§ * SIR ROPER LETHBRIDGE (Kensington, N.)
I rise to submit most respectfully to the judgment of this House a request for a public inquiry into the grievances of a large and meritorious body of public servants employed in India, or who have retired from the public service in that country; and I do so with a very deep sense of responsibility both to those whose cause I shall endeavour to advocate and to the House itself, for I cannot forget that it is only about a year ago that these grievances were laid before the House with an ability and an eloquence and a fulness which leave absolutely nothing to be desired. Therefore, I feel that the House may fairly and rightly ask why I should dare to reopen the sorrowful tale. Sir, I may explain in one word. I do not propose to-night to enter at length into the discussion of all those grievances of the Indian Public Service which were dealt with last year so effectively by the hon. Member for Central Hull (Mr. King). I believe all those grievances do most certainly exist, but if I can prove, beyond all reasonable doubt, a prima facie case for a single one of these grievances and obtain the assent of this House to the appointment of a Committee thereupon, I feel that I shall then have attained the sole object I have in view, which is the settlement by a fair and impartial tribunal of what is really demanded by justice in this matter. And, therefore, Sir, I shall direct my remarks this evening to the elucidation of that grievance, which, in my opinion, far transcends all others, both in regard to the flagrant injustice which has been committed in respect to it, and in regard to the suffering, I may even say, in some cases, the actual starvation it has produced—I refer to the payment of furlough allowances and pensions in a greatly depreciated currency. The Uncovenanted officers of the Civil Service of India believe that they were promised at the outset of their official life, now, in many cases, 30, 35, and 40 years ago, a small provision for their old age of £200, £300, or £500, according to the length of their service, and according to the rank and the pay of their appointment. But now, when their life's work is over in 1612 that distant country and severe climate, and they come home to place their children out in the world, they are told by the India Office, "Oh, no; your pension is not £200 a year, but 2,000 rupees—the rupee has now gone down to ls. 4½d. in value—and, therefore, you must provide for the necessities of your children and educate them for their position in life on the utterly inadequate sum of £135 per annum." Now, Sir, in regard to this terrible grievance, I have to point out to the House that the circumstances of the case have entirely changed since the debate of last year. Not, indeed, in the matter of the depreciation of the rupee and the consequent suffering of those for whom I speak—that, as we all know, has gone from bad to worse—but in regard to the facts and statements by which my hon. Friend the Member for Central Hull, and those who followed him last year, supported his case, and with regard to the counter statements by which he was answered. I am now in a position to prove undeniably, incontestably and on the highest authority, that the statements of my hon. Friend were in every respect absolutely correct, while the counter statements were incorrect and misleading—of course unintentionally misleading, I need not say. I do not for one moment impugn the good faith of my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State, or of those who coached or advised him as to the reply he was to make. I have always fully admitted, nay, postulated, that my hon. Friend and the Government of India are absolutely bound in the interests of the overburdened taxpayers of India to turn a deaf ear to every appeal to their generosity or their compassion. Indeed, Sir, before they can listen, in my opinion, even to the voice of justice, they may fairly demand to be reinforced by a Vote of this House. And it is for this reason that I venture to bring before this House a statement of the grievances of the Uncovenanted servants, and to implore my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for India not to turn a deaf ear, because I shall show him that these grievances are true and real. Now, I do not appeal for pity. I ask for justice only. Not, indeed, the unjust justice of the bare letter of the law when divorced from its spirit, that would rely upon the admitted laxity of some of the earlier contracts 1613 of the Government of India with its Uncovenanted civilians, so as to twist that laxity to the detriment of these unfortunate officers. That kind of justice, I venture to say, has been far too popular with the Departmental Committees, and I do express an earnest hope that my hon. Friend and the Government of this country will not oppose to the appeal I shall make to them to-night any reference to Departmental Committees or to decisions of the India Office ex parte and without a public inquiry into the facts of the case. Sir, I ask only for the justice of a fair and honourable common-sense interpretation, such as this House always affords, of the wording of the contracts that I shall quote here to-night. And I ask the House also to take into consideration the situation of the parties to whom I am about to refer. This is the justice which the Indian taxpayer himself desires to see rendered to these Uncovenanted civil servants, and this is the first point I will notice in which the circumstances have altered since last year. I shall be able to quote the very words of a native gentleman who will tell this House that my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for India—I am sure unconsciously—last year libelled the noble character of the Indian peoples when he represented them as grudging these Uncovenanted servants their just rights in matters of pension. Sir, while not a single native witness before the Public Service Commission said one word against the claims of the Uncovenanted Europeans, two of those witnesses distinctly, and in terms, supported these claims. One said he did so "because they leave their homes to come out to this country, and so deserve consideration." Another native witness, with an honourable candour that, I think, does him all credit, said—Uncovenanted servants, who draw their pensions in England, should have the advantage of the more favourable rate enjoyed by covenanted servants.Now, Sir, I cannot doubt that, in consequence of this testimony, and in consequence of other testimony that would have been forthcoming, the Public Service Commission would have reported most strongly in favour of redressing these grievances, if only. the Government of India had not distinctly, and in the most peremptory 1614 language, withdrawn all consideration of the Uncovenanted case from them. I have been told that my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for India has alleged the sitting of the Public Service Commission as one of the reasons why this inquiry for which I ask should not be granted. Will the House believe that the Commissioners, in their Report, have used these very words that the Government have expressly forbidden them—To discuss the general question of the present pension conditions of the Uncovenanted Service, as such, or any grievances of that service as at present constituted?Now, I do venture to protest most warmly against this policy of secrecy, this policy of refusing even to discuss a burning question of such vital importance to such a large number of our fellow subjects. That policy is not approved by the natives of India, and I cannot conceive that it can possibly be approved by Her Majesty's Government. The weighty words of the Prime Minister, speaking only yesterday on another matter of kindred interest, are still ringing in the ears of some of us. Lord Salisbury said that he invited discussion and courted inquiry, and deprecated bitterness of feeling in the discussion of the matter under notice, and he added—I feel that we should be only aggravating those feelings, if, by such influence as we possess over the Legislature of this country, we were to give the victory to one side or to the other.I regard those words as words of the highest and truest statesmanship, and I appeal to my hon. Friend the Under Secretary for India to apply them to the case of the Uncovenanted civil servants. The Financial Department of the Government of India takes one side on this question; the Uncovenanted officers of the Government,and I venture to say all the rest of India, native and European, take the other side. All we ask for is an inquiry as to whether the Financial Department of the Indian Government or all the rest of India is right, and I do ask Her Majesty's Government not to give the victory to one side by stifling inquiry. Now, Sir, I think I have said enough to show that native opinion in India would strongly support this House in granting an inquiry; but if further proof be wanting, I think it will be supplied by the hon. Member, who will no doubt follow me 1615 in this discussion. We all know that the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) is authorized—if I may venture to use the word—to speak for a very important section of the native taxpayers—I mean those who are educated in the use of the English language. I call that section an important one, not indeed in point of numbers, but because it is the one section that can and will make itself beard both in India and this country. I shall be very much surprised if the hon. Member for Northampton does not on their behalf tell the House this evening that the Indian people are not so ungenerous or so pettifogging as to desire to look into the contracts of their Uncovenanted European servants in order to detect some trumpery little legal flaw by which they can escape the payment to these men of what they have justly earned. Further, I think that the hon. Member will say that the Indian people are not so shortsighted as to be content to have a dis-contented Civil Service, and therefore a Civil Service that may become corrupt and inefficient—and all for such a trumpery saving as the Indian Office contends for in this case. The Government has usually, and I think most rightly, declined to make any difference whatever in the treatment accorded to European and Indian officers respectively, when those officers have precisely the same duties and the same responsibilities. Whenever Government has deviated from this golden rule, it has, in my opinion, gone wrong. But, Sir, the present pension system of India, against which I am protesting, does make an enormous difference between the non-domiciled and the domiciled Uncovenanted officers—a difference which both Europeans and natives in India are most anxious to see swept away. Take the case of two officers of the same pay and rank, each retiring, let us say, on a pension of 2,000 rupees a year, one, a native, to his home in India, and the other, an Englishman, to his home here. Now, Sir, it is universally admitted and known as a fact that the value of the rupee has not fallen in India itself, and therefore, the domiciled officer receives his full £200 per annum, as his predecessor received it 20, 30, or 40 years ago, whereas his European brother can only draw a miserable £130 a year. ["Hear, hear"] Before I leave the con- 1616 sideration of this question from the point of view of the native taxpayer, let me say just one word as to what would be the cost of levelling up the pensions of the European uncovenanted civil servants so as to place them in the same position as that which is enjoyed by their Indian brothers. Sir, if the very utmost of the demands that have been put forward were approved by the Select Committee for which I ask and conceded by the Government and every rupee pension in existence were to be at once paid at the rate of 2s. for the rupee, the total cost to the Revenues of India would be a little over £35,000. Well, Sir, that, I maintain, is but a small fraction of the sum that is annually frittered away in the Simla pic-nic and other fal-lals of the Government of India. I venture to say that if this were a question of some fad of a Viceroy or a Secretary of State, an expenditure of £35,000 would not stand in the way for a moment. But I go further, and say that even this comparatively small expenditure on an act of tardy justice would be, in the nature of things, a diminishing and ultiminately a vanishing quantity. For the declared policy of the Government of India is, and rightly so, more and more every year to substitute native agency for European in these scientific, technical, and literary appointments. That policy will every year receive greater and greater development as more and. more Indian gentlemen become fitted by their education and experience to take up these appointments. Though for a few years, undoubtedly, the sum I have named may be exceeded somewhat as more pensions fall in, it is absolutely certain that before long it will diminish and absolutely vanish altogether. I have proceeded so far on the assumption that those for whom I speak to-night are to gain everything for which we ask. I am, however, ready to admit that if this inquiry be granted, as I believe it will be, by the just and honest feeling of this House, it is quite possible that there may be discovered some via media, that some compromise may be devised, which will cause even a much less expenditure of the Indian Revenues than the comparatively small sum I have named. I will give the reason for my belief. In Ceylon, what has been the result of an inquiry such as that for which I am asking, which has been most honour- 1617 ably to the Government of Ceylon and to the Colonial Office spontaneously undertaken in the interests of the officers of Ceylon and of the taxpayers of that island? Well, Sir, that inquiry was set on foot as long ago as 1872, when it was seen that there would be an inevitable divergence between the promises of the 'Government in sterling and their performances in rupees, and an arrangement has been come to which, on the face of it, is perfectly just and equitable, which, I understand, is perfectly satisfactory to all the officers in the service, and in regard to which I am assured by my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies that no complaint whatever has ever been made by any one of the taxpayers of Ceylon, and which, if adopted in India, would certainly cost very much less than even the £35,000 which I have ventured to