HC Deb 08 July 1875 vol 225 cc1145-58

Mr. Speaker, in rising to move that you do leave the Chair, I will take this opportunity of making the statement which I promised on a former evening respecting the contemplated visit to India of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. The House is aware that His Royal Highness has for some time contemplated a visit to our Indian Empire. His Royal Highness, as the House knows, is a great traveller; there are very few countries which he has not visited; but I need not dwell on the great importance of travel to a person filling the high and responsible post which His Royal Highness does. I would not say, as a great writer has said, that "travel is the best education; "but I think I may venture to say that travel is the best education for Princes. His Royal Highness, particularly, has always felt an interest in the dominions of the Queen, and it was therefore fitting that he should make that memorable visit to Canada, which both to the Canadians and to himself was equally satisfactory. His Royal Highness now contemplates travels of a more extensive character. The House must be aware that the rules and regulations which were adopted, and which recently prevailed in the visit to our own Colonies, would not be adapted to a visit to India—an ancient land of many nations. In the Colonies His Royal Highness, generally speaking, met a population who were of his own race—I might say of his own religion, his own customs, his own manners. In India he will have to visit a variety of nations, of different races, of different religions, of different customs, and of different manners; and it will be obvious to the House that the simplicity of arrangement which might suit a visit to our own fellow-subjects in the Colonies would not equally apply to the condition of India and its population. There is one remarkable characteristic of Oriental manners, well known to Gentlemen in this House, which did not prevail in the previous travels of His Royal Highness to any great extent—that is, the exchange of presents between visitors and their hosts. This is a custom so deeply rooted in Oriental, and, I may say, particularly in Indian life, that although it was obvious to the old Government of India by the Company that it was one which might lead to great corruption, although the Government of the Queen which succeeded have been animated by the same conviction, and although they prevented those they employed from materially benefiting by this custom, because the latter relinquish the presents and State gifts which they receive, still they found it impossible formally to terminate it, and it has attained an important development among the Indian population. Well, the Council of India upon this point received an intimation, or more than an intimation, from the Viceroy that mere presents of ceremonial, which have of late years been discouraged, need not, in the opinion of his Excellency, be adopted in the present case. But I may remind the House that, although an arrangement of that kind might be effected, still His Royal Highness is about to visit immense populations—populations of upwards of 200,000,000 souls, and that he will be the guest, or make the acquaintance, of many Chiefs and Rulers; that there are among these great populations, I believe, at least 90 reigning Sovereigns at this time; and no doubt His Royal Highness must be placed in a position to exercise those spontaneous feelings, characteristic of his nature, of generosity and splendour, which his own character and the character of the country likewise requires to be gratified. I mention these circumstances in passing. The House is aware that by the arrangement now prevailing in India, if a present is received by any one employed by the Government of the "Viceroy, that present is yielded up to the Government; that it is dealt with by a particular Department of the State; that it is sold, and the proceeds of the sale placed to the account of the Government. I think the House will agree with Her Majesty's Ministers that there would be something most undignified, something most distasteful, if on a visit like this by the Heir to the Crown of Great Britain any details of this kind should be entered into. I hope, also, that the House will agree with another conclusion of Her Majesty's Ministers—namely, that really it would be advisable, if we can arrange it—and I think it can be ar- ranged—that this question of presents should not be the subject of any discussion whatever. I think we can make arrangements that we should not even come to a specific vote upon a subject of that character, for it is impossible not to see that all the grace and dignity of gifts are lost if those who receive them are aware of that too mechanical and common-place manner in which things are arranged which should spring from the spontaneous feeling and impulse of the donor. Having made these few observations, I will now tell the House what are the arrangements which we propose to make, and in which the House, of course, will be deeply interested. The duration of the visit of His Royal Highness will be probably six months, and, as far as I can form an opinion, he will leave Europe about the middle of October. About the 17th of October, I think, the Serapis and the Osborne will be at Brindisi. The Serapis is fitted up for the accommodation of His Royal Highness and suite; the Osborne attends the Serapis, first of all in case an accident should occur, which I trust will not be the ease; and, secondly, because when they enter the great rivers of India, the Serapis will not have that draught of water which would allow her to advance. Besides this, the detached squadron has been ordered, under Admiral Lambert, to rendezvous at Bombay, both in order to strengthen the Indian station and to give that pomp and circumstance which becomes the Heir of one who, I hope, is still the "Sovereign of the Seas." Whether the detached squadron will meet the Prince at Bombay or Aden is not yet settled, and I think it is a point which must be left to the decision of His Royal Highness. My right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty will place upon the Table an Estimate of the expenses of the visit, as far as the Navy is concerned. That Estimate for carrying the Prince and his suite to India and bringing them home in due time will be about £52,000, about four-fifths of which must fall upon the present financial year, and the other fifth upon the one that follows. "When His Royal Highness touches the Indian soil he becomes the guest of the Viceroy. The Viceroy has strongly expressed the opinion and the wish that this should be the case. He is deeply interested in the visit of the Prince, which he has approved from the first, and has expressed, in language which I have read, that it would be of great benefit to this country and to India. But although the Prince is to become the guest of the Viceroy in India, the expense to the Indian Government will not be too considerable, for it will be confined to the rites of hospitality. I do not know that it is necessary for me to give the House an estimate of that cost to the Indian Budget. I am not in any way responsible for that, though I may say I have seen an estimate, and it is not one of very considerable amount. A sum of not more than £30,000 has been casually mentioned. It is my duty to inform the House of the position in which His Royal Highness visits India. He does not go there as the Representative of Her Majesty, but as the Heir Apparent of Her Crown. It is, therefore, obvious that some difficulties which, under other circumstances, might be contemplated as arising from the position of the Viceroy and His Royal Highness cannot prevail in the present instance, because no one has been so earnestly anxious for this visit as the Viceroy himself, and no one has been more careful and fruitful in devising expedients which may secure for His Royal Highness that position which would satisfy the country and himself. For reasons of this kind it has been arranged that His Royal Highness shall hold an investiture of the Order of the Star of India, which will probably be the most important ceremony in which the Princes and Chiefs of India will participate. There are many other things by which I feel convinced that, without taking a step which would be full of political inconvenience, by interfering in anyway with the legal and constitutional character of the Viceroy, His Royal Highness will be placed throughout his travels in a position which will impress the mind of India with his real dignity and influence. I have shown to the House what will be the expenditure incurred in carrying the Prince to India and in preparing and securing his return to this country. I have intimated to the House the possible expenditure which will be defrayed by the Indian Treasury during the time His Royal Highness is in India, and which, as I have observed, will be limited to the rites of hospitality; it is necessary for me now to tell the House the sum we think it necessary to propose that the House should vote for what I may call the personal expenses of His Royal Highness. I do not wish in any way to advert again to the subject of presents. We consider that His Royal Highness should be able in a manner worthy of his character and position to gratify all those impulses for which, under the circumstances of this case, when he becomes the guest of those Indian Chiefs, and often not only the sharer of their hospitality, but of their pastimes, he should be properly provided, and the amount we propose to move in Committee on the first fitting opportunity is the sum of £60,000. We believe that is a sum which will allow His Royal Highness to accomplish all that he can reasonably desire, and will maintain his position with becoming splendour. We propose, also, that that sum should be subject to an audit, and that the auditor should be Sir William Anderson—a name well known to the House. He will be in constant communication with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but the accounts will be strictly confidential. The money will be expended on the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government, and we appeal with confidence to the House to agree to the arrangement we have made. I do not know that there is anything I need add further than to express a hope that Providence will keep guard over this precious charge, and that His Royal Highness may, after his visit to India, return to his native land with that enlarged experience which becomes the Heir of Empires.


