HL Deb 28 June 1909 vol 2 cc11-57

*LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON rose to call attention to recent changes in the military administration of the Government of India, to ask for information from His Majesty's Government, and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I do not think that I need apologise for bringing this subject before the attention of your Lordships. During the last four years great and startling changes have been introduced into the military administration of India. I am not sure that a further change is not now being enacted there which if closely examined will turn out to be the most startling of all. Throughout this period there has only been one discussion on this matter in either House of Parliament, and that was the debate that took place here on August 1, 1905. On that occasion the noble Marquess, Lord Ripon, who I am sorry to see is not, and probably cannot be, present to-day, made a speech—masterly in logical argument and compression—to which I shall have occasion more than once to refer in my remarks this afternoon. In the course of that speech he complained that these changes had been adopted without the knowledge or advice of Parliament. I think this statement was true at that time, and it holds true, I believe, of the other House of Parliament to this moment. Our debate this afternoon will, I hope, remove the reproach, if reproach it be, from this House of the Legislature.

None of your Lordships will contest the proposition that the military administration of India is a matter of the first and most important concern. It is no more question, as the words might appear to suggest, of organisation or of official or departmental routine; it is a matter that may affect the whole conditions on which you hold and rule India. Your Lordships know perfectly well that in the last resort it is upon our military strength that our position in India depends. At this moment and at any moment the large majority of the English population in that country are soldiers. Military considerations are of supreme importance there, and they are interwoven with civil and political conditions to a degree which is almost unintelligible to any one who is only familiar with the practice of this country. Above all, in India you have the phenomenon of the Native Army—that delicate, complex, and difficult machine—and you might almost say that the contentment of the Native Army of India is synonymous with the continuance of your rule in that country. I am sure, therefore, that any proposal that may affect the Native Army of India is one that ought to be watched, and scrutinised with the most anxious consideration by this House, and that your Lordships will agree that no great change in military administration ought to be carried out without so far as possible the cognisance and, if it may be, the support of the Parliament of this country.

Since February, 7906, when the noble Viscount the Secretary of State laid down his policy as regards military administration in India, I have not said or written one word publicly about the matter. I felt that it might be difficult for me to observe a proper detactment in matters in which I had necessarily had a very great concern. During these three and a half years the Secretary of State will admit that his scheme has had a fair trial, and I am sure he will be the last man to complain if now at the end of this period we ask his permission to review the history of these years and take note of the developments on which he is about to embark.

From the reconstitution of the Government of India after the Mutiny until the year 1905 there existed in India a system of military administration which, although from time to time it was modified in unimportant particulars, remained essentially the same. Under that system you had a Commander-in-Chief in India who was an officer of the very highest distinction either in the British or Indian service. He was responsible for the recruitment, organisation, and training in peace of the Indian Army, and for its direction in time of war. He had exclusive control of the personnel of the Army. In addition to that, he was an Extraordinary Member of Council, which means that he was a member of the Government of India, of the Viceroy's Cabinet, with a voice in every aspect and affair of the administration. He was, in fact, the second man in the country to the Viceroy and his foremost adviser on all military affairs.

Throughout that period this officer was primarily, if not entirely, an executive officer, and he had little or nothing to do with those administrative matters, which are ordinarily the business of what is called the War Department in European countries. That business was conducted in the Government of India by a Department known as the Military Department, which acted for the Government of India in its military capacity exactly in the same manner as the Foreign Office in India represents the Government of India for foreign affairs and the Home Department for home affairs. The head of this office was a soldier, for although under the Statute he might be a civilian, in practice he always was a soldier—a soldier who was known as the Military Member, and was also a member of the Council of the Governor-General. This officer and his Department were charged with the duty of controlling the great spending military departments of the Government, of preparing the military budget, of preserving the military records of the Government, and more particularly of advising the Governor-General in Council with due regard to continuity of policy and more especially with scrupulous attention to the interests of the Native Army. I think in two or three sentences that is a fairly accurate description of the system of military government prevailing in India for the half-century from the close of the Mutiny until four years ago.

In the year 1905 the late Government, because of complaints that were made against the working of that machinery, decided to bring it to an end. I do not propose on the present occasion to re-argue the case in this House. I had an opportunity at that time of stating my views in Parliamentary papers which were laid before both Houses, and I need only now remind your Lordships that in those views I was supported by the whole of my colleagues in India, with the single exception of the Commander-in-Chief, and by a public opinion in that country, which was practically unanimous. Those views were further entertained, I believe, by every living ex-Viceroy who had spoken or was consulted on the matter; and nowhere were they expressed with greater force or eloquence than in the speech of the noble Marquess, Lord Ripon, to which I have, referred. So important was that speech considered that it was republished and brought out as a pamphlet by one of the organisations of the party to which noble Lords opposite belong, and had a wide circulation. I really wish that the rules of this House permitted me to read that speech to your Lordships this evening from beginning to end, because, in the first place, I should spare your Lordships the trouble of listening to me, and, in the second place, the Secretary of State, instead of having to listen to the utterances of what perhaps he may regard as a critic on this Bench, would be listening to the arguments of a colleague of his own.

Though the late Government decided to put an end to the old system, they were far from accepting the alternative which had been proposed to them from India. That alternative was that the Commander-in-Chief should take over the whole functions of the Military Department and should emerge as the single military adviser of the Government of India—supreme in the field, supreme in the Council Chamber, and supreme in the office. This proposal was emphatically condemned by the Committee which was appointed by the noble Viscount, Lord Midleton, to advise him at the India Office, and on which sat the noble Earl the Field-Marshal —Lord Roberts—and Sir George White. It was also rejected in the Secretary of State's Despatch which conveyed his orders to the Government of India; it was equally condemned by the noble Marquess the Leader of this House, who on August 1, 1905, took credit to the Government for their absolute refusal to listen to the proposals submitted to them to destroy the Military Department and Military Member altogether. Accordingly the late Government constructed a compromise. No one knows better than the noble Viscount who has written learnedly upon the philosophy of compromise, that compromise between views which are in essence irreconcilable as a rule gives satisfaction to neither party and often aggravates where it is expected to appease.

Of such a character, I think, was the compromise to which I refer. It was this. The late Government took those functions of the old Military Department which related to military supply and placed them under a separate member called the Military Supply Member, who might be a civilian, but who it was understood would be a soldier. They handed over the remainder of the functions of the old Military Department to the office of the Commander-in-Chief, which they reconstituted as an Army Department under that officer. At the same time the late Government, in pursuance of their desire to provide the Viceroy and his Council with a second military adviser, tried to convert this Military Supply Member into the type of safeguard which they required. The attempt to combine these two functions appeared to me, and I think to most of us in India, to be absolutely impossible from the start. You could not take an officer of inferior rank, place him in charge of a Department the business of which was narrow and confined and the subordination of which was marked by every possible means—an officer who was, in fact, really a purveyor of military supplies and nothing else—and expect him to act as an independent adviser either on military, political, or any other matters to the Viceroy. I sought to invest this Department and this officer with real substantiality —to make him a capable alternate adviser of the Government. I asked for the services of the most qualified and capable officer that I could find for the purpose. Those requests were refused and I resigned my position as Viceroy.

Soon after that the late Government proceeded to fill up the post they had created. When they appointed to this post an officer, an Ordnance officer who, however excellent his qualifications in that confined branch of the service, and they were excellent, might be, was, by the circumstances of his professional career, quite unqualified to act in the position of independent adviser to the Government of India, it was evident that the first conception entertained by the then Government had disappeared, that the appointment had no sufficient justification, and that its duration could only be a matter of short time. There appeared to me to be no reason why you should create a Department of Military Stores alone, and place at the head of that Department an officer whom you then made a Cabinet Minister with a salary of from £5,000 to £6,000 a year, and who was a member of the Government of India for all purposes. In the telegram in which I offered my resignation I spoke of the new Department as being an unpardonable waste of public money, and I said it would be better to dispense with it altogether. That is all I have to say about the history of the past.

Shortly after that the late Government went out of office, and were succeeded by His Majesty's present advisers. I do not believe I shall be doing the noble Viscount an injustice if I say that I believe from the start he was fully aware of the anomalies and that he probably accurately foresaw the impracticability of the post as it was then created. But for reasons of public and political expediency, which were explained by him in his Despatches, he decided to give it a fair trial. I regretted that decision at the time, but I do not regret it now because, instead of the system being abandoned because it was regarded as theoretically unsound or because most people predicted its failure, it has now been abolished only after fair trial and on the very grounds on which I ventured to predict its failure four years ago. The history of these events is recorded in the correspondence laid before both Houses of Parliament. I need only summarise it in one or two sentences. At the first the present Government of India, with the optimism that sometimes characterises Governments when surveying themselves, were very confident as to the excellent working of this machine, in which they said that only certain modifications in detail were required, but the Secretary of State was, if I may say so, not to be taken in by these professions and with most refreshing candour he said so in his Despatch of June 28, 1907, in language almost identical with my own. He said:— There appears to me to remain under the new system so little work to be controlled by the Honorable Member in charge of the Military Supply Department that the expediency of maintaining this appointment, or the Secretariat attached to it, or perhaps both, becomes a matter for consideration. The Government of India appear to have been somewhat rapidly and conveniently convinced by these arguments, and after a certain further interchange of correspondence the Department was abolished, and the abolition took effect, I believe, on April 1 of the present year.

