§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ MR. J. K. CROSS
, in rising to make the Annual Financial Statement with regard to India, said: Last year, Sir, when telling hon. Members the story of the financial transactions and position of the Government of India, I tried to show the House how very erroneous was the idea, so commonly current, that the Indian ryot was bitterly ground down with taxation. I pointed out the fact that many items in the Accounts had no reference to taxation, and, though coming within the financial purview of the year as items of Receipt and Charge, they were really not Revenue and Expenditure in the ordinary sense of the term. Still, these items swell the figures and increase the rent and tax account of our Indian Empire from a gross amount of about £40,000,000, or 40 crores of rupees, which they would be if the Business Departments of the Government were excluded, to a gross total 284 of some £70,000,000, or, rather, 70 crores. I wish hon. Members not to lose sight of that fact, for it has a most important bearing upon any possible increase of charge which, for any reason, may come against the Revenues of the year, the net receipt which can be affected by taxation in India not being over 18½ crores of rupees, or about a nominal £18,500,000 sterling. As usual, when discussing what is known as the Indian Budget, we must examine the Accounts of three years—the closed Accounts of the year 1882–3, the Revised Estimate of 1883–4, and the Budget Estimate of 1884–5. The Revised Estimate of last year has become the Closed Account. I told the House that for 1882–3 the estimated Revenue was £67,920,000; the expenditure from the taxation of the year amounting to £67,696,000, leaving an anticipated surplus of £224,000. There has been a change in the method of stating the Railway Account since last year; the gross accounts of the East India Railway are brought in on each side, and my figures have to be adjusted to meet this change. Allowing for this—and I shall have to do so in all the gross figures which I quote—the result stands thus:—The gross receipts, estimated at £69,646,000, have proved to be £70,125,000; a gross charge, estimated at £69,422,000 has proved to be £69,418,000; and the surplus, estimated at £224,000 is £707,000. I said last year that the Provincial Governments would spend from their balances in 1882–3 about £1,525,400; they have spent £1,203,000. In the gross charge there is included £1,500,000 laid aside towards the Famine Grant, of which £22,000 was spent in the relief of famine, £134,000 on Protective Works, and £1,344,000 on the reduction of the Debt. The Budget Estimate of the Accounts of 1883–4 has now become the Revised Estimate for this year, and shows the gross Revenue, with the Railway correction I have mentioned, to be £70,568,000, while the Expenditure from Revenue is estimated at £70,200,000, which leaves a surplus of £368,000. The Provincial Governments have, as I told the House last year, been again spending their balances; but they have not trenched upon them quite so much as was anticipated, there having been spent in this manner £1,106,000, as against an anticipated amount of £1,499,000. The total Expenditure 285 of the year, therefore, is £71,306,000. The usual Famine Grant of £1,500,000 is included in this expenditure, £10,000 being spent upon relief; £917,000 upon Protective Works, and £573,000 on the reduction of the Debt. Besides this we have in the year ending March 31st, 1884, paid £1,000,000, costing us about 12,277,000 rupees, towards our Debt to the Treasury for arrears of the capitalized pensions; and there is also included a sum of £325,000 in connection with the Indus flotilla, which does not properly belong to the charges of the year. These payments might fairly be considered as not chargeable on the Revenue of the year. By omitting them we should have a surplus of £1,920,000; but I hope the House will agree with me in thinking that there is no better use to which we could put our surplus Revenue than that of discharging outstanding liabilities. The next figures which we must consider are those of the gross Receipt and Charge, as shown in the Budget Estimate of 1884–5—the year now current. The Revenue is estimated at £70,560,000, and the Expenditure from the receipts of the year £70,241,000, the surplus being £319,000; but the Provincial Governments have still balances which they wish to spend upon public works, and they propose to trench upon their funds to the amount of £515,000, making the total gross Expenditure for the year 1884–5, £70,756,000. The £1,500,000 of Famine Grant is, as usual, included in the Expenditure, £1,199,000 being in this year allotted to protective works, and £301,000 to the reduction of the Debt. This year, however, the Government of the North-Western Provinces proposes to spend £250,000 on protective railways, and to place this sum to the Famine Grant Account, really making that grant £1,750,000 this year. Last year I tried to explain to the House what the weight of the burden of taxation was which India had to bear, and I pointed out that it was comprised under eight heads—namely, Land Tax, Salt, Stamps, Excise, Provincial Bates, Customs, Assessed Taxes, and Registration. These items cover all the charges borne by the people of India at the instance of the Government as land rent and taxation, and, for the year ending 31st March next, they are estimated at £40,361,000. If we deduct the land 286 rent, £21,888,000, there remains only £18,473,000, an amount which, divided over the 200,000,000 of our fellow-subjects in British India, is not more than 14 annas and 9 pice per head. With this Revenue from rent and taxes of £40,000,000 we have to meet an Expenditure of £49,000,000; and it is only by depending on our Opium Revenue of £9,000,000 that we can balance our accounts. I have now passed in brief review the figures of gross Receipt and Charge contained in the Indian Finance Accounts of the three years ending 31st March, 1885. They show very little change; indeed, the financial record of the time is not eventful; and it is, perhaps, a happy thing for India that it is not. The gross total Expenditure of each of the three last years has been—in 1882–3, £70,621,000, being a reduction on the previous year of £421,000; 1888–4, £71,306,000, being an increase of £685,000; 1884–5, £70,736,000, being a reduction of £550,000. In the second of these years no less than £1,000,000 sterling of the old Debt was discharged from the Revenue, and this current year we pass an increased amount of £250,000 to the Famine Grant. In these three years, therefore, we charge the Revenue £4,750,000 for famine protection, of which all but £32,000 is for protective works, and the reduction of Debt. When this has been reckoned, the surplus of 1882–3 is £707,000, after paying a net charge of £699,000 for the expenditure on the Egyptian Expedition. The surplus of 1883–4 is £368,000, after paying £1,000,000 sterling for arrears of Non-Effective Charges, and the surplus of 1884–5 is estimated at £319,000, reckoning the Opium Revenue at a net amount of £6,241,000, which is £1,627,000 below the average of the last five years. The amount raised by taxation in India has been singularly steady, being—exclusive of Land Tax—in 1882–3, £17,950,000, or 14 annas 4 pice per head; in 1883–4, £18,297,000, or 14 annas 7 pice per head; and in 1884–5, £18,473,000, or 14 annas 9 pice per head. As no changes have taken place in taxation during the period under notice, it will be seen there is a moderate, though steady, progress; but, at the same time, when we consider how comparatively small is the net amount raised by taxation in India, I think the 287 House will see that a very slight increase of expenditure might, at any time, involve the very unpleasant consideration of an increase of taxation. If the gross receipts were the proceeds of taxes, one or two turns of the screw would easily add an additional £1,000,000 to our Revenue; but when we have abolished the Customs' Duties on most articles of consumption, and have only so small a list of taxes remaining on which it is possible to operate, we may well be anxious that nothing should occur to disturb the present financial calm. In turning to the details of the Accounts presented, I must remind the House that the Closed Accounts of 1882–3 give the result of the great experiment tried by Sir Evelyn Baring, who abolished the Customs Duties on so many articles, and reduced the Salt Tax. I think I told the House last year that these sacrifices of Revenue, together with some small reduction of local rates, would relieve the people of India to the extent of about £2,800,000. They have, however, not accepted the relief in full, or rather, I should say, perhaps, they have taken such advantage of it as they are able, and use so much more of the articles which are still taxed that, whereas the reduction would have accounted for a loss of £2,800,000 in the Revenue from taxes, the amount has only fallen by £2,313,000, from £20,263,000 in 1881–2 to £17,950,000 in 1882–3, showing that the reduction has stimulated consumption to a remarkable degree. The reduction in the Salt Tax of 25 per cent would have accounted for a diminished Revenue from this source of £1,600,000; whereas the duty in 1882–3 produces only £1,169,000 less than it did in the year of the reduction, and in the Revised Account of this year we have again an increase of £71,000, which appears to be a very moderate estimate. The revenue from Excise shows a gradual growth, amounting to £164,000 in the first year under review, and a further sum of £183,000 in the year just closed; the estimate for the coming year is taken at an increase of £20,000 only. Other noteworthy changes in the details of receipt are Land Revenue and Opium, neither of which is affected by the same causes as the Salt Tax and Excise. The Land Revenue, in the first two years of which I speak, shows a falling-off in the net receipts of £154,000 and £324,000 respectively, 288 there being few arrears to collect in the first year; while, in the second, the salaries of many of the Native officers were increased, and the costs of village accountants in Oude was charged upon this revenue. The Revenue of 1884–5 is estimated at a net increase of £77,000. The net receipts from Opium, fell off by £587,000 in 1882–3; but they improved by £403,000 again in the current year, the reduced rate being more than compensated for by the higher price obtained. The Estimate for the coming year is taken at £1,378,000 less than the past year. This source of Revenue is very fluctuating. When the reserve is great, and the growing crop of poppy small, the net receipt is very heavy in proportion to the sales. When, on the other hand, the reserve is low and the growing crop large, we have to estimate for small sales and heavy expenditure. The latter will be the case during the current year; the reserve is small, and the sales are estimated at 46,500 chests, as compared with 54,400 last year, the estimated price, 1,250 rupees, being the same; but, the poppy crop being large, the expenses are estimated at £489,000 increase, and the result, as I have said, is a reduction of £1,377,000 in the Revenue from this source. The selling price, however, is at present 1,340 rupees per chest, so we may consider the estimate very safe. The only other item of receipt to which I need specially allude, always excepting Public Works, which must be treated separately, is that of Forests. The Forest Department is gradually be coming more important, and on its good management the welfare of many districts in India very much depends. Both the revenue and the expenditure show a gradual increase. Twenty years ago the receipts were £360,000; they are now just over £1,000,000. In the three years under review they are: 1882–3, £938,000; 1883–4, £1,011,000; and 1884–5, £1,053,000; whilst the expenses for the same period are, respectively, £567,000, £686,000, and an estimated £727,000, leaving a net revenue of £371,000 in 1882–3, and of £325,000 in each of the succeeding years. To give some idea of the extent of the work of the Department, I may state that the total area of Government forests in British India was, in 1872, 72,000 square miles, or more than 46,000,000 acres, of which about 30,000,000 acres 289 were Government Reserves. The future value of this great property greatly depends upon the ability of the young men now training for its management; and it is really of the greatest importance that attention should be paid to the matter; and so important is it considered that special instruction will in future be given to a limited number of students at Cooper's Hill College by one of our most able Indian forest officers. Some parts of India have been completely denuded of forest growth, with the effect of rendering barren considerable tracts of country. It will be the duty of the Forest Department to give new life to these districts, and I am told that in some parts of India it is by no means so difficult to do this as might be imagined. But the time at my disposal is not enough for me to give a full account of the work of forestry which is going on in India. I have been asked Questions in the House which indicate an opinion that our Indian Forest Department is not an unmixed good, and there is no doubt that, in some instances, common rights, or, I should say, customary rights, have to be curtailed. But restriction is necessary in the public interest, because the exercise of these rights, without any regulation, simply leads to certain destruction of the forests, and has a very serious effect upon the rainfall. What is aimed at in the Indian Forest Acts is to forbid altogether the exercise of those practices, which are incompatible with the existence of the forests, and to interfere as little as possible with customary rights. Thus, in every locality some of the forest land is still left open to grazing and firewood cutting, and some is strictly closed for a period long enough to allow the trees to recover. I now turn to the Expenditure, Interest on Debt, and other obligations which appear as the first charges on the Revenues. I am happy to say that this is diminishing. In the first year under review it was £4,465,000; in the second, £4,249,000; in the current year, £4,162,000. The net reduction of interest payable, irrespective of Public Works Loans, is, therefore, as compared with 1881–2, no less than £306,000; and there is every reason to expect that further reductions may take place as outstanding loans fall in, and we are able to renew them at lower rates of interest. The other charges, to 290 which I may direct attention, are those of the Post Office and Telegraph Departments, in which there appears to be a continuous increase, mainly in consequence of a great extension of the telegraphic service. The increase of the Post Office receipts during the three years is £81,000, against an increased charge of £53,000. The increased charge for Telegraphs is £197,000, against an increase of revenue of only £29,000. This arises partly from an alteration of charges for Government messages, and partly from a very large capital expenditure on Telegraphs, which is placed against Revenue, the amount spent in this way being £155,000 in the first, £215,000 in the second, and £304,000 in the third year under review. We find that Law and Justice, Police and Education, are each, as at home, constantly growing items of charge. Under the first of these heads, all the gaol charges are included; and I may say that it is owing to the anxiety of the Government to place the gaols on a better sanitary footing that this increase in charge occurs, which amounts to £127,000 in the last, as compared with the first year under review. Police also costs more over the same period by £151,000, the Government having followed the bad English plan, and assumed the liability of the cost of municipal and cantonment police, and also of the village police in Oude. Education figures for the very moderate increase of £91,000, due almost entirely to increased grants to village schools in Bengal and Bombay. The Ecclesiastical Grant is almost stationary; but this year it is about £5,000 more than three years ago, by no means confirming the idea expressed by the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. E. Stanhope) some time ago, that Lord Ripon was cutting down the Protestant Establishment in India. The cost of the Army is not materially different from the Estimates of last year. Indeed, taking into account the payment of £1,000,000 towards the debt for arrears of Non-Effective Charges, the gross charge of 1883–4 is £17,033,000 against an Estimate of £17,064,000, the Budget Estimate for 1884–5 being £16,099,000. The net charge on the Revenues of India for the Army in 1883–4 is £16,121,000, the Estimate for 1884–5 being £15,238,000. In the total for 1883–4 there is included a payment of 291 £1,000,000 net, true sterling, of which I have already spoken, towards the accumulated debt of £2,000,000 for arrears of Non-Effective Charges, and an extra amount of £1,000,000 towards the current charge for these services. I explained to the House last year how this debt to the Treasury had grown up; and I will only now say that arrangements have been made, by which it will probably be extinguished in the next few years without any additional charge upon the Indian Revenues, and that the payments will in future be arranged in such a manner as to diminish, for some years, the annual charges. No credit has, however, been taken for this change in the Military Estimates. It is intended to make the usual annual payment, letting any surplus over the requirements of the year go towards discharging the old debt. Two other changes have been made during the past year, to which it is my duty to direct the attention of the House. Owing to slackness in recruiting, and to the large number of men who took their discharge during 1882, it was found that, at the end of the trooping season in April, 1883, the British Army in India was some 5,000 men below the established strength, and it was estimated that, as the year went on, the deficiency would increase till it reached some 7,000 men in all. No immediate remedy was practicable; but, in order to prevent a continuance of the deficiency, it was decided, after consultation with the War Office, to offer a bounty of 120 rupees to all men between four and six years' service, extending their service in India to 10 years. This offer was freely accepted; from 7,000 to 8,000 have re-engaged, and it is expected that, at the end of the next trooping season (April, 1885), during which the War Office sends out 12,450 men in relief, the deficiency will be reduced to 650 men, even if it is not altogether removed. The actual amount paid in bounties may be put