HL Deb 01 April 1925 vol 60 cc915-28

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, it has been my unfortunate experience for two nights running, at the moment when your Lordships or all the more volatile amongst you begin to think of preparing for dinner, to ask you to listen to a somewhat tedious disquisition, and I fear that I must repeat to-night the demand which I made upon your Lordships' patience last night. My excuse must be that the conscientious manner in which your Lordships have examined the Questions which have engaged attention in the House before mine has made the moment somewhat late at which I rise. I cannot for that reason neglect the duty which is imposed upon me, for this Bill is one which has great consequences for India. Its Parliamentary fortunes, too long by successive accidents delayed, are being attended with extreme anxiety by many meritorious public servants to whom its passage means much.

I think that the most useful manner in which I can deal with this important matter is to inform your Lordships as shortly as I can of the effect of the principal provisions of this Bill. They are limited in scope, but they are essential in the form in which I offer them to the consideration of Parliament if His Majesty's Government are to carry out a decision, already announced, to accept and put into force the main recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Superior Civil Services in India, which was presided over by a member of this House. Viscount Lee of Fareham. I have summarised those recommendations as briefly as I can. They aimed on the one hand at removing certain anxieties, financial and otherwise, of the Services and on the other at satisfying Indian opinion that the principles underlying the reform scheme would be observed in Service administration. I must, therefore, make it perfectly plain that the recommendations are a deliberate compromise between the Indian point of view and Service opinion and in approving them generally, as His Majesty's Government have now approved them, the need for maintaining the balance between the two points of view has been steadily kept in mind. No useful purpose is gained by ignoring the fact that there are two points of view amid which those who are responsible for the Government of India, either in India or in this country, must steer a prudent and in my judgment a middle course.

The recommendations which benefit the Service, are recognised as benefiting them, and have been accepted, are as follows. First, in the matter of pay, this takes the form of granting small increases in overseas pay and, perhaps more important, of issuing the overseas part of the rupee pay in sterling at 2s. the rupee as a protection against a fluctuating rate of exchange. This means an addition of about £135 a year to the pay of an officer in the middle years of his service. In the second place, there is an increase effected in the pensions of members of the uncovenanted Services from Rs. 5,000 (that is to say, £437 10s.) to Rs. 6,000 (which is £525) for 25 years' service and from Rs. 6,000 to Rs. 7,000 for 30 years' service. In the third place, there is the grant to all officers of non-Asiatic domicile in the course of their service and to their wives of four return first-class passages and one single passage for each child. We may be asked quite reasonably in these days of economic stringency as to the cost of the financial relief involved under these three heads. It may be put at one crore of rupees at 1s.6d the rupee; that is to say, about £750,000 a year—no inconsiderable allowance.

The recommendations designed more particularly to bring the organisation of the Services into accord with the existing Constitution which have also been accepted include, first, the taking over by Local Governments of the responsibility of engaging and controlling future recruits for the Indian Educational, Civil Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Services, of the Buildings and Roads branch of the Indian Service of Engineers and, in two Provinces, of the Indian Forest Service. Each of these Services has hitherto been uniform for all India, but the fields of administration which they serve have since the reforms been controlled by the Governor, acting with Ministers responsible to the Legislature, and this makes what is called "provincialisation" of the Services concerned a natural, and indeed an inevitable, step.

In the second place, there are certain Services directly administered by the Government of India—called Central Services—other than the Ecclesiastical and Political, which will now be controlled by the Government of India instead of by the Secretary of State, with certain reservations of control to the Secretary of State where either the Service has strategical importance, such as Railways, or its personnel is military, such as the Survey of India. In the third place, accelerated Indianisation, to use a phrase which I did not invent, is accepted as a principle with a view to producing, in the case of the Indian Civil Service and Police, a "cadre one half European and one-half Indian in 15 and 25 years respectively."

These three measures, which in the aggregate fill the opposite side of the scale in the kind of equipoise which has determined the conclusions of the Commission, and especially that which is known as Indianisation, are apt to be criticised, have been criticised, and will unquestionably be criticised on the ground that they will swamp the Indian Services and impair their efficiency. It is no part of my present plan to indulge in a lengthy historical survey, but it is only fair to the present Parliament, to their immediate predecessors, to the Government in which Mr. Montagu was Secretary of State for India and under which the noble lord, Lord Chelmsford, who I see opposite, was Viceroy—it is only fair to all of these to remember, if there be blame to be implied in the inception of Indianisation—which I certainly, holding my position, could never concede—that it is not of modern origin, that it is not the product or the child of any one of those Governments.

