§ MR. BRIGGS,
in rising to move—That the Indian Import Duty on Cotton Goods being unjust alike to the Indian consumer and the English producer it ought to be abolished, and this House is of opinion that the expenditure incurred for the Afghan War affords no satisfactory reason for the postponement of the promised remission of this Duty,said: I will endeavour to avoid, as far as my subject will allow, making a long and prosy statement of the case. Am I wrong in supposing that the House of Commons dislikes a black and bristling array of figures? And, besides, the lines of most hon. Gentlemen who are doing me the honour of listening have fallen in very pleasant places, inasmuch as they are entirely unconnected with this unfortunate cotton trade, and to their ears, therefore, technical phrases—such as "water twist firm," or "shirtings remain dull and unchanged"—would convey a meaning altogether different from the one intended by those winged words. Luckily for me the case is not of a very complex or difficult character, and stands in need of no subtlety of argument, or far-fetched conclusion, to convince the House of Commons of the opportuneness and justice of the request I now make. Lancashire has never, since 1826, had to submit to such a prolonged and widespread depression of trade as she is suffering from at the present time. Against falling prices and feeble markets, overwhelming supply and shrinking demand, all effort, all suggestion, have been exerted in vain. Capital and labour—the great twin brethren of commerce—each believing in the soundness and justice of their peculiar views, have fought for the mastery, exhausting and expending their giant strength in fratricidal strife. But now regretting bitterly, in their want, the time and money spent in strikes and lockouts, masters and men now stand aghast and amazed at the common ruin which seems to be enveloping them all, or clutch like drowning men at every straw which seems to indicate the turning of the tide. But mills are closing, and work is more difficult to obtain every day; and I have heard men of undoubted, authority declare that, if a change for the better does not speedily arrive, the busy hum in the majority of our hives 376 of industry will be stilled, and whole populations deprived of the means of earning their bread. I hope, Sir, that this may be too gloomy a view to take of the future; but at present there is no silver lining to the cloud, and Lancashire ought, I submit, to be excused if she examine, with greater interest than ever, the possible causes of her bad trade, and ought to be pardoned if she endeavour, by all the means in her power, to thrust aside any unjust obstacle to her commercial prosperity; especially if it be one which, like the odious India import duties, this House has on more than one occasion repudiated and condemned. If the Lancashire manufacturers and workmen are not now very wise about the causes of the present depression, it is for no want of suggestion and advice; and I tremble to think of what would have happened to us had we only swallowed one-half of the nostrums prescribed for our use. Practical men and theorists, lords spiritual and temporal, literary men of the highest eminence, and the unlettered and unwashed residuum, have all vied with one another in pressing their views upon us for our acceptance, as a means whereby the elasticity and prosperity of our trade may be regained. One suggests Protection, another Reciprocity, another teetotalism, a fourth increased and cheapened production, a fifth diminished remuneration to labour; whilst, on the other hand, amongst the heterogenous reasons given as to why we no longer enjoy our former happy condition, foreign competition, piece-work, wars and famines, depreciation of silver, extravagant living and idleness, find a place, and—unkindest cut of all—a stone is cast at us by the inhabitant of a vitreous and transparent residence, who declares that Blackburn rascality is the cause of all our trouble. Opinions amongst us differ widely with regard to all these things; but there is one matter upon which we are all agreed—masters and men, Liberal and Conservative—and that is that these odious import duties are an unjustifiable hindrance to our free commercial enterprize, and in the interest both of the Indian consumer and ourselves, ought not for a moment longer to be maintained. For the disastrous effects of famine, for the depreciation of silver—not to go into more debateable matters—Her Majesty's Government cannot, of course, be held 377 responsible; but they can justly be called to account for the damage done to British interests by the maintenance of a noxious fiscal enormity which they themselves have in strong language condemned—duties which have long lost their harmless character, and which we say ought to receive a "happy despatch" at the hands of Her Majesty's Government. The duties of which I complain amount to somewhere about £750,000 to £800,000 a-year. A small sum, hon. Gentlemen may say, when we look at the vastness of our exports; but I have yet to learn that size is any criterion of the power to do mischief, and I shall show that in this instance the contrary is the case. Hon. Gentlemen who make use of that argument forget that if this amount of duty is small it will be all the easier for the Indian Treasury to spare it. Another fact which I wish hon. Gentlemen would boar in mind is that the Lancashire manufacturer does not pay this duty; let all who call us selfish remember that it is the Hindoo who actually pays the duty. It is the Hindoo who will be principally benefited by the total remission; for the House will see that, when these duties are abolished, English goods will come into direct competition with the Indian mills on equal terms, and, a healthy competition ensuing, prices will be lowered, and the consumer will benefit—first, by the lowering of prices on account of the remission of the duty; and, secondly, by the lowering of prices on account of competition. Let us, therefore, hear no more of the old "Fee-fi-fo-fum" argument, which erroneously assumes that we Lancashire Ogres want to grind the bones of the mild Hindoos to make our bread. Nothing can be further from the truth; the tendency of our action is to benefit the Hindoo, to increase his purchasing power, to give him cheaper chothing, and more of it. We do not attack the Hindoo consumer; but we do wage a war to the knife against the protected or bonussed millowners, who, in addition to natural advantages, wish to retain this burden on the shoulders of the people of India, not for the benefit of India, but to the detriment of India and for the sake of their own individual gain. I do not believe that if this duty were abolished to-morrow—as I hope it may be by the vote of the House—Lancashire would 378 directly benefit one penny, except in this way—that the bonus of some £750,000 a-year would be lost to our Indian rivals. "Ah," but you may say, "it would also be lost to the Indian Treasury, which is poor." True; but the taxpaying public of India would have that much more to spend on the necessaries and luxuries of life, and by that much the Treasury of India would be benefited and recouped. No, Sir, we who are called selfish in this matter do not seek to impose a burden on the people of India; we seek to relieve them from taxation; and as the enormous damage which is done to our trade is an indirect damage, so the benefit which would accrue to us would be a great but indirect benefit, springing, not from transferring this sum or that sum of money to our pockets, but by the natural increase and development of our commercial transactions in consonance with those Free Trade principles which have been proved to be an unmixed blessing to those who enjoy them—principles to which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has on more than one occasion affirmed his allegiance. May I venture to hope that to-night we shall see him giving full vent to his Free Trade sympathies by walking into the same Lobby with the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition. To show the House that the indirect injury which these duties do us is no phantom, I fear I must trouble hon. Gentlemen with a figure or two. The duty is nominally an ad valorem duty of 5 per cent; but, in reality, it comes to much more than 5 per cent. It is charged on the price of our productions, plus transit charges, packing, &c., &c.; and, besides, the tariff fixes a price upon our goods which we do not obtain, which, as the House will see, is a great injustice. For instance, 8¼lb. shirtings were taxed as if we could sell them at Manchester for 13⅛d. per lb. instead of 9 1–16d. T cloths (14 by 14) are supposed to have cost 12d. instead of 7¼d. "Mulls," which the tariff declares to have brought the manufacturer 25½d. per lb., are sold in Manchester to-day at 17¼d. per lb., making on those three articles the duty, instead of 5 per cent ad valorem duty, a duty respectively of 6.17 per cent, 7 per cent and 6.23 per cent. The tariff is, I am aware, revised from time to time; but it is generally guilty of a practical injustice, an injustice which tells quite 379 as much against the Hindoo consumer as against ourselves. Again, under the present system there will always be disputes as to what is below the tariff and what is not, and merchants of the highest integrity are liable to heavy losses, if the Custom House Office should inform them that the goods they desire to send in free from any duty are a finer quality than they understood them to be. These are evils inseparable from the present system; but if they were the only grievance we had to complain of, those who oppose us would have some chance of indefinitely postponing the total abolition of this tax. Our grievance is more solid, and is not to be met by tinkering remissions of portions of the tax which have been proved to be protective. To be fair and just to us, seeing that there is now a great Indian manufacturing interest, this tax ought to be entirely abolished. Indian officials turn a deaf ear to us. Indian officials, who sanction vast expenditure of capital on unproductive public works, who can build expensive Viceregal residences out of current revenue, who always have money enough to enter upon hair-brained irrigation schemes at the cost of a famine-stricken people, who construct railways for military purposes, and erect unstable barracks, who, whenever a surplus may reasonably be expected, recklessly pledge the money on some work or other which may well be called extraordinary, acting as if India were one of the most opulent instead of one of the poorest countries in the world. But, Mr. Speaker, they lend apparently a willing ear to a powerful clique of shareholding monopolists, who, as we saw the other day, received a well-deserved snub from Lord Lytton. They object to all remission of all taxation, apparently, which does not benefit themselves, and do not even see the use of lowering the salt duties; object to the introduction of the Factory Acts, because they fear that the Government which is answerable for the moral and material progress of the country will prevent them working tender children and women from the time the Oriental sun rises in his splendour, untilTowards Heaven's descent he slopes his westering wheel,all the year round, not even giving them that rest on the seventh day which God, in His infinite wisdom, has declared to 380 be necessary for the human race. The people of Lancashire selfish! Heaven forbid that our selfishness should extend as far as this. The people of Lancashire indifferent to the well-being and prosperity of the people of India! What nonsense! Why, our prosperity is bound up in theirs. If they are contented and prosperous, they contribute to our commercial prosperity and success; if they suffer, so do we; no one feels the effect of a famine or a depreciating currency more than we do; to no one would a repetition of the Mutiny be fraught with such disastrous results. Rest assured, that to all reforms which have the prosperity of India in view, Lancashire will willingly give her help and her co-operation. But the interested upholders and maintainers of these duties are selfish; they care nothing for the Hindoos in whose interests they profess to act; they consider only themselves in this matter. I do not wish to dwell on the reasons which brought about the remission of the Income Tax in India to men of wealth in the commercial world, and to the highly-paid officials of the Crown, and contrast with it the new Income Tax which ferrets out and touches incomes so small as almost to appear ludicrous to our Western eyes. I do not wish to enlarge on the fact that, whilst the Queen's servants are forbidden to accept presents above a small amount from Natives, so as to place them above the suspicion of being biassed, they are allowed to have an interest in these cotton mills, for whose sake, I am assured on the authority of Colonel Jackson, the Native is indirectly taxed to the extent of nearly £2,000,000 a-year; but I do say this advisedly—that those who have the management of these mills, and are answerable to the shareholders for their prosperity and success, desire to see this tax maintained not in the interest of Indian finance, not on account of the inhabitants of India, but because this is a drag and hindrance to the cotton industry of Lancashire, which is their rival and with which they have to compete. That their views are correct in this particular can be proved beyond a doubt. For example, a mill of 1,352 looms produced cloth worth £151,061 last year, and paid in duty £8,665; (2) number of looms 642, produce £69,000, duty £4,650, wages £12,650; (3) 1,500 looms, produce 381 £219,508, wages £12,100, duty £3,340. So the House will see the amount of duty paid in Indian imports is over a third of the whole amount paid for wages. Instances of this kind might be multiplied; but I am anxious to save time, and arrive at an early Division. Enough has been said to show that these men are not fighting a phantom. They well know that, by surrendering these duties, they are surrendering a very important "coign of vantage" to themselves. Even if that portion of the duty which is directly protective should be entirely abolished, the rest of the tax is a gross injustice, for you cannot tax one portion of a trade without prejudicing the whole; just as when you have cast a stone in the mirror-like surface of a lake, the disturbance caused by its sudden intrusion is communicated to the farthest shore. The increase of the India cotton industry, to us in Lancashire, is truly alarming. Each year some new and higher branch is attacked. Coarse goods were once set from this country; they have disappeared; the duty was repealed too late. As time went on, finer and finer qualities of our make were successfully attacked, the duty being lowered when the mischief was done; and at this present moment India mills make long-cloths, shirtings, dhooties, and madapollams, which are made of finer counts than 30's—practically helped by the import duty, and which will not be touched b}T the illusory remission which the Indian Government telegraphed over the other day. I give Her Majesty's Government every credit for desiring to carry out the scheme of remission; but their officials have not gone the right way to do it; they have taken the bit between their teeth, and run away, as other officials have done in South Africa. The estimated loss is but an estimate after all, and there was nothing to prevent them estimating a loss of £1,000,000, if they had been so inclined; but confining that remission to 30's and under is protecting and adding the Indian manufacturer in his attack upon the medium class of goods to which I have alluded, and which are largely made of 32's. I