§ Order of the Day read for resuming the adjourned Debate on the Motion of Lord Curzon of Kedleston, that an humble Address be presented to His Majesty for Papers relating to recent changes in the Military administration of the Government of India.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, I feel strongly that it is my duty to speak out my mind to your Lordships on this question. It is not a pleasant or an easy duty to discharge, for it obliges me to express serious disagreement with some of those under whom I served and with whom I worked while I was in India, and from all of whom I met with kindness and friendship which I shall ever remember gratefully. As regards the two great adversaries in the famous controversy which ended in the calamitous resignation of my noble friend who opened this discussion, I will only say that it is possible, indeed it is inevitable, to admire the great work which was done by either of them, although it is necessary to disagree with one or the other. I there- 69 fore wish to say at the very outset that I am second to none in my admiration for the great work which has been done by Lord Kitchener, and which I venture to think stands quite apart from this particular question of the administration of the Army in India.
Perhaps I may explain the special responsibility which I feel in regard to this question by reminding your Lordships that for a while I was the "man on the spot" in India with regard to this question. For a period of eight months—no inconsiderable time in the evolution of an important political question—I was actually in the thick of the controversy, and I was personally responsible for the initiation and the execution of important changes which preceded the revolutionary change of the system. I think there must be others besides myself who felt a strong disappointment at the speech of the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for India. I venture to think that that speech did not rise to the height of the occasion in the manner which all his former speeches have led us to expect. I was particularly sorry that he introduced a personal note which was singularly and admirably absent from the speech of my noble friend who opened this discussion. He did not, I venture to think, treat my noble friend quite fairly, and, indeed, on one occasion I thought that he used a dum-dum bullet bearing the obsolete mark of the Army Department in India. They have quite a peculiar whistle, those bullets. The speech seemed to me to have been prepared against circumstances which did not arise. It was evident that the noble Viscount expected to find himself in the position of a tertius gaudens in a personal controversy between my noble friend who opened the debate and my noble friend the late Secretary of State for India.
But the greatest disappointment was when the Secretary of State declared that he did not even then know what was the practical object which my noble friend had in view, or how he himself was concerned by the raising of this question at this time. I will tell the noble Viscount what is the practical object of raising this question, and I will try to do so in language so simple that it is impossible for him to misunderstand it. The system which was instituted by the late Government in 1905 has broken down or, if you prefer 70 to say so, come to an end. That is an undeniable fact. What remains of that system has been condemned in theory by every single authority, including the late Government. That, again, is a fact which is beyond dispute. Therefore, we wish to know whether the Secretary of State is content that things should remain as they are, or whether he is contemplating any future change, or, at any rate, the consideration of possible change. I think that that is a practical object of the greatest importance. It is a question which we are in every way justified in raising.
I will try to explain a little more fully, and will begin with the predictions of my noble friend over which the Secretary of State for India made merry. He was, I think, rather unfair when he included in them rhetorical arguments which did not pretend to be predictions. The real predictions of the late Viceroy were contained in his telegraphic Despatch of August 10, 1905. I will give chapter and verse, and ask your Lordships to judge of the fulfilment from the facts which are before the House in the Papers recently presented. After summarising the proposals which had been made by the Commander-in-Chief for carrying out the orders of the Secretary of State, the Viceroy wrote as follows:—Whatever be the merits of individual proposals in the above list, their net result can only be to concentrate all military power in the hands of Army Headquarters, to lead to serious congestion of business, and to reduce the Military Supply Department to impotence. Indeed, in those circumstances the creation of a Military Supply Member would involve an unpardonable waste of public money, and it would be better to dispense with the Department altogether.The Papers recently presented to Parliament record the striking fulfilment of that prediction. The Military Supply Department was at once reduced to impotence, and has consequently been abolished on the very ground that it would be a waste of public money. All military power has, as a necessary consequence, passed into the hands of the Headquarters Staff of the Army, and there is, so I hear, serious congestion. This does not appear on the Papers, but I think I shall be able to show your Lordships how impossible it is that it should be otherwise. The main point is that the system inaugurated early in 1906 has failed, or, if you prefer it, come to an end. That is an undeniable fact. Before three years had elapsed it had to be changed in its most essential and 71 vital principle. If that is not failure, I do not know what failure is.
Now I should like to explain, if I may, the principle which has had to be sacrificed to the new system. Your Lordships may remember that in May, 1905, a Committee, to which reference has already been made, was appointed to inquire into the system of Army administration in India. That Committee, after careful consideration, reported that two courses were open. The first was that the Military Member should be abolished altogether and that the Commander-in-Chief should take over his functions; the second was that the Military Member was to be retained, but that his duties and responsibilities were to be largely reduced. The Committee said that they were forced—I ask your Lordships to mark the word "forced"—to discard the first alternative, and accordingly they recommended the second. Now the singular result of the adoption of their proposal is that it has led immediately to the substitution of the alternative course which they had rejected on the ground—again most important to note—that it would be opposed to all modern principles with regard to Army administration. That is what has been done. That is what you have got now. You have a system which is opposed to all modern principles in regard to armies, and I do not see how you can possibly get away from that position. They say that extremes meet, but I cannot recall any instance in which the results of political action have proved so absolutely contrary to the intentions of Statesmen.
How are we to account for this singular failure? It seems to me—it has always seemed to me from the beginning—that it was due to a want of understanding and appreciation of the elementary principles underlying the constitution of the Government of India. We in India—and when I say we in India I mean the overwhelming mass of articulate public opinion, much of which was strongly opposed to my noble friend on every other subject—we in India were simply astounded at the misapprehension, the elementary misconception, which underlay much of the criticism which was made in this country, and which influenced opinion in this country. The position was simplicity itself, but it was not understood in England. The very reference to the Committee to which I have just alluded 72 betrays this extraordinary misunderstanding. This was the first question which was put to them—Whether it is advisable that Army administration in India should, subject to the Viceroy in Council, be, as at present, under two separate heads of departments?It would be inconceivable if it had not actually occurred that such a misleading, fallacious, incorrect and question-begging direction could have been drafted in the India Office.
Army administration in India was not under two separate heads of departments until the late Government made it so in 1905. It was no more under two departments than Army administration was in this country when we had a Commander-in-Chief. Army administration was under the Government of India; the Military Department was the War Office of India; the Military Member was the War Minister—the Secretary of State for War of India. The Commander-in-Chief—and this is the point—was not a War Minister at all. He was the executive head of the Army, and in that capacity he was a subordinate of the Government of India in Council. The administration of the military machine rested with the Government of India, whose only representative for that purpose in the Indian Cabinet was the Military Member. The position of Commander-in-Chief in Council was, I maintain, mainly honorific. He was put there to increase his status and his prestige. He had no portfolio, but, so far as he was a Minister at all and had to take part in administrative duties, his functions were dual. His distinctive and exceptional position was marked by his very designation, held only by himself, as Extraordinary Member of Council. When this is understood it must be apparent to all those who have any acquaintance with the analogous system of Government in this country that much of the criticism which prevailed in England proceeded from misapprehension, which was, to say the least of it, inexcusable.
There was talk of the iniquity of the Military Member giving orders to the Commander-in-Chief, who was his senior in rank and superior in military reputation. The Military Member no more gave orders than Mr. McKenna gives orders to the Navy; and as regards his military position, it had nothing more to do with his position than the rank of my noble friend as an officer 73 of Yeomanry had to do with his position when he was Secretary of State for War. The Military Member was merely the agent and the mouthpiece of the Government of India. Just as well might it have been said that it is iniquitous for Mr. Haldane, who is not a soldier at all, to presume to give orders to a soldier of such eminence and high rank as His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught. The late Duke of Cambridge was, so far as I am aware, well able to adapt himself to precisely similar conditions.