Let me very shortly remind your Lordships of how those who are accounted the classical teachers of the true principles which ought to be applied in our relations with India, have spoken of this. The terms of Section 96 of the Government of India Act, only reproduce the provisions of the famous Statute, the 1833 Act, which has been quoted and acclaimed as the Magna Charta of India for a period now of one hundred years. What were the words then used? No native of British India, nor any subject of His Majesty resident therein shall, by reason only of his religion, place of birth, descent, colour, or any of them be disabled from holding any office under the Crown in India. That has been proclaimed indefeasible in law, and has for a hundred years been confirmed by this country in its dealings with India. That section which still stands as the governing principle of our relations with India, was supplemented in the Preamble of the Act of 1919 with the authority of both Houses of Parliament, and after this matter had been examined with scrupulous and meticulous care for many months by one of the most responsible and capable Joint Committees which the Houses of Parliament have ever appointed to deal with a matter of grave public moment. It was supplemented in the Preamble of the Act of 1919 by the express pronouncement that it is the declared policy of Parliament to provide for the increasing association of Indians in every branch of Indian administration.

I, therefore, found myself, in the responsibility which fell upon me, the legatee of a deliberate policy of long standing, and I had to apply my mind, in the recommendations which it was my duty to make to my colleagues in the Government, not as one who came there for the first time to deal upon a novel basis with matters which were open to dispute and discussion, but I found myself confronted by principles and provisions which I was bound to observe, and I had no hesitation in reaching the conclusion that it was our duty to support the very delicate compromise which the Lee Commission had reached in its entirety, with one or two inconsiderable exceptions, which need not disturb the generality of the statement that I make.

But your Lordships may reasonably ask how do I attempt to judge the future, and how do I think that this stipulation will in fact work out? In 1924, Indians in the Indian Civil Service constituted seventeen per cent. of the total number of officers and in the police eleven per cent. Though time alone can show, an increase of Indians in fifteen and twenty-five years to fifty per cent. for those two Services (which is not in itself a very violent change), should not prove too rapid a progress in giving effect to the policy of Parliament declared in the Preamble to the Government of India Act of 1919. But let us have no delusions. A condition of the possibility of maintaining that balance, of relying upon that balance to provide us with a competent and reliable civil administration in India, depends, and almost must depend, upon the inclusion upon the English side of its contribution of the very best of the young men whom the schools and the Universities of this country can provide. It is, of course, equally true—I will not say that it is a fortiori true, because no comparative statements in such a matter are desirable or indeed tolerable—that the standards of the recruitment of the Indian members of the Civil Service should be of such a character as to ensure that men of the best brains, the best character, the best all-round calibre are supplied to represent the Indian population.

But at this moment I am dealing in this House with the English contribution, and it is right that your Lordships should understand that, in my opinion, the gravest anxiety which confronts the Secretary of State for India at this moment does not lie with movements and tendencies in India, grave and menacing as some of these have been. I am not very gravely alarmed, attempting to look at the matter in real perspective, by these. The gravest anxiety at this moment, in my judgment, is in this circumstance, that that which beyond all question was almost the finest illustration of what I will venture to describe as the best Civil Service in the world has undoubtedly, since the year 1914, shown many signs of lack of popularity and of consequent decline. If you trace the history of the association of this country with that great sub-continent—as I shall still venture to believe, one of the brightest pages in the whole of our history—you will realise that never would the success with which we have maintained our position there have been conceivable had it not been for the devotion, the ability, the courage and the character of our Indian Civil Service. When I addressed myself some months ago for the first time to this question this was the element in the whole situation which alone caused me a vague, and at the present time an undissipated, anxiety.

I cannot give you the explanation completely why the Indian Civil Service has ceased to offer exactly the same attraction that it did in my young days at Oxford thirty years ago. I remember well when I was at Oxford that in every college the flower of the young men attempted the competition for the Indian Civil Service, the man, who was a scholar of his college, captain of the boats, or of the football team. If you took eight of such men in any given college, you would find three or four of them presenting themselves for examination for the Indian Civil Service, and you would always find that four or five of the best men in every college at Oxford would be successful in that examination and would carry on the great traditions of those who had preceded them. It was the efforts of these men, laboriously, unostentatiously and without advertisement, carried on through generations, that has made possible that association of partnership, discreditable to neither and honourable to those who undertook it, which has constituted the real history of this country in India. That membership has declined since the war. One explanation undoubtedly is that those poignant and pregnant years killed a large number of those who would naturally have presented themselves for this competition, disabled many others and atrophied in others the spirit of adventure.

