HC Deb 07 August 1879 vol 249 cc420-3

, who had given Notice of the following Motion:— That, considering the present financial condition of India, and the promises that have been made to reduce the expenditure of that country, this House is of opinion that the application which has been recently made to the Secretary of State for India in Council by Maharajah Dhuleep Singh, for an increase of the allowance which he annually receives from the revenues of India, ought not to be granted, said that, in reply to a Question put by him to the Under Secretary, he was informed that an application had been made for an increased allowance, and that it had been referred to the Government of India. That he regarded as a very unusual proceeding, considering that the Secretary of State and his Council were primarily responsible for the expenditure of the Revenues of India. He had also asked the Under Secretary of State for any Papers referring to the application to be produced; and if the hon. Gentleman was now prepared to grant that request, and to undertake that the increase should not be acceded to before Parliament had had an opportunity of expressing their opinion upon the case, he would not pursue the subject further. No answer, however, being forthcoming from the Ministers present, he must lay before the House some considerations which seemed to him to offer most cogent reasons why the application should not be assented to. Some years ago a Treaty was entered into, by which an allowance of not less than four lacs, and not more than five lacs of rupees, was made to the Maharajah. Applications had frequently been made for an increase of the allowance. The subject had been frequently considered by previous Governments, and they were of opinion there was no reason why the allowance should be increased. If there was no reason 10 or 15 years ago for an increase, was there anything in the present financial condition of India to justify an increase of the allowance? £13,000 had been advanced to the Maharajah in order to extricate him from pecuniary difficulties, which, by extravagance, he had brought upon himself. The Government, as trustees of the monies of the people of India, had no right to spend their money for such a purpose. A Report on the estate had been made by Colonel West, who had shown that if the Maharajah gave up his passion for excessive game preserving his financial position might be restored without any additional grant of money. If, then, they spent the money of the people of India in spite of that Report, they would only be encouraging wasteful extravagance. The Under Secretary of State ought to be the very last man to sanction any proceeding that would cause the unnecessary sacrifice of a single shilling of Indian money; for when the abolition of the Indian Museum had been discussed it had been urged, perhaps with some force, that a saving of £9,000 would be effected. If, however, £9,000 was regarded as so important a sum, how much, more serious was the amount applied for by the Maharajah? The Government would find, if they granted the application, that they had indefinitely increased the difficulties in the way of a policy of economy. He might probably be told that so rigid an economist as Sir John Strachey was not likely to yield to the' Maharajah's request; but, possibly, the influence that had made some of the Council of the Secretary of State falter might also be brought to bear upon him. To accede to this application for an increased grant would put into the mouth of every person whose salary the Government might propose to reduce the argument that they were taking money from the poor, and giving money to one who had influential friends to support his claims. He regretted that the Forms of the House did not admit of his moving his Resolution; but if the application for an increased grant was acceded to, he should not allow a single day to elapse next Session without moving for a Committee to inquire into the whole circumstances connected with this matter. He hoped, however, that the Government would take such a course as would make it unnecessary for him to re-open the subject.


had no reason to complain of the observations of the hon. Member for Hackney; but it was well for the House to understand the position in which the question stood. The Home Government had instituted an inquiry into the affairs of the Maharajah Dhuleep Singh, and had referred certain questions arising out of that inquiry to the consideration of the Government of India. Within the last few days they had received a despatch from India, giving the views of the Indian Government upon the position of the Maharajah; but the despatch had not yet been submitted to the Secretary of State in Council. Within a few weeks the subject would be fully gone into. The House had been often told by the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) that, by Act of Parliament, the control of the finances of India was, in the long run, vested in the Secretary of State for India in Council. That was a body who, having all the facts before them, were competent to form an opinion; but the Motion, as placed upon the Paper, would put the House in the place of the Secretary of State in Council. The hon. Member seemed to assume that there was an intention to give an increased allowance out of the Indian Revenues to the Maharajah; but he was at a loss to imagine what ground he had for that assumption. Until the Report received from India had been carefully gone into, there was no right to assume anything of the kind; and when the hon. Member alluded to influences brought to bear upon the India Office he (Mr. E. Stanhope) must say that there was no more independent body, able and anxious to do their duty, than that which had control of the finances of India. As to the advance of £13,000 without security, as the hon. Member said, it should be borne in mind that the Government had the best of all security in the fact that they were the paymasters. These advances were made pending the settlement of affairs, and there was ample security for repayment in the terms of settlement. It was true that the Secretary of State had thought it right to obtain a Report upon the Maharajah's estate. It should be remembered that they were not solely dealing with the Maharajah personally. There were obligations from India due to the Maharajah, and when he spoke of a final settlement he hoped to establish such a state of affairs as would prevent the necessity of any further applications from the Maharajah, and would place his children in that position which, looking to all the circumstances of the case, they ought to occupy. To do that it might be necessary to lay a Bill before Parliament. He could not say that that would be so; but, possibly, it might be necessary to introduce a Private Bill on the subject, but he could not speak with certainty until he knew the decision at which the Secretary of State in Council had arrived. The most careful consideration would be given to the whole question, and all that could be urged in India or England would have every attention, and he hoped now the House might be allowed to leave a difficult and delicate subject.