suppose, Sir, we must wait until the Indian monopolists have a firm hold of this branch of our trade before this portion of the duty is removed. Government seem to think that justice has been done when the duty is re- 382 mitted as soon as it becomes directly protective. Government hold our hands until our competitors get as strong as ourselves, and then let us go free. Sir, this is a wrong system altogether, and is condemned by Lord Salisbury's own words, for he says—It is difficult to overstate the evil of permitting an industry like the cotton manufacture of India is certain to become to grow, under the influence of a system which a wide experience has proved to be unsound, and which is opposed to the deliberate policy of England.I quite endorse that, Sir; it is most cruel and most unfair, both to the people of India and ourselves. If the millowner in India—helped by his many advantages, quod longum narrare est—such as cheap labour, cheap cotton, an absence of shipping charges, and a market at his door—is destined to supply the wants of the teeming millions of India at a lower cost than Lancashire is able to do, Lancashire must bow the head; but Lancashire, which has surmounted many a difficulty before by her courage and patience, will not now surrender, without a hard struggle, the position which her energy and skill have won for her in the past. All she asks from this House is that her strong arms may be unfettered, her thews and sinews have free play, and that, even in the interests of the people of India, this exotic growth of India mills may not be shielded by the action of a British House of Commons from the searching, though healthy, breezes of a free and open competition. Sir, we are always met by a non possumus. "Tell me, oh, tell me your pitiful story," says the Government, and then, having heard it, they proceed to refuse to give us sixpence, or, if they do give us one, it is of a dubious and problematical value, and then make a most skilful Financial Statement, showing that, with the exception of the precise sum necessary to meet current expenses, the Indian never had sixpence, has no sixpence now, and never will have one hereafter; and I cannot help feeling, on emerging from these financial shower baths, very much like Tennyson's Northern Farmer on Sunday—A' awlus went to th' church afore ma' Sally were deid,I heerd the parson a bummin' away like a buzzard cock ower ma' heed;A' didn't know what he meaned, but a' knowed as he'd summut to say,And a' thowt he said what he ow't to ha' said, and a' coom away,383 We know that the people of India are heavily burdened, and I have shown that they pay the tax which we seek to abolish; and if the Treasury cannot afford to lose this sum of money, surely it would be better to raise it by other means than these Indian import duties, which injure the consumers to a far greater extent than their nominal amount; for what would be the practical effect of the so-called remission, which was made the other day, after my Resolution had been placed on the Table of this House? Let me call the attention of the hon. Member for South-East Lancashire (Mr. Hardcastle) to it, because I observe that he calls it an "important step" towards the remission of these duties. The Indian manufacturer, safely entrenched behind the 5 per cent duty, can make the medium class of goods of 32's yarns without let or hindrance; but the English manufacturer, in order to obtain any benefit from the remission, will have to endeavour to make this class of goods, which are 60 per cent of the whole of our trade, from 20's weft to 30's weft and 30's twist; but he will be obliged to sacrifice his well-known marks and tickets, to alter his machinery, to alter his make of cloth, and to take on his shoulders all the risk and trouble of conforming to the duty and endeavouring to create a demand in India for a new and different kind of cloth to which the Hindoo—who, the hon. Member for South-East Lancashire will be glad to hear, is strongly Conservative in his opinions—is hitherto unaccustomed. And what about the workman in Lancashire? What will he think about it, when it is practically brought home to him—when he finds that the coarser materials he has to use will reduce his wages from 5 to 7½ per cent to keep well within the mark? He, no doubt, will consider this step most "important;" but in a different way to the one meant by the hon. Member. My great objection to the supposed remission by the Government is this—that it all rests upon the little word "if." If you can arrange so as to make a cloth which resembles the medium class of shirtings, and if the Government Cerberus will pass them; if you can induce the Natives to purchase your new cloth in preference to cloth of character with which he is acquainted and which is made by India mills, why then there will be a practical benefit. At present, 384 only 2,000 looms will be benefited at all by the Government remission. Who thinks that an important step? Not Burnley, Blackburn, and Oldham; not the manufacturers of Lancashire; not the operatives; it is only the hon. Member who stands there in direct opposition to the whole current of public opinion in regard to a Resolution of this kind. Let the hon. Member remember Canute, and take care lest the angry waves of public opinion not only causes him to retire, but render unstable the seat he occupies. We are told that there are other duties which ought to be abolished first—the export duties, for instance. The export duty injures only one branch of the subjects of Her Majesty; but the maintenance of these cotton duties creates heart-burning and discontent, both in India and at home. The one great stumbling-block in my path are the salt duties, which press so heavily on the people of India; and I frankly admit that it is impossible to deny that they pinch the nation more than the duties of which I complain. But, on the other hand, these duties are not protective in their character. Foreign salt is admitted and taxed no more than the Indian salt; and although, as I have admitted, this tax presses heavily on the Hindoo, the Treasury get the full benefit of the impost. I am glad, Sir, to hear that steps are being taken to modify these duties, and I venture to hope that when the Government has made up its mind to spend less money, that these taxes will be lowered and lightened. We, who desire to see the cotton duty abolished, know the difficulty of imposing fresh taxation upon our Hindoo fellow-subjects without creating enmity to our rule. All this, and a good deal more, I dare say, my hon. Friend will point out with great clearness, and I admit it all; but I will just say this to him, which I dare say he will agree with—that a good deal more than the remission of the import duty on cotton goods might be done if only a wise economy were exercised, and the finances of India were carefully managed and controlled; for I respectfully venture to submit that unless you govern a poor country—and I will not deny that India is poor—with care and economy, you do it more harm than good. Your over-weighted and highly-paid Civil Service; your cumbersome judicial system; your 385 reckless and prodigal Public Works Department; your bloated Military establishment, all need reform; the very depreciation of silver, by which we suffer as much as you, is intensified by the drafts and bills with which you capriciously flood the market, in order to pay for the enormous Home Charges you incur. Railways, irrigation works, palaces, barracks, military roads, even empty show and a glitter like a great Durbar, may be necessary to a great country; but if that country be poor, expenditure should be closely watched and kept within bounds. You should take care lest in providing her with armour to combat the giant evils of famine, apathy, ignorance, and civil discord you crush her to the ground. What, Sir! you take the moral and material progress of India under your wing, you declare that you have come to govern the country for the benefit of India herself, and how do you show it? By plunging her into a war of annexation with the origin of which she had nothing on earth to do. You burden her finances, you clog the wheels of progress, you spend her money lavishly on military expenditure, and then you turn round and declare yourselves incapable to carry out a peaceful and necessary fiscal reform which you have promised to carry out. We ask you to-night to carry out a peaceful reform, a reform which will lighten the burden of the swarthy millions under your control, and earn the gratitude of thousands of the industrious inhabitants of this Island. Remember that the triumphs of peace are more lasting than those of war. Let this one bright spot shine through the dark and sulphurous canopy which seems to overshadow your rule. I leave it to the conscience of hon. Members; let not their answer be—Conscience is but a word that cowards use,Designed at first to keep the strong in awe—Our strong arms be our conscience, swords our law.
§ MR. SIDEBOTTOM
Sir, in seconding the Resolution so ably proposed by my hon. Friend (Mr. Briggs), I do not intend to weary the House by repeating at any length the arguments I have addressed to it on previous occasions. Both Her Majesty's Government and the House generally have practically admitted the injustice of these duties, and that they ought to be entirely repealed; 386 and it cannot, in fact, be denied that they are both a serious tax to consumers in India, by whom, in the first instance, they have undoubtedly to be paid, and also greatly injure the cotton trade of this country by restricting the demand, and depriving us, to a great extent, of the full advantage of the Indian markets; and I wish to take this opportunity of thanking the Government, and of expressing my very great satisfaction at the concession which has already been made. That concession may not possibly be in a form palatable to everyone; but it at least offers a premium for the manufacture of pure and unadulterated cloth, and is calculated to discourage the manufacture of heavily-sized goods. I, for one, accept it with gratitude as an instalment of the still greater boon which will, I trust, soon be granted to us in the entire, absolute, and unconditional repeal of these duties. Much has been said on former occasions, and probably will be repeated now, as to the poverty of our fellow-subjects in India, of the heavy taxation already imposed upon them, and of their inability to bear further burdens, and this really affords one of the strongest arguments for the abolition of these duties, that the Natives of India may be, as soon as possible, relieved from a tax upon clothing, which, next to food, is their chief necessary of life. But I do not attempt to deny that it is chiefly from an English manufacturer's point of view that I wish to press this question upon the attention of the House. As I stated upon a previous occasion, these duties are of the enormous amount of 5 per cent, and being levied upon the gross value of the goods, constitute a heavy tax upon the whole turnover of British manufacturers. That tax amounts to half the wages paid to our weavers for weaving the cloth, and is, in fact, neither more nor less than a bonus of 3s. per loom to every loom working in India. And surely we are sufficiently handicapped in other ways. Where Indian cotton is used, we have to convey it from India to England, and then convey the goods back to India, paying commissions, merchants' charges, and freights both ways. Wages here are eight or ten times as much, and mills in India are working about 80 hours a-week, whilst English mills are only allowed to work 56 hours. The immense importance of 387 this one fact alone cannot, indeed, be too strongly impressed upon the House. I will not enlarge on the necessity for a Factory Act in India; remarks from an English mill-owner on such a subject would be open to misinterpretation; and I am sure that the gross injustice of enforcing restrictive laws upon us in England, whilst our competitors in India have practically no restrictions imposed upon them, must be sufficiently obvious, to say nothing of the poor children there being entirely uncared for. I wish, however, to repeat a statement I made when I last had the honour of addressing the House on this subject—that, without taking into account the immense advantage of these longer hours, the owner of a cotton mill of 1,000 looms in England, making cloth for India, is placed at a disadvantage of £7,500 a-year for duty, £14,000 for charges on various kinds of cloth, and £5,000 charges on the importation of the cotton, supposing it comes from India, or a direct advantage of £26,500 per annum to an Indian mill of the size I have stated. But the gross injustice of these duties being admitted, I apprehend the real arguments we have to deal with are that this is an inopportune time for their repeal, and that the Indian Exchequer cannot bear their loss. Now, the second part of the Resolution of my hon. Friend affirms that—The expenditure incurred for the Afghan War affords no satisfactory reason for the postponement of the promised remission.I wish specially to guard myself against accepting that in a Party sense, or as wishing to cast blame upon Her Majesty's Government, even in a remote degree, in reference to that war. My main and chief reason, indeed, for accepting that part of the proposition is that I consider the total repeal of these duties so very important, both to Indian consumers and to the cotton trade of this country, that nothing ought to prevent or delay it. I do not for one moment wish to enter into the policy of the Afghan War. It was, in my opinion, unavoidable, and I am sure we shall all heartily rejoice when it is brought to a satisfactory and honourable conclusion. A vast military expenditure in India also, it cannot be denied, is absolutely essential to the maintenance of our rule there, though I think there 388 should be a strict supervision over this expenditure, and it should be kept within bounds and curtailed as much as possible, and as far as is compatible with safety; but it does seem to me to be monstrous that this expense should fall upon Lancashire, or that we should be called upon to balance the Indian Budget; and if it can be shown that any such obligation does really rest upon us, it would be better to pay the amount in hard cash by a direct tax upon our mills, than in the present most objectionable form. But it will, no doubt, be asked, how is the deficiency in the Revenue to be made good? Well, this rests with those whose special duty it is to manage the finances of India, and who are responsible for its government; but it appears to me that if the Natives obtain their chief article of clothing at less cost, they will be better able to bear the slight amount of additional taxation rendered necessary, and it would be certainly more just and equitable to place a tax on machinery in India in order to equalize the burden, and cause Indian mills to bear their proper share, rather than for Lancashire to be placed under such serious disadvantages, and saddled with such onerous burdens as are now indirectly placed upon us. There is no doubt whatever, also, that whilst the poorer classes of our fellow-subjects in India are heavily taxed, landlords in Bengal, and generally the higher classes—many of them possessed of almost fabulous wealth—are one of the most lightly-taxed classes in existence; and, whilst security is afforded them for the possession of their enormous revenues by the solidity of our rule, it certainly seems only reasonable that they should bear their fair and proper share of the burdens of the country. By looking in that direction, we should, I think, discover an ample field for replacing any loss to the Revenue, either by the imposition