Therefore we find that from the year 1914 there has been a distinct and grave decline in the number of those who have presented themselves for examination. I cannot doubt that the growing competition of our modern life, the fact that other professions, competitive professions, are so overcrowded, together with the comparative security which is still offered to the very high spirit of adventure of our youth, will redress the balance and restore the numbers of those who offer themselves for this Service. But I should be misleading your Lordships if I did not make it plain that at this moment the number of those who are offering themselves is not sufficient and that our problem, unless things improve, may not be to discuss whether there should be 50 per cent. of suitable natives of India but to ensure that there shall be 50 per cent. of suitable candidates from these Islands.

Such steps as are in my power to take I have not failed to take, ably assisted as I have been by many Englishmen with special and distinguished knowledge of India, who have been good enough, on my invitation, to visit the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, the Scottish University, and many others. I have paid visits to some of these Universities myself, and contemplate more, and I am not without encouragement from meeting with the students themselves in these Universities and meeting the tutors who are in the capacity of advising them as to their career, that when I address your Lordships in twelve months' time, if I am still in the same position as I am now, I shall be able to give you better reassurances upon a point so vital to the future of India.

I have to mention two measures, unrelated to the matters I have hitherto discussed, which appeal both to Indian and Service opinion and have been accepted in principle by the Government. I cannot to-night make a more precise announcement in relation to them. In the first place, there is the question of the reorganisation of the Medical Services with a view to separating the Civil from the Military Services, so strongly recommended to the Commission. The result would be to put the former, that is the Medical Service, on a Provincial basis and secure for the Civil Services and their families medical treatment by European officers while maintaining a war reserve of officers in civil employ. The detailed proposals of the Government of India upon this matter have not yet been received but they are expected shortly.

In the second place a very complicated matter—which I will not pretend to deal with in detail to-night—presents itself for consideration—namely, the constitution of a Public Service Commission long since pressed upon the authorities both in India and at home. It was strongly recommended by the Lee Commission. It is conceived of as being a Commission charged on the one hand with maintaining adequate standards of recruitment in India for the Services, and on the other with protecting the Services by the establishment of a body of the highest standing to advise the Executive Government in regard to the discipline of the Services and their general interests.

I have been in close discussion upon this matter with the Viceroy for some weeks. I cannot pretend that we have yet arrived at a conclusion. The difficulties are enormous. In the first place, you have to determine whether such a body is to be subordinate to the Government of India, or whether it is to be independent in its decisions of that Government. In the second place, you have to decide whether it is to be allowed to invade some of the functions of the Secretary of State, and although I hope I am the least likely of anyone to allow any question of the importance or dignity of the office which I hold to came into collision with any consideration of public interest, I have at the same time to remember this always, that no one has ever left this country to undertake duties as an Indian civil servant who has not been assured before he went that he individually had an individual right to appeal to the Secretary of State, and I am bound most carefully to safeguard that position. I shall, I think, find it my duty to do so.

I have only a very few words to add. The Act of 1919 itself gives to the Indian Legislature and the Provincial Legislative Councils power to vote Supply, but in doing so they provide that proposals for certain categories of expenditure are not to be submitted to that Vote. Amongst these categories of expenditure are "salaries and pensions of persons appointed by, or with the approval of, His Majesty or by the Secretary of State in Council, and salaries of Chief Commissioners, Judicial Commissioners, High Court Judges and Advocates-General." Clause 1 of the Bill makes two changes in these provisions:—(a) by defining and extending the meaning of the expression "salaries and pensions," and (b) by extending the classes of persons whose "salaries and pensions" as now to be defined, are to be protected.

As regards the first point, it is probable that the intention of the framers of the Act of 1919 was to exempt from the Vote all emoluments and official payments of all kinds, whether by way of remuneration or pension, payable to protected persons. The use of the word "salaries," however, has made it necessary in the past to include under that heading various payments which cannot, except by a straining of language, be regarded as falling within the term "salaries" as technically used in India. Moreover, the decision taken on Lord Lee's Commission's proposals involve concessions, notably the grant of free passages, which it would be impossible to class as salary.

The object, therefore, of subsection (3) of Clause 1, which might puzzle your Lordships, is to make the terms "salaries and pensions" all-embracing, and thereby to remove any doubts as to the meaning intended to be placed upon them. In this connection it may be noted that the Commission definitely recommended that the passage of the concession should not be subject to the votes of Councils. I will add one word only as to the second point. The concessions recommended by the Commission are to be granted to certain categories of servants whose members are not appointed by the Secretary of State in Council, and consequently whose salaries and pensions, however interpreted, would not be covered by the sections as they stand, and paragraph iii (c) and iv (d) extend the class of persons to be protected.