We politicians are apt to indulge from time to time in prophecy, but as political prophets we do not ordinarily excel. I suppose, therefore, I might feel a sort of human and innocent exultation in knowing that my predictions as to this Department have been so faithfully fulfilled. But that is not the view I wish to take, because I think the failure of the experiment was foreseen by everybody, in India at any rate, from the start. It really failed in the first place because there was no need for a separate Department with this strictly confined area of work presided over by a Cabinet Minister, a member of the Viceroy's Council, and, in the second place, because the head of such a Department could not possibly be an independent or valuable adviser to the Governor-General and his colleagues. So far I have nothing whatever but approbation for what has been done by the Secretary of State in the matter. I think his action in abolishing the Department was right, even if it were inevitable, and I believe it will be endorsed by your Lordships, as it is by public opinion at large.

I come to a more important aspect of the case upon which I desire to speak with all the seriousness as my command. The question for discussion this afternoon is not so much the past as the future; what is the sequel of the changes made, and what is the system now being set up? The system may be seen in skeleton form in the diagram which is printed on the concluding page of the Paper from which I have been quoting. To those who have studied military administration in any country I venture to think this diagram will appear as rather a startling scheme; but to those who are at all familiar with military administration in India it can only excite consternation and dismay. For what is the meaning of this diagram as worked out in practice? You are now going to concentrate in the hands of one man in India—I am not speaking of the present Commander-in-Chief but of every future occupant of that post so long as the system remains unchanged—you are now going to concentrate in his hands, not merely the executive control of the Army, its patronage, organisation, equipment, inspection, and preparation for war, but all the business of finance and administration which is ordinarily discharged by a War Office; and the officer on whom you are placing these duties is by virtue of his position a Cabinet Minister in India, he has to attend the Executive Council of the Viceroy and the Legislative Council, where he has to introduce and defend his Budget, and he has in a country where government is conducted almost entirely by paper to read all the papers of Government and to give an opinion or vote on every question, be it police, irrigation, land revenue, or anything else. All this work you are going to place on a single man. Such a burden is too much for any shoulders. There is no one in history, except a Napoleon, who could bear such a weight; and eminent as are the Commanders whom we have been fortunate enough to send to India, they do not always belong to the Napoleonic type.

The first remark I have to make upon this new system is that it is opposed to all modern principles with regard to armies. I imagine it to be an accepted principle of military practice that the functions of administration and command are entirely distinct, that they demand different qualities and impose different and sometimes inconsistent duties, and most of all that they never ought to be united in the hands of a single individual. I believe that to be the experience of every modern army. It certainly has been the reasoned and deliberate opinion of every Committee and Commission that has sat in this country during the past twenty years, and there has been no small number, investigating the question of military administration. Many propositions have emanated from different people in this country for the redistribution of military functions or the concentration of military duties in the hands either of the Commander-in-Chief or the War Office, and in every case those proposals have been met with unhesitating condemnation. I might refer to the Report of Lord Hartington's Commission, to the Report of the Welby Commission which sat with special reference to India, to the Report of Lord Esher's Committee on the reorganisation of the War Office, and from all of these Papers I could easily read extracts in confirmation of what I say.

I have here a most interesting Blue-book containing the Report of the Royal Commission that sat on the war in South Africa, and among the Appendices to that Report were two Minutes of a most powerful and convincing character, emanating from the noble Marquess behind me and the noble Viscount sitting next to him, with reference to certain proposals put forward by Lord Wolseley for the greater centralisation of powers in the hands of the Commander-in-Chief in this country. Lord Wolseley was proposing almost exactly the same system in England as is being or has been set up in India; and his plans were rejected by the two noble Lords behind me, and his post was abolished altogether. The same condemnation is to be found in no less degree in the notable speech delivered in August, 1905, by the noble Marquess, Lord Ripon, in this House to which I have already referred, and I believe it is impossible to quote the name of any considerable Indian administrator, living or dead, who has spoken a word in favour of the system of military concentration which is now being introduced in India.

Let me explain exactly what will happen —what does happen under the new system. There has been created now an office of the Army Department in India, upon one side of which the Commander-in-Chief presides as the executive head of the Army, and on the other side the same man presides as Secretary of State for War. As Commander-in-Chief it is his duty to formulate proposals for the administration of the Army and for the defence of India. He then submits them to himself as Secretary of State for War; and having as Secretary of State signified his gracious approval of the proposals which emanated from himself as Commander-in-Chief, he sends them on to the Council. When they get there, as the only Military Member of Council he may represent very properly that, in his view, they are indispensable for the prosperity of the Army or the safety of India. He then votes for the proposals which he has thus submitted; and, finally, when they have been approved by the Council, he issues orders as to their execution. That is no joke, or caricature, or parody of the position that exists in India. It is, I believe, a faithful picture of the system of military administration that you have set up. I venture to say that a Commander-in-Chief, as the sole critic of his own proposals, is without a parallel in military administration, and is wholly inconsistent with any sound theory of military government.

So much for the working of the machine. Now observe its consequences. In the first place, are you not placing upon the shoulders of one man a burden which, however capable he may be, no individual can bear? A man in the prime of life and in the fulness of vigour could hardly perform the double task. Suppose you have, as we have sometimes had in the past, and as may occur again, a Commander-in-Chief in India in middle or advanced life, who is indolent or in bad health, then the system must at once and irretrievably break down. Then observe its effect upon the offices of the Government. The noble Viscount the Secretary of State is greatly interested in the question of decentralisation in India. A year or rather more ago he sent out to India a Royal Commission with special instructions to submit to him proposals for the greater decentralisation of the civil government, and at a later date, no doubt, we shall see the changes which he proposes to introduce. But it is really astonishing that, while he is contemplating those changes, he should at the same time acquiesce, if he does acquiesce, in setting up in the military government of India a system of centralisation and concentration of work as onerous and overwhelming in responsibility as that which I have described.

The second consequence is this—you definitely deprive the Governor-General in Council of the opportunity of hearing more than one side of a military case. What alternative has the Cabinet of the Viceroy, when it meets to discuss some military proposal which, having passed through all the previous stages, comes before it with the imprimatur of the Commander-in-Chief, but to accept that proposal, unless it accepts the infinitely greater responsibility of rejecting the advice of the Commander-in-Chief? I alluded at the beginning of my remarks to the Native Army of India. It is in questions connected with the Native Army that the main anxiety lies. You may send out to India your most brilliant commander, trained in all the experience of European armies and wars in every part of the world, but it does not necessarily follow that he has any experience of Indian warfare or any knowledge of the conditions, customs, and even the prejudices of the Native Army. It is conceivable that he may put forward, in all bona fides, proposals which, if carried out, may have disastrous consequences in connection with that Army. Such proposals were put forward in my day. Under the old system there was always an independent Department and a competent military adviser to point out those considerations to the Government and to save them from mistakes.

Under the new system those safeguards have disappeared, and although you might rub along in ordinary times, it appears to me that if, in the turn of fortune, you have a Commander-in-Chief ignorant of the Indian Army and at the same time obstinate and headstrong, or one who, without being ignorant, is at the same time weak and unable to stand up for the interests of the Indian Army, you might in either case have a situation arise which would be fruitful of mischief for the future. The third and perhaps the most important consequence is that the more you pile administrative and official duties upon your Army Member in India the more difficult you make it for him to discharge his duties as Commander-in-Chief. I see present the noble and gallant Field-Marshal Lord Roberts, who, I believe, is going to take part in this discussion. He may find it difficult to describe what is the ideal conception of a Commander-in-Chief in India, for the reason that that conception was realised in his own person in that country. I have often heard of his work there, and I have had the honour of serving with three other Commanders-in-Chief, so that I am tolerably familiar with the obligations and work of the officer holding that exalted position.

May I say frankly and openly that I am entirely in favour of the old theory of the Commander-in-Chief in India? By the old theory I mean that of an officer who spends at any rate a large part of his time in travelling over the vast areas under his command, in becoming acquainted with his generals, knowing his staff officers, inspecting the regiments, seeing the cantonments, attending the manœuvres, and, above all, being seen by and learning the feelings of the native troops. The Native Army in India has been made for the most part by the personal efforts of British commanders; they love to see the Commander-in-Chief. The native officers like to be treated by the Commander-in-Chief as they were treated by Lord Roberts in his day. No administration at Simla, however perfectly organised and efficient it may be, can ever win the same place in their regard. It will be impersonal, a matter of paper and ink discharged from a distance. Nothing has been done or ever will be done in the East except by personality. It is persons who rule, and persons who shape the future; persons who win the affection of the Oriental; and if that is true anywhere it is above all true in the case of the native soldiers of India.

Believe me, and I cannot exaggerate the earnestness with which I utter these words, in the troublous times which lie before us in India—and troublous times do lie before us —when attempts will be made—they have already been made—to tamper with the loyalty of your Native Army, it will not be-by any central organisation at Simla, however elaborate and however perfect; it will be only by the personal influence of your commanders, from the highest to the lowest, that your position in India will remain secure. But if the Commander-in-Chief is tied to his office stool at Simla, if he has to spend the greater part of his year at Simla or Calcutta, he cannot possibly do his duty as Commander-in-Chief according to my conception. The real consequence of this system, unless modified, will be that in a few years time you will disestablish the. Commander-in-Chief in India, and the Commander-in-Chief will scarcely continue to exist. Of the two duties which I have described no man can discharge both with equal fidelity. If he is a great administrator his inclination will be to neglect inspection duties. If, on the other hand, he has a strong conception of his executive duties he will spend his time travelling about that vast continent, and then only one result can ensue—that is, complete congestion of business and administrative chaos in the office which he has deserted at headquarters.