roughly at from £60,000 to £70,000. Against this exceptional expenditure must be set the saving which will necessarily follow from the reduction of the number of troops conveyed to and from India each year, a saving which will equal the amount of the bounty given to those who take service for the extra time. In the Estimate for the coming year there is included an extra charge of £184,000, 292 caused by the British soldier in India receiving his pay at the current rate of exchange. Until this year the British troops in India have received their pay on a scale laid down in India 10 years ago, when the exchange value of the rupee was higher than it is at present; but, in future, they will be paid at the Treasury rate of the year. The item of Exchange which appears in the Accounts as one of our heavy charges shows very great fluctuations, the decrease in 1882–3 being £476,000, followed by an increase of £779,000, and by a decrease again in the coming year of £322,000. These are startling alterations; but they depend almost entirely upon the amount that has to be remitted from India for various charges; and Exchange transactions are, as I said last year, more items in account than expenses of Government. For, granted that Government has to pay certain sterling sums, it makes little difference whether the payment is made in such a number of rupees as will provide the creditor of the Government with the necessary sterling, giving, perhaps, 12½ rupees to pay £1 worth of debt, or whether the Government of India reckons that it discharges its liability to the Home Government, or to its creditors, by an entry of 10 rupees as covering £1 worth of debt, and debiting 2½ rupees to the loss by exchanges. If the English and Indian payments were not mixed together in the Accounts, and if every payment made on behalf of the Indian Government could be reckoned in the number of rupees required to discharge the debt, there would be somewhat less confusion in the minds of those who write in the Indian Press on this subject; but the English portion of the Accounts would be harder to understand. The present apparent complexity of account disappears if those who examine the question really grasp the fact that there is no established ratio between the rupee and the pound sterling, and that, so far as the discharge of sterling liability goes, the rupee is not money, but merchandize, which has to be realized by the Government at the current price of silver before the sterling liabilities can be met. I have considered whether something cannot be done to show to hon. Members the particular items to which the charge of loss by Exchange applies, and we propose to add a short 293 supplementary sheet to the Financial Statement, giving a detailed explanation, to show how the division of this so-called loss should be apportioned. I need not now describe the matter more fully; but, giving two instances, I may point out that the railway transactions of 1882–3 required a sterling payment in this country of £6,187,782, and this sum demanded 74,900,130 rupees to meet it; whereas, in the Indian Accounts, it appears as discharged by a remittance of 61,877,820 rupees, the balance being charged to Exchange; and in the case of interest on the sterling debt, which requires a remittance of £2,481,147 sterling, this amount appears to be discharged by a payment of 24,811,470 rupees, the balance (5,691,590 rupees) being charged to Exchange, whereas the simple fact is that the £2,481,147 sterling requires 30,503,060 rupees to meet it. To put it shortly, we must remember that every pound sterling we have to pay from India to England costs India at present 12½ rupees; at the same time, the low price of the rupee renders it much easier of acquisition by the Indian cultivator, and enables him to get more rupees for any given amount of produce than he otherwise would, and so places him in a better position to meet his obligations. He pays his rent and taxes more easily, and the rupee price of produce being higher at the ports than it would be if Exchange were higher, the rates of carriage are more easily paid, and the railways get an advantage thereby. Indeed, I have little doubt that the low rate of Exchange, though it is a misfortune to the Government as regards home remittances, is not without compensating advantages to India. I now approach the important Department of Public Works. It is totally unlike anything in our English Accounts, and the bearings of the engineering, administrative, and financial questions involved in the Public Works' policy of the Government of India are somewhat difficult to grasp; but my present duty is confined to stating the financial results of these works, as shown in the Accounts presented. I must describe the Ordinary and Productive Works separately, beginning with the former. The gross charge for these works in the three years under review is £20,094,000, the receipts are £2,575,000. The net cost is £17,519,000, 294 being in the year 1882–3, £6,335,000, in 1883–4, £6,013,000, and in 1884–5, £5,171,000. On the Revenue side, we have also, amongst other items, the receipts from famine lines, and others not classed as Productive, such as the Rewari-Berozepur and the frontier lines, amounting in the three years to £507,000; the receipts from protective irrigation works £422,000; and from tolls, ferries, rents, stores, and workshops, £1,517,000. On the Expenditure side we have the capital spent from Income on State Railways, £260,000; the working and maintenance of these lines, £498,000; the payments for interest to subsidized railways and the cost of land for them, £437,000; the cost of frontier lines, £165,000; the maintenance and improvement of minor irrigation and navigation works, £2,450,000; the cost and maintenance of military works, £2,924,000; the charge for civil buildings, including State palaces, Government offices, schools, gaols, dispensaries, harbour works, ferries and roads, £13,360,000. A detailed examination of these items shows that the amount spent under the last head has been very heavy; but my hon. Friend opposite (Mr. E. Stanhope) will be glad to hear it is not increasing. Indeed, it is estimated at a reduction of rather over £500,000 during the current year. These works are all charged to Revenue, and they are considered necessary for the welfare of the State. The Productive Public Works demand from me a rather more exhaustive examination. The technical meaning of the word "Productive" is works which within 10 years of their establishment, if they are irrigation works, or within five years if they are railways, will pay 4 per cent interest on the outlay upon them, including simple interest on capital during construction and on the cost of the land taken for them, together with the capitalized pensions of the engineers employed in their construction. The gross receipts from all such works come under this head, together with those of all railways purchased by the Government, the net receipts from guaranteed railways, and the portion of Land Revenue due to irrigation. In 1882–3 the total sum of the items was £12,224,000; in 1883–4 the total sum of the items was £12,970,000; in 1884–5 it is estimated at £13,631,000, showing a progressive increase of 295 £746,000 and £661,000 in the receipts of the last and current years respectively. The charges shown on the Expenditure side of the Accounts are in 1882–3, £11,742,000, in 1883–4, £12,060,000, in 1884–5, £12,543,000. Those charges include everything which can be brought against Productive Works, except loss by Exchange, and they leave a credit balance in 1882–3 of £482,000, in 1883–4 of £910,000, in 1884–5 of £1,089,000. This advance in net receipts, amounting to £606,000 in two years, is mainly due to the increased earnings of the East Indian Railway and of the State Railways, and is not in any way due to the increased irrigation receipts. It is an indication of real substantial financial progress; and comparing last year with the year 1878–9, when Exchange was very nearly at the same rate, we have a result on Productive Works better by £2,163,695 than we had in that year, and better by £2,163,195 than we had in the next year, and better by £2,500,000 than in 1873–4. I have spoken of the comparative results of Railway Works, and shown them to be very encouraging. The financial effect of the fall in Exchange, however, has prevented the Government of India from reaping the full benefit of the last 10 years; but the cause has not been more active since 1878–9 than it was in that year, so that the comparison between 1878–9 and 1883–4 is perfectly fair. The Indian Government have been greatly pressed, during the last year, to enter upon a very rapid extension of railway communication, and many reasons have been advanced in support of this demand. Public Bodies have addressed earnest Memorials to the Secretary of State on this subject, and he has been strongly advised to borrow vast sums in the London Market, some of the Memorials saying as much as £20,000,000 a-year for the next 10 years; but no one who has advocated this courageous borrowing has suggested any method by which these great loans for Public Works could ever be repaid, nor, indeed, has it been made at all clear how interest on them even is to be remitted to this country. The great increase of railways in America has been quoted as an example worthy of consideration by the Indian Government, by those who seem entirely to lose sight of the fact that, whereas, in America, the railways are made by private 296 enterprize, the risk or profit or loss remaining with the proprietors, in India, with a very small exception, the railways are made by the State, the possible loss having to be made good out of taxation, which must be paid by the people. In America, if a Railway Company cannot meet its obligations, the proprietors suffer, but the public may gain by cheap carriage. In India, though a railway may not, and sometimes does not, earn its dividend, the proprietors enjoy their guaranteed interests, and the taxpayer suffers the loss. In considering railway extension, therefore, we have to be especially careful that our operations shall be conducted on such a scale as not to involve the risk of imposing burdens on those who may not profit by them. Other reasons are given, many of them more or less fallacious. We are asked to develope the wheat export of India in order to divert trade from America and Russia. We are asked to give a guarantee to Indian Railway Companies, which must be made good by the proceeds of Indian taxation, in order that Indian wheat may come so cheaply to Europe as to supplant Russia and America, even though this will incidentally still further depress our own wheat growers. We are asked, practically, to give a bounty on the export of wheat at the expense of the Indian people. We are told, too, that, by this process, we shall improve our trade here; and if India sends us wheat, she will take more of our products in exchange than other countries. These foreigners, it is said, demand gold in exchange for their produce; but India will take untaxed manufactures from us. I should like some of those who are possessed by these curious ideas to see what India did take in return for the £89,000,000 worth of exports which left her shores last year, and they will find that, among other things, she absorbed about a third of the silver and a quarter of the gold which was produced in the world during the year, and that she did not very greatly increase her import of British manufactures, and that she did increase very considerably her export of cotton yarns. Well, Sir, these are the bad reasons given by the advocates of railway extension. The good reasons, the worthy reasons, are those which are urged from an Indian standpoint. In one district you may 297 have surplus of grain; in another, a scarcity; in one district, high prices; in another, the surplus grain is almost unsaleable; and land, in districts naturally fertile, lies undeveloped till the railway comes. Coal, too, and ironstone are known to exist in large quantities, and prudently developed they will be a great source of wealth to India; but these tracts can only be developed by railways, so railways must be made. Hon. Members will recollect that, early in the year, I proposed a Committee to inquire into this question, and that Committee has unanimously reported that the evidence in favour of a more rapid extension of railways in India is conclusive, and it has untied the bonds with which the Secretary of State considered himself bound by the Committee of 1878–9. At the same time, I ought to warn the House against being carried away by the swing of public opinion. This pendulum goes from side to side with ever-increasing force; and, if our railway policy in India is allowed to swing with it, disaster must follow. What we should aim at is continuity of policy until the time shall arrive when Public Works will, I hope, be no longer necessarily undertaken by the State. Meanwhile, we shall try to adhere to the resolution laid down by the Government of India, and endorsed by the Committee—that railway extension shall not subject the people of India to increased taxation. There is one aspect of the question which has not received at the hands of the public the attention which it deserved—that is, the question of borrowing in India or England. If we borrow in England for Indian purposes we must pay the interest of the loans here; for every £1,000,000 we must remit some £35,000 a-year. For £10,000,000 we must, therefore, remit £350,000. Now, if the expenditure of this £10,000,000 so develops the country in which it is spent that, with no more spending of force, £350,000 worth more produce is available for export, it is then possible that things may go well. If the development is greatly in excess of the interest required there will be no difficulty, and great advantage rests with India; but if the expenditure should not produce its due return, the people of India must be taxed to meet the outlay. And this is not all. The remittances for interest come home not 298 in coin, but in kind. You may say, why should they not come in coin? They might if the interest of our currency and standard of value were identical with those of India; but everyone knows that a remittance of even £1,000,000 worth of silver from India to England is a practical impossibility. As a matter of fact, India is the greatest consumer of that metal. She sends her remittances in produce, or else they cannot come at all. So an extra charge for interest involves the sending of an extra amount of produce. For every £35,000, being the interest on every £1,000,000 borrowed, there will be a remittance required equal to the annual produce of 25,000 acres of land. For every £1,000,000 you borrow here, you, therefore, hypothecate the produce of 25,000 acres in India, and the difference between borrowing here and obtaining the money from a bonâ fide Indian source is that, in the one case, the produce will leave the country as tribute to the creditors; in the other, it will not, but becomes available either for food in India, or as a commodity for exchange. If Indian capital is all being used at better rates of interest than those at which the Government can borrow in England, it is well to borrow here, and employ the capital in India on the one condition that it shall be fully reproductive. I must say it does seem a very extraordinary thing that capital should not be forthcoming in India, when that country has absorbed more than £220,000,000 worth of silver and £110,000,000 worth of gold in the last 30 years. Whether there be great hoards or not, we do not seem to have much chance of attracting them; so in order to carry out the policy of railway extension, it is more than probable that, next year, one may have to come to Parliament for power to borrow in England for the use of the Indian Government. I hope, when the time comes, the House will be in as enterprizing a mood as it seems to be at present, and then there will be no difficulty in making more rapid progress in railway work in India. And there is one advantage in asking for a loan, it will force us to introduce our Budget earlier. Those who ask for loans will naturally be told to show their balance sheet; and the first thing I shall be asked will be, what is the state of our general finance, independent of the 299 annual receipts and charges of which I have spoken? Well, Sir, I will, in anticipation of such a question, give the House a few more figures, which will, I think, go far to prove our solvency. Our total liabilities, so far as I can reckon them, are £246,948,000, a large sum, no doubt, but of what does it consist? The Rupee Debt in India is £93,189,000, the sterling Debt in England is £68,109,000, and the railway capital we have guaranteed is £71,344,000, irrespective of the East Indian Railway, to which we have undertaken to pay an annuity of £1,203,000 till 1953, which annuity is more than covered by the receipts, so that we may dismiss it from our calculations. Besides this, we owe for special loans, Treasury notes, service funds, and savings banks, £10,624,000; local, political, and railways funds and departmental and judicial deposits, £3,682,000—total, £246,948,000. Now, what have we to show on the other side? Public Works, standing at £56,257,000; guaranteed railways, £71,344,0UO; capital spent on East Indian Railway, £32,281,000; loans to municipalities and Native States, £7,592,000; cash balances, £14,893,000; making in all, £182,367,000, leaving uncovered liabilities, £64,581,000, thus balancing the Account £246,948,000. The whole net charge on the Revenue for India for Debt and Productive Works was last year, according to the Indian Accounts, £2,798,000; or, reckoning loss by exchange on remittances for loans and railway dividends, £4,606,000; whereas, in 1871–2, it was no less than £1,759,000, showing the remarkable reduction of at least £2,753,000, as compared with 12 years ago, principally arising from the improved position of the railways. In short, our liabilities are, as I have said, in all, some £246, 948,000, against which we have cash balances and loans to municipalities amounting to £22,000,000, and Public Works producing interest at 5 per cent on £160,000,000. This being so, if it should be necessary to appeal to the House for permission to borrow, in furtherance of the policy recommended by the Committee, I shall have some confidence in asking for leave to raise the requisite funds. Now, Sir, many of my Friends have accused me of taking an unduly sanguine view of Indian finance. They refer me to articles in The Nineteenth Century, a publication of 300 great influence, conducted under a very energetic editor. I am asked, what I have to say to the extraordinary assertions contained therein, respecting the