HC Deb 16 July 1867 vol 188 cc1624-6

said, he would beg to ask the Secretary of State for India, Whether the expenses of the Ball about to be given to the Sultan at the India House are to be charged upon the Revenues of India; and further, to ask why, when an European Monarch visits this country, the only public State entertainment given to him is to be paid for by the people of India?


said, that the Ball which the Secretary of State for India and the Council of India were about to give to the Sultan at the India Office would be paid for out of the Revenues of India. With regard to the second part of the hon. Gentleman's Question, he thought he had put his Question under circumstances of misapprehension. He (Sir Stafford Northcote) was reluctant in that House to refer unnecessarily to statements in the newspapers, but he could not help thinking that some misapprehension had arisen in consequence of the manner in which the proposed entertainment to the Sultan was announced in the newspapers. It was said that Her Majesty's Government had determined to give an official entertainment to the Sultan, and had delegated that duty to the Secretary of State for India, and that the charge was to be borne by the revenues of India, or something to that effect. Now, if Her Majesty's Government had done anything of that kind he thought they would have been open to the charge of something not very creditable to the hospitality of England, or perhaps not altogether creditable to the Government; and he could certainly say that if such a proposal had been made to the Council of India, the Council of India would not have acceded to it, but would have deemed it their duty to reject a proposal made in those terms, But that was not at all what had taken place. What had taken place was this—Her Majesty's Government had nothing to do with the origination of that matter in the first instance. Her Majesty's Government had made certain arrangements for the reception of the Sultan, and after those arrangements had been made, and after certain other arrangements had also been made with a view to the Sultan's visit, it occurred to him that it would be right for the Council of India, on the occasion of the visit of the Sultan and on that of the Viceroy of Egypt to this country, to make some manifestations of their obligations to those Sovereigns for the services they had rendered to India, and especially for the facilities they had afforded to our communications by sea and land, and also by way of telegraph, between England and India. Another consideration also weighed with him. The new India Office was almost ready for occupation, and it appeared to him desirable that they should, on an occasion of that sort, which naturally excited some interest in India, endeavour to show that the Government of India in this country was a separate and an existing institution; that it held a certain position here, and that it was treated with respect by those great potentates to whom many of our Mahomedan subjects in India, and also the Mahomedan Princes, Her Majesty's allies, looked with considerable respect. It, therefore, did occur to him that it would be very desirable that they should receive the Sultan mid the Viceroy at their new office. He made that suggestion to the Council of India, and they entirely approved it. They felt, as he did, that there was no part of Her Majesty's dominions where greater sensitiveness would exist as to the mode in which the Sultan was received than among our Mahomedan subjects and Mahomedan allies; and they were anxious that honour should be done to those Sovereigns. With their consent he had requested his noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs to forward an invitation on their behalf to the Sultan. He had also sent a letter to Lord Derby, asking him whether he saw any objection to the adoption of the course proposed. Beyond Lord Derby's saying he saw no objection to such an invitation being sent, and his noble Friend the Foreign Secretary's undertaking to forward that invitation in the regular manner, this invitation had not proceeded in any way from the Government of this country, but simply from the Government of India; and he was bound to say that he did not think it was at all an improper way of spending a small portion of the revenues of India. He was perfectly aware that the occasion was one which would possess interest for members of the Mahomedan persuasion generally, especially for the Natives of India. The hon. Gentleman would remember the sort of feeling which existed during the late mutiny in that country, and how the Sultan was spoken of as a kind of national head of the Mahomedan religion; it, under those circumstances, appeared to him that it was desirable in the interests of our Indian Empire to treat him with becoming respect on his arrival among us, as he treated the Indian Government with respect by paying them the compliment of accepting their invitation. What had been done in the matter had been done purely on public grounds, and he was desirous that the invitation should be regarded as in no sense the act of the Imperial Government.