased pay of the British soldier. The Indian Government are bound to keep a British force in India, and to pay it according to the scale which His Majesty's Government has laid down. But this question of a contribution towards the maintenance of the troops in South Africa, which, we believe, is for the advantage of India, is certainly a matter in which the Secretary of State in Council and the Government of India have an absolutely free hand. The Secretary of State in Council is charged by Act of Parliament with the control—the absolute control—of the revenues of India, and, as the noble Marquess is probably aware, a majority of the Secretary of State's Council can overrule him They are absolutely independent of Party feeling or any other consideration, except what in their judgment is in the interests of India. I cannot help regretting, therefore, that the noble Marquess should have come down to this House to condemn so hastily this proposal which has been framed by His Majesty's Government in the interests of India and after consultation with the military advisers of the Secretary of State for India, and which has been submitted as a proposal to the Government of India, with the full consent of the Secretary of State for India and his Council.
§ *THE EARL OF NORTHBROOK
My Lords the noble Earl opposite appears to have entirely forgotten, or never to have heard of, the reference of this question between India and the Imperial Government to a Commission over which my noble friend behind me, Lord Welby, presided. The noble Earl accused my noble friend who raised this question this evening of bringing forward a novel proposition when he said that the Imperial Government should pay a contribution to India in consequence of the great assistance we derive on many occasions by the use of Indian troops on Imperial service. So far from being novel, it has been an argument which has constantly been brought forward by successive Viceroys of India in respect to the claims made by the United Kingdom 1109 upon India for certain military expenses, and by no one more ably and more fully than by my noble friend, the Marquess of Lansdowne, when he was Viceroy and Governor-General of India. That question came before the Commission presided over by Lord Welby, and I will trouble your Lordships with an extract from the Report of that Commission, published four years ago. The Commission reported that—India provides in the East a reserve force which, when India is quiet, can promptly and effectively, though only temporarily, aid British policy in the East, diminishing to that extent the number of men which in the absence of that assistance the Home Government must attach to distant parts from the garrison kept it home or In the colonies. It appears to us that India renders in this respect a real service to the United Kingdom, and that in respect of it she is entitled to liberal treatment. On the other hand it may be argued that the Army in the United Kingdom reciprocally maintains a reserve strength available for India in cases of extreme need. This is true,"—I would call your Lordships' particular attention to the concluding words—but if we are to judge from what has happened in the past, the circumstances in which India calls upon the United Kingdom for special aid are not of the same kind, nor likely to recur so frequently, as the calls of the United Kingdom on India.Nothing can be more true than that. The case cannot be more fairly put than it is put in that Report. The Royal Commission, in the conclusion of their Report, said that the claims of India in this respect ought to be taken into consideration, when what is called the rate per head for the troops in India was reconsidered. If that was true in the year 1899, when my noble friend's Commission reported, it is a great deal more true now, and I wish to enforce it. I do not believe the Government can have considered the aid which was given by India to the United Kingdom during the South African war, or this proposal which is now being discussed would never have been made. The actual number of British troops from the garrison of India sent to South Africa was 8,215, and without the assistance of those troops I almost shudder to think what the result would have been in the earlier period of the war. But, besides that, there were no less than 8,743 native followers who assisted our soldiers in the field. The native Army of the 1110 King would have been only too delighted and proud to have fought side by side with the British Army, but it was not considered desirable, for reasons with which your Lordships are aware, to make use of the native Army in the fighting line. While the South African war was in progress a difficulty arose in China. How was that difficulty met? It was met by His Majesty's Indian forces. There were 16,300 of the native Army sent to China from India, and only 300 English troops. Is that not a valuable reserve? Can it be said that it is a novel idea, as suggested by the noble Earl the Under-Secretary of State for War, that, especially when you are asking for money from India, some consideration should be shown to that country on account of the military services which she has so nobly rendered to this country?
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
I did not understand the noble Marquess to refer to the services of the Indian garrison to this country. What I thought the noble Marquess said was that it was the duty of His Majesty's Government rather than to ask India to pay for these troops, to pay for the stationary British force in India.