suggest as the maximum charge in regard to the Uncovenanted servants in India. The Ceylon system is thus described in the words of my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies—Officers who entered the Ceylon Civil Service before 1872 are entitled to draw their pensions in England at 2s. the rupee, except those who in 1878 were granted an increase in their salary of 20 per cent, and these draw them at Is. 10½d. the rupee. All officers who have entered since the 1st of January, 1872, will be entitled to draw their pensions at ls. 10½d. the rupee, which was the rate then fixed for payment in this country of half salary of officers on leave, and pensions of retired officers.Now, Sir, that arrangement was based on the conditions in force at the time the contract was made, and I think the House will regard it as a fair and equitable arrangement. Its acceptance, in the spirit in which it has been accepted, does the highest credit to the Colonial Office, to the Government of Ceylon, and to the people, and the Civil Service of that island, I turn now to another point. The most important change that has occurred in reference to this question since last year's debates is due to the fact that the Currency Commission has reported. I shall take as my text for what further remarks I shall offer to the House to-night—and I maintain it is a full justification for the bringing forward of this subject—an authoritative statement signed by the whole of the Currency Commission—that is to say, by such undeniable authorities as Lord Herschel, as my 1618 right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour), as the right hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees in this House (Mr. Courtney), as the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of London (Sir J. Lubbock), and others. This is what these GentlemenX2014;the first ecomonic authorities of the day—say in paragraph 112 of the first part, which is the unanimous part, of their Report—Another interest to which our attention has been directed is that of the European employés of the Government of India. They receive salaries paid in silver…So far as their incomes are spent in India or are devoted to the purchase of commodities, the gold price of which has fallen as much as that of silver, they do not sustain any loss. But on a large proportion of their remittances to Europe they derive no benefit from the fall of gold prices, as the fall has affected wholesale more than retail prices, and has not affected at all many of the prices in which they are interested.It would be very difficult, indeed, to wrap up in so few words so many absolutely undeniable confirmations of our arguments and so many utter refutations of our opponents' replies. This brief paragraph proves in the opinion of these high authorities—first, that the hardship of which I complain to-night is an undoubted and a very real and tangible one; secondly, that it is utterly false to pretend that those Members of the Civil Service who are domiciled in India suffer from the same hardships, or would demand the same redress, or that silver salaries generally would have to be revised in consequence of any action in the direction I suggest; and thirdly, the Currency Commission paragraph states that it is utterly fallacious to pretend that the fall in the value of the rupee is counterbalanced by any fall in many commodities such as house rent, education, and domestic service, for which these pensions have to pay. Well, Sir, these are three statements of the Currency Commission vouched for by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen, whose names I have given to the House, all of them great economic authorities, and I say that these statements go a very long way, indeed, towards proving the whole of our case. Now, Sir, who are the uncovenanted officers for whom I plead to-night? I know that a great deal of ignorance prevails very generally as to the status and as to the conditions of their service. Most of the Members of this House 1619 probably are well aware who are the Covenanted civil servants of India. They are gentlemen who, chosen by a high literary competitive examination in London, go out to India to be Collectors, Commissioners, and Chief Commissioners, or Lieutenant-Governors in one line of the service known as the Executive, or as Magistrates, Judges, and High Court Judges on the other line known as the Judicial Service. Sir, I wish at once to say that in our opinion this branch of the Indian Civil Service, from which must be chosen the heads of many of the Local Governments is, and must necessarily be, a corps d'elite. Its rights and privileges are guaranteed by Act of Parliament, and even its pensions are settled by Statute, and nothing that we could ask for or even suggest for the Uncovenanted would, in the slightest degree, touch the admitted hegemony of that service, or leave them anything but at least twice as well off as any other Department of the State in India. Outside this highly privileged service everything else is technically Uncovenanted, from the Viceroy down to the lowest office sweeper, in India. But from this large body must of course be deducted, for the purpose of the complaint which I make to-night, as to the payment of pensions in the depreciated currency, all except an almost inappreciable fraction of less than 5 per cent. At least 95 per cent of the Uncovenanted are domiciled civil servants, and that class, from the highest to the lowest, spend their pensions in India, and consequently, as the House knows from the Report of the Currency Commission, they obtain for their pensions full value, because the rupee in India has not fallen in its purchasing power. Even of the remaining 5 per cent of the Uncovenanted officers, all those who could make their voice heard at all have long ago been emancipated from this hardship of which I complain to-night. Many years ago—in in 1826, the High Court Judges and the Bishops got themselves valued in sterling by an Act of Parliament. So with regard to the Viceroy and Uncovenanted Members of Council. And only so late as 1867, as a recent question elicited from the hon. Member the Under Secretary of State for India, some minor legal luminaries not unknown to the Secretariats at Simla, got 1620 themselves admitted into the ranks of the elect, and also got themselves valued in sterling. Well, then, who remain? Who alone of the hundreds and thousands of Indian servants of the Crown, who alone have been condemned to suffer, not from any fault of their own, but from the vagaries of the silver market in Europe? To whom alone is the absurd proposition held out by the Government that they should never be able to say from one year to another what their pension really is? The £200 of a few years ago has now sunk to the starvation allowance of £135 a year, and in a very few years that £135 may have sunk to £50 a year. I say that is a thing which is not fair, and that this House should not suffer it to go on. The residuum—the unfortunate and unhappy residuum—of whom I am speaking, number about 1,500 officers; and for the purposes of comparison, I may mention the fact that the Covenanted servants in India number about 950 members. The men for whom I appeal number as I say 1,500, and belong almost entirely to the scientific or technical department of the public service. There are 1 g Departments of which I speak, and with the permission of the House I will read out the number of officers in such Department, so that there may be no doubt whatever as to the persons for whom I am pleading. or as to the extent of the complaint which I make. Mere is the Financial Department, with 9 officers; the Archaeological Survey, with 15; the Customs Department,; the Education Department, 99; he Forest Department, 29; the Meteorological Survey, 13; the Gaol Department, 29; the Meteorological Survey )Department, 6; the Mint, 11; the Opium Department, 50; the Postal Department, 13; the Police Department, 54; the Public Works Department, 73; the Registration, 2; Salt, 22; Survey, 10; the Revenue Survey, 58; nd the Telegraph Department, 95. To these might possibly be added 35 officers who, though belonging to a service that is essentially a domiciled service —the subordinates executive and judicial service—still happen to be domiciled Europeans. I do not think hat these 35 gentlemen could claim anything of right in this matter, because aviug elected to join a distinctly domiciled service, they must of course ac 1621 cept the rules suitable for domiciled officers. While I am on this point I should like to make one or two remarks with reference to the Amendment which I see on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell), who speaks with the greatest authority on this subject. The hon. Member has put down an Amendment, the purport of which is to exclude from any advantages that may accrue to Uncovenanted officers from the appointment of a Committee such as I suggest all those gentlemen who are appointed in India That is the purport of the Amendment. Well, Sir, I am free to confess that I think there is very much, no doubt, to be said for that view. In principle I admit that I agree with it, but I must say that I think it would be an ungracious and almost a cruel thing to exclude those who, at any rate, have already been appointed in India in the way objected to by the hon. Gentleman. But I would venture strongly to urge on the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy that this is really a very small point, and that there is really no disagreement between us. Especially would I point out to him that the point on which he lays so much stress is exactly one of those points which would naturally be examined by the Select Committee for which I am asking, and that therefore my hon. Friend opposite will fully attain his object by voting for the Resolution which I shall presently have the honour of moving. Well, Sir, it will be seen that of those officers for whom I plead, and the names of whose Departments I have just read out to the House, and who have been left absolutely the only sufferers by the fall in silver with regard to pensions, considerably more than one-half belong to the great Department of the Public Works. These include hundreds of highly-skilled engineers and other scientific officers of that Department, of whom Sir Guilford Molesworth is the distinguished head. They include also the electrical engineers and the electricians of the Telegraph Department, headed by those distinguished officers, Sir Albert Cappel and Mr. Pitman, who has recently received from Her Majesty the Order of the Indian Empire. This class is by far the most numerous and most important of those for whom I speak, and I shall presently show the House, by quoting the ipsis 1622 sima verba of the contracts under which they entered the services, that the treatment to which they have been subjected, and the refusal to do them justice, is indeed peculiarly scandalous. But, Sir, in my humble opinion, not less scandalous is the treatment that has been accorded to the 99 officers of the Education Department, comprising the Inspectors of Schools and the Professors of the State Colleges throughout India. Sir, so long ago as December 8th, 1862, the Secretary of State for India wrote a despatch about the pensions of those gentlemen, and in it he used these words:—I think there is, however, sufficient ground for an exception as regards educational officers and law officers…In those cases a previous course of study, and in many instances practical experience is required, and there is consequently reason for making a distinction in regard to that class of servants, whose claims will, therefore, be separately considered.Will the House believe that during the 27 years which have elapsed since the sending of that despatch, not one move has been made to deal with that question, which was thus solemnly promised to be dealt with? I will go further, and say that the complaint of these gentlemen is that their claims have not even been considered. I have recently elicited from my hon. Friend the Under Secretary for India the fact that the Uncovenanted law officers, those who in 1862 were bracketed by the Secretary of State with the Uncovenanted education officers, did so long ago as 1867, obtain separate treatment, and they obtained a scale of sterling pensions, which I will ask the House very carefully to compare with those of the education officers. My hon. Friend stated on Tuesday last that these law officers got £300 per annum invalid pension after 6¾ years, £500 per annum after years, and £750 per annum retiring pension, whether ill or Lot, after 11½years. Now, Sir, the education officers, if they are worn out and invalided under 15 years' service, get no pension at all; they only get a gratuity. The Law Uncovenanted officers, remember, get their full pension after 11½ years' service, while the education officers up to 15 years get nothing at all but a gratuity. From 15 years to 22 or 25 years an invalid pension is granted them if they are utterly worn out—and that is actually subject to a maximum of 2,000 1623 rupees, or 135 a year, unless their pay has been exceptionally high, and then there is a maximum of 3,000 rupees, or 200 a year. After 22 or 25 years, an invalid pension subject again to maxima of £200 or £350 a year. No pension at all can be obtained except as an invalid pension, i.e., unless a man is certified to be utterly broken down, until after something like 30 years' service in India. This, again, is subject to maxima of £200 and £350. My hon. Friend, Sir, justified last Tuesday the very handsome scale of £750 for 11 years' service, which is granted to the Uncovenanted law officers, and I think he very properly justified it, in the circumstances, on these grounds—my hon. Friend said—Officials requiring professional qualifications who are recruited from the legal profession at, an advanced age, are, in most Departments of the Government, granted special terms on grounds which are generally well understood.',Why, Sir, that is exactly why I demand for these educational officers of whom I am speaking, not exactly the handsome terms properly granted by my hon. Friend to the Uncovenanted law officers, but at least something less mean and pitiful than the cruel terms that I read out just now to the House, cruel terms which give a man a maximum of £135 a year for such a long service as is required in these cases. Let me offer to the House one or two cases within my own personal knowledge wherein