Again, it was said to be monstrous that the proposals of the Commander-in-Chief should be criticised by officers junior in rank. Is there nothing of the kind in this country? Surely every noble Lord who knows anything of the inside of a Government office will see a hundred analogies. Supposing that my noble friend the Leader of the House, in his capacity as Secretary of State for the Colonies, submits to the Treasury some scheme for the improvement of a Crown Colony. That proposal will, as a matter of course, be criticised, in the first instance, by the junior clerks of the Treasury, who will bring to bear on it their knowledge of precedent, their practised judgment, and all those other qualities which we expect of the Civil Service. I have never heard of any Minister in this country stipulating that his proposals should be dealt with only by his colleagues in the Cabinet. Why, even the proposals of the Prime Minister himself, so far as I am aware, are constantly and regularly submitted to the criticism of junior clerks. It is the ordinary, necessary, inevitable, official procedure, and I cannot for the life of me see that it is more of an indignity to a soldier than it is to a civilian. As a matter of fact, this thing happens daily in the course of ordinary military administration. The noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State for War opposite will no doubt bear me out in that. I think I am right in saying that the proposals of Generals may be negatived by Staff captains acting as the mouthpieces and delegates of higher authority.
But in all this criticism the other side of the question was quite forgotten. It was forgotten that nine out of ten proposals which were made in the name of the Commander-in-Chief were made without his personal cognisance by junior officers acting in his name. I should also like to point out that there is nothing at all unparalleled in the former relative positions of the Com- 74 mander-in-Chief and the Military Member. We have only to look to the greatest of all armies—the German Army—to find a parallel. I have it on good authority that the question of seniority as between the War Minister and the Generals commanding Army corps does not arise. The present War Minister, I am told, was junior to all the Generals commanding Army corps at the time of his appointment; but the Germans are sufficiently capable of "clear thinking" to be able to distinguish between administrative and executive functions, and to treat a War Minister as a War Minister even though he sometimes may wear a military uniform. It was confusion of thought on these ordinary elementary principles of the Constitution which led to a change which I always have regarded and always shall regard as disastrous.
And now, my Lords, you have a principle of papal infallibility established at the head of the military hierarchy in India. Any officer who denies that infallibility has been, is, and will be in a military sense excommunicated, and that is what we mean by the military autocracy which the Secretary of State for India derided with so much levity. Most of your Lordships know what military discipline means. Discipline is required, not only in the Army, but in other branches of life; but military discipline has something quite distinctive about it. It means in a very peculiar sense subordination of private judgment as well as obedience to orders, and that principle, which is universal among soldiers, has now been rendered absolute by the famous dictum that no officer junior to the Commander-in-Chief may criticise anything that the Commander-in-Chief proposes.
Think, my Lords, what that means. It means, although the Secretary of State denies it, the establishment of a military autocracy of the most exaggerated type. It means that the Commander-in-Chief is deprived of all the advantages which civil Ministers derive from the varied experience and the trained judgment of their official subordinates. It means that if there should be discontent at any proposal of the Commander-in-Chief in India, not a breath or suspicion of it will reach these shores, or even the Government of India, through official channels. All this may be right so long as the present Commander-in-Chief remains in office, but we cannot expect that the infallibility of all future Commanders-in- 75 Chief can be absolutely relied upon. I said at the outset that there was congestion of business at the present time. I think it follows from what I said just now that that congestion is not likely to be admitted in any official Papers. It would not be in official human nature to make such a confession, and every Department at all times naturally defends itself. But I think I can show that it is inevitable that there should be such congestion. Under the old system there were four Commands, which at the last were reduced to three. The Lieut.-Generals at the head of those Commands had charge both of administration and training. Now, under the present system there are two Army commanders, commanding the Armies of the North and the South, who are really inspecting officers charged only with the training of the troops. They do not touch administration at all. Therefore, the whole of the administration is now centralised at Army headquarters, which has to deal direct with ten divisions and four independent brigades.
It is a well-known and much-quoted maxim of Napoleon, that no Commander should have to deal with more than four or five subordinates. The Commander-in-Chief, in his dual capacity as Secretary of State for War in India and Commander-in-Chief, has now to deal with fourteen subordinates instead of the three which existed under the old system. I think it must be obvious to anyone who knows anything at all about military correspondence and the methods which are peculiar to it, that the delays and the confusion must be proportionately increased. It is quite true that the power of the divisional Generals has been increased so that they are able to dispose offhand of more buisness than they did before, but this could have been done under the old system, and it is not in any way a direct consequence of the introduction of the new system. To resume, the system set up by the late Government broke down in practice. That which remains has been condemned in theory by every authority, including the late Government themselves.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
The late Government condemned a system under which the Commander-in-Chief would be the only Military Member of Council. It cannot be denied. The only test of 76 armies and of military organisation is the test of war, and what we are here to ask the Secretary of State is whether we are going to wait until that test is applied. If so, do your Lordships contemplate with equanimity the one result which is absolutely certain—the immediate disintegration of the Indian War Office, for it is intended that the Commander-in-Chief and the principal officers on the Headquarters Staff, who, as your Lordships know, are also the principal officers of the Indian War Office, should take the field?
The Secretary of State said that no Commander-in-Chief had taken the field since 1857, and seemed to imply thereby that it was not likely he would do so. But he might have remembered that in 1857 it was the field which took the Commander-in-Chief, and that is exactly the contingency which we have to contemplate again. It might be inevitable that the Commander-in-Chief should take the field. I ask your Lordships, Can you conduct a big war without a War Office? It is quite true that the idea is to replace the members of the Indian War Office with substitutes, but there is an old, and, I think, a true maxim which says that it is not advisable to swop horses when you are crossing a stream. This is not a matter for expert military opinion or for the elaborate theories of constitution-mongers. It is a matter of common sense, and I ask, from the point of view of common sense, Are your Lordships content that the Indian War Office should be put under new and untried men the very moment a big war breaks out? To ask this question is the practical object of raising this discussion.
I should like to assure the Secretary of State that, so far as I am concerned, and certainly from what my noble friend who opened the debate said, there is no question of criticising his action. My noble friend and I agree that it was absolutely inevitable that the Supply and Transport Department should go. That was what my noble friend predicted, and, that being so, it is impossible for him to criticise the Secretary of State. But what we do want to know is whether the noble Viscount is satisfied with the present system, or whether he thinks there is good cause for considering further changes. I venture to think that the experience which I had the honour to enjoy as serving the Crown in India still charges me as a member of this House with some re- 77 sponsibility for Indian affairs. I feel so strongly on this question that I was prepared to raise it myself, and, as your Lordships may remember, I put a Motion on the Paper which had the effect, although it was never moved, of eliciting the Papers which have given rise to this discussion. What I have said this evening I have said because I will not, even to the insignificant extent of personal abstention from discussion, share in the responsibility for the present unique system of military administration in India.
§ LORD MACDONNELL OF SWINFORD
My Lords, I was greatly struck yesterday, as was the noble Lord who has just sat down, with the remark which the noble Viscount the Secretary of State made in the opening of his speech. He declared that, while he had no fault to find with the noble Lord, Lord Curzon, for raising this question, he was at a loss to know what the noble Lord's object was in doing so. I have no clue to Lord Curzon's intentions beyond that supplied by the speech which he delivered yesterday, and from that speech I inferred that his object in raising this discussion was to challenge the policy of the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for India in regard to the Military Department of the Government of India, and to press for a reconsideration of that policy.
There is no doubt that substantial changes in the Military Department of the Government of India were necessary, but I confess to great sympathy with those who regret that the changes have taken the direction which they have done. The question is not of such recent origin as some noble Lords who spoke yesterday were disposed to think. I might almost say, with accuracy, that it is coeval with the establishment of settled government in India. Settled government was established in India by the Regulating Act of 1773, which created the office of Governor-General and created his Council. That Act appointed the Commander-in-Chief in India to be an ordinary member of the Governor-General's Council. That was followed in 1784 by another Act, well known as "Pitt's Act," which reduced the Governor-General's Council by one member, but definitely prescribed that one of the three remaining members should always be the Commander-in-Chief in India. It will thus appear to your Lordships that in the commencement of our Indian administration the Commander-in-Chief of the 78 Indian forces was a member of the Governor-General's Council.
