HC Deb 11 July 1867 vol 188 cc1395-6

said, he would beg to ask the Secretary of State for India, Whether the statements in a letter from The Times' correspondent at Calcutta, dated 3rd June—namely, that the Secretary has given orders that no part of India is to receive a permanent settlement of the Land Tax which was likely to be affected by canal water within the next twenty years — such orders being a reversal of the policy of Lord Canning and of Lord Halifax, and likely to be injurious to many native landowners, and to the survey and settlement which are going on at a cost of £250,000 sterling, are founded on fact; and, whether he proposes to lay any Papers before the House?


said, the statement to which the hon. Gentleman referred was certainly founded on fact; but at the same time it was so phrased as to convey an erronous impression of what had been done. The hon. Gentleman put his Question as though the policy of Lord Canning and Lord Halifax was precisely identical in that matter, which was not the case. Lord Canning originally proposed that in cases in which no considerable increase was to be expected in the land revenue, a permanent settlement should be granted. That was the effect of Lord Halifax's despatch in 1862; and all that had been done since then had been to explain the somewhat indefinite terms of that despatch. The first and the principal explanation was given in a despatch from Lord Halifax in 1865, in which the principle was laid down that a permanent settlement was to be granted in the case of land, of which a certain percentage was brought under cultivation; and in that despatch it was stated that it was under consideration what was to be done with regard to the lands which were subsequently to have the advantage of canal irrigation. Last year the question what was to be done in the case of lands receiving canal irrigation after the permanent settlement was brought before Earl de Grey, who, in a despatch of March, 1866, laid down the principle that no permanent settlement should be granted in any case in which lands were likely to receive a canal irrigation according to the scheme at present in contemplation. The language of Earl de Grey's despatch was considered by some people in India not very clear, and the question arose as to the exact meaning of its terms. A despatch came from India in the beginning of this year asking for a clearer definition of a despatch of his own to which the hon. Member referred, and in which he had denned what was taken to be the meaning of Earl de Grey's despatch. He thought it would be inconvenient to raise a discussion in the House on that subject, which was rather intricate, but he would lay on the table all the Papers, including the three despatches to which he had alluded. He would only take the liberty of saying that he had not reversed the policy of his predecessors, but had only given a definition of what he believed to have been their meaning.