proportion of his crop which the poor Indian ryot has to pay as tax; and I am asked how I can reconcile these assertions with my Financial Statements made from time to time in the House? Well, Sir, I must say at once that I do not pretend to reconcile assertions with facts, when these elements come into conflict with each other. In these pessimist articles, I have, as requested by my friend (Mr. Knowles), tried to find something tangible; but here my difficulty begins. One or two tests, however, will show the House exactly how trustworthy are the assertions in question. Let us take the proportion of the value of the crop claimed by the State as tax. The writer tells a story of four villages in Sholapur, where the crop is only 154 lbs. of millet to the acre, and the assessment 1s. 10d.; and, arguing from those figures, he makes it appear that the Land Tax is 40 per cent of the produce, and lets it be assumed that this is not unusual in India. Now, Sir, in the first place, the average crop of millet is not simply 154 lbs. to the acre, but 600 lbs. at least; in the second place, the straw, which, the writer describes as 8 feet high, is a most valuable commodity, but he has forgotten to mention it; in the third place, the average assessment of Sholapur, on fully assessed land, is 7 annas 5 pice per acre—that is, 11d. instead of 1s. 10d. It is, of course, possible that a failure of crop might reduce the outcome, in one year, to 154 lbs. per acre; but to make this statement, and then to let it be thought that you have only to apply the assertion to all India, is not fair controversy. The broad facts are those—tho Land Tax raised in all India is less than £22,000,000, and the value of the crops grown on this land is, according to the estimate of the Famine Commission, £300,000,000. The tax, therefore, is about 7½ per cent of the selling price of the gross produce. In some cases it is greatly in excess of this, in others it is much less; I speak only of the broad facts. Let me give one other instance. This writer states that in the single district of Niriad no less than 7,614 acres were taxed as irrigable, while only 3,705 were irrigated at all, and these all from private wells. On all this land the tax has been raised 301 from 6 to 17 rupees per acre, or nearly three-fold, not only taxing the ryots' own improvements, but taxing the improvements that had no existence. The facts are, that before the revision of the assessment, the tax was 8 rupees 9 annas 5 pice. At the revision, it was raised to 9 rupees 14 annas, or about 15 per cent, instead of 300 per cent, as stated by the writer. We are also treated to a statement of the cost of cultivation of 10 acres of land—it is given at Page 729, as £16 12s., or 32s. per acre, and the value of the crop is assumed to be £7 6s. 4d., or 14s. 7d. per acre. If you multiply those figures by 20,000,000, you arrive at what, on this assumption, is the cost of cultivation and the value of the crop in all British India for a year, and it would seem that this value is £146,000,000, but that it has cost £320,000,000, being a loss to its cultivators of £174,000,000 on a year's operations. These tests may appear absurd to those who soar above facts and figures; but, at least, perhaps they may dispel a few of those delusions which follow upon a cursory perusal of articles on the spoliation of India. I have now touched upon the principal questions involved in a consideration of our financial arrangements. I do not think that the Estimates put forward are unduly sanguine; indeed, it appears, from the last telegrams, that the Revenue of 1883–4 will exceed the revised Estimate by £500,000 or so, the result of the railways being better, and the cost of the Army about £100,000 less than the figures I have quoted; but, in the coming year, it is not probable that the railway receipts will be so large as anticipated, the very low price to which wheat has fallen in Europe preventing, for the present, any great business in that commodity in India. I do not wish, in a Financial Statement, to enter upon political questions; but there is no doubt the frontier arrangements may affect in some degree our financial calculations. How far we may have to improve the communications with and between our outposts we do not know; but it is better that the necessary steps should be taken now, than that we should be subject to sudden claims, and, possibly, enormous expenditure under the influence of panic at some future time. I observe that my hon. Eriend the Member for South Durham (Sir Joseph 302 Pease) intends to propose a Resolution, which threatens one of our principal sources of Revenue. I only hope that he may be able to show that our finances are in a condition to bear the loss which his philanthropic proposals on behalf of the Chinese would entail upon India. Some of my hon. Friends, too, are anxious to abolish the Salt Tax; and between the two proposals we are in danger of losing the sum of £13,000,000 a-year. I am anxious to know how this deficiency is to be met; but, at the same time, I am bound to say that the financier who shall be able to abolish this tax, or to carry further the reductions of it commenced three years ago, will confer on the people of India almost as great a boon as the repeal of the Corn Laws gave to the people of England. I should like also to have said a few words on the barbarous manner in which the artistic productions of India are treated under our Customs laws; but I am afraid that I should find myself in conflict with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury. Not that they have any love for the present laws, but they feel it to be their bounden duty to defend them. In conclusion, I beg to thank the House for the attention with which this dull Financial Statement has been received; and I do really hope that next year, if it should be my lot to speak on the subject again, we may be able to enter upon the consideration of the many important questions arising in the Indian Debate at such a period of the Session as will enable us to discuss them with credit to ourselves, and with advantage to India.
§ MR. ARTHUR ARNOLD
, in moving, as an Amendment—That, in the interests of India and of the United Kingdom, it is desirable that India should not bear the charge of the Consular and Agency expenditure on the Persian Gulf, and upon the Tigris and Euphrates, and that the concerns of British trade and commerce in Western Asia should be in the hands of officers more completely responsible to the Home Government,said, that he should not be open to the reproach of intending to deprive India of a portion of her Revenues, for his object was to increase them, and to point out how desirable it was at present to give attention to any reasonable method of increasing our trade in various parts of the world. The question he now 303 raised was one which he intended to press on the attention of the Government until something had been accomplished with regard to it. Although there was no more secure seat of British power in the world than in the neighbourhood of the Persian Gulf yet, unfortunately, as a trade centre, the development of the locality had been much neglected. The charge for the salaries and expenses of our Consular officers in towns near the Persian Gulf, such as Bagdad, Bussorah, and Bushire, was borne by India. That was a state of things which was disadvantageous to the trade of this country, and very unjust to the Indian Government. The Consul at Bagdad was paid by the Indian Government, and yet he was technically subject to the control of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. That dual arrangement was highly unsatisfactory. Although the value of the imports and exports at Bagdad amounted to nearly £1,000,000 a-year, no Report had been received from that place since 1879. He thought such neglect could not be paralleled in any other part of the world. At Bushire, it appeared that as to cotton goods, the imports from England were in the proportion of 28 to 15, as compared with those from India, and the imports of metal were in the proportion of 12 to 7. Yet the Consular and Agency charge was borne entirely by the Indian Revenue. He complained of that, not only in the interest of India, but in the interest of his own constituents; for he felt certain that, if the Indian people had justice done to them in this matter, there would be a great revival and increase in the exports from England to those ports, and that our trade in Western Asia would, at no distant time, be trebled. The cause of this anomaly—that of the whole charge being thrown on India, notwithstanding that our own trade there was larger—was due to the Suez Canal. Before the Suez Canal was made, the Persian Gulf was one of the most distant places from England. The journey there was now nearer by about 5,000 miles, and the trade with England was thereby immensely increased. But the state of trade in those regions was, at the present time, in a very unfavourable condition; and it was felt that, if Her Majesty's Government had their own officers there, men of energetic character, paid for by this country, and 304 answerable to this country, great advantages would immediately accrue. He had received a letter from a Director of the British India Steam Packet Navigation Company, stating that, owing to the stagnation of trade there, they had recently given up their direct line of steamers to the Persian Gulf. This stagnation was increased by the circumstance of our not having our own officials there. Our Minister at Teheran appeared unable to get the payment of just debts enforced. One of the results of the policy which he recommended would be that they would have a Consul at Ispahan, a matter of very great importance. Another result might be that the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers would be opened to the commerce of the world. These rivers were navigable for 800 or 1,000 miles; but the Turkish Government, at present, obstinately prohibited any increase of steam navigation on those rivers. He looked forward to Her Majesty's Government being able, at no distant time, to place those rivers under International authority, whereby their commerce would be thrown open to the world. As the Persian Government had equal rights with the Turkish Government over part of the course of those rivers, Her Majesty's Government might be able to press upon the Ottoman Government that there should be an International Commission established for the better government and free navigation of those rivers. This would give a great impetus to commerce. He earnestly urged this matter upon the attention of the Government, with the view of developing this important centre of Eastern trade. He had no intention of dividing the House; but he begged to move the Amendment of which he had given Notice.
To leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the interests of India and of the United Kingdom, it is desirable that India should not bear the charge of the Consular and Agency expenditure on the Persian Gulf, and upon the Tigris and Euphrates, and that the concerns of British trade and commerce in Western Asia should be in the hands of officers more completely responsible to the Home Government,"—(Mr. Arthur Arnold,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."305
§ LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE
said, the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arthur Arnold) had raised an important and interesting point connected with the trade of this country. The House was, no doubt, aware that the distribution of the charge for Diplomatic and Consular establishments on certain points of Persian and Turkish territory in Central Asia had varied from time to time, and been the subject of different arrangements between the Indian and British Governments. There was a time when the whole cost of the establishments was borne by India. During the time of Lord Malmesbury, the Indian Government took the whole charge and the whole responsibility; but, eventually, an arrangement was made, with regard to Teheran, not dissimilar to that now existing. There was, at present, a contribution of £10,000 a-year made by the Indian Government. His hon. Friend had touched more particularly, however, on the Consular establishments in the Southern parts of Persia and at Bagdad, and had complained that the Reports of our Consular officers there were not laid before the House with the same regularity as those from Consuls in other countries. Without making the slightest reflection on gentlemen whose services he wished to recognize publicly, he was quite willing to grant that there was something in the complaint of his hon. Friend, and that the commercial Reports from Persia might be transmitted with greater regularity than at present, in order that they might be included more frequently in that series of Trade Reports which were annually presented to Parliament. He was, therefore, very glad of having that opportunity of saying that he was in a position to inform his hon. Friend that it was the view of the Commercial Department of the Foreign Office that those Reports should, for the future, be furnished with greater frequency. The subject had received the attention of the Secretary of State, and it was hoped that some satisfactory arrangement would be made. At the same time, it must not be supposed that these gentlemen had omitted to inform the Foreign Office of events of commercial importance. If his hon. Friend referred to the last Report laid before the House by Consul General Ross, he would find statements which went very far to confirm some of the 306 views which he had placed before the House with regard to the trade of Persia. Consul General Ross, in his Report, said—It seems probable that, as concerns the supply of the Southern and Central districts of Persia, foreign trade has nearly reached a limit which only increase of the population and general prosperity would enable it safely to overstep. To enable goods from the South to compete in the markets of the North of Persia better or shorter lines of communication would be indispensable. That subject has been discussed so exhaustively during the past few years that it is unnecessary to touch on it.Consul General Ross referred more especially to the River Karun, which had attracted particular attention, in consequence of an interesting paper recently read by Colonel Champaign, before the Royal Geographical Society. There were, at present, obstacles to the navigation of the River Karun owing to certain rapids and falls; but he believed that those difficulties could be overcome, either by making roads or railways, or by blasting the rocks. He believed if the Persian Government were to see, as he hoped they would see, the desirability of opening up the trade of the interior of the country, a very great and important trade might spring up between this country and Persia, with most excellent commercial, and perhaps also good political, results. There was no doubt that, at the present moment, the population of Persia was one which, owing to the lack of commercial facilities, passed through periods of great suffering and distress which might be saved. Then there was the question of the navigation of the Rivers Tigris and Euphrates. He could not conceal from the House that at this moment, in regard to the navigation of the Tigris and Euphrates, the Foreign Office was passing through a time of great difficulty. He could not inform the House, as he should have liked to be able to do, that the Turkish Government had abandoned those claims which, when suddenly put forward last year, produced such widespread alarm in commercial circles. But while the negotiations were proceeding in regard to the position of these rivers, there was, at that moment, no further interference with the existing trade, although there was not, he must acknowledge, that sense of security which would come from an assurance on the part of the Turkish Government 307 that no further interference should take place. Even if it were conceded that the contracting parties were not ad idem in respect of the Agreements of 1846 and 1861, and that there was no intention on the part of the Porte to grant to British shipping in general the right of navigating the rivers, Her Majesty's Government contended that the Vizirial Letter of 1861, having been issued for the very purpose of enabling the Company to put their two steamers on the Tigris and Euphrates, was intended to confer, and did confer, that privilege upon them. The Company had enjoyed that privilege ever since, with the knowledge and acquiescence of the Porte. It was true that disputes had arisen as to the substitution of new steamers for old ones, the towing of barges, and other matters; but the right of navigation of the two steamers of the Company had never before been contested. This showed that the attitude of the Porte during the last 22 years had not been one of "friendly tolerance," as had been asserted by the Porte, but one of acquiescence in a claim of right. On the faith of that acquiescence, the Company had invested a large capital in depôts at convenient points on both rivers, and in establishments for working the mail, passenger, and cargo services, and they had developed a large trade to the great benefit of the country. Her Majesty's Government were not necessarily called upon, therefore, to invoke, in the present case, the general right of navigation claimed by them on the Rivers Tigris and Euphrates. Whatever might be the true construction of the Agreement of 1846 as to the general right of navigation, Her Majesty's Government considered that the attitude of the Porte during the last 22 years debarred them from now disputing the validity of the rights claimed and exercised by the Company under the Vizirial Letter of 1861, and that they were entitled to insist on the status quo of the Company being maintained. That was done entirely without any prejudice to the right of the Foreign Office to seize any favourable opportunity that might arise to impress on the Porte the desirability of establishing on the Tigris and Euphrates that condition of things to which his hon. Friend had alluded. He made these observations in an entirely friendly spirit, he need hardly say, 308 to the Porte, the Government of which, he was bound to state, had behaved in a very friendly spirit, in that it removed, at the request of Her Majesty's Government, that prohibition which it had originally issued, and which had caused such wide alarm. The Foreign Office was fully cognizant of the importance of the question, and they would lose no opportunity of endeavouring to deal with it.
§ MR. ARTHUR ARNOLD
said, that he should be willing, after the statement of the noble Lord, to withdraw his Amendment, or that it should be negatived. [Cries of "No!"]