But a revulsion of feeling soon ensued. In England amongst the Statesmen of that time the opinion grew up that it was undesirable that the Commander-in-Chief should be the military adviser of the Governor-General in Council, and, accordingly, in the Charter Act of 1793 the Commander-in-Chief was excluded from Council, although a discretion was left to the Court of Directors to appoint him a member of the Council if necessary. That was the policy which prevailed in England. But a different view of the functions of the Commander-in-Chief and of his utility as a military adviser prevailed in India and also in the Court of Directors, so that from the year of Pitt's Act in 1784 until the great Act re-establishing the Government of India on modern foundations—namely, the Act of 1833—the Commander-in-Chief was invariably a member of the Viceroy's Executive Council.
I would advise those who say that it is impossible to conduct a great military administration while having the Commander-in-Chief as the Viceroy's adviser to reflect upon the history of India in that momentous period which covered the last quarter of the Eighteenth Century and the first thirty years of the Nineteenth Century. No period in the history of India is so full of military achievements grandly conceived and successfully carried out as that period. In the beginning of it you have the victories of Porto Novo, Wandewash, and Cudalore, which destroyed the French supremacy in the South. Then you have the victory of Seringapatam, which destroyed the power which had been built up by Hyder Ali and Tippoo Saheb. Then you come to the victories of Argaum and Assaye, which brought the name of Wellesley into notice, and which shook the Mahratta power, and finally you have the victory of Laswari and the victory of Bhurtpore, which completely destroyed it. Therefore, I do hold that it cannot be stated as absolutely and without qualification correct that military administration cannot be conducted while the Commander-in-Chief is not only the executive authority but also the administrative authority in military affairs.
But it must be said that in those days the method of administering the Government of India and disposing of Indian affairs was 79 entirely different from that which grew up at a later period. In those days you had action, and you had very little writing. To one to whom, like myself, it has fallen to examine the old records of the Government of India nothing is more remarkable than the succinctness with which the orders on the most important affairs are recorded. The fact was that the Governor-General and his Council sat together. There was no delegation of authority to the various members of Council. Every matter of importance was brought before the Council as a whole, was discussed across the table, and the orders then and there recorded. Some of the most important orders regarding war and peace were recorded on a sheet of notepaper of the ordinary size. But that method of administering business was not in accordance with the views which prevailed amongst English Statesmen. When the condition of India was most fully examined, as it was before the Charter Act of 1833 was passed, it became known that the orders which had been issued and frequently repeated in regard to the exclusion of the Commander-in-Chief from the administrative business of the Council had not been observed. Consequently in the Act of 1833 it was provided that, if any military officer was a member of the Governor-General's Council, he became thereby excluded from all military command in India. The effect of that was peremptorily to exclude the Commander-in-Chief from the direction of administrative business in the Governor-General's Council, and to introduce in his place a Military Member. But the influence of the Commander-in-Chief was so great and the benefit of his advice so manifest that power was given to the Court of Directors, if they so desired, to make the Commander-in-Chief an Extraordinary Member of the Council, and from that day to this the Commander-in-Chief has remained an Extraordinary Member of the Council, while the administrative military business of the Government of India has been conducted by a Military Member of Council.
That change was introduced in the year 1833, and when again, after the Mutinies, the condition of India was carefully enquired into that same provision was repeated in the Indian Councils Act of 1861, so that, in accordance with the spirit of this legislation, it is impossible for a military officer holding the position of Military Member of Council also to hold any combatant charge 80 in India. I am well aware that when a member is appointed to the Governor-General's Council no particular work is allocated to him. He is merely appointed a Member of Council. Then the Viceroy, through the statutory powers which he exercises, allocates to each member the work which he desires him to perform. Of course, there is reason in things, and when a great soldier is appointed an Ordinary Member of Council he naturally is given military duties to discharge. When a lawyer is appointed to the Council he is given legal business. But it rests entirely with the Viceroy to allocate to any particular member of his Council the work which he desires him to perform.
It may by some stretch of ingenuity be argued that the Extraordinary Member of Council is a member of the Council, and that it rests with the Viceroy to give to the Extraordinary Member any particular work which has to be discharged by the Council; but I venture, with all deference, to say that seeing that the object of the Act of 1833 was to exclude the Commander-in-Chief from the administration of military affairs in the Council, seeing that that exclusion was repeated in 1861, it would be in contradiction to the spirit of the Act if now by any Executive Order the Commander-in-Chief, an Extraordinary Member of the Council, is made, for the purposes in hand, an Ordinary Member, and if the practice which has been abrogated for seventy years is now again to be brought into operation. I respectfully submit that in appointing the Commander-in-Chief, Lord Kitchener, to perform duties which have hitherto been performed by the Military Member a strain has been put on the legislation which governs the Government of India which a reasonable and moderate interpretation of the Act will not confirm.
But, my Lords, if that be the case, and if now your military administration in India is out of harmony with the law which should regulate it, is there no remedy, no means by which, except by an appeal to the Legislature, the difficulty can be overcome? I venture to say that if an appeal were made to your Lordships' House with the object of reversing the legislation of 1833 and 1861 and of making an extraordinary member as available for work in the Viceroy's Council as an ordinary member, your Lordships would not be disposed to regard it with much favour. But it seems to me that 81 there is one way out of the difficulty by which the objects the Secretary of State and your Lordships have in view may be attained while at the same time regard and respect may be paid to the legislation on the Statute Book.
The solution—and this is a matter on which I do not express an opinion formed immediately but an opinion I have held for many years—the solution of the military question in India in my opinion lies in the application to the Army of that same principle of decentralisation which, applied to the civil Government, has worked such marvellous wonders. If the Commander-in-Chief be regarded as a local Government; if the whole business of the Army be handed over to his control, as the whole business of civil administration in a local Government is handed over to a Governor or Lieut.-Governor; if the Commander-in-Chief, subject to the orders of the Government of India, is allowed to administer his own Budget, and if the only obligation imposed upon him is to give an account of his stewardship, as every local Government in India gives, you will effect, within the Constitution, that transfer of military control and command to the Commander-in-Chief which it is desirable he should have. That some such change is necesssary nobody more than I believes.
I well remember a day in the early summer of 1897, when the province of which I was Lieut.-Governor was just emerging from a severe and protracted famine, and when the efforts of all the civil officers were directed to enabling and encouraging the people to cultivate their fields and sow their seed in the hope of a harvest. Their cattle were emaciated, as might be well understood after a protracted famine of eight months when no blade of grass was to be found. I was startled one day on hearing that the Military Department of the Government of India had sent out a number of soldiers to seize the plough cattle, impress them, and take them off to the frontier, where they were required to drag commissariat wagons into difficult country. Of course, these cattle were not suited for that work, and the only result was that the frontier was strewn with their bones. It then struck me as an extraordinary thing that the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, while capable of mobilising his troops and sending them off by rail to the rail head, was unable to move 82 them beyond rail head because the transport controlled by another Department was not ready. That was a striking example of the desirability of transferring from the Military Department to the Commander-in-Chief those branches of the military service which are necessary for effective action in the field.