of an Income Tax, or by any other method of taxation considered advisable; or, if that be objected to and considered undesirable, impracticable, or impolitic, the obvious course for the Indian Government to pursue is the course which common sense indicates, and, indeed, enforces, in the case of private concerns and public companies in this country—namely, to reduce capital account. An immense sum is expended every year in India on public 389 works, said to be re-productive. Last year this amount reached a total of £4,790,000—nearly £5,000,000; in the present year, it will, I suppose, be much about the same, and though we are told it is to be reduced next year, it is estimated at about £3,500,000. Well, it is said to be open to doubt whether a large portion of these works are really reproductive, and, at all events, I think a stringent check over this capital expenditure ought to be established, either by an annual return of the specific works contemplated, or an annual capital account showing the income realized or saved in consequence of each re-productive work. Probably a saving might be effected in this direction which would go far to compensate the loss of Revenue. The Debt of India is also, I suppose, £130,000,000, or only about three times the amount of the Revenue, whilst the Imperial Debt of the United Kingdom is about 10 times the amount of the Revenue; and a further Indian Loan raised in this country would have the immediate effect of improving the exchanges, which is so greatly to be desired. In fact, the very expectation of such a loan, as foreshadowed in the Notice given by my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for India a few days ago, caused a substantial increase of business. No doubt, interest on such a loan would accrue, and have eventually to be paid; but then we must not forget there would be time to tide on, and there is every reason to hope that the exchanges would in the meantime improve, either by securing more bountiful harvests, and there being consequently a larger volume of exports from India, or by the resolute adoption of that course which is, no doubt, the true remedy, and which cannot be too strongly pressed—by a reduction of Expenditure—and the trade of this country, as far as Lancashire is concerned, would—at all events, temporarily—be lifted out of the mire; and this in itself is no mean advantage. I will not pursue further this intricate subject of exchange, particularly as another opportunity for considering it will shortly be presented; but whether this proposal of a loan be carried out, or whether some other means be adopted for balancing the Indian Budget, no more opportune time could, I think, be selected for the total repeal of these im- 390 port duties, or a time when it would be a greater boon to suffering thousands, and be more gratefully received. The cotton trade of this country, affording, as it does, employment directly and indirectly to 2,000,000 of people, is in a state of partial paralysis. Never before, in its whole history, was such an intense state of depression known, and unless a change rapidly takes place, the distress and lack of employment, already sufficiently serious, seem likely to be greatly aggravated. Many firms have been for a long time unable to sell a quarter of their production, and I can assure the House that large works in Lancashire are being carried on wholly and solely for the sake of the operatives. We may be told that as many goods were shipped to India last year, notwithstanding these duties, as ever. This statement is, perhaps, literally true; but the arguments founded upon it are very fallacious, and the impressions sought to be conveyed, and the conclusions and deductions sought to be drawn, are utterly and entirely erroneous. Goods have been shipped to India in very despair, in the forlorn hope that something might happen to enable them to be sold, and, in many cases, it is to be feared for purely financing purposes. A succession of merchants, at one time millionaires, have gradually dissipated colossal fortunes by hoping against hope and continuing to ship goods to India. Some have succumbed, and many have retired from the trade to save the remnant of their fortunes and avoid irretrievable ruin. Few manufacturers ship goods themselves; stocks in their hands have, therefore, accumulated to an enormous extent, and the time does not seem far distant when many establishments must perforce be closed, and thousands of operatives be thrown upon the rates. But we are continually told that the present state of things is the fault of the manufacturers themselves, owing to our goods being deteriorated in quality from heavy-sizing, and it is argued that, therefore, these duties ought not to be repealed. Well, no doubt heavily-sized goods are very extensively made; but of all the arguments which have been brought forward against the repeal of the Indian import duties, I think this is the most illogical and misleading. Why are these heavily-sized goods made at all? Simply because of their cheap- 391 ness, and because, in consequence of these unjust import duties and other causes, the Natives of India have been unable to pay the cost price of pure and properly made goods. I do not wish to take too gloomy a view of our depressed circumstances, or to exaggerate the crisis, which is serious enough; but I feel I should ill perform my duty to the constituency I have the honour to represent, to the district from whence I come, and to the class to which I belong, if I did not emphatically press upon the attention of the House the extreme gravity of the position of the trade of this country. We had a most interesting discussion the other evening in reference to the depression in agriculture; and the real truth is, whether we turn to the right hand or to the left, whether to agriculture, to the coal trade, the iron trade, the silk, flax, woollen, or cotton trade, scarcely a single ray of light has yet pierced the overshadowing gloom. The daily Press teems with accounts of bankruptcies and liquidations; a close and fierce competition is waged with us by foreign nations for the little business left; in consequence of the longer hours worked abroad, the lower rate of wages paid, and hostile tariffs, we find the greatest difficulty in successfully competing. The streets of our manufacturing towns are thronged with operatives vainly seeking employment, wages are rapidly falling, and though the people have sufficient intelligence to know that this unhappy state of things has been brought about by causes utterly beyond the control of Government or of employers, the suffering, though silently borne, is none the less acute, and the discontent, though smouldering, is none the less deep. These are the circumstances under which my hon. Friend brings forward this Resolution. I wish its original terms had not been changed, or the clause about the Afghan War inserted, because it is easy to conceive that this may be interpreted and construed in a Party sense. I am deeply grateful to the Government for the boon they have already conferred upon us; no previous Government has evinced the same desire and wish to do justice alike to Indian consumers and Lancashire producers; and in supporting the Resolution, I do so in no narrow or restricted sense, but, believing that these Indian import duties are wrong and inde- 392 fensible, I am in favour of their total repeal.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the Indian Import Duty on Cotton Goods being unjust alike to the Indian consumer and the English producer ought to be abolished, and this House is of opinion that the expenditure incurred for the Afghan War affords no satisfactory reason for the postponement of the promised remission of this Duty,"—(Mr. Briggs,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. ERNEST NOEL
asked the House to carefully consider the position of India, and not the woes of Lancashire. This Resolution dealt with the finances of India, and not those of England. They were asked to withdraw from the Treasury of India no less a sum than £750,000 a-year. He entirely sympathized with much that had fallen from his hon. Friend (Mr. Briggs), although he thought there were a few fallacies in his speech which he assumed to be facts. He assumed that this tax was one that bore heavily upon the Indian people. He (Mr. Noel) was ready to confess that if that portion of them who bought Manchester goods could obtain them for a smaller price it would be an advantage to them; but he ventured to say that up to this time the tax which had been imposed upon these goods had not been severely felt in India. Whatever might be the view in Lancashire, the fact was that it was regarded in India in a very different light. He had to ask the House carefully to consider what would be the effect if this Motion were to be carried, and the duties were to be abolished. The Government would have to give orders to carry the Resolution into effect—not when there was a surplus from which they might remit this taxation, but, whether there was a surplus or not, the tax was to be remitted. His opposition to the Resolution was occasioned entirely by the present position of the finances of India. He believed that at the present moment there was a deficit, and it would be very unwise to abolish the tax in the face of a deficit. It would be found that the Famine Fund of £1,500,000 had vanished last year; and they had been told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that a sum 393 was to be lent to India by this country that was to be repayable in seven years, which would add another £850,000 a-year to the Home Charges in England. Therefore, before there could be a surplus in India, they would require an extra Revenue of £1,850,000. He denied that this was an opportune moment to attempt to deal with this question, because if such a Motion was carried it would mean putting more taxes on in India. Last year the House was called upon to consider a licensing tax, and that unpopular tax was vindicated on the ground that the necessities were such as to require that a Famine Fund should be raised, and one must be raised. It was owned that the tax was an extremely onerous one to the people of India, and that it could be hardly justified; but it was known that Sir John Strachey had the best intentions towards the Natives, and that he had chosen the least onerous tax he could fix upon. Therefore, if further taxation had to be levied in consequence of the repeal of these duties, it would follow that a more onerous tax than that of a licensing tax would have to be levied on the people of India. It was to be remembered that India was a poor country, and could hardly raise another shilling, and the Debt of £150,000,000, which was small compared to our English Debt, was to our Indian Empire a very serious burden. He knew something of the people of Lancashire, and he watched their noble conduct at the time of the cotton famine; and he ventured to say, if the people of Lancashire really understood the character of the demand contained in the Resolution, their answer would be—No; they would rather their cotton mills should stand than the people of India should be so additionally burdened. There were other causes besides the Indian tariff which affected the cotton trade of this country. If this tax were removed to-morrow, the cotton trade of Lancashire would not burst out into prosperity; and while the repeal might do England a comparatively small amount of good, it would put some most onerous tax upon the people of India. They being already overburdened, to add even a very little more to the taxation might render it most embarrassing to those who were responsible for the administration of the Government. If the men of Lancashire wished these duties taken away, let them rise and say 394 there was one thing they would have in India, and that was economy. Let them say they were not going to have wars of aggression; and then, perchance, these duties might be repealed. Let I them demand that the Expenditure of the country should be diminished; and the moment there was a surplus the Government would be too happy to meet the wishes of the people of Lancashire.
§ MR. HARDCASTLE
—who had an Amendment on the Paper to move to leave out all the words after "this House," and insert the words—Views with approval the recent reduction in these Duties as an important step towards their total abolition, in which Her Majesty's Government are pledged"—said, that he agreed with the Resolution of the hon. Gentleman in the form in which it was first placed upon the Paper, for it simply claimed the fulfilment of the promise that these protective duties should be abolished when the state of the Indian finances would permit; and the last Indian Bridget had shown a surplus, which made it the duty of those concerned to remind the Government of their promise. But it was not in their interests he had made an addition of a controversial character, for the Government had not put forward the Afghan War as a reason why the duties could not be abolished. The hon. Member had introduced an element of discord which, in the interests of his constituents, and of the manufacturers of Lancashire, he had better have left out. It was idle to put two things which had no connection with each other into juxtaposition with a tendency directly hostile to the Government. It was not wise in the people of Lancashire to show ingratitude and hostility to the Government which had conferred such benefits upon them. The intention of this addition to the Resolution was pretty well shown by the close of the hon. Member's speech, in which he said the Government could not fulfil their promise because they had locked up their funds by this Afghan War. This was about as reasonable as it would be to say to a certain nobleman—"You had better have entertained your friends than set fire to your house." If the war were necessary and defensible, the question whether it should be entered upon would not be affected by the existence or abolition of the cotton duties; and it was idle 395 to put the two things together, as if the one could have affected the other. It was unreasonable and injudicious to express hostility to the Government that had so long and so consistently laboured for the removal of these duties. Despite the untoward events in the recent history of India that had retarded her progress, the Government had not lost sight for a moment of the importance to Lancashire of the remission and abolition of those duties. The hon Gentleman had objected to the word "important" in his Amendment. He desired to put on record his sense of obligation to the Government; and it should be remembered that a step might be important, though it might not bring one to the end of his journey. The reduction of the duties by £200,000 a-year was an important step; and although it would have been better to have taken a percentage off all goods, instead of taking duty off coarse goods and leaving it on finer goods, he believed the full text of the Budget Resolution of the India Council, when it reached this country, would show that the change made was more advantageous as regarded the class of goods shipped to India than at present it was supposed to be. The general question was important, not only to Lancashire, but also to the country at large. Every branch of trade was seriously handicapped; the tariffs of foreign nations and of some of our Colonies were increasingly hostile to our export trade; and with what face could we urge the reduction of their tariff's while we maintained protective duties in India, which was practically governed from this country? Much as he regretted that the question had been prejudiced by the addition made to the Resolution, he trusted the first part of it would be agreed to.