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," again proposed.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, he had listened with much interest to the statement made by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice), and also to the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for India (Mr. J. K. Cross), which was not only able, but, considering the enormous mass of facts with which he had to deal, remarkably concise. It was not his intention to follow the hon. Gentleman through all the details with which he had dealt; but he wished to make a few general observations with regard to certain points that arose out of it, and they would be few, because, during the present Session, they had had ample opportunity of inquiring into matters connected with India, especially with reference to the money required for the construction of railways in that country. The subject had been very carefully considered upstairs, and he hoped that the Report that had been made would be of great value. He had always said and felt that at present a great reduction might be made in the Indian Expenditure, provided that reduction was brought about steadily and continuously; while, on the other hand, if they waited to effect that reduction until they were forced to make it, it would be sudden, wholesale, and, perhaps, disastrous. He should, therefore, have been glad if it had been more apparent in the speech of the hon. Gentleman that the Government intended to effect a gradual reduction in the Expenditure of that country. He could not help feeling, however, that during the past 309 year the Secretary of State had had special difficulties to meet, mainly with regard to the Public Works Expenditure. He fully admitted that public opinion, both in this country and in India, with reference to the necessity for the construction of Public Works in India, was frequently led by interested parties, and that great pressure was, at times, brought to bear upon the Secretary of State to induce him to sanction a large expenditure upon Public Works in that country, and that, therefore, he was sometimes placed in a position of very considerable difficulty. An hon. Friend of his had asked the other day in the Committee, why the Secretary of State did not withstand that pressure; but the real difficulty arose from the fact that public opinion on this subject did not always remain the same, and that first it went strongly in one direction, and then in two or three years it went equally strongly in precisely the opposite direction. It was, therefore, very difficult for the Secretary of State to carry out any steady and continuous policy with regard to the Public Works in India. What he ventured to suggest on this point was that a careful forecast of necessary Public Works, extending over as many years as possible, having been made, the Secretary of State should endeavour to lay down a definite policy for a term of years, and then that he should adhere to it, and carry it out steadily and continuously, even though it might cause some little dissatisfaction. Passing from the subject of the railways, there was another point in the Financial Statement to which he desired to call attention. According to the Financial Estimates submitted for the current year, there would be a surplus of £319,000. The Under Secretary of State had spoken with great caution upon this point, and he had intimated that although that surplus might turn out to be larger than was estimated, still that, at the same time, there might be a considerable drain upon it from various quarters, and in that he entirely agreed with the hon. Gentleman. Indeed, he thought it was very doubtful whether, as a matter of fact, it had not disappeared long ago. In the first place, there would be a large expenditure necessary for the construction of the Quetta Railway; and, in connection with this subject, he should like to be informed over how long a series of years the construction of that 310 railway was to be extended? Those who sat on the Opposition side of the House were not likely to object to the determination of Her Majesty's Government to construct this railway, and when the hon. Gentleman said that it had been decided to proceed with the construction of that line steadily, they could not help thinking that it would have been preferable if the present Government had carried it on after the late Government had commenced it, instead of abandoning it. If the Government attached anything like the value to that line that the late Government did, he hoped that they would push on its construction without unnecessary delay, and that the construction of it would not be extended over too long a series of years; indeed, he thought an attempt should be made to complete it in two years. Another source of expenditure that was likely to make a considerable drain upon the surplus, was that which would be occasioned by the rectification of the Afghan and Russian Frontier. The success that was likely to attend upon the British Expdition to effect that object would depend largely upon the preparations made for it. The Government did not appear to be in a position to give the House any definite information with regard to the cost of the Expedition, and although they said that the work was intended to be begun in the course of the present autumn, they could not say decidedly how long the Expedition would be occupied in doing the work. Of course, the cost of the Expedition would be governed largely by the strength of the escort, and he should like to ask the Government what the strength of that escort was to be? Nothing would be more unsatisfactory than that the escort intended to attempt this piece of work should be a meagre one, because, in that case, the danger to the Expedition would be great. It was also desirable that the escort should be of adequate strength, seeing that it should exert a great moral force upon the tribes of the frontier. He therefore hoped that the British Commissioner would be accompanied by such a Force as would make it evident that England, as well as Russia, was really in earnest upon this subject, and was determined to maintain hereafter the line which she was now laying down. Then there was another likely cause of drain upon the surplus, and that was the strength of 311 the Army in India. It had been said that the cost of that Army had been recently somewhat reduced. For his own part, he had always been in favour of a reduction of the Indian Army Expenditure, and he belived thata reduction in that expenditure might be effected without diminishing the efficiency of the Force in any degree, or withdrawing a single British soldier from it. There were, however, rumours afloat that that reduction in expenditure had been brought about by allowing the Force to fall considerably below the normal strength.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
observed that the European Force fixed for India was now 5,000 below its normal or established strength, and had been allowed to be so for a considerable time.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, he did not know what the exact number was; but he earnestly hoped that there would be some statement from the Government, and an assurance that, if it was below its normal strength, they would take the earliest steps for putting the Army back to its full strength, so as to enable it to fulfil the functions for which it existed, and to keep it at that strength which all Governments had thought ought to be maintained for the security of our Indian Empire. If they could not take the necessary steps to accomplish that object at once, they might take them gradually. Having put these questions to the Government, he would not trouble the House further at that moment.
§ SIR JOSEPH PEASE
, who had upon the Notice Paper the following Motion:—That, in the opinion of this House, it is incumbent upon the Government of India annually to diminish the issue of licences and advances of money for the cultivation of the poppy, and their manufacture of and trading in a drug which is capable of great abuse, and which is the cause of much misery and evil, with a view to terminating the connection of the Indian Government with the Opium Trade within a fixed period of time,said: Sir, the Resolution which I have ventured to place upon the Paper is drawn, in great measure, from a letter which was written by my noble Friend the present Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington), on the question of the Bengal trade in, and manufacture of, Opium. The noble Marquess said in that letter— 312It is obvious that the Government are placed in a very different position, when, as in Bengal, they are manufacturers of and dealers in a drug which is at least capable of great abuse, and which is, in the opinion of many persons, the cause of much misery and evil.Now, Sir, I think I shall be able to show that, as the Government of India have thus admitted, although in a qualified way, that the drug is the cause of a great amount of misery and evil, this House ought to protest against the continued cultivation of this drug. If I could think that, at the present moment, we were not assenting to what I call a sin on the part of the Indian Government, I should not trouble the House; but I say that the Government are not only continuing in that sin, without any endeavour to get out of it, but they are actually plunging deeper into the sinful and immoral trade in opium, a trade which the noble Marquess—who was one of the worst friends the opponents of the Opium Trade have had—described as productive of misery and evil. I would hero point out that I attack only one branch of the Indian Revenue from opium—that of Bengal. The House is well aware that the Opium Revenue of India is derived from two sources—namely, that which is called the Malwa transit duty, and that which arises from the manufacture and trade in Bengal. Sir Cecil Beadon, in the evidence he gave before the East India Committee some years ago, stated that—The sub-agent makes inquiries, ascertains that the man is really bonâ fide an owner of the land which he proposes to cultivate with opium, has the land measured, and then makes the advance upon the security of the person himself to whom the advance is made and his fellow-villagers.He then went on to say—It is limited according to the financial needs of the Government; it is limited entirely upon Imperial considerations. The Government of India, theoretically at least, if not practically, decide how much opium they will bring to market; and, of course, upon that depends the quantity of land that they will put under cultivation and make advances for.He was asked—"Are great precautions taken to prevent any person cultivating the land with opium without a licence?" And his reply was—"It is absolutely prohibited." Now, Sir, what I say is, that I want to see this prohibition of the cultivation of opium without a licence carried out to a much greater extent 313 than is the case at present, with a view of gradually bringing the licensed cultivation of opium to an end in the Bengal Presidency. I say, with all due respect to the noble Marquess, who is at the present moment Secretary of State for War, that he distinctly drew a difference in his own mind between the transit duty and the Government manufacturing and dealing in the article. My hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) never seems to get this fairly into his head, notwithstanding the great amount of experience he has had in regard to this matter. The hon. Baronet states, in the Amendment to my Motion, which he has put upon the Paper—The evil effects of Opium in China being paralleled and exceeded by the evil effects of ardent spirits in this Country, it would not be consistent to prohibit the cultivation and sale of Opium, at the expense of the farmers and people of India, while the manufacture, sale, and immense consumption of ardent spirits is licensed in this Country.'He says we licence the sale of spirits, and so we do; but we do not manufacture whisky for the consumption of another people on whom we force it. Opium in this country is a drug in the eye of the law, and no druggist can sell it without a licence. It is, in fact, placed on an entirely different footing to the articles my hon. Friend has mentioned in his Amendment. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for India (Mr. J.K. Cross) takes the Revenue in gross, and says we are about to deal with £9,000,000 of Revenue. Now, the gross amount of Revenue in 1882–3 was £9,499,264, after drawbacks; while the charges were £2,282,816, leaving the net Revenue £7,216,448. Of this £7,000,000 odd, I attack the Bengal revenue only, say, about £5,000,000, instead of £9,000,000; but the revenue has gone much lower than the figures just quoted, for the estimate of 1883–4 for Bengal was £6,883,600, and the expenses £1,860,000; so that, in that year, the tax was estimated at a net sum of £5,023,600. But let us now see what it is for the present year. The hon. Gentleman says the gross revenue is about £9,000,000, the figures given being £8,594,200 for the year 1884–5. The estimated revenue, therefore, is £6,241,300 net, and, taking the Malwa Opium at the amount of the previous year—namely, £2,459,100, this leaves 314 only £3,784,200 for the Bengal revenue. Let us contrast this with the revenue of 1880–81, when the total revenue was £8,451,185, and the Bombay revenue £2,524,458, that of Bengal being £5,926,727. Now, however, for 1884–5 the total revenue is put at £6,240,900; and if we take the Bombay duty at the average of 10 years, £2,694,788, this leaves for the Bengal profit a sum of £3,546,112, instead of £5,900,000 odd. £2,400,000 of this revenue has, during the period the House has been debating it, slipped away from the Indian Government, and yet they are richer than they were 10 years ago, when I first began to raise these debates. These are figues which I think no one will be able to get over. The Bengal revenue is slipping away from the fingers of the Indian Government, which has done without £2,400,000 of it, and yet is a great deal richer than it has been shown to have been in any Budget I ever heard since I first had the honour of a seat in this House. This question was debated in 1882, and in the Correspondence, which is most complete, between the noble Marquess now at the head of the War Office and the Government of India, Lord Ripon and his Council arrived at some general conclusions, of which the first was—The competition of other crops in Bengal, the difficulty of extending the cultivation of the poppy, and the increase of production and the improvement in the quality of the Chinese and Persian drugs, are all sources of danger to the Opium Revenue, which are more likely to increase than to diminish; there is no reason to anticipate any falling off in the revenue during 1882–3, but in subsequent years it is not at all improbable that we may be obliged to diminish the number of chests of Bengal Opium offered for sale. Any such diminution would probably involve a considerable loss of revenue.That was the prophecy of the Indian Government in the year 1882 in the Correspondence of the noble Marquess, and it has been fulfilled to the very letter. Those general conclusions end with the following:—The total loss of revenue at present derived from opium in Bengal would render the Government of India insolvent, and on that account any proposals which would involve the loss of so large a sum cannot be considered within the scope of practical politics.Such was the conclusion the Government of India came to at that time; and if I can show, as I think I shall be able 315 to do, that the Government of India will not be insolvent if they accept my proposal, I trust that this House will give due consideration to it. In the year 1881, Sir Evelyn Baring, in his reply to the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War, with others of the Council of India, wrote—It is difficult to speak with any confidence as to the future of the Opium Revenue. Any opinion that may be formed must of necessity be very conjectural. At the same time, the facts which we have so far elicited—that is to say, the necessity of raising the price paid for crude opium, the difficulty of extending the area under cultivation in India, the necessity which may be forced on us of reducing the quantity of Bengal Opium annually offered for sale, and the increase in the production and the improvement in the quality of the Persian and Chinese drugs, which renders it doubtful whether a diminished supply of Bengal Opium will enhance the price realized at the sales, and may, indeed, render it necessary to reduce the export duty on Malwa Opium, all point to one conclusion—namely, that although the total loss of the Opium Revenue does not appear imminent, it is by no means improbable that it may undergo a considerable diminution. Although the amount of revenue derived during the last two or three years has been very large, it would be unwise to count upon its continuance at so high a figure.In the Report of 1881–2, signed by Mr. Lionel Tennyson, there is this very remarkable passage—Fever was prevalent amongst the cultivators. The poppy is being slowly banished from the most fertile lands by the potatoe and the sugar-cane, as the value of those crops is being gradually enhanced by improved communication and European machinery. The system of advances is reputed to be the chief inducement to the cultivator to grow so precarious and troublesome a crop as opium, and that system is now being adopted by firms interested in other crops. In the Benares Agency there was a decrease of area under opium, despite the larger price given for crude opium by the Government; owing, however, to the good season, the outturn exceeded that of the previous year. The efforts of the sub-agent to extend poppy cultivation in Agra, Muttra, and Aligarh were not attended with success. A large portion of the 1880–1 crop in store was discovered to be unsound. The prescribed number of 56,400 chests, containing 92,056 maunds, were sold for export at the Calcutta auctions, and 4,390 chests, containing 6,585 maunds, were issued to the Excise and Medical Departments in India, leaving a balance in the store for export of 57,384 chests, and in the Indian store of 2,126 chests.In 1883–4 the Financial Statement of India goes on in exactly the same direction. This is what Sir Evelyn Baring again says— 316I pointed out on the occasion of the last Financial Statement that during the four years, 1878–9, 1879–80, 1880–1, and 1881–2, the annual sales of Bengal Opium had been in excess of the annual production; and, further, that these large sales had only been possible by reason of the exceptionally good crops of 1875–6, and 1876–7, which had enabled a very strong reserve to be constituted.He thou goes on to say—This process of depletion connot continue indefinitely. An exceptionally good crop may, indeed, again replenish the reserve. But we cannot rely on a fortutious circumstance of this sort. An average crop, or at all events, a succession of average crops, will oblige us to resort to one of two alternatives. We shall be forced either to increase the production, or to diminsh the amount offered for sale.The argument that the crop of opium is grown for cultivation, or is of any service to the country is thus, as will be seen, entirely gone. As soon as ever the Indian Government reduced their subsidy of five rupees to four rupees and a-half, the Indian people had no further interest in the cultivation of the opium crop, and declined to go on with it; and yet the Indian Government are still striving to get a crop which is admitted to be of the greatest possible disadvantage to the country at large. Sir Evelyn Baring also says in the Financial Statement for the year 1883–4—For reasons which I have already stated, it is almost certain that, although the Opium Estimate of 1883–4 has been taken at £215,000 below the Budget, and at £182,000 below the revised Estimate for 1882–3, the Estimate for 1884–5 will have to be taken at a still lower figure.He goes on to say—So long as the value of the rupee and the Opium Revenue continue liable to such fluctuations as those which we have recently witnessed, the financial situation of India must always contain some special elements of instability.Now, Sir, we want to see the Revenue of India placed, if it can be, on a much stronger basis than it over has had, or ever can have, while it relies