HC Deb 16 August 1853 vol 129 cc1755-7

said, that before he put the question which stood on the Votes in his name, he wished to offer a brief explanation of the circumstances under which he had been absent from the House on the preceding day, when the question of agreeing to the Lords' Amendments in the India Bill had been discussed. He had on that day received the Votes in the usual way; but on finding that they contained on the first page no intimation that there was to have been a morning sitting, he had taken it for granted that they were not to have met until four o'clock. It was true that in another portion of the paper he might have found the information to which he alluded; but as he had at the moment to meet a pressure of business, he had not thought it necessary to look beyond the first page, which would have removed his erroneous impression. He had thus been accidentally and most unwillingly absent from the discussion of the preceding day, and if he had been present he should certainly have felt it his duty to have addressed the House upon the subject. But he should add, that he should not have put the House to the trouble of dividing against the proposal that they should assent to the omission of the 44th clause of the Bill; because at the present period of the Session he could not have thought that the result of any such division would have been a fair test of the sense of the House. But he should certainly have made some remarks on the somewhat peculiar circumstances in which the subject had been placed, and he should have called on Her Majesty's Government to state what were their future intentions with respect to it. Under the present circumstances he was obliged to confine himself to the more concise form of a question. He wished to know what degree of respect Her Majesty's Government meant to pay to a deliberate decision of that House: and he therefore begged leave to ask the right hon. President of the Board of Control whether it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to effect any change in the mode of levying a duty upon salt manufactured in India, and whether they intended to make any reduction in the amount of duty now paid by salt in India, whether imported or manufactured in that country?


trusted, that the explanation which the right hon. Gentleman had thought it necessary for his own character to give, would be satisfactory to those persons who might feel disappointed at what had occurred. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman could hardly expect him to say that he regretted very much his absence upon that occasion. Certainly every pains had been taken with regard to the notice paper to provide against such an accident as had happened. There had been a special order that the House should meet at One o'clock. Notice had been given of it; and the India Bill stood first upon the Orders, so that the right hon. Gentleman had had every opportunity afforded him of ascertaining what was the fact. With regard to the question itself, he could add very little to what he had already said. He was as anxious as the right hon. Gentleman himself could be to see a reduction of the duty upon salt in India. It was, unquestionably, the first that ought to be reduced, because it was the only existing duty which pressed upon the people of India. He was not prepared, however, to direct an immediate reduction of that duty, because that must be left to the discretion of the Government of India, and must be regarded as a matter of finance. A considerable portion of the revenue of India—upwards of 3,000,000l. was derived from opium. That could not be considered a very certain source of revenue, and he was not, therefore, prepared to direct that, under all circumstances, a duty should be reduced, the effect of which might be to create a deficit in India. An event which had recently occurred, and which he was happy to state to the House—the conclusion of hostilities in Burmah, and the proclamation of peace, would probably enable the Governor General to reduce considerably the expenditure of India; and he hoped that that would enable hint to effect a reduction in the duty upon salt. It had been the practice of the Indian Government to reduce that duty whenever they could. Within the last six years it had been reduced 25 per cent, and he had no doubt that the Government of India, as soon as they felt that they could safely do it, would be well disposed to continue the same system of reduction. With regard to the mode of collecting the duty, that was a question with which he should be sorry to interfere, because it was one which entirely belonged to the Indian Government. He should be glad, however, to see the system of Excise introduced there, if it could be done with safety to the revenue, and without imposing hardship upon the people.


said, that as far as the answer of the right hon. Gentleman went, he must regard it as satisfactory. But as the question was one which affected the interests of 150,000,000 of people, and was one which could not be allowed to remain in its present position after what had occurred, he begged to give notice that unless the conduct of the Government of India and of the Board of Control should appear to him to be satistory upon that subject, it was his intention to revive the question in the next Session of Parliament.

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