§ MR. JACOB BRIGHT
said, that the people of Lancashire were often charged with sending forth adulterated goods, and it appeared that charges of that kind were often recklessly made by persons who were not well informed upon the subject. These attacks were not favourable to the trade of Lancashire, and tended to make people think in this country and elsewhere that it was not safe to buy Lancashire calico. There was another side to the picture, and he would try to give it to the House. The hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hermon) was in his place, and he (Mr. 396 Bright) hoped the hon. Gentleman would correct him if he did not speak correctly. Now, he ventured to assert that the best calicoes in the world were produced in Lancashire, and could be produced in any quantity. Many most competent to judge who were in Paris last year maintained that the cotton goods exhibited by England were superior to those produced by any other country. It was a great mistake to suppose that goods of the best description could not be obtained in this country. The hon. Member for South-East Lancashire (Mr. Hardcastle) expressed great pleasure at the change in the Indian tariff. That hon. Gentleman seemed to forget that the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Briggs) said in his speech that he (Mr. Hardcastle) was the only man in England who was grateful for the change. He (Mr. Bright) represented many people deeply interested in the subject, and who were not at all grateful for the change. There were men who understood this subject in all its bearings, and who had made calculations which showed them that the remission of duties which the Government had made would only amount to some £20,000 or £30,000, whereas the Government asserted that it would amount to £200,000. He agreed with the last speaker as to the unsatisfactory manner in which the duties were altered. It would have been very much better, and would have given more satisfaction, if the Government had proposed a gradual diminution from year to year in the whole cotton tariff. What was the effect of what the Government were doing? It appeared to him that they were establishing differential duties between one class of manufacturers and another. Some of the manufacturers of Lancashire could introduce their goods free of duty into India, while others would have to pay a considerable duty upon what they produced. This would have the effect of producing heart burnings and discontent wherever the influence of the course adopted by the Government was felt. The Government was making the mistake which was made a generation or two ago. They were now legislating so as to interfere with the manufactures and industries of the country. Some time ago, when a man wished to build a house, he had first to consider what the tax-gatherer would say about it, because the more windows the greater the yearly impost; and if he wished to ride 397 in a carriage, he could not do so in the one which pleased him most. To save expense, it was necessary that he should ride in a springless vehicle. Now, while windows and carriages were free, the Government said—"You may take shirtings to India, but whether they go in free or not depends upon what you put into them." The consequence of this was that those who had hitherto made shirtings in accordance with the requirements of the Indian people would have to make cloth not so much esteemed. He should like to ask any practical man in that House, how it was to be determined what goods should be taxed and what goods should go in free? When the warp was sized, as it had to be sized, without any intention to adulterate, it was not easy to determine the exact fineness, because it was, to some extent, disguised. Who was to decide upon such matters? If the Custom House officers were to perform the duty, he would defy them to carry it out satisfactorily. The question had been treated sometimes as a very paltry one. Seeing that if one-half of the people of the country were to have food they must have it from abroad, and pay for it by exchanging manufactures, any impediment placed in the way of trade by the Government injured the people by taking from them employment, and, consequently, making it difficult for them to live. Reference had been made by the last speaker to our commercial relations with foreign countries and our Colonies, and to the general tendency to raise duties. He might be wrong, but he held the view that if the Government were anxious to bring about a better state of affairs in our commercial relations, they could do so if they only gave as much attention to the task as they did to making one Bulgaria into two. If more attention were only paid to international matters connected with trade, much might be done which was now left undone. An opinion had been expressed in the course of the debate that they should deal justly with Indian interests on this question. Well, he thought that they should look to the interests of India; but nobody could persuade him that they were wrong in attempting to defend English interests. Were they to be at all times liable to enormous sacrifices on account of India, and have no counter-balancing advantage? It might be shown that India was not 398 only a burden, but a gigantic burden, to this country; and if it was to continue a burden, and nothing was to be placed to the other side of the account, then the bond between India and this country would be greatly weakened. India, beyond doubt, was a great burden to this country. We fought the Crimean War because statesmen said it was necessary to do so in defence of India. For the past two years we had been on the verge of a great war in defence of India. We had entered into a Convention with Turkey for the defence of her Asiatic dominions, and were bound under it to fight, if necessary, Russia single-handed, all in the interests of India. We had entered into a war with Afghanistan, because of some imaginary danger to our Indian Frontier; and we had entered into an arrangement with France about Egyptian finance, which might, in the future, lead to complications and difficulty. This, again, was in the interest of India. He was there to maintain that, if India was a burden on this country, they had to look to English as well as Indian interests. When they came to look at Lancashire, and saw the people heavily taxed for Imperial purposes, he thought they were justified in saying that the interests of Lancashire should be guarded, and that trade with that great Dependency should be made as free as it was possible to make it. Something had been said about the impoverishment of India, and that the Government were afraid to do anything on that account; but seeing that the Government were never afraid to enter into war in every quarter of the world, seeing that impecuniosity never closed the hands of the Government in regard to things that were evil, the people of Lancashire could not admit the excuse offered by the Government for the continuance of the duties. They demanded that something should be done in their favour. So long as they had factories standing idle, so long as they had thousands and tens of thousands wanting food, so long as they had men working for reduced wages and industries stopped, so long would they continue to press upon the Government that the interests of Lancashire required attention, and should be no longer neglected.
§ MR. HERMON
observed that, whatever might be said on the matter, and whatever the discussion might lead to, he could assure the House that there 399 was a deep feeling in Lancashire in reference to it—a feeling which was even more strongly participated in by the operatives than by the masters. He could speak upon the subject candidly and impartially, because that branch of the trade affected him not at all, or, at least, very slightly. The question might arise—"What was there to complain of?" What was protested against by the Lancashire operatives and Lancashire mill-owners was that a monopoly was created for the benefit of the mill-owners in India at the expense of both India and this country. They had carried on the monopoly from their own point of view, and without any idea of benefiting the Hindoos. He thanked the Government for the remissions they had given; but he regretted that they had not seen their way clear to make such a concession as would affect the general manufactures of the county. The full benefit of the reduction, which they were told would amount to £200,000 per annum, would not be obtained by the English manufacturer for many years. The great secret of the reduction of taxation in India was a firm adherence to economy in every point. He considered the Resolution of the hon. Member for Blackburn, as it originally stood, would have had larger support. But he could not help regretting that the hon. Member had added to his Resolution a reference to the Afghan War, and he would advise him to withdraw that part, and accept the suggestion of the hon. Member for South-East Lancashire (Mr. Hardcastle). He would not altogether adopt the words of the hon. Member for South-East Lancashire, because he would have it appear that the House viewed with satisfaction the recent reductions. He thought such words would be inappropriate, as the House could not view the continuance of the duties at all with satisfaction; and, therefore, he would suggest that it be set forth that the House looked upon the recent reduction of the duties as an important step towards their total abolition. He hoped that the Government would see their way to adopting such a variation of the terms of the Resolution; because he should be sorry to have to vote on the question, inasmuch as Her Majesty's Government had shown themselves anxious to meet the views and the wants of Lancashire when they were not opposed to the ne- 400 cessities of India. In Lancashire they only wanted fair play and no favour. They were quite willing to run the gauntlet of competition with any country in their manufactures; but when they found they were flooded with goods on the one side, and prohibited from exporting, by a duty of this kind, on the other, they regarded it as a rather hard case. He therefore trusted the Government would see their way to abolish these duties, and would yet be able to accept the Resolution before the House in a modified form.
§ MR. HIBBERT
repudiated the idea that the Resolution had been drawn in, or that those who, like himself, supported it, were actuated by a spirit of hostility to the Government. The words to which exception had been taken on that ground were simply intended to meet the objection that the expenditure on the Afghan War rendered a remission of these duties impossible. His hon. Friend the Member for South-East Lancashire (Mr. Hardcastle) would hereafter propose an Amendment to the Resolution; but he thought they could scarcely say that they viewed the reduction that had been made in these duties with satisfaction. If some words could have been added to the Resolution of the hon. Member for Blackburn to the effect that that House considered that a further reduction of 1½ per cent in the duties should be made, it would have been desirable. The remission recently granted was not regarded with satisfaction; because, instead of amounting to £200,000, as was intended, he was assured by competent persons that it would only amount to from £15,000 or £20,000 per annum. [Mr. E. STANHOPE dissented.] That was the opinion of Mr. Raynsford Jackson, notwithstanding that the Under Secretary of State shook his head. His constituents were more deeply interested in the question than, perhaps, any other persons in Lancashire, inasmuch as there were 8,000,000 or 9,000,000 spindles employed in Oldham; and they contended that the remission already made would afford scarcely any relief at all to them, for the remission had been made on coarse goods, in which we could no longer successfully compete with the produce of the Indian mills. If, instead of the remission which had been made, the Government of India had taken off 1 per cent last year, and 401 1 or 1½ per cent this year, they would have given much greater satisfaction to the industry of this country than they had done by the course which they had adopted. He trusted, therefore, the Government would re-consider the mode in which they had proceeded, for he was sure they had no desire to injure the trade of Lancashire. He thanked the Home Government for what they had done. They had been anxious to give a remission of this duty. Both Lord Salisbury and Lord Cranbrook had shown the greatest desire to deal with this question. At the same time, the House would do no harm in bringing every pressure upon them, and enabling them to put more pressure on the Government, of India. As to the poorer classes in India, although the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) was always eloquent on their behalf, they had no means of making their voice sufficiently heard on the question, notwithstanding it was one very deeply affecting them; for while on all the cotton goods imported into India from England a duty amounting to between £700,000 and £800,000 a-year was levied, a corresponding increase of price was charged by the mill-owners in India on the goods which they manufactured, so that the Indian people, in reality, paid a tax of between £1,000,000 and £2,000,000 on the clothing which they wore. It was not at all a question between Lancashire and the people of India, but between the Government and the people of India. He quite concurred with those who contended that it would not be right to ask for the remission of duty unless the finances of India were in a position to bear the change; but he was informed that there was this year a surplus of something like £800,000 which was available for the purpose, which was one the carrying into effect of which had been promised by two Secretaries of State, and which had been unanimously approved by that House. It was a question, he might add, which, if not settled soon, would lead to the careful investigation, not only of our military, but all other sources of expenditure in India on the part of the manufacturing classes. There wore, he knew, hon. Members on both sides of the House who feared that if the duties were abolished additional taxation must be laid on the people of India; and the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. E. Noel) said that if the people 402 of Lancashire knew that such would be the result, they would hesitate before they asked for a boon at such a price. Well, he knew that the people of Lancashire as well as the hon. Member or as any man could; and he knew that they would not ask for a remission of the duties if their demand was not a just one so far as they were concerned, or if it would work at all unjustly towards the people of India. But if the duty were necessary on account of the expenditure in India, why should Lancashire bear the whole brunt? As their demand was founded upon justice and right, he trusted that the House would support, and the Government accept, the Motion of his hon. Friend.
MR. MAC IVER
said, he had placed an Amendment upon the Paper which, by the Rules of the House, he was not in a position to move. He would, however, read its terms, as they were expressive of his views. He intended to have asked the House to say that, in their opinion—No protective tariff as against our Home industries should be permitted in any portion of the British Empire, and that we should, as far as practicable, trade with the rest of the world, and particularly with our own Colonies and Dependencies, on principles of reciprocal Free Trade.Some of the speeches which had been made, and particularly those of the Mover and Seconder of the Resolution, were, he thought, notwithstanding their excellent intention, based upon a representation which was entirely erroneous. The assumption of those speeches was that if the Indian import duties were totally abolished, then again would Lancashire manufacturers become prosperous because of having a market in India for their wares. He would not have much difficulty in showing that there was no real foundation for that hope, and that under unqualified Free Trade Lancashire must be beaten out of the field by India. The reason was that in India they had cheaper cotton than at home; they had cheaper labour than at home. Machinery was taken out from this country to India, he believed, without being subject to duty, and coal was not dear. In fact, they had everything in India except two things. They had not at present got the same skill as in Lancashire, and they had not got at present long-staple cotton; but they would soon have both, and when they bad it would be impossible for Lan- 403 cashire to compete with India with any hope of success. He believed the time would come when it would be considered necessary to see whether our condition could not be improved by a policy somewhat different from that which was deliberately adopted 33 years ago, and which it became more manifest every day was an utter and hopeless failure. What did the free traders of other countries mean? They meant reciprocal Free Trade so far as it was the interest of their country. What was the present effect of those duties? One of the largest importers of manufactures in India had written to him saying that the tax on cotton manufactures was, in his opinion, a very fair one, though his interests would lead him more than any other man in India to think otherwise. He (Mr. Mac Iver) quoted that to show what was the state of opinion in India at present. The Bombay Times pointed out that the Lancashire mill-owners, not satisfied with drawing from India a revenue nearly equal to that of the German Empire, desired to procure the abolition of the import duties on cotton, though they knew that those duties did not act, and never had acted, as protective duties. The same authority argued that Manchester, if she were wise, would be content to leave well alone, and be content with a trade which gave her a monopoly in fine goods, instead of worrying India with the knowledge that she could compete successfully, duty or no duty, with the mill-owners of Lancashire. What Mr. Cobden and what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) hoped for from Free Trade was very different from what the adoption of the policy had resulted in. The right hon. Gentleman had recently written a letter, in which he spoke of the advocates of Reciprocity as "simpletons who had no memory and no logic." With every respect for the right hon. Gentleman, he would remind him that abuse was not argument. Let the right hon. Gentleman look to those in the House and out of it who supported the policy he condemned, and he might see cause to change his view. He alluded more especially to the father of the House of Commons, the hon. Member for Glamorganshire (Mr. C. R. Talbot). The same views were also held by the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz). Surely such people as Prince Bismarck and the late M. Thiers were 404 not exactly fools. He (Mr. Mac Iver) was no Protectionist, but rather a disappointed would-be Free Trader. He believed that Reciprocity was one of the necessary conditions of Free Trade, and that a war of tariffs would not necessarily result from the adoption of that principle. He contemplated no war of tariffs. The principle he advocated might be expressed in the words "mutual advantage;" and he thought that in every bargain made with foreign countries, or our own Colonies, the main object to be kept steadily in view should be the common interests of this great Empire. If they were to have Free Trade in any real sense negotiations must be entered into, for they had tried unqualified Free Trade, and it had hopelessly and utterly failed. He thought the House should bear in mind that the predictions of political economists, and even of Adam Smith himself, had in several cases not been verified. He believed there was a reason why these import duties should be maintained. It was a reason which he certainly learnt in Bombay, and which he believed to be entirely well founded. There were reasons social, as well as reasons financial, which should compel those duties always to be maintained. Their Lancashire friends might talk as they pleased, and the Government might give a pledge, as they had done in perfect good faith, that they would do what they could to abolish these duties; but that was a policy which they never could carry out. The reason was that on whatever good terms we might be in India with our immediate neighbours in the Native States, yet there were circumstances affecting the whole Peninsula which rendered it necessary to maintain a Custom House, and but for these import duties in some form or other there would no longer be any colourable reason for the examination of such goods as might be imported into India. There was a real danger—not perhaps at the moment, but always present to those who lived in India—that arms and ammunition would be sent inland to the Native States, if it were not for the safeguard of the Custom House, which rendered everything taken into India liable to examination. That might not seem to hon. Members a sufficient reason for retaining the duties; but if they asked anyone who had lived in India, or if they went there themselves, they would find that, after all, 405 there was something in it, and that the Indian import duties for that reason alone could never be entirely abolished. If it were practicable to abolish these import duties, he thought they ought to be abolished; but he did not believe it was practicable, and he was quite sure the people of India were, as a rule, opposed to any measure of that kind. No doubt they would be equally opposed to an Excise duty on Native manufactures, which, though it was repudiated by their Lancashire friends, was the only means by which they could hope to meet the manufacturers of India upon equal terms. He hoped that at some not very distant day it would be more possible than it was now for the House to take a broad view of this question, not only as regarded India, but as regarded our Colonies, and to see what could be done for the extension of real, true Free Trade as between every portion of the British Empire, and, as far as possible, to maintain it with the rest of the world.