§ *THE EARL OF NORTHBROOK
The services of the Indian Army are forgotten when it comes to money. Whenever there is difficulty it appears to me that poor India is called upon to pay. I do not know whether I am right, but it seems to me that at the outset the garrison proposed for South Africa was insufficient. I cannot help thinking that 15,000 men, which was the force proposed in 1901 in Mr. Brodrick's statement, was hardly a sufficient garrison to put in South Africa just at the end of a serious war, and I think it may be desirable that that number should be increased to 25,000 men. It is a very dangerous thing to run the protection of a country by British troops too fine, especially just at the close of a war, and when, too, according to some people, there may be some danger of a rising of the natives. Therefore, I do not quarrel with the proposal that the strength of 1111 our Army in South Africa should be increased to 25,000 men. But then the question arises—Is the presence of those troops in South Africa so greatly to the advantage of India as to make it right that the Indian Government should provide a considerable portion of the cost? I think the advantage is an exceedingly doubtful one.
We have had no real details before us of this matter. The noble Earl the Under - Secretary of State for War referred in the course of his observations to correspondence that has been going on with the Government of India on the subject. I am well aware that the question of an aggressive movement on the part of Russia on the North-west Frontier is a very delicate one, and it would not be right for me to ask for any correspondence with the Government of India as to the strength of the Army that would be necessary to meet such a contingency. But if it would not be right for me to ask for that correspondence, it is not right to refer to any correspondence of the kind in defence of this proposal. I greatly doubt whether any of the I military authorities in India would be I prepared to accept the proposal, so far as I understand it from Mr. Brodrick's speech, as of any great value in regard to the position of India. Originalry it was proposed to have twelve battalions of infantry in South Africa, but now it is proposed to have fourteen infantry battalions and four garrison battalions, so that there is an increase of two regular battalions and four garrison battalions. But these fourteen battalions are taken out of the ordinary machinery for keeping up the strength of battalions abroad. It is some time since I was at the War Office, but I know enough of the details to state that the principle of our Army is that there should be one battalion abroad and one battalion at home, the latter keeping up the strength of the former; in that way the battalion abroad is always kept up to an efficient strength. So far as I understand Mr. Brodrick's proposal, these fourteen battalions that are to be left in South Africa will not have any battalions at home which can keep up their strength. Perhaps the noble Earl will correct me if I am wrong.
§ *THE EARL OF NORTHBROOK
That being so, what kind of battalions would these be if they were wanted in India? They are to be kept up by boys sent out as soon as they have had their six months drill. Therefore these fourteen battalions in South Africa, on which you are to rely to give effective assistance to India in case of danger, will be battalions composed almost entirely of young men. Mr. Brodrick admitted, I think, in his speech that you would have to send imperfect battalions, and battalions only fit to be in Calcutta, Madras, and so on. Is that a great benefit to India? And when they get to India, how are they to be reinforced? There will be no battalions at home on which they can rely to keep up their strength, and hence you will have some of the most inefficient battalions in the Army on which to rely as reinforcements to India in time of difficulty. I cannot think that the proposal, from a military point of view, is a good one; but I do not wish to go into that, because I think the important question for your Lordships to consider is whether it is just and fair, on the ground of the possible advantage of troops being nearer India, to ask the Government of India to pay a substantial sum in regard to their support. I have no hesitation in saying, looking at the whole question, that it would not be fair.
