HC Deb 06 June 1882 vol 270 cc226-7

asked the Secretary of State for India, If his attention has been called to the statement of the Correspondent of the "Times" from Calcutta with reference to the importation of dangerous explosive oil from America; and, if it is true that he has instructed the Government of India to repeal or modify the Act passed by that Government only last year; and, if it is true that the Government of India, in obedience to such orders, is legislating upon the subject at Simla where no independent or commercial member of the Council is present?


Sir, my attention has been called to the telegram of the Calcutta Correspondent of The Times, which contains an inaccurate statement of the facts. Representations have been made to me by respectable firms that four cargoes, containing 2,500,000 gallons, of petroleum have been rejected by the Government Inspectors as below the standard, though they had taken every precaution to comply with the requirements of the Act. They have laid before me documentary evidence to support the latter assertion. It is also stated that other cargoes are on the voyage, under similar conditions. On consulting Professor Abel, who is the inventor of the test employed here and in India, I find that he is uncertain whether his test, intended to be used in a temperate climate, can be entirely depended on under very different climatic conditions in India. This opinion seems to be confirmed by the fact that identical samples of oil refused at Bombay last autumn have been re-tested in London and admitted. Under these circumstances, and considering that merchants who appear to have taken every reasonable precaution to comply with the requirements of the law are subjected to very heavy loss by what it is, at least, possible may be an imperfection of the test laid down by the law, and also that a reduction, by the rejection of the cargoes in question, of something like a quarter of the year's imports must greatly raise the price of petroleum in India and cause loss and inconvenience to the Indian consumer, I thought it right to communicate the facts before me by telegram to the Government of India, and to ask their earliest consideration of the matter. The question of any permanent modification of the test under the Act cannot be considered for some time- -till the opinions of the experts who have been consulted are received. But, to meet the pressing case of the alleged hardship to shippers of cargoes of petroleum already arrived in India or afloat, the Government of India propose to pass in their Legislative Council to-morrow a temporary Act, admitting petroleum certified by the New York Public Inspectors not to flash below the standard required by the Act. I have issued no instructions in the matter, but have simply communicated the information received and the opinions of experts, leaving it to the discretion of the Legislative Council whether to pass the Act.