So far I have ventured to discuss the workings of this organisation in time of peace; but I should like before I conclude to ask your Lordships to contemplate for a few moments the much more serious contingency of what is likely to happen in the event of war. Lord Ripon, in the speech to which I have referred, said— In the event of war an able Commander-in-Chief would wish to take the field and ought to take the field. I think if he does take command all the arrangements which you are now setting up will immediately break to pieces. If that was true when the simulacrum of a separate Military Adviser to the Government still existed in the shape of the Military Supply Member, how much more true is it when even that safeguard has disappeared? Let us suppose the Commander-in-Chief takes the field in the event of a war, say with Russia, in Afghanistan He takes the field with his nine divisions, or as many as can be mobilised for the purpose. What will be left? At Simla or Calcutta there will be a Department without a head, there will be a War Office without a Secretary of State for War, there will be a skeleton of a staff with nothing but the Secretary to the Army Department at its head.

But then you may say that other Generals will come up from other parts of the country to take his place. It must be remembered, however, that, under the new system, the old Presidency Armies have been destroyed. At the present moment the whole of the forces of India are divided into two great armies, the Northern Army and the Southern Army, under two generals, the range of one of whom extends from Aden on the West to the extreme boundaries of Burma on the East. But those Generals are mere inspectors. They have no administrative powers, they have no staff, they have no training either for the conduct or the management of war. There remain nine divisional Generals, who, in the event of a campaign, will naturally accompany their divisions to the front. Therefore, you arrive at this position, that while it is for war that all these great changes have been made in India, with the immense expense that they have caused, it is in the emergency of war that they are almost certain to break down. Of course, you may say that the Commander-in-Chief will remain at headquarters, and will not go into the field. I know some Commanders-in-Chief who would have been by no means willing to accept that situation, and is it not really almost a reductio ad absurdum that you should appoint a Commander-in-Chief in India and that the first condition of his appointment should be that he will never take the command for which he has been chosen?

Now, my Lords, it is very risky to propose alternative solutions, and nobody who is without knowledge, without responsibility, and in opposition, can legitimately be called upon to say, however severely he may criticise a system, what he would set up in its place. There is, however, one suggestion which must, I think, have occurred to many of your Lordships during the time that you have allowed me to address you. It is the suggestion that you should keep the Commander-in-Chief but turn him out of the Council. I have no doubt myself, calmly looking back on the history of recent years, and reviewing the probable sources of the mischief, if mischief there was, under the old system, that it originated almost entirely from the fact that the Commander-in-Chief is a member of the Council of the Viceroy, and, therefore, with access to all the papers, saw the notes in which his proposals had been for the necessities of departmental work dissected and analysed and sometimes criticised by officers of inferior rank. I have no doubt that was at the bottom of it. A Lieutenant-Governor, who is in a corresponding position of great importance in the Civil Administration, at the head of a local Government, sends up his proposals to the Government of India. They are equally analysed and examined, and even criticised by departmental secretaries, but he does not see the notes, and, accordingly he accepts the decision of the Government of India as that of the Governor-General in Council.

If that be true, it would appear to be the obvious remedy to keep your Commander-in-Chief, but to relieve him from these responsibilities, with all their attendant drawbacks. And that, as your Lordships may know, is the proposal that was made by Sir John Lawrence, when he was Viceroy, and that was approved by Sir Ashley Eden's Committee in 1879 and by Sir Donald Stewart, who was himself a great Commander-in-Chief in India. Theoretically, this solution seems to me to be right, and the change is one that must have been contemplated by the framers of the statute, because, when they made the Commander-in-Chief an Extraordinary Member, they clearly implied a certain discretion to the Secretary of State in putting him on, or not putting him on, that body. And yet, at the same time, I do not think there is one of us in this House, and there are several, who has had official connection with the Government of India who would not greatly regret the disappearance of the Commander-in-Chief from the Council of the Viceroy. I have always felt that so strongly that I argued against it at some length in the Minute which was submitted to Parliament. It has always seemed to me, first, that the Commander-in-Chief is so important a person in India that he ought to be a member of the Government; and, secondly, from my own experience—and nowhere did this experience apply more fully than in the case of Lord Kitchener—that his authority and experience, very likely derived from a wide area of previous service in other parts of the world, is of enormous value to the Government of India, many of the members of which have quite a restricted range of experience and information. I have, therefore, always been in favour of the Commander-in-Chief remaining a member of the Council. But, at the same time, if the Secretary of State tells us that the present system is going to continue, or if I felt myself that it was going to continue unaltered, I would change those views. I would sooner have a Commander-in-Chief who could discharge the great duties of his office at the expense of turning him out of the Council than I would have one who, because he was constantly required at headquarters, was obliged to neglect his duties as Commander-in-Chief.

There is another solution which may, perhaps, have suggested itself to some noble Lords. It is one which I have heard discussed. It is that you should make your new Army Member the really important man in the Army of India; that he should be responsible for the entire Army, should, in fact, be what would be described as the War Minister in European countries; that you should continue to keep the Commander-in-Chief, with a seat in the Council, but that he should remain second in military prestige and in military rank, the understanding being that, as Commander-in-Chief, it was his main duty to carry out the inspectional business of his office and that he would be absent frequently and at long intervals from headquarters.


The Commander-in-Chief is the Army Member of the Council. Is the suggestion that he should be kept in that capacity or not?


I would keep the Army Member, but I would dissociate the Army Member from the Commander-in-Chief. Under this suggesttion the real head of the Army would be the Army Member, invested with all the administrative authority which has been conferred on that officer, but from that office I would detach the whole of the executive functions appertaining to the Commander-in-Chief, who would be an officer still retaining his seat as an Extraordinary Member of the Council, but inferior in position and in rank to the Army Member, and therefore incapable of developing in relation to him the friction which is said to have been occasioned in the past. This is not my suggestion; it is one which I have heard discussed.

It is not for me to examine or to suggest solutions to your Lordships. The only thing about which I am absolutely confident—and here I would predict just as sanguinely as I did about the Military Supply Department four years ago—is that the present system cannot last. I assure your Lordships that I do not criticise it because it has broken down in practice, since, as your Lordships know, it has only just now been set up. Neither do I criticise it on the ground that it is going to break down in practice. I criticise it rather because, as I have endeavoured to show, it is incompatible with the principles of sound military administration; because it deprives the Government of India of the opportunity of hearing any but one high military opinion upon the military matters submitted to it; because although you may muddle along, as our nation is in the habit of doing, in time of peace, no one knows what will happen to your machine in time of war; and because at a time when we ought to regard with the most careful and scrupulous attention anything appertaining to the Native Army and when the slightest mistake in connection with that Army may land you in irreparable disaster in India, you have destroyed the only guarantees that existed for the protection of those interests and have set up nothing in their place. I believe that if this system, as I think, of excessive concentration, of dangerous centralisation, is allowed to continue to exist in the headquarters of the Army in India, a time will come when this country will be called upon to pay a serious price for it.

Moved, That an humble Address be laid before His Majesty for Papers relating to recent changes in the military administration in the Government of India.—(Lord Curzon of Kedleston.)


My Lords, I make no complaint whatever of the noble Lord for bringing this subject before the attention of the House. I agree with him in all he has said as to the delicacy and the importance of wise dealing with the Native Army. On the last occasion when this House discussed Indian military administration the noble and gallant Earl the Field-Marshal used language which is of the greatest importance for many reasons, and which is in perfect harmony with what the noble Lord has said. Lord Roberts said— The Native Army is by far the most difficult and delicate part of the problem with which the Government has to deal— This was in 1905— and unless this is constantly borne in mind I foresee that troubles will as assuredly arise in the future as they have done in the past. Those are very pregnant and remarkable words, and, though the point is for the moment parenthetical, I will say one word about it. The last time I had the honour of addressing this House was on political reform. Political reform is not wholly unconnected with this delicate problem—the noble Field-Marshal and the noble Lord both agree that it is the most delicate of the problems—and it is connected because the Indian Army is recruited from the Indian population, and cannot wholly escape from the influences, the moods, the opinions, and the feelings of those from whom they come. Therefore, and this is the last word on this point, to conciliate by reforms which are not unsound and not perilous the population from which the Indian Army comes must be, in my view—and I believe the noble Field-Marshal will not differ from me—must be a wise and politic operation.

Now I pass to the subjects raised by the noble Lord opposite. I have seen in the public prints that this was to be a very important debate, but I declare I do not know now what is the practical object which the noble Lord had in view. Most of what he said—in fact, all of what he said—touched matters with which I, at least as Minister, have had no concern. His speech was not a criticism of anything that has been done by His Majesty's present Ministers, but a criticism of the views and action of the Government that preceded us

The House well remembers the transactions in the summer of 1905, when a Viceroy, a Prime Minister, and a Commander-in-Chief rode into the lists and startled the country, and created what was undoubtedly, I think, a most unedifying situation in the history of our rule in India. It was no new question. It had been debated by Commissions, by Viceroys, and by men of high mark of all kinds, both civil and military. And I never could see why that question could not have been argued in the summer of 1905 in the same temper in which other difficult questions are argued and settled. There were two protagonists, men of tenacious character, and they plunged into mortal combat, and it was that which created what I venture to repeat was a most unedifying and mischievous situation. We took that over and I declare I do not know to-day what it is that the noble Lord has in view, because I do not think he would come forward for the purposes of bare criticism, and I do not know why this dead horse should be flogged again. It is a kind of triangular controversy. The noble Lord quarrels with Lord Midleton over the abolition of the old Military Department. The noble Viscount, Lord Midleton, I daresay, will quarrel with me for abolishing the Department of Military Supply. I shall simply tell my own plain tale, and explain the policy which has guided us in the changes we have made.

