HL Deb 05 February 1947 vol 145 cc434-52

VISCOUNT SIMON rose to ask His Majesty's Government, what are their intentions for securing compensation for members of the Indian Services in the event of their employment coming to an end owing to political and constitutional changes, and to move for Papers. The noble and learned Viscount said My Lords, very few words will be needed to call your Lordships' attention to the matter with which my question deals. It is, as I think will be admitted, both a very important and a very urgent question, for it concerns the anxiety which is widely entertained by members of the Indian Services as to their position and prospects if there come about the political and constitutional changes which are, in some quarters, so widely expected to take place in India. It is not only the Indian Civil Service that may be involved, though they alone would be entitled to the attention of Parliament. I think there are something over 2,000 people in that Service, and of that number about 1,000 are Indians. For the most part, they passed a very strenuous examination, though I think some recent appointments have been made by a different method. They have undertaken this highly honourable and responsible service in India as their life work, and they claim that if the changes which are in some quarters contemplated do take place, then the basis on which they were led to enter the Service and upon which they have been endeavouring to discharge their duties may be very fundamentally altered.

I do not claim to be specially informed on the subject, and I have no wish to be more dogmatic than I should be. Your Lordships' House contains on this, as on nearly every other subject, one or two Members who are really experts. I see that my noble friend Lord Hailey is here, and I hope that he will follow me. He is a complete master of this situation, not only because of his lifelong work in India and the posts which he has there held, but because he is still the recipient of communications expressing the anxieties of those who have followed him in the Service. I am very glad to see, also, the last of the ex-Viceroys of India here in our House. He has come here, I have no doubt, to take part in this brief discussion. As I say, it is not only members of the Indian Civil Service who are involved. There are the members of the Indian Police, for whose efforts to maintain law and order in terribly difficult times we have good reason to be most grateful. I think that the Indian Forestry Service is another example, and there are some cases also within the Military Service, which I will not pause to describe now.

What is it that these gentlemen are so anxious about—for the fact of their anxiety I am sure can be rightly accepted, and will be proved by my noble friend Lord Hailey in a few minutes? They feel that what is now said to be imminent is going to make their continued position in India, in some cases, one which they really cannot undertake; that the change which may come about is of a sort which, as a matter of good sense and fairness—I am not speaking about legal technicalities—completely alters the position which they undertook. This was mentioned in a brief passage in the debate on India which we had, I think, on December 16, when the noble Lord opposite was good enough to reply. I must confess that I am moved to put down this question largely because of what has happened since then. I have before me a very important dispatch from Delhi, from The Times' correspondent, which appeared on Wednesday, January 22. In it he refers to recent events which we know have occurred. The Under-Secretary of State for India, Mr. Arthur Henderson, was dispatched there in order, amongst other things, to discuss questions of compensation of this sort on the spot. I would most briefly bring your Lordships' minds to the issues with which I am concerned by reading three paragraphs from this dispatch. This is one of them: It is common ground between both Governments, and the view is also shared by members of the services affected, that the present invidious position under which officials are expected to serve under two masters must be ended as soon as possible, thus enabling the Indian Government to claim the undivided allegiance of the officials who remain and to release others who may be unwilling to transfer their allegiance to an India & I will not read the rest of the sentence because it deals with the question of whether India will be within the British Commonwealth or not. I sincerely hope that it will.

That is really a very serious paragraph. I do not know that I have previously appreciated that it is correct to speak of the two Governments but, at any rate in the judgment of this experienced correspondent, matters have come to the point when there are two Governments interested in the administration of India and that creates an invidious position in respect of those officials of whom I speak. You can well believe that it does. I am speaking only from what I have read in the papers. I have read that Mr. Nehru has made it known that, while he would be willing to continue certain of these officers in the service of the Government which he envisages in the future, he draws the line at those officials who took an active part in endeavouring to suppress the rebellion which broke out in many parts of India in 1942, when Japan was at the gate and when there was, for the moment, beyond any question, the most dangerous movement going on in India—a movement which was by no means calculated to secure the defeat of the enemy. If I put myself in the position of one of these Indian civil servants and think of that statement, I cannot help sympathizing a great deal with the anxieties of these people, and I begin to appreciate the invidious and conflicting position referred to in that paragraph.