I rise for the purpose of asking the right hon. Gentleman whether he can give the House any information as to the date when it may be probable the discussion on these Estimates will be taken; for although I am quite sure no discussion of the proposal will occur in the sense of hostile or captious criticism, yet, as there are many Members in this House who have very considerable experience of Indian affairs, some of them might desire to offer suggestions which might be gratefully received by the Government. I have said I do not propose to discuss the statement which the right hon. Gentleman has made; I will only say that I believe the House and the country received with very great satisfaction the announcement which was made some time ago that it was the intention of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to avail himself of the greatly increased facilities which now exist for visiting Her Majesty's dominions and the allied Sovereigns of India, and that the satisfaction with which that announcement was at first received has not, on further consideration of the project, been in any way diminished. As to the mode in which the visit should be conducted, I think the country had only two subjects of anxiety, and the House reflected in that the opinion of the country. I think the country and the House were anxious, in the first place, that the arrangements for His Royal Highness's visit should be made on a sufficiently liberal scale; and, secondly, that the Indian finances should not be called upon to bear any part of the expenses excepting what would unavoidably fall upon them. I think the statement of the right hon. Gentleman has been satisfactory, at all events on the latter point. Of course, the Government must have greater facilities than any Member of the House can have for forming an opinion as to the sum which it is probable will be required to pay the expenses of His Royal Highness's visit. The sum named by the right hon. Gentleman does not certainly appear to be a large one; it is one which the public expectations have considerably increased; but the House, I think, will feel that the responsibility of proposing what is necessary for making all proper arrangements on this subject must rest on the Government; and the Government must, I am sure, be aware that any reasonable Estimate they might think it necessary to lay on the Table will be cheerfully accepted by the House. I have only one other observation which it is at all necessary I should make; I think the House will have received with satisfaction the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that His Royal Highness is not to visit India in any way as the representative of Her Majesty. The visit, I believe, will do good both in this country and in India. I think it will be far better that His Royal Highness should visit India in a semi-official character rather than in an official character; but, at the same time, the arrangements made for his travels throughout India should be made with sufficient and becoming liberality. The House will probably appreciate the spirit in which the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman have been made on the subject of presents. It is, I conceive, impossible, in the circumstances of this visit, and considering the customs which prevail in India, that His Royal Highness should not do as other travellers do—receive and make presents; but anything like a detailed statement of the expenses of that part of the arrangements would detract from the dignity and propriety of the occasion. I believe it may not be impossible for the Indian Government to impress on the minds of the dignitaries His Royal Highness will visit that the presents which His Royal Highness would desire to receive should not be of any intrinsically costly character, but should rather be interesting specimens of the products and manufactures of the country. If that could be accomplished there would be no necessity, I conceive, that the presents which His Royal Highness will present in return should be of any extravagant character, provided only that they should be adequately good specimens of English products and manufacture. That I think the House would desire; but I do not think that His Royal Highness, or the House, or the country, would desire to see that in a matter of this kind he should attempt to emulate the ideas some people may have of Oriental magnificence. I trust, if there is to be a discussion on this Vote, it may be taken in Committee, when the Estimate has been presented. I am sure the Government will receive any suggestion which may be made in a friendly spirit; and I think I may venture to say that on this side of the House no criticism or suggestion will be made, but in the most friendly spirit, and with a view of giving every support to the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman.