§ MR. MUNTZ
wished to recall the House to the Resolution of the hon. Member for Blackburn, and, to use his own words, he never knew so selfish a Resolution brought before the House. The duties now charged were very moderate, and were only about two-thirds what they had been originally fixed at by the Indian Government when it took over the country from the East India Company. They were in want of Revenue, and imposed a duty of 7½ per cent, now reduced to 5 per cent upon goods of every description, and he did not see why any particular favour should be shown to cotton. If the duty on cotton goods were abolished, it would be only fair that duties should be also abolished on goods of every description, and that the Indian Exchequer could not afford. He could not understand on what ground Lancashire produce should be placed in a peculiarly advantageous position. A great deal of sentimental affection for the poor Indian peasant had been professed by advocates of that Motion; but he thought it would be better to get rid of all such pretexts and to say at once that the men of Lancashire and Cheshire took up that question simply because they wanted to cease paying that duty. Instead of attacking that duty of 5 per cent in India, why did they not bring forward the case of the Canadian tariff, 406 which imposed far heavier import duties? In the Dominion a Parliament had been returned by popular election for the avowed purpose of largely increasing the existing high duties. Why, then, did not the hon. Member for Blackburn move an Address to Her Majesty, praying Her to withhold Her assent from any legislation of that kind passed in Canada? The hon. Gentleman knew that would be of no use, because the Canadians possessed a system of self-government; whereas the poor Indian had no one to represent him in that House, and must pay the last farthing of taxation without saying one word. He commended the attention of the supporters of this Motion to the fact that a duty of £2,500,877 had been paid in India on Cheshire salt of the value of £450,000. Talk of a 5 per cent duty on cotton goods! What did they think of the duty of over 1,200 per cent imposed on salt in Madras? Before they cried out for the repeal of a paltry duty of 5 per cent for a selfish purpose, let them consider the unhappy peasant in India, who paid so enormous a tax on such a first necessary of life and health as salt. He was, therefore, totally opposed to that Motion, which, he thought, ought not to have been brought forward. The cotton trade might now be depressed, but so also were the iron, coal, and wool trades, and that was the case in most other countries as well as in this. Although the state of trade was lamentable, they would not make it much better by doing an act of injustice to the people of India.
§ MR. ASSHETON
admitted that the manufacturers of Lancashire wished to get rid of that duty because they did not like paying it; but instead of the duty being only 5 per cent, as alleged, he understood that when worked out practically it really came to something between 6½ and 6¾ per cent. He hoped that the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hibbert) would not be lost on the Under Secretary of State, and that they might look for a considerable reduction of the duty beyond that already promised by the Government. The manufacturers would be bettor satisfied if 1 per cent were taken off this year, 1 per cent more next year, and so on, until the duty was gradually abolished. It was said that £200,000 was now about to be remitted; but that he understood to be an exces- 407 sive calculation. He had heard the remission computed at about one-tenth of that amount, and certainly it would be nothing like £200,000. Some years ago, when Lord Salisbury was at the India Office, a promise was given that the first surplus of Indian Revenue would be applied to the reduction or total abolition of these duties; but outside of the House there was an impression that the Indian Government had had surpluses with which they had remitted other duties. With reference to the observation of the hon. Member for Blackburn that a Lancashire Member who did not protest against these duties would render his seat unstable, he must remark that although he could not altogether agree with that, yet he would say that Lancashire men would not be doing their duty if they did not bring forcibly before the House what Lancashire believed to be a strong case. They might be mistaken; but in the borough he represented the feeling against the duties was universal. The hardship and injustice of these duties would be seen when he mentioned that they fell, not upon England as a whole, but upon some three-fourths of Lancashire and a small part of Cheshire, Derbyshire, Yorkshire, and of Scotland, or, say, only 1–16th of the population of this country. What would be thought of a proposal to assist the Indian Exchequer by increasing our railway passenger duty? Yet this was a perfectly analogous case to that of the duties in question. He regretted that the hon. Member had introduced into his Motion the reference to Afghanistan, and he at first thought it must have been introduced for Party purposes; but he was glad to learn that that was not so. The question had not the remotest connection with the Afghan War. He did not wish to say anything harsh of the Government. He was thankful for what they had already done; but he wished to impress upon them the great desirability of their holding out some prospect of a yearly reduction of these duties. People would rejoice to be able to look forward to the end of them, even if it were in the distant future. He intended to vote for the Motion; but, at the same time, he distinctly and entirely repudiated the paragraph referring to Afghanistan.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
said, he could not but express his satisfaction at the sympathy which had been expressed in the course of the evening 408 with the people of India; but he would prefer seeing active and real aid in preference to hearing mere words. In all comparisons between the quantities imported into India of the cotton manufactures of Lancashire and those articles forming the manufactures of India, it should be borne in mind that the Indian manufactures were produced now at greater cost than formerly, by reason of the heavy taxes imposed on the people of India resulting from the extravagant cost which the Government of England entailed on India by costly establishments. He should support the Motion for abolishing the Customs duties, but not with the view of doing justice to Lancashire, but because he desired to force the Government to make reforms in the present financial arrangements, which would be of benefit not only to England, but to India; and also, by making all trade in India free from all Customs duties, thereby extend the trade and productions of India. On a previous occasion he, (Sir George Balfour) had shown that, by former differential duties on Indian produce, England had not dealt fairly with that country; and he regretted he had never heard the Lancashire Members raise their voices against the abominable tax on salt, from which over one-sixth of the entire net Revenue of India was raised, and which pressed with cruel severity on the poor Natives; nay, more, the salt trade of Cheshire was actually favoured by the mode in which the salt tax was levied in India, so that a large supply of Cheshire salt was sent to India, though the salt of India could be supplied at a small fraction of the Cheshire price. He thought the denunciations they had heard with regard to the high tariff were unworthy of those hon. Members. He doubted whether, in any part of the world, there was a tariff more favourable to our manufacturers than in India, and it especially contrasted with the Canadian tariff. He remembered the time when his friend Sir Henry Pottinger was fêted in Manchester, and presented with a service of plate, for obtaining from the Chinese a tariff for our goods far less favourable than the tariff of India as it at present stood; and as he (Sir George Balfour) had a knowledge of the drawing out of that tariff, and practically saw its working, he must assert that it was, though very favourable for us, far in- 409 ferior to the Indian tariff. He denied that there was any foundation for the statement that the cotton manufactures of Lancashire imported into India had fallen off in quantity or in value; he would even say, taking into account the altered values assigned to them, that there was a considerable increase. And so far from the duty on Lancashire goods having fallen off, he found that the duty obtained from them in the last year for which the Returns were made out amounted to £934,138, while the duty obtained in the average of the previous seven years amounted to £941,765, this being the largest sum collected since 1868. That proved that the trade had not fallen off, notwithstanding the prevailing depression. There had already been a reduction of the duties on Lancashire goods introduced into India of late years, but the data had not yet been made public; and he had confidence that the Government would soon proceed with the much-desired measure of freeing India from all Customs duties, and probably begin to carry out their promise to abolish the cotton duties altogether. These duties averaged upon the whole about half of all the duties levied on the other imports into India. If the cotton duties were taken off, only import duties to the extent of about £800,000 would be left—a sum so insignificant that he would not desire to see it retained, He thought the Secretary of State could modify the incidence of the 5 per cent and the 3 per cent duties now levied on the values of the cotton goods in question by altering the values of the several articles of cotton goods, and, by so doing, so far meet the views of the Lancashire manufacturers. But this was only a part of a great change in the trade with India, and Lancashire had never asked for this change. He believed the salvation of India depended upon extending the trade of India both internally and externally, and he therefore hoped that India would be made entirely a free port. A Resolution to effect this would be a wise measure for both India and England. At present, he (Sir George Balfour) calculated that after making allowance for all known charges for collecting the Customs duties, and by guessing at the charges which were known to be incurred for various purposes in connection with these Customs, the average net receipts for all 410 Customs, sea and land, import and export, did not exceed £2,000,000 per annum. And in that amount he might justly urge that several of the sums we received from duties were as nothing compared with the impolicy of checking the extension of valuable trades. The notable duties on indigo and on rice exported from India might be mentioned as being most unwise. These were produce which other countries also produced, and necessarily competed with the taxed commodities of India. From a financial point of view alone, it would be better for our commerce with India to be free, in order to increase our cultivation in India; and it was wholly undeniable that the embarrassed condition of Indian finances constituted a real danger. He submitted that it would be, politically, a wise thing if England could extend her commerce in India and Afghanistan and into Central Asia, particularly considering that an increased commerce, together with an improved means of communication, would enable us to compete with Russia in Central Asia. Nothing would be of greater benefit to the people, or more interfere with the designs and power of Russia in that quarter, than by diminishing the Russian commerce, which formed so influential a motive for Russia occupying Central Asia. Whatever measures we could adopt for removing the barriers of our trade with India would be a remedial step in advance, which it would be the highest wisdom on the part of the House to make. That the financial state of the country demanded such a policy was sufficiently obvious, for all the heads of Indian Expenditure had increased except the Military. Sir John Strachey stated that the Civil expenditure had been reduced by £1,500,000, but that was incorrect; for, instead of being reduced, that branch of the Service had been increased, still he (Sir George Balfour) could not say but that it was now too high—
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that he must remind the hon. and gallant Member that the Motion of the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Briggs) was the Question before the House.
GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALEOUR
apologized for the digression, remarking that his object was to show that there was Civil as well as Military expenditure in India that admitted of such reduc- 411 tions as would enable the Government to free the exports and imports from all these vexatious duties. His experience justified the expression of his strong conviction that the Government might effect a large reduction in the Expenditure in India if they acted rightly, and that saving would enable them to make India a free port. If they waited for a surplus of Revenue before doing this, they would wait till everlasting. He should vote for the Motion, in the hope that it would compel the Government to make these reforms in India.