every condition that was stated by my hon. Friend to justify such good terms is amply fulfilled in the case of the educational officers. About the year 1866 there was an urgent need for a Professor of Mathematics of the highest powers in the State University of Calcutta, and the Government were fortunate enough to obtain for that post the invaluable services of Professor C. B. Clarke, Fellow of Queen's College, Cambridge. Mr. Clarke happened to be a barrister, so he might possibly have obtained one of the legal offices. He was a man of 33 years of age, and could, therefore, hardly be called a boy. Ten years before, Mr. Clarke had taken the honourable degree of 3rd Wrangler—in the year preceding the one in which my hon. Friend himself took the same distinguished academical position, and I know there is more than one hon. Member in this House can 1624 bear witness that as a resident Fellow at Cambridge during 10 years, Mr. Clarke won a very high reputation. He rose in about 21 years' service under the sun of India to be Chief Inspector of Schools in Bengal, and bead of the Educational Department in Assam, charged with the educational administration of a vast area of country. When he retired it was on account of superannuation, and, therefore, I fancy he got a superannuation pension, which was, I think, £350 per annum. But if he had been a somewhat younger man, and had it depended upon his actual services, the pension to which he would have been entitled for his service of 21 years would have been the pitiful pension of less than £200 per annum-Well, Sir, that is less than one-half of the amount ho would have got after 8⅔ years' service in the Uncovenanted Legal Department. I can assure you, Sir, that Professor Clarke's case is absolutely typical of the whole of his Department. Professor Croft (now Sir Alfred Croft), the Director of Public Instruction in Bengal, having been a scholar in my own College (Exeter) at Oxford, and a graduate in double honours, had undoubtedly acquired those professional qualifications of which my hon. Friend speaks as lecturer of Trinity College. Professor Tawney had been senior classic at Cambridge and Fellow of Trinity College, and everybody knows the value of these academical distinctions. Sir Alexander Grant, who returned to this country to be principal of Edinburgh University, and whose suberb edition of the Ethics will be known to many Members; Sir Edwin Arnold, the "Light of Asia," and many other distinguished men have adorned the Educational Department. In the year 1872 it was shown that out of 33 educational officers in Bengal, no less than 20 had obtained in their earlier years academical honours of the first class, or equivalent academical rank.. Well, Sir, these are the gentlemen of whom my hon. Friend said last year that they had chosen the "wider and easier gate of the Uncovenanted Service to the narrower and most difficult entrance by the Covenanted Service." Sir, there is not a University man in this House, I am sure—even including such a distinguished University man as my hon. Friend himself — who will not 1625 admit, and who does not perfectly well know, that that sneer was not properly applied to the Educational Service in India. I am not sure that it is not out of place with regard to the Cooper's Hill men of the Public Works, Telegraph, and Forest Departments, for although their training has had less of a literary character and been more entirely scientific and technical, it is clearly out of the power of anyone to say which is the easier and which the more difficult gate. I venture to say it is hardly to be wondered at if the sneer of my hon. Friend, however unintentional, no doubt and uttered in good faith, has caused a great deal of pain throughout India. Well, Sir, much has been made of the fact by the Government that out of the £1,000 pension obtained by all Covenanted officers, something like £500 has been derived from deductions made from their salaries. As a fact, Sir, it has been proved by actuarial computation that on the average, of the greater number of retired Covenanted civilians (the average pension being taken at the rank of Commissioner), the amount so contributed by deductions of pay varies between £300 and £400. But let that pass, Sir. Surely all pension is nothing more than deferred pay, both for Covenanted and Uncovenanted officers. If they had no pension we all know that they would have to get higher salaries while in the service, so that, though the deduction is only nominally made in one case, it is really and practically made in both, and as the Covenanted salaries are far higher than the Uncovenanted, the whole argument falls to the ground. And even if it did not fall to the ground—if it would hold water, what, after all, does it amount to? It amounts to simply this, that every Covenanted officer, no matter what his rank, no matter what the period of his service, provided he has resided twenty-one years in India, obtains a pension of £500 as a matter of course, and that pension would be the utmost limit and an exceptional possibility only for the Uncovenanted man, even if the very utmost of our demands were at once conceded! And let me air another point. I have said, and it will be universally admitted, that a pension is really deferred pay. Well, Sir, the pay of these professors, inspectors of schools, and engineers of whom I have 1626 spoken, has been kept back and deducted by the Government in rupees when those rupees were each worth 2s. and sometimes 2s. 3d. or 2s. 4d. What, then, is the character of the proceeding by which the Government now undertakes to return those rupees—which it has had in its pocket for so long—and to tender them at the value of ls. 4½d.? But, perhaps, after all, the Government will hark hack to the old, old story, and treat us to the argument that is universally known in India as the "Shylock" argument. Perhaps the Government will say, "You made the bargain with your eyes open, and you must stick to it." Sir, I am not at all sure that the bargain was really made at all in the sense insisted upon by the Government, and I shall prove, Sir, in a few words that it was not made by these men knowingly and with their eyes open. I can show in a moment that even the bargain itself is a very doubtful one. I venture to think that its validity would long ago have been tried in the Courts of Law if it had not been for the obvious fact that it is almost hopeless for a poor and worn-out officer to fight a rich and powerful Government in the Courts of Law. When on rare occasions the Government have found an officer who obviously intended to go to law, I can show that, on these occasions, they have acted on the motto Divide et impera, and bought off the Tartar by giving him a handsome bonus. I shall not deny for one moment, Sir, that somewhere about the year 1862, as stated last year by my hon. Friend, the Government did put into some—possibly into all—of its subsequent agreements with Uncovenanted officers an unassuming little clause to the effect that payments in England would be made at the official fixed rates of exchange. But, Sir, in the same breath my hon. Friend admitted last year that at the time when that clause was introduced in these covenants, and for years afterwards, a pound sterling and ten rupees were convertible terms. Indeed, in 1862, it seemed quite possible that the rupee might become appreciated in consequence of the great gold production of Australia. At any rate, I assert that to no one in his senses, in the year 1862, could it have occurred that such wide-spread ruin and desolation would be possible as has been inflicted on the 1627 Uncovenanted officers of India under the pretence of this unassuming little clause, and, therefore, I do maintain that no one would ever have thought of objecting to it, even if it had been brought more prominently under notice than it was. Sir, I do not believe that the Government of the day in 1862, or anybody else meant by this clause to produce the result that is now sought from its action. It was simply for the convenience of Indian accounts, which must, of course, be kept in rupees. The pensions of Europeans, it is understood, are spent in Europe, and even when 2,000 rupees are mentioned, surely they meant £200. My hon. Friend admits that £200 and 2,000 rupees were then convertible terms. The pensioner could not spend 2,000 rupees in London; the Shopkeepers would not take them; he spends his £200—that is what is meant. Surely, now, the Government, in fixing the pension or deferred pay of one of these servants, looks first to the nature and the value of his services to the State, and looks secondly to the actual needs of the man, and to the rank of life to which he may belong. And surely, Sir, it is as obvious as the sun under heaven that a fixed sum was contemplated at the time the contract was made. It is absurd to say that it should be a fluctuating sum—that twenty years ago it was to be £200, that now it is to be £130, and that 20 years' hence it may be reduced to £50, £40, or £30, and the recipient driven to beggary. There are those who tell us that £135 a year at the present moment will purchase as much as £200 did 20 years ago. This, if true, would be a very fair argument, though surely it would be a very hard-hearted argument even at best. But, Sir, it is not true. The Report of the Currency Commissioners shews, and I think every hon. Member will acknowledge, that such items as the education of children at school, such items as domestic service, and in many instances house rents—items which, let me inform the House, must take from the pensions of these men a very large share of that miserable £135 that my hon. Friend would give them—are at the present moment not lower, but in many cases higher, than they were 20 or 30 years ago. And even if it were true that £135 would buy what £200 would purchase 20 or 30 years ago, why is it that this little 1628 band of Uncovenanted servants should be the only persons in the whole world for this hard measure to be meted out to them? Surely, if the theory were true, all public salaries fixed 20 years or more ago would, in all justice, be reduced to two-thirds of their present amount. Surely, what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and let those who use this argument first renounce one-third of their own salaries. But how about the officers who wore appointed before this little clause, this unassuming, creeping little clause—on which I fear my hon. Friend depends—was introduced into the covenant? In the covenants of these officers, members of the Telegraph Services, and others, there commonly appeared this clause, to which I ask the careful attention of the House:—In all payments to be made under these presents the pound sterling shall be considered equal to, and calculated after, the rate of 10 rupees.Now, surely that seems plain enough to the ordinary English intellect. Surely, you would think that, under that covenanted condition, the officer would at any rate get his pound sterling for his 10 rupees' pension after his life's work was over in India, and he came over here sadly wanting every penny of the money. Not a bit of it! Now, I ask the House to listen to the way in which my hon. Friend can explain away even such a plain statement as that of this covenant. Asked about Mr. Gordon, who was one of the officers of the Telegraph Department, and who holds this very covenant at the present moment, my hon. Friend said:—Mr. Gordon drew his furlough allowances at the rate of 2s. to the rupee, because in his covenant dated 1867"—I think it should be 1857—it was provided that 'in all payments to be made under these presents the pound sterling shall be considered equal to, and calculated after, the rates of 10 rupees. Mr. Gordon and other retired officers in the same position"—This is what my hon. Friend says—do not draw their pensions at 2s. to the rupee, because at the time when their covenants were made these officers were not permitted to receive pensions in England, and, therefore, the covenant did not apply to pensions. When permission was subsequently given for the payment of the pensions in England, it was granted on the express condition that it should only be paid at the varying rate of exchange.1629 Now, Sir, I will ask, does the House consider that to be an adequate reason for depriving these officers of what little advantage they would gain by getting this £200 instead of this £135. I do not know what is meant by my hon. Friend when he says that these officers "were not permitted" to draw their pensions in England before the year 1862. What I do know, Sir—for the hon. Gentleman has himself admitted it—is that there have been Uncovenanted pensions payable in England, and drawn in England, and payable in sterling, too, paid at the rate of 10 rupees to the £1, ever since the year 1815 And, Sir, what is even more significant with regard to this point is that the rate of payment during all these years from 1815 to 1862 was always at a rate of 2s. to the rupee, even when the commercial rate was 2s. 2d., 2s. 3d., and 2s. 4d., showing that 2s. to the rupee was considered a fair and proper official rate. It was fixed by the Statute of 53, Geo. III., c. 155, as the rate which should be ordinarily recognized in official transactions. And these Uncoveranted officers of whom I am speaking loyally and honourably submitted, to their own disadvantage, as for instance, when the rupee was 2s. 4d., they took their rupees at 2s. But, Sir, the Government absolutely refuse to submit to this rate, now that the commercial rate has gone down to 1s. 4½d. Sir, the Government says that these "payments of pensions were not permitted to he made in England." Well, Sir, I hold in my hand the covenant of Mr. Gordon, or a copy of it, to which I have referred, and I find in this covenant it is stated that pensions are to be paid as promised. It was signed on the 9th May, 1857, long before the clause permitting pensions to be drawn in England, and I find that the pensions were to be paid on the basis promised. I find also it is stated that the payments are to be made at £1 sterling to the 10 rupees. Well, now I ask the Government this—where were the payments to be made in sterling at this rate, if not in England? He was promised a pension. He is an Englishman; where was he likely to take his pension? Mr. Gordon! The name speaks for itself! Was he likely to hang about the slums of Calcutta and take his pension? Where was he to take his pension, 1630 promised at 10 rupees to the £ sterling?