I believe that the statement of the Prime Minister will be received with satisfaction though out the country. I should not have presumed to rise on the present occasion were it not to make a suggestion which, if it were adopted, will, I believe, cause the statement of the Prime Minister to be received with far greater satisfaction by the country. I believe that the reason why what has been said by the Prime Minister would give satisfaction to the country is this—that there is a wide-spread feeling throughout the nation that, if the Prince of Wales went to India, his visit should be fittingly provided for; but there is a still stronger and much deeper feeling—namely, that England, and not India, should bear the expenses of the visit. I am sure that the people generally will feel greatly relieved when they find that so small a portion of the expenses is to be borne by India; but if the Prime Minister had carried out this policy somewhat further, and appealed to the generosity of this House, and to the generosity of the English nation, and had said—" We will not only bear the greater part of the expense of the visit to India of the Heir Apparent of the Crown, but the people of India shall not be subjected to one farthing of expense," I venture to say that the £30,000, £40,000, or £50,000 additional expense would have been cheerfully paid by the English people. I cannot help thinking it is greatly to be regretted that £30,000 will come out of the Indian revenue in order to enable the Viceroy to dispense hospitality during the visit of His Royal Highness. If this item appears in the Indian Financial Statement, it will seem to be an invidious thing that the people of India should be subjected to any expense in order to enable the Viceroy to dispense hospitality on account of this visit. I would, therefore, make the suggestion—which I feel sure will meet with the approval of hon. Members on both sides of the House—that when this subject is again discussed the Prime Minister should come down to the House and say—"We will not call upon India to pay this £30,000 or £50,000, but in order that everything may be done in the most gracious and handsome manner, England shall bear the whole of the expense of this visit of His Royal Highness to India, because we are anxious that the visit should be as fruitful of blessings to the Indian people as possible."


said, that as he had on the Paper a Notice that he would call attention to this matter on going into Committee of Supply, he might be allowed to say that he believed the statement made by the Prime Minister would be received with great satisfaction throughout the country. He could not say he disagreed with the remarks of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett). The statement of the Prime Minister would have been received rather more graciously throughout the country if he had been able to say that the visit of His Royal Highness should not cost a penny to the revenue of India.