I have only one word more to say. It has been stated that the difficulty has been bridged over by appointing a Secretary to the Government of India in the Military Department in order to keep the Viceroy au courant with what happened in military affairs. I myself have been a Secretary to the Government of India, and I well remember the time when, on a very important matter, I took advantage of the power which I certainly possessed of going direct to the Viceroy without consulting the Member of Council. The result of it was a serious conflict between the Member of Council and the Viceroy, while I spent a bad quarter-hour. When I hear this suggestion made to supply the deficiency of the Military Member of Council, I appeal to my own experience of how these things are worked. When I knew the Military Department of the Government of India the junior ranks were a brood of young lions. Some of them have since become distinguished officers; some, unhappily, are no longer with us; but while they were waiting for their natural prey on the frontier they were perfectly willing to dispose of any number of Secretaries of the Government of India who attempted to interfere with them in military affairs. Either your Secretary will be a weak man and then the Viceroy will reap no benefit from him, or, if he is a strong man—and circumstances in India do develop strength of character in every way—he will become in reality, if not in name, a Military Member of Council, but without the responsibility. He will not in any case satisfactorily supply the loss of the Military Member of Council. I make these remarks, my Lords, not with any object of criticism or finding fault with the Secretary of State for India, but with the view of showing how the thoughts of other people have been running on this question, and how the matter might, in their opinion, have been solved without the heroic and, in my view, illegal measures which have been taken.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, the noble Viscount who represents 83 the India Office at the outset of his remarks expressed, unless I misunderstood him, a certain amount of surprise that anyone should think it worth his while to provoke a discussion upon the matters which have engaged our attention yesterday and to-day. I do not know whether the noble Viscount can seriously have supposed that events as important as these, that changes in the administration of the Indian Army as fundamental as those which he has required the Government of India to accept, should pass unchallenged and un-discussed in your Lordships' House. All I can say is that, in my humble opinion, your Lordships would have been guilty of something like a serious neglect of duty if we did not call attention to the Papers which have been presented, and to the important new departure for which His Majesty's Government are responsible. And I think my noble friend Lord Curzon would have been almost superhuman if he had refrained from recurring to the events of 1905, and from calling attention to the very striking fulfilment of some of the predictions in which he then indulged. Nor, I venture to think, should it be a matter for surprise that the members of the Government of 1905 should desire to say a few words, as my noble friend Lord Midleton did last night, as to the circumstances in which the memorable compromise of that year was brought about.
I desire at the outset to say that I range myself alongside my noble friend Lord Midleton in thinking that it would have been altogether beyond the power of any Government to refuse at that time a full reconsideration of the system upon which the Indian Army was then administered. The circumstances were too strong for us. We had as Commander-in-Chief a General, celebrated not only as a great leader of troops, but celebrated as an Army administrator, and that distinguished General was not only a critic, but an irreconcilable critic of the system of Army administration which he found in existence when he went to India.
Most of your Lordships are probably familiar with the historical Minute forwarded upon this subject by Lord Kitchener in 1905. I think it covers something like twenty-four pages of printed matter. Whether you agree with it or whether you do not, it is impossible for any one to pretend that it was not a weighty document 84 demanding the attention of the Government to whom it was addressed. On the other side we had the Despatch and the Minute of my noble friend Lord Curzon, written, like everything which he writes, with much persuasive power and dialectic skill, and we had the Minute of the Military Member of the Council, Sir Edmond Elles, a gallant officer of whom I wish to speak in the highest possible terms—a Minute of the same length as that from the Commander-in-Chief. That was the problem with which the Government of 1905 was confronted, and to my noble friend Lord Midleton fell the extremely difficult and thankless task of endeavouring to find a way out of a position which had all the appearance of becoming a deadlock.
My noble friend made one suggestion—he mentioned it last night—I think an admirable suggestion, the failure of which I shall always regret. He desired to put an end to all this lengthy correspondence by sending out to India a kind of Commission, the members of which might on the spot discuss in a friendly and unofficial manner the views of the two opposing sides, and who might have endeavoured on the spot to find a way out of the difficulty. I for one was sanguine that Lord George Hamilton, Lord Roberts, and Sir A. Godley would have succeeded in the endeavour, and I believe now that the tact and ability which enabled Lord George Hamilton to grapple with the intricacies of Poor Law administration in this country would have enabled him to find a reasonable solution of the difficulty; but, as your Lordships know, climatic reasons rendered Lord George Hamilton's visit to India impossible.
Well, we fell back on another expedient—we appointed a Consultative Committee, which included among its members men whose opinions on any Indian question were entitled to considerable weight, men of business capacity well known by all who have had to do with Indian affairs. It included two ex-Indian Commanders-in-Chief—Lord Roberts and Sir George White—Sir John Gordon, Sir Edward FitzGerald Law, and Sir James Mackay, a gentleman of unrivalled business experience, besides my two colleagues who sit behind me; the Committee, moreover, found the means of ascertaining authoritatively the views of Sir H. Brackenbury, of Sir E. Collen, of Sir David Barbour (ex-Finance Member of Council), of Lord 85 Elgin (an ex-Viceroy), and of my noble friend Lord Cromer, who spoke last night. I mention this to show that any recommendation proceeding from such a Committee was entitled to our utmost consideration and respect. It is remarkable that the Committee was unanimous in favour of retaining in some shape or form a Military Member of the Council; that is a cardinal point, and on that point the Committee were unanimous. The scheme they proposed was concurred in by my noble friend Lord Roberts, who has throughout these discussions been a protagonist on the side of those who desired that besides the Commander-in-Chief there should be a member of the Viceroy's Council responsible for the administration of the Army.
The noble Viscount suggested last night that I had myself indicated that the scheme adopted by His Majesty's Government on the recommendation of the Committee was one that might require reconsideration in regard to points of detail. He seemed to think that the change he is now making is a change of detail such as I had in mind. But if he will look at the context of my speech he will see quite clearly that in my view the kind of change I looked forward to was a change, not in the direction in which he has been travelling, but in an opposite direction, that of restoring to the Military Member some of the attributes of which he was then shorn. I do not know whether the noble Viscount's idea of a detail is the same as mine, but I cannot bring myself to regard it as appropriate to describe as a mere detail a step which simply means the summary "knocking on the head" of the Military Member as constituted on the recommendation of the Committee of 1905. That was not a point of detail, but the essence of the arrangement of 1905.
I have never regarded the settlement of 1905 as an ideal settlement, certainly it was not an economical settlement; but after all it worked well, and it is beyond dispute that if the noble Viscount had left the Government of India to themselves they would have allowed that settlement to remain in operation for the present at any rate. Does the noble Viscount question that? It appears to me from the reading of the documents that have been laid on the Table that the Government of India, if the noble Viscount had left them to themselves, 86 would have preferred to keep in operation the compromise arrangement of 1905.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN)
That, no doubt, is quite true, but only on the ground that they wished to avoid the recrudescence of an acrimonious discussion.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I altogether challenge that. I know the noble Viscount holds that view, but I do not think it is a view which is borne out by the documents. I will make my words good. In the Despatch of March, 1907, this is what the Government of India said—We are, however, glad to report that the various measures which have been undertaken to ensure the smooth working of the new system have been completely successful, and that the business of Army administration, in all Departments, is now conducted with a singleness of purpose and a freedom from delay which is greatly to the advantage of the public service.That was in March, 1907. Later on, in September, 1907, they said—After giving this question our fullest consideration, we are agreed in respectfully but strongly deprecating the re-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";and then comes the passage on which the noble Viscount relies—the passage in which they point out that the reopening of the question might lead to a recrudescence of the discussion. But then follows the pronouncement of the year 1908. This is what they then said—The experience gained since we wrote our Despatch of September, 1907, has not altered the views we then placed before your Lordship."Experience gained" of what? There is nothing there about recrudescence of the discussion. It is experience gained of the smooth working of the new system, the complete success in the administration of the Department concerned. Therefore, I think I am within the mark when I say that on the merits the Government of India, if the noble Viscount had not pressed them, would have allowed the arrangement of 1905 to remain in operation, at any rate for some time longer. Now the noble Viscount urges that owing to considerations of economy an end should be put to the 1905 arrangement—
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I do not want to make light of the saving even of a lakh of rupees, but I do say without the slightest doubt that the new departure we are discussing this evening is a triumph, not of economy, but of centralisation. Upon the whole of these arrangements centralisation is writ large. My noble friend held in his hand yesterday the diagram showing the new distribution of duties under the Commander-in-Chief. Never in the history of Army administration has concentration so ruthless been put into execution as in this new system. Here you have a single man put in charge of the executive command of the Army, of the administration of a whole group of departments which used to be under the control of the Military Member, and you have this same man expected to act as the sole adviser of the Government of India on military questions, and also to take his part in the daily work of the Viceroy's Cabinet, aiding his colleagues in other questions unconnected with military matters.