I do not think that I need at this stage of the Bill analyse in detail all its clauses and sections. I have stated enough of its general effect and its tendency to make it quite plain to your Lordships that this Commission was sent out to attempt a comprehensive examination upon two major points. The first was: In what respects, if any, ought there to be, having regard to post-war conditions, an alleviation in and an improvement of the conditions of service of the Superior Indian Civil Services, as they are called? The second was: What, if any, changes or modifications ought to be recommended which would make it possible to effect these alleviations without any affront to reasonable Indian opinion? The Commission was appointed, not, I think, by my immediate predecessor, but by Lord Peel. It consisted of a number of very experienced men, and I do not wish to pass from the Motion that this Bill should be read a second time without expressing my deep sense, and the sense of the Government, of gratitude to the members of this Commission for their devoted labours.

They travelled, not always at element seasons of the year, over vast geographical distances, and it may perhaps be an illustration of the exertions which they undertook that I believe that the Chairman is the only member of that body who has not since succumbed, to grave illness They presented a Report. There are some elements in that Report in relation to which I myself, as I examined them, felt some doubt, and certainly other members of the Government both felt and expressed doubt. But we formed a clear view on the whole that, having appointed men of ability and experience to undertake a task of great delicacy and difficulty, and being confronted by a Report from them with which on the whole, considering it in general perspective, we found ourselves in agreement, the wiser course was to accept that Report as a whole and to recommend it to Parliament as a whole, in the belief and expectation that when the perspective is examined it will be found that those who were appointed by our predecessors to report upon this question discharged their task adequately, competently and sympathetically. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Birkenhead.)


My Lords, it would be quite unreasonable for me, having regard to the established habits of your Lordships' House, to attempt at this time of the evening to say some things that I would have liked to say in pursuance of the commentaries upon the present situation which the noble and learned Earl has so eloquently and so sympathetically developed, and I do not wish to stand in the least degree in the way of the Second Reading of this Bill by moving an adjournment of the debate, although some of your Lordships might have liked to have a further discussion on the subject. I will say as briefly as I can why I and my Party are prepared to consent to the Second Reading of this Bill.

I spoke in your Lordships' House, I think last July, on the subject of the then situation with regard to the Report of Lord Lee's Commission, and I indicated reasons why at that time I was prepared to agree to the principles of that Commission's Report. Put in the very briefest compass they are these. First of all, we thought it right that the emoluments of the Indian Civil Service should be as far as possible—although they could not be entirely—restored to what was intended to be their value when the contracts of service were entered into with many of those who are now in the Service; that is to say, that the impoverishment which they have suffered owing to the fall in the value of the rupee, and owing to the increase in the cost of living, should be so far as possible redressed, exactly in the same way as it has been redressed on behalf of at any rate the superior ranks of the Civil Service in this country. Here the Government recognised that owing to the fall in the exchange value of the £—that is to say, owing to the increase in the cost of living—the rates of pay in the Civil Service ought to be readjusted. The rates of pay in the Indian Civil Service were readjusted just about the time when the rupee was at 2s. Since then the rupee has very considerably fallen in value, and we thought it right to do in regard to India that which had been done with regard to our own Civil Service, and that something like a return should be made to what was intended to be the real emolument offered to civil servants when they were appointed. That is the first principle.

The second principle was this: That where a public servant has been appointed by the Minister, acting on behalf of His Majesty, the contract which has been made and entered into with him shall be safeguarded and observed, no matter what constitutional change may thereafter take place with regard to the administration of patronage and the control of supplies. That is to say, we endeavoured to guarantee that those officers who had been appointed prior to any modification of the Constitution and to any future modification of the administration of Transferred Subjects, should be guaranteed in the position in which they were appointed, and, inasmuch as the Report of Lord Lee's Commission makes the concession of the transfer of certain other subjects and Services to provincial management, that those civil servants who are at present serving in those Services should not have less security in regard to their emoluments and their position than they have at the present time before these changes are carried out. Those are the two main principles which, as I take it, this Bill is intended to implement.

The actual details of how those principles are to be worked out will be found in Rules which will be framed by the Secretary of State and the Government of India and which will be laid before your Lordships' House for consideration, and it would be idle for me to attempt to go into any of the other consequences sequences of this Bill before those Rules are before your Lordships' House When they come before the House I understand, from conversation with the noble Earl, that it is his intention that they shall be referred to and considered by the Joint Select Committee which has recently been set up, composed of members of your Lordships' House and of the House of Commons. That will be the place for scrutiny and examination of the details and of the actual effect of those Rules, and I take it that we may also understand that this Bill itself will be referred to that Committee for examination of its provisions before your Lordships deal with it on Report. On those two understandings I see no reason whatever why I should stand any longer between your Lordships and any other member of the House who may wish to address you on the Second Reading of this Bill.