I feel great reluctance in stating that I differ entirely from the hon. Member (Mr. Fawcett) in the remark that the country will be willing to meet this expense, and even more. I would have remained silent, but for the fact that I desire to refer to the feeling that I have heard frequently expressed in the country with regard to Votes of this kind. I wish, however, to assure the House that I do not rise to do so with any feeling of hostility towards Her Majesty's Government. No one can be more loyal than I am, and no one can be more desirous of seeing this country well governed. Nay, more; it is because I fear that the course which the Government are now proposing to continue may lead to disloyalty, that I protest against this money being spent. Votes of this description tend more to bring the Crown of England into disrepute than anything else I know of. ["No, no!"] Hon. Gentlemen say no; but I am aware, and they also are aware, of the effect which these Votes have upon the working classes. Votes of this character tend more to create disloyalty than all the Republicanism, internationalism, or any other "ism" put together. With that feeling I take this opportunity of raising my protest against this Vote being granted, and I believe that protest will find a ready echo throughout the country. If Her Majesty's Government will only give the country time to think the matter over, I firmly believe that, from the great working class centres, there will come within a very short time this expression of feeling, which will leave no doubt whatever, that the Vote the House is asked to grant is not one desired by the country, and is not, in their opinion, likely to be beneficial to the people of India.


having been lately a member of the Council of India, thought it right to say that, looking at the matter from an Indian point of view, the proposal made by the Government seemed to him to be satisfactory and a rational solution of the question. He did not think it would have been positively unjust if the whole expense had been settled on the Indian Treasury. We did not receive direct tribute from India; we did a great deal for India, and we did not charge India with any part of the expense of Royalty. He should not have considered it an actually unjust proposition to throw the whole expense on India; but it would have been eminently ungraceful to do so. He believed this country was prepared to bear that share of the expense which it was proper it should bear, and the feeling of the country was expressed by the reception the House had given to the proposal of the Government. On the other hand, he believed that India was prepared to bear her share also. He was not prepared to go as far as the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett), and to demand that the whole expense should be borne by this country, for he believed the apportionment proposed by the Government was fair and reasonable. We must look at the matter as if the Prince were about to visit a foreign Government which would incur some outlay in according to him a hospitable reception.


I have heard with pain and regret the remark of the hon. Member (Mr. Macdonald) that this grant will not find an echo in the country. So far from that being the case, I believe that the project which has been sketched by the Prime Minister will meet with the unqualified approval of all the great centres of industry in this country. I do not know by what title the hon. Member takes upon himself to speak for those centres of industry; but, for my own part, I feel confident that the feeling will be exactly opposite to that indicated by him.


understood that the cost of the visit was estimated at about £30,000. If it was to be of any benefit in India the Prince should travel with the same amount of magnificence that the Viceroy did on his tours. Before the Indian Government went to Simla it was the custom of the Viceroy to make a tour in the cold season and to travel for three or four months. The last Viceroy who did so was Lord Elgin; in the time of Lord Canning there was special reasons for exercising economy. On no occasion did the expense of such a tour fall below £50,000, and it often exceeded that sum. That fact might throw some light on this question, and it might lead the Government to consider whether the sum of £30,000 would be sufficient to defray the cost of His Royal Highness's receptions in the course of his travels. He wished to express his hearty concurrence with the view of the hon. Member for Hackney, that not a farthing of the expense of this visit ought to fall on the Natives of India.