We found in existence, established by Lord Midleton, the principle of a change in the military government of India. A Department of Military Supply was set up, but I think it was well understood at the time that it was a provisional and tentative proposal, and that, as the noble Lord has just said, it was a compromise. The noble Marquess who leads the Opposition said— This arrangement may possibly not be perfect. There is no finality in these things. The moment may come when it may be necessary to reconsider some of these details. His Majesty's present Government then took office. They found a Viceroy working out the ideas which the noble Viscount, Lord Midleton, had submitted. The Government of India wrote me a Despatch conveying the progress that their work was making. I may dwell upon this a little in order to show that I have not been restless, that I have not been moved by any desire for change. Our position was expressed in a Despatch in the year 1906, and I do hope the House will think that I was prudent in not at once reopening the settlement, especially after all the painful circumstances which had attended that transaction. What I wrote in my Despatch to the Government of India was this— This compromise among conflicting opinions as to the best way of meeting an admitted desirableness of some improvement and readjustment in the position of the Military Department, His Majesty's Government do not think it wise to re-open, nor by a stroke of the pen to dismiss, at the risk of an indefinite prolongation of fruitless and injurious controversy. The next step was that the Government of India submitted to me a Despatch in which they described the working of the scheme of Lord Midleton as excellent. The prophecies of the noble Lord, Lord Curzon, as to the breakdown of the Supply Department were not immediately fulfilled and in some senses they were not fulfilled at all. I wrote to the Viceroy— I have read with pleasure the excellent results so far achieved by the harmonious co-operation of all concerned in fulfilling the intentions and in justifying the anticipations of His Majesty's Government. Friction appears to have sensibly decreased, and for this, praise is due to all who have taken part in the development of the new system. I agree with Your Excellency, however, in recognising that it may be found necessary to make modifications of the system with the view of simplifying its organisation and reducing its cost. The Government of India replied— After giving this question our fullest consideration we are agreed in respectfully but strongly deprecating there-opening of the question of Military Administration in India at the present time, and only some eighteen months after the introduction of the new system, when if the proposed change should be accepted, we cannot but apprehend a recrudescence of heated and acrimonious public discussion which in the interests of the Army and the Government of India generally it is most desirable to avoid. When I received that as an argument I was not impressed by the strength of it, and I thought it showed a want of faith in the public spirit and tact and good taste of English public men of all camps to suppose that a mere change in the Department would lead to a revival of acrimonious and heated discussion. The speech of the noble Lord this afternoon shows that I was prefectly right, and though we are having a discussion upon this matter it has not been acrimonious and it will not be acrimonious. However, I said we would take another year to observe the working of the rules made for Military Supply. In 1907 the Government of India still deprecated the raising of the question, but they agreed that the abolition of the Military Supply Member was "administratively and economically based on sound arguments," and would "have to be dealt with sooner or later."

The noble Lord said that the original protest was unanimous on the part of the Council, and was signed by all its members. He will not fail to observe, I hope, that this Despatch agreeing with me that the proposal to abolish the position was administratively and economically based on sound arguments, was signed by two gentlemen who had signed his own protesting earlier Despatch. The end of it was I put to them certain specific questions as to the working of the Supply Department. They still went on urging me not to press the question forward, but replying to my questions. My argument was a very simple one. I said, "I cannot consent to take out of the revenues of India £10,000 a year (which is about the sum involved in the continuance of the Supply Department), because you are afraid that there may be acrimonious discussion at home and in India," and I am sure that the House will agree that that was the only course that the responsible Minister for India could take. If the Supply Department deserved the adverse opinions expressed on it I should have been guilty of great cowardice if I had not said that this saving of Indian revenues and this abolition of a useless and perhaps inconvenient office must take place. That change was made. Lord Midleton may blame what has been done. The Supply Department was his creation. I only beg him to remember that what was done was approved by all who were concerned in the working of it—by Lord Kitchener and by General Scott, who was the head of the Military Supply Department; and both these distinguished men are disinterested in their willingness to abandon it, because Lord Kitchener is coming home in a few weeks, and General Scott, of course, loses the post a year before he would otherwise have done. Therefore I press upon the noble Viscount to remember that I was supported in this by all the best and most disinterested opinion that we could find. I cannot think that the House will suppose that I was wrong.

Now I pass but very briefly to the controversy raised by the noble Lord, which is a controversy between himself and the noble Viscount who sits near him. His speech more than anything else was a defence of the old system of a Military Department and upon the old lines, too. It was a defence of that system of the Military Department which the noble Viscount abolished, and nearly all his arguments were directed to it. He cited me as agreeing, and so I do, that the Military Supply Department was a mistake. He talked of his predictions and said they had come true. One of his predictions certainly came true, and that a very important one, and that accounts for my desire to give up the Military Supply Department. He had always predicted that the gentleman who held that post would not find more than two hours work daily. Whether that is literally true or not I do not know, but the gentleman who filled the post is, and was, a man of high character and will certainly do well all work entrusted to him.

But the noble Lord made various other predictions which I submit have not proved to be true. He said four years ago— There will be a military despotism which will dethrone the Government of India from the constitutional control of the Indian Army, and set up a single commander in its place, and then the noble Lord talked about re-volutionising the Government of India, and used language about Lord Kitchener advocating a system of military autocracy—violating the fundamental principles of the constitution—and so forth. Well, my Lords, there are many subjects of controversy in politics presenting like features, upon which there have been many sinister apprehensions, many confident predictions, many alarmist anticipations, and the historian looking at these with a friendly smile proceeds to record the complete falsification of all these predictions by the event.


But those to which I have referred have all been proved.


May I be permitted to ask the noble Lord if he says that the Government of India have lost constitutional control over the Indian Army? Has Lord Kitchener promulgated a system of military autocracy which violates the fundamental principles of the constitution?


Perhaps I had better defer my answer till I have an opportunity to reply later on.


When the noble Lord does reply, I beg him to point to any evidence that any of the predictions conveyed in his sonorous sentences and phrases have been in any way justified. Will he say whether he thinks that at this moment the Government of India is dethroned from the constitutional control of the Indian Army, that a single commander has taken its place with a system of military autocracy? Before he makes up his mind what to say I will venture to call the evidence of the present Viceroy, Lord Minto. He, addressing his Legislative Council on the point, used these words:— Will the new system of the Army Administration ensure for the Government of India the necessary constitutional control over the Commander-in-Chief? I unhesitatingly assert, after the experience of some years of the results of the transfer to the Commander-in-Chief of the power and much of the work of the Military Member, that the change of system, while giving him wider administrative authority, has materially detracted from his independence of action. I can understand the apprehensions of my predecessors as to their want of control over him. The Commander-in-Chief was in many matters free to act on his own initiative; there was no direct channel of communication whatever between him and the Viceroy, there was no Secretary to Government answerable to the Viceroy for a clear explanation of the Commander-in-Chief's views— I hope the House will note these words— The post of Secretary to the Army Department will now always be held by a distinguished General Officer on the same footing as a Secretary of Government in every other Department, fully entitled to differ from the head of the Department and with free access to the Viceroy. That was the change dilated upon in my first Despatch in February, 1906, and nobody knows better than the noble Lord what is the importance of the position of a Secretary to the Government of India; he is a General officer of high standing, he has free access to the Viceroy, and all business passes through him on its way to the Viceroy. It is therefore, I submit, a perfect delusion to represent the Viceroy as isolated and the Commander-in-Chief as a military autocrat doing what he likes.

There is another personage concerned in the system of Indian government—the Secretary of State. There is at present, and I trust it may continue, complete harmony between the Secretary of State and the Government of India, but there were two occasions, two important pieces of policy, on which the Commander-in-Chief took one view and his Majesty's Government here, by the advice of military counsellors in whom they had confidence, took another view. Did Lord Kitchener resist our view? On the contrary, after manfully fighting for his own view, he acquiesced and deferred to our opinion. I have never known a man do so more readily on these two decisions. Therefore all this talk about military autocracy is completely wide of the mark. I can imagine that, if there were a strangely weak set of men at Simla or Whitehall and a very powerful Commander-in-Chief, the latter might be able to bully and defy the Secretary of State and the Government, but I do not believe that the noble Lord will ever witness such a phenomenon. Much of the noble Lord's argument was on the assumption that the Commander-in-Chief, being of a masterful character, will really be an autocrat; perhaps he will explain how he holds that.

There are one or two other points I have to deal with. It has been argued that you are going to impose on the Commander-in-Chief a burden too heavy for the shoulders of any man to bear. The noble Marquess used exactly the same language in this House four years ago. He said— I do not know if there are any human shoulders broad enough to bear the double strain of Army administration and Army command. As I was listening to the noble Lord I could not help wondering when he described the weight of the burden—and it is not a light one—whether it could not equally be shown, if set out on paper, that the weight, the responsibilities of a Minister of State are such that no man can bear them. He quoted the language of the India ActThe superintendence, direction, and control of the whole civil and military government shall be and is vested in the Governor-General in Council, and so the words stand on paper, and looked at literally and in their skeleton form they describe a burden impossible to be borne. But all Ministers have heavy duties to perform and discharge them as best they can, and so will the Commander-in-Chief. The noble Lord will remember in "Rasselas" the description of the qualifications for a poet and the reply— Enough, you have convinced me that no man can be a poet. So it might be said of the responsibilities and duties of many offices, including that of the Governor of the Bank of England. Of course, the answer is the obvious policy of delegation of duties, and Lord Kitchener has wisely and prudently carried this policy to an extent to which it has never been carried before. He has delegated many duties to divisional commands that were previously centralised in Simla or Calcutta. The cases are numerous. I will not detain the House by going over them. It is, then, a complete delusion to say that the Commander-in-Chief cannot do what he is required to do. The ditties of the Supply Department, I am assured by those well qualified to speak on the subject, include many to which he has always had to pay attention. On the point of excessive work I would venture to point out that the measure of a man's responsibility is not the measure of a man's work. It should be borne in mind that much depends on the arrangement of business and organisation, on decentralisation, on delegation of authority, and on devolution of business.