The second paragraph that I would like to read is this: The moral and legal grounds on which the case for compensation for what is virtually premature termination of contracts with the Secretary of State for India, involving deprivation of prospects and earning capacity for varying periods, may be assumed to have been put effectively by the British spokesmen. But as well as these grounds there is the further argument that the concession in principle now of the right to compensation when an officer decides to retire prematurely would prove a reassuring factor, and would persuade many officers to remain and serve the new India for as long as they were wanted. I do not for a moment doubt that Mr. Aruthur Henderson and those with him, as this newspaper asserts, have put very effectively their view as the British spokesmen. But, of course, if they have done so they have done so on instructions from the Secretary of State who is here. I do not ask for the details of those instructions; I can well understand that, as a matter of fact, it would be most imprudent to ask now for a detailed declaration with figures and conditions. I do not ask for any- thing of the kind, but what I do say is this: that the question is justified, even if it were only for the purpose of giving some comfort to these anxious and loyal people and to show them that in Parliament itself there are members who are watching and taking an interest in their position.

But it is more than that. My noble friend, with his invariable courtesy, told me that from his point of view he would prefer this question to be postponed, because he would not be able to announce a full decision. I quite understand his point of view but, frankly, I want to call attention to this matter before a final decision in detail is arrived at. It seems to me that these people are entitled to know that Parliament is taking an interest in their welfare and possible future.

The third paragraph which I wish to read, says this: Failing such an assurance, it is unlikely that many British officers would be convinced by any guarantee from the present interim Government of the same pay and conditions of service as they now enjoy, but would apprehend progressive deterioration in conditions, once the Secretary of State's protection was withdrawn, and would, therefore, want to get out without delay. That reference to the Secretary of State's protection is very important. I am not presuming to give a short lecture on the Indian Constitutional and Statutory Law: that is one of the most complicated subjects there is, and I am not interested for the moment in the precise language of these Statutes. But this will not be denied am quite sure that my noble friend the ex-Viceroy or Lord Hailey will not deny it—that safeguarding the legitimate interests of members of the public service in India is a special responsibility which falls upon the Secretary of State, who gives suitable directions to the Viceroy. It is not a matter of which we can wash our hands at all.

Finally, I wish to make it quite clear that there is a distinction between getting a proportionate pension, and getting what is here referred to as "compensation." The India Civil Service, as a result of various Statutes and Regulations, have the right to a proportionate pension if they retire prematurely with the assent needed. Nobody suggests that that right is going to be taken away. My point is that their anxiety is not about their proportionate pension but about what is going to happen to them in the future if they feel they must give up that livelihood. Many men of thirty, forty, or anything up to fifty-five years of age may get alternative occupations. But consider the case of the Indian Police. The heads of the Indian Police—I have had occasion to meet some of them—discharge the most onerous duties, and they do it under conditions which are wholly different from any conditions of police work in this country. I must say I foresee the greatest difficulty in ensuring that they get a just and adequate pension.

I will not say more. I would very much sooner that your Lordships listened to those who know far more than I do about it. However, it is from nothing but a sincere conviction that it is our duty in Parliament to take note, and to show these men that we do take note, of the trials through which they are passing, that I have ventured to put this question on the Order Paper. I beg to move for Papers.

4.59 p.m.


