§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, he wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control a question with regard to the mode of collecting the salt duty in India. He wished to know whether any Report had yet been received from the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the mode of collecting those duties. He would remind the right hon. Gentleman and the House that two years ago, when the Indian Government Bill was under consideration, a clause was added to 1659 the Bill making an important change in the mode of collecting the salt tax, with a view to relieve the people of India from the evils to which they were subjected in reference to the supply of salt. That clause was, however, expunged by the Lords; but in consequence of the opinion expressed by the House of Commons, a Commission was appointed in India to inquire into the subject and to report to the Home Government. Two years had passed since that time, and whenever the subject had been alluded to, the reply had always been that no Report from that Commission had been received. He might add, that some suspicion existed that unnecessary delay had arisen, and that there was no great desire on the part of the authorities in India to forward the Report. He wished to put two questions to the right hon. Gentleman—first, whether any Report from the Commission in question had been received; and, second, whether, considering the lapse of time that had occurred since the Commission was appointed, the right hon. Gentleman would give a promise that when Parliament re-assembled, that report should be presented, or that the Government would state what course they intended to pursue upon the subject?
MR. VERNON SMITH
replied, that the Report of the Commission alluded to by the right hon. Baronet had not yet been received. With regard to the suspicion which the right hon. Baronet said existed as to the cause of the delay, he presumed that it was not directed against the office over which he (Mr. V. Smith) had the honour to preside, or against the Court of Directors. [Sir J. PAKINGTON: No, no!] All they could do was to issue the order appointing the Commission, and to direct that the Report should be made and forwarded as soon as possible. When he entered upon the office of President of the Board of Control, he wrote to Lord Dalhousie to say that he thought the Report ought to have been sent before that time, and that he believed those who took an interest in the subject were anxiously expecting it. By the last mail he received a private letter from that noble Lord, expressing his regret at the delay which had occurred, and informing him that the Commission were then actively employed in preparing their Report, and he hoped soon to be able to forward it. He did not know that it had arrived by the mail which had just come in, but he feared it had not. With regard to his making any promise 1660 for the next Session, he did not see how it was possible for him to do so. If the right hon. Baronet meant to ask whether he intended to legislate in the absence of the Report, he certainly could not undertake to make any such proposition, for although the House of Commons had agreed to the clause to which the right hon. Baronet had referred, the House of Lords had thrown it out, and it was not likely, therefore, that such a clause, if proposed, would be likely to pass, no Report having been received. He was as anxious to obtain the Report as was the right hon. Baronet, but he thought that the right hon. Baronet would scarcely wish to proceed in the way of legislation without the Report, seeing that the delay could not exceed a few months.