Now a word about the position of the Commander-in-Chief in war. The noble Lord did not tell your Lordships that no Commander-in-Chief, at any rate so far as I know, has taken the field since the year 1857. The noble Lord's picture of the denudation of the Viceroy was rather overdrawn, for there would be left behind the Adjutant-General with most of his division and also the staff of the Quarter-master-General. The Viceroy would not, therefore, be completely denuded, and there would be no break at all in the continuity of information; and if the Home Government sent out, as they might, an acting Commander-in-Chief, in the event of the Commander-in-Chief taking the field, there would be still less danger of the Viceroy being left in the dark. The noble Lord had rather peculiar views at one moment. As I understand, he entertained the idea of the Viceroy himself directing a campaign. That certainly surprised me very much. I do not believe any other Viceroy would have suggested that he should conduct a campaign.


Who entertained that idea?


You did yourself.


Oh, no.


I will read what the noble Lord said— In war it is the Government and its head in particular, even more than the Commander-in-Chief, who would be held responsible for success or failure; and no deference to military advice could exonerate the remainder of the Government if they accepted a scheme with their eyes open which they conscientiously believed would break down in the hour of trial. I cannot conceive that any Viceroy would consent to conduct a great campaign against a European foe with the machinery that is offered him by Lord Kitchener.….Speaking for myself, I would respectfully ask to be excused from accepting any such responsibility.


When I talked about conducting a campaign from headquarters, I meant it in exactly the same way as the Prime Minister would do it in this country. Really, to take my words and distort them into the meaning that I contemplated the Viceroy taking the field in person is too ridiculous.


Well, I will leave that, and will pass to the question of finance. If the noble Lord wishes to know the views of the Government of India concerning the success of the arrangements for controlling finance, he will find them fully stated by the Viceroy in his speech to the Council in March last, and also by Lord Kitchener in his speech on the same occasion. I can only assure your Lordships that military finance has never been under the unrestricted control of the Commander-in-Chief, and I do not believe that any Commander-in-Chief has had less free and unfettered control than Lord Kitchener has had.

Lord Kitchener well deserves the compliments which the noble and gallant Field-Marshal paid him in a debate in 1905. Lord Roberts then said— I hope that the great soldier at present at the head of the Army in India, to whose hearty co-operation during the war in South Africa I myself was so deeply indebted, accepting the decision of the Government, will feel that the right course has been adopted. I am glad to say there never was a Commander-in-Chief who has more loyally and willingly acquiesced in all that devolved upon him to do, even when he was in disagreement with our view. In three or four weeks Lord Kitchener is leaving his post, a post in which he has shown powers of military administration, military knowledge, and military skill that have never been surpassed—[turning to Earl Roberts] I say surpassed—by any preceding Commander-in-Chief in India. We all, the Government and the country generally, owe him our gratitude for his services. He makes a remark in one of his Papers which is well worth the attention of the House, and which justifies the time given to this debate. He says that Indian administration is much more than a merely Indian question. And so it is. He says also that Indian military administration and organisation are the key of some of the most serious difficulties we have in our own domestic military policy. I hope, therefore, that in considering the changes made by the noble Viscount opposite and then by ourselves the House will feel that we have to keep in view all the time the wise reorganisation and perfecting of the military system of India, because we know how with that is bound up the solution of some of our own military problems, and what tremendous difficulties would fall upon this country if any mistake were made either in organisation or reform by the Army and its leaders in India.


My Lords, I desire to take part in this debate, but my words will be few. The noble Viscount has quoted from my speech in 1905. I can only say that I never shall forget the heartiness of the support given to me in South Africa by Lord Kitchener, and that I have watched his career in India with delight. At the same time I cannot help expressing my regret that the noble Viscount has thought it necessary finally to do away with the Military Member of Council and thus leave the Commander-in-Chief the only military representative on that Council. I will not express any opinion as to whether the duties latterly entrusted to the Military Member were sufficiently onerous or not to warrant his being specially retained to superintend the Department of Military Supply. Lord Curzon has gone fully into that matter, and I will only express my concurrence with him as to the impossibility of any one man carrying out in a manner satisfactory either to himself or the State the enormous amount of work that must henceforth devolve on the Commander-in-Chief.

The diagram of the organisation of the Army administration in India as it exists now that the Military Supply Department has been transferred to Army Headquarters shows what a multiplication of offices and what a variety of duties are concentrated under the sole control of the Commander-in-Chief. In addition to being the head of the Army in a military sense, he is now the head in a Civil sense; in fact, he is Commander-in-Chief and Secretary of State for War rolled into one I observe from the published correspondence that the proposal to take this step did not emanate from the Government of India, but from the Secretary of State for India. The Government of India apparently deprecated any change being made for the present, for the same reason, I imagine, that makes me feel the undesirability of placing such a heavy responsibility and such an enormous amount of work on the shoulders of any one man, however competent he may be. I found the work of Commander-in-Chief in India heavy enough, and in my time the Madras and Bombay Presidencies each had its own Commander-in-Chief. These appointments have since been done away with, a measure which must add considerably to the duties of the Commander-in-Chief in India, more especially because the General Officer who has taken the places of these officers and now commands the whole of Southern India is not in the same position as the Commanders-in-Chief were, and has nothing like the same authority or the same responsibility that they had.

When the subject of Indian military administration was discussed by the Committee of which I was a member in 1905 I agreed that it was desirable to make some change in the respective duties of the Commander-in-Chief and what was then the Military Member of the Council, but I strongly opposed the abolition of the Military Member for the reasons I have just stated. The first duty of the Commander-in-Chief in India is to become acquainted and keep in touch with the Native Army all over the country, and in order to do this thoroughly it is necessary for him to spend nearly the whole of the six cold weather months travelling about. How is it possible for a Commander-in-Chief to do this and at the same time to carry on his work in the Viceroy's Council? Either the work must be relegated to a subordinate, who has no responsibility, or the intimate knowledge of the Native Army, which is so essential, must be neglected. This is why I so deeply regret the action taken by the Secretary of State for India.


My Lords, the noble Lord in introducing this Motion told your Lordships that he had not for the last three years said anything on this question which would in any way embarrass the noble Viscount opposite. I have to ask your Lordships' indulgence for a few moments because the case put by the noble Lord and the reply of the Secretary of State have both assumed certain facts based on a misunderstanding of the arrangement made four years ago. During the whole period since that arrangement was made not a word has been said in Parliament, and no opportunity, therefore, has been afforded to any one on behalf of the then Government to explain the position which brought us to the solution for which we were responsible. I should not trouble your Lordships with past history but for the fact that this debate would be incomplete if the House were not seised of the very serious considerations which forced the late Government to take action. Perhaps their greatest vindication is in the fact that the noble Viscount the Secretary of State, after the fears which he expressed before he took office, has found it desirable so greatly to extend the action of the late Government as he has done by the transfer of powers to the Commander-in-Chief which your Lordships are asked to discuss to-night.

I do not think it will surprise any member of this House when I say that no Government ever undertook the task of dealing with the reform of military administration in India with greater reluctance than the Government of which I had the honour to be a member. For many years successive Governments have been engaged upon the task of reform of the military system in this country. Nearly twenty years have now elapsed since that was first undertaken, and he would be a bold man indeed who would stand up in this House and say that the results which we have even now attained can be regarded with any degree of finality or as being universally accepted by the country. In one respect the situation in India was exceptionally favourable in 1904 for effecting a change. The noble Lord has paid a high tribute to the qualities which Lord Kitchener brought to the performance of the duties of Commander-in-Chief in India. Undoubtedly his experience outside India was almost unique. For fifty years no Commander-in-Chief in India had held the post who had not been, so to speak, born and bred in the military system of India. Lord Kitchener had recently acted as Chief of the Staff, and afterwards Commander-in-Chief, of an army of 250,000 men, and, as I have said, he went to India with an almost unique experience. It would not be right to let it be believed that the system of dual control had been altogether satisfactory up to the time that the question was raised by Lord Kitchener. I fully admit that the system by which a civilian, a member of the Cabinet, controls military affairs side by side with the military heads of the Army is inevitable under our Constitution, but if you substitute for the civilian with all his disadvantages an officer who is to be a sort of rival of the head of the Army, especially if he is junior in rank, I venture to say you must expect considerable difficulties. We heard something from the noble Lord of the difficulty of a man who is subordinate to the Commander-in-Chief and is the second member of Council giving any effective criticism unless he has the power of acting as the Minister in charge of the Army Department.

Was there ever such a position as that which we found in 1904? You take the greatest soldier you have and you give him the position of Commander-in-Chief in India—a position of which there is no equal in all the armies in the world, because no one else who is not a Sovereign commands an Army, as the Commander-in-Chief in India does, of over 200,000 men. You give him a seat on the Council and hold him up before the whole world as responsible for the efficiency of the Indian Army, but you give him nominally as a colleague and coadjutor, but in reality as controller, a man who is his junior in rank and inferior in military reputation, who is the channel of all his communications with the Viceroy and entitled to argue purely military questions with him on an equality and to convey to him the decisions of the Viceroy's Council, which in nine cases out of ten are not really the decisions of the Viceroy's Council, but the decisions of the Military Member himself. I know the noble Lord will argue, and will argue with absolute right, that the Military Member does not criticise, accept, or refuse the Commander-in-Chief's proposals as an independent military authority, but as the constitutional representative of the Government of India. That is true, but I am not sure that it did very much to salve the feelings of successive Commanders-in-Chief who find proposals to which they attach importance set aside by a junior. I am quite certain that outside there was a strong feeling that the safety of India, the policy of the Army, was intended to be committed to the Commander-in-Chief and not to the man who sat in the Military Member's chair.