The noble Viscount last evening gave us an interesting digression on the subject of the burdens and responsibilities thrown on public men. He told us that everybody—Ministers, the Governors of the Bank of England, and I think he mentioned one or two others—all are overburdened, and so they are, no doubt. And he argued that the proper and obvious remedy was delegation, delegation of work to subordinates. Delegation is a very admirable thing, but delegation of routine work to subordinates is quite a different thing from decentralisation of responsibility as between great officials. The object of all military reforms in later years has been to bring about decentralisation, not only of work but of responsibility. The whole chain of military reforms, dating from the Hartington Commission and coming down to the more recent changes which resulted from the inquiries conducted under the presidency of Lord Esher—all those changes have been in the direction of decentralisation, and, above all, of maintaining a clear distinction between the duties of those who are entrusted with executive command in the Army and those entrusted with the duty of Army administration.
88 Look at what happened in this country. We had at one time an omnipotent or nearly omnipotent Commander-in-Chief. We began by clipping his wings and by transferring part of his powers and functions to those who had been his subordinates; and, finally, we got rid of the Commander-in-Chief altogether and broke up the work concentrated in his office amongst a number of separate Army departments; and while we are doing that at home and taking credit—as the Secretary for War now and again takes credit—for having carried out this work of decentralisation here at home, you are in India moving in an opposite direction and setting up a Commander-in-Chief who will unite in his own person the powers wielded by the Commander-in-Chief in the days of the Duke of Cambridge with the powers of the present Army Council and those of the Secretary of State for War. And, my Lords, is it not an instance of the irony of events that, at the very moment when you are piling up this colossal mountain of work on a single official, the man at whose instance all this is being done and who, if anybody could have been equal to the task would have been equal to it, leaves the scene, and you have to look among the less-known soldiers for an officer who shall himself do work which was enough, and more than enough, for such men as Lord Roberts, aided by such a man as Sir George Chesney, one of the most distinguished and laborious officials whom I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, and later by such a man as Sir Henry Brackenbury, a brilliant administrator, whose record at the War Office and in the Government of India stands second to none for its conspicuous ability.
I know the noble Viscount desires to comfort us by telling us that, after all, this centralisation will not be so serious as we suppose. He says we have still got the Secretary to the Government of India in the Army Department and that we may rely upon him for independent advice. I think. I am right in saying that Lord Kitchener, in one of the papers with which we are familiar, describes the Secretary to the Government of India as the absolutely independent adviser of the Government of India. I am well aware of the peculiar position in which the Secretaries of the Government of India in the different departments stand. It is a position which has no analogue in our official arrangements in this country. It is a position of great indepen- 89 dence. The Secretary has access privately to the Viceroy and also the Governor-General in Council. But do not let the noble Viscount suppose that the Secretary to the Army Department under his new dispensation will be in that position of complete independence—nothing of the kind. He will be a military officer. He will be a subordinate of the Commander-in-Chief. He will probably owe his appointment to the Commander-in-Chief or to a previous Commander-in-Chief.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURNdissented.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
The noble Viscount shakes his head. Does he think the Commander-in-Chief would not be consulted as to the appointment?
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
He will be a junior in rank, and will look to the Commander-in-Chief for promotion and he will be indistinguishable from the rest of the Headquarters Staff. You cannot expect that you will get independence in these circumstances. It is contrary to all our experience. Nor will you get independence in the other members of the new Army Department. There is something almost grotesque in the way in which the members of the Army Department and the members of the Army Headquarters Staff are hotchpotched together in this arrangement. For some purposes they are subordinate to the Commander-in-Chief; for other purposes they are members of the Army Department.
The noble Viscount claimed for his arrangement that it resulted in the practical amalgamation—I think the noble Viscount will recognise the expression—in the practical amalgamation of the Army Headquarters Staff and the Army Department. Well, my Lords, when a boa constrictor swallows a guinea-pig there is practical amalgamation of the snake and the victim, and I am afraid that the amalgamation in this case means the complete absorption of the Army Department in the purely military hierarchy of which the Commander-in-Chief will be the head; and, my Lords, when I express, as I do, my grave doubt as to the prospect of obtaining a really independent military opinion from any of these officials who will be under 90 the Commander-in-Chief, I am not expressing the view merely of a jaundiced and suspicious civilian. I will quote an authority whom no one is likely to gainsay on this question. In 1905 Lord Roberts, in this House, was meeting the suggestion that the Government of India would be able to get alternative military opinions and independent advice from military officers other than the Commander-in-Chief, and his comment was that these officers would be strictly subordinate to the Commander-in-Chief and could not express opinions to the Viceroy in opposition to those held by their immediate chief. Lord Roberts added—To do so would be subversive of military discipline.My noble friend Lord Midleton and I, who have been behind the scenes at the War Office, know how true those words are; but coming, as they do, from the lips of a man like Lord Roberts, I say they are irrefutable. This new arrangement will be what is vulgarly called a "one man show," and with the introduction of the new system there will disappear the last fragment of the arrangement based on what I conceive to be the only sound principle—I mean the separation of the executive from the administrative work of the Army.
I know we are told that so long as there are two members of Council connected with Army affairs, so long as what is often spoken of as the dual system prevails, you will have friction and over-lapping, and that there will be usurpation by the Military Department of the right to deal with purely military questions. That difficulties of that kind do arise, have arisen, and are likely to arise again, I do not deny; but I do believe they can be got over. Just as it was found possible, I think in the year 1889, to meet the views of my noble friend Lord Roberts when he asked for a reconsideration of the arrangements between the two offices, I believe the same kind of readjustment can with advantage take place from time to time and should produce the desired result. I confess, however, that I am very much inclined to discount these complaints of friction and usurpation. After all, are we quite sure when we talk about friction that we do not mean really this, that there are two sides to the question and that both sides have succeeded in getting a hearing? Of course, if you can so arrange matters that one side shall be snuffed out early in the 91 controversy there will be no friction and everything will go pleasantly and agreeably.
Then, again, there is the complaint that the Military Department is inclined to poach on the preserves of the Commander-in-Chief and to attempt to deal with what people usually describe as purely military questions. Let me say at once that I should oppose any arrangement under which the Military Department was given any right of interfering with what I should call purely military questions; but surely it is the case, not only in India but everywhere, that questions arise which are not purely military questions but questions which have a financial and political side; this is particularly the case in India, where, even when a question is supposed to be a purely military question, you will find it has other aspects which require to be taken into consideration. And when you ask one man, and that a man who is entrusted with the whole discipline and training and command of the Army, to advise the Government of India, not only on the military aspects of the case properly so called, but also upon the political and financial aspects, I say you are putting too heavy a burden on the shoulders of a single man.
My main fear is that in these new arrangements you are going to impair the usefulness of the Commander-in-Chief as head of the Indian Army. Your Lordships heard what Lord Cromer said as to the importance of dealing tenderly with that most delicate and important piece of machinery; your Lordships also heard the eloquent passage in which my noble friend behind me described the personal relation in which the Commander-in-Chief ought to stand to the Indian Army. I will not go over that ground again. It is enough to say that the Commander-in-Chief in India ought to stand and ought to appear to stand almost in loco parentis to the Indian Army. He should be known by that Army; he should, if possible, be not only respected but beloved by that Army; and in order that he may be so known and so beloved, it is necessary that he should be in constant personal touch with the Army, that he should travel about the country, that he should not appear to the soldiers under him a kind of remote official personality living high up among desks and despatch boxes at Simla, but that he should be constantly seen by them and able to travel 92 about over all parts of the Indian Empire from one frontier to another.
