HL Deb 15 August 1907 vol 180 cc1562-71

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read:


My Lords, this is a Bill having for its object to make some alterations in the present organization of the Council of India, which is the Secretary of State for India's Council in this country. It is a short Bill, and I hope your Lordships will accept it as containing advisable alterations in the present constitution of the Council of India.

Your Lordships know that the India Council was constituted by the Act of 1858, at the time when the Government of India was passsd over from the Company to the Crown. It was constituted for the purpose of providing a body of competent and expert advisers for the Secretary of State. At that time, the India Council was composed of 15 members; since then, the number of members has been reduced to the present number, the utmost of which is 12; and also, the Secretary of State is not obliged to fill up the whole number, but may, under certain circumstances, appoint only a number less than the full number. Since the year 1858, territory under the Government of India has largely increased in various directions. I may mention specially the direction of Burmah, and my right hon. friend Mr. Morley has come to the conclusion that it would be desirable to increase the present number of Councillors to 14, that is still less than the number fixed under the Act of 1858, and I believe that I may assure your Lordships that that is a necessary and advisable increase. Your Lordships are, I think, aware that it is the intention of my right hon. friend to appoint two native-born Indians to the Council as soon as he can, but I desire to point out that that is no reason why the number of other members of the Council should be diminished, because it is most desirable to have on the Secretary of State's Council representatives of the various Administrations and Departments of the Government of India, that is to say, representatives of the Army, of the Local Governments of the Provinces, and of Finance and Revenue. Therefore the Secretary of State thinks that it is important that we should revert again rather towards the number, though not to the full number, of Councillors as fixed by the Act of 1858. I believe, considering the increase of territory of India, the increase of the population of India, and the increase of Indian interests in every direction, it is very desirable that the number of the existing Indian Councillors should be increased as proposed by this Bill. There is nothing, I think, excessive in the number suggested; it is still, as I say, less than that established by the Act of 1858; and I venture, therefore to recommend that provision to your Lordships' acceptance.

Then, my Lords, the next clause in the Bill provides that those appointed who have Indian experience shall have come home from India not more than 10 years. I am very strongly impressed with the belief and conviction that a reduction in the period of time since the Councillor to be appointed has left India is very important. You want to have, as I think my noble friend, Lord Lansdowne will agree, the most recent experience that you can get in the Council of the Secretary of State. We often hear about the "unchanging East," but very great changes take place in India from time to time, and it is most important that the Secretary of State at home should have the most recent experience that he can have at his disposal for his advice. Then it is proposed to shorten the period of tenure of office from ten to seven years. That, again, I think is a good arrangement, and tends in the same direction, namely, to get more recent experience; and I have the strongest conviction that that is a matter of much importance.

Then there is another matter—I have taken it rather in the wrong order, but your Lordships will excuse me for that—and that is, that it is proposed to reduce the salary, which at present stands at £1,200 a year, to £1,000 a year. Some criticism might perhaps be offered upon that point, but my right hon. friend feels, as I think we all must feel, that he is bound to keep down every branch of Indian expenditure that he can, and that it is particularly undesirable that the expenditure connected with the India Office should be at a higher rate than is absolutely necessary. It must be remembered that the majority of the members of that Council are mea who are in receipt of an Indian pension of £1,000 a year, and that they receive their salary as Councillors, whether it be £1,200, or £1,000, in addition to their Indian pension; their pension does not cease with their appointment to the Council. Therefore they receive practically from Indian revenues £2,000 a year. There are no doubt other members of the Council who have not been in the Civil Service or the Military Service of India, and who stand upon another footing, but then it is open to them to engage in other avocations; they have time at their disposal, and I think that a salary of £1,000 a year is quite sufficient for the purpose. Those gentlemen, my Lords, and the men of the same class upon the India Council, render, and have always rendered, very valuable assistance to the Secretary of State in financial and other matters; they are most important members of the Council of India; but I believe that £1,000 a year is quite sufficient for the purpose, as they are not required to devote the whole of their time to their duties at the India Office.

Then, my Lords, the Bill proposes to repeal the two Acts of Parliament which made the changes to which I have referred in the Act of 1858—and, of course, the repeal of those Acts is necessary if your Lordships agree to this Bill. I cannot but think that the proposals of the Bill will make an important change in the constitution of the Council of India at home; and I am glad to have this opportunity of expressing my entire concurrence in the proposal of my right hon. friend to appoint two native-born gentlemen of India as members of this Council. I believe that that is a very wise and judicious step; I believe it is the best form and the best mode of associating native gentlemen with the Secretary of State in this country; and it is a great pleasure to me that that proposal should have been made by my right hon. colleague. I beg to move the Second Reading.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."