§ * SIR ROPER LETHBRIDGE
The Government ought to give it to him at home—or, at any rate, this House will think the Government are not dealing fairly with him if they do not. My hon. Friend says in India. Why, the pound sterling is not current in India. If you tendered a pound sterling in India they would not take it. There is not one word in Mr. Gordon's covenant which speaks of a rupee pension at all. Frankly, I should be very much grieved to see the Government of this great country "run in" by one of their own officers for breach of contract; but for the life of me I cannot see why any of the gentlemen holding these contracts have not attempted it. Perhaps the explanation may be found in a somewhat unexpected way. Sir, I hold in my hand the official statement of the terms under which certain educational officers were engaged under the Government of India. And I read this passage from it:—"No pension in any case to exceed the sum of £500 per annum." Not one word about rupees from beginning to end. Now, Sir, in 1887, only two years ago—I hope I may call my hon. Friend's attention to this point, because I dare say he will remember the circumstances—in 1887, two years ago, one of the educational officers engaged under the terms of this document, came to take his pension, and of course he was told "you can only get 5,000 rupees," and if he were permitted this year to take his pension in England that would be only £350 per annum. Well, Sir, this particular officer, whose name I am permitted to furnish to the hon. Gentleman if he desires it, did not see altogether this way of doing business, especially as he found this telling note added to the prospectus by which he had been enticed into the Educational Service:—N. B.—These pension rules were first issued in 1831, and there is every prospect of their being revised shortly in still more liberal terms.Well, Sir, this gentleman when he was told that the £500 had diminished to £350, did not quite see it. He expostulated with the India Office rather strongly, and he did more than expostulate; he 1631 went into the City and he consulted a very eminent lawyer. Well, Sir, the Government heroically stuck to their determination that he was to get his 5,000 rupees, or £350, and not his £500. But, Sir, this is a remarkable fact. It was discovered that the extrordinary and admirable services of this gentleman absolutely constrained the Government to give him a bonus of £1,500 in golden sovereigns down, there and then! That fact speaks for itself, and I congratulate the gentleman on getting the money; I am glad of it. I have no doubt he has paid his lawyer's bill, and that he will live happy ever afterwards. I have mentioned the fact that the Statute 83 Geo. III., c. 155, fixed 2s. as the statutory rate of the rupee. In 1831, as has been noticed in that prospectus I read just now, the first pension rates for Uncovenanted servants were issued, which gave them the precedent of the English Civil Service rules, a pension of half salary after 30 years' service, with no maximum limit. In consequence of that, some Uncovenanted officers who were receiving a pay of 24,000 rupees a year, on retirement received the exorbitant pension of 12,000 rupees, or £1,200. The Secretary of State, in 1855, properly drew attention to this lavishness, and ordered that in no case was—A larger pension than £400 to be granted to Uncovenanted servants receiving salaries of 700 to 1,000 rupees a month, nor a larger pension than £500 per annum to Uncovenanted servants receiving salaries above that amount.These are the words that are used in the Despatch of the Secretary of State. The word "rupees" is rightly used for the salaries, and "sterling pounds" are used for the pensions. These terms are all that we ask for. And such was the fair, just, and reasonable ruling of the Secretary of State in 1855, which was afterwards distorted into such cruel terms as those I have described. We ask for nothing more than a return to these moderate lines, which would still leave the professors and engineers and their colleagues with half, or less than half, the pensions of covenanting civilians, and two-thirds, or less than two-thirds, of the pensions of the law officers, and far longer terms of service. Even as late as the year 1872 the prospectuses of Cooper's Hill College contained a statement of furlough al- 1632 lowances which was given in rupees and sterling, as if these were convertible terms, and where the salaries are stated in rupees this footnote is appended—"Ten rupees are nearly equivalent in value to £1 sterling"; and in the Pension Code officially issued by the Government of India, until recently, this note was prefixed—"Wherever in the following Resolution a pension is stated in sterling the equivalent in rupees is meant at 2s. the rupee." Sir, it seems to me that I need say no more. I make no ad misericordiam appeal to the Government or to my hon. Friend (Sir J. Gorat), because I recognize that they could not accept one. I ask for nothing more than substantial justice for men who have nobly done their duty to their adopted country, and who have been a credit to the country which gave them birth. I claim to have shown that native public opinion among the taxpayers of India recognizes the justice of the claims now made, and wishes the Government to be honest and not be content with mere departmental inquiries and decisions, or, at any rate, instead of making its inquiries within the four walls of the India Office, to come out into the open light of day and submit the matter to such an inquiry as it would receive from the impartial consideration of this House. I think I have also shown that the present cost of honesty will be a mere fraction of the cost of the Simla picnic, and that it will be a diminishing and ultimately a vanishing cost; that the men who ask for this justice are men of the highest culture and the most costly scientific training, who are worthy of good treatment at our hands; and, above all, I have shown that the spirit undoubtedly, and possibly even the letter, of their contract entitles them to be paid not in a depreciated currency, but, like all their colleagues in India, both native and European, as they were promised to be paid 20, 30, and 40 years ago. Moreover, Sir, I think I have shown that the pensions in this depreciated currency, even at the present moment, are at or below starvation point, and are going lower and lower every year; that those pensions, if looked upon as deferred pay, were hoarded by the Government at a time when rupees were worth 2s. or 2s. 3d. a piece, whereas they are now saying that the rupee 1633 is only worth 1s. 4½d., so that consequently these depreciated payments are in reality a breach of trust on the part of the Government; and I have also shown that the Government, having never paid these pensions at the commercial rate of exchange, when that rate was 2s. 3d. and 2s. 4d., has no right to pay them at that commercial rate now that the rupee is at 1s. 4½d. In a word, I claim to have shown that the Government is bound by every dictate, alike of expediency and of honour, fairly to fulfil the promise of its old covenants:—"In all payments,"—really and honestly all, and not "all except those we can wriggle out of—" to bo made under these presents the pound sterling shall be considered equal to, and shall be calculated after the rate of 10 rupees." Sir, I now beg to move the Resolution which stands in my name.
Amendment proposed,To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that a Select Committee should be appointed to inquire into the grievances of the members of the Indian Uncovenanted Civil Services, with special reference to their pension and leave rules, and to the effect produced by the fall in the value of silver on their family remittances, their leave allowances, and their provision for old age"—(Sir Roper Lethbridge).—instead thereof:— Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ * MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
Sir, the House is not asked this evening to decide as to the justice of the claim put forward by the mover of the Resolution; it is merely asked to decide whether a sufficient case has been made out to justify it in appointing a Select Committee to inquire into the grievances under which these clients of the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Kensington (Sir R. Lethbridge) believe themselves to be suffering. I wish it to be understood that in supporting this Resolution to-night I support it solely from the standpoint that such an inquiry is necessary and ought to be granted, and I am bound to say that, in my opinion, it is the fault of the Government of India alone that such a discussion as we have entered upon this evening has been brought about, because if Her Majesty's Government had done 1634 that which it officially announced its intention to do—namely, if it had followed up the Public Service Commission by a general Parliamentary inquiry—that inquiry would have covered the matters which have been brought before the House to-night, and we should have been spared the need for occupying the time of the House with the case we now feel it our duty to present. I do not intend to follow the hon. Gentleman who has moved this Resolution in his careful and elaborate statement of the grievances he has just laid before the House, because it seems to me that all I am called on to do is to corroborate what has been said as to the need of an inquiry, and to give the House the reasons upon which it seems to me that the House ought to vote in favour of the Resolution. For my part, I wonder that the Government have not already given some intimation to those who have been pressing for the inquiry now asked that they are prepared to grant it; and I wonder at their not having done this, because, although I have no means of knowing what are the views of the noble Lord the Secretary for India (Lord Cross) I might well conceive that if he were here this evening, and had to reply to this proposal, he would say it was the farthest thing from his desire that any inquiry into these matters should be shut out; but that, on the contrary, he was disposed to regard this case as one in which an inquiry might well take place. I can, however, also fancy his saying, were he here to-night, that on talking the matter over with the able Under Secretary (Sir J. Gorst), who will presently answer me, that it had been suggested that he should urge upon the House as a reason why this inquiry ought not to be granted was that it would be premature. If that be a fair guess at the views entertained by the noble Lord—and I shall look with curiosity to the reply of the Under Secretary in order to know how far I may be wrong in my hazardings—I would suggest to the House that the inquiry which we ask for to-night is not only not premature, but that any such reason which may be used by the Under Secretary will fall entirely short of a complete answer to our request. I will here endeavour to anticipate what may be the possible reasons the Under Secretary may put to the House. He 1635 may tell us that there has been the Public Service Commission, that its Report is now in the hands of the Government, that the Government are considering it, and that, until the Government have considered it, it is not fair for this House to press upon the Government any demand for a further inquiry. I should hardly think that the able Under Secretary would regard that as a sufficient reply if he were to carefully think the matter over in his mind; because if he were to advance reasons such as these he is well aware that it would be open to any hon. Member to interrupt him by reminding him that the Public Service Commission had been expressly forbidden to examine into the matters as to which this House is asked to grant an inquiry, and that, therefore, it is quite impossible that that report can be of any help or utility in the consideration of this question, and I would further remind the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for India that at the time of the presentation of the Report of that Public Service Commission there was a formal declaration on the part of the Indian Government itself, dated from Simla, in which it told the Public Service Commissioners that the investigations which were then being commenced were to be followed by a regular and ample Parliamentary inquiry. And here I would suggest to the House that if it thinks there is, at least, a very strong case made out for inquiry as to the claims submitted on behalf of a body of men who run considerable risks in regard to the climate they have to endure, and who are surrounded by all sorts of hostile influences, it will be futile to meet their claims by saying we ought to wait for the decision of the Government as to some slow method of re-organization or for some new mode of inquiry—we do not know what—which is not open to the public, or for conclusions which we shall not be able to challenge, and the only reasons for which we shall not be able to appreciate. I can imagine the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary saying that this is an inquiry which he is obliged to refuse in the interests of the natives of India; and I can also understand his expressing his surprise—I do not mean any real surprise on his part, because I am aware that nothing I could put forward would 1636 surprise him—but still expressing that sort of surprise which he is able to utilize so effectively when he thinks it is likely to tell on the House—that I, of all other persons, should be the one to get up in this assembly and second this Resolution. Last year a different motion was submitted by the hon. Member for Central Hull (Mr. H. S. King), who asked the House to determine the matter by giving a specific judgment on the statement. He then submitted in favour of the justice of the claims then put forward without going through the process of a preliminary inquiry such as is asked for this evening. But at the present moment all the House is asked to do is to appoint a Committee to inquire as to whether the claims put forward on behalf of the uncovenanted Service of India can be proved. The motion last year was that a verdict should be found. All that is now asked is not that the House should act as a jury to deliver a verdict, but that it should appoint a Select Committee generally to inquire as to whether the case, which has been put before the House two years in succession, has any foundation, and if the jury finds that it has then this House will be asked as the tribunal most capable of so doing to find its verdict. But what was the case put forward by the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary last year? It was that he had to defend a people whom he rightly described as the poverty - stricken Indian taxpayers. On behalf of those whom the hon. Gentleman so described, he appealed to this House not to injure the poor Europeans, and as to the natives they had imposed upon them a heavier salt-tax. But hard pressed as the natives of India are they do not desire any injustice to their fellow subjects. They have to ask for redress for their own grievances and are not disposed to refuse inquiry into the grievances of others. A self-denying Government like that represented by the Under Secretary of the moment might make even small economies in regard to some of the well-paid Indian officials, such as the Members of that Council which may possibly be useful, but which manages to hide most successfully the services it renders either to the natives or to the European subjects in India. The distinctions between the Motion of last year 1637 and that of this year, is that the Motion of last year asserted a claim and asked the House to decide on it at once, whilst that of to-night only asks that a Select Committee may be appointed and that evidence may be taken as to whether the alleged grievance has any foundation or not. I understand from the slight motion of the head of the Under Secretary for India, that he thinks I have no right to express an opinion on behalf of the natives of India. I think I may tell him that in the movement which is now taking place in India—a movement which is necessarily confined to only a few millions, 2,000,000 out of the 200,000,000 of the subjects of the Empire, because it is confined to the English-speaking population—there is a growing desire to break down the barriers which have been officially erected between the Europeans and the natives, and that with the knowledge of the English language and customs, there is coming a hope that there may be more sympathetic and hearty co-operation between them. The whole of these natives through my mouth ask the House to grant this inquiry to-night. I had intended, but it is quite needless, to go into the legal point, dating back to the year 1813. I had proposed to do that because last year the Under Secretary for India just framed a proposition, which if I appreciated his printed words, and understood his spoken words when I listened to them, rather suggested that prior to 1826 there were no pensions at all in India. That is not so, and the hon. Mover of the Resolution was perfectly accurate when he took back the Covenanted pensions to an earlier date, and the Uncovenanted pensions to 1815, and when he reminded the House that as long as the rate of exchange was high, and made a profit to those paying the pensions, there was no talk about that rate. The language used right through until you come to the despatch of 1862, which has been quoted, has only one bearing. I do not, however, ask the House to judge as to this, and I will not attempt to weary the House with the details respecting it. Nor will I indulge in the folly of asking the attention of the House to the services of men whose services must have been recognized even by the blindest. There is no doubt 1638 that to English energy in facing conditions which even now are in some cases terrific, as is the fact row with those in Burmah, who have to face fever, and the pressure upon them of hostile life conditions, our position it India is due. I will not weaken a good case by pleading the virtue of the client, Before the Committee, if it be appointed, they will make out a bonâ fide legal claim, or they will fail to do so. If the Government think they will fail, why do they refuse this inquiry? In that case no injury could be done to the native taxpayers. If, however, the Government think they will prove their case, then on behalf of the natives I say we do not want to be dishonest to those who are associated with us; and we claim the same honest treatment for the European servants of the State as for the native Civil servants. I will not at this hour occupy the time of the House further. The whole case has been completely put by the hon. Mover of the Resolution, but I do ask the House to remember that we are not to determine whether that case is made out, but only whether an inquiry should be granted to suppliants who come to you for a hearing, and who have no opportunity of obtaining it anywhere else. Before the Empire was in India Parliament rendered such appeals unnecessary by holding inquiries at stated periods into all matters connected with the Indian Service. That system does not prevail now. And we are to be told that a Public Service Commission which has nothing to do with the question, some finance inquiries which never went near it, some sort of departmental inquiry of which we know nothing, and over which we have no control, should be substituted for the Parliamentary inquiry which was always granted to suppliants here in previous cases. The natives join hand-in-hand with the Europeans in asking that this House should give them the opportunity of making out their case.