upon such a fluctuating crop. I have shown the House, by means of the Reports furnished by the best servants we have had in India, that the Opium crop is one of a very casual and fluctuating character, and always attended with great difficulties when viewed as a source of the permanent Revenue of India. The argument in favour of the growth of this crop for the benefit of the cultivators in India, of which we used to hoar so much, has 317 now entirely disappeared, and we never hear it urged at all. There is no doubt that other crops have been found to pay just as well, and even better; so that the difficulty is for the Government to persuade the cultivators to continue the growth of opium. The extracts from the Papers I have quoted place these things in such a light as to be beyond a doubt, whatever the hon. Baronet the Member for Kirkcaldy may say to the contrary. Among others, I may cite Sir William Muir as having advocated the abandonment of opium cultivation by the Government, not in order to do away with the Opium Revenue, but in order that the whole of it might be forced into the transit duty. Lord Lawrence, in his celebrated reply to Lieutenat Colonel Edwardes, took the same view, and the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War took that view also in 1881, while countless other authorities have owned—with regard to the licensing by the Government of the cultivation of the drug, and their being manufacturers of and dealers in it—that they have stood aghast on seeing what has been going on in India so long. Well, Sir, I think that in what I have said, so far, I have sufficiently proved that the Opium Revenue is steadily falling off; that it is of a very precarious nature, and, I believe, the Papers I have quoted have shown that its continuation can no longer be supported on the ground of the benefit afforded to the cultivators of the soil. The next point I have to make is as to what has been the effect of this drug on the country in which it is grown. I have before me the histories furnished by those gentlemen who have visited the opium-dens in Calcutta and other places, and they describe the amount of practical demoralization that is going on in India wherever the people get hold of the drug, which it is the business of the Indian Government to cultivate. There is one very important document to which I would specially call the attention of the House. It is a letter addressed to the Government of India by a Resolution of the Government of Bombay. It says—I am, at the same time, desired to state that the Government consider there are very strong objections to the introduction of an industry so demoralizing in its tendency as opium cultivation and manufacture into a Province where at present it is unknown, and, so far as His Excellency in Council is aware, not asked for by the 318 people. If opium cultivation were allowed in Scinde, it could not with consistency be prohibited in the rest of the Presidency. It has already been tried in Gujarat, and the result was wide-spread corruption and demoralization. At present, the consumption of opium in this Presidency is very limited; but if the cultivation of and manufacture of opium were permitted, every village might have an opium-shop, and every cultivator might contract the habit of eating a drug which is said to degrade and demoralize those who become addicted to it. On the ground of public morality, therefore, His Excellency the Governor in Council would strongly deprecate the grant of permission to cultivate the poppy in Scinde, or in any other part of this Presidency.Here we have the Government of Bombay asking the Government of India, for the sake of all that is right and moral and good, to keep this drug out of that portion of the country; but, notwithstanding this, the Government of India goes on promoting the cultivation of the drug, because it gets money by it. But I have a stronger testimony here. I do not blame my hon. Friend (Mr. J. K. Cross), nor his Predecessors, nor their immediate Predecessors; but I must say that our conduct in British Burmah, in regard to this question, has been such as to constitute one of the blackest spots on our character. The people of Burmah, as well as I can find out, had been kept almost without the drug by their Native Rulers. We had found that, practically, they had very little of it; but, in order that we might increase the Indian Revenue, we introduced the drug into that country, and set up houses for its consumption, as we have acted in regard to the introduction of spirits, which have had so large an effect in demoralizing the people—the British Government doing this by a people whom, if we govern them at all, ought to be governed by a sound, Christian, and moral form of government. I will now bring before the House a document on which I take so strong a view that I am induced, even at the risk of taking up the time of the House, to quote what the waiter, Mr. Aitchison, late Chief Commissioner of British Burmah, says in a Memorandum on the consumption of Opium in that Province. It is not a Report from one who, like myself, takes a strong view on this subject. It is dated 1880, and Mr. Aitchison says—The papers now submitted for consideration present a painful picture of the demoralization, misery, and ruin produced among the Burmese 319 by opium-smoking. Responsible officers in all divisions and districts of the Province, and Natives everywhere, hear testimony to it. To facilitate examination of the evidence on this point, I have thrown some extracts from the Reports into an Appendix to this Memorandum. These show that among the Burmans the habitual use of the drug saps the physical and mental energies, destroys the nerves, emaciates the body, predisposes to disease, induces indolent and filthy habits of life, destroys self-respect, is one of the most fertile sources of misery, destitution, and crime, fills the gaols with men of relaxed frame, predisposed to dysentery and cholera, prevents the due extension of cultivation and the development of the Land Revenue, checks the natural growth of the population, and enfeebles the constitution of succeeding generations.Again—Already, indeed, there is too much truth in the allegation that we are not merely supplying an existing demand, but artificially creating a taste for the drug. However pure our intentions may be, the results are against us, and we shall not escape serious reproach if we persevere in our present course. Englishmen have a natural antipathy to legislate on questions of morality. But here the question is not one of bettor or worse morality, but of the salvation of a whole people from a vice which we have introduced among them, and from ruin, which it is to a great extent in our power to retard, if not to prevent. Moreover, the Burmans have been accustomed to be legislated for in this matter. Under the Native Rule, opium-smoking was an offence against the law, as well as against the Buddhist religion. Under these circumstances, it becomes all the more our duty to take precautions that the new liberty which we bring them is not used for a cloak of licentiousness.This is borne out, page by page, and paragraph by paragraph, not by the testimony of one officer only, but by many officers and Commissioners in all parts of British Burmah. Colonel D. Brown says, in the Appendix to Mr. Aitchison's Report—Spirituous liquors they will occasionally indulge in; but as they bring on an after-feeling of lassitude and headache, they do not as a rule often indulge in them. They are not a nation of drunkards. With opium it is different. The sleepy, dreamy state of the opium-smoker has a peculiar attraction for our people; they take to it, and after having acquired the habit, they cannot give it up; their friends refuse to support them; they steal, rob, or murder to get their food and their opium; they often take to dacoity and join a frontier hand; or, if they remain in the Province, they end their days in a gaol, or a halter puts an end to their existence,Colonel H. Browne says—By adopting some effective means for curtailing the consumption of opium, we should at any rate have the satisfaction of saving many 320 thousands of the rising generation of Burmans from leading lives which are not only useless, but positively injurious to themselves, their families, and the State, and should convert them into respectable and wealth-producing subjects.Again, Captain J. Butler, officiating Deputy Commissioner, Kyouk - pyoo, says—One and all acknowledge that opium is the base of all crime, poverty, and destitution. The latter two exist so far more prominently in this district than in any other part of Burmah I have hitherto served in, and that after a residence of 12 years. Their poverty, indolence, and apathy are beyond description.I will not go on reading from this Report; but I might, if I had the time, give extract after extract from the evidence furnished as to what is going on in British Burmah, where, as I say, the British Government introduced the drug, where they sold the opium, and where they licensed houses for its sale among the people. Well, Sir, upon this Report what does the Government do? They immediately reduced the number of houses licensed to sell the drug from 68 to 28, so that 40 of those places were put down. In 1882–3, 10 more were closed. They also increased the price of the opium, and thereby increased the Revenue, for the Returns from British Burmah show a few thousands more than the amount received when there was a larger number of licensed houses; and yet Her Majesty's Government say they cannot do without the £3,800,000, although they find that the Revenue on a less consumption of opium in the Province of Burmah, is actually as much as it was before. Now, Sir, I propose to take the matter a little further, because it is not merely in Burmah that the more intelligent people dislike the introduction of the Opium Traffic; it is not merely in Scinde that they are afraid of it; but where the drug has passed on with the Chinese people, in whatever part of the world they have settled, it is found to have produced and to be producing the same pernicious effects as in China itself. When I consider the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government in regard to this matter, I think it is one of the most terrible instances of demoralization ever known, that we should have been the means of forcing this drug into use in China. It was, I believe, used in China to a very moderate extent, before the Chinese Opium War; but it is, nevertheless, the fact 321 that we forced the Opium Traffic upon China for a long series of years. The Chinese have not only taken the habit of opium-smoking and opium-eating wherever else they have gone, in different parts of the world, but they have latterly introduced it into our own Australian Colonies, where it is already producing the evil effects which always accompanies its use. The result has been that a Commission has been appointed, consisting of Sub-Inspector Brennan, of the New South Wales Police, and a Mr. Quong Tart, a Chinese gentleman, who have reported very strongly to the Government of New South Wales on the subject. The Sub-Inspector of Police suggests—Several reformations, special enactments against Chinese gambling, against unmarried women being allowed to frequent Chinese camps, and against the unlicensed sale of opium. These, together with sanitary precautions enforced by inspection, would effect much, he thinks, and would probably result in breaking up the camp altogether.Mr. Quong Tart, who is evidently a very intelligent Chinese, says—Abandon this revenue (the Opium Duty), make it penal either to sell opium for smoking, or to be found smoking it, and it can be crushed out. If it could be, it would be worth while to try.Mr. Quong Tart goes on to say—"Europeans, it seems, are now getting into the way of smoking it." So that not only did we force the traffic of opium upon the Chinese, but we are responsible for their introducing it among our own population in Australia. It has been pretty much the same in California. The Chinese who have settled in that part of the world introduced the practice of opium-smoking, and the consequence has been that the American Government has taken the matter up as an Imperial question, while the Legislature of San Francisco have actually been compelled to pass laws dealing with this question in the endeavour to put down the smoking of opium. Now, Sir, Her Majesty's Government not very long ago made a Treaty with Korea, in which they agreed not to introduce opium into that country, following the precedent of the Treaty with Japan in 1858, which prohibited the introduction of opium into Japan. I desire to know why it is, if these countries are to be protected against the introduction of the drug, because it demoralizes the inhabitants—this being 322 the only reason why it should be excluded—you are still going on with the manufacture and cultivation of opium among your own people? It seems to me that this is one of the most extraordinary, and, at the same time, most immoral anomalies it is possible for the Government of a great Christian country to exhibit before the rest of the world. Sir, I find fault with the Indian Government for what appears in its Financial Statement of 1884–5. It is there stated that—The Government is indebted to Mr. H. Rivett-Carnac, Opium Agent at Benares, for strengthening its Opium Revenue during the year 1883, and in a lesser degree in the previous year, by the manufacture and preparation of Malwa Opium into a form suited for local consumption. Mr. Carnac, by his successful experiments in this direction—experiments which deserve the cordial recognition of the Government of India—set free in 1882, 1,372, and in 1883, 3,000 chests of provision opium (or opium that is available for export), at a profit to Government in the former year of 1,94,845 rupees, and in the latter of 7,56,347 rupees.He goes on to say—The Excise Commissioner, Central Provinces, writes—'I reported that complaints had been received from some districts in regard to the quality of the now opium, and also in regard to the weight of the cakes. I then stated that the complaints as to its quality appeared to be exaggerated, and it would seem, from further information since received from district officers, that this was the case. The new Malwa Opium contains more oil than the Bengal Opium formerly supplied. It also differs from it in flavour; and when the former was recently substituted for the latter in the North-Western Provinces, complaints, I am informed by the Commissioner of Excise, were allowed, but the people there are becoming accustomed to the taste of the new drug, and complaints have apparently ceased. Here, too, the probability is that the people will soon become used to the flavour of the Malwa Opium, and be satisfied with it.'Sir, I want the House to say to-night whether it does not think that the Indian Government has not only been doing nothing to put a stop to this pernicious traffic, but has actually been getting deeper into the mire. They have been dealing in this Malwa drug, against the declared wishes of the people of this country. They know how it has affected Burmah, China, California, and Australia, and yet they not only cultivate the drug at the hands of the ryots of India, but manufacture it in their own manufactories, and send it in large quantities to China, where, as I say, they force it on the Chinese. Now 323 they are promoting the cultivation of the Malwa Opium, and manufacturing it for their own people. Not only have they debauched the Chinese in the way I have stated, but also the Burmans; and they will go on and debauch the rest of the Indian population, if we do not take some action that will effectually stop them. Their proceedings in this matter has gone on to such an extent that, as the Indian Government well know, every Church in this country has petitioned this House against their continued dealing with the Opium Traffic—not only the Church of England, but the Presbyterians, Baptists, Wesleyans, and every sect in the Kingdom. Moreover, almost every Christian Missionary in China has petitioned against the trading in this drug, carried on by the Indian Government, and yet that Government continues in the same course, endeavouring to raise a Revenue by debauching the people, and ruining, not only the populations of other countries, but, as I have shown in the case of our Australian Colonies, their own population also. I do not propose to go at length into the Chinese aspect of the question. On this occasion, I have been dealing solely with the Indian Budget and the Indian Opium Revenue, and the manner in which it is obtained. With regard to the challenge thrown down by my hon. Friend below me (Mr. J. K. Cross), as to how they could find sufficient Revenue without the growth of opium, I have shown that the adoption of the plan we urge would not involve a loss of more £3,000,600. The hon. Member has put it that without the Opium Revenue he would sustain a loss of £9,000,000. I do not believe it would be more than one-third of that amount. Things in India have been going on certainly in a very satisfactory way. The hon. Member spoke of the Salt Duties. In the Financial Statement for 1844–5, according to Sir Auckland Colvin, it is set forth that the increased consumption in 1883–4 was calculated as equivalent to an additional revenue of £320,000. It was added that—To the extent of this sum, therefore, it may be said that the loss of Revenue, consequent on the reduction of duty (£1,400,000) has been recouped by the increased consumption of eleven months.He quotes Sir Edward Baring in these words— 324Should the same rate of increase continue, the Revenue at the reduced rate of duty will in less than three years from the present time stand at the same figure as it did prior to the reduction of the duty.With regard to Railways, in 1880–1 the loss in connection with them was £50,612; but there was a gain in 1881–2 of £1,035,342, a gain in 1882–3 of £419,343, one in 1883–4 of £787,530, and one estimated for 1884–5 of £1,079,280. The net gain in five years, therefore, has been £3,270,843. Look at your prosperity in India. Tour exports are increasing; and with regard to another point in Indian finance—with which my hon. and gallant Friend beside me (Sir George Balfour) is much more familiar than I am—your Estimate for the Army has already been commented on by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. E. Stanhope). The charge for this year is over £15,000,000, or more than £1,000,000 sterling more than it cost you in 1873–4, 1874–5, 1875–6. If my memory is correct, in a Report furnished by Lord Northbrook, when Governor General of India, it was declared that £12,500,000 should keep the Indian Army. A Report of a similar kind was prepared by Sir Peter Lumsden and General Roberts, at the instance of Lord Lytton. You have a steady increase of income. You may take it at £500,000, in connection with your railroads; you have £2,000,000 in your hand to play with in connection with your Army; you have a condition of trade never before equalled, and likely to be further developed by the effect of the railway system; you have a large surplus, with £ 1,000,000 still to come in from the Salt Tax; and if the cultivation of opium is abolished, you will still have the Land Revenue from the soil now dedicated to poppies. The abolition of the Opium Trade would materially improve and strengthen your relations with China, and develop honest trade with her, which would be alike profitable to India and to this country. I have occupied more of the time of the House than I had intended; but I desire earnestly to impress on the Indian Government the view taken not by myself alone, but by every right-thinking man in this country. In the abolition of this traffic you would have, as I have said, the whole consensus of the Christian Churches in 325 your favour; you know what is the opinion of China and Burmah, the United States and Australia, and you are perfectly aware that you are doing a moral wrong. If you are actuated by the principles of the Christian religion, in which this country professes to believe—if you are actuated by the principles of morality, if you are influenced by merely political rumour—give up this Revenue, Every reason that ought to weigh with you is dead against you in continuing this Opium Traffic, and, therefore, it is that I seek to move the Resolution which I have placed on the Paper.