I would like just to add one word with regard to what the noble Earl said as to the prospects of recruitment in the Indian Civil Service. I have been very glad to see the action taken by the noble Earl in inducing Lord Meston and others to go to the Universities and speak on the subject, and I know that they have spoken with great effect and public spirit, in order to endeavour to induce young men at the Universities to look with the favour with which they used to look upon the Indian Civil Service. In the course of the interviews which I had when Secretary of State with many representatives of all shades of Indian opinion, more than one Englishman, not in the Civil Service but rendering in a private business capacity very good service to England and the Empire, did say that he thought young men in England were a little unnecessarily discouraged, and a little less adventurous than they might reasonably be, in regard to the future prospects of work in the Indian Civil Service.

He said that, although the Indian Civil Service is not such a guaranteed job as it used to be, and although there is not the same prospect of being able to retire on a pension and come into Parliament, and there is not the same chance of going out as one of a privileged class, yet there is abundant field for public service. As everyone knows who has been in India, and has made private friends among Indians, if an Englishman will go out into the public service of India not as one of a class appointed to rule another country, but as private adventurers and bankers go out to take part in some of the social and organic work of the country, they will find an abundant response of friendship from Indians, and will find adventure in contributing to the work of the Empire as their predecessors did. That consideration has been impressed upon me by gentlemen working in India, not in the public service but in a private capacity. That was their hopeful feeling in regard to the future good work of the Civil Service, and it is because the noble Earl has tried, through his missioners in the country, to inculcate that spirit, that I am glad to support his endeavours.


My Lords, I owe an apology to the noble Earl for detaining the House for a few moments, because I told him yesterday that I was not going to speak on this Bill. I am tempted to do so because of the remarks he made with regard to the crusade among young men in the Universities, and because I happen, since November last, to have been residing at Oxford in connection with the Statutory Committee of which I am a member. I have therefore had an opportunity of hearing what has taken place and of learning the difficulties which are felt by the undergraduates with regard to entrance into the Indian Civil Service at the present moment. I would like to say, that I do not think, from what I have heard, that they are so anxious as to the monetary side. It is not the monetary side which is worrying them at the present moment. They would be quite willing to go out at a small recompense, merely from the spirit of adventure, but to the question of what is really worrying them it is, I think, rather difficult for us to find a true answer.

They feel that there is a certain insecurity of tenure if they go out; that they may find at thirty or forty years of age that, keen as they are upon their work, their task in India is finished, and that they have to resume public life in some other sphere. Of course, this insecurity is not peculiar to the Indian Civil Service. We know how many men in the Navy and Army, of recent years, although they had regarded both professions as life professions, have, through the exigency of circumstances, had to forego their careers prematurely; but it is cold comfort to hold out to these young men that the uncertainty which they fear is in common with other Services, because there are undoubtedly special reasons why they think that their position would be insecure in the Indian Civil Service.

I can only express my own personal opinion, because one can only look at it from one's own experience and one's inferences from experience. Personally, so long as India requires a British force and Army, whether to protect it from external foes or to maintain internal security, so long, I believe, will it be necessary to have that British complement in the Civil Service which will be the complement of the Army on the side of internal security. I think that the two are bound up together, and that the British Army in India is required, not merely for defence from foes outside but also for internal security, and that the British Army could not do its work with regard to internal security, unless it had with it and behind it the British element in the Civil Service. Therefore, my own personal opinion is that so far as we can see, with reference to candidates coming forward for the Indian Civil Service at the present moment, one can safely say to them: "You can enter the service and be sure that you will have a life service in the career that you have chosen." I will not enter upon other parts of the Bill, because Lord Olivier has made it abundantly clear that if he had been on the other side of the House he would himself have had to bring forward a Bill of this nature. I feel that it is not necessary for those on this Bench to add anything further to what he has said in supporting the Second Reading of this Bill.

On Question, Bill read 2a.


My Lords, I have now to move that the Bill be referred to the Standing Joint Committee on Indian Affairs. Lord Olivier asked me whether the Rules would be submitted to the Committee. I am in slight doubt as to what Rules he means, but if he will speak to me privately I have every desire to be reasonable and have no wish to withhold anything from the Committee which will be useful.

Moved, That the Bill be referred to the Standing Joint Committee on Indian Affairs.—(The Earl of Birkenhead.)

On Question, Motion agreed to, and ordered accordingly.