The Commander-in-Chief in India has duties to perform which correspond to those of the Inspector-General of the British Army, with a great deal besides superadded. How can you expect any soldier, however able, however industrious, to do all these things, to stand in the position in which he ought to stand in the eyes of the people of India and the Army in India, and also to administer a whole group of public offices and to be the adviser of the Government of India on all great questions of military policy? How can he do all these things, and also be in a position, as I conceive he ought to be in a position, to take command in the field? The noble Viscount told us that no such thing had happened since 1857; but is he quite sure that such a thing will never happen again, and would it not be a bad thing if it got into the heads of the Indian Army that their Commander-in-Chief was not the man who would lead them when an emergency arose and they were called upon to take the field?
I am afraid that the step which you are taking is indeed a step in the wrong direction. I believe you will have to move further, but you will have to move in a different direction. You will have to move again in the direction of separating the duties which you are now concentrating in the hands of a single officer. I am convinced that you will in the end have to go back to the arrangement under which there will be two officers—one officer in charge of executive duties and one officer in charge of administration; one officer who will be, so to speak, an indoor officer, and another who will be an outdoor officer.
My noble friend behind me suggested two alternative arrangements which he regarded as possible. While I think both are worthy of discussion, I should greatly regret any arrangement under which the Commander-in-Chief was no longer entitled to take part in the deliberations of the Viceroy's Council. By no longer making him a member of that Council you would greatly diminish his dignity and importance in the eyes of the Indian Army. But with that reservation I do not very much care what the new arrangement may be or what name you give to the two officers. What I care about is not the name, but the principle; and as 93 far as the principle is concerned, I am deeply convinced that the new system which you are introducing is opposed to the views of all Army reformers; you are taking a step which in my view removes the last vestiges—vestiges to which I, for one, cling with a good deal of attachment—of what I conceive to be the only sound system on which you can administer the affairs of the Indian Army or indeed of any other army in the world.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (VISCOUNT WOLVERHAMPTON)
My Lords, during the short period that I have had the honour of a seat in your Lordships' House there is no member of it to whom I have listened with greater attention and admiration than the noble Marquess who has just sat down. I think that this evening he has accomplished a most difficult task and accomplished it with an amount of skill and acumen which every Member of the House must have perceived and envied.
There were three compartments in the noble Marquess's speech. They did not agree with each other, and now that he has finished his able speech I do not really gather what the noble Marquess would have done if he had been Secretary of State for India during the whole of the crisis. The first part of the speech was, in my opinion, a complete justification of the attitude of the Conservative Secretary of State. Having defended the policy of Lord Midleton as opposed to the policy of Lord Curzon, the noble Marquess censured the present Government for having really done the same thing as Lord Midleton. The policy that we have carried out from first to last has been the policy of Lord Midleton. The whole of these difficulties, indeed, originated with noble Lords opposite. No proof has been given that the principle which my noble friend Lord Morley has carried out has failed; all the evidence is the other way. From the Viceroy, the Viceroy's Council, and every part of the public service in India which is concerned comes testimony to the success of the new policy.
§ LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
If the new policy was so extraordinarily successful, why abolish the Department responsible for that success?
§ VISCOUNT WOLVERHAMPTON
The policy which my noble friend the Secretary of State has adopted, and to which we adhere, is the policy of getting rid of dual control in the administration of the Indian Army. The great evil Lord Lansdowne found in the system now in force in India is centralisation. I venture to submit to the House that this is a great scheme of decentralisation. The noble Lord spoke of the enormous work which will devolve on the Commander-in-Chief; but he omitted to refer to the complete change which has taken place in the organisation of the Indian Army. There are now ten separate Divisions. That is a great scheme of decentralisation. Large powers are entrusted to the ten Generals of Divisions. Such a fact cannot be left out of account in considering this subject.
In 1906, when my noble friend took office, he was confronted by a scheme agreed upon in principle by the then Secretary of State and the Viceroy. He had to deal not with a new policy of his own, but with a policy of which the last Government had approved. He gave the scheme a fair trial, and without in any way interfering with its progress he watched it with the deepest interest. I believe his first intervention was in his Despatch of February 9, 1906, when he indicated several points which he thought open to criticism, and subject to conditions which were of some importance, but not of vital importance, he gave his approval to the scheme which had been prepared by the Government of India. I think they themselves suggested that a period of twelve or eighteen months should be allowed to see how the scheme worked. That was in 1906.
In 1907 a Despatch was received from the Government of India, dated March 19, and signed by every Member of the Council. There are one or two paragraphs in that Despatch which have not been read to the House, and which I should like to quote. They wrote—Our opinions with regard to Army administration in its relation to Military Finance have been so fully stated in our Despatch No. 10-M.F., dated February 7, 1907, that it is unnecessary 95 to refer to them here. We are, however, glad to report that the various measures which have been undertaken to ensure the smooth working of the new system have been completely successful and that the business of Army administration, in all Departments, is now conducted with a singleness of purpose and a freedom from delay which is greatly to the advantage of the public service. Under the present constitution of Army administration, all important measures are discussed either in the Advisory Council, or in the Mobilisation or Defence Committee, and all proposals emanating from Army Headquarters requiring Government sanction—except those of a routine or trifling nature—have first to receive the Commander-in-Chief's executive approval, and have then to obtain the administrative concurrence of the Army Member, through the Army Secretary—the official who, the noble Marquess thought, would have too much power and too much influence—The Secretary is consequently in complete touch with the work of the Department and acquainted with the progress of all its cases, and the Viceroy is kept fully informed of all measures undertaken in the administration of the Army, by the Secretary of the Department concerned, who is able to bring any important matter to His Excellency's immediate notice at any stage from initiation to completion.We recognise that finality in military administration is difficult of attainment and that it may be necessary to make some modifications in the details of the system now in force, in order to simplify its organisation and reduce its cost; but we have much satisfaction in being able to report that the important changes ordered in your Despatch, No. 18 (Military), dated February 9, 1906, have been productive of excellent results, and that, thanks to the harmonious co-operation of all concerned, they have fulfilled the intentions of His Majesty's Government, and justified the anticipations expressed in the concluding paragraphs of your Despatch.My noble friend's next step was to ask for further information as to how the system was working out, both in regard to efficiency and cost. I will not trouble your Lordships with the various points bearing on this question on which he asked for full information; but in their reply to the Secretary of State the Government of India wrote on September, 26, 1907—We have received and considered in Council, your Despatch. Military, No. 105, dated June 28, 1907, in which you propose, for our consideration, the abolition of the Military Supply Department, its work being taken over by the Army Department, and the consequent reduction of the representation of the Army in the Council of the Governor-General of India. After giving this question our fullest consideration we are agreed in respectfully but strongly deprecating the reopening 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, 96 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.They then dealt with my noble friend's specific questions, which they answered in detail; and they added—So far as our experience goes—this is, the eighteen months experience—So far as our experience goes of the working of the Army Department, it tends to show it has been fully able to grapple with all the work with which it has had to deal. There is no congestion in either the office of the Secretary of the Army Department, or that of the Chief of the Staff. This compares most favourably with the condition of affairs that existed in the offices of the Commander-in-Chief, and in the Secretariat of the late Military Department of the Government of India before the abolition of the latter. All arrears have been disposed of, while the current work both in the Army Department Secretariat and in Army Headquarters is well up to date, and is dealt with as it arises. After giving the matter our fullest consideration, although we are, as stated in paragraph 2, unanimous in deprecating the raising now of the question of carrying out the suggested reform, we are agreed that the proposal is administratively and economically based on sound arguments and will have to be dealt with sooner or later.That is the verdict of the whole of the Council of the Viceroy. My noble friend behind me was prepared to face what might have been a heated controversy, but I have noticed no sign of heat throughout this debate.