§ MR. SAMUEL SMITH
Sir, I must express my satisfaction with the admirable statement made by my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for India (Mr. J. K. Cross), especially commending the way in which the hon. Gentleman dealt with some of those extraordinary misleading statements which have been recently published in a prominent review regarding the economic position of India. My object, however, in rising is to expand the remarks already made to the House by my hon. Friend the Member for South Durham (Sir Joseph Pease) on the subject of the Opium Trade of India and China. This is a subject in which I have felt a deep interest for many years, an interest which I believe to be shared by many in this House, and by a largo proportion of the people of this country. My hon. Friend put his case as to the Opium Trade from the point of view of the domestic relations of India, and of the finances of India. I should like to make a few remarks on the question of the influence of the trade upon China, and our relations with the people of that country, to show that, as a matter of fact, India and China are linked together in the Opium Trade, and that it is impossible to deal with the one in regard to it without at the same time dealing with the other. I will not occupy the House with a review of our previous dealings with China—this is not a proper occasion; but I will make this observation—that all impartial people admit now that the conduct of this country towards China in regard to the Opium Trade in former years has been immoral in the highest degree. There is nothing in the history of our country for centuries back which is so calculated 326 to cover us with shame as the way in which we have forced this traffic on a reluctant nation by means of more than one sanguinary war. We cannot avoid alluding to the way in which the traffic has grown up between India and China, if we are to do justice in regard to the present position of the question; but I would specially refer to our present position in regard to China in this matter. I wish to call the attention of the House to the influence of the Indian Government upon our present policy as to China in regard to the Chefoo Convention. It is, no doubt, known to this House that a Convention was concluded with China, I believe seven or eight years ago, generally known as the Chefoo Convention. Our Government signed an Agreement, and the Chinese made a substantial concession to this country. They opened four new Treaty Ports; and, in return, were to receive certain concessions, especially in regard to the Opium Trade. They were to be allowed the liberty of putting transit duties upon the opium in bond, that thereby they might be able to tax it before it passed into the hands of smugglers, or, at all events, before it evaded their Customs Duties. On our part, this was considered a just provision; but the Indian Government brought influence to bear upon the Home Government, which, for years, has prevented the ratification of the Treaty; and I venture to say that our conduct in this matter has been most reprehensible. It is to me a matter for deep regret and shame that we should have acted in such a dishonourable manner towards a weaker race like the Chinese. Now, it is currently alleged by the India Office, that China has been left free of late years in the matter of the Opium Trade. An elaborate Paper was published two years ago, with a view of showing that there was really no pressure brought to bear on China. Now, this is the kernel of the whole question, and this is the point to which I wish especially to draw attention. I am not prepared to go so far as to say that the Government can, at this time of day, undertake to root up the Indian Opium Trade, or put an immediate stop to it. I do not hold any such Utopian view; but I do hold that it is altogether wrong, that it is altogether impolitic, and that it is in the highest degree immoral, in a strong nation like ours, to 327 compel a weak nation like China to receive opium against its wish, or more freely than it desires to do. That is our position as regards China. The trade was not legalized until we had taken Pekin, and burnt down the Emperor's Palace, and so paralyzed the Chinese that we could impose any terms we liked upon them. As to whether or not China is under any pressure now, it is in the despatches and evidence of Sir Rutherford Alcock, recently Her Majesty's Representative at Pekin, that we have the most striking testimony to China's unchanged hostility to the Opium Trade. Under date, Pekin, May 20th, 1869, in the Correspondence respecting the revision of the Treaty of Tientsin, the Ambassador addressed the Earl of Clarendon, giving a lengthy report of an interview between himself and three Ministers of the Foreign Board of Pekin. In the course of the discussion, Sir Rutherford Alcock had accused the Chinese literati of being actuated by a hostile animus towards foreigners. The Chinese Ministers at first disputed the fact; but—In the end Wen-Seang shifted his ground, and asked how could it be otherwise? They had often seen foreigners making war on the country; and then, again, how irreparable and continuous was the injury which they saw inflicted upon the whole Empire by the foreign importation of opium! If England would consent to interdict this—cease either to grow it in India, or to allow their ships to bring it to China—there might be some hope of more friendly feelings. No doubt, there was a very strong feeling entertained by all the literati and gentry as to the frightful evils attending the smoking of opium, its thoroughly demoralizing effects, and the utter ruin brought upon all who once gave way to the vice. They believed the extension of this pernicious habit was mainly due to the alacrity with which foreigners supplied the poison for their own profit, perfectly regardless of the irreparable injury inflicted; and, naturally, they felt hostile to all concerned in such a traffic. … If England ceased to protect the trade, it could then be effectually prohibited by the Emperor, and it would eventually cease to trouble them, while a great cause of hostility and distrust in the minds of the people would be removed.This is a very important State Paper. It is the utterance of a responsible Minister of China to the British Minister, at the time when they were seeking to extend the operation of the Treaty of Tientsin, the first Treaty that legalized the Opium Traffic. I maintain, then, that, in the face of this, it is absurd to tell us that China is under no pressure 328 whatsoever in regard to the Opium Trade. The fact is, that the Indian Government has, since the beginning of this century, and especially during the past 30 or 40 years, derived a large part of its Revenue at the expense of the happiness and welfare of a great portion of the people of China. The evil effects of the trade are abundantly shown in the misery and degradation of the people along the Coast of China. I say that the Indian and British Governments, between them, share a terrible responsibility in this matter—not that I would attempt in a sudden and wholesale manner to put and end to the cultivation of opium in India. What I desire is, that you should relax your hold upon China, and let it be perfectly understood that the Chinese Government should be left altogether free to deal with opium in the way of restriction or prohibition exactly as it thinks best in its own domestic interest. I hope that all who have the good name of this country at heart will support us in removing the pressure from China with regard to this traffic, against which so strong a prejudice is entertained. I might for a moment refer to a series of pamphlets which have been published during the last year or two, with the view of inducing the British people to believe that the use of opium is harmless. We all know how strong is the bias with which every official caste regards questions which affect its own interests, and how it looks with a blind eye on subjects it is not convenient to see. I think the judgment of the British Ambassador at Pekin is far more reliable than the pamphlets I have referred to. Sir Thomas Wade wrote—It is to me vain to think otherwise of the use of the drug in China than as of a habit many times more pernicious, nationally speaking, than the gin and whisky drinking which we deplore at home. It takes possession more insidiously, and keeps its hold to the full as tenaciously. I know no case of radical cure. It has insured, in every case within my knowledge, the steady descent, moral and physical, of the smoker; and it is, so far, a greater mischief than drink, that it does not, by external evidence of its effect, expose its victim to the loss of repute, which is the penalty of habitual drunkenness.It is impossible to believe that opium can be anything but a most pernicious drug, when we consider the penal laws of Eastern countries against its use. It was at one time a capital offence in 329 China to introduce it, and it never would have been made lawful to use it, if the Chinese officials could have had their way, so deep was their conviction that it was a most dangerous drug. The Penal Code of Japan provides to-day, that the selling of opium, or the smoking of it, renders the culprit liable to two or more years' imprisonment. There is a great resemblance between the arguments brought forward in favour of the Opium Trade and those which used to be urged in favour of Slavery. There were enormous vested interests in the Slave Trade, and it was pleaded that these ought to be protected. I remember that when travelling through the Southern States of America, during the prevalence of Slavery, it used to be contended by the slave-holders that Slavery was really a good and humane practice, and that the negroes were never so well off, so happy and contented, and well protected as they were under a good owner. It was even largely held by the Churches that Slavery was a special dispensation of God for the sake of Christianizing the negroes. If you have a great vested interest in anything that is wrong, you create a corresponding state of public opinion in its favour; and I say there is a close analogy between the kind of arguments now used by those who defend the Opium Trade and those which were used long ago by the persons who were identified with the Slave Trade. I say that before we can pronounce a fair judgment on questions of a moral character, we require to have clean hands, and to be perfectly impartial. England has not clean hands in this matter; she is not impartial. She is impartial now in the matter of Slavery, and she accordingly uses arguments of the highest moral character as to the traffic in human beings. She holds that it should be put down at whatever cost. I say this—that if we had purged ourselves of the Opium Trade as we have of the Slave Trade, and if France, or Spain, or Italy carried it on, we should hear the same arguments used against it that we hear against the Slave Trade. Let us go to those countries not interested in the Opium Trade, and we shall find the people universally condemning it. All over the Continent of Europe, the one great blot against British policy in the East is thought to be this Opium Trade. If you meet a Frenchman, German, or 330 Italian, and talk to him about British policy, and her civilizing mission, he will say—"How can it be that yours is a moral and religious country when she has so long gone on poisoning the Chinese with this abominable drug?" The hon. Baronet the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) thinks that, because there are two wrongs to be redressed, we have no right to touch the one before we have got rid of the other. That is a kind of argument which would stand in the way of any moral improvement whatever. I would just make this observation—there is no real analogy between the trade in alcohol and the trade in opium. We do not force alcohol on any nation that protests against it. Besides, if our Government were fairly to reflect the opinion of the country, it would impose much more stringent restrictions on the sale of alcohol than it does; but, even as it is, the Government taxes alcohol, and the taxation undoubtedly reduces the consumption; but in regard to opium the influence of our Government is altogether the other way—it has been to increase and foster the trade in opium, and push it to the utmost possible degree. I shall now glance at one or two of the most serious objections to the view which I urge. We are told that, if we cease to export Indian opium, China will soon fall back on increased home-growth. In reply to that, I would say our business is to do what is right; to take the beam out of our own eye, and leave our neighbour to take the mote out of his. I am not without hope that, if we would suspend foreign import, China would do what she has many times offered to do—namely, put an embargo on home-growth. At all events, she would have some encouragement to try to put down this vice. My hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for India (Mr. J. K. Cross) asks a very serious question. He asks—"How are you to supply the terrible void in the Revenue?" I think, however, my hon. Friend the Member for South Durham (Sir Joseph Pease), who preceded me, gave a fair answer in some respects, and showed where considerable economies were possible in Indian Expenditure; and I may further point out where very considerable gains might be got in the shape of Revenue. I am making a somewhat bold statement, when I say 331 I think it was a mistake for the Indian Government to abolish two years ago what were called the Cotton Duties. Those Cotton Duties, or, more properly speaking, those Customs Duties, brought in a large revenue very easily, with no perceptible inconvenience to the people of India; but, in deference merely to what was supposed to be the interests of Lancashire, our Government were really forced to abolish the Duties, thereby cutting off at a stroke the means of dealing with the Opium Question. What the Government should, in my judgment, have done, in place of abolishing those Duties, was to have put on a corresponding Excise Duty on Indian manufactures, so as to have removed their Protective tendency. If we had done that, we would to-day have had a round sum of money, which would have enabled us to begin the policy of abolishing the Opium Trade. I hope it is not too late even yet to go back to the principle of moderate Customs Duties in India. I presume a 10 per cent Customs Duty upon all imports into India would yield something like £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 sterling per annum. I do not believe in applying to a country like India those maxims of economic policy which are correct as applied to a highly-developed commercial country like England. We greatly err in forcing our fiscal ideas on countries like India. Direct taxation yields very little, and is far more oppressively felt than indirect taxation, such as is drawn at the Custom House, and it is a great mistake to force the remodelling of the Indian Revenue system on a type which is suitable to a country like England. Then, we have in great degree killed our Chinese trade by means of the traffic in opium. Our trade with China is the most stagnant trade that we do with any country in the world. It remains from year to year almost stationary. The 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 of people in Australia buy twice as much from us as the 300,000,000 in China. This arises from the fact that we have largely wasted the substance of the Chinese people in opium, and hopelessly prejudiced them against Western nations. Hundreds of thousands of families in this country would be deriving a better income, if it were not for this unjust and immoral Opium Traffic I believe, in the long run, it pays best to do what is right. If we had moral 332 courage, and sufficient faith to do what is manifestly right in regard to China, give up the miserable policy of the past, and offer, by means of negotiation, to put an end to the Opium Trade after a term of years, it could be found that ways and means would be found whereby it would be carried out without any real difficulty. I would venture to act, to a large extent, on faith in this matter, having the fullest confidence that a policy of righteousness and justice would return into our own bosom.
§ MR. CROPPER
said, that he felt the fullest sympathy with what had been said by the hon. Baronet the Member for South Durham (Sir Joseph Pease) and the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. S. Smith). He regretted exceedingly that the subject they had dwelt upon was not brought on earlier in the year, and at a period when it could be sufficiently and exhaustively discussed; and, speaking from the view of the scanty audience, he also thought it was unfortunate that the Indian Financial Statement was postponed until so many hon. Members had left town. He must also compliment his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for India (Mr. J. K. Cross) upon the ability and clearness with which he had delivered the very interesting and instructive statement he had made to the House; but he could not help feeling that there was a little of the optimist in his constitution; for it was difficult to believe in the improving condition of the Indian people, when there appeared to be reason to believe that a large portion of them were constantly on the verge of starvation from famine. He quite admitted the difficulty which the Government experienced in making ends meet without the aid of the Opium Trade, and without acting oppressively towards a very poor people. He found, however, that since the year 1872–3 the Indian Civil salaries had advanced more than £1,250,000, and that the charge for the Army had been increased by the sum of £1,000,000. That was a very serious matter, and it was evident that, unless the Government were able to mitigate the condition of the country, it would still be liable in the future to those dreadful famines which had hitherto decimated the people. They were told some four years ago, when the Conference met at Simla, that there might be a reduction in the expenses 333 of the Army in India; but, instead of a reduction, there had been an increase. He should like to know why that increase had taken place? Sir Charles Trevelyan, in his evidence before the Finance Committee which sat in 1873, pointed out many charges which he considered ought not to be laid upon India. No charge, he said, was laid upon Canada, Australia, the Cape, and other Colonies, because they would not hear of it; but India was at our mercy, and we did as we liked with the country.