My Lords, I regret that it is not possible for me at this juncture to make anything more than a brief reply to the question put to me by the noble Viscount. I have only to say that this matter of compensation to members of the Secretary of State's service, when their appointments under the Secretary of State are terminated as a result of constitutional changes, has been under the consideration of His Majesty's Government for some time past. As your Lordships will be aware—and in fact the noble Viscount referred to it—Mr. Henderson, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for India and Burma, has recently returned from a visit which he made to India for the purpose of discussing the matter with members of the Indian Interim Government. The outcome of these discussions is at present under active examination by His Majesty's Government, so that it is not possible for me to make any statement. Noble Lords can rest assured, however, that the point which the noble Viscount has made, and any points and arguments which other noble Lords to-day put forward, will be taken into full consideration by His Majesty's Government, if indeed there are any points in respect of which His Majesty's Government are not already fully cognizant and seized.

The importance, from all points of view, of reaching and announcing a decision in the matter at the earliest possible date is fully appreciated, and every effort will be made to dispose of the question as speedily as circumstances permit. I regret that I cannot go further than that to-day but I am quite sure that any of your Lordships who have been members of a Government examining such a matter as is under discussion would take precisely the same point of view as that which I take and which I have enunciated in these remarks. Perhaps I might make one small correction of fact to something which the noble Viscount said. I think it would I be a pity to let a mistake of fact go by. He said that there were 2000 members of the Indian Civil Service. He doubled it. As a matter of fact it is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 1,000.


I was relying on the newspaper, which no doubt is very well informed, which said that the Civil Service contains 1,250 Europeans and 1,000 Indians. Perhaps it should have been the services in India.


The noble Viscount said that in the Indian Civil Service there were 2,000 members and that there were more in the police and other services.


I accept the correction.


I wanted it to be correct.

5.5 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that there is no member of the services in India who will not be grateful to the noble Viscount for endeavouring to obtain from His Majesty's Government some clear statement which will help to mitigate some of the very natural anxieties that they now feel. I cannot feel, I regret to say, in spite of the cogency and conviction with which he spoke, that the noble Viscount has succeeded in getting that clear statement from the Secretary of State which he, and the members of the serving services in India, would have liked to obtain. We are assured that His Majesty's Government have this matter under their most careful consideration, and that they fully appreciate the urgency of the position; but I cannot feel equally sure that the services in India will appreciate the somewhat nebulous assurances on the subject which they have received from the Secretary of State. If I venture to respond to the invitation which the noble Viscount was good enough to extend to me, and if I may venture to claim your Lordships' indulgence while I supplement his own statement of the case, and perhaps indeed if I am a little technical on the subject, it is because the members of the serving services in India have no opportunity of placing their case before Parliament, and yet it is Parliament that has a very special and peculiar responsibility for them.

If I may also, at the outset, just make one point clear—I am, of course, speaking entirely with regard to those civil services which have been recruited by the Secretary of State, which include, as has just been shown, a large number of Indian members; indeed no less than 1,000—I would point out that when I am addressing your Lordships' House I am referring equally to Indian members of these services. We members of the Civil Service in India have been wont to treat our Indian colleagues in the spirit of perfect comradeship. We have had no desire, and we do not desire to-day—nor do any members of the services in India—to see any distinction made in the treatment of the British and Indian members of those services.

There are two immediate and pressing points of concern to serving officers in India. In the first place, they desire to secure some announcement from His Majesty's Government as to the date on which their engagement with the Secretary of State will terminate, in the sense that they will then be free to seek alternative employment, either with the Indian Government or elsewhere. Secondly, they have a very deep and immediate concern with the question of compensation when that engagement is terminated. I will deal with the first point at once. At present they are in a position of uncertainty which can only aggravate the many anxieties which they feel on other grounds. Speaking in your Lordships' House on December 16, the Secretary of State said that the embargo on retirement on proportionate pension had been withdrawn and that those who wished to retire for personal reasons would now be free to do so. But as the services understand the position, they still have to obtain permission from the Government of India to retire and there is no guarantee that this will not be deferred, especially if any considerable number wish to avail themselves of this permission. Meanwhile, the doubt as to the date of their release from their present engagement greatly embarrasses those who may wish to seek employment in England, for, of course, no one will consider an application from a man who cannot indicate with certain reasonable definiteness the time when his services are likely to be available.

