HC Deb 13 May 1879 vol 246 cc233-4

asked Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Whether in the communications sent to the Viceroy of India by the Secretary of State, in relation to the repeal of the Cotton Duties, the provisions prescribed by "The Government of India Act, 1858," were observed, which require, by section 24— That any communication proposed to be sent to India, unless the same has been submitted to a meeting of the Council, shall be placed in the Council Room for the perusal of all Members of the Council during seven days before the sending thereof, in order that any Member of the Council may record in the Minute Book his opinion with respect to such communication; or by the further provision in section 26, that— When the despatch of any communication appears to be urgently required, the urgent reasons for sending the same, without depositing it for seven days in the Council Room, shall be recorded by the Secretary of State, and notice thereof given to every Member of Council; whether it is claimed that the communications in reference to such a matter come within the exception in section 29 as to the subjects which before that Act were transacted by the Secret Committee of the Court of Directors; and, if that is not so, whether he will state why the provisions of the Act before referred to have not been complied with; and also what are the dates of the receipt of the communications from the Viceroy on that subject and of the replies of the Secretary of State; and whether those communications will be presented to this House?


Sir, I have communicated with my noble Friend the Secretary of State for India upon this subject, and he informs me that it was not his intention to send, and it is not his opinion that he did send, any order or communication to India within the meaning of the section of the Government of India Act referred to. The telegrams in question were sent in reply to a telegraphic inquiry from the Viceroy, and they bore a heading which, according to an understanding between the last two Secretaries for India—the Duke of Argyll and the Marquess of Salisbury—as well as the present Secretary and the Viceroy, show them to be of the nature of a private letter. The telegram sent by the Secretary of State in no way committed the Council to an approval of what was done. These communications will not, of course, be laid on the Table of the House.


In consequence of the answer of the right hon. Gentleman, I beg to give Notice that, on an early day, I will call attention to the manner in which the design of Parliament in providing a Council, both in India and in England, composed of men experienced in Indian affairs, as advisers and checks upon the Administration, and particularly on measures relating to finance, have been evaded and defeated by the action of the Viceroy and the Secretary of State for India.