HC Deb 26 April 1888 vol 325 cc564-7
MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

asked the Under Secretary of State for India, Whether the consent of the Resident at Hyderabad, and of the Indian Government, was given in January, 1886, for 99 years, to the concession by the Nizam of all mining rights in the Deccan to Messrs. Watson and Stuart under the following conditions:—That they would promote a Company with a nominal capital of £1,000,000, but that not more than £150,000 should be first issued and £75,000 paid up, which sum was to be employed in working the coalfields of Singiréni, and that the rest of the capital was only to be issued if it could be remuneratively employed in working other coal-fields or mines, or in building steel or iron works in the Deccan; and, if those were not the conditions, whether he can state what they wore; whether the Concessionaires promoted a Company with a capital of £1,000,000, divided into 180,000 shares of £10, and, having issued at once the entire capital, allotted to themselves, to a Mr. Sharp, and to Mr. Winter, the solicitor of the Company, 85,000 shares, which were declared to be fully paid up, although nothing was paid on them; whether this was done with the approval of the British Resident at Hyderabad, or of the Indian Government whether, in June last, one Abdul Huk, being in England as Jubilee Commissioner of the Nizam, purchased 10,000 shares for the Government of the Nizam at the price of £12 per share; and whether he is aware that it has been stated in The Times and other journals that the price of £12 per share was an artificial one caused by fictitious dealings between the Concessionaires and their nominees, and by eight brokers being sent into the Stock Exchange by Abdul Huk simultaneously to compete for shares, and that they were all, or almost all, bought in two blocks bearing consecutive numbers from one jobber; whether the Jubilee Commissioner telegraphed to Colonel Marshall, the British Secretary of the Nizam, on June 3, "Deccan's firmly held by public, therefore with greatest difficulty succeeded in purchasing" the shares in question; and that Colonel Marshall replied that this ar- rangement was "eminently satisfactory;" whether this arrangement is deemed satisfactory by the Indian Government, or by the Secretary of State for India; and, whether, in view of the above facts, and with the object of protecting the subjects of the Nizam from the loss of £850,000, and British investors from the loss of their money by investing in the "paper" shares of this Company under the impression that both its capital and the Stock Exchange operations connected with it were within the knowledge and had the approval of the Indian Government and Her Majesty's Secretary of State for India, the Government will agree to the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the formation of the Company, the purchase of shares by an agent of the Nizam, and the approval of the purchase by Colonel Marshall; and to report whether there is sufficient cause for the Nizam to be advised to abrogate or modify the concession, and for the guilty parties, if fraud be proved, to be brought to justice?


The Company in question was formed under a concession of His Highness the Nizam, which was approved by the Government of India, and little or no objection was raised to the wishes of the Nizam's Government to invest in the shares of the Company. The Secretary of State has no knowledge of the other circumstances alleged by the hon. Member. Colonel Marshall, whom he speaks of as a British Secretary, is not under the orders of the Government of India, and does not act as their agent in conducting the correspondence of the Nizam. Of course, the Secretary of State has no objection to any inquiry into the action of Her Majesty's Government, if, upon a Motion made in the ordinary way, the hon. Member can offer any primâ facie ground for believing that their conduct has been open to question. They do not think a Parliamentary inquiry would be desirable into the conduct of a Native Sovereign or his Ministers, for whose action in respect of matters of internal administration Her Majesty's Government are not responsible, and with which they are under a Treaty obligation not to interfere. If any request for inquiry upon the matter should reach the Government of India from the Nizam, of course the fullest assistance in their power will be given to him.


Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to say that I am not calling into account the conduct of the Government. But I would ask the First Lord of the Treasury, whether he will afford me facilities for taking the sense of the House as to whether a Committee on this subject should be appointed. I wish inquiry to be made, not into the conduct of the Nizam or of the Government, but into the occurrences which took place in this country with regard to this Company under a species of guarantee by the Indian Government.


Before the right hon. Gentleman answers that Question, I may, perhaps, be allowed to inform him that I have had strong representations made to me from a leading Member of the Government of Hyderabad. I do not like to mention his name publicly, but he is a person occupying the highest possible position. He implored me to use any influence I may possess to protect the State of Hyderabad front a fraud of the most remarkable kind. Alluding to this matter under these circumstances, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will allow a Committee to be appointed to inquire into it without undue delay; because the loss threatened to the State is stated by my official informant as one of great magnitude.


If the right hon. Gentleman will grant me the facilities I ask for, I shall be perfectly ready to lay before the House what I believe to be a primâ facie case for inquiry.

THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)

My hon. Friend (Sir John Gorst) has already stated that if a primâ faciecase can be made out for an inquiry which Her Majesty's Government can properly institute, or for any inquiry which they can properly facilitate, the Government would be exceedingly glad to afford all possible assistance to the hon. Gentleman and to my noble Friend behind me for the purpose of accomplishing the object they have in view. The Government will welcome any assistance that can be obtained from any source in obtaining evidence that will expose "nefarious malpractices" in England. Those are the words of the hon. Member. If the hon. Gentleman will, therefore, repeat his Question to-morrow, I will see if I can make an arrangement that will enable him to bring on a Motion in the usual way, at a time that will not unduly trespass upon the time of the House, in order to elicit the feeling of the House.

SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)

asked, whether the hon. Gentleman was aware that there was a law prohibiting financial transactions between Native Princes and European subjects except with the sanction of the Government of India; and whether this transaction was initiated by the sanction, amounting to a positive sanction, of the Government of India to the transactions between the Nizam and the promoters of this Company?


There is a law prohibiting the loan of money to Native Chiefs, but that law is not correctly described by the hon. Gentleman. With regard to the present transaction, it was not initiated by any sanction on the part of the Government of India.