§ * MR. J. MACLEAN (Oldham)
I had not intended to take part in this debate, at all events at so early an hour, but I feel bound to do so in order to express the regret with which I have heard the speech just delivered by the hon. Member for Northampton. My hon. Friend the Member for North Kensington (Sir R. Lethbridge) stated the case for the Uncovenanted Civil Service clearly and 1639 ably, but the hon. Member for Northampton, who seconded the Amendment, seemed to me to be anxious rather to make a little political capital out of the case than to state the arguments in favour of the proposition before the House. The hon. Member says he speaks in the name of the natives of India, or of some considerable portion of them.
§ * MR. BRADLAUGH
I carefully said exactly the opposite. I carefully said that I could only speak for a comparatively small number of the millions of India, because I could only speak for the English-speaking portion of them.
§ * MR. MACLEAN
Well, Sir, I do not see that there was the slightest necessity for bringing in on this occasion any reference whatever to the English-speaking natives. I do not see that they have any authority to decide what is to be done in this case. They are not the millions of India, and we do not appeal to them but to the Government of India to do justice in this case. I think it a great pity that the hon. Member should have taken advantage of this discussion to lecture the House on the grievances of the natives of India and to demand that some inquiry should be made into their grievances. It appears that the natives of India, with whom he is acquainted, have put him up to engage in a sort of political intrigue, and they say that if justice is done to the Europeans they will ask the aid of the Europeans in obtaining a Parliamentary inquiry into their own grievances.
§ * MR. MACLEAN
I decline to give way to the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member is very fond of interrupting those who are opposed to him. He has had full opportunity for stating his case, and I appeal to the House as to whether I am misrepresenting his arguments. Well, Sir, the question to be considered is a very simple one. It is whether the Uncovenanted civil servants are fairly treated in having their pensions paid in rupees now that the value of the rupee is so seriously depreciated? I remember an argument addressed to the House last year by a very eminent authority on political economy, the Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Courtney), to the effect that the Uncovenanted civil servants have really no 1640 grievance because, although there has been a reduction of from 30 to 50 per cent in the amount of their pensions, the prices of all the commodities they have to purchase in England have fallen in an equal proportion, and therefore they are as well off as they used to be. That argument carried a good deal of weight in the House at the time, but I do not think it will stand careful examination. We all know that although prices have fallen in this country, the standard of living has been greatly raised, and men having to occupy a certain position in society find it as costly to maintain that position now as it was before there was a very considerable fall in prices. I think it will be generally admitted by all classes in this House that there never was a time when living was more luxurious and costly than at the present moment. I think, therefore, that argument may very well be put on one side. But it may be asked why should not this idea of dealing with the pensions of the Uncovenanted servants be applied to the Covenanted servants also? My opinion is that the servants of the Crown in India are extremely well paid at this moment, that the pensions and pay were fixed at a time when the hardships of Indian service were very much greater than they are now. In supporting this proposal for an inquiry into the grievances of the Uncovenanted Service, I do not pledge myself for a moment against supporting the introduction at some future time of a scheme for the reduction of possibly all the pay and pensions of the services in India. But it is obvious that if the argument of the reduction of prices in this country is to have any force whatever against the payment in sterling of the pensions of one class of servants it applies with equal force to the other classes of servants in India, and also to the pay of the whole Civil Service in England. The salaries of all the permanent civil servants of the Crown in England were fixed at a time when prices had not suffered that very serious deterioration which has been induced of late years. There is no doubt that men in the enjoyment of fixed incomes in this country get a very great deal more for their money than they used to do, if you speak only of the prices of commodities. Therefore, if the argument applies at all, it ought 1641 to apply all round, and I think it is a very unfair thing that the uncovenanted civil servants in India should be the body on which the experiment of applying it should be made. I sympathize with them a good deal, because I do not at all accept the doctrine of the Member for North Kensington, that we ought to look forward to the day when the European servants in the service of the Crown in India will be extinguished except in the higher offices. The existence of these uncovenanted servants was a great security for our rule. I sympathize with them very heartily because they have not the same interest at the India Office as the covenanted servants, who have men to speak for them and ask that their claims may be treated with indulgence. The uncovenanted servants therefore appeal to this House. If the Under Secretary for India talks of the sufferings to be endured by the natives of India, if they have to pay a little more on account of the concession of these claims, we may fairly say with regard to India as to other countries, that honesty is the best policy in the treatment of its public servants, and nothing will be lost to the people of India by giving fair play to these men who now ask for justice at our hands.
§ * MR. BRADLAUGH
Allow me to explain that my only reason for mentioning the natives of India was that last year the Under Secretary stated that the natives disagreed with the claims put forward by the Member for Central Hull. It was because of that line of argument, and not from any claim to dictate to the House, that I spoke as I did.
§ MR. MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)
I am pleased to think that this inquiry has been asked by this deserving body of men, and I hope it will be granted, for I consider it the highest prerogative of this House to help those to right who suffer wrong. I cannot but hope that the House will agree in thinking that the hon. Gentleman who moved the Motion and went into such details with respect to the grievances of these Gentlemen has made out a primâ facie case for inquiry. I am sure that all of us were struck and interested by the very splendid speech delivered by Lord Dufferin the day before yesterday—a speech in which he, coming home with all his blushing honours on him, fresh 1642 from governing directly nearly two millions of people, and governing indirectly one million more, said that one of the highest privileges any of these people whether natives or Europeans could have was the supervision of the House of Commons. Two days after the delivery of that speech the House is given an opportunity not of coming to a judgment, but of exercising its supervision as regards the grievances of certain Indian public servants. The persons on whose behalf this motion is made are no fewer than 1,500, they are our own flesh and blood, and men of the same social position as Members of this House. Having endured extreme hardships in the trying climate of India they have come home occupying the position, always painful, of poor gentlemen, and the House is asked to grant an inquiry in order to see if their poverty cannot be made more tolerable. These men have justified by their noble actions British rule in India. When this country accepted the responsibility of governing India, it accepted the responsibility of governing it in such a way as would justify it to its own conscience and to the conscience of Europe. We have endeavoured to develop the resources of India, to give it education, to make bridges and roads. By whom were all these vast and splendid efforts carried out? Not by the covenanted, but by the uncovenanted servants of India. I am glad the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) has pointed out that the natives of India are in favour of this inquiry. If the educated Indians did not desire an inquiry into the grievances of these civil servants they would be guilty of the grossest injustice, for it is from the labour of these men that India has derived so much advantage. These men have managed to weld together Eastern and Western civilization. Surely in common justice they are entitled be an inquiry. I am not entirely bereft of personal motives in this matter. A great many of my fellow countrymen are in the service, and I got a letter from one of them only the day before yesterday. He writes—We ought not to be allowed to starve after spending all our lives in working for the Government.That is typical of the feeling of the public servants. I have special reasons for knowing the miserable circumstances of 1643 some of these men, who, having spent 38 years in the public service under the most trying conditions, are now enduring the miseries of genteel poverty. My friend encloses in his letter a photograph. I do not know whether it is a material one, but it shows how deeply these uncovenanted servants feel their position. It represents an uncovenanted servant as a sandwich man, but looking, as all the uncovenanted servants do, every inch a gentleman, and upon the board he is carrying are the words "A pensioner of the Indian Government." If not actually, these men are morally beggars. On these grounds I hope the House will favourably consider the claims now put forward—claims that are backed by public opinion in India and by the Government of India in India, and supported by all the Anglo-Indian Press. I do not want to bring in a word that may seem anything in the nature of intimidation, but I say that if this Resolution is opposed by the Government we know on whom to lay the responsibility of the opposition, the fifteen wise men who constitute the Council for India, who are powerful not for good but for mischief, and still baulk every effort of the Government of India. I hope the Secretary of State and the Under Secretary will exercise a firm and wise discretion, and offer some solace to these deserving public servants who have had the word of promise kept to the ear and so broken to the hope.
§ * COLONEL HILL (Bristol, S.)
I desire to give my general support to the Resolution what has been so ably moved and seconded. I do not propose to deal with it merely as a question of justice, though I hope that lever is sufficiently strong to move the House to grant this request, but I do so on the ground of public policy, and I venture stoutly to maintain that it is contrary to all sound commercial economy to allow a large class of public servants to remain in a state of chronic dissatisfaction smarting under what they consider a great injustice without making some attempt to remove their grievances. The few observations I propose to make will be directed more especially to one class, that of the engineers called "Uncovenanted," though I believe some years ago that term was ordered to cease to apply to them. The engineers of the public works of India have been more correctly described—the class I am 1644 referring to—by the Commission lately sitting in India as "Imperial Engineers." They are formed of three classes, the "Royal Engineers," the "Stanley," and the "Cooper's Hill" Engineers. These are all of the same social position; they have received similar education—in fact, I believe the expense of the Cooper's Hill education is higher than that of the Royal Engineers—they are of equal skill and ability, as has been acknowledged by high authority; they are employed on similar work, and several high authorities (Secretaries of State and Viceroys of India) have given them most clearly to understand, in official documents, that they were to be treated in a similar manner. Such was the recommendation of the Public Service Commission appointed by the Government of India in 1886-7, which issued its Report in October last year. As a matter of fact, the Civil Engineers of India would be perfectly satisfied if effect were given to the recommendation of that Commission, and would accept it as a remedy for the grievances to which they are subjected. But no attention, so far as I am aware, has ever been given to that Report, or to the assurances of Secretaries of State and Viceroys to which I have referred either in matters of pay, leave allowances, or pensions. This last is the most important consideration and one as to which the greatest injustice can be shown. It is quite conceivable that officers may be prepared to accept the privations of service in India—and I may remind the House that those privations are very considerable, not only from climatic influences, but the disadvantages of long years of separation from their children, if not from their wives—they may accept these privations as necessary conditions of a service into which they have voluntarily entered, but it is a very different thing when they see the provision for their old age in the way of pensions diminishing visibly before their eyes. To illustrate the injustice which these Civil Engineers of the Imperial Service are suffering, I will draw attention to a few facts. An officer of the Royal Engineers may be serving under an engineer of the Stanley or Cooper's Hill type, and after 28 years of service the former retires on a pension of £500, while the latter has 5,000 rupees or £333; the former may attain 1645 to £700 sterling, while the Civil Engineer, who performs the same duties exactly, if he succeed in getting to the top of the tree (an advantage open to few indeed), he can only receive 7,000 rupees or £466. I do not say that the pay of the Royal Engineers is too much. I do not think it is, but I do maintain that the Stanley and Cooper's Hill Engineers receive too little; it is less than they were given to expect by the terms of the agreement under which they entered the service, less than the Government themselves intended they should receive, less than suffices to maintain themselves and their families, and less than suffices for a decent provision for old age when they retire after many years faithful service in India. I put it to the House, can the best services of these gentlemen be expected—is it possible for them with the best intentions to give their best services? No mercantile firm would for a moment think of maintaining in their service a staff of servants who were smarting under such a sense of injustice, working with such a mill-stone round their necks. Those who know the public works of India cannot but feel the money is very well spent upon them. What would be the cost of giving satisfaction to an important and useful class of public servants, compared with the difference that would be made in the cost of the works by having servants thoroughly well contented with their service, and striving to do the best they possibly could. These are honourable, high-minded gentlemen, incapable of availing themselves of the many opportunities which occur for increasing their pay while they are in India. It is most important that such a standard of service should be kept up. We heard something of the poor Indian ratepayer, but I am not quite so sure that he is so poor as has been represented, and as the hon. Member for Northampton put it, I am certain he is not so poor that he need wish to be dishonest. I would remind the House that the natives of India derive the greatest possible benefit from the good service of the gentlemen for whom we are pleading; and not only so, but they have benefited very largely by the circumstances which have injured the prospects of these gentlemen. There can be no doubt that the depreciation of the rupee has been, in many 1646 parts of India, of very great service to the industries of the country. It has been asserted that gold can purchase more now than it used to do, and that may be so as regards luxuries, but I think there is not much question of luxuries on a pension of £333 a year. The cost of education, clothing, house rent, and many necessaries of life has not decreased, and in many instances the prices of these things have increased. But I do not think this is an argument that ought to affect the merits of the case at all. If it were raised, it would be an argument for revising the whole system of pensions and salaries throughout India, and possibly at home also. I hope Her Majesty's Government will see their way to grant this inquiry not only with a view to considering the justice of the case—a great country like ours cannot afford to be unjust—but for the interest of the Public Service itself.
