§ MR. ONSLOW
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether he is aware that the Indian Vernacular Press Act was passed at the earnest instigation of Sir George Campbell, now Member for 156 Kirkcaldy, and many other officials in India of the highest position; and, whether he will produce the telegrams referred to in the following extract from one of his speeches recently delivered in Scotland, as having been sent by Lord Beaconsfield's Government:—Suddenly in the dark, in the privacy of the Legislative Chamber, I believe, in answer to messages sent by telegraph without the knowledge of Parliament, without the knowledge of the Country, a Law was passed which totally extinguished the freedom of the Native Indian Press?
I think that with regard to the first part of this Question the hon. 'Member is under some misapprehension. My hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy had left India several years before the passing of the Vernacular Press Act. I am quite aware that considerable discussion took place in India as to that Act—or, at all events, some measures connected with it—and I have heard that my hon. Friend desired some measure of that description, just as I have heard that one of the stoutest Tories of the country—the Duke of Buckingham—resolutely opposed it. I never said anything with regard to the discussion in India upon that Act; what I spoke of was the manner in which the Act was passed, without the knowledge of Parliament or the people of this country. The paragraph quoted has exclusive reference to that, and not to any discussion in India; and I hold to the principle that it is Parliament, not the local authorities, which is the guardian of the liberties of the people. The telegrams to which I referred are contained in Blue Book 2,040 of 1878. The telegram asking for leave to pass the Bill was sent on the 13th of March, 1878. The telegram from the Secretary of State sanctioning the Bill was sent on the 14th of March, and I believe the Bill was passed on the same day.
§ MR. ONSLOW
The impression left on the mind of everyone by the right hon. Gentleman's speech was that the initiative came from Lord Beaconsfield's Government, and that is the impression I wish to correct.
§ MR. R. N. FOWLER (LORD MAYOR)
Are not the debates of the Indian Council reported in the Indian papers as the debates in Parliament here?