Let me for a moment explain the implications in the announcement which I suggest should be made. Constitutionally, it would have the effect that there would no longer be in India officers of the civil administration who are responsible for carrying out such directions as the Secretary of Sate may give in order to secure the purpose of Parliament. Equally, officers recruited by the Secretary of State would no longer be entitled to that measure of protection from the Secretary of State which Parliament guarantees by the Acts of 1919 and 1935. Might I point out, in passing, that the protection held forth takes various forms. There is a right of appeal to the Secretary of State against censure, against refusal to promote, against refusal to grant increments and against suspension. That refers merely, of course, to material conditions, but it can be readily understood that, outside these material conditions, there are matters in respect of which the Secretary of State, on appeal, is entitled to interfere. But what is the actual situation today? Whatever may be the former position, can it be said, in actual fact, that the officers recruited by the Secretary of State are now under his effective control?

In the Central Government these officers are at the orders of an Executive Council, which is responsible—I feel I shall fail if I endeavour to define the exact nature of the authority to which they are responsible. In the Provinces they are technically at the orders of the Governor, since all executive orders are issued in the name of the Governor But can we now expect to see any attempt on the part of the Governor to enforce, through the agency of the Secretary of State's services, any direction of the Secretary of State which runs counter to the wishes of Indian Ministers? I do not wish to overstate the case. I am not saying that Parliament cannot come to its own decisions on matters of constitutional policy, and the like. I am speaking of the particular field of executive and administrative action in which members of the services operate. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that in this particular field the control has passed out of the hands of the Secretary of State, and even if the Secretary of State should decide to issue orders which conflicted with the desires of Indian Ministers, the officers appointed by him would not in practice be able to carry them out.

Why then should Parliament seek to retain a provision which, whatever value it possessed at one time, has not now, and cannot have, any reality? I am not discussing whether the political changes which have brought about this situation are a good thing for India or not; such a discussion would be entirely out of place today. I am on a question of practical fact. It was implicit in the policy approved by Parliament that sooner or later the officers of the civil services should cease to be responsible to the Secretary of State. The time has come sooner than many of us expected, and sooner perhaps than very many of us desired. But I put it that a declaration must be made fixing a definite date for terminating the present connexion between the Secretary of State and the officers he has recruited. As I have pointed out, such a declaration would be only just in the interests of the officers themselves; and I do not think Parliament should be deterred by the consideration that this might result in depriving India of a number of experienced officers who would otherwise be available to assist in carrying on the administration until the constitutional future of India is settled. If the Indian Government, or the individual Provinces of India, can offer them terms and conditions which will attract them to their service, well and good; but it may be an injustice to them to refuse to terminate their present engagement with the Secretary of State. I would add that I very gravely doubt whether such a refusal would be in the interests of India.

I come now to my second point. If the present engagements of the services are to be terminated, then the terms on which they are to be terminated become of the very highest importance to the serving members in those forces. Your Lordships will remember that they were recruited on terms that offered them a full life's career in India. Take, for instance, the Indian Civil Service officers; they were to draw incremental pay on a time scale up to twenty-three years service, when they would become eligible for selection posts, and the number of those posts was such as to make it certain that, barring casualties, a very considerable number of them would attain them within the thirty-five years to which their service extends. It is true that their pensions are guaranteed, as the noble Lord pointed out, by a statutory regulation, and that those who now retire will do so on a proportionate pension; but retirement on a proportionate pension is part of the service rights now secured to them.