My Lords, I fully appreciate the fact that the House is weary after the exhausting labours of the past few days, and I should be the last to trespass upon the patience and forbearance of your Lordships. But, I really feel, as one who has recently held a position of responsibility in India, that it is incumbent upon me to say what I think of this Bill, and as I have nothing but cordial—I might even say enthusiastic—approval to express, the duty becomes for once in a way a real pleasure. I should like first to say incidentally that knowing as I do the feelings of the people of India, I rejoice particularly that the noble Marquess who leads the House should be in charge of this Bill, for I am sure the fact will meet with very enthusiastic and affectionate approval in India.

My Lords, I am surprised that this Bill should have attracted so little notice or comment, notwithstanding the fact that there are so many other legislative attractions, for it seems to me a measure of no small importance. It is a step, and a very decided step, in the direction of meeting the hopes and wishes of those classes in India who, taught and inspired by ourselves to aim at political progress on Western lines, aspire to take a greater share in the government of India, and to exercise a larger influence on that government. It is not my purpose—it would not in any circumstances have been my purpose—on this occasion to discuss the whole question of present day political tendencies in India, to examine their depth and extent, and to suggest the limitations by which British rule must be preserved. I am only concerned with the primary object of this Bill, which, as the noble Marquess pointed out, is to enable the Secretary of State for India to nominate Indians for appointment by His Majesty as members of the Council of India. I take it that the proposed alterations in the conditions of appointment of the other members of the Council are incidental to this primary object, and the necessary consequences of experience at the India Office, but in the presence of my noble friend the late Secretary of State for India I will not presume I to discuss those proposals. But the appointment of Indians to the Council of I the Secretary, of State has been long and earnestly desired by Indian politicians of all shades of opinion, whether they be moderate or extreme, and I for one rejoice heartily that the wish is to be gratified. It has always seemed to me a perfectly natural, legitimate, and reasonable wish, and I am confident that nothing but good will result from its realisation. It is very easy to point out difficulties, but what branch of public affairs is there in which it is not easy to point out objections and difficulties? How, it is asked, will you find two Indians to represent the feelings and views of the numerous races in India, with their diversities of language, religion, and custom, and their differences of political opinion—differences as wide and as varied as those which subsist in this country? Of course you will not be able to find such men, any more than you are able to find in this country Ministers of the Crown who represent the views of more than a portion of the population. But those who are appointed will be Indians, and that fact will be a fact of far greater importance to the people of India than it is possible for anyone who has not lived there to realise. Again, it is asked how are you to find Indians of the necessary ability and experience, combined with the requisite means and leisure which will enable them to leave their own homes and avocations and to take up their residence in this country? I believe that in politics as in economics demand creates supply, and that men are made by circumstances rather than circumstances by men. You will get the right men, men who will be invaluable to the Secretary of State in the changing conditions of Indian administration. You will get them, if not at once, certainly in due course of time. In this matter we may be guided by our own experience in this country. With every change of Ministry, with every new appointment of the Government, the public at large say, in respect of all except those few who are recognised as the leading statesmen of the day, that they wonder how such obscure and insignificant men can possibly have been chosen for such important and responsible posts. But in a very short time—in a few months—all that is changed, and the public—certainly the public on one side of politics—regards those men as the right men in the right places, and fully admits their competence to discuss the affairs of the nation and to take their part in guiding national affairs. My point is that you cannot tell what men are made of until you have tried them; you cannot say that men are fit or unfit for responsibility until you have placed them and proved them in responsible positions.

Now, of course, there are many men—a great many men—of intellectual eminence, of great capacity and of high character, among the educated classes in India, and it is to my mind inconceivable that among those men there should not be found some who are both able and willing to fill these posts with credit to themselves and advantage to their countrymen. The high traditions of the office of Secretary of State for India make it certain that the right men will be chosen, and it is equally certain that that selection, whatever it may be, will be criticised and disapproved by a great many people in India. But to my mind that criticism and that disapproval will be of no more consequence and no more disadvantage than the criticism and disapproval of responsible men in this country. The Secretary of State will have the advantage of having at his side, among his advisers, men who feel like Indians, and those who have been in India will know what I mean when I say that the inner workings of an Indian mind are not exactly the same as those of an English mind. His Majesty's Government must not expect loud-voiced gratitude or delight in India over this concession. Those who express their opinion at all will say that it is a trifling concession, one which is hardly worth thanking for, and that it will in no way satisfy their demands. But the Government may rest assured that they will have another form of gratitude—the silent appreciation of that large section of the educated classes in India who firmly believe in the justice and advantage of British rule, and who will recognise in this concession yet another proof of the affection and sympathy of the Government and people of this country. That is why I say that this concession would be worth making even if it could be proved that no material advantage would result from it. It is a fulfilment of pledges, an earnest of goodwill, and a proof of sympathy. And, my Lords, there are no people in the world who respond more readily, more gratefully, and more sincerely to the human note in public affairs than do the people of India. It will be said that this is a concesssion to agitation. I know that it is nothing of the kind, and I am glad that the Secretary of State takes the view that we are strong enough to persist, without fear or hesitation, in the course of progress and reform, in spite of the disloyalty of the few and the discontent of some others. My Lords, I congratulate His Majesty's Government on the policy which is initiated by this Bill.