The question of centralisation in the Military Department is not a new question. Lord Lytton, writing as Governor-General in 1880, with a greater experience of war on a large scale than any of the Governors-General who have followed him, fully supported the Commission in their desire for change, but stated very forcibly his reasons for thinking that change should take the shape of excluding the officer in charge of the Military Department from Council, and not the Commander-in-Chief. He said—I cannot too emphatically record my conviction that the dual military Government organised in this country 'on a system of want of trust' should be abolished as speedily and completely as possible … My conclusion is that the Commander-in-Chief should be himself the Military Member, and the only Military Member of the Viceroy's Council. In him alone, as in the War Minister of every country not governed by Parliamentary institutions, should be united and concentrated the executive command and the administrative control of the Army.97 The same views were expressed by Lord Dalhousie and by Lord Dufferin.
§ VISCOUNT WOLVERHAMPTON
I am quite content to leave it at Lord Dalhousie and Lord Lytton. I do not quite understand what the noble Marquess opposite proposes that the Government should do. He has not told us that. Lord Curzon made a very adroit and successful conclusion to his speech last night in which he pointed out two courses that might be taken, but I did not understand him to favour either of them; and the one that seemed to be more in accord with the views he expressed in his speech he stated was not really his own. He did not give it the sanction of his own authority to any extent. My noble friend behind me, Lord MacDonnell, gave us an interesting account of the history of the position of the Commander-in-Chief in the Indian Council, but I do not agree with him as to the date at which he began. He should have commenced at the year 1858. Any attempt to raise an argument as to what was done when India was under the Government of the East India Company does not seem to me to be relevant. I venture to submit to the House that the great principles of reform in the administration of our Imperial Army at home, which are being carried out by the Secretary of State for War, Lord Morley is to a very great extent carrying out in India. It is the policy of decentralisation, of entrusting the people who have the administration with the necessary power to carry it out, subject always to the Commander-in-Chief. Government cannot be carried on without devolution, and the Commander-in-Chief in India will do as Ministers in this country do in devolving duties upon competent deputies.
Under the new system in India financial control, which did not exist before, has been secured, and is working most satisfactorily. Lord Lansdowne has not made any recommendation that the Government should do anything. The best course that can be taken is to let the scheme work on, and we shall find, no doubt, in the course of events that there will be improvements in matters of detail which will commend themselves to successive Secretaries of State and also to successive military authorities.
I have the greatest respect for Lord Curzon and the greatest admiration for his 98 Viceroyalty; but the noble Lord has never recognised, and I fear will not recognise tonight, what really is meant by Parliamentary control of the Government of India. The official whom the noble Lord regards as supreme in India is not the Secretary of State, but the Viceroy. That fundamental difficulty runs through all the noble Lord's Correspondence and Despatches. He is not satisfied with the position of the Viceroy in relation to the Secretary of State. Parliamentary control is the safeguard for the real difficulties which may arise; and if they do arise the Secretary of State is the proper and legitimate authority to deal with them. There is no issue before the House—
§ VISCOUNT WOLVERHAMPTON
The noble Lord will say what the issue is, and what he is going to take a Division on. Of course there will be no objection to submit Papers to your Lordships. If by a change in the political world noble Lords opposite found themselves responsible for the government of India I would be very much surprised if they made any change in the policy of my noble friend the Secretary of State.
§ LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, it is quite true in one sense that there is no issue before the House. The Motion was placed on the Paper for the very practical purpose of obtaining information as to whether the Government are deliberately going to pursue the policy of conducting the military administration of India with one officer, who is to be both Commander-in-Chief and Minister for War. To that policy we now understand that His Majesty's Ministers have pinned their adhesion. When the noble Viscount asks, "What is your alternative policy? What is the particular scheme which you recommend?" he is putting a question which ought at no time to be put to any politician in Opposition, and ought least of all to be addressed to me. It is true that I indicated in my speech views which I had considered, but it will not be for me to carry them out, and I can imagine nothing more likely to expose me to the rebuke of the noble Viscount opposite than that I, in a position of irresponsibility,, should venture on the course which he has suggested.
In his concluding remarks, the noble Viscount attributed to me a scheme of political 99 philosophy which I entirely repudiate—namely, that my view of the Government of India was that it should be conducted in independence and repudiation of the proper supremacy of Parliament and of the Secretary of State. The subject is irrelevant to this debate, but I can truthfully say that I do not think any utterance of mine bears out that impression. What I contended for in 1905, and what I contend now, is that the supremacy conceded by statute—namely, the Charter Act of 1833—to the Government of India over all military affairs in India should be kept intact, and it is because I fear that the supremacy of the Governor-General in Council over military affairs in India must be impaired under the new system that I have steadily protested, and will continue to protest, against it.
Mention has been made of Lord Lytton, who is the solitary Viceroy whose words can be quoted in support of the new system. Everybody knows why Lord Lytton made his proposal. It was at the time of the Afghan war, and Lord Lytton wished that the Commander-in-Chief in India should be detained at headquarters in order that the illustrious Field-Marshal, Lord Roberts, should conduct the campaign, and he also desired, in my view most mistakenly, to constitute his own private secretary, Sir George Colley, military adviser to himself. It was for these reasons that he proposed the abolition of the Military Member, though he realised the necessity of putting a civilian in his place. But when the authority of Lord Lytton is quoted, may I remind the noble Viscount that a succession of Viceroys—Lord Northbrook, Lord Ripon, Lord Dufferin, Lord Lansdowne, Lord Elgin, and Lord Ampthill —have taken a contrary view. During the last fifty years there has been only one Governor-General in India who has taken anything approaching the view which I understand is now adopted by His Majesty's Ministers. When the noble Viscount quoted an account of the new administration in India, of its wonderful success, and of the satisfaction of the Government of India, I could not help asking myself why any change had been introduced. As I read the Despatches, the confidence and satisfaction expressed by the Government of India were in the administration set up by Lord Midleton, but that is the system which the noble Viscount has now destroyed. There have, in fact, been three systems. There was the old system of what is sometimes called dual 100 control. That was abolished by the late Government. Then there was the system introduced by Lord Midleton. With that the Government of India were entirely satisfied.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
The Government of India informed me that the system might need modification.
§ LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
The words used in March, 1907, were "modifications in detail." Anyhow, my impression of their writings is that the last thing they contemplated was that the noble Viscount should abolish it altogether. They were content that the experiment should go on.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
They admitted, in answer to a question from me, that a change was politically and economically desirable.
§ LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
The utterances of the Government of India have not always been quite consistent in the matter, and under the pressure so skilfully applied by the noble Viscount they took up a position at the end not quite the same as at the beginning. When I said they used the words "modifications in detail" I was speaking by the book. The words of the Despatch of the Government of India dated March, 1907, are—We recognise that finality in military administration is difficult of attainment, and that it may be necessary to make some modifications in the details of the system now in force.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
In their Despatch of September, 1907, the Government of India say—Although we are unanimous in deprecating the raising now of the question of carrying out the suggested reform, we are agreed that the proposal is administratively and economically based on sound arguments and will have to be dealt with sooner or later.That is my charter.
§ LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
Yes, but I am not certain that when the Government of India said the matter would have to be dealt with sooner or later they were at all prepared to have the Department 101 abolished at once. However, I do not wish to pursue that. As I have said, there have been three systems in India—the old system which existed in my day, the new system introduced by Lord Midleton, and the third system which is now going to be set up. It is the last system which is regarded with so much suspicion on this side of the House, and against which the whole weight of authority is cast. The noble Viscount says that there has been great decentralisation, and that the General officers of the nine Divisions have been given all sorts of powers they never enjoyed before. I wonder if the noble Viscount is aware of the full extent, or rather of the very limited extent, of the powers conferred on them. And when he talks about the wonderful smoothness with which everything goes on at headquarters, and of the total lack of congestion, all I can say is that the whole of the information from India at my disposal absolutely contradicts that. I believe there is already, and that there must be still more in the future, a great congestion of business at headquarters, and that before this new scheme has been long in operation the centralisation caused by it will be of so overwhelming a character that even by itself it must demand some change.