A certain number may obtain employment in England, and I should like to acknowledge the steps which are under consideration by Departments of the Home Government to offer vacancies to those who are suitable for that type of employment. A number may accept engagements with the Indian Government, and I wish to say nothing here which would prejudice this possibility. I will refrain from any comment on the sudden affection for the engagement of British personnel shown by some of the politicians who have been most prominent in the demand that we should quit India, bag and baggage. Looking only to the purely practical issue, it is clear that there must be many who cannot look forward to re-engagement in India. We know, and the noble Viscount has reminded us, that it would be unreasonable to suggest re-engagement to those who have been publicly marked down for reprisals on account of the part which they took in suppressing what was in effect a rebellion at a very critical stage of the war. It may be especially hard for officers of the Indian Police Service to expect such re-engagement. Their lot—again I can only repeat what the noble Lord has said—has been a most unenviable one, because at a time of acute communal disturbance it has been impossible for them to avoid incurring the disfavour of the partisans—including, of course, Indian Ministers—of either one or other of the great communities. I think they are entitled to our special sympathy and special consideration.

In any case, the conditions of work and the prospects of those members of the services who secure re-engagement will be different. They cannot expect the careers which were held out to them, nor the promotion of which they were assured by Parliamentary Statutory provision when they were recruited. And pay is not everything. There is much in the inducements of an Indian career that goes far beyond questions of pay. Even if we limit the considerations to questions of pay, however, it is clear that in India the members of the civil services would have to compete for all higher selection posts with those whose political or communal affiliations make them more acceptable to the Parties in power.

In consequence, the question naturally arises whether they are not entitled to compensation for the loss of the careers that were held out to them when they were recruited by the Secretary of State. Here the serving officers are in a difficulty. In a pamphlet issued in June, 1945, to Army and other officers, inviting applications for service in India the Secretary of State pointed out that the service of these new officers might be terminated prematurely as a result of constitutional changes. He added that this contingency would affect not only new recruits but such of the present members of the Indian Civil Service and the Indian Police as were serving at the time. He added that the precise terms to be granted in such event to present members of the services had not yet been settled—that seems a somewhat habitual phrase of the Secretary of State—but that they would not be less favourably considered as a whole than those applicable to the new entrants. That seemed, therefore, in principle at all events, to foreshadow some scheme of compensation.

Again, speaking in this House, on December 16, the Secretary of State said that a scheme of compensation for officers whose services under the Secretary of State might have to be terminated for constitutional reasons, had been drawn up, and was under discussion with the Government of India. Since then there has followed, as the noble Viscount has pointed out, the discussions of Mr. Henderson with the Government of India. If the reports in the Press are to be accepted, there has been very great opposition on the part of certain members of what I must now call, I presume, the Government of India. This extended not only to the scheme of compensation which was proposed to them, but the whole principle of the grant of compensation. The Opposition—again quote from the Press—is headed by the present Home Member of the Interim Government, Mr. Vallabhai Patel.

I do not know the tenets that were put forward by His Majesty's Government—and in any case it would not be proper to discuss them here—but these communications in the Press and the knowledge of a great deal that lies behind them, have naturally renewed and accentuated the anxiety of the serving members of the Civil Service and the Police Service in India. They would all agree that it was natural, and indeed inevitable, that the Interim Government in India should be consulted on this question, but I venture to remind your Lordships that the claim of the services is emphatically one for which the final responsibility must rest, not with the Government of India, but with Parliament itself. Parliament has undertaken certain obligations to those who have been engaged by the Secretary of State, and those obligations, as the services see them, must be fulfilled, not as a result of discussions merely with the Government of India but by the decision in Parliament itself.