I consider that India has not been fairly treated by this country in respect to the charge made upon her in regard to military expenditure. That is proved by the Report of the Commission over which my noble friend behind me presided. After a most impartial investigation of all the circumstances of the case for many years, their decision was that we should pay to India something like £300,000 a year. If the proof was wanted that India had been badly treated before, the proof was then afforded; and in the discussion which took place I made what I thought was a very reasonable suggestion—namely, that as the delay of settling this quest on was entirely due to the procrastination of the Government of 1113 this country the decision given by the Royal Commission should be considered as having been made at a reasonable time after all the facts of the case had been known, and that five or six years arrears should be paid to the Government of India. Absolutely no notice was taken by His Majesty's Government of that suggestion, which appeared to me to be the fairest suggestion that could be put before any Government. I therefore say that I feel a want of confidence in the manner in which India has been treated, and possibly may be treated, by His Majesty's Government, and I hope that if the ruble Duke opposite, who is, I believe, Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence, takes part in the debate this evening, he will give us an assurance that no charge will be placed upon the revenues of India in this matter before thy opinions of the Secretary of State for India in Council and of the Viceroy of India in Council have been laid before Parliament, and Parliament has had an opportunity of expressing an opinion upon the subject. I share entirely the opinion expressed by my noble friend behind me, that it is most unfortunate that such a question as this is, which is absolutely certain to create great agitation in India, should have been brought before the other House of Parliament in so casual a way. Surely it would not have been impossible to have been a little reticent, to have waited till you had the opinion of the Governor-General of India before nuking a proposal to saddle India with a large charge in order to save the Army Estimates of this country. I do not think my noble friend opposite answered the Question put to the Government by the noble Marquess behind me—namely, whether any Papers can be presented now upon this subject, and I beg to repeat the Question.
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
The Secretary of State for India has stated, in reply to a Question in the House of Commons this afternoon, that correspondence has only just commenced, and that he is unable at the present moment to state whether he will at a future date be able to lay Papers or not.
§ VISCOUNT GOSCHEN
My Lords, I think it is extremely fortunate that both in this House and in the other House there is always an extreme sensitiveness with regard to charging Indian revenues for Imperial purposes or for any purposes that may not seem exclusively Indian. That is a feeling which I share to the full. I view with suspicion every measure which is taken which places any fresh burden upon India without the full consent of the Secretary of State in Council and the Governor-General of India. It is from that point of view that I approach this important subject which is now in debate, and I confess that I came down to the House prejudiced against the proposal of His Majesty's Government, but I was prejudiced against that proposal because, like my two noble friends who have addressed the House from the Benches opposite, I was not in possession of the full facts. I think that the facts which have been placed before the House in the able speech of the noble Earl the Under-Secretary have placed a different complexion upon the whole of this transaction. I think that my noble friend who has just sat down did scant justice to the noble Earl the Under-Secretary with reference to the statement which he made, because he stated in the most absolute way that the Secretary of State in Council, with the assent of his Council, has agreed to the scheme.
§ *THE EARL OF NORTHBROOK
I did not understand the noble Earl to say that I understood him to say that with the assent of the Secretary of State's Council, he had sent the proposal out to India for the opinion of the Governor-General.
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
The proposal has been made to the Government of India, but obviously the Secretary of State in Council would not have made the proposal if it had not been approved of in the interests of India.
§ *THE EARL OF NORTHBROOK
Is my noble friend perfectly certain of the accuracy of that statement, because I have information from the best source which makes me doubt it?
§ THE EARL OK HARDWICKE
The proposal was made after consultation with the military advisers of the Secretary of State for India, and was submitted by the Secretary of State for India, with the approval of his Council, to the Government of India.
§ VISCOUNT GOSCHEN
I understood my noble friend further to say that the military advisers of the Secretary of State in Council had been consulted, and had agreed to the proposal.
§ VISCOUNT GOSCHEN
If this is so, it is a most important point, and dispels much of the doubt in my mind as to the proposal of His Majesty's Government. Another statement that has influence upon me is that the scheme will not be carried through unless the Indian Government agree to it, and, that being so, the greater part of the objections raised fall to the ground. The next point to consider is whether the proposal will be for the benefit of India. My noble friend suggested that the scheme was entirely in favour of this country as relieving the Army Estimates, but I think we must attach great weight to two considerations which the Under Secretary of State has put before us. One is the examination of this question by the Committee of Imperial Defence, and the other the inherent strength of the case. The Defence Committee must have had before them expert evidence with reference to Indian military questions. The Defence Committee are too strong a body, I think, for it to be thought that they would simply give a decision in this matter which might relieve the Secretary of State for War of a difficulty, if he were in a difficulty. I reject that view entirely. I feel confident that the Committee of Defence have examined it. I know the men who serve on that Committee, naval and military, as well as political, and I am confident they would not have given their assent to such a scheme if they had not considered it a sound scheme, and one for the advantage of India. It is for that object that the Committee of Imperial Defence was 1116 organised. This is one of the first bits of work of the re-organised Committee of Defence that has been made public, and I am not prepared to condemn a scheme which has been devised by the Defence Committee without hearing more argument than has so far been brought against it.