The system had caused friction before Lord Kitchener arrived in India. I will not cite again the oft-repeated words in which the noble and gallant Field-Marshal in 1889 summed up the differences of opinion which arose. I join in every word that was said by Lord Curzon as regards the noble and gallant Earl's position as Commander-in-Chief. With the loyalty and good feeling which he managed to impart Lord Roberts succeeded in carrying on his work in India without any serious collision occurring between the two Departments. But both in the case of Sir George White, who followed him, and of Sir William Lockhart there were moments of considerable tension. There was beyond that a thing which has not been mentioned to-night. In our military affairs promptitude in dealing with matters is one of the most important elements, but the correspondence between the Military Department in India and the Commander-in-Chief, sitting, as I have always understood, in adjacent buildings, was so immense that in the year when I asked for a return of the missives which had passed between these two bodies of officers I found that they numbered between 9,000 and 10,000. Even after a long experience of the War Office in this country, and with the fullest conviction that in old days the War Office and the Treasury here were as badly organised to transact business as could possibly be the case, the Indian system, it seemed to me, was able to give long points in delay and in want of coming to an arrangement on questions which seemed easily capable of adjustment. I have only gone into these points because I am convinced that this question could not have been left alone—


Hear, hear.


I am glad to hear that assent from the noble Viscount. It could not have remained where it was. There is another point, as regards the two Members of Council and their advice to the Viceroy. I do not wish to labour this question, but I think it right to say that that was the cardinal point of difference between the late Government and Lord Curzon. I mean the question whether there should be two men to give opposition advice on purely military questions. No one questions the right of the Viceroy to consult any officer he pleases on any subject, but to put two men in Council who on technical expert questions could give opinions against each other after you had selected one of them as Commander-in-Chief for his special qualities seemed to create a great difficulty. I know I shall be asked how it was that successive Viceroys approved of the transaction of business under the conditions which prevailed, and how it was that almost all Viceroys regarded the second military opinion as a very valuable asset. I think that that question had grown insensibly far beyond the limits which it was originally intended to reach. The Military Member had by force of circumstances become a far greater man than he was even in the time of Lord Roberts, and it had ended by there being gradually swept into his hands a very much larger amount of business than had been originally anticipated.

In regard to the question of duplicated advice, it might be interesting to your Lordships to know that the difficulties which we found in 1904 had been foreseen fifty years before by one than whom no greater administrator ever spent himself in the service of India—Lord Dalhousie. In a Memorandum of great force with regard to the Government of India Lord Dalhousie used these words: For military questions the Governor-General has always at his command by law the advice of the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, the highest authority on such subjects. The presence, therefore, of another Military Member in Council ought to be wholly superfluous in connection with military matters. It not only is superfluous but might become inconvenient, and might be the cause of perplexity to the Governor-General instead of an assistance Since the head of the Army ought to be the most competent adviser on military matters, I think the Commander-in-Chief should occupy his seat and that no second Military Member should be placed in the Council merely in consideration of his reputation or services as a purely military officer. I think there is great force in that contention. On the other hand, we were far from desiring to transfer to the Commander-in-Chief a load of business such as he would not be able to perform. As to advice, we felt that the Viceroy could obtain advice from any quarter that he desired.

As regards the military autocracy which was feared, the noble Viscount opposite touched upon some of the checks which still exist upon the Commander-in-Chief. I do not think he mentioned all of them. I represented a Government who were as determined as the noble Lord behind me that the position of the Viceroy should be safeguarded to the fullest extent. But look at the course of military affairs under the proposal of the noble Viscount opposite. Supposing the Commander-in-Chief to introduce some proposal which is of great novelty and which might in some way affect the Indian Army. The Commander-in-Chief must bring it before the Mobilisation Committee, on which several military officers as well as civilians sit. The Secretary to the Military Department—a Major-General—will report upon it, entirely apart from the Commander-in-Chief, to the Viceroy. After the Viceroy's Council have dealt with it it comes over to the India Office, where it runs the gauntlet of another Military Department, also headed by an Indian General, and by a Military Committee, and, finally, of the Secretary of State's Council, on which always one and generally two other Indian Generals sit. My fear would be that this system of checking and counterchecking was still too great for the rapid transaction of business. But in administration we felt that there was ground for a change. Lord Kitchener left us in no doubt as to what his view was.

As we made so grave a change, and a change which I propose in a moment to justify, let me read a few sentences of Lord Kitchener's Despatch as showing what his feeling was as to the deadlock in military affairs created by the system which he desired to overthrow. He wrote— The dual control here is fatal to efficient government. Our Indian 'administration has been framed mainly to meet peace requirements, and the consideration that an army exists for war has been overlooked. He wrote further— In war the present system must break down, and unless it is deliberately intended to court disaster, divided authority and divided responsibility must be abolished. Those were very serious words. I doubt if any man holding the position of Secretary of State would have been willing to put them aside, especially at a moment when for the first time in our history it had been agreed that the whole British Army, to the number of 120,000, or now 150,000 men, should in case of need be held available for the Indian frontier. With those alarming statements in our minds we had the opportunity in 1904 of considering in some detail with the noble Lord, who was then on leave for a time in this country, what steps might be taken. The question I remember had been discussed with him by the Prime Minister, by Lord Roberts, and by the India Office officials; but so grave was the position that while that question was still being considered here, and while the noble Lord the Viceroy was absent from India, matters reached such a pass at Simla that Lord Kitchener found himself unable to continue the command, and through Lord Ampthill, who was then Viceroy, he desired me to submit to the King his resignation of the office of Commander-in-Chief. He went further. He telegraphed to the Secretary of State for War and desired to submit that he should be placed upon retired pay in order that he should be in the position, as he then would be lacing no longer a combatant officer, to bring the whole of this question before Parliament and the country. I had thought it right to mention how deep-seated was the difficulty in order that your Lordships may appreciate that we did not take up this question in any light spirit, and that being ourselves convinced that there was reason for amendment before Lord Kitchener felt it necessary to take this extreme step, we were the more impelled to see that the machine was made to work smoothly, which I venture to say is more important even than the retention of any person in the command in India.

The noble Lord asked why these questions were not settled quietly. I think it was unfortunate that through various circumstances a proposal which I made to the noble Lord at the time was not able to be carried out. I was under the conviction then, as now, that by personal conference with the Viceroy and the Commander-in-Chief on the spot an arrangement might have been come to which might not have been the exact arrangement to which we ultimately committed ourselves but which would have smoothed over these difficulties and left us a thoroughly effective working system. To that end in January, 1905, after we had written our Despatch to the Government of India and after the noble Lord had resumed his position, I telegraphed to him proposing to send out a Commission of three members who would, I think, have commanded the confidence of every one on either side, no matter what his predilections were in the matter. The three members I proposed were Lord George Hamilton, who had been seven years Secretary of State for India; the noble and gallant Field-Marshal Earl Roberts, who had been seven years Commander-in-Chief; and Sir Arthur Godley, whose experience and knowledge of India Office affairs was probably unrivalled. Circumstances prevented the Government of India concluding their investigations before the hot weather. This made it impossible for the noble Lord, while welcoming the Commission, to accept their arrival before the month of May—a time when it is almost impossible to ask men of that age and standing to travel throughout the hot weather both ways and to carry out their investigations in the heat as well. Consequently the matter had to be decided over here; but the result of that decision has had scant justice done to it to-night.

In what I have said regarding the working of the Military Department in India let it not be supposed that I wish to cast any slur on the then head of the Department, Sir Edmond Elles; than whom a better or more efficient public servant never did work in India. Nor had we the least intention of substituting for him a simulacrum. We left to the Department an immense amount of routine business. We left them the administration of funds amounting to between £3,000,000 and £6,000,000, the control of manufacturing departments which employ between 15,000 and 20,000 workmen, the management of all the military works, of remounts, of the military marine and the medical department stores; and, on the top of all this, the Military Supply Member was a member of the Mobilisation Committee and also a member of the Council, with all the responsibilities which the noble Lord told us just now attached to the position. I have filled a position something similar to that, without having a Cabinet seat, at the War Office myself. I had exactly the same control of contracts and of manufacturing departments and the rest, and I venture to say that there is no man who could have done that work in this country in two hours a day. I venture to say that if the noble Lord behind me had had charge of that department he would have found that it was an important element in the government of India, and that he was able to exercise very great influence in military affairs as well as relieve the Commander-in-Chief of a great number of duties.

It is quite true that we clearly cut a distinction between the work of that Department and the old Department. The new man was to be available for advice to the Viceroy, but he was not to have referred to him all purely military questions in order that his opinion should be set against that of the Commander-in-Chief. He was, as it were, a civilian with military knowledge; he was not a Military Member with military powers. I would ask the House to believe that that decision was come to without the slightest intention of merely finding a way out and salving the feelings of any one, however distinguished. It was come to because we wished to keep a second Military Member in Council, because we wished to prevent the Commander-in-Chief being overloaded, and because we believed that by eliminating one element of which I have spoken we should have accomplished this end.