§ VISCOUNT WOLVERHAMPTON
That is all contradicted by Lord Minto in his speech to Council the other day.
§ LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I concur with the noble Viscount behind me (Lord Midleton) that it was a great misfortune that the resources of personal intercourse which he suggested were not available to us when this matter came on in 1905, but still more do I regret that it was not open to me to have that personal intercourse and conversation with himself. His speech last night made it evident to me, what I have often suspected before, that in reality he was not thoroughly acquainted with the manner and method of our military administration in India. There were several things he then said so widely divorced from the position as I knew it that I now realise how unfortunate it was we could not talk over matters together. For instance, when the noble Viscount says that the Commander-in-Chief was in the habit of being overruled by decisions in India which, in nine cases out of ten, were not the decisions of the Viceroy and his Council but of the Military Member himself, he represented a condition of affairs which I can well understand might 102 be regarded as a great grievance, but which I can assure him is totally divorced from the facts.
When I left India, I had the figures collected, and these showed that from December, 1902, to June, 1905, 1,560 proposals emanating from the Commander-in-Chief had reached the Government of India, in the old Military Department. Of these, 1,260 had been accepted—a proportion, I venture to think, unprecedented in the history of any previous Commander-in-Chief. Of the remainder, 178 were then under consideration, and 122 only had been refused. Of these 122, eleven were refused after discussion by the Viceroy and his colleagues in Council, fifteen were refused on financial grounds by the Financial and Military Departments in combination, and ninety-six only were refused by the Military Department, and they were cases of the most trivial description. It was impossible for the Military Department to overrule the Commander-in-Chief in any serious cases, because the moment the Papers containing the refusal came, all the Commander-in-Chief had to do was to ask that they should go to the Viceroy or should be taken before the Council. The Commander-in-Chief had the remedy in his own hands, and yet I can assure the noble Viscount that not once during the two or three years I had the honour of serving with Lord Kitchener did he ask that a single matter that had been decided against him should be brought before the Council.
There was one other point in Viscount Midleton's speech to which I must refer because it is a point on which I feel rather sore. He told us last night that he had not been in a position to give to the public the Memoranda of Lord Elgin, Lord Cromer, Sir Henry Brackenbury, Sir David Barbour, and Sir E. Collen, whom he consulted for the assistance of his Committee, because they were private documents. If that were so—and I do not desire to dispute it—then the noble Viscount had no right to quote them in the Report which he laid before Parliament. That evidence was referred to, and what we felt so badly in India was that, while every shred of evidence that could tell against our case appeared to be scraped together by the noble Viscount in his Despatch, the evidence of all those statesmen to whom I have referred, which I happen to know was in favour of the 103 view of the Government of India, was withheld.
One other observation on a quasi-personal point. The noble Viscount opposite yesterday rebuked me, not, I think, for the first time, in rather lofty tones, for what he described, and I think rightly described, as the unedifying controversy of 1905. I should like, in a sentence, to state the facts. I do not think the noble Viscount, or any noble Lord, could find anything to complain of in the Minutes and the Despatches that were laid before Parliament. I do not think they will find in them the slightest deviation from the becomingly high level of propriety and restraint that should characterise public communications of that description. As regards the controversy which was published in the newspapers in India and in this country, not as a Parliamentary Paper, I desire to say now, what I have never had an opportunity of saying before, that those papers were published against my wish and in spite of my protest, and only because they were pressed for by Lord Kitchener himself.
The Secretary of State last night quoted a passage in my Minute and then asked me whether I did hold that the constitutional authority of the Government of India was impaired, and whether I did still believe that a military autocracy had been set up. My answer to that question is unhesitatingly in the affirmative. I know the Statute has not been repealed, and that theoretically the control of military matters by the Governor-General in Council stands exactly where it was. But, when you have all opposition eliminated at the earlier stages by processes which render military criticism in the military hierarchy of India absolutely impossible, and in the last resort, when matters come before Council, there is no one to advise the Viceroy and his colleagues except the Commander-in-Chief, who is himself the author of the proposals under discussion, then I say that a military autocracy does exist. I do not see how any one can dispute it, and, if it be disputed, let me ask is it a system which you would dare to set up in this country? I venture to say that the Ministry that introduced such a change would not have a six months existence.
I am always reluctant to quote from 104 others, but there is one quotation to which I hope the noble Viscount will forgive me if I attach great importance, because it is from a speech which was made by the Right Hon. John Morley in October, 1905, at Arbroath. That was shortly after I had resigned, and the noble Viscount took a view of my position and the action of the late Government then very different from that which, I imagine, lie entertains now. He said—Lord Curzon has been chased out of power by the military, and the Secretary of State—that was Viscount Midleton—has sanctioned that operation. If there is one principle more than another which has been accepted in this country since the day when Charles I lost his head, it is this—that the civil power shall be supreme over the military power. That is what you will find in the India Office—they have been guilty—that was Viscount Midleton—of this great dereliction, this great departure from these standard maxims of public administration which have been practically sacred in this island ever since the days of the Civil War.Last night the Secretary of State accused me of having somewhere used rather sonorous language. Surely, if my language was sonorous, his was flamboyant. Yet that is the great departure, the great dereliction, which the Secretary of State has now ratified and condoned.
The Secretary of State seems to have felt some surprise as to the object of this debate. I think we may legitimately feel some surprise as to the character and progress of the debate. In the two speeches delivered from the Benches opposite has there been the slightest attempt made to meet the main current of the argument directed against them from this side of the House? Has any attempt whatever been made to take the point on which Lord Cromer laid so much stress—namely, what may be described as the political argument as distinguished from the argument in relation to efficiency? Has any attempt been made to consider the effect that this change must have on the Native Army? Has any attempt been made to show how the Commander-in-Chief is going, under the new conditions, to fulfil his task? All we are told is that we need not be alarmed because in this country all the Departments are very much overworked, but no answer has been made to the question: How can 105 one man discharge the double burden of Secretary of State and Commander-in-Chief?
If I were asked what was the practical object of this debate I would answer in these words: It is to call attention to the fact that a system of military administration which was universally condemned by the colleagues of the right hon. gentleman in 1905, which would not be tolerated in this country, and which finds no parallel in any other country, is now being set up in India. Is it possible that the long list of Viceroys whom I have named—Lords Northbrook, Ripon, Dufferin, Lansdowne, Elgin, and Ampthill—the only two living ex-Commanders-in-Chief—Lord Roberts and Sir George White—statesmen like Lord Cromer, and great Indian soldiers like Sir Henry Brackenbury and Sir Edwin Collen, distinguished Indian civilians like Sir John Strachey, Sir Alfred Lyall, and Lord MacDonnell—is it possible for them all to be absolutely wrong? Are all these men who have illumined Indian history by their services during the past fifty years entirely wrong, and is the only person who is right the present Commander-in-Chief?
The noble Viscount said yesterday that I was flogging a dead horse. I can assure him that nothing would be more pleasing to me than never to say one word more about this question. It has soured and beclouded some of the best years of my 106 life. I wish I could put it away from me for ever. But I do not believe that the horse is dead. I am perfectly certain that in a few years time you will find that it is alive again. The fear I have is that if you leave things as they are now, at some date which we cannot anticipate, and which may be a date most inconvenient and most dangerous for us, the horse which is now supposed to be dead may rise and may unseat its rider. I have no desire to persist in my Motion for Papers, but I am grateful to the House for the opportunity it has given me of making these observations.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.