What is the contention of the Committee of Imperial Defence and of His Majesty's Government? That immediately on the outbreak of hostilities directed against India, reinforcements could more quickly be sent from the Cape than from this country. When there was a question of a whole Army Corps being sent, I thought the argument sound that you would not be able to find ships enough at the Cape to transfer that number of men rapidly to India, and that therefore they might as well be here; but this is to be a first instalment of assistance, and the troops would be employed on garrison duty, or for the maintenance of lines of communication and services of that kind, by which I think considerable assistance might be rendered to the defence of India. My noble friend asked what was the time specified for this reaching India, and I noticed that there was a natural reticence on the part of the Government. If I were replying on behalf of the Government I should take the same view, that it would be injudicious to speculate on the time which it would take to transfer the troops from the Cape to India. But for this force of 12,500 men only, the probability is that you would find sufficient freight on the spot to transfer them rapidly to India.
I have felt it my duty to make these observations, and to mention the effect which the speech of the noble Earl the Under-Secretary has made upon me; and so far I have come to the conclusion that, subject always to the absolute and cordial consent of the Indian Government, it would be wise to carry out a scheme by which, as has been pointed out, reserves will be kept in a more healthy climate, and at a spot whence they can very rapidly be conveyed to the place where they will be wanted. I do not propose to go into the military part of the question, but I think after the speech of the Under-Secretary we may be quite sure that no injustice will be done to India in this 1117 matter. I am convinced that there is no Member of your Lordships' House who does not share the opinion of the noble Lords opposite that any unjust imposition upon the revenues of India ought always to be discountenanced by every English statesman and Member of Parliament, to whichever Party he may belong.
§ LORD WELBY
My Lords, I have only one title which justifies my addressing your Lordships on this subject—namely, the fact that I served on the latest Royal Commission that has sat upon Indian Finance. That Commission had to review the whole field of Indian expenditure, including the military expenditure incurred by that Empire. There were also referred to it two questions of the very highest importance, and those questions were referred to it particularly on account of a widespread discontent felt in India that the interests of India were not duly consulted by His Majesty's Government in fixing the contributions which India was to pay. The Royal Commission had first of all to consider the principle upon which a contribution should be made by India to the Home Government on account of British forces in India; and, secondly, there was the most important question whether it was not possible, in regard to those numerous questions, many of them of the highest importance, on which the British and Indian Governments differed, to appoint some impartial tribunal which should arbitrate upon the differences and give the final decision. These two questions were very difficult in their nature, and we took considerable time before we could arrive at a conclusion upon them. We had the advantage of having before us as witnesses the very highest authorities that can speak on behalf of India. We heard the Earl of Northbrook, the Marquess of Lansdowne, and Lord Cromer; and, of the military authorities, we heard Viscount Wolseley, Earl Roberts, and General Sir Henry Brackenbury. I think the names of those witnesses will convey to your Lordships the fact that, at all events, we had before us authoritative evidence of the very highest character, and witnesses on whose opinions we might, to a great extent, rely.
