§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
asked the Under Secretary of State for India, Whether he can now give the House any information as to the negotiations, during the past 18 months, with reference to the Burmah Ruby Mines; whether he can state the tenour and several dates of the various communications received during that time, or made to Messrs. Streeter or to any person on their behalf, or received from or made to any other person or persons, with reference to the leasing, letting, or working the said mines, or relating to the sale or other disposal of the produce of such mines; whether he will state the names of the several persons who have applied for permission to visit the mines, the dates of their several applications, and the respective grounds stated for each such application, and the date and tenour of the reply in each case; why permission was granted in one case and withheld in others; and who is the person responsible for the permission granted to the representatives of Messrs. Streeter; and, whether he will lay upon the Table the whole of the Documents, Reports, and Correspondence, since the occupation of Burmah, relating to the said Ruby Mines?
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE (Sir JOHN GORST) (Chatham)
The Secretary of State has called for the Correspondence on the subject of leasing the Ruby Mines which has been carried on in India and Burmah, and which has not yet been sent home. As soon as it is received he will consider what part can be laid upon the Table. In the meanwhile the information, official and private, in his possession is so incomplete that I cannot attempt to reply categorically to the earlier part of the Question. When the present Government came into Office, the Secretary of State found that the plan of giving a provisional lease to some firm or Company had been suggested; that with the sanction of his Predecessor certain persons had been invited to tender; and that Messrs. Streeter had made the highest bid. The Secretary of State, however, came to the conclusion that no binding agreement subsisted between the Government of India and Messrs. Streeter. He informed the Government of India that he desired that the value 1581 of the mines and the rights of Government should be carefully ascertained before pledging Government, and that any arrangements proposed should have his previous approval before being carried into effect. He also intimated that the desirability of retaining the mines in the hands of Government was well worthy of consideration. The Secretary of State has not yet received the Report on the value of the mines which he asked for, nor have any proposed arrangements been submitted for his approval, and until these are before him no decision can be arrived at. Meanwhile, he has repeated his former directions—that no action is to be taken without his previous sanction being obtained. The only desire of the Secretary of State is to deal with the property as may be best for the interests of the people of India, due regard being had to Native rights. If any persons have been prevented from visiting the mines on any ground other than a regard for their personal safety, it has been owing to no directions on his part, but to some misapprehension on the part of the Local Authorities. I have now given the hon. Member and the House all the information I can at the present moment. As soon as a decision is arrived at, or the fuller information asked for is in the possession of the Secretary of State, I shall be most happy to give such further particulars as may be then available.