I hope I shall not weary the House if I proceed to be a little technical in giving a brief survey of the character of the obligations which Parliament has undertaken. I am afraid I must carry your Lordships back to the period when Parliament was discussing the reforms which led to the Government of India Act of 1919. There was then some apprehension expressed lest the measures which were contemplated (transferring, as your Lordships will recall, no inconsiderable part of the administrative functions of the Provincial Governments to Indian Ministers) might affect the conditions of service of the officers recruited by the Secretary of State. Parliament did not show itself insensible to that consideration The Joint Select Committee on the Bill recommended that every precaution should be taken to secure to the public servants the career in life to which they looked forward when they were recruited. Parliament gave expression to that recommendation in Section 96 of the Act of 1919, and I hope I may be pardoned if I quote the exact words, because they are important. The section states: Any person appointed before the commencement of this Act by the Secretary of State to the Civil Service of the Crown in India shall retain all his existing or accruing rights, or receive such compensation for the loss of any of them as the Secretary of State may consider just and equitable. In spite of this, the Secretary of State found that there was still some uncertainty about the future of the services which was creating obstacles in the way of full recruitment. A recruiting campaign was then started, and the Secretary of State himself issued, in the form of a White Paper, a statement with reference to this section of the Act. He added: It cannot be anticipated that His Majesty's Government and Parliament will treat lightly their obligations to ensure that all pensions, current at the time, shall continue to be paid or"— and these are the important words— that those officers whose services may have to be compulsorily terminated shall be adequately compensated. It must be admitted that this declaration had in mind contingencies of a narrower range than those we now have to envisage. But when the Bill of 1935 was in contemplation, the Secretary of State stated in his evidence before the Joint Select Committee that the services were entitled to a reasonable expectation of special compensation when the careers of certain officials had been definitely injured by an abolition of posts. The Joint Select Committee itself went further and said, in paragraph 285 of its Report, that the whole body of service rights, from whatever source derived, might properly be regarded as forming a single code which the members of the all-India services then serving might equitably claim should not be varied, at least without a right to compensation, to their disadvantage. Parliament gave effect to this recommendation in Section 249 of the Act of 1935. That section deals with the maintenance of conditions of service, and says: If by reason of anything done under this Act the conditions of service of any person appointed to a civil service or a civil post by the Secretary of State have been adversely affected, or if for any otter reason it appears to the Secretary of State that compensation ought to be granted to, or in respect of, any such person, he or leis representatives shall be entitled to receive from the revenues of the Federation, or if the Secretary of State so directs, from the revenues of a Province, such compensation as the Secretary of State may consider just and equitable. It may again be argued that here again Parliament had most prominently in view the need for making equitable provision for the loss of accruing rights suffered by particular individuals, for it still saw the future of the service as lying within the framework of the Constitution of 1935. It did not at that stage contemplate a position in which the services, if they continued to work in India at all, would do so under a different employer, deprived of the protection of Parliament and, it might even be, as servants of a Government which had declared its independence of the Crown. But it certainly might be argued, and with some force, that a fortiori the principle of compensation should be extended from individuals to the whole of the services alike, if they had to face the termination of the careers for which they were recruited.

In this respect the present position of the Secretary of State's services is not dissimilar to that which British officers in Egypt had to face when the constitutional changes of 1923 occurred in that country. I would commend to the Secretary of State and to Parliament the principles which were laid down in the Report of the Milner Commission of 1923. It remarked that persons who retired in the ordinary course of events were provided for by pensions which nobody felt to be inadequate. But it went on to say that it was quite essential that men who, under the new system, retired of their own accord, should retain the same favourable treatment as those with whose services the Egyptian Government might chose to dispense. It went on: In ordinary circumstances a man voluntarily resigning a public post before the normal time for his retirement does so at a certain sacrifice, but this principle does not apply when the conditions of service are essentially altered; in that case the officer should have the right to chose whether he will or will not go on serving under the altered circumstances, and if he chosen to retire he should be entitled to do so on the same terms as if his retirement had been compulsory. That was a statement of principle which commended itself at the time to both the British and Egyptian Governments, and it was followed in practice. It is the principle which, I think, should be adopted in this case. The natural result would be that in considering the question of compensation we should not take into account that these officers are entitled to proportionate pensions; in other words, compensation should be made available to all of them alike, when their engagements with the Secretary of State are terminated. That, then, is the case which the services might desire to put forward in regard to their immediate and most urgent anxieties. A declaration of a definite date for the termination of their present connexion with the Secretary of State is claimed by them as an act of justice to them, essential if they are to make arrangements for their future livelihood. The claim for compensation for loss of career is put forward as a claim of right, based on undertakings previously given by Parliament and by Secretaries of State, and it is for Parliament to decide in the last resort, and perhaps in any resort, the extent of the compensation which should be given to them.