What was the upshot of the evidence 1118 we received? First of all, it was, of course, allowed that India should pay a reasonable and fair charge for the British forces in India. It was felt that a very great responsibility attached to the Government in this country in fixing the amount of that contribution and the principles on which India was to pay it, and, in consequence of there having been constant dissension between the two Governments on various questions, nearly all the witnesses agreed in thinking that it would be very desirable if some tribunal were created which should finally decide questions at issue. Speaking in 1896 the then Prime Minister, the Marquess of Salisbury, said—Early in the present year I was so impressed in favour of such a course being adopted that I laid before my colleagues a proposal for the establishment of a tribunal which should be so impartially composed as to gain the confidence of the taxpayers of both countries.I would make that utterance of Lord Salisbury the text of what I have to say. But your Lordships will have observed that, up to the time Lord Salisbury made this statement, the differences between England and India were confined entirely to the principles upon which the contribution should be made, and the amount of that contribution, on account of British soldiers serving in India. No question up to that moment had arisen as to any payment such as is now proposed. During the whole time that I can recollect this question being under discussion—nearly forty years now—I do not think I once heard mooted the suggestion of any payment by India towards the reserve of the Army in England. The Committee of the House of Commons, which sat on this subject in 1874 brought up one very important recommendation, to the effect that under no circumstances ought the Estimates of this country to be relieved at the cost of India. Departmental Committees subsequently endeavoured to lay down some principle upon which to govern the Indian contribution to England. I had a good deal of experience of the long dissension, which my noble friend very rightly said amounted almost to a scandal, between the India Office and the Treasury, and I do not recollect that the Treasury ever once suggested that a contribution should be made by India towards the British Army at home as constituting a 1119 reserve for India in case of emergency. I cannot but think that this is an entirely new question.
The subject of the reserve which England creates for India was considered by the Royal Commission over which I presided. My noble friend has quoted from the Report of that Commission, but I will state the circumstances under which that question came before us. There had been no suggestion made by the English witnesses or by the English Departments that any contribution of the kind should be made, but the Secretary of State for India appealed to the Commission to consider whether specially liberal treatment ought not to be accorded to India, and he proceeded to specify the number of heads under which he thought India was entitled to this particularly favourable consideration. It was in consequence of the Royal Commission having to consider this reference from the Government of India that they penned the paragraphs from which my noble friend has quoted. They gave considerable time to the evidence and to the Papers laid before them on the subject, with the result that they came to the conclusion that the benefit which England gave to India in regard to the reserves of her Army at home, did not quite counterbalance the assistance India was able to render to the policy of England in the Eastern seas by the fact of her having forces available to be sent into neighbouring countries. Surely, after all that has taken place it is desirable above everything else that Indian opinion should be reassured on this question, and that the people of India should not have any reason for thinking they are unfairly treated by the Government of this country. Is it possible that in the circumstances in which this case has been stated they can think otherwise than that the British Government, finding this charge inconvenient, have looked round, and have started the idea of making India contribute towards this extra expense under the pretext that she is paying for the reserves of the Indian Army in South Africa? I hope that the benefits which the reserves in India and the reserves in England afford to each other will be considered by the public and Parliament, and also whether those benefits which India gives to England do not only quite counter-
1120 balance, but more than counterbalance, the benefits which India gets from England.
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (The Earl of SELBORNE)
My Lords, my noble friend the Earl of Northbrook, besides dealing with this particular proposal which your Lordships are discussing, reviewed the nature of the financial relations between this country and India. In assessing what he thought ought to be the relative obligations of the two Exchequers, he left out two general considerations which I do not think your Lordships can possibly leave out in considering this great question. If it were not for the existence of the Indian military problem, our military problem would be simple and cheap. It is not only a question of the distribution of cost between England and India—of the system as we have it—but the very existence of our system is due to the requirements of India. Our system would be totally different, comparatively cheap, and certainly simple, if it were not for the Indian military problem. That consideration cannot be left out of account. But beyond that I ask your Lordships to consider the relation of the Navy and the naval expenses of this country to this problem. The Navy Estimates of this year amount to £34,500,000. If it were not for the Navy not one soldier could be sent by way of reinforcement to India in time of war. Therefore the service which the Navy performs for India is very great. But what does India contribute to the up-keep of the Navy? The contribution is a very exiguous one indeed; and the noble Lord who spoke last, I think, was impressed with the fact, because in the Report of the Royal Commission he was very careful not to say that the contribution was sufficient, He said the subject ought to be reviewed in the year 1905. Therefore I say, looking at this question as a whole as one of Imperial defence, and not as a military question only, my noble friend Lord Northbrook left out two considerations of great magnitude which affect this problem—the fact that the requirements of India have dictated our military system, and that India's contribution to the naval expenditure of this country is very limited indeed.
§ LORD WELBY
The noble Earl refers to a paragraph in our Report which stated that the naval contribution of India should be reviewed in 1905. I would remind the noble Earl that the whole of our proposal turned on the point of periodical revision of the contribution made both for the Army and the Navy. It was not confined to the Navy.