§ MR. SERJEANT SPINKS
said, he wished to say a few words on a subject so nearly affecting his own constituents, and on which most of them felt very strongly. He had presented a Petition to the House, signed by a very large number of both employers and operatives, upon the subject; and he could not help concurring in many of the remarks made by his hon. Colleague (Mr. Hibbert) as to the impolicy of the course pursued by the Government in their manner of making the reduction—namely, according to the quality of the goods and not by a percentage. It seemed to him that, by so doing, they had given advantages to some localities which were not obtained by others, and he particularly referred to his own town, where little or no benefit would be obtained by the manufacturers and operatives. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz) said that this was a selfish Resolution; but there was a doubt, when the welfare of a community was at stake, whether selfishness was not a virtue. At any rate, Lancashire was not the only part of this country in which selfishness existed, for the hon. Member for Birmingham had complained of the import duties into India on many other commodities, some of them, no doubt, the production of his own constituents. If selfishness was that quality which induced men to look very carefully, but not unfairly, after their own interests and the interests of those connected with them, the manufacturers of Lancashire were undoubtedly open to the charge of acting selfishly. But all the people of Lancashire asked was that, having founded a great and important Empire, having built it up, consolidated and maintained it, and being still prepared to maintain it, they should not have to 412 suffer from heavy duties which greatly interfered with and depressed the commerce and industry of England generally, and of Lancashire in particular, and which, at the same time, were injurious to the people of India on account of the increased price which the imposition of these duties necessitated for articles of common utility. Surely it was not unfair to demand the abolition of duties which bore so heavily upon the manufacturers, operatives, and general industry of Lancashire. The next question was, could the abolition be effected with justice and fairness to the Revenues of India? They had heard a good deal lately of gloomy forebodings and dismal prognostications in regard to the affairs of India, and this had been so driven into the public mind that people were beginning to think there was some truth in the observation, and that the state of Indian finance was so bad that India could not afford to be generous, and that, in the case of these import duties, she could not even be just. He had never shared in these gloomy views with regard to the finances of that country. It must be remembered that in five years India had gone through two famines, and the starvation of the people meant destruction to the commerce of the country. After those unparalleled calamities, an extraordinary deficiency in the Indian Revenue might reasonably have been expected; but, at the present time, it was doubtful whether there was not even a surplus. With a normal season, and normal and copious harvests, and with a cessation of the war that was now being waged, and possibly less pressure upon the Indian Exchequer by the depreciation of silver, brighter times might be expected in that country. He should vote for the Motion in no spirit of hostility to Her Majesty's Ministers. On the contrary, he wished to thank the Government, in his own name and in that of his constituency, for the kindness and consideration they had shown to the people of Lancashire; and he hoped that Her Majesty's Ministers would have the courage of the opinions which he believed they entertained, and would remove at once the very objectionable duties which had formed the subject of debate. Their doing so would give great hope and encouragement to the people of Lancashire in this dark hour 413 of their adversity, which he trusted was the darkest because just before dawn; for it would encourage them to know and feel that the Government, in the midst of all their anxieties and difficulties abroad, had thought of the labouring classes at home, and had done their best to minister to the necessities of a suffering population.
§ DR. KENEALY
thought the Government might fairly give some promise which might induce the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Briggs) to withdraw his Motion, which, as it stood, conveyed an expression of censure on the policy of Pier Majesty's Ministers in regard to Afghan affairs. They might do so for several reasons. It was stated, without contradiction, that the depression of trade in this country at the present time had never been equalled since 1826. Unless we did something to conciliate the people of India more than we had hitherto done, we might expect the greatest danger. Her Majesty's Government, by accepting the Resolution, he believed, would go far to conciliate a great number of the people of this country and of Hindostan, and to some extent relieve the present depression of trade in Lancashire. If they would not do that, they might at least, as he had said, give a promise which would be satisfactory to the Mover of the Resolution. He heard with regret the reason given by the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz) for not supporting the Resolution. The hon. Member said he admitted its justice, but would not support it, because it did not extend to the silk manufactures—probably, he meant also the hardware manufactures—of the country. But a measure ought not to be opposed because it did not go far enough. Why did not the silk manufacturers and the hardware manufacturers act with the same energy as Lancashire, and lay their grievances before the House of Commons?
§ MR. ONSLOW
said, the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz) had stated that Her Majesty's Government had done nothing for the commercial prosperity of this country. That hon. Member, perhaps, was the only man on his own side of the House who would not credit Her Majesty's Government with caring for the commercial interests of this country. He (Mr. Onslow) intended 414 to vote against all the propositions before the House, and would impress upon hon. Members the necessity of considering the matter, not in a partizan manner, but as a great national question. With the responsibility of a Member, and knowing something about India, he intended to give his vote that evening against what he could not help thinking would be a somewhat iniquitous reduction of Indian Revenue. If the policy of the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Briggs) was carried out, it would impose a heavy loss upon India—a sum which she could never hereafter recoup; and, therefore, in the interests of India, he deprecated the action which it was proposed to take. It was with regret he had heard it said that night that India was a gigantic burden on England. He hoped the majority of the House would never think that India had been a gigantic burden on England. He looked upon India as the brightest jewel in the English Crown, and he hoped the day would never come when it would be lost to the British Crown. It had been said that this import duty had yielded merely £750,000 to India. What would the Chancellor of the Exchequer think if he lost in the English Budget "merely £750,000?" and in a country like India, surely £750,000 was a sum which you could not afford to give up. The people of India were at the present time taxed to the utmost extent they could bear, and he could not see any just taxation by which the £750,000 which would be sacrificed by the abolition of these duties could be recouped. He heard to-night that Lancashire operatives took a great interest in this question. He had no practical knowledge of Lancashire operatives; but if they did take an interest in this matter, it was because their masters, the mill-owners, had put it into their heads. ["Oh!"] If Lancashire operatives were let alone, he did not think they would care a straw one way or the other as to this question. He thought the Marquess of Salisbury had gone beyond prudence in promising the Manchester manufacturers that when the finances of India permitted this duty should be remitted; and he considered that to be the only mistake which the noble Marquess had made during his tenure of Office as Secretary of State for India. He was not there to discuss the question of 415 economy in the Administration of India; but if hon. Members thought that they could by any economy reduce these duties, they would take what he could not take, and that was a very sanguine view of Indian finance. He would press upon the House the importance of Indian finance, and he did not believe that that finance could long bear the strain which was being continually imposed upon it. He defied anyone to say that the finances of India could bear this reduction at present, or were likely to do so in the future. The imports of Indian tea amounted to 40,000,0000 lbs., which, at 6d. per lb., produced £1,000,000, or about one-quarter of the whole amount paid to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the tea duty in this country. If the hon. Member opposite and his supporters wished to have Free Trade in India—and he was not one to deprecate Free Trade—in cotton goods, why not bring forward a Motion to reduce the duty on tea and coffee imported into India? But they did not wish to have that, because it was well known the House would never consent to the reductions he had specified. No consideration was shown to India; and he felt compelled to say that his Lancashire Friends had made out no case wiry the House should show any consideration whatever to them. These duties had been stated to be injurious to England and India alike. He failed to see how they could possibly be dangerous to India. On the contrary, he believed many years would elapse before India could do without them. The duties at the present time were not protective; the duties were merely on the finer kind of cloths, and, therefore, fell only on the well-to-do people. The duties had nothing to do with the poor classes in Bengal, or any other part of India. Therefore, he hoped no humanitarian cry would be raised. He believed that it was on account of the adulteration of these cloths that a spurt was given to the trade in India. Many of the cloths were adulterated with size and other articles he could not mention, and were it not for this adulteration there would be very little competition with the Bombay traders. It was not, then, owing to these duties that there had been destitution in Lancashire, as alleged by the hon. Members; it was owing to the operatives, who endeavoured to strike against their masters. 416 [Mr. Briggs said, he had referred to the time of the cotton famine.] Complaint had been made that in India the operatives worked 80 hours, whilst in England they worked only 56 hours; but in Belgium and Germany the operatives also worked 80 hours per week, but no complaint had been made of them. In his (Mr. Onslow's) opinion, the Lancashire people had only a sentimental grievance, if they had any grievance; and looking at the interests of this country, and certainly to the interests of India, he did trust that hon. Gentlemen around him would vote against each one of the Resolutions, and though, no doubt, they would be defeated, they would at least be able to raise a protest against what he could not help thinking would be very much to the detriment of the people of India.
§ MR. J. K. CROSS
said, he agreed with the hon. Member who had just spoken (Mr. Onslow) that if the duties on cotton were the same as those on tea they would not be protective. The main objection of the Lancashire manufactures was that they were protective; and although four years ago, when he (Mr. J. K. Cross) brought this question before the House, Her Majesty's Government denied that they were protective, they had since changed their opinions, because Sir John Strachey, in his Budget Speech made on the 13th of last month, plainly stated that these duties must be repealed, as they were protective. The hon. Member for Guildford seemed to think that the trade of Lancashire had been injured by the use of size and other ingredients in the manufacture of cotton. It might be asked, did the hon. Member know anything about size? Perhaps he did not know that from the commencement of the cotton trade until now, never under any circumstances had a single piece of cotton goods of the shirting or long cloth class been made without a proper mixture of size. He should say that Bunkum in Parliamentary oratory might be regarded as the equivalent of size in the cotton manufacture; and, although he should be sorry to impute to any Member of the House that he spoke to Bunkum, as the Americans expressed it, he must say that the speech of the hon. Member had contained a good quantity of Parliamentary size. The noble Marquess the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (the Mar- 417 quess of Salisbury), not long ago, said that at some future time, when the finances of India admitted, the duty on cotton goods would be repealed; and the noble Viscount who now presided at the India Office (Viscount Granbrook) had recently announced that there would be an Indian surplus of £2,250,000. That being so, his hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Briggs) was perfectly justified in coming forward and saying that now was the time for the Government to fulfil and to redeem that promise. All questions connected with India resolved themselves more or less into questions of finance. Sir John Strachey, in his Budget Speech, had stated that no extra taxation was proposed in India, because the change in the value of gold and silver which had disturbed the satisfactory condition of Indian finance was under the consideration of the Home Government, upon the invitation of the Government of India. It seemed as if Sir John Strachey blamed the change in the value of gold and silver for the evils which had come upon Indian finance. It would be more correct to say that many of those evils were due to financial mal-administration. Council drafts on India were another way of selling silver; and when we found that those drafts had increased to such an enormous extent during the last few years, we could understand how silver had gone down, while gold had remained stationary or had advanced. The Indian Government were the largest silver merchants in the world, and their sales must necessarily affect the price of silver. He contended that these duties were protective; though, as he had said, when the same question was raised four years ago, the Government held they were not. He hoped the Government would see its way to accept the proposition of the hon. Member for Blackburn.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, the debate that evening had taken a very wide range; and if he did not refer to many of the subjects which had been discussed it was not because he did not regard them as subjects of importance, which might fairly be considered by the House, but because he desired to come as soon as he could to the real subject before them. He would not, therefore, touch on the silver question, although he should be ready to discuss it when 418 the proper time came. He must express his thanks to the hon. Member for Dumfries Burghs (Mr. Ernest Noel) for having kindly abstained from going into any discussion on the Indian Budget until they had full details from India. He had detected, he thought, from the Resolution of the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Briggs), that he had some little idea of introducing a political and Party element into the discussion; but after the eloquent and poetical speech delivered by the hon. Gentleman, he was bound to say that it was evident such was not his intention. Believing, however, that the hon. Gentleman had at heart the desire of getting rid of these import duties, he must say he had shown a somewhat unfortunate method in endeavouring to do so; because after the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Birley) succeeded by his able advocacy in inducing the House to come to a unanimous agreement on the subject, he had now succeeded in endangering that unanimity, and in running the risk of showing that the House of Commons was not of one mind on the matter. They had heard from various quarters the expression of an opinion as to the greatness of the distress which existed in the manufacturing districts. It was impossible for anyone not to feel the deepest sympathy with that distress; and it was equally impossible for anyone having the means not to desire to do something to alleviate it. He would go further, and say that the connection between England and India was so intimate that anything which affected Lancashire must re-act on the interests of India. But he was not going to look at the question so much as it affected the interests of this country as, representing India, he was bound to do in the interests of India. On that subject the opinion of the Government had always been plain. The hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. J. K. Cross) seemed to suggest that the Government had made a discovery and changed their opinion; but that was not the case. In 1874 his noble Friend (the Marquess of Salisbury), then Secretary of State for India, thought that the duties should be repealed, and in February, 1875, he received a deputation on the subject; and it was for the first time declared by a responsible Minister that, "in justice to India no less than in justice to England, these duties ought not to be per- 419 manently maintained." Lord Salisbury, writing, on May 31, 1876, said, after reviewing, from a purely Indian point of view, the objections to these duties—Whether, then, the question he regarded as it affects the consumer, the producer, or the revenue, I am of opinion that the interests of India imperatively require the timely removal of a tax which is at once wrong in principle, injurious in its practical effect, and self-destructive in its operation.That being the opinion of the Government in 1874, they had never varied in regard to it; and when the time came for the opinion of the House to be taken—when the hon. Member for Manchester moved a Resolution on the subject in 1877, it was accepted unanimously by the House. Therefore, in 1877, the Government and the House of Commons were practically unanimously committed to the removal of these duties. But it had been suggested that though the Government had declared their opinion, and sent out directions that this tax should be reduced or repealed, as soon as the finances would permit, there was a hitch in India. So far from that being the fact, no one was more determined to carry out this reform than Lord Lytton, backed, as he was, by his Financial Minister, Sir John Strachey. What said Sir John Strachey? Speaking of it in his Budget Statement for 1877–8, Sir John Strachey said—I altogether disbelieve that there is in this matter any conflict between Indian and English interests. I am satisfied that these interests are identical, and that both alike require the abolition of this tax.The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down said they declared in December last they had a very large surplus in the last financial year, but they had not devoted it to the reduction of this tax. How had their policy been carried into effect? He contended that the Government had fully kept the pledge which was given by the Marquess of Salisbury and himself that the first surplus in the Indian finances should be applied to remitting that tax. In December last he stated that at the beginning of the year