I will add nothing now as to the consideration which members of these services might reasonably claim, not purely on grounds of right but on other and more general grounds, from the British Parliament, and the British Government. I can with confidence leave that plea to others who may be regarded as less partial than I am bound to be to the claims of old friends and old colleagues, both British and Indian, in those services. Though I fear that I have spoken at some length, I will add, if I may, one word which perhaps sums up the whole. The men now serving in India have stood loyally to their trust in circumstances which have imposed a much greater strain on them than any which we of an older generation can have experienced. They are now entitled to ask that Parliament, for its part, should not fail to honour the trust which they have reposed in the undertakings which they claim that Parliament has made to them.

5.32 p.m.


My Lords, I desire in my turn to thank the noble Viscount for the public service which he has, in my opinion, discharged in putting down this question to-day. I desire first of all to associate myself most warmly with all that has been said in this debate in praise of the public services in India. I hope with all my heart that in the concluding phase of British rule in India we may not fail those who have loyally served India, or fail to treat with proper generosity officers whose careers may be brought to a premature close through no fault of their own. The Government: of India, so far as I am aware, have up to now vouchsafed no expression of their views in this matter, but I, for one, cannot bring myself to believe that Indian statesmen, who are about to undertake new and honourable responsibilities if this great scheme of constitutional reform goes through, would wish to treat in any small or niggardly manner public servants, whether European or Indian, who have done their utmost for India and for the Indian people and who have shown themselves willing, very often in circumstances of great difficulty, to give loyal and efficient support to Indian Ministers as well as to European leaders. I shall not believe that until it is proved to me.

As has been said, it is to the Secretary of State and to Parliament that members of the services are entitled to look for protection and for equitable treatment. My hope and my counsel to serving officers—if I may venture to offer counsel to old friends—is that so far as possible they should continue, up to the moment when authority is finally transferred into Indian hands, to do their utmost to secure that the great endeavour upon which we are all engaged should be successfully achieved. Whether or not when the time comes the individual serving officer should undertake service under the new Government, under the new dispensation, is of course for each officer to judge for himself. But I submit that it is quite clear that if any serious or substantial feeling of discontent, or of unfair treatment, should lie in the minds of serving officers at this critical stage, it would be highly regrettable from every point of view.

I need not venture on any technical matters this evening, because the hour is late and that field has been most adequately covered by the two noble Lords who have already spoken. I confess that I should have liked to hear a few more technicalities from the Secretary of State, but I appreciate the difficult position in which he spoke to-day. I shall content myself, therefore, with the strong expression of my hope that the Secretary of State may very shortly—because speed in this matter is of the utmost importance—find himself able, in this grave and urgent matter, to make a public announcement of a kind satisfactory to the services in India.

5.38 p.m.


My Lords, we have listened with great interest to the opinions of noble Lords who are great and acknowledged experts on Indian affairs. I will not detain your Lordships very long to-night, nor indeed is there anything that I can add to any great degree to what has already been said. I have intervened to-night only because I have some small knowledge of India and a certain number of good friends in the Indian Civil Service, and because I have a very deep and real appreciation of the work which has been done by that Service, not merely now but over a great many years of Indian history. It is my belief that had it not been for the magnificent work which that Service has done there could have been no progress in India, nor could there have been any question of self-government in India to-day. As the noble Marquess who has just sat down so truly said, these men, who have worked in extremely difficult conditions in a very bad climate for a great many years, with great problems of understaffing during the war, are now plunged into this very great anxiety about their future. I therefore regret very much that the noble Lord opposite should not to-night have been able to make some statement which would have done something to reassure them. With the noble Marquess, I can only hope that some statement of that kind may be very speedily forthcoming.