§ *THE EARL OF SELBORNE
Now I come to the specific proposal, which may be good or bad. I want to state in the most emphatic terms possible that this policy is not the creation of the War Office; it is the work of the Defence Committee. We have been engaged on this problem of Indian defence for a very long time. I do not think even my noble friend Lord Rosebery would complain of the manner in which we have dealt with this problem as being inefficient. There has not been a single meeting at which we have considered this Indian problem at which, in addition to the President of the Council, the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for War, myself, and the two naval and two military experts, there have not also been present the Secretary of State for India and three members of the Indian Council. That is a very material fact in considering this decision. What is the problem with which we are confronted? Authorities both in India and at home are agreed that within a certain definite time after the outbreak of war—one, that is, of which the invasion of India would probably form a part—a certain reinforcement would be required in India, and after another period of time a still further reinforcement would be required. Can you send these reinforcements, says the Indian Government to the War Office. Yes, answers the War Office, we can send them at once from England. Then the Admiralty comes in; and it is the opinion of the Admiralty, which I do not think for one moment would be demurred to by my noble friends opposite, who have had the same responsibility as myself, that they would not be prepared to guarantee that troops would be sent within that period. The question then arose whether India was to run the risk involved or to have a permanent 1122 addition to her garrison at an immensely increased cost compared with her present charge. It was in the consideration of this problem that the suggestion was made to ear-mark in South Africa a certain portion of His Majesty's forces which could be sent at once to India, on the outbreak of war, and which the Admiralty would guarantee so to send. It has been on these grounds that the decision has been come to. In respect of his criticism that these soldiers, even if sent, would be ineffective, the noble Earl is under a misconception. It is true that these troops would not be fed from the linked battalions in England, but, as he is aware, there has never been a moment at which every battalion abroad has been fed from a linked battalion in England.
§ *THE EARL OF SELBORNE
Certainly not for the last twenty years. There has been a certain number of battalions, sometimes only one or two, sometimes a much larger number, which have been fed by depôts in England. These regiments in South Africa will be so fed, and they will not themselves be called upon to furnish drafts to any other unit. Therefore, if called upon to go to India, they would be very effective regiments, It is quite true that in all probability these soldiers, being younger and uninured to the climate, would be sent into garrisons; but then that would have exactly the effect required. As the noble Earl will remember, there are certain obligatory garrisons in India, and the newly-arrived regiments would release from those garrisons old and matured troops who could be utilised at the front. This policy may commend itself to your Lordships or it may not; but it is a policy founded on a very real and mature consideration of the difficulties or the case in order to meet a want which nobody denies, and to the consideration of which the Council of India has, through its representatives, throughout been a party.
§ *EARL SPENCER
My Lords, this is a question of the highest possible importance, and very properly, in consequence of the terms in which my noble friend put his Resolution, has been confined to the effect on India of the 1123 proposal of His Majesty's Government. Incidentally I would venture to say that it bears in a very important, way on the whole proposals of the Government with regard to the Army. We on this side of the House have at different times complained of the excessive cost which we think the proposals of the Government involve. Now we are told that if this plan is carried out a very large sum of money—nearly £1,000,000, I think—will be required in addition to what we spent before. That is a very serious decision, but I will not go into it to-night. It was stated in another place, and the Under-Secretary for War stated again today, that this question must be reviewed from two points of view, the colonial and the Imperial. From the colonial point of view, there can be no doubt whatever that it would be an enormous advantage to the colony in which these troops will be stationed to have the money spent within its borders. Then there is the Imperial point of view. I confess that I have not been much struck by what has been said in regard to this. As has been said before this afternoon, this is no new question. We have heard already that the danger to India was one of the reasons why the Army Corps scheme of the Secretary of State for War was created. But I confess that there seems to me very grave doubt whether the new aspect of affairs in India has made it more necessary to increase largely the forces there. To-day, however, we have heard the colonial and the Imperial point of view, and we have had something more said of the Indian point of view, to which I attach great importance.