My Lords, after the eloquent tribute which has been paid by my noble friend, who has himself filled the office of Viceroy, and who has concurred entirely in the speech of the noble Marquess opposite, who also has filled that high office, it seems almost unnecessary for me to add what I should desire to add in one single sentence—my entire appreciation of the policy initiated by His Majesty's Government in this Bill of placing two natives upon the Council of India. I hope that we may anticipate very happy results from that measure, although I am sure the guarded note of my noble friend behind me (Lord Ampthill) is one which will commend itself to those who are acquainted with politics in India.

My Lords, at this hour I propose in the fewest possible words to make one or two observations upon the other provisions in the Bill. I quite agree with the noble Marquess in saying that it is desirable that the limit of five years rather than ten from the period of leaving India should be the period for appointment to the Council of India at Whitehall. I also feel that there is great force in the proposal that instead of an appointment for ten years, as heretofore, the appointment should be for seven years. A man who, for thirty years or more, has done the enormous amount of work which falls upon an Indian civilian of the present day, and who comes home, would perhaps sometimes enjoy an unduly prolonged tenure of office if, after those thirty years of service in India, he was appointed for ten years without any possibility of reconsideration by the Secretary of State.

I venture most heartily to congratulate the Government, so far as these two objects of the Bill are concerned, upon having attained them, but I should like also to say one word in the most respectful manner after what has fallen from the noble Marquess as to the increase in the number of members of the Council. This is in direct opposition to the whole policy which has been pressed upon and pursued by Secretaries of State for some time past. So far from the Council of India having been considered to be unduly small, successive Secretaries of State have even left vacancies unfilled, because they felt that the work to be divided, and the charge to be put upon the public, were not adequate to the large number, as I think it is, of the present Council. The power of the Council of India is very great. It is only those who are immediately connected with the business of India perhaps who appreciate how great it is. They are the colleagues of the Secretary of State, not his subordinates, and they are his masters in the matter of finance. Except in questions of high policy, such as Cabinet questions, the Secretary of State is voting only as one of twelve in his own Council. Surely, in a case in which the responsibility is so great, it is desirable rather to concentrate responsibility than to dilute it, and the larger the number the more it must be diluted. The larger the body the less must be the individual responsibility. Let me just take the facts. When I joined the Council as Secretary of State I think the number was eleven. It has been on several occasions within the last five years ten. At this moment it is only nine, although the Secretary of State has within the last three or four months appointed three members. So that there are now three vacancies, and there would be no difficulty whatever in his introducing two Indian representatives and still having a vacancy to dispose of. And if I might make a suggestion to the noble Marquess—because I feel very strongly upon this point—I would ask why, if the number were maintained at twelve, should you not have two representing India, two lawyers, as at present, two soldiers if you desire it, two financiers as at present, and still four other administrators? Were you to do this you would still give to the civil servants of India practically the same representation and the same number of posts as has been the case for some years past.

While I feel very strongly upon that point, I will not say another word upon it, because of the moment at which I am speaking. But I would also urge most strongly that this proposed reduction of salaries is inopportune and undesirable. Of course I see the object of His Majesty's Government. They do not want to increase the total charge, and so they have given the salaries of twelve men divided amongst fourteen. But I put it to the noble Marquess, after his own observations as regards the settlement of 1858, if it was in 1858 desirable to give a man £1,200 a year when he came home, in addition to his then pension, how much more important it is not to decrease the amount now, when an Indian civilian can save so far less during his period of office than he could in 1858. Men come home with comparatively very small sums put away, and it seems to me highly undesirable to reduce the pay of those men from £1,200 to £1,000. But there is another class whose salaries it is absolutely injurious to the Council to reduce in amount. You ask two men of the highest financial repute in the City that you can get to come and advise you at the Council on most important and very large interests. There is the greatest difficulty in inducing those men to come. Even in the last few months the Secretary of State has lost one most able representative because he was unable to give the time from his other business without great loss to himself. I do not mean to say that the difference of £200 a year will make a complete difference in getting such a man, but it is a difference the wrong way, and if you ask a man to give up engagements at a cost very often of some thousands in order to give you his attendance, it is certainly undesirable to cut down the amount of the not large stipend which you pay him.

I have ventured to put these points forward, and I would urge them upon the attention of the Government. I will not move any Amendment to this Bill. I should be extremely sorry to appear in any way to cavil at any act taken upon the responsibility of the Secretary of State for India, and still more upon the responsibility of a Secretary of State so broadminded and of so much experience in affairs as the present Secretary of State for India. But I believe that if these points are reconsidered by the Government it will be found possible to do all that can be desired by pre serving the present number of members, that you will have a much better security by keeping to the present salaries, and that if you carry the Bill reducing the number of years service and the number of years pay after leaving India, you will have achieved a very valuable reform without impairing the usefulness of a body whom we all desire to see as efficient as possible.

On Question, Motion agreed to. Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Monday next.