HL Deb 25 November 1919 vol 37 cc377-80

LORD HARRIS rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether it is the case that Territorial officers in India are being paid for their war bonus and war gratuity ten rupees to the £, whilst the men for their war bonus are being paid at the rate of sixteen rupees to the £; and, if so, what is the justification for this difference.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the first part of the Question, I am aware, has been satisfactorily answered in another place, but I put down, and intentionally put down, a further Question as to what justification there is for the difference which I understand was in the first instance made between the rate of exchange at which the gratuity was paid to men in the Territorial Force in India and to Territorial officers. It is the fact, I believe, that for a time the officers were paid at the rate of only ten rupees to the £ whilst the men were getting fifteen rupees—a difference of 10s. in the £. I hope that my noble friend will be able to give some justification for the difference, which seems to be manifestly unfair.

I would urge him to give an explanation whether it is justifiable or not, because I can assure him that it is extremely unpleasant for any one who has had anything to do with the administration of affairs in India to read the things which one reads in one's private correspondence with reference to the treatment of the Army by the Government in India. Extremely unpleasant things are being said as regards injustice and indifference to hardships, and where the case seems, on the face of it, so manifestly unfair I think the reasons for it should be published. Therefore I hope that my noble friend will not hesitate to say what the actual facts are.


My Lords, I am obliged to my noble friend for giving me this opportunity of explaining the reason for the difference such as it originally existed. The Question deals with two matters which stand on a somewhat different footing. First of all, there is the subject of the war bonus, and then there is the question of the war gratuity. With regard to the bonus it was always considered that it was a sterling addition to the pay both of officers and men. With regard to the officers, their initial pay is fixed in rupees, but this bonus was a sterling addition, and was therefore paid to them at the current or official rate of exchange—1s. 6d. for some time, and afterwards 1s. 8d. The period extended only for five months—namely, from February 1 to June 30, and the rate was 1s. 6d. up to May 13, and 1s. 8d. from that date to the end.

So far as the men were concerned their pay always was in sterling, and in 1917 the Government of India considered it would be extremely hard if their back pay were paid in sterling at the current rate of exchange. A concession was made, by reason of the special circumstances, that they should get, not the current rate of exchange when the rate rose to more than 1s. 5d., but that they should get a fixed rate—one rupee for every 1s. 4d. which, of course, was a little bit favourable to them and enabled them to pay for necessaries which, with their small pay, it would have been otherwise difficult for them to do. So far, therefore, as the bonus is concerned I think my noble friend will be satisfied that there is good reason for the distinction made between the men and officers. A further reason for that distinction is that the officers were entitled to exchange compensation allowance until the rupee rose to 1s. 6d. while the men were not. I do not think the officers would grudge this little concession in favour of the private.

As regards the gratuity, that was to be paid in a lump sum. The rates vary according to years of service and rank, and, as an illustration, it is enough to say that a private who served throughout the war would get £29, and a captain, with the same service, would get about £90. That illustrates the rates according to rank and period of service. Originally, it was intended —this being a lump sum which was to form a sort of "nest egg" to be remitted to England as a saving—that both officers and men should get this gratuity at the current rate of exchange, otherwise they would get more than the sterling amount which it was intended to give them. By reason of the misapprehension of a cable which was sent to the Government of India a private got a better rate. As in the case of his bonus, so in the case of his gratuity, he got a fixed rate; that is, 1s. 4d. for every rupee. The result was that he got more rupees than he would otherwise have received, and he was able to remit more than the £29 to which he was entitled. It was a mistake; it was not intended that he should get it, but the mistake continued, and when it was discovered it was too late to remedy it and payment was continued at that rate.

So far as the officers were concerned, however, it continued to be paid at the current rate—that is, 1s. 6d. to 1s. 8d., as the rate varied. The Secretary of State afterwards decided that there should not be this inequality in respect of the gratuity and the officer now gets the benefit of the mistake made in favour of the private—namely, that whereas he got the rupee previously at 1s. 8d. he now gets it at 1s. 4d.; so that he is far better off by reason of the mistake than he otherwise would have been. I do not think there is any reason for grievance on the part of the officers either with regard to the bonus or with regard to the gratuity. I hope that my noble friend will be satisfied that when the difference was originally made it was not done with any intention of favouring the men at the expense of the officers, and that the officer has had the benefit of a mistake which was made in favour of the private.


I am much obliged for the full explanation of the noble Lord. As regards the latter part of his remarks they seem to be quite satisfactory from the officers' point of view, because they get the benefit of the mistake made with regard to the men. I do not quite follow his explanation with regard to the bonus. It seems to me to be a little complicated, but I will consult with some of my friends who understand the subject better than I do.