HC Deb 28 February 1882 vol 266 cc1831-2

asked the Secretary of State for India, Whether, in reference to Lord Salisbury's reply to a deputation in 1876, that he "entirely disclaimed any intention to push the Bengal system (of opium cultivation) further," he can inform the House what was the number of acres in cultivation under that system in 1876, and how many are under cultivation at the present time; whether any attempt has been made, especially in the north-west provinces, (the agency of Benares) to bring more land under poppy cultivation, and what has been the result of such, attempts; whether he can lay upon the Table a Return of the Opium held in stock at the commencement of each financial year, and the quantities received into and taken out of stock each year, during the last period of ten years, for which he may have received Returns; and, whether, in accordance with his speech on the 29th April, 1881, the noble Lord has formally invited the consideration of the Government of India" "to review their position as regards the Opium Revenue, and see whether they cannot adopt some alteration of the system which would render their connection and interest in the trade less direct, and place them in a sounder and better position; and, if so, whether he will lay upon the Table a Copy of his Despatch, and of any reply he may have received?


I do not know to what report of Lord Salisbury's reply my hon. Friend refers. The report in The Times contains merely this sentence—"The Government of India did not view with any favour the idea of extending the traffic." The number of acres under poppy cultivation in Bengal was, in 1876, 556,012, and is, in 1881–2, 562,263. The price paid to the cultivator for raw opium was, in 1877, reduced from 5 rupees to 4½ rupees per seer. This caused a decrease in the cultivation, which, added to bad seasons, seriously affected the outturn of opium. It was, therefore, determined to revert to the price of 5 rupees a seer in the Behar Agency in 1880, and in the Benares Agency in 1881, with the result of a small increase, as stated above, over the cultivation of 1876. The Return asked for can be given. The despatch promised was addressed to the Government of India, and a very full reply has been received. I have been in communication with the Foreign Office as to the immediate publication of these Papers; but it was considered inexpedient to do so pending certain negotiations in which Sir Thomas Wade is engaged at the present time. When it is possible to publish Papers relating to these negotiations the despatch and reply of the Government of India will be either included or laid separately on the Table.


asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether Article III. sec. 3, of the Convention made at Chefoo in 1876 between Sir Thomas Wade and the Government of China, relating to the Opium Trade, has been ratified; and, if not, whether he can lay upon the Table any Papers giving information on this subject; whether it is true, as reported in the papers, that the Chinese Government has sanctioned an increase in the import duty on opium of 140 taels, equal to £40 sterling, a chest, or any other sum; and, whether Her Majesty's Government has acquiesced in an addition to the 30 taels import duty provided for by the Treaty of Tientsin?


The arrangement respecting opium conditionally agreed to in the Chefoo Convention has not yet been ratified; but no complaint is made by the Chinese Government of the delay which has arisen in the settlement of this question, as other arrangements have been proposed on each side which are the subject of friendly negotiations between the two Governments at the present time. Until those negotiations are concluded it would not be convenient to produce further Papers. Her Majesty's Government are not aware that the Chinese Government have sanctioned any increase in the import duty on opium.