Lord Curzon used the word "failure" with regard to that Department, and said it was one of those compromises which give satisfaction to neither party and aggravate where they are expected to appease. I find no evidence in support of those words in the Correspondence which had been laid before your Lordships' House. On the contrary, every word speaks of the success of this Department. All arrears have been cleared away and all friction has disappeared, and if you want to see what the success has been look at what Lord Kitchener has been able to accomplish in the last five years. When this Department was formed you could mobilise four divisions in India; you can now mobilise nine divisions. Since this Department has been formed the questions of stores, horses, transport, hospitals, and reserves of all descriptions have been dealt with. I do not say that has been due solely to the establishment of this Department, but I will say that the extraordinary rapidity with which the work has been done is an asset in the consideration of this question. Lord Kitchener has steadily added officers to the Indian Army. I wish the same could be said of the Army in this country, where we are short of officers at this moment to a degree of absolute peril. In India they have added to the pay of the men and have added 15,000 men to the Army. And at what cost has that been accomplished? So far as I know, at the cost of a. special vote of £10,000,000 and an addition of £2,000,000 a year to the Estimates. We had a special vote of £10,000,000 in this country, and we have had an addition of £7,000,000 a year to the Estimates. That is maintained by this Government. I will not say we have made no progress. Far from it But I will say that in the last four years, while India has steadily gone on increasing her strength and preparedness, we have bought our increasing efficiency here by the surrender of a large number of our best trained men. I feel that if by the operations of the Government four years ago we have been able to add even a modicum to the success of Lord Kitchener's operations, we have done something as a set off to the unfortunate, and, to my mind, deplorable differences which were aroused at the time to which the noble Lord has alluded.

Looking to the future I confess that I view with great regret the further step which the noble Viscount the Secretary of State has taken. I am not going to occupy time by endeavouring to improve in any way, for I could not, upon the account which Lord Curzon has given of the probable overloading of the Commander-in-Chief in India. I realise that in every way it is necessary to keep up the status of the Commander-in-Chief. I think that if there is danger of his being overloaded in time of peace, if there is danger that he will be occupied by his task at Simla when, as the noble and gallant Field-Marshal said, he ought to be carrying on his inspections, the danger is ten times greater in time of war. How are you to get out of this dilemma? You are going, if necessary, to send 150,000 men to the Indian frontier and employ the whole Indian Army there. Who is going to command in the field? If you take your best soldier and send him to India as Commander-in-Chief, and if he is to be kept at Simla, then clearly you will employ a less good and less distinguished General in the field; and if you do not restrict yourselves to the officers who are actually in command in India at the time and send out some one from this country who may be of equal prestige and weight, you will, I think. be taking a very grave responsibility. There is great risk in sending out a man after a campaign has been begun to carry out operations in a country and with troops with which he has never been associated. For that reason I look upon the decision of the noble Viscount as premature and as not unlikely to cause embarrassment. I confess that I thought the account which he gave of the opinion of he Government of India was somewhat magnified and exaggerated. The Government of India took up practically a negative position. They said it was a question which might be dealt with some time, but both in their Despatch of 1908 and of 1907 they deprecated action being taken—


On the ground that it would lead to an acrimonious discussion.


Their words were that they remained of the same opinion as in the previous year, and that opinion was that it would be undesirable that the question should be reopened at the moment. It is a curious fact that that opinion was actually signed by Sir Erle Richards and Sir E. N. Baker, two of those who were amongst the unanimous Council of the noble Lord against the change introduced. But if the noble Lord does not get support in India for massing all this work on the Commander-in-Chief, I look round this House and wonder what support he will receive here. We have heard one ex-Viceroy. We shall, before the close of the discussion, hear another ex-Viceroy in the person of the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition. We have heard an ex-Commander-in-Chief; and if Lord Cromer adds his weight to what has been said we shall have had as complete an expression of opinion as we could wish for. Lord Ampthill, I know, is of the same opinion.

I would take this opportunity before I sit down of explaining that the majority of the Committee over which I presided at the India Office which made this change were originally disposed to accept the view which the Secretary of State has now adopted, but when we came to hear the opinions which we invited from several of those who had held high positions in India we found practical unanimity on the side of there being some second Military Member, not necessarily the same Military Member as before but some second Military authority, so as to avoid that overloading of the Commander-in-Chief of which so much has been said. It has been suggested that those opinions ought to have been published. I was unable to publish them. I should wish to have published them, but the Committee was a Departmental Committee. The opinions were asked for privately and were taken in a most informal manner. We asked— Could India be conducted with the Commander-in-Chief as the sole administrator or could it not? and the opinion was that it could not. In those circumstances I cannot help regretting that the change has now been made, as I think, with undue precipitancy. I cannot but doubt whether the saving in money would be at all equal to the possible loss of efficiency in a campaign. For those reasons I would have earnestly asked the noble Viscount, if the matter had not already been carried out, to wait until this House had had an opportunity of expressing an opinion. Five years would not have been an undue period in which to test so important a machinery as that which we set in motion, and it would have enabled us to look round and see whether, under a new Commander-in-Chief, the working of the machinery was effective and in accordance with the wishes of the responsible Government of India.


My Lords, the noble Viscount who has just sat down dwelt with very great reason upon the inconveniences arising from a dual system. A dual system is certainly a bad system, especially in connection with military matters; but I cannot help thinking that my noble friend rather forgot one point—that in the opinion of many the dual system in India was imposed by the very special conditions of government in India. Observe the dilemma we get into if there is no dual system. Either you have entirely to exclude for all time officers with only English experience, or else you have to exclude temporarily officers with Indian experience. One of the reasons-why the dual system was adopted was in order to effect some compromise between those two apparently conflicting claims.

In spite of the very great sympathy I have with the general policy adopted by the noble Viscount in India, I confess that the general impression left on my mind by recent Indian events is that we are perhaps going rather too fast. I cannot help fearing that there may be, at all events, some risk that the fundamental difficulties which underlie Indian problems may be rather forgotten. Indeed, I doubt whether public opinion in this country has as yet thoroughly grasped the great importance of the change made four years ago and which has now been stereotyped and confirmed by the noble Viscount. I cannot even help doubting whether the Government of India themselves have grasped the full importance of the matter. I share with the noble Viscount some surprise in reading the remarks of the Government of India that they deprecated raising the question on account of its possibly leading to heated and acrimonious discussion. We have had a discussion to-night—I think a useful discussion—and certainly nobody call say that it has been either heated or acrimonious. The Government of India then went on to say that they left the whole of the political considerations involved in the hands of the Secretary of State. I ask myself, Were there not some political considerations which it was especially within the province of the Government of India to deal with? It certainly appeared to many of us that these political considerations existed in a high degree, and it was because they were, as we thought, insufficiently considered, and because the question was considered exclusively, as we thought, from the point of view of military efficiency, that many, myself among the number, were very doubtful as to the change which was effected four years ago.

I think it should never be forgotten, and it cannot be too often repeated, that we are the only Imperial nation which endeavours to govern a dependency by means of a native army officered by Europeans. The whole of the so-called Asiatic Army of Russia in Central Asia is composed of Russians. The French native troops in Algeria are insignificant in point of number. In fact, you have to go back to the days of ancient Rome to find anything at all comparable to our experiment in India. At all events for half a century the relations between the ruled and the rulers in India have been satisfactory. On the one hand we have had conspicuous courage, loyalty, devotion, and discipline; and on the other hand the greatest care has been shown to avoid wounding the susceptibilities of the native troops. More than this, I think it ought never to be forgotten that during the great convulsion which happened fifty years ago in India no inconsiderable portion of the Native Army remained loyal to the Colours.

But we should always remember that we have brought into existence one of the most delicate machines that has ever been created. What is the first question that a Viceroy, if he is a wise man, will ask himself when any proposal is put before him? What was the first question I asked myself in Egypt, where we had a Moslem Army commanded by Europeans? The first question to ask is, How will this proposal affect the Native Army? I do not think anyone can hope to give a satisfactory answer to this question unless he has served with the Native Army and become thoroughly imbued with the habits, thoughts, and customs of the men. In these circumstances it appears to me to be very desirable that the Viceroy should always have at his elbow an officer of great experience who can give him the best possible advice on this particular subject. I maintain, therefore, that, whatever was done in the way of improved military administration, it was of absolute political necessity to leave this particular cogwheel of the administration intact.

At no time did the necessity for having an officer of that kind at the elbow of the Viceroy exist more than at present. Although I am confident that the native troops will be able to resist the disintegrating influences being brought to bear upon them in India, and in England, I regret to say, with a recklessness it is impossible to condemn too strongly, I think every one must admit that the present situation is one that requires very great watchfulness. Under the old system there was always such an officer present, either the Commander-in-Chief or the Military Member of Council. Speaking from my own experience, I can say that the presence on the Viceroy's Council of Lord Napier of Magdala, of Lord Roberts, of Sir Donald Stewart, and of Sir Henry Norman was of enormous value, not merely on account of their vast military knowledge and experience, but on general grounds. Everyone who has been in India knows the difficulty of keeping in touch with native public opinion. No class of officials in India is more valuable in respect to informing the Government of the feelings and habits and customs of the natives than officers who have served in the Native Army. In some respects I am not sure that their opinions are not more valuable than those of civilians, for, as the noble Viscount remarked in a speech at Oxford, the tendency of modern administrative systems is to chain civilians exclusively to their desks and to give them less opportunity of mixing with the natives than was formerly the case.

A very heavy blow was given to the system, which I think was, on the whole, a good one, four years ago, At the same time the framework was left intact—that is to say, the Supply Member of Council, although he might have had very little Departmental work to do, would still have been at the Viceroy's right hand, and if he had been, as he ought to have been, an experienced officer, he would have been able to advise him on the points with which I have dealt. That arrangement was, no doubt, a compromise. The noble Lord opposite alluded to some words which have been frequently quoted of the noble Marquess behind me, in which he said that the arrangement was not a final one. I think the noble Viscount appeared to imagine that that was almost a justification out of the mouth of his political opponents for the change. The noble Marquess is here and it is for him to explain his meaning, but I am bound to confess that the way I understood the noble Marquess's remark, and I think the way it was generally understood in the country, was that if a change were made it would not be in the direction of giving a coup de grâce to the new member of Council, but rather of restoring to him some of his old authority. Now the old system, which may have been faulty in detail, but which, I think, was wise and statesmanlike in its broad outlines, has received its coup de grâce.