a surplus of something like £2,000,000 had been anticipated, which included £1,500,000 of Famine Insurance Fund, and £500,000 of Reserve Fund for contingencies; but that more recent information had obliged them to re- 420 duce that amount to a very considerable extent. It had, however, turned out that the estimate he then made was very much under the mark, and the amount they had been able to save towards the Famine Fund during the last year was very much in excess of what he anticipated. But to return to the cotton duties. Even the most cursory observer must admit that it was obviously impossible to remit all the duty at once. That was simply out of the question; but the Government of India had fully considered what could be done in the way of reducing it; and without waiting to go deeply into all the points requiring consideration, they resolved in 1878 that they would remit the duties on the coarser description of cotton and yarn, which were then known to be undoubtedly protective in their nature; and they did repeal them. That gave a remission of something like £20,000 a-year, and it was the first real step towards a remission of these duties. It was perfectly clear they could not stop there. The following resolution was passed by the Directors of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce on the 27th of March, 1878:—The Directors of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce regard the action of the Government of India, in exempting coarse yarns and goods from import duty, as a first step towards the complete abolition of these duties, which they hope soon to see accomplished. As the Government of India has elected to proceed towards the contemplated end by partial exemption, rather than by affording general relief, with the avowed object of removing the protective incidence of the duties on the particular goods and yarns which the Indian mills, by reason of their natural advantages, are suited to produce, it is obvious that the list of free goods requires to be materially added to.This resolution pointed to what the Government of India practically proposed. They found that there was little essential difference between the goods that were exempted from duty and others, though called by a different name, which still remained subject to it; and the limit they had proposed at the moment could not possibly remain. They decided that it was necessary to make an exhaustive inquiry into the matter, and they had ascertained what the facts were. The result was rather remarkable; for it turned out that what the Duke of Argyll had described as a Manchester delusion was an absolute 421 reality, and that there did still remain goods in respect of which these duties operated as a direct protection. What the exact point was at which that protection began was a difficult question; it was investigated by the Committee; and the House now laboured under the disadvantage of discussing the question before the Report of that Committee had reached England. So far as he had been able to gather the facts, the mills in India did not spin anything finer than 28's; he did not mean to say that they might not in certain cases do so, nor that they were incapable of doing it; but it was ascertained that, as a matter of fact, the limit was somewhere about 28's, and the Indian Government had fixed upon 30's as the limit of fineness at which the line should be drawn. That exemption had involved a loss ultimately of £200,000 a-year, although it might not exceed £150,000 in the first year. Beyond that, they had made a revision of the tariff which would involve a further loss of £31,000. The limit which had been arrived at by the Committee was also that suggested by the Chambers of Commerce of Madras, Calcutta, and Bombay. As to the suggestion that the relief instead of being £200,000 would be only £20,000 a-year, he had that day had a conversation on the subject with a gentleman of the highest authority, whose name he was not at liberty to mention, who admitted that what the Government of India had done was very much misunderstood in this country, and that goods were being admitted which would not come, according to the interpretation which he had at first been disposed to place upon the terms of the exemption, within the limits laid down by the Government. Until exact information was received, he must ask the House to suspend its judgment. He could say, on behalf of the Government, that it was not their intention, nor that of Lord Lytton, to give with one hand and to take with another; and when Lord Lytton said that he intended to give a bonâ fide remission of £150,000 for the first year, he did so because he believed that that would be the result of the remission he had given, and it was his intention to give effect to it so far as he was able to do so. They had been asked why they were going to do this now? The reason was, that they had discovered the direct pro- 422 tective action of those duties upon a certain class of goods, and therefore steps could not be taken too soon. The trade was in jeopardy, and they could not wait till it was destroyed before they took action. He happened to notice not long ago an argument against these remissions put forward by the Madras Chamber of Commerce, and the main, objection was that they would cheapen the cost of goods to the Indian consumer. This was a very important consideration, which had hardly been brought out sufficiently in the debate. He had no doubt the effect of this revision would be most advantageous to the Indian consumer. Then, as an alternative, it was proposed that the Government should remit 1 or 1½per cent all round. The Government of India had given their most careful consideration to the suggestion; but there were several difficulties in the way. Having, in the first place, made certain exemptions, if they were to remit 1 or 1½ per cent all round, they must put on the duty again on the particular class of goods on which the duties had been remitted; and, besides that, they would be giving relief to manufacturers whose productions had no direct protection to contend against, while leaving partly unredressed the case of those against whom these duties operated in a distinctly protective manner. If he was able to explain the action of the Indian Government imperfectly, the reason was that the discussion had been brought on before full information had been received. But although they had not the details before them, they had before them the principles upon which the Government of India had acted. Those principles had met with the entire approval of the Government at home, who were determined to support the Government of India in the course they had adopted. But when they came to the question of giving a distinct pledge as to the future, he must ask the House to consider the difficult position in which they were placed. They had the great difficulty in the condition of the Exchanges, which was an element they could not fail to take into consideration; and there were other difficulties with respect to Indian finance. Bearing those in mind, it was absolutely impossible to give any pledge as to what they might be able to do in the course of next year. But what he would say was this—that 423 they did not for one moment regard the action they had taken as final. They looked upon it only as a step towards the object which they hoped to achieve; and they were determined to press on that policy as circumstances would permit, and as the financial condition of India would justify them in doing. The House was placed in some difficulty by the manner in which the Resolution was submitted to them. The Government could not accept it as a whole; they had no objection to the first part; but they could not accept the part that related to the Afghan War. He would suggest a course that might be adopted to meet the difficulty. The Motion was put down as an Amendment to go into Committee of Supply; and when the Question was put that Mr. Speaker do leave the Chair, he would suggest that they should say No, in order that the Resolution which was on the Paper as an Amendment might become a substantive Motion. That would give the House perfect freedom of action in the matter; and if the two parts of the Resolution were put separately, the first part might be accepted, and in that way they might be able to steer through the many difficulties that arose out of the Resolution and the Amendments which were on the Paper, and arrive at a conclusion which would be satisfactory to the House generally.
§ MR. FAWCETT
thought the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for India (Mr. E. Stanhope) had advised the House to take a somewhat unusual and confused course. It seemed to him (Mr. Fawcett) that those who objected to the Motion of the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Briggs) had but one clear course open to them, and that was to meet it by a direct negative. In saying that, he hoped he might not be considered to be more in favour of protective duties than the hon. Member himself. He (Mr. Fawcett) had given proofs, both in and out the House, that no one was more attached to Free Trade than he was; but it was not simply sufficient to show that the duty was protective, and then demand its immediate repeal, regardless and reckless of the financial condition of the country. It was not necessary for him to enter into a discussion of Indian finance to show that it was absolutely impossible for the finances of India to bear the sacrifice of Revenue which was now contemplated. 424 At the present moment that country not only possessed no surplus, but had to face one of the heaviest deficits that ever perplexed a Finance Minister. A more unfortunate moment, therefore, could not have been chosen by the hon. Member for Blackburn for asking the House to pledge itself to a sacrifice of £750,000 a-year of Indian Revenue, without the slightest indication as to how that Revenue was to be replaced. The Under Secretary of State for India had exhibited throughout his speech great anxiety to show that the Government were regarding their promises in repealing the duty on cotton goods this year to the extent of £200,000. What was the use of the hon. Gentleman arranging the figures of Indian finance in such a way as to show there was a surplus? Did the hon. Gentleman not see that he was proving too much? Yes; the Government might be regarding the promise which Lord Salisbury had unfortunately made at Manchester, and which, on more than one occasion since, had been repeated to besieging deputations; but the Under Secretary of State forgot to remark that the policy which the Government were now pursuing of partially repealing these duties at a time when they were asked to give borrowing powers to the Indian Government to raise £10,000,000, when the Viceroy was about to raise no less than £5,000,000, and when the Chancellor of the Exchequer had announced on the previous night that he was going to the aid of India with a loan of £2,000,000 without interest, making a sum of no less than £17,000,000, was directly flying in the teeth of a Resolution which, at their own suggestion, was passed two years ago by the House without one dissentient. That Resolution was, in effect, that the duty should not be repealed until the financial condition of India admitted. He would ask every fair and dispassionate person whether, if the financial condition of India did not admit the repeal or reduction of the duties in 1877, it admitted of their reduction at the present time? Many as were the evils resulting from the duties in question, there were greater evils resulting from other existing imposts. If they were to select a duty for special condemnation, would they not select that imposed upon the export of rice and other grain? The question before 425 the House ought to be postponed until India had got rid of some of her indebtedness and had at her disposal an available surplus. There was only one way in which these cotton duties could be legitimately repealed, and that was for hon. Members on each side of the House to insist upon a policy of rigid retrenchment and scrupulous economy being pursued in the administration of Indian affairs. He intended this Session, if he could get an opportunity, to bring forward some Resolutions which would raise this question in a more distinct form. What he wished to impress upon the House was, not to sacrifice the interests of India for the sake of English politics. We talked about Protection. When we talked so much about this Indian protection, did we remember that we had scarcely got a Colony that was not imposing onerous protective duties compared with which these duties on cotton goods sank into absolute insignificance? It was only the night before that he was talking to one who held a high position in the Australian Government, and he had told him that on every single article of English manufacture imported into the Colony of Victoria a duty, not of 5, but of 20 per cent, was imposed. Why, then, should we not distribute some of our indignation on the Colonies, instead of pouring it all on India? he would earnestly entreat the House not to sanction a course which, he was sure, in their calm judgment, they would feel was a course of reckless finance, and that was to sacrifice Revenue, as to which they had no proposition before them as to the means of replacing it, in the face of an admitted deficit so heavy, that it was one of the most serious difficulties which those who were responsible for the finances of India had ever had to encounter.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
I regret that I cannot, on this occasion, concur with the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett); and yet neither that hon. Gentleman nor anyone else can justly accuse me of being reckless as to Indian finance, since I voted for the Resolution of the hon. Member for Hackney, which proposed that the expense of the Afghan War should be charged upon the Revenues of this country, and not upon the Revenues of India. I intend to vote for the first part of the Resolution now before the 426 House, and then to support the Amendment which has been placed upon the Paper by my hon. Friend the Member for South-East Lancashire (Mr. Hardcastle). It may be said that I shall thereby give a vote in the sense of Free Trade. I desire to give a hint to the Colonies as well as to the Government in India, that I do not consider the Dependencies or the Colonies of this country entitled to levy duties as against the Mother Country, as though there was no connection between them. The House has been informed that several of the loading Colonies are from year to year increasing their import duties, as much upon the industrial products of the Mother Country as upon those of foreigners. It appears to me that Her Majesty's Ministers and the House are going on in the vain expectation that the example of Free Trade set by this country in 1846, and followed up to 1861, will be adopted by foreign nations; but from all quarters we have indisputable information that this expectation is vain. And the House have before them the ominous circumstance, that our Colonies are adopting the system of Protection against the Mother Country. In saying this I am not carried away by any theory; but now that the industrial interests of this country are grievously depressed, I consider it the duty of the House to procure openings for the products of that industry by every legitimate means, and especially by preventing the Colonies from treating our exports as though they were of foreign origin. I know that the right hon. Gentlemen the Member for Birminghan (Mr. John Bright) agrees with me in this. The right hon. Gentleman has lately written a letter to some gentleman at Bradford in which he described the advocates of Reciprocity as the victims of lunacy or heresy. The right hon. Gentleman must, I think, have borrowed those terms from the copious vocabulary of the late Pope Pius IX. I quite agree, however, with the right hon. Gentleman that advocates of Reciprocity have, under the existing commercial system of the country, no plea in reason to address to foreign Governments; they have nothing to offer. The reply to them is at once—"You have abandoned all idea of imposing Customs duties—what have you to offer?" And what can be the reply? It is perfectly true 427 that the late Mr. Cobden, who was a very able man, succeeded in obtaining certain concessions in 1860 from the Government of France in the Commercial Treaty which he then negotiated; a Treaty which, nevertheless, destroyed two-thirds of the silk and ribbon trade in the North of Warwickshire, and threw 22,000 weavers upon public charity. Still, Mr. Cobden did obtain certain concessions; but upon what grounds? Not, I believe, upon commercial, but upon political grounds. It is perfectly well known that the late Emperor of the French valued, and had good reason to value, the English alliance at that time. He had reason, and good reason, for seeking by every means to cultivate that alliance; and I believe that it was on account of those political considerations, which weighed greatly with the late Emperor of the French, that he made the concessions that he did. But I would put this to the House. Do they desire that the Government of this country should barter political considerations in order to obtain commercial advantages? Let the House consider in how disadvantageous a position such a system must place this country, if, while adhering to the system of free imports, as a policy from which no exigency will ever induce them to depart, they at the same time sanction the imposition not of differential duties, but absolute protective duties, operating equally against the industry of the Mother Country as against foreign producers, whether imposed by the Colonies or by the Government in India. And now that there is great distress prevailing, I ask the House to consider this matter carefully, and without prejudice—whether it is safe for the interests of this country, that the Government and the Legislature shall remain bigoted and blind in their attachment to the system of free imports? Is it not inconsistent that this system should be blindly adhered to by this country, while it is notoriously violated to our detriment by the Government of India, which is identical with the Government of this country, and violated by Colony after Colony, and rejected by foreign Governments? I trust that this House will make some exertion to prove to the Colonies and to the world that we expect, at all events from those over whom this country has political 428 control, as over India and the Colonies, some reciprocity, some concession to the principle of Free Trade, to which this House had been so long attached.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, he agreed generally in the view expressed by the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett). He believed the remission promised was not to be made in the interests of India, but on English political grounds, which he, for one, had honestly accepted, when it was settled by Resolution of this House, on agreement of both sides, that the duties should be remitted as soon as the finances of India admitted of the step. The remission was not made when the Revenues of India would admit of it. It was dishonest now to remit the duties, contrary to the agreement which had been made. He thought, too, the Government were taking a double-faced position, saying to the Lancashire manufacturers on the one side—"We will give you a certain amount of relief," and to the people of India on the other—"We will not impose on you the necessary income tax to make good the deficit this will cause." It was bad finance to abandon revenue, and not supply the deficit thereby caused.
§ MR. MUNDELLA,
who rose amid considerable interruption, said, he would not occupy the House for more than two minutes, and his only object in rising was to express his entire assent to the able speech of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett), whom he regarded, on the whole, as one of the most able economists in the House. Nevertheless, the views of the hon. Gentleman on this matter were, to some extent, unsound. His hon. Friend said that those who asked for a remission of these import duties ought to point out some means by which the deficiency in the Revenue could be made up. When the repeal of the Corn Laws was agitated in this country, surely it was not the duty of Mr. Cobden and Mr. Bright to point out how the Government could supply the deficiency which the repeal would occasion in the Revenue. He supported the abolition of these duties upon economical grounds; and, in the interests of India, the sooner these import duties were abolished the better. They were building up a manufacturing interest in India upon an unsound basis, and diverting the capital of India into a wrong channel. As soon as they repealed 429 the import duties, that capital would be I rendered valueless. Therefore, he urged that in their interest the sooner they let them know that if they were to compete with England they must do it independent of import-duties and on perfect free trade and equality the better. What was the result of the competition now? India found it sufficiently hard work to compete with Lancashire even with 5 per cent import duty. What was the effect? The screw was put upon the poor operatives of India in a way that was utterly discreditable. ["Oh, oh!"] Yes; they had women and children employed in the mills in India for seven days a-week for three weeks out of four; and children of five, six, and seven years of age worked long hours in a way that was utterly discreditable to the humanity both of this country and India. That, he contended, was the result of the maintenance of an import duty. If India could hold her own against England with the import duties repealed, no one would have a right to complain. Let her have a fair trial and no favour; but they should not continue these miserable duties to build up a manufacturing system on a false basis. The time would come when India would ask for double duties, as Lancashire now asked for their entire repeal. That would be the natural consequence; and, therefore, he would give his vote for the entire repeal.
§ MR. A. M'ARTHUR
said, he would point out to the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) that none of the Australian Colonies, except Victoria, had imposed protective duties against us. He also wished it to be understood that in New South Wales they had Free Trade, and the manufactories had largely increased; whereas there had been no increase, but rather the contrary, in Victoria, where protection existed. In Victoria their protective policy had been ruinous to the best interests of the Colony; while in New South Wales iron trade had been a great success.
MR. C. BECKETT-DENISON
said, he should uphold the arrangement with reference to the financial state of India arrived at two years ago—that these duties should be abolished whenever the Indian Revenue could permit it to be done. In that view, he would support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Ernest Noel), if the words relating to the effect of the duties were 430 omitted. The plea of the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella), on behalf of the women and children employed in the factories, was a hypocritical one, and he must warn the hon. Member not to seek to fetter Indian manufactures by Factory Bills.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 24; Noes 255: Majority 231.—(Div. List, No. 58.)
That the words 'the Indian Import Duty on Cotton Goods being unjust alike to the Indian consumer and the English producer ought to be abolished, and this House is of opinion that the expenditure incurred for the Afghan War affords no satisfactory reason for the postponement of the promised remission of this Duty' be added,"—instead thereof.
Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment,
To leave out all the words after the word "Goods," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "is a Tax which ought ultimately to be abolished; but that, in view of the present state of Indian finances, it is highly inexpedient to deal with the matter at the present moment,"—(Mr. Ernest Noel,)
That the words 'being unjust alike to the Indian consumer and the English producer ought to be abolished, and this House' stand part of the proposed Amendment.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I think, Sir, we should understand exactly what is the question upon which we are to vote, and what is the conclusion at which we are asked to arrive? I understand that the object of the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Ernest Noel) is to make the Resolution stand thus—that an opinion should be expressed on the part of the House that the import duty is a tax which ought ultimately to be abolished, but that it ought not to be abolished at the present time. That is to say, to condemn as inexpedient that which we never proposed to do; and to condemn in advance the Indian Budget. I think it would be rather difficult to do that at the present moment. On the other hand, the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for South-East Lancashire (Mr. Hardcastle) expresses the satisfaction of the House at the recent reduction which 431 is announced as intended to be made by the Indian Government as an important step towards that abolition. I think that is an accept ance of the principle of the Indian Budget, so far as these duties are concerned, and that this Amendment more exactly expresses the views of Her Majesty's Government and of a considerable number of the Members of this House. I take it, therefore, that those who support the view of the hon. Member for South-East Lancashire will vote on the present occasion for retaining the earlier words of the Resolution of the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Briggs), which will consequently exclude the words proposed to be added by the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Ernest Noel). My own opinion is that we should deal with the Amendment of the hon. Member for Dumfries, and then proceed to vote on the Amendment of the hon. Member for South-East Lancashire.
§ MR. LYON PLAYFAIR
said, that before a vote was taken, it was desirable that there should be an understanding as to the interpretation placed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the Amendments. He (Mr. Lyon Playfair) understood it to mean that it would be highly inexpedient to deal in any way with the matter at the present time. There was no censure upon the Indian Government for the remission it had made.
§ MR. BARING
said, that although the Leader of the House had been able to produce a Budget which had very agreeably surprised hon. Members, they could not augur from that circumstance that anything which the Indian Government could propose would result in a surplus. He would, therefore, vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Dumfries.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
inquired, whether the remission of the duty had already been carried into effect?
§ MR. FAWCETT
said, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had, in his opinion, placed the House in a most extraordinary position. He had said—"We cannot give you the details of the Indian Budget, and therefore you must not condemn it; but, on the other hand, you are at perfect liberty to express approval 432 of the Budget." But he (Mr. Fawcett) would remind the right hon. Gentleman that if they were not in a position to condemn, they were likewise not in a position to approve. He thought it would be but fair to adjourn the debate until the details of the Indian Budget were in the hands of hon. Members, by which means their decision would not be founded upon imperfect information. He would, therefore, move the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Fawcett.)
§ The House divided:—Ayes 38; Noes 242: Majority 204.—(Div. List. No. 59.)
Question again proposed,
That the words 'being unjust alike to the Indian consumer and the English producer ought to be abolished, and this House stand part of the proposed Amendment.
§ SIR DAVID WEDDERBURN
considered that the House had placed itself in a position of some difficulty, and believed that if a direct vote was taken on any one of the points before it, a very unsatisfactory impression would be produced both in Lancashire and India. He therefore begged to move the adjournment of the House.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Sir David Wedderburn.)
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I cannot help thinking that the general Business of the House would in some way be confused by our adjourning at this moment. Moreover, I think that were we to adjourn now we should leave this question in a position not at all satisfactory; and I do not see that there is anything in the position of the question that should in any way embarrass the House in coming to a vote upon one or other of the propositions which have been submitted to its notice. Undoubtedly the Motion and Amendments brought forward have somewhat complicated the procedure, and one or two votes will be necessary to arrive at a conclusion; but those hon. Members who have made up their minds whether to support the Amendments of the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Ernest Noel) or that of the hon. Member for South-East Lancashire (Mr. Hardcastle), or whether 433 to support the Motion of the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Briggs), will have no difficulty in voting on a Division. I can, therefore, see no such embarrassment as that suggested by the hon. Member for Haddington (Sir David Wedderburn).
§ MR. ANDERSON
thought that one way out of the difficulty would be for the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Ernest Noel) to withdraw his Amendment—as no one cared about that Amendment, and it had received little support in the debate—and a Division could then be taken on the Amendment of the hon. Member for South-East Lancashire (Mr. Hardcastle).
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
hoped that the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Ernest Noel) would press his Amendment to a Division, after which the House would be in a position to consider what course should be pursued with regard to the adjournment.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
That the words 'being unjust alike to the Indian consumer and the English producer ought to be abolished, and this House' stand part of the proposed Amendment.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 239; Noes 19: Majority 220.—(Div. List, No. 60.)
§ Main Question again proposed.
MR. C. BECKETT-DENISON
moved to leave out all the words in the first part of the Resolution after the word "that," with the view of inserting other words, but—
§ MR. SPEAKER
ruled, that as the House had already agreed to the first part of the Resolution down to the word "House," such Amendment was out of Order.
That the words 'is of opinion that the expenditure incurred for the Afghan War affords no satisfactory reason for the postponement of the promised remission of this Duty' stand part of the proposed Amendment.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 84; Noes 166: Majority 82.—(Div. List, No. 61.)
§ MR. HARDCASTLE
moved to add to the amended Resolution the words— 434Views with approval the recent reduction in these Duties as an important step towards their total abolition, to which Her Majesty's Government are pledged.
Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment,
To add, after the words "this House," the words "views with approval the recent reduction in these Duties as an important step towards their total abolition, to which Her Majesty's Government are pledged."—(Mr. Hardcastle.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ MR. HIBBERT
trusted his hon. Friend the Member for South-East Lancashire (Mr. Hardcastle) would alter the wording of his Amendment. Hon. Members on his (Mr. Hibbert's) side of the House did not view the omission to abolish the duties entirely with very great approval.
§ MR. BARING
felt bound to protest against the act of borrowing £12,000,000 with one hand during the year, and giving away with the other £200,000 a-year, which was, it appeared, only an instalment of the larger sum of £750,000 a-year to be given away. Had such a proposition been made by a private firm, he did not think any honest man or honourable financier would have given it his sanction.
§ MR. MELDON
thought it derogatory to be asked to express an approval of the conduct of the Government in the way proposed by the hon. Member for South-East Lancashire (Mr. Hardcastle). As the Division could be of no practical use whatever, and because he considered the course pursued derogatory, he hoped that the Government would not be allowed to snap a vote of approval on that occasion, and begged to move the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Meldon.)
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, I can see no reason for adjourning the debate at this moment, the House having got through most of the complications connected with the subject. The hon. and learned Member for Kildare (Mr. Meldon) said that a Motion of this kind is derogatory to the dignity of the Government. Possibly that may be said; but it must be borne I in mind that the original proposal was made by an hon. Gentleman who is a 435 Member of the Opposition. That Motion was opposed by an Amendment of the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Ernest Noel); and the House having disposed of that Amendment, and got rid of other difficulties, have come now to consider the Amendment of the hon. Member for South-East Lancashire. The hon. and learned Member for Kildare thinks it perfectly right to carry the Motion of the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Briggs), which contains something like a reflection upon the Government; but when it comes to a Motion which is, to some extent, an approval of the conduct of the Government, we are told that it is derogatory to vote upon it. I do not see anything derogatory in that.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 62; Noes 161: Majority 99.—(Div. List, No. 62.)
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ Amendment to proposed Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I gather, from what has fallen from hon. Members, that it might be possible to agree upon a form of words that will express their own concurrence with the general feelings of the House. I therefore suggest that the Resolution of the hon. Member should stand thus—This House accepts the recent reduction of these Duties as a step towards their total abolition, to which Her Majesty's Government are pledged.
Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment,
To add, after the words "this House," the words "accepts the recent reduction in these Duties as a step towards their total abolition, to which Her Majesty's Government are pledged."—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)
§ Question, "That those words be there added," put, and agreed to.
§ MR. BRIGGS
accepted, with pleasure, the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman; and thought it was well, after the satisfactory discussion which had taken place upon the whole question—in the course of which he had had two very large majorities—to bring the debate to an end.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Resolved, That the Indian Import Duty on Cotton Goods being unjust alike to the Indian consumer and the English producer ought to be abolished, and this House accepts the recent reduction in these Duties as a step towards their total abolition, to which Her Majesty's Government are pledged.