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. CROPPER
proceeded to say that since Sir Charles Trevelyan gave the evidence to which he had referred, a charge had been made in some of the Colonies for Army purposes. There was, therefore, some good to be gained by bringing these matters forward. The Military, Naval, and Civil salaries which came into the Indian Accounts were very heavy. It appeared that the Non-Effective Service pensions alone amounted to nearly £5,000,000. He thought that the term of service in India for Europeans should be lengthened, that they should not be retired so early as they were upon such extensive pensions, and that the Government should employ more Natives than they did at the present time. Why, when they considered that it was the duty of the Government to carry on the Service in India for the benefit of that country and the Natives themselves, and not for the benefit of the English people or of English employers, could they not take that step to a greater extent than they had, seeing that a Native would serve at little over half the cost of a European? Then, again, it was hardly known in this country that the price of salt was to the tax laid upon it as 2 annas to 32. In England there was an outcry because we had to pay a tax upon tea of a third or fourth of its value. In India an article of absolute necessity was taxed 16 times its value. In Madras, in order to collect the tax, we were obliged to keep up a large force which, in its inquisitiveness and the rewards it gave for information, produced a state of fester and misery which it was hardly possible for us to imagine. In a letter from a Madras civilian, it was stated that 9,212 persons 334 had been prosecuted on account of the tax, of whom 8,399 were convicted, besides 7,168 who were called up by the Department and discharged with a warning; that, generally speaking, the cattle there never tasted salt, and hence the many diseases among them; that while the tax was represented as equitable in its operation, it was a killing and cruel tax; and the writer further said that he could not bear to see the wasteful use of salt in England, knowing that men, women, and children, and beasts also, suffered so severely from the stint or want of it in India. He would impress on his hon. Friend (Mr. J. K. Cross) the desirability of making a large reduction in the tax. If he did, not only would the people be benefited, but the Revenue would spring up on account of the increased consumption. The quantity used in Madras, when the tax was low, was on an average 18 lbs. per head. Since the tax was raised in that Province, it had gone down to 10 lbs. per head; but where rice was the food, twice that quantity might well be consumed. Three years ago, the senior Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) got a Return showing the number of Europeans employed in the Army and Civil Service of India, and the cost to the country was £12,700,000 per annum. He (Mr. Cropper) believed it was to the reduction of our European Army and Civil Service that we must look to lighten the heavy burdens on India. In the Army more Natives might be employed as commissioned officers, and he believed they would act with fidelity to the Queen; and in the Civil Service the experiment we had tried of employing Natives had already proved to be successful.
§ SIR EDWARD COLEBROOKE
I should think it unworthy of an old servant of the Indian Government, if I hesitated to point out some of the difficulties connected with this question. I feel strongly the dangerous position in which the Government of India would be placed by any hasty measures in the direction of this source of Revenue, and the difficulties that would arise in consequence. I will leave it to my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for India (Mr. J. K. Cross) to reply on the financial prospects held out by my hon. Friends; I do not enter into their sanguine views of the Revenue of India. There may be a great future for India; 335 but I see no immediate prospect of an increase of Revenue, or of large reductions of Expenditure. I do not quite realize the prospect the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. S. Smith) holds out from changes in the Customs, and I do not see how they could be carried out without largely affecting the industries of this country. He, as Member for Liverpool, might see no disadvantage in it; but I, as in a small measure representing the Clyde, cannot agree with him. And I will say this—that if there should be any opportunity, through an increase of Revenue, for a reduction of taxation, the Salt Tax is one that should stand first in the consideration of the Government. This has been strongly dwelt upon by the hon. Member who preceded me (Mr. Cropper); and, seeing the extent of the burthen on the people, it has the strongest claim on our consideration. With regard to the Opium Question, it is beset with difficulties; and I am rather puzzled, after listening to my hon. Friends, to see the drift of their arguments, when they propose that the Government should withdraw the monopoly. If it were possible to carry that out, without making great sacrifices of Revenue, then I think the Government should not be connected with a trade that is in every respect discreditable. But does my hon. Friend indulge a hope that the result would be anything else than a reduction of Revenue? Does he consider the conditions under which this enormous Revenue is raised by the Government of India? Bengal produces the finest opium in the world; and, whore there is this enormous difference between the cost of raising it and the price at which it is sold in the foreign markets, would any man of sense suppose that, if the Government were to give up the trade, others would not step in and take it up in the same way that indigo and sugar and other products are cultivated? A great field would be opened for making enormous fortunes. If the Indian Government withdrew from the trade, I believe private enter-prize would largely develop the production beyond the present amount, and the consumption would increase. That would be far more injurious to the health and morality of the world than anything which exists at present, The only way in which the trade can be stopped is by the extinction of the cultivation of the 336 poppy. I will leave it to the House to say whether that is possible or not. It would be impossible to put an end to the consumption of opium in China, even if Her Majesty's Government were to send a Fleet into Chinese waters in support of laws prohibiting the importation of the drug. I do not object on principle to the proposals that were made for the abolition of the Opium Trade; but I cannot view them as practicable. I look on the Opium War as very discreditable; but I remember, after all, when we come back to a time preceding the war, when opium was prohibited in China, I have had information from smugglers in Calcutta of the manner in which they defeated the vigilance of the Chinese Government officials. And in the present day, how would that trade increase, oven if the Government thought it their duty to withdraw from the trade! The difficulties in connection with the subject must weigh with the Government and with every sensible person who considers it. Those who deprecated the use of the drug as deleterious would do well to remember that it cannot be said of the Opium Trade, as is said of the traffic in drink in this country—that one-half or three-quarters of the crime of the country is due to it. No such charge has ever been made against the use of opium, though, no doubt, it is most injurious to the persons using it to excess. The best we can say for it is, that it is not attended with those tremendous evils which accompany the use of drink at home, and it can bear some degree of toleration when there is such extreme difficulty in putting it down by any strong measures.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
I agree pretty much with the last remarks of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Sir Edward Colebrooke); for I think it may be said that if you compare opium and drink, it will be found that opium does its users most harm, and drink does other people most harm. But, coming to the general question, it really seems to me that this performance, which we go through once a-year at the very end of the Session, partakes very much of the nature of a farce. Would any Stranger, who came into this House without knowing what was going on—would any such Stranger suppose that we were discussing the interests of 200,000,000 of people? How many 337 persons have we had here on an average to-night? I do not think more than a score during the whole of this important business; for, after all, we must remember that the business on which we have been engaged to-night lies at the very bottom of good government. This question of Indian finance, which moans the whole government of India, is discussed at the end of the Session in a House which is almost empty, and which twice has narrowly escaped being counted out. I do not profess to be an authority in Indian matters; but, unless the Legislature can be brought to take a warmer interest in the affairs of our Indian fellow-subjects, some great disaster will come upon us some day when we least expect it. The debate we have been listening to to-night is the old debate which we have regularly once a-year; the old thing goes on in the old shape; my hon. Friend the Member for South Durham (Sir Joseph Pease) gets up and proves his case against the Opium Trade in the old way, and quotes evidence which has never been refuted, and which cannot be refuted, as to the enormous evils which this Opium Trade inflicts upon the people. When he has stated his case, up gets the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell), who explains that the war with China was not an Opium War. [Sir GEORGE CAMPBELL: I have not spoken yet.] No; but you will. Then, when he has done, my hon. Friend near me (Sir Edward Celebrooke) gets up and says what I dare say is true enough, that if you do not sell this opium, somebody else will. But that is not an argument worthy of my hon. Friend, or of anybody else. I have heard him say that that is at the bottom of this policy; but I do not think that is an argument in favour of carrying on such a trade. Then, after my hon. Friend has spoken, we shall have my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy; he will be sure to speak then; and he will get up and explain that he thinks that so long as we poison our people at home with drink, we may just as well go on poisoning the Chinese with opium. That is very logical, no doubt. Then, after we have heard all these independent persons, up gets the Representative of the Government on the Treasury Bench—I see he is making ready now—and he will talk feebly—I do not mean that he generally does talk 338 feebly, but only as the official Representative of the Government. He will feebly deprecate this attack on the Opium Trade, and say there is some evidence on the other side, and he will go on to quote some superannuated doctor or other, who says that a little opium does good; and at last he will admit, without blushing, that the money must be had; you must get it somewhere or other; you do not care where; and that is the end of the debate. Today, this debate has been a little more miserable than usual, because we have had the wrongs of the Chinese proved over and over again before; but, to-day, we have had pointed out to us a new feature, and have been told that we are pressing this trade in opium on our own subjects in India, and were thus making it even worse than it was before. It was thought to be bad enough when we simply brought it on the Chinese. In addition to this, I am told from sources which I believe to be perfectly accurate, not only that we are pressing this opium business on some of our own fellow-subjects in India, but that some of the worst developments of the Drink Trade have sprung up in India, and that strong efforts are being made to push that trade, simply for the sake of getting more Revenue, and that we are going on there very much as we are here. I ventured to make a little objection when my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool was saying that we did not permit the sale of drink here. I think a licence is intended to permit the sale of drink, and for no other purpose. The Government gets the Licence Duty, and the Government forces the drink shops on places throughout the country where they are not wanted, simply for the sake of Revenue, just as they are doing in India. I do not believe in such a course. I do not believe that, because we sell drink here, we should do it in India also. I know how difficult it is to get the Government in this country to protect our own fellow-subjects. They get up and make most eloquent speeches against drink, and the wonderful evils of war, pestilence, and famine, which follow in its train; but they go on for three or four years without the slighest attempt to check the evil. But as it is going on in India, it is still worse, and I will tell you why. It is against the principles of the religion of these people to consume this 339 drink; the practice is flying in the face of their religion. Many undoubtedly religious men drink here, but there is not such a thing as a moderate drinker in India. If a man takes to drink there, he is at once looked on as a drunkard; he looses caste. Virtually you may say there are no moderate drinkers, as we call them, in India, and the classes there are divided between drunkards and those who abstain totally. The House, I am sure, will think there is something horrible in this, and that the Government ought to be able to protect its own people. I am not much impressed by the statement of my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for India in regard to the great prosperity and happiness of the people of India. He only gets his information from one set of people—namely, the officials of India. I hope my hon. Friend will do something to prevent our English fellow-citizens in India being drugged with opium, which will play such havoc among them, and that he will try to make some answer to this, and that he will assure the House that this system of pushing this trade for the sake of Revenue must not go on.
§ MR. R. T. REID
said, that as one really desirous to do his duty by India, he must be allowed to express his hearty concurrence in all that had fallen from the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) with reference to the delay in bringing forward the Indian Budget. The present condition of affairs was most unsatisfactory. The House of Commons was responsible for the financial arrangements of India, and yet it had no effectual control over them. These arrangements were not merely questions of Administration. They affected matters of principle, as, for instance, the Opium Question, the Land Question, and the Salt Revenue. All these subjects required investigation, and it was simply absurd for anyone, under existing circumstances, to pretend that they now received that investigation. The scandal in connection with the Indian Budget discussion had reached a climax that evening. The whole population of the Indian Empire were governed by officials over whom, under present arrangements, the House had no sort of control whatever. These annual debates, which occupied half-a-night at the very end of 340 the Session, were a mere form, without substance or reality, out of which Members could obtain no information. The House of Commons had devoted 25 nights to Home Supply. The Supply and Ways and Means of India, amounting to about £50,000,000 each, were to be disposed of in one night's debate. It really seemed as if the idea was that the Secretary and Under Secretary of State for India and Mr. Godley were to be left wholly uncontrolled. Under the old Company it was usual to appoint a Commission every 20 years to inquire into Indian finance; but now all such proposals were pooh-poohed by the Government. It was 30 years since such a Commission sat. Why not appoint such a Commission now, which could exercise some slight cheek upon the bureaucratic Government of that country? Not only was it full time that such a review should take place; but he was equally sure that the work it would find to do would be quite sufficient, if not more than sufficient, to test any capability it would possess.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
I am one of those who view the state of Indian finances with uneasiness, notwithstanding that I am told that they are in a satisfactory condition. I am generally pointed out as being somewhat of a pessimist and a croaker with regard to this question; but I think Indian Accounts are too much refined and complicated to be easily understood, and in spite of the optimist statements of successive Under Secretaries of State for India, I maintain the finances of India are not satisfactory. I admit that, in some points of view, Indian finance may be considered prosperous; but in those years, when things look better, and when there is an apparent surplus, they do not pay their Debt and reduce their obligations. They have no Sinking Fund in India such as prevails in all other countries for reducing Debt; all that they have in India of that character being an occasional contribution from the balance of the Famine Fund. It is also noticeable that something happens every year to turn the expected surplus into a deficit. Thus, this year the surplus of £319,000 will be, if it is not already, more than swallowed up by the demands of the Quetta Railway. Yet, notwithstanding this and the fact that the Salt Tax—a tax in every way excessively high, and most 341 objectionable—is still maintained, the Import Dues have been swept away, at the instigation, as I believe, of the Lancashire and Manchester interests, which are so strongly represented in this House. So long as the Export Duties are maintained, while the Import Duties are removed, I will never believe that they have been removed, not in the interest of a class, but of political economy. Although they urgently require it, it is a mistake to suppose that the Salt Duties have been reduced. They have been equalized with this result, that they are now, in several districts, three times as heavy as they used to be when that arrangement was arrived at. Then there is the question of the Railways. There is no reason why produce should not be carried as cheaply over Indian Railways, as it is over the American Railways. It would be remunerative in itself, and would tend greatly to the benefit of India, if the railway rates were greatly reduced. I am glad to find that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bourke) has put a Motion on the Paper in favour of a policy of masterly inactivity with respect to Afghanistan, and against accurately defining the boundaries of that country. But it is a pity the late Government did not adopt that view instead of entering upon the Afghan War. I do not say that the Quetta Railway should not be made; but I think the Government have allowed themselves to be influenced by a sort of fear in deciding to push on the scheme in such a hurried and panicky way, if I may use such a phrase. My worst fear with regard to Indian finances is what I may call the "frontier scare;" and, on this point, I think it would be far better to have a limited Afghan Boundary. I protest most earnestly against this country entering into rivalry with Russia in regard to assigning an escort to the Afghan Frontier Commission. Russia has a great Army on the frontier; while the Forces of England in India are a long way off. Then there is the question of the Indian Army, and respecting it I am also inclined to fear there is some truth in the reports, that the Indian Authorities are somewhat uneasy about the Military Force. They are compelled to keep up an Army there, the Army at present being extremely small; indeed, it is the smallest in the world in proportion to the population, 342 and I, therefore, view with apprehension the reports coming from that eminent Jingo, Sir Samuel Baker, as they lead to the exaggerated idea that the Indian Army is stronger than it really is. That is one of my great objections to a campaign at Khartoum, because, if we have such a campaign, we must draw upon the Indian Army, which, in its present condition, would put a dangerous and great strain upon it, and it might be necessary largely to increase that Army, especially as the Armies of Native States are in some cases larger than our own, and are becoming more and more highly trained. I must