§ * MR. J. G. FITZGERALD (Longford, S.)
I am desirous of supporting the Motion for inquiry, for there appears on the face of it a legitimate claim for redress of a grievance. Among these public servants whose cause we plead, there are many of the profession to which I have the honour to belong. I think it will be agreed that it is a misfortune amounting almost to ruination for a man to put his hand into his pocket and find that though he put £500 in he can only take 340 sovereigns out. These men have had to work, many of them, for 30 years before attaining to their pension in a foreign country under severe climatic disadvantages, and I think there can be no doubt that we ought to take the first step to inquire with a view to removing the burden that rests upon the shoulders of these men through the depreciation in the value of the rupee after they are seeking repose in this country from long and arduous labour in India. The Uncovenanted servants assert, and I think justly assert, that they have been induced to enter this special branch of the service under something very like false pretences. In the first place, some of them actually have covenants with the Indian Government; and in the second place, they assert they were induced to enter the service on the faith of official prospectuses setting out that a certain amount of their pay would be deducted 1647 which hereafter would be paid back to them in pension allowances. Nor has the hon. Gentleman who moved this Resolution explained to the House that this pay was actually deducted at the time when the rupee was at the value of 2s., but then when the men had completed their term of arduous service, the Government of India turned round and said we can only give you back 1s. 4½d. instead of the 2s. we stopped from your pay although we have had the interest of your money all this time. The Under Secretary for India will probably resist the granting of the commission on three grounds. In the first place, I expect he will say that this unfortunate body of men have no case in law, and he will add, what we are constantly hearing from the Treasury Bench when we ask for redress of grievances, if you think you have a grievance, you can take legal action. But it is not an easy matter for an isolated and comparatively poor body of men to go to law with a rich Government. Then the hon. and learned Gentleman will ground his resistance upon solicitude for the poor Indian taxpayer, but as the hon. Member for North Kensington has shown we are anxious to save the taxpayer from the cost of legal proceedings. This new Radicalism of the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary and his Party is becoming very apparent to the people of this country, it is simply an enamel with which they cover their Tory resistance to every appeal made to them for justice to any particular class. Surely if the Radicalism is not more apparent than real the friends of the new peasant proprietors of Ireland will not think it too Radical a measure to extend to this body of Indian civil servants the same privileges extended to native gentlemen in the same service by paying them in pounds sterling that they may enjoy in their own country that repose which the native gentleman does for the amount he receives in rupees in India? I implore the House in dealing with this particular question, which, after all, is only the appeal of a small body of men, to consider how it can in any way affect the 200 millions of Indian taxpayers. How in the world can it improve the condition of Indian taxpayers, to place a certain tax on the salaries of 1,500 men, when you leave alone the salaries of 4,350 other servants of the same 1648 class, and do nothing at all with the number of other officials who are under the Indian Government. I implore the House in considering this question to refrain from being dragged into the legal net, which the Under Secretary will undoubtedly spread for them, of obscure statutes and dried-up Acts of Parliament, and instead of dealing with this body of men on the narrow ledge of legal technicalities and ill-construed Acts framed by partizan lawyers for partizan purposes, to deal with it as the House of Commons ought to deal with the claims of an honest body of men on the broader basis of honesty, justice, and equity.
§ MR. MALLOCK (Devon, Torquay)
I will only detain the House a few minutes in expressing my hope that the Government will tell us they are not going to resist this inquiry. I served in India some years—not in either branch of the Civil Service—but I have a great many friends in both branches, and I know enough of the condition of those in both services to say that though the work of both is must important and hard and onerous in an equal degree, still all the prizes in India fall to the covenanted service. This is no ground of complaint by members of the uncovenanted service, and I was sorry to hear an hon. Member just now make that complaint. I do not think the uncovenanted servants at all complain that the covenanted servants have the best appointments. The uncovenanted servants accepted their engagements with their eyes open, knew their employment, and that they would be paid in rupees while in India; they recognised always that the covenanted service would have the better pay in India, better appointments, and they recognised also that they would have better pensions; but what they did not recognize was that their lower and more meagre pensions after retirement were liable to be cut down 20 or 30 per cent below what they were given to understand would be received. Perhaps they ought never to have looked upon the pensions as likely to be paid in pounds, but all official notifications when they entered the service referred to the amount in sterling, £300 or £400, or whatever it might be. We have heard of profound scholars being supposed to think in Latin, and dream in 1649 Greek, but I do not think it could have been expected of young men going to join the service in India that they would calculate their pensions in rupees, annas, and pies. Lord Dufferin a day or two ago, speaking in the City, referred to the Civil Service of India in the most eulogistic terms, and, as I read his remarks, he referred to both branches of the Civil Service. He spoke in the highest possible terms of the manner in which they performed their administrative and political duties in India, compared to which, he said, a great deal of the work of the House of Commons was mere child's play, and I, having been in India for some time, and in the House of Commons for some short time, am inclined to agree with Lord Dufferin. What has happened is this. The members of one branch of that service of which Lord Dufferin spoke so highly, owing purely to the accident that the pensions were fixed in rupees originally, after they have served long and faithfully in India come home and then find that not only do they receive 20 or 30 per cent less than they expected, but their prospects are decreasing every year. I remember last year when the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed his conversion scheme it was stated in this House and in another place, and I daresay hon. Members heard the same thing repeated among their own constituents, that it was a very hard measure for widows and persons who had no faith in any security but the Funds that they should have their income suddenly reduced so much, but they at all events had the opportunity in nearly every case of taking their capital out of the Funds and investing it elsewhere. These unfortunate men, on the other hand, who have fixed pensions, see their income falling every year, and have no hope of arresting the decline. I do hope the Government will recognize the position and give us an assurance that they will give this matter their most serious attention.
§ * SIR W. PLOWDEN (Wolverhampton, W.)
I do not think that any man who has had acquaintance with the Services in India will at all differ from hon. Members in the estimate of the arduous nature of the work performed by the men whose claims are now urged by the hon. Member for North Kensington, and 1650 the effective manner in which their duties are discharged; but that is hardly a matter we have to consider in relation to the proposal brought before the House to-night. I must say that, although I agree with a portion of the argument of the hon. Member for North Kensington, I think he is not well advised in the manner in which he has framed his Resolution, because in that Resolution the House is called upon to commit itself to a very decided opinion that a Select Committee should be appointed to inquire into grievances of the Uncovenanted Services, with special reference to their pension and leave rates, and the effect of the depreciation of silver on their pensions; but, as was just now mentioned, the Public Service Commission, as I think it is called, has reported upon these matters. If hon. Members will turn to the Report of the Commission, they will find that the whole of the question is virtually taken out of our hands unless we wish to mix ourselves up in it, and that the Commission did report on these very matters. It seems to me it would be very rash for this House to pass such a censure as is implied in this Motion on the Government of India. The Indian Government are quite capable of dealing with a question of this character; in fact they are dealing with it now, and we have quite sufficient work of our own to do without interfering with work which can be best done in India by persons acquainted with the wants of the Civil servants and the circumstances of the country. I agree with the hon. Member for North Kensington that the Government are bound to consider certain individual cases. Those gentlemen who joined the Service after the promulgation of the regulation of 1871 must have been well aware of the nature of the pensions they would receive, but that was not the case with those who joined before the regulation was promulgated. As an illustration of how harshly some of these Civil servants have been dealt with, I will mention that the bond under which one of these gentlemen took up his service in India, specifies that all payments to be made under the bond should be calculated at the rate of £1 to 10 rupees. In that bond, though reference is made to pension, it is not intimated it shall be treated differently, or other than pay. Again, in the 1651 prospectus of the Indian Office in September, 1866, the salaries of the Indian Telegraphic Establishment were all designated in pounds and not in rupees. I think it is a great hardship that one method of payment should be adopted by the Government in India and another in England. What is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander. The Government has not been the goose in this matter. Out of a total of £12,224, which one official was entitled to for his 21 years' service, the Government have positively gained 20,461 rupees by the proceeding of taking the £ not at the rate of exchange, but at 10 rupees. Then why not take the pension at 10 rupees per £ as they had taken the pay? Whatever legal claim the Government may have to bind these civil servants to the terms of their bond, they have no moral right to do so. Special cases, of which there are not a very great number, ought to be fairly treated by the Government; and, therefore, I hope the Under Secretary of State for India will give an assurance on the part of the Government that individual claims shall receive equitable consideration. I regret very much that the hon. Member for Kensington has not confined himself to a specific class of cases. It is impossible for this House to take up the whole question of the pay, pensions, and allowances to uncovenanted civil servants. That matter is already being dealt with in an effective way by the Government of India. The subject is a large one and requires so much attention and consideration that it cannot be dealt with rapidly, but if the hon. Member the Under Secretary for India cannot give me the undertaking I ask for, if it is in order, I shall move an Amendment to the Resolution of the hon. Member for North Kensington.
§ * SIR W. PLOWDEN
Then, in that case, I will only impress on the Under Secretary for India the necessity of giving the House such an assurance as I have indicated.
* THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Sir J. GORST, Chatham)
I can assure the House in answer to the appeal that has just been made, that the Government are in 1652 the habit of dealing with every case that is brought before them on its merits. There are cases in which furlough allowances and even pensions have to be paid in sterling, in consequence of the peculiar and special circumstances of the agreement entered into; and all these contracts are examined, not in the pettifogging spirit which the Member for Kensington rather attributed to the Secretary of State, but with a sincere desire to do full justice, and to give the officers, whose admirable services have been rightly extolled, everything to which they are entitled. It is not a pleasant task to me to have to get up apparently to resist appeals that are made for inquiries into alleged grievances. I can corroborate all that has been said as to the deserts of these officers. I have often had to praise them; I have often appealed for a charitable construction to be put upon their acts; and I have no wish in any way to undervalue their services or to induce the House to believe that they do not merit their remuneration and their rewards. But when a claim is made for pensions to which after careful examination I am bound to say I do not consider these gentlemen to be entitled, I have to remember that in this House I represent the taxpayer of India. I should fail in my duty if I did not warn the House that it must not be generous with other people's money, and in meting out justice to those who are entitled to the utmost consideration we must also remember that the fund from which the money has to be paid is raised from the millions of poor taxpayers in India for whom we are trustees, and whose money we ought to administer with the utmost caution and care. The discussion has been rendered a little more difficult than it would otherwise have been by the enormous amount of canvassing to which individual Members have been subjected. It is not a matter in which our constituents generally take a lively interest; but I suppose there is not a Member in the House who has not a relation or a friend or an influential supporter directly or indirectly interested in the question. I have been canvassed myself; I was canvassed by a lady, who in the strongest terms pleaded with me to support the Motion for inquiry by speech and vote, 1653 and nothing but the fact of my being Under Secretary saved me from yielding to the temptation. There are two perfectly distinct classes of public servants to be dealt with—first, the exist ing public servants in India, and, secondly, those who have retired from the service and who have to receive the pension they have earned. The respective interests of the two classes are different from each other, but they have been adroitly mixed up by some speakers. I will deal with them separately. Nothing that I can conceive can be more detrimental to the interests of existing officers than the appointment of the proposed Committee, because there has been sitting for two years in India the Public Service Commission which has taken evidence that fills five volumes. Its inquiry was brought to an end a year ago, and since that time the Secretary of State and the Government of India have been actively engaged in elaborating a radical change in the public service in India. The matter is still under consideration, and therefore it would be unbecoming in me to indicate the conclusion at which the Secretary of State is likely to arrive; but it is a great mistake to suppose that he or the Government of India will be blindly led by the mere suggestions of the Commission. The vast mass of evidence is being considered and digested, and a plan for the reorganization of the service is far advanced, and, if the House does not interfere, is likely to be speedily matured and acted upon. It is clear you cannot deal with the grievances of any existing servants until you have settled what is to be the ultimate plan upon which the public service of India is to be constituted. I have listened to many of the grievances. I remember the grievances alleged in the debate of last year; and the Government have received many memorials and representations pointing out weaknesses in our present system, all of which have been to the best of our ability considered and digested. In the new arrangements regard will be had to these representations, and I trust the invidious distinctions between the high officers of the Uncovenanted Service and those of the Covenanted Service now complained of may be done away with. You must obviously wait until this is done before you consider the circumstances of the 1654 existing servants and how you can best remedy their grievances. It is the most earnest desire of the Secretary of State to consider every class of existing servants as soon as the new plan is settled, to bring them into harmony with the new system and to remove their grievances. Now, I know that this plan will not suit the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh). That hon. Member, who probably has not read the five volumes of evidence, is in favour of endless inquiry, and would overwhelm the Government with information. I hope the House will not fall into the trap. The hon. Member says he speaks for the educated classes of India, but he does not speak for the poor people, for those who really pay the taxes; the Government alone represents them and looks after their interests. It is in their interest and on their behalf chat the Government are proceeding with practical reforms, and they do not want the time of the House wasted in the endless inquiries to which the hon. Member for Northampton invites us. This consideration appears to weigh even in the mind of the hon. Member for Kensington, who practically sinks the grievances of the existing service and concentrates his efforts upon the case of retired officers entitled to pensions, and the whole burden of his complaint was that these officers are paid in rupees and not in sterling.
§ * SIR. R. LETHBRIDGE
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but those who heard me will, I am sure, bear me out when I say that I directed my remarks to the circumstances of all existing members of the Departments which I enumerated—not only the retired, but the present servants of the Government.
* SIR J. GORST
That was, no doubt, so, but the hon. Member has misunderstood me. It was entirely in reference to their pensions, and not in reference to their position in the service that he spoke. My answer is that if the House were to have a Committee of that extremely limited scope, there is nothing to inquire into. The facts are perfectly well known already. They are these: The name "Uncovenanted" is a misleading epithet. There is no such thing as a really Uncovenanted civil servant. Every man enters the service under a contract, which the Government are as much bound to keep as any gen- 1655 tleman is bound to observe his contract with a servant. I approach this part of the question with some regret, because I have been denounced as likely to mislead the House by casting a net of law round it and by pettifogging legal arguments involving the obscurities of old statutes. I will not, however, qnote a single musty statute, but endeavour to deal with the case from the point of view of reason and common sense. Now, one part of the contract of these gentlemen was that at a certain period they were to get a pension, which was to be paid in India in rupees. Up to 1862 all these pensions were paid in India in rupees. But gentlemen who came back to England had to employ an agent to receive their pensions and transmit them to this country. In the year 1862 it was represented that this was a great hardship, and in consequence of this representation the Government conferred upon them the boon of payment in London, but it was upon the express stipulation that the payment should be made in London at the official rate of exchange. The hon. Member for Kensington has shown a great anxiety that I should produce a certain appendix to the prospectus of the Cooper's Hill College, in 1871, which the hon. Member was sure would put my case out of Court. Well, I experienced great difficulty in getting this appendix. But it was at length discovered laid on the Table of the House, printed with extraordinary expedition, and circulated among many Members of the House. I will call attention to the paragraphs of this document relating to the payment of pensions. This is the final paragraph of this document—An officer shall, on retirement, have the option of drawing his pension either in India or from the Home Treasury. After exercising his option on retirement, he may at a subsequent period change the place of payment from India to England or vice versa. This change can, however, be allowed but once. The payments in England will be made at the rate of exchange which is annually fixed in communication with the Lords of the Treasury for the adjustment of transactions between the British and the Indian Exchequers.
* SIR J. GORST
I do not see why the whole document should be read; but the point about salaries is that they are de- 1656 scribed in rupees or pounds sterling, and the rupee is given at 2s., at which it stood in 1862 and for some years afterwards. But that does not affect the regulations under which the pensions are to be paid. The House will remember that it was in 1862 that this stipulation as to payment of pensions was made. The rupee had for many years been 2s., and nobody supposed it would go down. It remained there until 1872, and it was not until two years after that the downward tendency of exchange became marked. There is, however, no doubt whatever that by the fall in the rupee that has since taken place, these gentlemen have incurred very great loss. It is an extremely hard fate, and I can assure the House and assure the gentlemen concerned that nobody sympathises more deeply than I do with them in the loss—the unexpected loss—which many of them have sustained by the fall of the rupee. But they are not the only persons who have suffered by the fall of the rupee. If you were going in the excess of your generosity to make a proposal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he should make good the losses of these gentlemen, then you would at least be spending your own money. But because these gentlemen have incurred a loss, expected neither by themselves nor by the Government of India at the time when this agreement was made, what right have you to say that you will compel the taxpayers of India to make this good? Really in this debate I have listened with surprise, particularly to the hon. Member opposite, who has spoken as if the Secretary of State were some wealthy plutocrat, denying the just demands of the people upon the huge stores of gold and silver over which he had command. He talked about his having gained the sum of 23,000 rupees out of these gentlemen's pockets. We have not gained a single sixpence. The taxpayer in India is not one penny the richer because of the fall in the rupee. He has had to pay in salaries all the rupees these gentlemen engaged for; he has had to pay in pensions every rupee stipulated for, and it is not his fault that when these rupees come to London, they have not the same purchasing power as they had at the time of the agreement. What right have you to say that it is the taxpayer of India who is to suffer the loss, who is 1657 to give more than he undertook to give, because the rate of exchange is against him. Well, now, I do not know quite whether the hon. Member for North Kensington really puts this on justice or generosity. He used very strong words, and he said he asked for justice and nothing but justice. Let me remind him that in this country he need not come to the House of Commons for justice. The Secretary of State has made a contract. If he does not keep that contract, "the law is open, and there are 'deputies.' Let them unplead one another." The hon. Member says that no individual pensioner has sufficient wealth to go to law. But there is an association. Why does nit the association, if the Secretary of State will not fulfil the contract he has made, take a case to the Courts of Law? I can undertake that no pettifogging objection shall be made. I can undertake that every facility shall be given for having the opinion of the Courts of Law upon the contract made by the Secretary of State, and that the decision once given shall be applied to every officer of the same class. But they will never take their case into Courts of Law, because they know that they have not a leg to stand on. A great deal was made about Mr. Gordon's case by the hon. Member for North Kensington. Why not take Mr. Gordon's case as a test case? I can tell the hon. Member why the Secretary of State will not pay Mr. Gordon in sterling, because Mr. Gordon only contracted at the time he made his contract for a rupee pension payable in Calcutta, and because—according to Mr. Gordon's contract—he is only entitled to draw a certain number of rupees as a pension from the Treasury of Calcutta. He draws it in London upon the express condition that he shall receive it at the official rate of exchange. But we had another particular case quoted by the hon. Member. It is a good illustration how liable the Secretary of State is to misrepresention if he does deal with a particular case. This case was misquoted and misstated by the hon. Member for North Kensington and by an hon. Gentleman from Ireland, who enlarged upon what has passed as an instance of the meanness and of the despicable and pettifogging practice of the Secretary of State for India. It was the case of an educational officer, and 1658 I am happily able to tell the House exactly what the circumstances are. The House will remember that it was put by the hon. Member for North Kensington that when the Secretary of State would not pay, this Gentleman went into the City and consulted a firm of solicitors, whereupon the Secretary of State paid £1,500 to buy off his hostility.
§ * SIR R. LETHBRIDGE
Not to buy off his hostility. I said it was in appreciation of this gentleman's very great and acknowledged abilities.
* SIR J. GORST
Ah, yes, that is what the hon. Member said, but only those Members who were present in the House could appreciate the tone in which it was said. It was not the words, it was the insinuation, which was correctly caught by the hon. Member for Kerry. He interpreted the hon. Member for North Kensington's tone, and translated it into actual phrases. Now, this is what the case really was. It was the case of an educational officer who came home quite recently, either last year or the year before, from Lahore. This case had nothing whatever to do with the question of the value of the rupee. The Punjaub Government had willed that this gentleman should retire, retire, and had offered special terms of retirement which they said they would propose to the Secretary of State for India. When this gentleman arrived at home the Secretary of State could not sanction the terms which the Government of the Punjaub had offered, because they were quite ultra vires and beyond the scale. But upon having information furnished him of a confidential character showing that the Punjaub Government had actually made the offer, and that the officer had been induced to retire upon that offer, the Secretary of State offered this substantial sum of money to settle the case. That is the special case which the Secretary of State dealt with on its merits, and this is the way the special case is made use of in the House of Commons. I hope I have said enough to the House to induce them to pause before they appoint a Committee for the purpose of dictating to the Secretary of State and to the Government of India, that they are to pay these gentlemen a pension for which they have not contracted, and to which they are not legally entitled. 1659 The hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton, was quite right in saying I should not be surprised at his seconding the Motion. Nothing surprises me in politics; yet had I been capable of feeling the emotion of surprise, I should have felt it when I heard an hon. Member, who is celebrated throughout the country for his opposition to pensions, who will scarcely allow pensions that are due to be paid in this country, insisting that the Indian taxpayers were to pay pensions that were not legally due; when I heard an hon. Member who renders himself, at least, in this House, remarkable for his appeals to constitutional and legal principles, trying to lead the House of Commons to usurp a function of which it has carefully and expressly divested itself—that is, interference with the revenues of India. Let me remind the House of Commons that they have, by their own act, placed it out of their power to interfere with the revenues and expenditure of India. It is quite true that they have the most absolute control over the Secretary of State, but the Secretary of State himself cannot spend one single penny of the Indian revenue without the consent of the Indian Council—of men whom he cannot dismiss, of men whose actions he cannot control, and the consent of a majority of whom is absolutely essential before a single penny can be spent. When the House of Commons has, from obvious motives, and in the wisest spirit thus divested itself of the power of meddling with the revenues of India, is it constitutional, is it wise, is it legal for the House to appoint a Committee for the purpose of dictating to the Secretary of State and to the Government of India that they are to pay out of the revenues of India money which is not legally due? Well, Sir, there is one more consideration which I must submit to the House before I sit down. I was made the subject of sneers and ridicule by the hon. Member for Northampton, who represents the educated, English-speaking, and ambitious class of Indian natives, because I ventured in the House of Commons last year to say that I stood up as the representative of the poor taxpayers. Well, I stand up as the representative of the poor taxpayers again. If there is one person in this House whose duty it is to ever be mind- 1660 ful of the rights and of the interests of the poor taxpayers of India it is the person who in this House represents the Secretary of State for India. I think it would have a bad moral effect if the only interference, the only direct interference of the House of Commons in the affairs of India were to be the appointment of a Committee to exact more money from the Indian taxpayers, to be spent in London, to be paid in London, and to go into the pockets of Englishmen. I know something of that agitation with which the hon. Member for Northampton is connected. I know that one of the complaints they make—it may be right or it may be wrong—is of the great drain upon the resources of India by reason of the enormous sums which they already have to pay in this country. Remember that India not only has to pay the interest upon her debt, she has to pay the interest upon large sums of money borrowed for the construction of her railways; she has to pay for the English Army in India; she has to pay for the establishment of the India Office; she has to pay for an immense amount of stores which are purchased in this country; and all these payments, for which rupees have to be collected from the taxpayers of India, have to be made in sterling, and for every payment so made an extra 50 per cent has to be extracted from the Indian taxpayer to make up the amount. The Secretary of State has struggled, and is struggling now, to reduce the sum to the minimum, and any interference on the part of the House of Commons of the description proposed would thwart the Secretary of State. You may depend upon it there is every desire on the part of Her Majesty's Government to place the civil servants of India in such a position as to make them contented and happy. There is every disposition, as soon as the new order of things is created, to review in a generous spirit the position of the existing officers, and to bring them as early as possible under the new conditions. There is a determination to deal not only honestly, but generously, with individual cases, and where any officer can show that by the exceptional character of his agreement he is entitled to be paid in sterling, in sterling we shall pay him. But the Secretary of 1661 State, unless compelled by the House Commons, will not exact additionl taxes from the people of India in order to pay gentlemen in England sums money that are not due to them.
§ * MR. KING (Kingston-upon-Hull, Central)
It must, Sir, be admitted that anyone, especially an almost untried Member like myself, is placed at some disadvantage in following so accomplished a rhetorician as the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for India, and I think that if the mover an seconder of this Resolution deserve nothing else, they surely deserve the thanks of the House for having extracted the speech we have just heard from the hon. Gentleman. He is always so eloquent, his periods are always so incisive, and his imagination is above all so fertile that it is a matter of delight to all his friends whenever he can be persuaded to get upon his legs in this House. But when my hon. Friend breaks from his reserve, and lets us into the secrets of his sanctuary, furnishing us with revelations from the proceedings of the India Office, he affords us an additional pleasure, and we must all not only envy him his office, but congratulate him on his escape from the toils of the Uncovenanted Circe, like another Sampson who has got free from his Delilah. But when he wants to prohibit canvassing by the members of the Service, he forgets that to them it is a matter of hunger and starvation—that they cannot educate their children nor keep up their insurance—and that pinched as they are in their old age, they cannot help appealing to their friends to lend them a helping hand. The poor taxpayer argument is one that we have all heard before; in fact, the speech of my hon. Friend might almost be stereotyped for future use, because I warn him that this is not the last time he will hear of this subject or that an attempt will be made to get the House of Commons to inquire into it. On this occasion my hon. Friend divides the Service into two. He speaks of the existing men in the Service, and also of the pensioners, but he specially avoided any specific allusion to the latter except to promise special attention to any special case, a promise 1662 which I am afraid will very seldom be found to be of any great advantage. The hon. Gentleman can only offer to allow these persons to take any case they like into Court, but will he also undertake that their acquiescence will not be in bar pleaded? I do not intend to take up much of the time of the House at so late an hour, but as the House is aware of the interest I take in this subject, I hope I may be allowed to refer to one or two points, which, I think, may tend to put upon the matter a somewhat different complexion to that which it has been made to assume in the speech of my hon. Friend the Under Secretary. The hon. Gentleman is fond of going over the argument that up to 1862 the pensions were only paid in India, and that then a special arrangement was made as to how pensions were to be payable in this country. I have here a Return which I myself moved for, but before going into it, I may say that I believe the pensions of the Uncovenanted Service were in more cases than one up to the year 1862 paid in sterling. The Return which I have here shows that upwards of 150 of the Uncovenanted civil servants were drawing in sterling in this country, and in reference to this matter I should like to read to the House an extract from the despatch of the old Court of Directors of the East India Company, dated the 28th February, 1855. And here I must first ask the House to remember that the existing pensioners, or at any rate most of them, must have entered the service about that time, because 30 years is about the period of service an Uncovenanted civilian has to fulfil, five years being allowed for furlough. Well, at that time the despatch written to India said—You have also brought to our notice that the pension rules of 1831 appear to require some amendment, especially in regard to the cases of highly paid appointments of from £1,000 to £2,400 per annum, the occupants of which appointments, if invalided after 30 years' service, are entitled under the present rule to receive a half pension varying from £500 to £1,200 per annum, whereas the Covenanted servant, after 25 years' service, receives a pension from the Government of only £500 per annum in any case. In the above particular we concur in thinking the present rate to be defective, and we desire that a clause be introduced providing (as respects persons hereinafter appointed to the Service) that in no case shall a larger pension than £400 per annum be granted to Un- 1663 covenanted servants receiving salaries above that amount; whether the retirement be from ill-health (after either 20 or 30 years' service) or without a medical certificate after 35 years' service, under the authority conveyed in the despatch of May 5th, 1854, No. 18. With reference to your suggestion that you should receive authority to make a general revision of the pension rule, we shall be ready promptly to consider the subject of any further alterations to be made, until they shall have been sanctioned by us.Again, in accordance with the despatch, above quoted, the Government of India published a Resolution under date May 19th, 1855, to the effectThat in no case (as respects persons hereinafter appointed to the Uncovenanted Service) shall a larger pension than £400 or Rs.4,000 per annum be granted to Uncovenanted servants receiving salaries of Rs.750 to Rs.1,000 a month, nor a larger pension than £500 or Rs.5,000 per annum to Uncovenanted servants receiving salaries above that amount, whether the retirement be from ill-health (after either twenty or thirty years' services) or without a medical certificate after thirty-five years' service.Now, there is not one syllable in that despatch as to rupees or exchange except the deliberate promise of £500 per annum to those who come in after the 28th February, 1855, those who were in service before the 28th February, 1855, being entitled to half-pay. The case of Mr. Forjet shows that the India Office admits the accuracy of this statement. On the 25th March, 1862, the Government of Bombay wrote to the Secretary of State the following letter:—Mr. Forjet, it appears, has served the Government continuously for upwards of 35 years, and his conduct during that period has been uniformly good.... He is therefore entitled, in accordance with the 9th paragraph of the Orders of the Court of Directors of the 5th May, 1854, No. 18, to a pension of 600 rupees a month, or £720 per annum, being half of his salary during the last five years of his service.This shows that Mr. Forjet was at least allowed to draw £720 per annum. Now, in regard to what has been said with reference to the Public Service Commission, the fact has already been alluded to that that Commission was expressly prohibited from inquiring into the grievances of the Uncovenanted servants, and therefore it is unfair to say that those grievances were considered by them. I must here repeat that all we are asking for is an inquiry. I cannot enter much further into the 1664 arguments in favour of this proposal as it would be impossible within the limits of the time now at our disposal to deal with this subject in all its bearings. I have shown that in one particular case in which a man had an undoubted claim to the service, he succeeded in getting it, but there are 12 other gentlemen who are now pensioners who have petitioned the Secretary of State in reference to their claims. Those petitions have been referred to the Government of India, and have, of course, been duly pigeon-holed, no redress being apparently permissible. This is the way in which the promise to consider individual cases appears to be carried out. I am speaking with perfect accuracy when I say that these cases were on all fours with Mr. Forjet's case. Those gentlemen who were in the service prior to 1855 are most assuredly entitled to sterling pensions.
SIR JOHN GORST
I would remind the hon. Gentleman that that case has not been brought forward before, but I may add that a despatch was sent to the Government of India recommending the desirability of dealing with the case as expeditiously as possible.
§ * MR. KING
That is what I was saying. I will now only say in conclusion that we who support this Resolution believe a Committee of this House would be a fair and impartial tribunal, and we shall have no fear whatever in going before it. If that Committee should decide against us, we will accept its decision, and in that way you may end the question—end a very dangerous agitation which is now injuring the public service of India and sapping the good feeling and loyalty of the Civil Service in that part of the world. Such an inquiry seems to me to be in every way desirable, and I cannot understand on what grounds my hon. Friend refuses it. The hon. Gentleman says he has a good case. We are asking him to listen to the appeal of our fellow citizens in India. We are sorry they cannot appear at the Bar of the House of Commons. No employer of labour finds it desirable or safe to disregard his pledges to his employés, and certainly no just employer can reasonably refuse to examine into the grievances of those he employs. These Uncovenanted civil servants appear before the House of 1665 Commons, through us, and ask for an inquiry with a view to the redress of their grievances. They are unable to appear here in person, but they could appear before a Committee up stairs; and I say it is the duty of the House, under the Act by which the Government of India was transferred from the East India Company to Her Majesty's Government, not to shrink from the responsibility which is hero involved, but at once to enter upon the investigations now humbly asked for.
§ MR. H. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford.)
I have considerable sympathy with the Motion of my hon. Friend behind me, for it forms part of a much larger question which I hope, before many days have elapsed, we may have an opportunity of discussing. Two things appear manifest from the Debate, that the Uncovenanted servants have a substantial grievance, and that they are not likely to get much from Her Majesty's Government on this occasion, to judge from the speech of the Under Secretary for India, who said that nothing could be done until the plan now under the consideration of the Indian Council was settled. But what is this plan and when will it be produced? When are these unfortunate civil servants to expect to derive any advantages from it? Certainly my hon. Friend professed a desire to assist these officials, but he also said that he had regard for the taxpayers, and could not at their expense give this relief. I confess these references of my hon. Friend to the interest of the Indian taxpayers fill me with rejoicing. What is the present position of the taxpayer in India? What is the special, enormous grievance from which he is now suffering? To understand this the House must remember that India owes an enormous sum which has to be paid in gold. It amounts to fifteen millions a year, and the whole revenue out of which the sum is paid is collected in silver. What is the meaning of that? Now that the rupee is only worth 1s. 4d. instead of something approaching 2s., which was formerly its value, it takes an enormously increased revenue to meet the debt of 15 millions, which India is bound to pay to us every year. If the Government and Parliament of this country could see its way to grappling with this larger ques- 1666 tion to which I have referred, one of the immediate results would be that the Government would not only get rid at once of a grievance of the Uncovenanted Civil Service, but they would be able to relieve the taxpayer in India, for whom my hon. Friend has professed such enormous interest, of taxation to the extent of something like six millions a year. I think that recent inquiries into this subject have produced a good deal of evidence, showing indisputably that the Uncovenanted civil servants of India have a grievance in this direction, and unless the Government can see its way to favourably considering our views on the wider subject to which I have referred, I confess I cannot understand the objections which are raised to the appointment of another Committee to inquire into this subject. The Under Secretary for India says the only result of such a Committee if its views proved unfavourable to my hon. Friend, would be to impose further burdens on the unfortunate taxpayers of India. I do not agree with him; I do not see the least necessity for such an outcome of the inquiry On the contrary, on referring to the terms of my hon. Friend's Motion, what do I find? He moves:—That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that a Select Committee should be appointed to inquire into the grievances of the Members of the Indian Uncovenanted Civil Services, with special reference to their pension and leave rules, and to the effect produced by the fall in the gold value of silver on their family remittances, their leave allowances, and their provision for old age.Now, I think it is more than likely that the result of such an inquiry would be not to impose further taxation, but to supplement and support the recommendations of one-half of the Royal Commission on Gold and Silver, and thereby assist in the settlement of this and other important questions.
The House divided:—Ayes, 122; Noes, 86.—(Division List, No. 136.)