The reasons given for the change are purely financial and seem to me inadequate. I should be the first to deprecate economy, whether in this country or in India, but I think this is a matter of such vital importance that the saving of 10,000l. or 12,000l. a year, which I believe is the amount involved, should not be allowed to weigh. Parsimony in this direction also contrasts rather strangely with the somewhat lavish expenditure which is about to be incurred in giving the people of India the doubtful boon of quasi-Parliamentary institutions. Everybody will recognise the desirability of keeping thoroughly in touch with the feelings of the Native Army, but I have heard it argued that that could be done perfectly well without the old system; that it could be done by means of Staff officers or by the Secretary of the Army Department, and that that would supply the want of a Military Member of Council. I have had some experience of that system, and have no hesitation in saying that it cannot be counted upon to work well. It is really putting too great a strain upon military discipline, I might almost say that it is putting too great a strain on human nature, to expect that a subordinate officer will frankly express his opinion against his superior when he knows his future career will depend on that superior himself. I do not think that if the Viceroy should have any doubt as to the wisdom of advice tendered him by the Commander-in-Chief he should be obliged to go to any subordinate at all. The system is not fair on the Viceroy; I hardly think it is fair on the Commander-in-Chief; it certainly is not fair on the officers consulted. The Viceroy should always have at his side an officer who will give his opinion with that amount of frankness which can only arise from having a thoroughly independent position.

Then there is another defence of the change which I have heard raised, though not in this House, and that is that this is not found necessary in this country. That is perfectly true. The Secretary of State for War and the First Lord of the Admiralty are not professional men, and they have no difficulty in getting professional advice from those under them. The circumstances in India are absolutely different. I am not by any means enamoured of the idea of soldier and sailor politicians. I think the less soldiers and sailors interfere with politics the better; but it must not be forgotten that the treatment of the Native Army in India is the most vital political question in that country. The result is that the Commander-in-Chief or the Military Member is forced, by the necessity of his situation, if he does his duty, to be more or less a politician. On these grounds I do not, think there is any sound analogy between India and this country. These are, very briefly stated, the reasons why I regret the change that has been made. I hope there will be no immediate result, but I cannot help thinking that, sooner or later, we run considerable risk of regretting the change now made.


My Lords, it is with some diffidence that I approach this question after the discussion this evening by noble Lords who from their experience in Indian administration have a far wider and more comprehensive view of this subject than I can pretend to; but having spent many years in India and the subject being of considerable interest to the Army, I venture to ask your Lordships' kind indulgence.

The noble Lord who brought this subject forward has dealt very fully with the constitutional and administrative issues involved. As regards the latter, he informed us that the work which will now devolve on the Commander-in-Chief is too much for any one man to perform. If we examine the business formerly dealt with by the Military Supply Department, we find seven branches of administrative work, but it is work of a technical nature, and, as such, can only be performed by the heads of the departments dealing with it. The most onerous of any extra work falling on any department is that which will now devolve upon the Military Finance Secretariat, of which the staff has, in consequence, been strengthened. The work which will fall upon the Commander-in Chief is mainly that of supervision.

Doubtless under the system of a few years ago the executive duties of the Commander-in-Chief, necessitating the inspection of troops scattered over a vast area, might have proved somewhat onerous combined with his new administrative duties, which entail a closer supervision of office work at headquarters. But a feature of the Army reorganisation scheme has been the introduction of greater decentralisation. General Officers commanding Divisions have had considerable financial and administrative powers delegated to them, and I think it is no longer necessary—I should have said no longer right—for the Commander-in-Chief to personally supervise the training of the smaller units of the Army. This devolution of authority must relieve the Army Department of a considerable amount of correspondence and work, and the work which now devolves on the Commander-in-Chief is certainly no more than that which falls on the Viceroy. I do not suppose that Lord Curzon would admit that the office of Governor-General of India threw more work on him than he could perform; yet that office embraced the supervision of all the work, not only of the Army Department, but of all the other Departments in the Government of India.

As regards the suggestion that the duties which the noble Lord defined as those of administration and those of executive command should be kept distinct, I think it is difficult to draw a dividing line between the two. The executive command of an Army must include the administration of its fighting power, and an Army which is divorced from the services on which it depends for its subsistence and equipment has no fighting power and cannot be considered as a fighting machine. The disastrous results of divided control resulting in an ill-defined responsibility in war were recognised by the late Government, and the abolition of the Military Department was the outcome of its policy. I will not dwell on the latest development in these changes in our administration. The formation of the Military Supply Department was certainly required while the success or failure of the previous changes was still uncertain. It has, however, been abolished with the full acquiescence of the Government of India.

In September, 1907, the Governor-General in Council stated that the Army Department had proved fully able to dispose of all the work which had been entrusted to it, and that the smoothness of working of the new administrative machine compared very favourably with the condition of affairs that had existed in the office of the Commander-in-Chief and late Military Member before the latter was abolished. Following that statement a whole year elapsed before any action was taken. This gave ample time for the Government of India to recast their views, if necessary, under the experience gained during that period. That they did not alter their views, and that they still recommended on the same grounds the abolition of the Department of Military Supply, is, I think, the very best testimony as to the wisdom of the previous changes in our Army administration.

But the noble Lord, Lord Curzon, has objected to these changes on constitutional as well as administrative grounds. I gather that he considers that the changes strike at the very root of the constitutional authority of the Government, setting up in its place a dangerous military autocracy. But are military autocracies so easily introduced or so greatly to be feared in these days? Are we not rather setting up a cry of two centuries ago than dealing with the practical issues of the present day? In any case two important provisions have been made to safeguard the constitutional authority of the Government. These are the revival of the Mobilisation Committee and the appointment of a Secretary to the Government in the Army Department. This Secretary has direct access to the Viceroy, and it is his duty to see that the fullest possible information and the opinions of the members of the Mobilisation Committee are laid before the Viceroy before a question is considered in Council.

As these measures are not considered by Lord Curzon a sufficient safeguard against a military autocracy I can only suppose that it is on the grounds that this Secretary in the Army Department might be diffident of expressing any opinion or criticism on the policy of his superior officer. Personally I hold a different opinion, but in any case I think we have an efficient safeguard in the Mobilisation Committee. Without undertaking such a retrogressive step as the reintroduction of the Military Department with its duplication of work and its many inherent evils, is it not wiser to move along more progressive lines and make use of this Mobilisation Committee, which is certainly an efficient guarantee against ill-considered advice being tendered to the Viceroy? The subsequent scrutiny to which all measures of importance are subjected, by the Governor-General's Council in India, by the Secretary of State in this country and his Council at the India Office, and by debates in Parliament, is surely sufficient to allay any fears as to a military autocracy. Five officers sit on this Mobilisation Committee, including the Secretary in the Army Department, who is appointed by the Viceroy. If this is not a safeguard, Lord Curzon must apparently question the independence of these officers in committee. But I hardly think the noble Lord does justice to the integrity and sense of duty of the British officer. Certainly in this case whatever criticisms it might be the duty of these officers to make while on the Mobilisation Committee would in no way be subversive of discipline. We have practically the counterpart of this Mobilisation Committee in this country in the Army Council. Surely it is safer for the Viceroy to rely on the carefully- debated opinions of the General Officers sitting on this Committee than on the advice of the one General, however able an administrator he might be, who under the late system held the post of Military Member.

There is one other point which the noble Lord, Lord Curzon, touched upon as regards the Indian Army. The treatment of this Army and the protection of its idiosyncracies is of vital importance, and it has been suggested that the Commander-in-Chief, being frequently of the British service, might have no knowledge and no experience of the Indian Army. But this contention, I think, ignores the fact that at least two of the senior officers of his Department must belong to the Native Army. These officers can always appeal to the Viceroy through the Secretary to the Government in the Army Department. Then, again, there is the Mobilisation Committee, through whose hands all measures affecting the Native Army must pass. But, apart from these safeguards, is there any reason for regarding the Military Member as being specially qualified to protect the interests of the Indian Army? It was not unusual to find that the Military Member had little or no experience of that actual regimental service with native troops which is usually considered necessary to give an intimate understanding of the native soldier. Sir Edmond Elles was never in the Indian Army, though his long experience in India, in command of troops and on active service, doubtless gave him a good knowledge of its customs and traditions. But this knowledge and this experience is almost invariably shared by every Commander-in-Chief in India. I must, however, except Lord Kitchener, whose distinguished services had prior to his present appointment been rendered in other countries. I do not wish to infer that Sir Edmond Elles was not in every way thoroughly competent to protect the interests of the Indian Army. His eminent services to the Indian Empire and to the Army in particular places him above such criticism. But I do wish to ask your Lordships why this Military Member, who apparently need not necessarily even belong to the Indian Army, should have been considered better qualified to protect its interests than the General Officers belonging to that service who now sit on the Mobilisation Committee. I trust I am not regarding this question solely from a soldier's point of view when I say that the late system of divided control and divided responsibility was bad in peace and quite impossible in war. We have now been given a sound military system and soldiers are not so deficient in intellect as to render it necessary to alter that system or to adapt it to the individual; rather is it the duty of the Government to exercise a wise discrimination in selecting the individual to fill the responsible post of administrator of the system.


My Lords, I beg to move that the debate be adjourned.

Moved, That the debate be adjourned. —(Lord Ampthill.)

On Question, Motion agreed to, and the further debate adjourned till To-morrow