It seems to me a very serious thing at this time of day to alter largely the concordat which has been arrived at between this country and India with regard to the pay of the Army. That has always been a matter of discussion, sometimes even of dispute; and, as the noble Earl has referred to the question of the Navy, I may say that I know too well that the question of the contribution of India to that service has been often in dispute. When I was at the Admiralty my noble friend behind me, Lord Welby, and the India Office had been, so to speak, at war for years, and we had to settle the question, though we did not attempt to settle it by referring the question of policy to the Lord Chief Justice. 1124 But we obliged the Treasury at last, very reluctantly, to come to a decision on this question. These questions, however, of the proper contributions to the Army and Navy stand on their own basis and must be settled on principles fair and just to India. After all that we know India has done in helping us in South Africa, after all that she has done in helping us in China, and after all that she has done in the same direction on many former occasions, is it fair to put a new and heavy tax upon her? It has now been practically decided by the Lord Chief Justice that India is to pay this increased contribution of £700,000 a year to the Army, and that being so it is hardly the time to throw this additional heavy charge upon her. I quite admit that the matter has not yet been decided; but I think on that account it is of the highest possible importance, as the Government have shown their hand, that we should enter a caveat in the matter and give our opinions as to what is just to India.
It is rather strange, but it is not the first time under this Government, that before one Department has settled with another Department on a point of policy—and here I gather that although the Secretary of State for India, and his military advisers were present at the deliberations of the Committee of Defence, yet the agreement of the Viceroy and his Council to the proposal has not yet been received—the Government have made a declaration on the subject. There was a recent speech in Birmingham in which a very important declaration of policy was made without the concurrence certainly of a great number of members of the Cabinet. But there was a case earlier in which the noble, Earl opposite had at all events not agreed to a proposal of the Secretary for War with regard to the defence of coaling stations, and yet that proposal was put forward in a speech on the Army by the Secretary for War. I ventured to call the attention of your Lordships' House to that, and we had an interesting discussion, and the Government did not persevere in the proposal. It seems to me a very curious and novel proceeding that one Department should disclose proposals to which 1125 another Department concerned has so far withheld its assent. It is a novel constitutional doctrine, and I cannot help protesting against it as not conducive to strong government by a responsible Cabinet. I will press on the noble Duke that we ought to pause before this matter is decided, and that we ought to have Papers before us showing what is the opinion of those most concerned in the matter, the Council of India in this country, and the Viceroy and his Council in India.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, I do not think it possible to carry this discussion very much farther in the absence of any information as to the views of the Government of India upon the proposal which has been made to them. The noble Marquess made an extremely eloquent oration protesting against what he called the demand that had been made on the Government of India. I think he must himself by this time be convinced that his eloquence and his indignation were somewhat premature. There is no demand made on the Government of India. What has been done is this. A proposal has been made to them for their consideration which may in all probability have the effect of relieving them of a very heavy burden which otherwise they might have to incur. The noble Earl who has just sat down talked about our imposing a fresh burden on India. There is no demand upon India. There is no proposal placing a fresh burden upon her, certainly not without our first hearing the views of the Government of India and also the Secretary of State in Council.
The noble Marquess spoke, I think, either in entire ignorance or with neglectfulness of the changed conditions relating to the defence of India. It is a long time since the noble Marquess returned from India, but he must be aware that many of the elements of the problem have enormously altered since he was responsible for the defence of that country. He talked, I think, about the dreams which haunted the sleep of people of hundreds of thousands of Russians lying behind the Hindu-Kush. But we cannot ignore the fact that the frontiers of Afghanistan and the Russian Empire are 1126 now conterminous, nor can we ignore the fact that the communications between the Russian frontier and her military bases have either been completed or have made enormous progress during the last few years. Is it not therefore presumable that, without any nightmares about hundreds of thousands of men behind the Hindu-Kush, we here and those who are responsible for the government of India may consider that the problem of India has in the last few years materially and essentially changed? As a matter of fact this question of the defence of India has been under consideration both here and in India by several Committees in recent years, and more recently, as has been stated over and over again, it has been under the consideration of the Committee of Imperial Defence. I do not believe that there is any doubt in the minds of any of the military advisers who have examined this question that in such circumstances the present garrison of India may not be sufficient to meet a possible invasion.