The question of compensation has been fully dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Hailey, but there is also the question of re-employment, and on that particular subject I would like to make one point. It seems to me that at the present time His Majesty's Government have possibly a larger number of jobs at their disposal, owing to the great nationalization measures, than have ever been within the patronage of any one Government at a previous time. Should these members of the Indian services be compelled, through circumstances over which I suggest they have no control, to abandon promising careers in India, those who are proved administrators of many years standing might well find employment in some of the great nationalization projects that are being put into force by His Majesty's Government. I suggest that many less worthy incumbents might be found. I do recommend to His Majesty's Government that suggestion for the appointment of these officers.

The noble Lord, Lord Hailey, stressed the importance of some term being set to contracts between members of the Civil Service and the Secretary of State. This, if I may say so, seems to involve a very great point of policy because, after all, I have yet to learn that Parliament and the Secretary of State are not still responsible for affairs in India, and it does not seem to me that this uncertainty can be resolved until His Majesty's Government are in a position to state what will be their policy should the present negotiations reach a deadlock. I hope they do not result in a deadlock, but I must confess that recent events in India, and notably the recent statement by the Moslem League, fill me with great anxiety. I appreciate the very great difficulties that confront the Government, but I consider that a great deal of uncertainty could be removed, not only for us but particularly for those in the Indian Civil Service, if His Majesty's Government gave some idea of what the future is going to be. I do not see how we can possibly terminate those contracts until official control in India has been handed over to some Indian Government; and at the moment that prospect seems remote. I therefore hope that at some time we may have a statement of policy from His Majesty's Government.

5.44 p.m.


My Lords, I feel that this debate should not close without special mention of the British and Indian officers holding the King's Commission in the Indian Army. There are many members of your Lordships' House who, like myself, have served, and are serving still, in the Indian Army; one of them took his seat to-day. I think, however, that I am the only one present at this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Hailey, remarked that pay is not everything, and that is the particular point I would like to make to-night with reference to these officers. When I joined the Indian Cavalry in 1917 I, like any other young man joining, had to undergo training with a squadron and a battery of guns. I also had to pass a language test. It is rumoured that these Indian officers are to be given a chance to join the British Army, but I hope that that chance will be in proportion to their capability in the Indian Army, bearing in mind their additional responsibilities. There is one other plea I would like to put forward to the Secretary of State. It is a compassionate case, because it is not actually covered by the routine orders as regards pensions, and so on. I have already written to the noble Lord's private secretary about one of these cases. There are certain borderline and hard luck cases, and I am sure he will give them re-consideration.


My Lords, the Secretary of State made a short statement immediately after I sat down, as of course he was quite entitled to do, and I thank him for it. But I think those of your Lordships who have attended the debate will agree that very important and striking matter has been contributed by the noble Lords who subsequently spoke. I would wish especially to include, if I might, my noble friend Lord Lloyd behind me and my noble friend the Marquess of Willingdon, both of whom bear the names of fathers who devoted great service to India. It seems to me that the speeches which have been made by the noble Lord, Lord Halley, and the noble Marquess, Lord Linlithgow, prove conclusively that responsibility in this matter does rest with the Secretary of State for India. It is he who, by Statute—and by duty, if I may respectfully say so—is responsible for seeing that the legitimate interests of the Indian Civil Service are safeguarded. While, therefore, I quite appreciate that he would wish to arrive at a conclusion by negotiation with what we are now taught to regard as the Interim Government, I would most respectfully submit to his consideration that the real responsibility for seeing that justice is done in this case rests with him. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.