said, he thought the observations of the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Macdonald) might have been received with a little less dissatisfaction. If hon. Members would look a little more closely at the bearings of the question, they would see it was somewhat different from a proposal to give an annuity to a Member of the Royal Family; and objections which could be raised to a proposal of this kind would be entirely out of place in a discussion on a proposed annuity. Annuities were granted to Members of the Royal Family to enable them, as representatives of the country and of the State, to transact their official business with dignity and to keep up their social position. When anyone suggested that these annuities ought not to be granted, or ought to be cut down, there was something which touched the honour of a gentleman and which assailed the so-called dignity of respectable persons in objections of this kind. Considerations of this kind did not at all enter into the present proposal, which was made to the House on grounds of public policy. The honour and dignity of the Crown were by no means involved in this Vote. The honour and dignity of the Crown would be involved in the manner in which it was proposed to carry out the arrangements of the visit of His Royal Highness to India; but he would remind the House that that was a secondary question, and he should like to know before he voted upon it what results beneficial to the Crown and the people of England were likely to be derived from this visit? He was anxious to know what benefit could accrue to the Queen or the Royal Family from this visit to India. The only thing that threw light upon that point was the reference made by the Prime Minister to the manner in which the Prince of Wales would make his progress through India, and to the good that would be done by his investiture of some of the Native Princes with the Order of the Star of India. It did appear to him that if His Royal Highness had no higher object than that, he would be much better occupied at home. And he objected to putting the country to this expense for the same reason that he objected to the Royal residence in Ireland. He feared that the House was of opinion that the visit of the Prince of Wales to India would be a panacea for the grievances of India, just as some hon. Members thought a Royal residence in Ireland would remove the evils of the country. They had heard much of a Royal residence in Ireland. ["Question!"] He did not find fault with hon. Members who declined to hear any illustration of his arguments. ["Question!"] Perhaps when there were so many matters pressing on the time of the House, he was wrong in pursuing this topic; but he must say that the right hon. Gentleman had failed in showing that any good whatever was likely to arise from the proposed visit; and he, for one, could not give his sanction to the proposed expenditure until he saw that some practical good was likely to arise from it.


I would not have risen to say a few words if the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Macdonald) had not asserted that he spoke in the name of the working classes. I tell him that on this matter he does not represent the opinions of the working classes, and I believe that if you polled the working classes in this country nine-tenths of them would repudiate the doctrines which he has laid down.


There is nothing in the world easier than to make the assertion that the hon. Members on this side of the House who sit here by the votes of the working classes do not represent their opinions. I will venture to give one illustration which will throw some light on this subject. When on another occasion I opposed a certain Royal annuity that was proposed, I said that I spoke in the name of 10,000 of the working men of Leicester; but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) fairly enough challenged my opinion, and said he thought that I was mistaken in supposing that I did represent the opinion of the working classes. It was not very long after that I had an opportunity of standing in the Market Place of Leicester, and put to an assembly of more than 10,000 working men the question that I had raised in this House. I asked—" Did I represent your opinion on that question or not?" and they, without a dissentient voice, sanctioned and endorsed my conduct. I am prepared to support the opinion of the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Macdonald), that anything like the unanimity which has been claimed for public opinion on this question does not exist. I have received many communications hoping that I and the other Radical. Members would oppose this grant; and I believe that if a public meeting were called at any of the large centres of population the answer given to the proposition of the Government would be very different from that which will be given by this House.


who rose amid cries of "Oh, oh!" said: I only intend to say a very few words. But I intend to be heard. I simply mean to say that I think it is a very unreasonable way of making presents to make them out of other people's pockets. If His Royal Highness is to make presents to the Native Rulers of India, he should give them out of his own private purse, and not out of the pockets of the working people of this country.


I do not, Sir, profess to speak on behalf of the working classes of this country, but on my own behalf; and, as one who has had considerable experience of the working classes of this country, I beg to join my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Macdonald) and other Members of this House in uttering an earnest protest against this Vote.


I have no pretensions to speak on behalf of the working classes, but we are told—and no doubt truly—that no classes in this country are more loyal or more anxious to maintain the dignity of the Empire. We hear from the Prime Minister that the Viceroy of India is most anxious that this visit should take place in the interests of the Government of India, and believes that it will draw closer the ties which bind India to England. Well, I think if it were put to the working men of Stafford, Leicester, or other places that such was the feeling of the Viceroy of India that such was the object of this visit, and that it was encouraged by the Government; and if it were put to them whether it should be done in a way worthy of England and of the Prince who goes to India, and that as little as possible should be spent by the Indian Government, I am perfectly satisfied that the loyalty and public spirit, and that pride in the Empire which I believe animates the working classes, would lead them to endorse such a Vote.


I wish to say one word on this subject. The hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Macdonald) said, with some confidence the other night that on a certain question I did not represent the views of the working classes. I challenged him distinctly to meet the working classes and to submit my opinion with his, but he did not accept that challenge. I now pledge myself to the opinion that upon this question the hon. Member for Stafford, the hon. Member for Leicester, and other hon. Members do entirely belie the sentiments of the working classes. It is not difficult to obtain at a public meeting a clamorous reply to a categorical question; but I assert that the working classes are always ready to maintain the true interests and honour of this country.


We propose to take the Votes for the visit of the Prince of Wales to India on Thursday next.