The alternatives which appear to present themselves are, first, that the Government of India should take the risk and rely on the chance of adequate reinforcements arriving in time from this country, or, in the second place, that India should undertake the expense and burden of a considerable addition to her permanent garrison. It is quite possible that this is a course which we may have to urge upon the Indian Government. But before making any proposal of that kind we have made this suggestion, which will, in our opinion, place at the disposal of the Government of India a considerable reserve which will, for all essential purposes, be as useful as an increase in the establishment of India. If the garrison of India were increased, then, according to all precedent, India would pay the whole cost of such increase. By this proposal we suggest a means whereby, for a payment of about £400,000—or one-half, not of the whole cost of the force, but of the additional cost involved by their maintenance in South Africa—the Government of India will virtually have a force of 12,500 men at call in South Africa. As to the supposed increase of the Estimates by £1,500,000, that sum was mentioned by the Secretary of State for War as the cost of maintaining 25,000 men in 1127 South Africa over and above the cost of maintaining them in the United Kingdom. The Secretary of State mentioned at the same time that the garrison of South Africa had never been less than 5,000, and that the proposal which had been made previous to the one now under consideration, was for a garrison of 15,000. Therefore there is no proposal to increase the Estimates by £1,500,000. The actual cost of the proposal now under consideration amounts to about £900,000, of which it is proposed that the Government of India should be invited to contribute less than one-half.
I think it is somewhat unfortunate that, at a time when it is impossible for the Government of India to have considered the proposal, it should be suggested by any responsible statesman in this House that what appears to us to be an extremely reasonable proposal, ought to be regarded by the Government of India as an unjust demand. Reference has been made to the fact that the proposal has been spoken of in the other House almost simultaneously with its communication to the Government of India. Your Lordships are perfectly aware that during the whole of the session, and especially during the earlier part of it, there have been, both in this House and in the other, protracted debates on the whole subject of military organisation. At the earlier period of this session, when these questions were still under the consideration of the Government, it was impossible for the Secretary of State for War fully to develop his plan. But he gave an undertaking to make before the conclusion of the session a further statement on the subject. I do not think that my right hon. friend could have escaped from that undertaking, and I am sure that some of his opponents in the other House would have been very much dissatisfied if he had not made such a statememt. There may be some inconvenience in having the question discussed here before the view of the Government of India has been ascertained, but such things are occasionally inseparable from the publicity which must attend all our discussions and our policy here; and I do not think that any blame is to be attached to my right 1128 hon. friend for having communicated—not the demand of this Government, because no demand has been made—but the suggestion and proposal which has now been submitted to the Government of India, as likely to relieve them from a very great and pressing difficulty.
§ THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
I am glad to have raised the discussion since it has drawn from the noble Duke the statement that nothing would be done except after the fullest consideration, and with the consent of the Government of India. That is a most satisfactory piece of information.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
I said nothing about consent. I said that nothing would be done without the fullest consultation with the Government of India; and I believe it is a recognised fact that no part of the revenues of India can be applied without the consent of the Secretary of State and his Council.
§ THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
Will the noble Duke give an assurance to the House that no final decision will be taken until such time as the opinions of the Viceroy in Council and of the Secretary of State and his Council have been laid before Parliament.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
I do not know what is implied by "final decision." I suppose that the decision which may be arrived at cannot be altogether ignored in the preparation of the Estimates for next year, and those Estimates will be in an advanced state of preparation before Parliament meets. Does the noble Marquess call that a final decision?
§ THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
I mean a final decision in the House. Of course I do not say before the Estimates are laid, but before they are discussed and voted on.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
I cannot undertake to commit the Departments concerned. I can promise 1129 that nothing will be done without the fullest consultation with the Indian Government and with the Secretary of State and the Council here. I have also promised that such Papers as we can lay will be communicated to Parliament as soon as possible. But I cannot promise that no steps will be taken by the Government on its own responsibility until those steps have been discussed by Parliament
§ Motion, by leave of the House, withdrawn.