confess that I am further alarmed at the increased tendency lately evinced to govern India by a system of agitation; and without, in any way, infringing upon the rights of personal or public justice and liberty, I should like to see it temperately repressed and discouraged, because I am afraid that the Natives of India will learn the lesson it conveys, and will act upon it. It is not a popular agitation, but an artificial agitation got up by, and in the interests of, the rich and influential classes and the newspapers. Altogether, I confess I am somewhat uneasy about the course that is being taken by the Indian Government, and I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Hereford (Mr. R. T. Reid), that after 30 years, the time has come when there should be some review—possibly by a Select Committee—of the machinery of the Government of India. There is a want of a sufficiently strong Government, and my impression is, that the power of government in India is too much divided. With regard to the Opium Question, I have put an Amendment on the Paper to the Resolution the hon. Baronet the Member for South Durham (Sir Joseph Pease) proposed to bring forward, and I will briefly allude to it. In fact, I am bound to say a word or two. I deny altogether that the hon. Baronet has any right to talk of the "sin" of the Indian Government in this matter. I deny that the Indian Government is responsible for these Chinese wars. They were not the wars of the Indian Government. The question raised is not with regard to our Indian Administration, or our great cultivators. I say we ought not to put pressure on the Chinese of any sort or kind. On the other hand, I have a very great dislike to the connection 343 of the Government with the manufacture of opium, and if it was possible to get rid of that connection without leading to worse evils—evils to the people of India, evils to the people of China—I should be most delighted that it should be done; but I confess there are great practical difficulties in the way. I am very much afraid that the change in the matter of form would be like seizing the shadow and losing the substance. I think it would do great harm to the people of India; but, be that as it may, I am free to say that is an open question, which might fairly be argued, and if it could be shown that we can get rid of the connection with that trade, I shall be glad. But my hon. Friend raises a broader question—the question of the licences to cultivate opium in India. He wants to stop the cultivation of the poppy in India. I have never understood what my hon. Friend's plan was. He seems to have developed it to-night; and, so far as I can understand, it is to put down the cultivation in our own territories, but to allow the neighbouring States to cultivate it and take the profit. It does seem to me that my hon. Friend cannot be serious in making a proposal of that kind. Why not allow the cultivation, where there is the best soil for it, and where you can make the best profit? And if you are to deprive your own territories of the right, why allow it to the neighbouring States? Why allow them to have the Revenue from it, and not your own? Then with regard to Burmah. I have watched this question, and I believe it to be a question of race. The Indo-Chinese race will have opium; the Aryan races do not care about it. It is a matter we have investigated to the bottom. In the districts of Behar and Benares the people do not use it—at least, very much less than the countries slightly tinged with the Indo-Chinese element, where it is extremely dear. We are not demoralizing the people of India by the limited cultivation we allow; but I am afraid we should demoralize them if we allowed them to cultivate it, where the people have unfortunate tastes that way. Then when I come to the broader view of the question of prohibition, I admit with my hon. Friend that opium is an evil; but I do not know that it is worse than that of whisky, or other spirits, the manufacture of which we permit in this 344 country. Two blacks do not make a white; and there is an old Biblical maxim, saying "that, before you remove the mote from your neighbour's eye, you should take the beam from your own." Whether opium or spirits are the greater evil, I do not know; but I admit them both to be bad. I, for my part, should be glad to see both put down. But I do maintain that there is logic and sense in my Amendment. I say until you totally prohibit the manufacture of liquors in this country, you are not justified or consistent in prohibiting the cultivation of the poppy. It is not the case that the English Government deliberately promote the use of opium; but there is somewhat too great a desire on their part to raise revenue from its sale. I trust, therefore, they will look into the matter, and do their best to avoid this.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
said, he wished to call attention to the "monstrous absentee allowances," as his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for India (Mr. J. K. Cross) had himself termed them, which were now being paid by the Indian Government, and to express his disappointment that no remedy had been suggested with a view to their reduction. Last year, the hon. Member alluded to them as one of the most serious items of Expenditure, and there could be no doubt that the figures fully justified that remark. It was alarming to find that the Army Charges for Non-Effective Services reached the sum of £3,000,000, while the Civil Service Estimate under that head was nearly £2,000,000, making a total of close upon £5,000,000 for these Non-Effective Services. Extravagant as that amount was, it seemed likely to increase, unless that House, upon whom the responsibility ultimately rested, exerted itself to criticize the Indian Budget. He hoped, therefore, they should have some more practical recognition of the serious aspect which this question presented in regard to the future. But the point to which he wished particularly to direct attention was the Report of the Simla Army Commission, appointed in 1879, practically nothing having been done to carry out the recommendations of that Report, which had been presented so long ago as February 1880. The Prime Minister, in the Budget Debate of 1879, had emphatically recognized the duty of this House to overlook the Expenditure of 345 India, and especially the Army Expenditure. The Commission to which he referred reported in 1880. When Lord Ripon went out, it was only after special instructions had been sent to him from home that he moved the Government of India to take the Report into consideration. The Government of India, including high military authorities like Sir Donald Stewart and General Wilson, arrived at certain unanimous recommendations, which were transmitted home during the autumn of 1880. One of the most important of these recommendations dealt with reductions, not of the actual number of the Forces in India, but of the superior ranks. It made separate detailed suggestions as regards Artillery, Cavalry, and Infantry. In all cases it proposed to decrease the number of the cadres, whilst it increased the men in each cadre. These proposed reductions would have constituted a very substantial economy; but, although the Secretary of State for India had done much to press the matter upon the War Office, his efforts had not been effectual. During the years 1881–2, no agreement was come to; and though the noble Marquess now at the head of the War Office (the Marquess of Hartington) in 1882 held out hopes of carrying out some of its recommendations, the Under Secretary of State for India finally announced, last year, that, with the exception of those relating to the Artillery, they had all been abandoned. Those recommendations showed a direct saving of £360,000, and indirectly a saving of £500,000, per annum. Owing to the policy of the War Office in past times, during the last 18 years, without the addition of a single man to the armed Force of India, £800,000 per annum had been added to the Indian Army expenses. This extra cost had been created by changes made by the War Office at home, designed solely to meet the exigencies of the Home Service, without the Indian Government being consulted as to their applicability to the Army in India. It was an unfortunate result of the amalgamation of the European and Indian Military Forces. When the Government of India, as in this case, made a practical attempt to remedy some of these disastrous results that had flowed from the selfishness or want of thought of the Home Authorities, they were met by a non possumus from the War Office, and 346 finally from the India Office as well. Another important proposal of the Government of India was the amalgamation of the separate commands in Madras and Bombay. There could be no doubt that very great economy could have been effected by that amalgamation. Large reductions had been brought about by amalgamation in the Department of Military Accounts previously effected, and by that of the Ordnance Departments of Bombay, Madras, and Bengal. Besides the economy of such a change, the political and administrative advantages would be very great, as the present system necessitated great inconvenience and delay in all arrangements. With regard to transport it caused a great deal of unnecessary correspondence and delay, besides adding greatly to the expense. Bombay was the general port of embarkation, and it was absurd that all the formality of a transference to a separate command should be gone through when troops passed for a few days or hours through a part of the Bombay Presidency. Regarding the matter from the political aspect, the case for amalgamation was still stronger. It had been stated, with regard to the Afghan Campaign, that the operations in Lower Afghanistan had been carried on at a great disadvantage, owing to the divided commands in India, and the jealousies and delays arising from this cause. The statements made upon this subject by the Government of India in the Papers just laid upon the Table were of the very gravest importance. The obstructiveness of the War Office, if he might say so without offence, was, to a certain extent, responsible for the non-adoption of the recommendations of the Commission; but it was not exclusively responsible. In 1882, the noble Marquess, who was then Secretary of State for India, had acknowledged that there was an absolute divergence of opinion between the Government of India and the Council for India in this country. It was natural, he had said, that the Council should be opposed to large and sweeping changes. But that Council did not represent the prevailing opinion of Indian Administrators, but rather the opinion of five or ten years previous; it was always conservative in character, and was rarely prepared to go the length to which the actual Government of India was prepared to go. The 347 Council of India must, therefore, share the blame with the War Office. It was very much to be regretted that the attempt to carry out these recommendations should be frustrated by the Departments at home, and he hoped they should have some assurance that the matter would not be lost sight of.
§ SIR EARDLEY WILMOT
said, that he had presented Petitions to the House, embodying their grounds of complaint, from four gallant officers on the Bengal General List—namely, Major Home, Major Vivian, Lieutenant Colonel Waller, and Major Wiggin, who found that, by the General Order of 1881, their retiring allowances had been reduced, and consequently felt that an injustice had been done to them. After the Mutiny, when the Indian Army was disbanded, the English officers remaining in the skeleton squadrons looked for all the advantages which they had had before the Mutiny took place. In 1861, the reorganization was accomplished, and the young officers had the choice of either entering the Line regiments, joining the Staff corps, or remaining on the General List for local service. In 1862, a General Order was issued, stating that promotion of General List officers would be regulated by the established usages of the Service; and, in 1864, the following Order was issued:—The general promotion of Indian officers will be accelerated, and to every officer who entered the Service so late as 1861 (i.e., General List officers) the promotion through every grade with the pay thereunto belonging, as if the whole Native Army had boon kept up, is assured, and the right to Indian pensions established.In 1866, the privilege of entering Staff corps was withdrawn, and, in 1867, General List officers were compelled to accept promotion on Staff corps rules in supersession of those of the local service. In 1882, General List officers were put on a reduced scale of pensions, different from the scale for those who had joined the Staff corps prior to September 12, 1866; and when they were asked which corps they would join, they were led to understand that even if they did not go on the Stall corps, they would maintain their privileges as fully as if they did. Many of them, consequently, abstained from entering the Stall' corps, and now they found themselves placed on a much lower footing than they considered they had a right to expect. In 348 addition to the Petitions which he had had the honour of presenting, there were many others to a similar effect which had, no doubt, found their way to the House. He had a relative of his own who entered the Service in 1860. He declined to join the Staff corps, preferring the general service. From 1860 down to the present time, he had taken part in nearly all the wars in India; but, by unwittingly forbearing to enter the Staff corps previous to 1866, he found himself, in the event of his retirement, in the position of having a smaller retiring allowance than officers who were junior to him, but who had happened to enter the Staff corps. He thought that, if any class of officers were entitled to the consideration of the House, it was the class of gallant Indian officers who, far away from their own country and their homes, bore the danger and turmoil of Indian campaigns; and if there was any doubt about the advisableness of complying with their requests, they ought to have the benefit of it. He appealed to the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for India, who, he knew, would sympathize with brave men who had done good service to their country, to do something in mitigation of the grievances complained of.
said, he also had one or two cases to bring before the notice of the House, which were based on grounds of complaint similar to those just brought forward by the last speaker. The officers for whom he spoke were men of minor rank to those whose cases had just been stated. Notwithstanding this fact, however, he thought it was but fair and reasonable that, even at this period of the Session, and at the risk of wearying the House, he should not allow the debate to close without bringing their case briefly before the House. In 1868, a General Order was issued to the effect that furlough pay should be half the salary converted at the rate of 2s. per rupee; but, three years later, the Duke of Argyll wrote a despatch, requesting their Lordships to announce that all further future payments would be made at the current rate of exchange, which then stood at the rate of 1s. 11d. per rupee. Unfortunately, the rate of exchange had since gone down to 1s. 7½d. or 1s. 7¾d. The consequence of these changes was that certain classes of officers 349 who now came to this country on furlough got a reduction in their pay of from 17 to 20 per cent. No doubt, the Secretary of State for India would deal with the question which he had mentioned fairly; but, in the event of his not being able to do so, he (Colonel Milne-Home) might feel it his duty again to direct attention to it.
§ MR. BORLASE
said, the Natives of India desired to receive an answer to their Question, which had already been asked—namely, Whether it was intended to replace the age at which Natives of India could become candidates for the Civil Service at 21 years, instead of 19, as at present? To comply with the present regulation necessitated, as Mr. Lalmohun Ghose had said, a Native of India, leaving his country at 13 years of age, as he had to acquire the English language in England. That, he thought, was inflicting a great injustice upon Indians, as they had to compete with Englishmen; and he wanted to know whether, after all the evidence which had been laid before them, Her Majesty's Government would take steps to restore to the Natives of India that opportunity which they had lost of sharing equally with Englishmen those posts in their Native country for which they were quite as well fitted?
§ MR. WARTON
In common with other hon. Members, I have to complain that so important a subject as the affairs of India should be delayed to so late a period of the Session, because hon. Members have no opportunity of giving them the attention which they require. I must also say that I look upon the annual revival of the agitation against the Opium Traffic as useless. Those who advocate the abolition of opium as a source of Revenue allege that opium-eating is highly injurious; but the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Joseph Pease) starts on the higher moral ground—that it is essentially demoralizing and wrong. In the face of history and experience, they seem to suppose that the human race, as a whole, can do without some stimulant. They ignore the fact that a great many of these people live on vegetable food, that that is not a natural food for them, and that the taking of opium, to a certain extent, mitigates the bad effects of the diet. They forget that millions of people take this opium with moderation, doing themselves no harm by it; but, on 350 the contrary, doing themselves a positive good. They ignore the fact that the persons who take opium to excess and become slaves to it are far fewer in number than the unhappy people who cannot draw the line between moderation and excess in the use of strong drink. They also ignore the fact that even the unhappy slaves to the use, or rather abuse, of opium—those with whom opium-eating has become a vice—do not do as much harm as the ordinary drunkard. I contend that the misdirected efforts of these philanthropists—these people who ignore all experience and all the means of experience—instead of doing good only lead to increased immorality. I regret that they cannot see it. I may say, in conclusion, that I support the claim of the Natives to a concession in the matter of age on entering the Public Service.
§ MR. SPEAKER
, interposing, said, he must point out to the hon. Gentleman that, the subject being an Order of the Day, he had no right to reply. He might explain.
§ MR. J. K. CROSS
then said, that, with the indulgence of the House, he would confine himself to answering one or two questions that had been put to him in the course of the discussion. In reply to the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. E. Stanhope), he would say that the Army would be at its full strength by April next. In reply to his hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell), he had to inform him that the amount to be spent on the Quetta Railway in the next 12 months would be £400,000, and £600,000 in the following year. If the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Eardley Wilmot) would lay the Petitions in the case to which he had called attention before him, he would take them into consideration. In answer to the hon. Member for East Cornwall (Mr. Borlase), he would refer him to the reply he had given to a deputation some time previously.
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
§ Accounts considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Resolved, That it appears, by the Accounts laid before this House, that the Total Revenue 351 of India for the year ending the 31st day of March 1883 was £70,125,231, including £12,224,100 received from Productive Public Works; that the Total Expenditure in India and in England was £69,418,598, including £11,741,747 spent on Productive Public Works (Revenue Account); that there was an excess of Revenue over Expenditure in that year of £706,633; that the Capital Expenditure on Productive Public Works in the same year was £2,258,786; that there was also a Capital Outlay on the East Indian Railway of £628,530, including £480,333 India Stock, issued in redemption of a portion of the East Indian Railway Annuity; and also a Capital Outlay of £1,762,582 in England, on account of the purchase of the Madras Irrigation and Canal Company's Undertakings.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow.