§ MR. SLAGG (Burnley)
, in rising to move—That, in the opinion of this House, the unwise Frontier Policy of the Government of India is producing grave financial difficulties in that country, leading not only to increased burdens of taxation, but to the extension of the sale of intoxicating liquors for Revenue purposes, with serious results to the moral and material welfare of the people,said, at the outset of his remarks, he disclaimed any intention to attack either the motives or the political character of the men responsible for the Indian policy which he wished to criticize. He was fully alive to the fact that we owed very much to the able Gentlemen who, both in India and in this country, conducted the difficult affairs of the government of India, and of the extreme difference which existed between the representative institutions of a country like England and the despotic or semi despotic methods which, at any rate for a time, must prevail in a country such as India. It was the system of government which in a large measure characterized our administration in India, and not the persons who conducted that system, that he should venture in some measure to criticize. He was aware that a large section of the community held the opinion that our system of government in India could not possibly be improved; and they accepted all the assertions of Indian officials that the system was, in fact, one of the best and wisest the world had ever produced. It was no wonder, when such opinions prevailed, supported by such authority, that the people of this country were apt to be beguiled into holding the same idea, more especially when many officials were inclined to speak of those who ventured to criticize the acts of the Government as guilty almost of impertinence. These ideas existing, he did not wonder the public were lulled into acquiescence. How was it, he asked, that the people at large, and also Members of the House of Commons, accepted so easily and 1094 readily all the dulcet assurances presented to them in relation to our affairs in India? The answer was that we were never called upon to pay any part of the cost for the acts done in our name in India. The policy was ours, but the cost fell elsewhere—namely, on the well-filled coffers of the opulent Indian ryot. If the British taxpayers were called upon to pay the cost of the Acts in policy he virtually sanctioned there would be no more calm admissions of ignorance or indifference as to Indian affairs, and no more absolute surrender of them into the hands of delegated authorities, who, however competent and able they might be—and he admitted they were both—were, like all other Administrations in the world, ever so much better for the watchful supervision of an intelligent public opinion. For instance, the loss arising from the difference in exchange was the inevitable outcome of our Indian Frontier policy and wasteful expenditure. The pursuit of that policy had led to the increase of the cost of our standing Army by more than £2,000,000 a-year. If we in this country, who were responsible for Indian policy, and had to pay the cost, or oven a share of the cost, of the acts done in our name there would be a marvellous awakening in the country at large as to our responsibilities. We should hear of less unforeseen deficits, of costly and reckless wars, of wild never-ending and ever-changing schemes of frontier defence, and of unjust annexations, got up for the presumed purpose of extending that trade which we were, in fact, doing much to encumber in our existing territory. If we were so responsible, even that never-failing sheet-anchor of the Indian deficit-monger—loss by exchange—would in whole or in great part disappear. In the short review which he would offer to the House of the position of Indian finance at the present time, he could not refrain from referring to the deplorable complexity of the accounts of India. It was, indeed, a disheartening task to endeavour to make head or tail of them. That extreme complication lent itself to a plan which was very often adopted in that House by those who were responsible for India—the plan of throwing a barrow-full of figures upon the floor of the House towards the end of a debate, at a time and under circumstances which made it impossible for them to be dis- 1095 cussed. When complaints were made about extravagance in connection with Indian finance, they were given in answer a list of items upon which the expenditure had been made; but that was not an answer to the complaint. They knew perfectly well that Debt and an inflated expenditure were the result of military charges, costly annexations, railways which would never pay, and wild schemes of defence. They knew also that the loss on exchange was the outcome of many of those things. The question he desired an answer to was—has the money been wisely spent, and have we got value for our money? They might suppose, from the way in which enormous expenditure in India was defended, that they got value for money in every case—that there were very valuable assets for the outlay which had been made. He ventured to think that he could show that the reverse was the case. He could undertake to show that not one single Department of business conducted by the Indian Government made any profit whatever. On the contrary, enormous losses were made—losses amounting to £2,500,000 were the results of the business efforts of the Government in India. When Indian expenditure was defended in that House, he had noticed for years back that one item was brought forward with extreme satisfaction. That was the item of £75,000,000 represented by reproductive public works. But the misfortune was that that money had not been expended on reproductive works in the ordinary business sense of the term. It had been expended upon works which might have been reproductive, and which ought to be reproductive, but which, as a matter of fact, occasioned a loss to the taxpayers of India. He found that the State railways entailed a loss of £200,000 per annum; the guaranteed railways a loss of £800,000; and irrigation works a loss of £700,000. If they added to those sums the interest on money deposited with Railway Companies, £500,000, it would be seen that the loss on those works amounted to over £2,200,000. He assured the House that the figures he had given much underrated the actual loss, and that he had not taken into account at all the expenditure which had been made out of revenue. The Post Office in India entailed a loss of £148,000 per annum, and the Telegraphs a loss of 1096 £372,300. Those were the results of the business exploits of the Government in India. Those were the works which represented £75,000,000 sterling expended in reproductive public works. Those were very deplorable facts. Within the last theee years the increase of the permanent Debt of India had amounted to £14,000,000. That entailed an annual charge for interest of £600,000. The present frontier policy had enormously increased taxation in India, and he ventured to say that taxation was likely to be further increased to a point at which the people of India would be utterly unable to bear it. They were now only at the beginning of a vast military expenditure, if the policy he thought he foresaw in regard to that country was carried out. They had added 30,000 men to the Army, and he ventured to say that the operations in connection with the frontier, when completed, would not cost much less than £10,000,000. If that enormous and extravagant expenditure was undertaken for the good and benefit of the people of India, then, in view of the Revenue of India and the present rate of taxation in that country, he declared that the people were unable to bear it. If, on the other hand, as he was told, it was undertaken for Imperial purposes, then surely it followed and was reasonable that the cost must become an Imperial charge, and he was perfectly sure that in the end it must become an Imperial charge. The Government so far found it very easy to borrow the money to fill the ever-widening chasm in connection with Indian finance. It was easy to raise the money now, because the credit of India was good. The credit of India was good, because he did not believe the people who lent money to India took the trouble to look into the accounts. There was another reason why the credit of India was good. It was that there was a lurking conviction in the minds of those who advanced money that if the worst came the Imperial Exchequer would not let the Indian investors lose through over-confidence in a policy which the House and the constituencies had virtually sanctioned. It might be said that the Frontier Question was a military one; but he would venture to offer the opinion of very high military authorities on the policy that was now in 1097 mad career on the confines of Afghanistan. Who, he asked, was responsible for that policy? Who, by name, was responsible for what was now being done on the frontier of Afghanistan? Was it being carried out under the recommendation of astute military advisers whose opinions controverted those of the most consummate soldiers and statesmen, or was that policy actuated by feelings of Russophobism or wild Jingoism in mad career after decorations and K.C.B.'s? What was the advice of men whose name were engraven upon the history of India, Lord Lawrence, Sir James Outram, and Sir William R. Mansfield with regard to the frontier policy? Their advice was that an attack on India should always be met in India itself, and to leave anyone who had the taste for it to the enjoyment of operations in a country like Afghanistan, amongst its amiable inhabitants and their bloodthirsty ruler. Whoever was the author of this present policy, he would remind the House that the advice of past days was to defend India in India itself, and to leave to the enemies of India the arid deserts and the un-watered and unfruitful plains beyond it. The hon. Member for Evesham (Sir Richard Temple) had also protested against the policy of going into Afghanistan, saying that if we engaged in Afghanistan, Russia would find us in the hour of need impoverished and embarrassed; if we kept out of Afghanistan Russia would find us in the hour of need strong, rich, and prosperous. At present Russia in respect to India was at one great disadvantage—she could only approach through a very difficult country. Again, the same indisputably high authority protested, on another occasion, against the policy of fighting Russia somewhere in Afghanistan. But we were casting all those precious warnings to the winds and doing the very thing which the hon. Member warned us against doing. No doubt it would be argued that Russia was now very much nearer India than at the time that advice was given, but the geographical conditions of the question had not in the slightest degree altered. The geography of Afghanistan was not different from what it had been before, nor was he aware that there was any augmentation of her natural resources, or any increase in the amiability of her inhabitants. The Indian Frontier was past praying for 1098 now, and they must face the situation as it really stood. They had not only entered Afghanistan, but had made Quetta their head-quarters, and at enormous cost they were at that moment pushing through the last barrier which separated India from the territory of the Ameer. They were now within 80 miles of Candahar, and he asked the House whether the insidious influences which had carried us thus far were to be permitted to continue, and whether the operations he had alluded to were to go on until our head - quarters were established in Candahar itself? He wanted to ask the House that night whether it was willing to sanction a policy of that kind. He had no doubt hon. Members opposite would approve of our going to Candahar, or to Herat, or to the North Pole, or anywhere else whither it was the duty of a good Jingo to proceed; but he asked hon. Members on his own side of the House—Were they willing that that policy should be carried out? Were they willing it should go on? If so, then he could not refrain from asking why they turned out the Tory Government in 1880 and abandoned Candahar and the road to it; what was the meaning of all their talk about non-intervention and their pledges against military expenditure? He calculated that the country had since the time of Lord Lytton spent over Afghanistan in war and preparations for war, in Boundary Commissions and entertainments to the Ameer, and on roads, fortifications, and barracks, a sum of about £50,000,000. ["Hear, hear !"] Yes; about £50,000,000 had been spent in establishing ourselves in one corner of Afghanistan, and he ventured to say that that sum, enormous as it was, was but a mere fleabite compared with the sum that would have to be spoilt if the policy he had been describing were carried out. Turning to Burmah, the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for India had told the House that the cost of operations there had already enormously exceeded the estimated cost of the expedition. Accompanying that admission there had been the statement that the cost would, in the end, be amply repaid to the country. He ventured to disagree with that statement, and based his disagreement on what Lower Burmah. The best part of the country, bad cost us. The cost 1099 of acquiring Lower Burmah had been £19,000,000, and so far all we had got out of that country was a surplus Revenue of £700,000 per annum. That sum, of course, had disappeared since we invaded Upper Burmah. Upper Burmah was a much less productive Province. It was much larger, and its settlement and administration would be much more costly. It was not too much to say that it would cost us £15,000,000 to settle Upper Burmah. No doubt, in a certain sense, the conquest of Upper Burmah had paid. It had paid the Indian officials very well—it had provided them with new and lucrative appointments—but it must be remembered that the Indian Government and the Indian people were two totally different entities. The most alarming aspect of this question was, he insisted, its political aspect. The House knew that the very solvency of India depended upon the sale of opium to the Chinese. Hitherto, we had been enabled to enforce the sale of that drug in China, because we had always been able to attack the seaboard of China, while she had never been able to retaliate upon us in any way. We had made two such attacks. What was our position now? If we attempted any attack upon China, that country would certainly retaliate with an incursion of Black Flags from the Shan Hills into Burmah. Therefore our position in India both with regard to Russia and China, was absolutely reversed. In former times neither of these countries could reach us at all; now it appeared we were at the mercy of any attack they might choose to direct against us. Our security depended upon the goodwill of Russia and of China, and if those Powers were simultaneously to attack us—and that they might do with no preconcertion whatever—it seemed to him we should have to retire both from Afghanistan and Upper Burmah. If we had been content to remain in our old position our Army would have been strong enough to defend our own territory, but it was a question whether we had resources enough to defend ourselves against Russia in Afghanistan and against China in Burmah. Those were contingencies which the present policy with India laid us open to. Our policy in Afghanistan was no longer a 1100 defensive and a protective one, but from all points an aggressive one, and for the purposes of that policy we had instituted a load of debt upon the Indian people which would be very hard to bear. What we had got for our money was a line of railway, which in some military contingency might be useful to us, but which in certain adverse circumstances might be equally useful to the invading forces. From our present position it appeared we were bound to occupy Afghanistan under two contingencies by no means improbable—namely, in the event of Russia crossing the paper boundary, which she declared at present she had no intention of doing, and in the event of the death of the Ameer. Abdurrahman could not live for over, and were we prepared, in the state of chaos which must follow his demise, to undertake the vast obligations which would be imposed upon us? He (Mr. Slagg) was sure the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for India (Sir John Gorst) would tell them that a great deal of that expenditure, although not absolutely productive in the commercial sense of the term, had been undertaken for purposes of trade, and was very useful for those purposes. He was certainly not indifferent to trade considerations. In fact, after the primary end of the welfare and happiness of his fellow-subjects in India, he claimed to have the interest of trade most in his mind in his action that night. But if they were to obtain good and expanding markets for the commerce of this country, they ought to do their best to provide that their customers in India should enjoy the fullest amount of prosperity, happiness, and comfort that could be secured for them. It could not be good for trade to burden them, with enormous debt, or to harass them with increased taxation. Let us develop India by all means, but lot it be developed in a businesslike and prudent manner. He would, perhaps, be told that India was a rich country, and could bear increased taxation; but it did not appear to him that that was the case. If she were rich, they would not at this juncture have had to put a tax of 2,000 per cent on every grain of salt which, her people consumed. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) had said that "India had always seemed rich, because she had been so very easy to 1101 plunder." It would be bolter to improve our markets than to tax the people of India for outrageous frontier works, while in regard to Burmah we might do better for our customers there than to lay waste her fairest Provinces, and to lay on her people the cost of conquest and of an enormous Executive. As to the Salt Tax, the gravest aspect of that tax was that it pointed with absolute certainty to the fact there was not one other single resource of taxation left to our Indian financiers. He had looked at Native opinion with regard to the Salt Tax as expressed in Native newspapers, and found that out of 26 papers 24 spoke in terms almost of execration of the announcement of the enhancement of the Salt Duty. But there was something very much more ominous in the statements of the Native newspapers for his manufacturing friends—especially for his manufacturing friends in Lancashire—regarding the present taxation. He found that 11 of these papers strongly recommended a return to the obnoxious duties on the import of cotton goods in India, which were removed some years ago. He should be very sorry to see a reversion to such a policy, for next to a tax upon the very primary necessaries of food came in order an objection to a tax upon the first necessaries of clothing, while those imposts had been highly objectionable on account of their protective character, and because they gave a most unjust preference to the Indian manufacturer over his Lancashire rival. But he warned his manufacturing friends of the danger which threatened them, and from which they would not escape if they did not look more closely to the interests of India. He did not doubt that with all our resources and all our wealth we ought to held and maintain our magnificent Indian Empire until such time, at least, as the people of that country could govern themselves. Surely out of 250,000,000 of people enough loyal and contented men could be found to defend the barriers of our Empire and of their country against any possible invader. It seemed to him that we should, however, be the more likely to find those loyal and contented men in the hour of need if we took pains now to govern their country with prudence, with economy, and with justice.
§ MR. CAINE (Barrow-in-Furness)
said, he begged to second the Motion 1102 of his hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Slagg). A month or two ago when he was at Bombay he saw a number of Indian cotton manufacturers, who expressed a wish to see the duties re-imposed on cotton goods imported into India, but who also expressed their willingness to have an Excise duty equal to the import duties on Manchester goods placed upon the cotton manufactured in their own mills, so as to prevent any charge of Protection. His hon. Friend had dealt with a serious cause of increased expenditure; but he desired to say something on the methods by which the Government of India met it. The had no doubt that the increasing burdens of taxation had stimulated the Governments of the different Provinces of India to promote and enlarge the sale of intoxicating liquor with very serious results to the people of that country. He wished in his speech to prove that the growing exigencies of the Indian Government were leading to an undue stimulus of the Abkari or Excise Revenue by the establishment of spirit distilleries and liquor shops in large numbers of places where till recently they never existed, in defiance of Native f opinion and the protests of the inhabitants, and that such increased facility for drinking inevitably produced a steadily increasing consumption, and spread misery and ruin among the industrial classes of India. In 1886 n meeting was held in London of the British and Colonial Temperance Congress, and certain resolutions were passed and brought to the notice of Lord Cross. The fact was that the Indian Government were in the position of licensed victuallers, who held a monopoly of the liquor traffic, and were responsible entirety for the amount of the liquor that was sold, and for the methods by which it was sold. The Committee appointed by the Government of Bengal in 1883–4 showed in their Report the system under which licences were granted and the conditions under which the liquor traffic was carried on. It showed, amongst other things, that the licenses for working stills and opening liquor shops were, as a rule, granted upon the auction system, being thus put up, ns it were, to the highest bidder; that the licence holders were not to sell more than six quart bottles to one person at one time; that they were not to receive goods in barter 1103 for the liquor they sold; and that they were not to permit notoriously bad characters to resort to their shops. According to the evidence laid before the Committee, the out-stills were frequented by large numbers of people, young and old, who were found often in a high state of intoxication, singing ribald songs, and making all kinds of noises. In fact, the condition of things in many parts of India was precisely the same as one expected to find in uncontrolled and unchecked public-houses which exist in this country—in the lowest slums of London. Now, in consequence of the agitation which was got up by the British and Colonial Temperance Congress, Lord Cross sent a despatch to the Government of India, and he said that—The Congress have been informed that the increase which recent years have shown in the Excise Revenue of India is due to a system which directly leads to the establishment of shops for the sale of liquor in large numbers of places where, till recently, such things were unknown.A reply was returned on the 26th of June, 1887, and it was No. 86 of the Government of India's Papers of that year. The Paper which he held in his hand was an elaborate reply to the charge of the British and Colonial Temperance Congress. The case of the Government was summed up in the 3rd paragraph, in which it was stated—The principles on which they have been based, and which have been unanimously accepted by all the authorities concerned, have been these—that liquor should be taxed and consumption restricted, as far as it is possible to do so, without imposing positive hardships upon the people and driving them to illicit manufacture. The facts now placed on record show that in this policy the Local Governments have been completely successful, am that the great increase of Excise Revenue in recent years, which the Congress take as evidence of the spread of drinking habits, really represents a much smaller consumption of liquor, and an infinitely better regulated consumption than the smaller Revenue of former years.The two sentences he had quoted from the Paper very fairly placed before the House the controversy between the British and Colonial Temperance Congress and himself in supporting this Resolution on the one hand, and the Government of India on the other. The reply all through was an attempt to prove that instead of the consumption of liquor having increased it has steadily decreased in consequence of the in- 1104 creased charges of taxation and higher rates of sale of spirits. Now, he wished to point out that in their Minutes the Government of India frankly admitted that the revenues had doubled in 10 years. They said—The statement that the population of British India pay nearly twice as much taxation upon the intoxicants they consume as they did 10 years ago is not far from correct. The Excise Revenue was almost £2,300,000 in 1871–2 till 1873–4; it gradually increased to £2,600,000 in 1878–9, and since that year the rate of increase has been much more rapid, the amount in 1886–7 being £4,265,600.They stated in the next paragraph—This increase of revenue, it will be seen from this note, is in great measure due to the prevention of smuggling by better administration.But all through the Paper there was no evidence adduced as to smuggling and illicit stills. They went to say—It is due also in part to increase of population, and to improved means of communication. But it is in very large measure due to the fact that the last eight years have been years of extraordinary agricultural prosperity.Let him point out in a few words the increase which had taken place during the last five years. In 1883 the revenue obtained from drink was £3,609,000, in 1884 £3,836,000, in 1885 £4,012,000, in 1886 £4,152,000, and in 1887 £4,266,000. There was a steady rise in the Revenue with really no change either in the rate of taxation or of any other method of Revenue to complicate the comparison. So that if during the five years the revenue from intoxicating liquor had increased £660,000, or close upon 20 per cent, and there had been no changes in the charges of taxation, he thought that proved there had been a steady increase and no decrease whatever in the consumption of intoxicating liquor. Now, in spite of these explanations and the repeated contention that diminished consumption was the necessary result of increased taxation, the Indian Government's own detailed figures given in the Minute abundantly proved that consumption increased notwithstanding increased taxation. There was a very curious Memorandum from Mr. E. B. Pritehard, Commissioner of Customs, Salt, Opium, and Abkari of Bombay, and if anybody ought to know the figures connected with Excise Revenue it surely ought to be a man who had the whole matter in charge. Mr. Pritehard carefully selected three dis- 1105 tricts, and gave the figures in each district, and then concluded from these three districts, where there appeared to have been on the face of it some diminution in the consumption of intoxicating liquors, that the same must apply to the 12 other districts of the Bombay Presidency. On page 7 of this Memorandum there was a statement of the number of gallons which had been issued from the distillery of Ahmedabad, a large manufactory situated in the Bombay Presidency. The figures began in 1873, and stopped in the year 1882. They began by giving five years, during which the rate of duty per gallon was one rupee and one anna. Wherever the duty was stationary and fixed, there was always a steady increase in the consumption of intoxicating liquor. In the first year the number of gallons consumed was 30,000, and in the last year it was 33,000. Then the duty was raised to two rupees, and naturally the Revenue increased. During the four years, when there was a steady increase in the consumption of drink, drinking habits were formed, and these habits could not be got rid of, and in spite of the increased Revenue there was an immediate rise in the amount of drink consumed under the two rupee duty. It appeared that 21,480 gallons were issued from the distillery in 1878–9, and this amount rose in three years to 27,427 gallons. But then the table was complicated by the consumption of drink in the whole district of Ahmedabad. In the first years the population of the district supplied was 118,000, but the population of the district supplied in 1881–2 was 856,000, and the figure of 46,000 gallons issued was given for this largely increased district. There the figures stopped. He wanted to know why the Government, in adopting this Memorandum of Mr. Pritchard, which was issued in 1883, did not carry out the remainder of the figures for this particular district? He could not help thinking that they did not do this because the figures told altogether against the whole Memorandum. In the Ahmedabad district the consumption had increased from 46,000 gallons in 1882, the last year given, to 48,000, 46,000, 57,000, and 63,000 in 1886, so that in this district there had been a steady increase, not of revenue, but of the number of gallons issued from the 1106 Government still of 30 per cent in five years, and the Government deliberately suppressed these facts. They found precisely the same thing in almost every statement laid before them. They took Ahmedabad in the first place, and then they took the figures from the Bombay Island, and one found precisely the same thing. There the duty was one rupee for four years, and there was a steady increase in the consumption from 907,000 to 979,000 gallons. Then the duty was raised to one rupee and 12 annas, and the number of gallons consumed in 1876–7 was 566,000. The consumption rose in the next year to 653,000, an increase of 16 per cent. Then the duty was raised to two rupees and four annas, and the consumption was 585,000 gallons. The consumption steadily rose every year, till 1881–2, when it reached 630,000 gallons. Now, why again did they stop there? Because the moment they came to add all these figures to the remaining four or five years available, they found it told altogether against the Memorandum, and entirely in favour of his contention, that the consumption of intoxicating liquors was steadily on the increase. During the four years the Indian Government gave in this table, from 1879 to 1882, with a duty of two rupees and four annas, the total consumption in the four years was 2,336,000 gallons. During the last four years, the figures for which they suppressed, the consumption had risen to 2,503,000 gallons, or a total increase in the four years of 167,000 gallons, and this was why they attempted to prove a decreased consumption. There were other tables relating to the Bombay Presidency which were equally fallacious. They mixed up an extended district. They took Surat City and six miles around. In this city there were 94,000 gallons consumed in 1881–2, but the table was muddled up with three different districts. In Surat City, Chorasi, Olpad, and Bordali Talukas, the entire Surat district, there were 182,000 gallons consumed in 1881–2. the consumption rose to 237,000 in 1882–3, to 249,000 in 1883–4, to 305,000 in 1884–5, and 324,000 in 1885–6, so that in this district, in which they quoted figures up to 1882 to prove their contention, that there was a diminished consumption with an increased revenue, the actual increase in. 1107 the number of gallons of spirits turned out was 144,000 in five years, or something like 75 per cent. Now, lie wished to call the attention of the House to one of the most mendacious statements ever put into a State document. It was a statement by Mr. Pritchard, and was to be found on page 9 of the Minute lie held in his hand. It was the conclusion Mr. Pritchard drew from the sets of figures he (Mr. Caine) had quoted and enlarged upon. It was headed—"Reasons for belief that consumption has not generally increased;" and the statement was to the effect that—If any general increase in consumption had taken place, there can be little doubt that it would have shown itself in one or other of the large cities just mentioned, each of which contains a large and striving population more or less accustomed to the use of ardent spirits. But nothing of the kind has occurred in any of those cities, and as the Abkari administration has been conducted on precisely the same principles in all parts of the Presidency, the natural presumption is that the consumption of spirit has not generally increased elsewhere.Now, this Memorandum was written in 1883–4, and the Government had drafted it into their Minute. Why had not the Government of Bombay furnished tables of the Excise Revenue for the whole Presidency? He could only suppose it was because they would have knocked the bottom out of their own argument. He had tables, however, which supplied the deficiency. In 1881–2 the amount of liquor supplied in the Bombay Presidency was 1,982,000 gallons, and it rose steadily to 2,607,000 in 1886. Now, at the very time Mr. Pritchard wrote this Memorandum he must have known that that very year his total Revenue had risen 25 per cent. If he did not, he was ignorant and incompetent. If he did, why did he insult the intelligence of the Government of India by writing such a ridiculous and mendacious paragraph?
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Sir JOHN GORST) (Chatham)
It is not Mr. Pritchard's Memorandum that the hon. Gentleman is quoting.
§ MR. CAINE
said, he found that that was so; and, therefore, he changed the strictures he made to whoever compiled this curious Bombay Report, who, I understood, was Mr. Pritchard. He did not know who else was likely to have compiled it; but it really did not matter 1108 very much. Now, the increase in the five years, from 1882 to 1886, had been 31 per cent in Native manufactured spirit, and 22 per cent in imported spirit. Let him turn from Bombay to Bengal; there the out-still system was in full blast, and there were no changes worth notice in Revenue charges to complicate the comparison. He hoped the House would listen to the figures in the Minute relating to Bengal, because they were more honest than the figures relating to Bombay. In the Minute the figures were brought down to 1886. He would not trouble the House by showing the way in which the number of shops had increased, and how the net Revenue from liquor had increased. He would simply say that during the first seven years of the 15 years given in the Minute the average Revenue from intoxicating liquor was £620,000; during the last seven years the average Revenue was £900,000, or an increase of very nearly 50 per cent. Now, he found that just the same had taken place in nearly all the other districts of India. In Madras, in 1882, the Revenue from intoxicating liquor was £601,000, while in 1886 it had risen to £810,000, or an increase of 35 per cent in four years. He had selected these periods because there was no change in the duty during that time. The Minute admitted that in the Punjaub the number of liquor shops had increased from 874 to 1722 in 20 years, an increase of 120 per cent. The Minute admitted that in the Central Provinces the number of liquor shops had increased from 6,000, in 1880, to 8,000, and that the Revenue had more than doubled itself in 10 years. He would conclude this investigation in figures by a reference to the North-West Provinces. On page 14 of this Report it was said—The totals for the United Provinces, as shown in the margin, exhibit a progressive increase up to 1876–7, sudden fall of 50 per cent in 1877–8 (a year of drought), and a rapid recovery afterwards; until in 1882–3 the issues are 56 per cent in excess of those of. 1872–3, and this notwithstanding the extension of the farming and out-still systems to an area of over 15,000 square miles, with a population of 7,000,000 persons.These figures showed a total issue in the first four years—1872 to 1876—of 4,632,000 gallons. During the last four years—from 1832–3 to 1886—the issue had risen to 5,692,000, an increase of 1,000,000, or 22 per cent in the four 1109 years. But here, again, there was a stoppage in the year 1888, and again he asked himself why these figures were not carried beyond this particular year, and again he said, because, had they, it would have completely knocked the bottom out of the Government's argument. The Official Report of the North-Western Provinces for 1886 said—The Revenue from Excise has continued to advance steadily, and the gross receipts for the year under report are the highest on record, showing an increase of 12 per cent on the previous year.And there was another significant paragraph in the Report—namely—The high rise in Cawnpore is due to the opening of the now distillery.….At Benares the licence fees for the year were very high, and to make their business profitable the retail dealers lowered their prices and thus largely increased the sale of liquor.That was one of the commonest evils of this Abkari system. They give far too high a price for the monopoly, and then, finding they were not making as much money as they thought they ought, they decreased the price and very largely increased the sale. He commended to the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for India (Sir John Gorst) a careful perusal of page 3 of the Excise Report of the North-Western Provinces for 1886. He contended that the whole tendency of the Excise system was to increase the consumption, and that he had proved it to the very hilt from the very documents which the Government of India, misled by some mendacious official, had put forward to prove the contrary. The Government were driving this liquor trade as hard as they could. Collectors found it the easiest way to increase their contribution to the revenue, and for years they had been stimulating the consumption of liquor to the utmost. If the Government continued their present policy of doubling the Revenue every 10 years, in 30 years India would be one of the most drunken and most degraded countries on the face of the earth. He passed away now to another phase of the subject—namely, that the Government fostered and extended this system in defiance of Native opinion and the protests of the inhabitants, and constantly established out-stills in districts where drinking was practically unknown. In the Bombay Presidency the number 1110 of drinking shops increased steadily. In 1884–5 the number of shops was 3,594, and in 1885–6, 3,977, an increase of 11 per cent in a single year. He also commended to the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for India a study of the North-Western Provinces Annual Report for 1886–7, and also the Bombay Presidency Report for the same year. On page 8 of the Report for the North-Western Provinces they were told that—The District Reports contain repeated assurances from all parts of the Provinces that drinking is practically unknown.He should have thought this an eminently satisfactory condition of things, and one which would have induced any responsible Government to congratulate themselves. On page 7 of the same report they were told how an enlightened Government was trying to get rid of such a happy moral condition, and such an unhappy condition of revenue—In some districts the number of shops was below Government standard. Attempts were made to increase it, but not with conspicuous success. From Etah, Etawah, and Muttia, many new licences had to be withdrawn, because no liquor was sold, and because now shops put up for auction were not bid for.Another paragraph stated that—In the Jhansi district, on the other hand, the number of shops is largely in excess of the Government standard, and although the Commission of Excise makes no Report thereon, it appeared from the District Reports that at present it is inexpedient to make any considerable reduction in this number.Exactly, where there were none they forced them in, and where there were too many they refused to reduce them, and that was the Abkari policy all through India. On page 7 of this Minute Mr. Pritchard made this statement—In Ahmedabad several new shops were opened last year. A petition objecting to some of thorn was presented to the collector, who after inquiry ordered four of them to be closed.That was what he called local option at the wrong end. If the Government had consulted the inhabitants of the district before the shops were opened the probability was that those shops would never have been opened at all. What the people demanded was that they should be consulted in the matter of the opening of new drinking shops. The same gentleman, also expressed the opinion, 1111 and it was at the bottom of the whole thing—It is an essential point in good Excise administration to place licit liquor within easy reach of all persons wanting drink.He (Mr. Caine) could quote passage after passage from other Provincial Reports in the same direction, but time did not permit. He had spent a month in India with this question mainly in his mind. Every Native of influence and intelligence, every Christian missionary, every Englishman, civil or military, who know any thing whatever of the Natives, as well as his own personal observation, confirmed him in the belief that the few passages lie had quoted from the Report of the North-Western Provinces sufficiently indicated the disastrous policy of the Government of India in their efforts to raise Revenue out of the vice and degradation of the people. He wanted to say a word upon the question of illicit distillation, of which a great deal was made. It was contended all through the Minute that there was no real increase in consumption, because in the earlier years, when the Revenue was small, there was a large amount of illicit distillation. This was sheer humbug. Illicit distillation seldom existed until the Government had created a demand by setting up illicit distillation. He was told that if there was a district where there was no out-still they got a man who did not mind a month's imprisonment to start an illicit still. That afforded them an excuse for granting a licence, and bringing in a large amount of additional revenue. The Report of the Committee appointed to inquire into this very question in Bengal completely bore out the statement he had just made as to the way in which illicit distillation was brought about. Christian missionaries felt that these out-stills were the greatest difficulties they had to deal with, for they ruined the work in which they were engaged. He did not wonder that so great an authority on Indian questions as Sir William Hunter, in the wonderful speech he delivered lately on the religions of India, declared that if Christian missionaries were to succeed in India it must be upon the total abstinence basis. He (Mr. Caine) could, if time permitted, quote from the Report of the Bengal Committee, and from many other sources, to show that the Natives protested against this out-still 1112 system, and declared it as their absolute opinion that it largely increased drinking in India. This system had induced habits of intemperance where they never existed before, because it encouraged the consumption of spirits where spirits were never drunk before. He recommended any Member of the House who wished to know more of the opinions of the Natives of India to get the Report of the Excise Commission in Bengal and read for themselves. The great objection taken to his argument was that, after all, if they took the total amount of liquor consumed in India, and divided it by the population, it did not come to much more than a pint or a pint and a-half per head. But it must be remembered that there was an immense Mahomedan population who never drank at all—it was altogether against their religion. Then, again, most of the castes of India did not drink—indeed, from all the inquiries he had been able to make from those who knew the districts of India thoroughly well, he did not believe there were more than 20,000,000 or 25,000,000 people altogether who were in the habit of drinking intoxicating liquor, and even these generally drank it on festive occasions and not as a beverage. He did not know that he had any remedy to propose for this state of things that was likely to be accepted by the Government of India in their present frame of mind. The remedy he suggested was an exceedingly drastic one; it was that the principle which was gaining ground everywhere where the Anglo-Saxon race was to be found—the principle of Local Option in respect to this question—should be applied in India. It was, of course, very much easier to apply the principle of Local Option where liquor shops did not exist than where they did. In India, however, there was no personal monopoly. The monopoly belonged to the Government, so that the question of compensation for vested interests did not enter into the calculation. He sincerely trusted the Government of India would seriously consider whether it was not desirable, before they established any new out-still in any district, to find out whether it was the wish of the main body of the people in such district that an out-still should be established. He was perfectly certain that if this were honestly done there would not be an- 1113 other out-still established throughout the length and breadth of India. There was no doubt whatever that the mass of evidence contained in the two volumes from which he had quoted was full of most valuable information. He was sorry to say that the Reports had not been acted upon, like the Reports of a great many other Royal Commissions and special inquiries in this country and elsewhere. He suggested to the Government that they should appoint a Commission, a fair Commission, a Commission which would include a large proportion of Natives in its composition, and that in every Province of India a similar inquiry to that which had taken place in Bengal should be made. He had no desire to occupy the time of the House any longer, but he thought he had fully proved his case. He had fully shown that, in consequence of the policy which had been recently pursued in India of increasing the expenditure unduly, the Government were compelled to resort to a method for raising Revenue which was fraught with disaster to the people of India. He had the very greatest pleasure in seconding the Resolution of his hon. Friend (Mr. Slagg).
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, in the opinion of this House, the unwise Frontier Policy of the Government of India is producing grave financial difficulties in that country, leading not only to increased burdens of taxation, but to the extension of the sale of inxtoxicating liquors for Revenue purposes, with serious results to the moral and material welfare of the people."—(Mr. Slagg.)
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.)
When I saw that the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Slagg) had secured an early night for his Motion, I thought that it was a fortunate circumstance in the interests of India. But that good fortune is considerably diminished, from the Indian point of view, from the extremely confused manner in which the affairs of India have been presented to the House. We have had two subjects of great importance brought before the House mixed up as if they were connected—two subjects which have not the remotest connection the one with the other. It shows the laxity of the Rules of this Assembly that a discussion on Indian affairs should be permitted to take so wide a range as this discussion has taken to- 1114 night. The second point which rather diminishes our good fortune is that the hon. Member for Burnley, instead of supporting his proposition—for which, I may say, there is much to be said—by facts and grave arguments, seemed to import into the whole of his speech an amount of what I may call partizan ferocity, which is a spirit not at all applicable to the discussion of Indian affairs, and from which, except on one occasion some years ago, Indian affairs have happily been free up to the present time. The hon. Member made a variety of statements and expressed a variety of opinions; but few of his statements and none of his opinions were supported by one single item of fact. The hon. Member's Motion speaks of the "unwise Frontier Policy of the Government of India." I agree that this policy has produced grave financial difficulties; but I can go no further with the hon. Member. I must utterly decline to follow the hon. Member for Barrow (Mr. Caine) into the subject with which he has dealt at such length. The operation of the Excise Laws in India, and their moral and financial effect, merits a discussion on its own account; but it is a most difficult and complicated subject, and ought not to be mixed up with the other question. All I wish to say about it is this—that just as with the subject brought forward by the hon. Member for Burnley, it requires to be debated with sanity and common sense, and not with the heat and acrimony—I would almost say fanaticism—which the hon. Member imports into every discussion when alcoholic drinks are concerned. I confine, therefore, my remarks to the first paragraph of the Resolution, which deals with the unwise frontier policy of the Government of India. If the hon. Member had omitted the adjective "unwise" from his Motion and spoken only of the frontier policy of the Government of India as the cause of the grave financial difficulties, no one would have objected to his Motion. But the adjective "unwise" demands some remarks. The hon. Member asked, almost in desperation, who was responsible for such a policy. Why, generally speaking, the House of Commons is, without doubt. But the parties primarily responsible for the expenditure were Lord Salisbury's Government of 1885 and the Ministers responsible for the policy of that day. 1115 But the hon. Member must recollect that that policy was exposed to the House in great detail in the Indian Budget of 1885, and accepted without one word of criticism by the Party to which the hon. Member himself belongs, or by the hon. Member himself. I think, therefore, it is rather late in the day for the hon. Member to come down, as if he had never been in any Parliament before, and to tax the Government of India with having incurred this large expenditure in connection with the defence of the frontier, a policy in which the hon. Gentleman himself and all his Party acquiesced.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)
wished to know how far those Estimates carried the frontier railway?
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
I separate the expenditure on frontier defence from the expenditure under the heading of railway, road, and bridge communication. These Estimates were all laid before the House, and adhered to in the main, though, if anything, I think they have been exceeded up to the present time. That being so, the answer to the question as to the responsibility is that the House of Commons and the hon. Member himself are responsible, because he accepted the policy. Was it an unwise policy? What was the state of the frontier at that time? We were brought as near to war with Russia as we could be without actually being at war. The Prime Minister demanded an enormous Vote of Credit, and the Indian Government incurred immense expenditure in order to send up large bodies of troops to the frontier. The frontier was absolutely defenceless. There were no railways, and hardly any roads and bridges, to enable our troops to move about with case or without very heavy loss and expense. Such was the state of the frontier at that time. We knew that the Russians were perfecting their arrangements in Central Asia with the view of bringing up large bodies of troops to the borders of Afghanistan, for the purpose, under certain circumstances, I suppose, of facilitating their entry into India; and the Indian Government decided that, for the ordinary security of India, it was absolutely necessary to undertake a more complete defence of the frontier. When our frontier was brought very near indeed to the frontier of so great 1116 a Power as Russia, was it unwise, or foolish to take steps to enable us to defend our frontier? Is there any nation in the world which, in the circumstances, would not have adopted a precisely similar policy? The hon. Gentleman mistook the nature of the defence of the frontier. He insinuated, or asserted, that the object of this expenditure on the frontier was to enable us to enter Afghanistan and to carry on war with Russia in the neighbourhood of Herat, Its real object was precisely the reverse; it was to enable us to await the advent of a Russian Army in India itself, and to give to that position a strength and security which did not before exist. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman was misleading the House and the country when he stated that the object of the expenditure was to enable the Indian Government to occupy Afghanistan and to advance in the direction of Central Asia. When I was at the India Office large Estimates were submitted to it for two branches of frontier defence. One branch related to road communication and bridges, and the other to the construction of great fortified works. Both were submitted to and approved by the House of Commons; but I believe the Indian Government have spent no money whatever in the construction of great fortified works.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
But nothing like what was estimated. I believe that by far the main amount of the expenditure has been confined to the construction of railways, roads, and bridges across the rivers in that part of the world. I quite admit that the proposed tunnel through the Khojak Range, which is to cost over £1,500,000, and to take two or three years to construct, is a matter which ought to be considered by the House. It is a most serious expenditure, and very solid reasons ought to be laid before the House before ratifying the action of the Indian Government; but you cannot say that the expenditure on railways has been an unwise expenditure, nor can you say that it is unproductive. It may not be productive now, but you cannot tell that in the course of time these railways may not repay, or, at any rate, yield a certain amount of interest on the 1117 capital expended upon them. Besides, railways, where there is a great extent of frontier, are necessary to enable troops to be moved about with anything like rapidity. The view of the hon. Member for Burnley, that the policy of the Government was an aggressive policy, is a mistake The hon. Member condemns the annexation of Upper Burmah, and states that the ultimate cost of that annexation will amount to about £15,000,000. I believe that to be a most tremendous exaggeration; indeed, I doubt whether the cost up to the present time exceeds £4,000,000. Although with respect to the Government of Upper Burmah, there is now a yearly deficit, still that deficit ought to be, and I believe is, a decreasing deficit. In time you will probably find that Upper Burmah, like Lower Burmah, will be self-supporting, and will even pay a considerable sum into the funds of the Indian Government. If I recollect right, there has been for a long time in Lower Burmah a surplus of Revenue over expenditure of £700,000 a-year. I believe that for the last three years or more Lower Burmah has paid upwards of £2,000,000 into the Indian Exchequer. [Sir GEORGE CAMPBELL: No, no!] Well, my idea was that the Lower Burmah Administration had paid a surplus of £2,000,000 into the Calcutta Exchequer, and that that fact was a source of immense discontent among the people who inhabit the Burmah territory. I regard both the policy of the annexation of Burmah and the policy of frontier defence with the utmost gratification. I believe both policies reflect the highest credit on the Administration which sanctioned thorn, and on the House of Commons which ratified them. One will add to the security and the other to the prosperity of India, and I am certain that neither of those policies could have been avoided by any wise statesman, as both were rendered inevitable by the circumstances of the case. I come now to the statement of the hon. Gentleman who moved the Resolution that the frontier expenditure is causing grave financial difficulty in India. I think the financial difficulty in India at the present time is most grave. I doubt whether it could well be graver, and I am certain that that question ought to receive without delay the careful and concentrated attention 1118 of this House. What is the financial condition of India looked at broadly? The Indian Government has utterly sacrificed and eaten up the Famine Fund of £2,000,000. That is entirely gone. We suspended its operation in 1885, but we hoped that the state of things would improve, and that the fund would be enabled to come again into operation. I suppose I am correct in saying that the expenditure in connection with the prevention of famine since that time has been almost nil. Not only is this surplus of £2,000,000 gone, but you have had to fall back upon your ultimate taxation resources—the increase of the duty on salt—a step which only the most desperate financial condition could warrant. That tax has been regarded as the last resource in the case of war. It has been the object of successive Governments to reduce that tax to the lowest possible point. But the Government have been obliged to raise the Salt Tax in time of profound peace to such a degree that the Indian Government expect to get £1,700,000 yearly from the increase of the tax. Nothing could be more startling in the history of Indian finance than these two facts. The Indian Government have done more. They have imposed a Petroleum Tax. It will yield a comparatively small sum, about £60,000, but in its nature it is an oppressive and irritating tax, and one which will fall mainly on the poor. In spite of all this the Finance Minister of India is barely able to show a surplus, or if he does, it is so small as not to be worthy of the name. More than that, your whole railway enterprize has come to an end. I suppose nothing is more important to the future of India than that the railway system should be encouraged by the Government in every possible way. The more you can develop the railways of India the more will her wealth increase. But owing to financial conditions railway enterprize in India has been greatly checked, and will not be likely to revive during the next few years. The result is that you have positively got to the end of your taxation, what with an increased expenditure, owing to the necessity for an increased military force, with an increased expenditure for the defence of the frontier, and to the annexation of Burmah, and with an increased expenditure owing to the fall in silver, I am stating what no one 1119 can contradict. Certainly you might raise a few thousands more out of Income Tax, but it would be but a small sum, and the Finance Minister of India has nowhere to look for increased Revenue. Am I not right, therefore, in saying that the financial situation of India is very grave, and that never since the British Government took over the government of the country has it been worse? Under these circumstances there are certain remedies proposed. The hon. Gentleman, as I gather, would evactuate Burmah, and bring the expenditure on frontier defences to an end. But there are other remedies which the hon. Gentleman carefully abstained from advocating. I do not wonder that he did not state what harm had been done to Indian finance by the repeal of the Custom Duties on cotton, which, from a Native point of view, was exceedingly cruel and unjust. The active philanthropy of the hon. Gentleman did not carry him so far as to recommend such an act of justice. But there is another remedy which has not yet been tried, and which is most unpopular in the House of Commons, that of economy, the remedy of retrenchment. I think I shall be able to give the House some remarkable facts as to the increasing costs of the administration in India and the total repudiation by the Indian Government of the principles of economy. A paper on Indian, resources from the pen of a distinguished gentleman was read the other day before the Society of Arts. From that I gathered the following figures, which are compiled from official records. I will first take the increased cost of administration quite apart from public works. I find that under the head of administration, which covers only a limited area, there has been an increase in 15 years, from 1870 to 1885, of £440,000. In the administration of law and justice in the same period the increase has been £403,000, and under the head of police £399,000. The total increased expenditure under these heads is, therefore, £1,232,000. The medical services have increased during the 15 years by £301,000, the political agencies by £414,000, the miscellaneous civil charges £83,000, and other expenditure £1,685,000. The total increase of expenditure between 1870 and 1885 has therefore been no less than £2,483,000. I pass to another 1120 branch of expenditure. Superannuation has increased in 15 years by no less than £1,953,000. Therefore, the total increase in 15 years of expenditure connected with administration is £5,668,000. In addition to that add the increased cost of the collection of Revenue in the same period. Under the head of land Revenue there has been an increase of £1,118,000, and of opium £1,146,000. The increased cost of the collection of salt Revenue is £58,000, making the total increase in the cost of collection £2,322,000. Adding together the total increased expenditure for administration purposes and collection of revenue, I find the increase has been no less than £7,990,000 in 15 years. It is there that large economies may and must be made. You have got absolutely to the end of your resources, and it is only by economies in your administration of India that you can find the means of meeting your expenditure. I said that the cost of collection of land Revenue had increased. I find that in 1870 the land Revenue only produced £744,000 less than it produced in. 1885, but the cost of collection has increased by £1,188,000. The cost of collection has therefore increased to a much greater extent than the Revenue itself. In 1870 the cost of collection was 10 per cent of the total, but in 1885 it amounted to 15 per cent, while the increase in the land Revenue itself is less than 5 per cent. Those figures deserve great attention. So it is with regard to opium. Between 1870 and 1885 the opium Revenue has increased by £863,000, but the increased cost of collection has been £1,146,000. These are matters which the House of Commons must look into, and not be satisfied with the ordinary official explanation, and the gloss which the official mind naturally puts upon those ugly facts. These matters require the attention of a Select Committee of the House. The other point which I wish to put before the House is, that while public works in India have been a large source of expenditure in one way, in another they have been very profitable. The hon. Member for Burnley denounced the policy pursued in regard to them, and seemed to think that it was carried out for reasons not very creditable to Indian Administrators. He insinuated that the English public were deceived as to the value of Indian securities. If 1121 there is one point in which Indian debt differs from almost any other, it is that it is almost wholly represented by assets. In other countries the debt has been wasted in wars or in warlike operations or in making good deficits. But the Indian debt of £160,000,000, no less than the debt of £140,000,000, is represented by public works, and that fact gives Indian credit great margin. People feel that if they lend money to India it is to make railways or irrigation works, or something which will probably prove remunerative. It will never do for the House to allow insinuations and asperations on Indian credit, such as those of the hon. Member for Burnley, to remain uncontradicted, and affect that credit.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
I distinctly heard the hon. Gentleman say that Indian credit was much higher in the Money Market than it ought to be, owing to the nature of the case. I now wish, to point out that large economies might be effected on the Indian public works, which may be divided into three branches—railways, irrigation, buildings, and roads. Comparing the year 1876 with the year 1885 we find that in the former year the Revenue from railways amounted to £4,574,000, and the expenditure to £6,133,000, being an excess of expenditure over income of £1,559,000. In 1885 the Revenue from Indian railways was £11,898,000, while the expenditure upon them was £12,945,000, showing an excess of expenditure over Revenue of only £1,047,000. Therefore the excess of expenditure over Revenue as regards Indian railways had fallen from £1,559,000 in 1876 to £1,047,000 in 1885, thus giving promise of a time when the Revenue will exceed the expenditure and those railways be a source of profit instead of loss. Then with regard to irrigation works in India, the same feature of excess of expenditure is apparent in a remarkable degree. We find that, whereas in 1876 the Revenue derived from them amounted to £575,000 and the expenditure upon them to £1,722,000, showing an excess of expenditure over Revenue of £1,147,000, in 1885 the Revenue derived from such works was £1,676,000, against an ex- 1122 penditure of £2,248,000, showing an excess of expenditure over Revenue of only £572,000. Therefore, with regard to these works, again we may justly look forward to the time when the Revenue will exceed the expenditure, and we shall have an additional source of Revenue for India. I now come to a third class of public works in India, which to my mind is the most objectionable, with respect to which, in spite of repeated warnings, the Government of India has never been sufficiently on its guard. I refer to those in the nature of public buildings and roads. I find that, whereas the revenue derived from this class of works in 1876 was £524,000 and the expenditure upon it £4,683,000, showing an excess of expenditure over Revenue of £4,159,000, in 1885 the Revenue amounted to £615,000, against an expenditure of £5,009,000, showing an excess of expenditure over Revenue of £4,394,000. These figures showed that instead of there having been a decrease in the amount of excess of expenditure over Revenue between 1876 and 1885 of £512,000, as was the case with regard to the Indian railways, and of £575,000 as was the case with regard to the irrigation works, it had increased with regard to other public works £235,000 in that period. It is in the latter branch of public works, therefore, that the Indian Government must be compelled to effect economy, and if they do not effect such economy voluntarily, pressure must be brought to bear on them by the action of this House, either by passing a Resolution on the subject or by referring the question of Indian finance to a Select Committee. In one of these ways the Indian Government can be forced to make those large economies which they can make if they only have the will. I am very glad that this question has bean brought before the House upon this occasion, as much good may result from its discussion. There is, however, another point to which I should like to refer in relation to this subject. It has been very justly observed that it is impossible to separate the question of Indian finance from that of European politics. I do not propose to enter into a lengthy examination of the subject at the present moment, but I may remark that there is the closest and most intimate connection between Indian expenditure and European poli- 1123 tics. As you pursue a policy in Europe of one kind there is no doubt that India will have to pay for it. You can trace the vast increase in the expenditure upon the military frontiers of India directly to the policy which this country has pursued in Europe since the time of the Crimean War. At that period we adopted a policy against Russia which might have been suited to the circumstances of the time. Russia was then 1,500 miles away from our Indian frontier, and now she has approached to within 300 or 400 miles of it, and is in a position, by modern means of railway communication, without any very impossible or superhuman effort, to hurl great forces against the Afghan territory, and even upon the frontier of India itself. It is therefore worth the while of this House to consider whether it is wise to pursue in Europe a line of policy which, if unwisely pressed or harshly handled, may force Russia to collect and concentrate and oven precipitate her armies upon our Indian frontier. Whatever may be the result of pursuing such a line of policy in Europe, depend upon it that India will have to pay for it. This is, however, far too large a subject for me to enter upon in detail to-night. The House, however, will do well to bear in mind the connection which I have pointed out exists between Indian expenditure and British European policy, and that by pursuing a certain policy in Europe we are necessarily throwing financial burdens upon India, with regard to which we must come to the consideration whether we shall not give her financial assistance. These are matters which the House will have to consider some time or other. For the moment I content myself by urging that the Indian Government must be taught economy and must be compelled to pursue a policy of retrenchment, because if she be not taught to pursue such a policy she will be approaching a financial condition which will not be far removed from actual insolvency.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)
said, he was thankful to the noble Lord who had just spoken for the very important speech he had made, which contained an immense amount of truth. For his own part he entirely concurred with a great deal that the noble Lord had said. The House should, in his opinion, come to a definite con- 1124 clusion as to the character of the policy which the Indian Government ought to pursue with regard to the frontiers of India and the Excise. The noble Lord had made the very important admission that the Indian frontier policy of the Government, which was laid before the country in 1885, did not include the extension of the railway beyond Quetta. The noble Lord said that he understood that the question of the extension of the railway beyond Quetta and the carrying of it through the Khojak Pass was one which was not determined upon, but which lie thought the House ought to determine upon. He (Sir George Campbell) had put a Question on that subject not long ago to the Under Secretary for India; he asked the hon. Gentleman whether the Government was committed to that policy, and his answer was "Yes, Sir. It is under construction." That being so he was very glad that the noble Lord had given the House this very serious warning on the subject, and after his words he trusted that the Government would be induced to withhold their hand before they committed themselves irrevocably to an enterprise which would cost £1,500,000. When he saw upon the Paper the Notice of Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Slagg) he was ready to support that Motion, under the idea that we were creeping up to Candahar without the sanction or the knowledge of the House, and he, in common with other Members of the House, was much astonished to hear that the railway through this Pass was already under construction. He said that this would be a most dangerous undertaking for the country to be committed to. He hoped the House would be given an opportunity of judging of that subject, and that the country would not be committed to this frontier policy without the knowledge and consent of the House. He agreed that our frontier policy in India was intimately connected with our home policy. Of course, if we bearded Russia in Europe she would make herself disagreeable, and, if she did not attack us in Asia, she would cause every difficulty there which would lead us into expenditure in regard to our frontier policy. He was not so sanguine as the noble Lord in regard to the future prospects of Upper Burmah; and he did not think that Lower Burmah had 1125 been financially a success in respect of anything else but the export of rice. But he heartily concurred with the noble Lord in the belief that the financial position of India was most grave, that it required consideration, and in the hope that it would be thoroughly considered by the House and the authorities in India. He also agreed with him in believing that a main remedy for this state of affairs lay in the use of efforts in the direction of economy, but fit the same time he was not equally hopeful with him that the extravagances complained of would be so easily checked. When the noble Lord alluded to the greatly increased cost of the collection of the opium Revenue he thought he was in error, because the increase was not in the cost of collection but in the cost of buying the raw material. Then with regard to the collection of the land revenue, he was not in a position to compare the figures relating to India with those relating to this country; because in India they must consider that not the cost of collection but the cost of administration of the whole estate of India was included, and although this was creeping on he did not consider it so extravagant as the noble Lord did when he compared it with the expenditure in this country. He agreed with him that the policy of constructing railways in India had been a successful policy, and hoped that the railways hitherto laid down were approaching that point when, instead of there being a deficit, there would be profit on their working. But he was not without apprehension that, having been successful in some cases, we might be led into making other railways that were not so paying. The subject, therefore, required to be carefully handled. The noble Lord was under the impression that the irrigation Revenue was increasing; but, having had some experience of irrigation works in Bengal, he was obliged to say that the Returns were most disappointing. The House had at one time been under a great spell on this subject of irrigation, but he must point out that many of the works had not paid for the cost of administration, or returned one farthing of interest. He thought their experience in the matter ought rather to be taken as a warning that they should not rush too rashly into schemes that would land us in a loss. He was afraid with regard 1126 to this matter of frontier railways and some others that they were following a false system of finance. The expense connected with our frontier railways had been one of the main factors in bringing about the present financial position in India, and the increase of taxation, and to attempt, to justify these railways under the head of productive works was, he thought wrong. The Report of the Committee contained these words—It must be distinctly and emphatically understood that these railways should not lead to an increase of taxation.And it seemed to him that that injunction had been directly violated. To class these wholly unproductive works in the same category with productive works without a sinking fund, or some plan by which the expenses might be met, seemed to him to be a very dangerous principle. Therefore, he strongly urged the Under Secretary for India in dealing with the account of unproductive expenditure, to treat it under a separate head, and to tell the House by what means the expenditure was to be met, and, further, that it should not be allowed to go on without being brought within the limits of the Budget. The Under Secretary, of course, desired to pass the Bill introduced by him the other night relating to the purchase of railways in India, and he reminded him that the matter was one which should be dealt with seriously and deliberately. It was to him a matter of great concern that the only part of the Revenue of India which showed an increase, was that which came from the Excise. This had been going up by leaps and bounds, and he paid that this was a subject that required very careful consideration. He did not go as far as his hon. Friend behind him in attributing wicked designs to the Government of India. The Excise question in India was very much the same as the Excise question in this country—that was to say, with the advance of wealth, civilization and Christianity, people drank more than in former times. That being so, he thought the Government should face the question in the same spirit as they faced it at home; and that they were bound to raise the maximum Revenue on a minimum consumption of drink, and he was very much in doubt whether that principle was acted upon in India. As regarded Bengal, he thought there 1127 was good ground for complaint that the Government had pursued a policy which had, as shown by the Report of the Commission, undoubtedly led to a great increase of drinking, and to a, therefore, unjustifiable increase of Revenue. He said with sorrow and regret that the change made in this Province was made for the purpose of revenue. He would not believe that the Government of India were conspirators in wickedness, but he did held that, in the present state of finance, this rapidly increasing Revenue must become the subject of careful examination, and that if any blots were found upon the present system they should be got rid of even, if necessary, at some sacrifice of revenue. He had only to say that they were under a very great obligation to the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) opposite, for the admirable speech and the most important considerations which he had submitted to the House, and he hoped the result would be that the Government would reconsider their position with regard to an inquiry into the main question of Indian Policy. He thought it would be better to proceed with a limited inquiry into certain important questions connected with the Government of India. In his opinion the noble Lord the Member for Paddington was quite right in staying that the financial position was more grave and difficult than before, that the conscience of the people of this country was more awake with regard to Indian questions than was formerly the case. It was most necessary that full inquiry should be made.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Sir JOHN GORST) (Chatham)
said, he thought that the Mover and the Seconder of the Resolution before the House were to be congratulated on their ingenuity in framing that Resolution in such terms as caused two perfectly distinct subjects to be mixed up in one debate. The connecting link between those two subjects—the revenue—had, he ventured to say, nothing whatever to do with either of them. The duty of the Government to make the frontier safe, not only against attack but even against alarm, did not depend in any way upon Revenue considerations. The Government of India conceived that, having undertaken the duty of governing and protecting the 1128 vast population that inhabited India, it was their duty to protect them so thoroughly against the possibility of foreign invasion as to enable them to dwell in safety; and if any apathy or any deficiency in that respect, based on any financial considerations, were allowed to interfere with the discharge of that duty by the Indian Government, they would, in his opinion, be guilty of a great political crime. The necessary money, if it could not be afforded out of the revenues of India, might perfectly and justly have been borrowed; and if the Government of India had borrowed the whole of the £8,500,000 that had been spent, or the whole of the £10,000,000 which the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Slagg) thought would be spent before the works were completed—if they were to borrow the whole of that money and not to spend a single shilling out of revenue, they would have been justified in so doing on sound economical considerations,. It was quite true that this expenditure was partly productive; but he would not rest the defence of the Indian Government on that ground. Some of the railways which had been made, and particularly the railway which went along the Valley of the Indus, through a very rich country capable of high cultivation, might probably attract population and cultivation, and become in course of time paying railways. But even if those railways were unproductive, and were certain to remain unproductive for ever, it would, nevertheless, have been the duty of the Government to make them. But if the question of frontier defence was not based on considerations of revenue, still less was it based upon the question of Excise administration. It was perfectly justifiable for the hon. Member and others who criticized the Excise administration of India to argue that particular systems might lead to increased drinking; but it was stated or insinuated that the officers of the Government deliberately propagated drunkenness for the purpose of revenue. [Mr. CAINE dissented.] That might not be what the hon. Member himself had said, but it was what had been said by others. When they said that officers of the Government of India deliberately propagated drunkenness to increase the revenue, those who made that statement were guilty of calumny against as honour- 1129 able and upright a class of men as could be found in any part of Her Majesty's dominions. That statement, as the hon. Member reminded them, he would not say originally emanated from—but, as far as he was concerned, he had first found it in a Memorial from the British and Colonial Temperance Congress, of which the Bishop of London was president. What he complained of was that substantially similar statements were to be found in the present Resolution. It was implied in the present Resolution that the policy of the Government of India led to the extension of the sale of intoxicating liquors for Revenue purposes. Now he had stated over and over again in that House, while he had the honour of holding his present office, what the policy was of the Secretary of State for India, and of the Government of India—a policy which was not a new, but an old policy, and which was enforced by the instructions of the Government on all their Excise officers. It was the policy of the Government to place as high a tax as possible on the spirits which were distilled as could be placed upon them without giving rise to smuggling and illicit distillation, and the measure of the height to which it was sought to raise the price was not that which would give the greatest return to the revenue, but that which would diminish as much t as possible the consumption. Now, that being the policy of the Government, which was embodied in instructions to the officers of the Government, why should those officers be so wicked as the Bishop of London and the hon. Member seemed to suppose? Those men were absent from the country, they would read these calumnies for the first time in the newspapers, and it was quite impossible for them to answer. No doubt most of them were as callous to newspaper criticism and to speeches as Members of the House generally were but some were deeply sensitive men, who would read with great pain charges which were so thoughtlessly thrown about by Bishops and Members of Parliament. The House would forgive him for saying these few words, because when things were said against the officials of India, without one tittle of evidence to support them, it was his duty to defend them.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
The hon. Member practically charged them with stimulating the revenue by stimulating drunkenness. Now, with regard to the frontier policy, the present defensive works to which the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Slagg) referred, were, as the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) had reminded the House, recommended by a strong and carefully chosen Committee of experts in India, and were sanctioned by the noble Lord himself, and by the Government of which he was then a Member. These defensive works were carried out entirely within our own dominions of British India. There were no works in Afghanistan, as the hon. Member seemed to suppose, for Quetta and the district round was not part of Afghanistan or of Beloochistan, but of British India. Not only so, but the Pishin railway was entirely within our dominions, and was not at present designed to go out of them. The two great railways—the Scinde Pishin and the Scinde-Saugor railways—were not intended, as the hon. Member seemed to suppose, as a mere means of enabling us to invade any neighbouring country, but were simply and directly part of our plan of defence. Although no great sum of money had as yet been spent on defensive works, there had been constructed, in addition to the railways, two great military roads, one on the west side of the Indus, going through Bannu and Kohat to Khushalghur, and the other from Ghazi Khan to Pishin by Thai Chotiali, and forts and outposts had been built in the neighbourhood, of Peshawur and the Khyber Pass. There were also works to cover other passes and to protect several railway bridges either made or in. the course of construction. There were also extensive works designed for the protection of the Amram range at Quetta in a double line, an outer and an inner. The Amram range was a very formidable defensive position, and, with the railway completed to Quetta, could be made practically im- 1131 pregnable. The object of all these works was to remove, as far as possible, any temptation to anybody to invade British India. Now, with regard to the question of cost, he must remind the House that the Scinde-Pishin railway was interrupted on political grounds in 1880, and down to 1883 there was a complete suspension of the works. There was no doubt that this suspension had greatly added to the cost; and when the works were renewed is 1883, by the very same Government which originally stopped thorn, Brigadier General Sir Samuel Browne and his officers, civil and military, were instructed to carry them on with the greatest possible expedition. It was a work of extreme difficulty, its execution, was attended with extraordinary hardship, and the Brigadier General in command and his officers, both civil and military, deserved the highest commendation for the manner in with they had carried it out. The railway had been constructed, in part, at an altitude of 6, 600 feet above the level of the sea—the highest railway in Europe, over the Brenner Pass, being only 4,400 feet—in a climate where the temperature in summer indoors was 124 degrees, and in whiter 18 degrees below zero in the verandahs of the engineers' quarters. And in the circumstances, speed being of paramount importance, the difficulties being what they were, the railway could not have been constructed cheaper. One of the political results which had followed from the making of the railway was that from 25,000 to 40,000 Afghans had been employed for wages on the railway since November, 1883; and now, in the heart of Afghanistan, and especially in the Ghilzai country, there was not a village where gangers and navvies did not know English officers by sight. These Afghans had received from Englishmen kindness during epidemics of cholera and other diseases; they had been well and honestly paid their wages, and had earned back with them to their villages the strongest sense of the justice and benevolence of the British power. One remarkable instance of this was to be found in the Ghilzai rebellion, in which not a single shade of hostility to Great Britain was to be traced in the conduct of the rebels. Now, the common opinion seemed to be that the frontier of India was identical 1132 with the frontier of Afghanistan; but that was not the case, for all down the frontier of India, with the exception of a very small space, the dominions of the Ameer of Cabul were separated from British Territory by a fringe of independent tribes with whom generally we were now in the most cordial relations. That was not the case some years ago. When we first took possession of the country, the Sikh mismanagement of the Trans Indus districts left us a legacy of constant wars in a country which was studded all over with robber chiefs and forts. Tributes of human heads were common in some parts of the country. In the neighbourhood of Peshawur an English officer was unable to walk alone; the assassination of the infidel was being considered by many of the tribesmen the surest possible passport to Heaven. All this, thanks to a long course of pacific frontier policy, had been changed now. The Afridis, who were once the terror of all who passed through the Khyber Pass, had now made arrangements with the British Government by which they undertook the safety of the Pass, and the tolls were now levied on a regular system by British Authorities. Then there was the Khyber Pass Militia, which had been established and paid by funds derived from the Government, with the result that the district was now one of the safest in the world. The same remarks applied to several other chiefs and districts, for under the Treaty of Gandamak with Yakoob in 1879, the Government obtained the control of all the passes on the North West, and the right to enter into relations with all the tribes resident there, of which right the Indian Government had largely availed themselves. In short, he contended that the work which was carried on by Her Majesty's Government on the frontier had had the effect of greatly improving the relations between the British and Afghans. He thought he need not say much about Burmah after the speech of his noble Friend the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill). They had not spent one penny on the Burmah frontier to which the hon. Member (Mr. Slagg) had referred, because for one thing it was not yet known for certain where that portion began or ended. A Convention had indeed been entered into 1133 between Great Britain and China of a most friendly description, which secured that the frontier should be marked out by the joint consent of the two Governments. But, for the present, as to the frontier between British India and China, the part of the world on the borders of British India and of China was quite unknown It was a district of which both the British and Chinese were entirely ignorant, and for many years to come there was no practical danger of military operations being undertaken in that direction. He was sure he was expressing the sentiments of the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India (Viscount Cross) when he said that the speech the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington had made that evening would be most salutary to the Government of India. He did not wish to criticize the statements made in that speech. He thought the noble Lord took too gloomy a view of the actual results upon the Indian Government of the present financial embarrassment. His noble Friend would be glad to learn that although the Indian Famine Insurance Fund had been discontinued under that name, yet there were certain sums still charged against revenue—the interest, for instances on the guaranteed capital of the Indian Midland Railway Company—in consequence of an arrangement made by the noble Lord when in Office. Then, again, the railways were not stopped; but it was, he feared, true that without some great alteration in the revenue of India the Government was now at the end of their resources. No man was more alive to that fact than the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India, and no effort would be spared to bring the Government of India to fully recognize it. He admitted that the question of this revenue was one deserving of the most earnest consideration, but he saw no grounds whatever for alarm. He found no fault with the account given by the noble Lord of the increase of expenditure in India, but he should like to point out that exchange was now charged among the various items, which was formerly not the case, while with regard to the land revenue the increase was due to the cost of the village officers being now charged to that account, whereas formerly these officials were paid directly by the land owners. Then there was the construc- 1134 tion of roads and bridges, which were of the utmost importance in provincial districts, which accounted for the expenditure of a very considerable sum of money. Passing to the question of Excise, he must protest against the confusion which the hon. Member for Barrow (Mr. Caine) had introduced by speaking as if the Government of India had anything to do with the question. The Government of India had no policy on the subject, and it had no Excise system. It was entirely a matter for the local Governments.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
said, the system was different in every Province, and was controlled by local Legislatures, where they existed. There were various causes of the difference in the various Excise systems of the different provinces—difference of race, of habits, of religion, and of language, and so on. These differences were often quite as great as between one country and another in Europe. It was, therefore, absolutely impossible to apply one rigid system to all the Provinces. The two Provinces in which there was the lowest consumption per head were the Punjab and Assam, and in those districts the consumption was a quarter of a pint for each adult male. The population in the Punjab was a sober Mahomedan population; the system was the Central Distillery system. The system in Assam was entirely the out-still system, owing to the backward condition of the country. The consumption per head was no higher than in the Punjab, but the people were addicted to opium and gurja. The hon. Member had indiscriminately complained of every Province and of the administration of every Province. He complained of Bombay, where the central distillery system exclusively prevailed, and of the North-Western Provinces. The general opinion was that the central distillery system was best both for morality and, it might seem strange to add, for the revenue. The out-still system was exploded in all the Provinces except Bengal and Assam, which in that respect were notoriously the most backward of all the Provinces of India. In Bengal the system was condemned and in process of being changed. Why, then, should the out-still 1135 system remain in any places? The answer was because there were tracts in India where nothing could replace it—places which were thinly populated and without roads. In some districts bordering on Native States the choice was really between the out-still system and no system at all. [Mr. CAINE: Hear, hear!] The hon. Member seemed to think that if out-stills were abolished there would be no liquor at all. But every revenue officer in India was opposed to that view. The universal opinion was that such a course would only lead to the increase of smuggling. But in the districts where the out-still system prevailed the difficulty of changing it was caused by the absence of roads and the impassable nature of the country in the rainy season, making it impossible to travel and carry liquor from one place to another. It ought not, however, to be forgotten that the spirit made in these out-stills was very weak—60, 75, and even 90 under proof; whereas European spirit was only 15 or 20 under proof. This liquor was thus not stronger than sherry or beer, and would not pay for carriage to along distance, which would turn it sour; and if the out-still system were put down the people would either have to forgo the drink to which they were accustomed, or to have recourse to an illicit supply by distilling for themselves. The fact was that the criticism upon the Excise system of India was really a criticism upon the Excise system of Bengal. According to the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir G. Campbell) the system in Bengal was very unsatisfactory In 1884 an Excise Commission was appointed, consisting of two Europeans and two Natives, which examined witnesses and issued a most valuable Report. That Report had been acted upon ever since, and in 1885–6 the central distillery system was extended to 10 districts, and the number of central distilleries increased from 479 to 590. The out-stills were reduced from 3,943 to 3,614. An experiment was tried at Patna under a Native deputy-collector who had been a member of the Commission. A sudder district was marked out for central distilleries, and an outer circle fixed five miles off within which no out-stills were allowed. The cumber of out-stills outside the sudder circle was fixed, their capacity limited, 1136 an upset price laid down for the stills, and a minimum price put upon the liquor sold. All this was done in pursuance of the recommendations of the Commission. In 1886–7 the experiment was extended with certain necessary modifications to the whole of Bengal, and it was found that the central distilleries had increased from 590 to 672, though the out-stills remained practically the same, the reduction only being from 3,614 to 3,608. But though the number was so little reduced, the capacity was reduced from 111,538 gallons in 1885–6, to 74,788, or 33 per cent. The special difficulty of Bengal was that owing to the Permanent Settlement there was a want of revenue officers, with which class of men Bombay and Madras were plentifully supplied. The total consumption of spirits in India was only one-quarter of a gallon ahead, which contrasted very favourably with that of the United Kingdom, where each person drank one gallon of spirits and 26½ gallons of beer. In Bengal there was only one liquor shop to every 13,000 or 14,000 of the population, and in six years, though the population had increased 7 per cent, the spirit shops had been reduced 28 per cent, and the fermented liquor shops 30 per cent. He now desired to say a word or two about toddy. He had heard an hon. Member say in that House that toddy was a comparatively wholesome beverage. So, indeed, it was, when it was first drawn from the tree, but in the course of a few hours it fermented itself, and became as strong as fairly strong beer. His hon. Friend had repeated in that House the statement that the consumption of toddy might be encouraged instead of the consumption of spirit. He should like to read to the House an extract from the Report of the Bengal Excise Commission. That extract, which was a complete answer to this contention, was as follows—A majority of the Commission hold very strongly that wherever fermented liquors come into active competition with country spirit, the proper policy of Government should he so to shape its excise regulations as to encourage the use of the former; and they believe that if this were done it would be found safe to put restrictions on the manufacture of country spirit in such districts which would be dangerous in other districts. Baboo Krisna Behari Sen, one of the members of the Commission, has been unable fully to agree in this view, as he does not feel justified in recommending to the 1137 Government a policy calculated to encourage the use of any intoxicating drink, and he is not satisfied that any real benefit to the cause of temperance would necessarily follow such encouragement, even though some decrease in the consumption of distilled spirit might be the immediate result. The majority of the Commission arc convinced that fermented liquors are on the whole preferable to distilled spirit as being more wholesome, less intoxicating, and not so likely to lead to habits of confirmed drunkenness, but they are compelled to acknowledge that there is much to support their colleague's objection. It is notorious that drunkenness is more common during the tari season than at almost any other time of the year, and that much of it is due to that liquor. There are constant complaints of drunkenness among the Sonthals and other aboriginal people, supposed to be caused by country spirit, but really due to pachwai. Very many of the allegations made by missionaries, planters, and others against the evils and abuses of the out-still system turn out when examined to be really based on facts connected with the use or sale of fermented liquors; and it frequently happens that the shop described and complained against as an out-still is found to be a tari or pachwai shop, All this shows that fermented liquors in Bengal are not so harmless as they are sometimes held to be. But after a very careful consideration of the whole question, the majority of the Commission have come to the conclusion that the advantages which they hoped would attend the substitution of fermented liquors for spirit, especially among those aboriginal races who have lately taken to the latter, are so great as to outweigh the objections to giving any direct encouragement to the use of the former.Tari, he might explain, was the Bengal word for toddy. The Government of Bombay had attempted to mitigate the intoxication which undoubtedly prevailed from a too great use of the hon. Gentleman's favourite beverage by putting a tax upon the trees. The fact was that the Excise regulations of the Government of India beg-an in the year 1790, and had their origin in complaints of increasing drunkenness owing to the extreme cheapness of untaxed liquor. It was this extreme cheapness of liquor which was the chief difficulty in the enforcement of temperance in India. A man could get drunk for a halfpenny, the cost of a quart of mowhra spirit. What he wanted the House to conclude from the observations he had made was that the principle of Abkari legislation, as long since adopted and carried out by the Indian Administration, was perfectly sound But the application of this principle was attended with difficulties in some places, arising from local circumstances of which Members of the House of Commons must be 1138 necessarily ignorant, and in regard to which it could not acquire for itself reliable information. For the carrying out of this sound principle we must trust the officers of the Government and the local Legislature, who were Native as well as European. There was no ground for any alarm as to the increase of drinking habits in general throughout India. The statement that "we found the people of India sober and had left thorn drunk" was one of those clever epigrams which caught the ear of those only who were ignorant, and perhaps culpably ignorant, of the true facts of the case.
§ MR. S. SMITH (Flintshire)
said, that the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) had been one of the most powerful pleas in favour of economy that had over been uttered in the House. They regarded him, therefore, as virtually, if not formally, a supporter of the views they advocated with regard to India; but if the noble Lord the Member for Paddington now spoke of economy, it should not be forgotten that it was his policy which reduced the finances of India to their present condition. He had added 30,000 men to the Indian Army, at a cost of £2,000,000 annually to the Indian Treasury, and a further £2,000,000 by annexing Burmah. No doubt, there was great room for economy in administration in India; but the noble Lord failed to tell them how disproportionate was the military expenditure to the Revenue. With regard to the public works of India, he entirely disputed the noble Lord's assertion as to the value of the assets in public improvements to be set off against the Debt. He would now pass to the latter part of the Motion, which dealt with the revenue from intoxicating drinks, and its pernicious effects on the moral condition of the country. He found an universal consensus of opinion in India that a great increase of intemperance was taking place. He did not think anyone in India would dispute that fact. If the Under Secretary for India were to pay another visit to the country and pay attention to this question, he thought he would return with very much changed views. He said, further, that the general opinion in India was that the great increase of intemperance was largely due to the unwise system adopted by the 1139 Government with regard to the Excise he put several Questions on the subject last Session, to which replies were given all of a more or less unsatisfactory kind. The Government of India had sent home two despatches dealing with this question, one of them a very important despatch, to which reference had been made. He believed that that despatch was altogether misleading, its conclusions fallacious, and the figures to which it pointed altogether incorrect. It was remarkable that that despatch scarcely alluded at all to the Report of the Bengal Excise Commission. That Commission had devoted an immense amount of attention to the subject, and issued a very elaborate Report filling two large volumes, and it had been his trying duty to wade through a large portion of it. He might say that the conclusions arrived at in that Report, drawn up by the officials of the Government in Bengal, were altogether at variance with the despatch of the Government of India. From that despatch one would think that the great object of the Government was to reduce the consumption of strong drink to a minimum, and that Bengal was rapidly advancing in the direction of temperance. But the Commission had come to the conclusion that there was an enormous increase in the sale of intoxicating drink in that Presidency. It made a calculation that the consumption of intoxicating drink had increased in eight years by 135 per cent. Would anyone dispute the soundness of this conclusion, which was arrived at by the Commission after taking all kinds of evidence upon the subject? He thought not. But to what was that enormous increase ascribable? It was ascribable to the introduction of the out-still system—that was to say, the farming out of the liquor trade over a large district to contractors with the power of virtually opening as many drinking shops as they chose in their districts. That ruinous system came into operation in 1876, and the revenues rose in eight years after that time from £600,000 to £1,000,000, and the Commission concluded that the consumption had increased to the extent he had mentioned. He would read to the House a letter from a retired civilian which gave a clear and accurate account of the system. It was as follows:— 1140To explain this by a case in point, in the year 1884 it was my duty, as the officer in charge of a district over 6,000 square miles in area, and with a population of 750,000 souls, to dispose of the farm or monopoly for both distilling and selling country spirits in it. The modus operandi was as follows:—Tenders were called for as to who would engage to sell the largest quantity of spirits within the period of his farm, the contractor binding himself to pay the still-head duty to the State, whether he were able to dispose of the whole quantity which he engaged to sell or not. The tenders were forwarded to the Commissioner of Excise, who accepted the tender of the farmer who promised to sell the most liquor and to pay the still-head duty on it to the State. This tender very much exceeded that of the year before, and the farmer, who was an enterprizing Parsee, soon began to ask for permission to open fresh liquor shops in villages where formerly none had existed. This permission, though not always granted, was accorded in some cases where he succeeded in making out that a demand for liquor existed, which was met before by smuggled illicit spirits.Another letter from a retired Indian civilian said—I assure you it went against my conscience the way I had to take tenders for the liquor farm at—The man who promised to sell the greatest quantity of spirits in the course of the year got the contract for farming the liquor. The Parsee contractor who promised to pay still-head duty on the largest quantity of spirits within the period of his farm, one twelvemonth, got the farm. Naturally, as soon as he did so, he wanted to open out more shops in as many fresh villages as he could.Anyone could see that such a system necessarily conduced to the spread of intemperance and to the rapid extension of the sale of strong drink. Here was another instance out of a vast number which had come under his notice as to the effect of the out-still system reported by the Rev. Thomas Evans—We have an out-still at Bistopore, which has been the sole cause of the miserable ruin that now stares us in the face. Bands of hardy peasants are neglecting cultivation, and pass the whole day in the out-stills, where they not merely sacrifice their hard-earned money, but corrupt their souls too. Street fights, scenes of violence, and other intolerable excesses are every-day events. I am at my wits' end to find out the reason why our rulers introduced into our country a system which kills us body and soul, and in return gives them hut a paltry sum for licence tax. To cheek the growing evil we have set up an association here, and are trying hard to discourage drinking. We have, however, done very little, and our mission will evidently prove a hopeless failure if Government docs not interfere. To frustrate our efforts the grog shops have formed a combination amongst themselves, and are doing all in their power to discourage our cause. They even threaten the villagers by instituting false suits 1141 against them, and are on the lookout to thrash secretly the more energetic members of our association. In the course of a month matters have taken so serious a turn that we can hardly venture on out-door business alter twilight but at the risk of our lives.He (Mr. S. Smith) had waded through masses of evidence of the same nature as this. Then he would point out that the out-stills extracted a liquor much more deleterious than that which was produced under the old system, which might be described as being comparatively pure. In proof of that he would quote the evidence of one of the owners of out-stills, who said—First of all we extract the pure spirit. This we cannot sell under a rupee a bottle, and we keep it for the few who can afford to pay for it. Then we go on forcing all we can out of the refuse of the Mowah by extra boiling. This is inferior stuff and very bitter, but we add plenty of water to it to make it sweet, and to sell it cheap, and it is strong enough to make the people drunk. And being cheap and strong they like it, and we sell plenty of it at great profit.Now, the Secretary of State for India had said that as much drink could be had for a halfpenny as would make a man drunk. But the universal testimony of those examined before the Bengal Commission was that the excessive cheapness of drink made from the out-stills was one of the chief causes of the spread of drunkenness throughout the Bengal Presidency. He had received great complaints with regard to the drink-shops among the coolie population in India. The House was aware that tea cultivation was fast spreading in India, and that the custom was to import coolies to carry on the business. He had received a letter from a planter in Assam which explained how the system worked there. The letter contained the following passages:—Is it not a significant fact that throughout the Province of Assam, at least the portion I have been in, that any stranger can tell he is Hearing a tea garden when he sees the array of bodies set out to tempt the coolie to drink? Petitions have been sent in by many planters; but, although it is known in many instances the sub-divisional officers sympathize with the planters, they dare not contravene what the Chief Commissioner lays down on pain of what is well-known would follow, stoppage of promotion, &c., &c. It would be futile for us planters to agitate in the matter, as it would naturally bring us, or those who took a leading part, into disrepute with the Government, which no one cares to risk.He (Mr. S, Smith) said that wherever 1142 there were coolies in India they were now tempted by those grog-shops, which were planted in the districts in order to gain revenue, and that, too, against the protests of the employers. He would now quote a statement made by the Bengal Commission appointed four years ago, which represented the final conclusion they arrived at. It was that—There has been, undoubtedly, a very great increase of late years in the number of spirit drinkers among the wage-earning classes, including those who cultivate land on their own account in addition to working for hire. This has been most marked in the Behar spirit-drinking tract, in the cities of Bengal, and in the centres of the jute-pressing, cotton, jute-spinning, and coal-mining industries.
§ MR. S. SMITH
That was in 1884. The Bengal Commission reported in that year as to the lamentable effect of the multiplication of spirit licences in Bengal, and the evidence was so strong that the Government felt compelled to alter the system of giving out licences, and for two or three years there was a great reduction in the number issued, and in consequence a considerable falling off in the revenue to the extent of 10 per cent or more. But what then happened? The Government found that the revenue was falling off, and resolved to go back to the old system. He had put a Question to the Under Secretary for India with reference to a case in a district of Bengal where 50 new stills had been opened. The Under Secretary for India could not deny the fact; he was compelled to admit that the Government were going back to the old system of out-stills; he did not deny that 50 new stills had been opened in a single district, in spite of the urgent remonstrances of the Natives.
It was said that the Bombay Excise system was conducted on most excellent principles. It had been his part to bring before the House of Commons the history of the temperance movement which had taken place in the Bombay Presidency at Tannah and Colaba. That movement resulted in considerable loss to the liquor contractor. It was represented to Government that a general temperance movement had taken place among the population; that they were under pledges not to take drink; and the contractor who farmed 1143 the revenue set the law in motion, and called on the Government to suppress the movement. That was brought before the House last year. It was denied, of course, that the Government had done anything of the kind. He now asked the House to refer to one or two official documents, and he would then appeal to hon. Members to say whether there was not a considerable residue of truth in the statement made last year, that the Government were hostile to this temperance movement. In a despatch of the Governor of Bombay to the Secretary of State for India there was this passage—The question for decision is, shall we sit quiet and allow this movement in the Colaba district to continue and to spread, and thereby to forfeit a large amount of revenue, or are measures to be adopted which will bring the people to their senses?He denied that anyone could read such a despatch and say that it was in favour of temperance. This movement was reducing the revenue derived from the liquor traffic in Bombay; and he would now read a proclamation issued by the magistrate of Colaba, and he would ask whether that document favoured the idea that the Government were in favour of this movement? The words of the proclamation were—Notice is hereby given to all that I have beard that some bad people are endeavouring to force people who have a right to buy liquor and consume the same, not so to buy or consume the same, and use threats on those who would not listen to them. This warning is therefore given to such people that by so doing they are only incurring the risk of a criminal prosecution. The people are at liberty to drink or not to drink liquor as they choose; and whoever shall threaten them, saying that they shall not drink, or commit assault, should be prosecuted and severely punished with the punishment prescribed in law.—A. KEYSER, District Magistrate, Colaba.Eight men were actually imprisoned. He asked any impartial person, what construction could be put on a proclamation of that kind; what would be the effect of its being posted up in the midst of a population which trembled at the mention of an English magistrate? Only one construction could be placed upon it. These people were made to feel that in not using the liquor shops they were offending the Government. The proclamation had to be withdrawn, but the Government who withdrew it still said it was perfectly legal. Of course, there were the usual excuses; it was stated 1144 that the men in prison had practised intimidation to prevent the people using the liquor shops. But what did it amount to? It came merely to this—that a rule was made that people should be put out of caste and fined 50 rupees if they entered the liquor shops. But putting out of caste was a social regulation with which the Government had never before interfered; and now, when a Native was threatened to be put out of caste for drinking liquor, the Government came down with their heavy hand and threatened and punished the individuals who had enforced that social regulation. He said it was the same as when a congregation in this country made a rule that those who took intoxicating drinks should be turned out of membership. He said it was preposterous that this should be made a reason for punishing those who were advancing the temperance movement in India. The Under Secretary for India had joked him on the subject of toddy. He would tell the House what toddy was. In almost every piece of ground attached to houses in India there were palm trees, and out of those trees was obtained a juice which, if used directly it came from the tree, was most refreshing and unintoxicating. But the Government had put a heavy tax on those trees, and the result was that the people, not being able to afford the tax, were driven to the liquor shops which were farmed out to the highest bidders. It was clear that if the people could not get this toddy they would go to the liquor shops. The Government said that this was not a genuine temperance movement, but that it was merely a strike against the tax on toddy. He said that the Government ought to be thankful to see the people becoming temperate, no matter from what cause it arose. Further, he said that the drink sold to the people in the liquor shops was exceedingly injurious, particularly to the Asiatic constitution. There was no such thing as a moderate consumption of drink possible in Asiatic countries; everyone knew that, and he would like to refer to a striking article on Islam in The Contemporary Review for February, 1888, which said that—Owing probably to some hitherto untraced peculiarity of cither their physical or more probably mental constitution, alcohol in any quantities seemed to set most Asiatics—tho Jews were an exception—on fire, to produce an irresistible craving for more, and to compel them 1145 to go on drinking until they were sunk in a stupor of intoxication.There was no middle course possible. There was no class of people in India such as we had in this country who used a small amount of intoxicants with apparently little injury. You had in India a population who were by nature and religion total abstainers, but who, when they took to drink, soon became paupers and vagabonds; so that he said this question was much more serious with regard to India than with regard to England. The people of India believed that a great wrong had been done to their country; they asked for what we demanded—namely, for Local Option. He had been told that every municipality in India would suppress the use of strong drinks if the Government would allow them. But the Government would not allow them. We were doing in India with drink what we had done in China with opium. We began by sending 200 chests of opium; the Chinese did not want it, but we were told that so small a quantity would not do the people any harm. But now we sent nearly 100,000 chests annually, and the people in China were being slowly poisoned by this traffic. The opium traffic grew by slow degrees, always with some excuse, till it became so huge it was impossible to stop it. The drink trade was growing in a similar manner; and wherever it extended itself it meant ruin, misery, and death to the people of India. He felt very strongly on this subject, because he saw that unless some check were put upon this trade it would certainly continue to grow. The Government in India was always in want of revenue. The taxation of the consumption of liquor was one of the easiest ways by which revenue could be raised; the revenue from this source had nearly doubled within the last 10 years, and unless something was done within the next 10 years it would double again. The interest of the entire Indian Service was bound up with the growth of revenue. The system under which they lived necessarily compelled them to seek new sources of revenue, and they would be more than human if they did not wink at the means by which the revenue was obtained. Before sitting down he could not forbear uttering his protest against an even deeper stain on 1146 our Indian Administration—he referred to the detestable licensing of vice, the most loathsome system he had ever heard of, and the most cynical in its contempt for morality. The Government might depend that, as soon as the facts of this case were known to the people of this country, there would arise such a cry as would compel the abolition of these infamous Acts. Finally, he said that the only sound principle on which to govern India was that we should regard it as a great trust confided to us by Almighty God, having solely in view the good of its people; and in so doing he believed we should receive the reward of an enduring and honourable connection with that country.
§ SIR RICHARD TEMPLE (Worcester, Evesham)
said, that the positions of the hon. Mover and the hon. Seconder having been shaken, first by the battery of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), and then by the phalanx of statistics of the Under Secretary of State for India, he would let loose some cavalry, so to speak, on the retreating arguments. The hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Caine) had lately returned from a tour round the world. During that time, like the hero of the Odyssey, he had seen the cities of many men, and doubtless thought he had discerned their tempers and dispositions. He now sat opposite, with freshly-gained knowledge, the Ulysses of Barrow-in-Furness. During that tour the hon. Gentleman honoured India by staying there one full month, and during that period he had just assured the House that the one question mainly on his mind was the liquor traffic, and that every clergyman and missionary to whom he spoke was unanimous on the subject; he said nothing of having consulted anyone else. The House would readily see that, with that strong feeling of his—he was going to say prejudice, but it would not be respectful—the hon. Gentleman naturally saw everything through an exclusive medium. He would be doing the hon. Gentleman no injustice when he said he was one of the apostles of the temperance movement. He desired to speak with all respect and sympathy of the temperance party; but the House knew that they were somewhat given to 1147 exaggeration, and to extreme statements of fact and opinion about affairs at home, even where verification of the allegations on the spot was possible. How great must the temptation to exaggerate be regarding a distant country like India, where no such verification was possible. He desired for a few moments to come to close quarters with the hon. Members for Barrow and Flintshire, and he ventured to affirm, despite the information which the hon. Members had gleaned in India, that the leading desire of the Government of India and its officers was to tax liquor, and thereby limit its consumption. If the motives were different he was one of the Gentlemen incriminated, for the House would remember that he had at different times governed one-half of that great Empire. Was it likely—was it even credible—that such a Body as the Government of India and its officers—admitted by hon. Gentlemen opposite to be second to none in the world—could ever be parties to such a nefarious policy as to encourage intemperance for the sake of revenue? If the tax were stopped, if all these bugbears of hon. Gentlemen opposite were put an end to, the result would only be that the Natives of India would consume untaxed liquor, and that liquor would be manufactured to an immense amount in a country where the flowers and the fruit of the trees and the very stalks of the herbs furnished material for alcoholic liquor. The hon. Member for Barrow had declared that the out-still system was in full force in Bengal. But when he (Sir Richard Temple) was Governor of Bengal he would have none of them; and the same policy was followed by his Predecessor, the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell). This was up to 1877. But after them a new Pharaoh came. He had passed beyond the region of human censure, and could not answer for himself. He would, therefore, endeavour, in the fewest possible words, to state what he thought would have been the views of that distinguished gentleman had he been now present. He believed the views of this high official would have been stated to this effect—that the manner in which the out-still system had been suppressed by him (Sir Richard Temple) and his Predecessor would tend to 1148 encourage or permit illicit manufacture, and therefore he was bound, not only for the sake of the Revenue, but in the interest of suppressing those malpractices, to open out a number of out-stills. This was about 1879. For his part, he believed this was a mistaken idea, and that some harm was done in consequence. He must explain for a moment how the out-still system worked. The Excise used to be managed by farmers or contractors. These became automatically a Vigilance Executive for preventing illicit practices; so far, well. But then they had an interest in the encouragement of drinking—so they had to be discontinued. In substitution a Central Distillery was licensed in each district. But in the outlying parts of the district, no licensed distillery being at hand, great care was needed to prevent temptation arising from illicit practices. Hence it was argued by some that unless we could allow the people of India to get liquor, lawfully and reasonably, they would employ the abundant means Nature had placed at their disposal to manufacture liquor for themselves. That was the argument for out-stills. But, sharing the fear expressed by hon. Gentlemen opposite, he and his Friends had always set their faces against the system. When this system was practically resuscitated in Bengal, the action of public opinion on the Government of Bengal began subsequently to be felt. The rectification of the system began and went steadily on, and in the course of three or four years a Commission was appointed. The Report of that body had been referred to in the course of the debate; but since 1884, when it was issued, many things had happened, among them the gradual suppression of out-stills. That mistake had now been almost entirely rectified, and if any aberration still remained, he hoped it would soon disappear. With regard to the people of India generally, he pointed out that there had been undoubtedly an increase of late years in the Excise Revenue. That increase, however, was largely due to the enhancement in the price of liquor owing to the Excise system. Whatever increase there might be in the consumption of liquor, it was mainly due to the prosperity of the people and the increase in the population of the country. In the United 1149 Kingdom, whenever the labouring classes were prosperous the Excise Revenue rose, and India was no exception to the rule. But it was absurd to say that we had introduced drinking customs among the people of India. Drinking was no new practice. If there was any practice of immemorial antiquity connected with the Indian people, it was that of drinking. The ancient Vedic writings teemed with allusions to the practice. All their history, ancient, mediaeval, and modern, was full of similar allusions. In fact, certain classes of Natives had always drunk, still drank, and would continue to drink to the end of the chapter, until human nature changed, or until the admonitions of temperance apostles reached their ears. In justice to the people of India, however, it must be said that in the main they were a wonderfully temperate people. It was quite true, as stated in this debate by the Under Secretary of State for India, that it was in the towns, and not in the country that the drinking practices existed most. The rural population was temperate to a degree unknown in northern latitudes. There were, however, certain wild tribes living in the forests and mountains who were undoubtedly addicted to drinking; and it was difficult to introduce an Excise system which would check that consumption by taxation and yet avoid offering temptations to intemperance. It was the old story of sailing between Scylla and Charybdis, and it required great care on the part of the Government to steer the vessel of Administration between the opposing rocks. The hon. Member for Barrow spoke of the Mahomedans as if they were bound by the practices as well as the dictates of their religion to be total abstainers. When he heard that statement made by the hon. Member he at once said "No" to it. The hon. Member seemed to be a little surprised at the interruption; but in support of his contention he would read one or two racy sentences from a recent publication on the subject, in order to give the House an idea of the prevailing sentiment of Mahomedans on the subject. Although the Prophet of the Mahomedan religion forbade indulgence in wine drinking and wrote against it, the prohibition had never been strictly observed by any race except the Arabs of 1150 Arabia. The Persians were notoriously wine bibbers, and the poetic literature of Persia was steeped with references to love and wine. That is the popular literature among the cultured Mahomedans of India to this day. In a publication prepared by one of the most learned and accomplished officers, now retired, in the service of India, and who was a hearty advocate of temperance, this passage occurred—It appears from a Mahomedan history that the King said to his Minister, 'Shall we drink a little wine?' Accordingly much wine was brought in. the King said, 'Let us drink fair measure and fill the cup evenly, in order that there may be no unfairness.'That was exactly the advice of Sairey Gamp to Betsy Prig—"Whatever you do, drink fair." One Sultan in India plunges into dissipation, and all ranks acquired a taste for wine-drinking. Another Sultan in India is of the same mind with hon. Members opposite, and enacts total prohibition. But "the dissolute distil wine clandestinely, put in leather bags, and convey it concealed in hay and firewood." Baber, one of the great Emperors of India, wrote of himself—"I now want something less than one year of 40 years, and I drink wine most copiously." With regard to the Mahomedans of to-day, Canon Taylor writes—Has Islam abolished drunkenness? Why, night after night we took up dozens of drunkards in Zanzibar.The celebrated poet Hafiz told us how his spiritual guide went from the mosque to the wineshop. It would be seen, therefore, that the idea of the Mahomedans being taught to drink by us was an absurdity. Still he repeated that India on the whole was a land of temperance. If the average expenditure in this respect of the Indian people were compared with the people of England, it would be admitted that we were not in a position to throw stones. Take one large fact. For the United Kingdom we had an Excise Revenue of £25,000,000 to a population of 37,000,000. In India we had an Excise Revenue of only £4,000,000 to a population of 200,000,000—in British territories proper, exclusive of Native States. He hoped that, on realizing this fact, hon. Members who had raised the question would go home and sleep more soundly on 1151 account of the consolation to be derived from the comparison. He must now turn to the second part of the Motion—namely, the Indian Frontier. The speech of the hon. Mover, the Member for Burnley (Mr. Slagg), so far from being an impertinence, was most welcome, for it was well that the policy of the Government should be criticized in the calm, philosophical, and, on the whole, just spirit displayed by the hon. Member. Reference was made to the venerated memory of Lord Lawrence, as if his policy had been something different from what was now being done; but it was, in effect, the same. A quotation had been made from a Minute he (Sir Richard Temple) wrote 20 years ago, with an implication that this differed from his present view. But he adhered to every word of that quotation. It laid down the principle of what had since been our frontier policy. We were advancing to our own frontier and we had not advanced an inch beyond it, but we had steadily kept within it. We were not preparing to advance into Afghanistan. As long as we kept to our own frontier, could there be any mistake in standing firmly there, armed as we ought to be and attended as of old by the British Lion and the Indian Tiger? In what way were we to stand armed? We had our fortifications and our railways to the mouths of the passes leading from India to Afghanistan as our gates and portals. The intention, of course, was that an enemy would have to cross the Indus in the face of British opposition offered by troops fresh from the interior of India. The Indus was bridged in two places and approached by railways at three points, and there were bridges over several great rivers, affluents of the Indus. The hon. Member seemed to think that these were unremunerative railways in a sterile country, and were fit for military purposes only. Bat there was every right to expect that these railways would pay. They passed through tracts not sterile but alluvial. One ran down the Valley of the Indus itself; another down the Valley of the Sutlej; and a third ran across that Mesopotamia, as it were, which was formed by the convergence of rivers near Multan, and was one of the richest districts of India. These regions were irrigated by countless canals, filled every rainy 1152 season from the great rivers. The soil was rich, and was peopled by an increasing population. Again, some of these railways crossed tracts of uncultivated but cultivable land, ready to receive the surplus population of other parts of India. Moreover, these Frontier Railways formed part of the State railway system of India, comprising many thousand miles of length. He believed it would be found that the railways in India under Government control were yielding more or less a return considerably exceeding the interest upon the capital invested in their construction. He could confirm what the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) had said—that the Amran range of mountains near Chaman and the Valley of Pisheen were within the British Frontier, and had been so since 1878, just before the Treaty of Gandamak. We were bound to have defensive works at that point. He supposed hon. Members would not say that because they dissented from a policy under which the tract had been annexed, therefore we were to leave our frontier undefended in its most vulnerable points. As for Quetta and the Bolan Pass, they had never belonged to Afghanistan, but had been parts of Beloochistan, and had been under our control the whole of this generation. It seemed to be inferred that we had some intention of going to Candahar. Although assurances to the contrary might rather be expected to come from the Government, he could, even as an independent Member, give an assurance that nothing was more remote from the intention of the Government of India. Of course, he could not say what might happen in the event of a war with Russia—a death struggle between the British Lion and the Russian Bear for the domination of Southern Asia. Perhaps, in that event, Candahar might be the proper place at which to give battle. It was instantly accessible from our frontier posts at Chaman—he knew that well, having twice ridden over the ground. Candahar was the finest strategic position in the whole of Afghanistan, lying between a river and a desert. On our left, facing Russia, that desert was an impassable flank. The irrigated country round the city formed an inexhaustible source of supply. The enemy must pass by here in 1153 order to approach our frontier. We might stop him here, then, or we might let him pass by here, in order to give him battle on the Indus. But if he was defeated on that line, he would have no retreat, and must either succumb or surrender. As to the temper of the Afghans, there was a friendly and almost a brotherly feeling between our officers and the Afghan officers, which was never before known in the memory of man. There had been banquets—as shown by the latest Blue Books—at which the Ameer's officers had said to our officers—"Now we have for the first time eaten together, sat at the same table, and partaken of the same salt, and we shall be friends for ever." In fact, the Afghans had now come to look upon us not as invaders, but as their protectors against possible enemies; they had heard of all the awful stories connected with Russian conquests in the Turkoman country; they contrasted our action with that of the Russians, and they had learnt to respect our wisdom and to admire our candour and forbearance. The hon. Member opposite had spoken as if there had been no change in the position of Russia within the last 20 years; whereas since then there had been all the change in the world in it. In the interval Russia had made great advances in those regions—she had completed her railway system to the west shore of the Caspian, had established military flotillas across that inland sea, and had constructed railways from the eastern shore towards Afghanistan, her nearest railway station now being not far off from the new Russo-Afghan frontier so lately demarcated. Indeed, Russia had changed her position to an immeasurable extent, and now her frontier ran for many hundred miles conterminously with that of Afghanistan. In reply to hon. Members opposite, he quite believed that it had been imperatively necessary for the Government of India, in 1885, to increase their Army by 30,000 men, including 10,000 European troops, because it was essential to show before the people of India, and before the world, that they had two Army Corps mobilized on the North-Western frontier while the Russo-Afghan boundary was unsettled. Now that it had been settled, it was a question whether it was necessary to continue the full amount of that increase in the Indian Army 1154 at an additional cost of £2,000,000 sterling annually. Some of that increase, needed for the occupation of Upper Burmah, at one extremity and of Beloochistan at the other, must indeed be kept up. But some part might, he thought, be spared to the relief of Indian finance. In the event of war being threatened with Russia, it was not 10,000 Europeans additional that they would have to send there; it was more like 20,000 or 30,000 that they would have to despatch, and it was a question whether they should keep them in this country in a good climate or keep them in India. Now that the Russo-Afghan boundaries had been demarcated, and Russia had agreed to all that, and we, on our side, and the Afghans also on their side, had agreed to it, there was no use in complaining about the merits or demerits of the frontier line. If any diplomatic milk had been spilt in those sandy regions, it was idle crying over it, Before concluding, he ought to say a word or two about Burmah. Much had been said, in this debate, about Burmah—exclusive of Upper Burmah, recently annexed—not paying the interest on the debt incurred for each successive conquest. He thought they ought to have had notice that such a calculation was intended to be put before the House, in order that they might compare the figures. If they went back 30 or 40 years, however, they would have to reckon on the profits of the old Provinces, now included in British Burrnah. And if the debt incurred for the conquest of Pegu alone in Lord Dalhousie's day was calculated, he rather thought it would be found that the Irawaddy Delta, with its £3,000,000 of revenue, was now in a fair way of repaying the cost of its annexation. If they took that £3,000,000 which was thus paid by Lower Burmah, he believed they would find that not more than £1,000,000 or £1,500,000 was spent by Lower Burmah on itself, and that the other £2,000,000, or at least £1,500,000, were given to the Empire, thus defraying or tending to defray the debt incurred for the conquest of Pegu. But if they wont back to the old debt incurred for the acquisition of the other parts of Burmah, the Provinces of Tenasserim and Arracan, they must consider what had been the profits derived from those Provinces in the last 40 years. That was a considerable calculation. He spoke 1155 feelingly on that point, because he was a Financial Commissioner for the Constitution of British Burmah some 27 years ago. In order to make a proper comparison, they ought to go back a whole generation, and it would be impossible to do that at a moment's notice, without knowing that the point was to be raised in this debate. As regarded the frontier, he need not repeat what had been so ably said by the Under Secretary for India; but the general terms were now settled most peaceably and amicably with China. Indeed China, in consideration of the receipt of a merely honorary recognition from us from time to time, had entirely and formally agreed to our Sovereignty in Upper Burmah, and had, in general terms, agreed to a line of frontier which remained to be demarcated. And as for China invading us in that quarter, as seemed to be foreshadowed by the hon. Gentleman opposite, if he would reflect on the mighty mountain barriers which would have to be crossed, and the desolate or sparsely inhabited uplands of Yunnan, which must be traversed before an invading Chinese force could approach the frontier of Burmah, he would see that there was no danger whatever from that quarter. The danger in that region which menaced us proceeded from the proximity of a great European Power, which, happily, was very friendly with us now; but it was on account of that danger that the annexation of Upper Burmah was determined upon, which had become just as well as expedient, from the misconduct for many years of the late King. He would conclude by reminding the House of what he had ventured to urge on a recent occasion, to the effect that the people of India were not really poor, and this was the answer to the financial vaticinations of hon. Members opposite in this debate. They were poor in a certain sense; but in all the ordinary economic aspects of poverty or wealth they were better to do, relatively, than most of the European nations. They were multiplying fast; the cultivaion of the country was expanding fast; and their absorption of the precious metals had been among the wonders of the monetary world. They were becoming educated, and their loyalty had been stimulated by recent events. He would farther remind the House that if there had been a deficit on the whole balance 1156 of accounts of revenue and expenditure, as was recently stated by the Under Secretary for India, nevertheless that deficit was arrived at after they had paid no less than £40,000,000 within the last 15 years for purposes which in all other countries were not debited to current revenue at all, but ordinarily to loans—such expenditure, for instance, as that incurred for famine-relief, for irrigation works, for railways, for the prevention of the consequences of drought, and for various other beneficent purposes. Looking at all those things he said that they might be of good cheer. As an old finance Minister, he said that the limits of taxation in India were not yet reached, notwithstanding all that had been said to the contrary in this debate. He hoped that they never would be; but if necessity should arise there was a margin left yet. The Income Tax was only 2½ per cent. It would bear much more, and it fell on the richer classes, who were better off in their way than our people were in these days of depression. Again, even after the recent alteration in the Salt Tax, the tax was lower in many parts of India than it was in his days and in those of his Predecessors. Finally, tobacco, which was taxed in most other countries, was untaxed in India. A Tobacco Tax had often been proposed but not imposed. He hoped that the necessity for it would never arise; but he repeated, the resources of civilization were not exhausted. If they had the enlightened opinion of that House, and of England outside of that House, consistently directed to the affairs of India, they had every reason still to hope that that Eastern Empire might continue to be what it was now—the envy of all nations and the admiration of the world.
SIR UGHTRED KAY-SHUTTLE-WORTH (Lancashire, Clitheroe)
said, the course which the debate had taken was such that it would not be necessary for him to detain the House for more than a very few minutes. Indeed, he must ask the indulgence of the House, for he always felt a diffidence in speaking on Indian subjects, considering the very short time it had fallen to his lot to serve in the India Office. He felt that diffidence with especial force when he had to follow an hon. Gentleman of such great experience and knowledge of Indian affairs, and who had filled so dis- 1157 tinguished a place in the Service of India as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Evesham (Sir Richard Temple), whose words on these subjects were entitled to the greatest weight and consideration. The hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Slagg) had said nothing with regard to that part of the Motion relating to the liquor traffic. As that had been the case in the hon. Member's speech, and as he (Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttleworth), like the hon. Member, did not wish to make two speeches at a time, and, further, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce) would probably have something to say on that part of the Motion dealing with the liquor traffic, he would confine himself to the portion on which his hon. Friend had dwelt. With regard to the Motion itself, he could not say that he was particularly enamoured of its form. To discuss two subjects on one Motion was not particularly convenient. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) had attacked the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Slagg) for the "partizan ferocity" of his speech; but he (Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttleworth) did not think that that attack was deserved. He thought the hon. Member rather deserved the compliments which had been paid to him so graciously by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Evesham, and that the attack came with a particularly bad grace from the noble Lord, whose Indian Budget Speech of 1885 was fresh in the mind of the House as having been a new departure in the matter of Indian Budget Speeches. As to what had fallen from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley with regard to the frontier of Upper Burmah, he had spoken as if an aggressive policy towards China—our old policy of forcing opium on that country, and making war for the opium trade—still existed. Those remarks at the present moment were rather unfortunate. The hon. Member had entirely left out of sight that they had now the Cheefoo Convention, and that the policy of England towards China had completely changed, and that now not only was there no fear of any dispute between England and China, but still loss was there any fear of such follies as those which occurred in past years in respect of the opium trade. China was, fortunately, most friendly to India and to 1158 this country; and if they wanted strong evidence as to the good relations which existed at the present time between the Government of India and the Government of the Queen and China, it would be found in the speech that was made the other day—on the 3rd February—by the Viceroy of India to his Legislative Council, in which he had given some very interesting facts as to those happy relations. The Government of India had for some years been fully alive to the extreme importance of maintaining good relations between those two great Empires. He now passed on to the question of the North-West Frontier, and in regard to the speech of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington he should like to cite two or three of his remarks. The noble Lord had said, with a good deal of emphasis, that he thought that the Khojak Tunnel was a new question which should be discussed in that House. The question was certainly one on which the House might claim to have further information from the Under Secretary (Sir John Gorst). All the information given to them by the Under Secretary amounted to this—that the tunnel had been begun, and that it would be most valuable, as it would afford us the means of making a sortie; that was to say, that, like all our works in the direction of Quetta—railway and other works—this tunnel was of a defensive character, and that these works of a defensive character should be made in such a form as to enable us to strike a blow, if attacked, in the process of defending ourselves. There were, no doubt, two serious objections to any advance beyond the neighbourhood of Pishin and Quetta, and they were these. In the first place, there was the enormous expense of the tunnel that was in course of construction, and there was grave danger in incurring any expense which would add to the financial difficulties of India. Secondly, there was the danger that military men would be tempted to go further. He thought it would be satisfactory to the House if the Under Secretary, or someone on behalf of the Government, would give assurances to the House somewhat of the character of those volunteered unofficially by the hon. Member for Evesham—assurances that there was no intention on the part of the Government of going beyond our present frontier, and that the Indian Go- 1159 vernment did not intend, under present circumstances, to carry their railway to Candahar. Then he came to another remark of the noble Lord's, and he noted with satisfaction that he also regarded the great expenditure upon railways at Quetta and Pishin as having been undertaken for defensive and not for aggressive purposes. The noble Lord had then gone on to lay great stress on the truth of the phrase contained in the Motion before the House—"grave financial difficulties." He had said that the financial situation was most grave, and had called attention to the fact that the Famine Fund had gone. He had also called attention to the raising of the Walt Tax, and had said that nothing was more startling, as it was the only resource in case of war or great emergency. He had also said that the Indian Government had got to the end of their resources. The noble Lord might have been using exaggerated language to enforce his views; but, whether or not, the words would have been listened to with surprise by the House, coming, as they did, from the author of the policy which had led to the addition of 10,000 English soldiers to the Indian Army and a consequent large addition of Native troops. It was satisfactory to hear the hon. Gentleman the Member for Evesham say that it was possible to go back from the step which had bean taken in the direction of increasing the Indian Army, and that he was prepared to urge the Government to consider whether or not the Indian Army should be reduced. If they did not reduce it the noble Lord must be held responsible for a step which had landed the Government of India in a large and permanent increase in the expenditure, which was a thing he had himself described as one of the greatest dangers to India. The European troops in India before the noble Lord's time numbered 60,000, and to that number the noble Lord had added 10,000, besides having made a large addition to the Native Army. He (Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttleworth.) heartily welcomed—and he was sure that all who were impressed with the absolute necessity for the military and political safety of India of practising far greater economy in Indian administration and Indian finance also welcomed most heartily—the noble Lord as a recruit to the ranks of Indian economists. The Under Secretary had 1160 spoken of the political effect of our pacific frontier policy, and had said we were now in peace and friendship with all the independent tribes between Afghanistan and British India. He (Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttleworth) thought the hon. Member might have gone still further, and have called attention to the remarkable facts which were published in the Blue Book lately presented to the House as to the welcome given to Sir West Ridgeway's Commission on its return from the North-West Frontier of Afghanistan—the way the members of the Commission were received by the Ameer and the officers and soldiers of the Army and the people of the country, the freedom with which they were able to move about Cabul and to visit its environs. As Sir West Ridgeway had said, they were "treated with the greatest kindness and consideration." He (Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttleworth) ventured to claim that among many causes which had contributed to the increased friendliness of the Ameer and the altered relations between the British people and the Afghan people, was the policy which was pursued after the change in 1880 by the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) when he withdrew from Candahar and satisfied the people of Afghanistan that we had no selfish motives and no desire to annex any part of Afghanistan, and that having gone there for certain purposes, and having effected all that was necessary, we were prepared at once to retire. Now, the question was, how were we to preserve this friendliness? It had always been held of the greatest importance that we should have a strong, independent, and friendly Afghanistan. It might be open to some debate how far Afghanistan could be strong and how far she could be independent; but it was now proved that it was possible to have a friendly Afghanistan. There was one thing he would venture to press on the Government—though he did not know whether it was necessary to press it upon them, and earnestly hoped that it was not. The Under Secretary had given them no information on the point. The conviction of many hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House, and he believed on the other side also—it was certainly the conviction of the hon. Member who had just sat 1161 down—was this—and this was the point he would press on the Government—that if they were to preserve the friendliness of Afghanistan they must not advance into that country; they must not only not annex any part of it, but must keep strictly within their own boundary. They must beware of going to Candahar whilst the present good relations with Russia prevailed, and they must endeavour to keep prominently before their minds that friendliness with Afghanistan was of the greatest military and political importance to India. He would only say, in conclusion, that whatever military measures might be presented to the Government of India which they might be tempted to embark in, it was their duty always to remember that the advantage of any military measure should be weighed against the serious danger of adding to the financial burdens of the country, and that the increase of expenditure was the greatest peril to our Empire.
§ MR. J. M. MACLEAN (Oldham)
said, he thought they on the Ministerial side of the House might be content to rest their case on the picturesque and masterly speech delivered by the hon. Member for Evesham. That speech, he thought, covered nearly the whole ground which had been occupied by the Mover of the Resolution in bringing his proposal before the House. But in addition to the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Evesham, this debate had boon memorable for the speech of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill). That speech had been remarkable for breadth of view, and, as usual, for great vigour and clearness of expression, but what was principally noticeable in it was a declaration which had not been touched on by any speaker, official or non-official, on the Ministerial side of the House. The noble Lord had said—and the declaration had been received with cheers by the opposite side of the House—that "finance depends on policy," and he had gone on to elaborate and develop that maxim by tracing all the trouble and annoyance which Russia had given us in Asia, and which had led to this great increase in our military expenditure in India, to the mistaken policy of this country in engaging in the Crimean War; and the noble Lord had gone on 1162 to say that if this country abstained from opposing the interests which Russia had in Europe, then Russia would not use the means which she now possessed of concentrating large forces on the frontier of India in order to render us uneasy about the maintenance of our Indian Empire. Now, he (Mr. J. M. Maclean) ventured as an independent Member of the Conservative Party to enter a gentle protest against what he conceived to be the drift of this important political statement on the part of the noble Lord. He ventured to say that Great Britain had important national and commercial interests to defend in the South-East of Europe and the Mediterranean quite as great and as dear to the people of this country as were even the interests of our Indian Empire, and he did not think it would be a right policy for a great nation like this to pursue to abandon our interests in the Mediterranean and the South-East of Europe in the vain hope of preserving India from the danger of invasion. Depend upon it, that if we gave up our ancient policy in the Mediterranean and the South-East of Europe in this way, instead of saving our interests in India, we should only encourage Russia to further aggression in Asia. The right policy for a great nation to pursue was to defend her interests everywhere. And what did experience teach us? Why, that it was only by showing a firm front to Russia that we could make her desist from those aggressive courses upon which the martial spirit and swarming instincts of her people compelled her to enter. The very arrangement which had been come to with Russia in regard to our frontier in Central Asia was conclusive evidence on that point. When we retired from Candahar, did that induce Russia to forbear making any further advance in Central Asia? On the contrary, she pushed forward quickly, first to Merv and then to Penjdeh, and it was then that the Party opposite began to discover the danger that there was in Russia's designs. For a long time previously many Members of the Liberal Party used to taunt the Conservatives with what the Duke of Argyll called fits of Mervousness; but as soon as Russia got to Merv and advanced to Herat, the Duke himself was the first to acknowledge that the British Empire had at last got an inland frontier to defend, and that it 1163 would be necessary for us to incur great expense and make extensive arrangements to confront now dangers. He (Mr. J. M. Maclean) would not go over the events which happened up to the time that the Convention with Russia for the demarcation of the boundary across Asia was concluded; but he would say this, that it was the firm policy of Lord Salisbury's Government that compelled Russia at last to pause and come to some fair agreement with regard to the Afghan Frontier. The Prime Minister had recently in the House of Lords borne testimony to the straightforward and conciliatory manner in which Russia had acted in settling this frontier; and it seemed to him (Mr. J. M. Maclean) that it was a great mistake for people to say that the agreement which had been arrived at only constituted a "paper boundary," which it would, be easy for the Russian forces to cross at any time. Why, what had been the great danger which had beset us in Central Asia? It had been the fact that the frontier was unsettled, and that raids on one side and the other could be easily made on whatever pretext presented itself. But now Russia had accepted a certain line of frontier, and that established our legal right to defend it against any advance on the part of Russia, who had repeatedly, from the time of Prince Gortschakoff, stated that she regarded Afghanistan as beyond her sphere of influence, and as falling within the sphere of British influence in Asia. We had now the frontier properly defined, and the slightest sign on the part of Russia of an intention to depart from it would give us a clear right to interfere for the defence of Afghanistan. That was one great security which we had obtained so far as the Western and Northern Frontier of Afghanistan was concerned. Well, then, we also had to provide for what might happen in the case of war. We had to determine where our troops should be stationed in order, if necessary, to advance on Afghanistan for the protection of our allies there. He thought the hon. Member for Evesham and the Under Secretary were rather inclined to minimize the real advance which had been made in the adoption of a scientific frontier and the organization of means to defend it in India. The hon. 1164 Member for Evesham had spoken of Beloochistan and Quetta as always being under British influence. Yes; but we had not always large forces of our own troops stationed there, and we had not always a railway, circumstances which constituted a distinct and substantial change from the policy which the hon. Member himself upheld when he was a Member of Lord Lawrence's Council in India. It was useful for us to recognize that there had always been two opposing policies advocated by eminent and distinguished men on both sides of the House in regard to the defences of our Indian Frontier. One was known as the "Forward" policy, and the other as the "Standstill" policy. One school of politicians said that we should wait in the Indus Valley, and never advance beyond the mountains at all, which was very much the same thing as saying that the best way in which a man could defend his house when attacked by burglars would be by going and hiding himself in the coal cellar. On the other hand there was the "Forward" school, who wished to go to Candahar or Herat, or even beyond it. The present system of frontier defence was, he took it, a compromise. It had been accepted by both parties as a compromise between these two extreme views. We had laid down railways up to the formidable Bolan Pass. We had fortified all the other passes leading to India, and we were now trying to pierce the last great obstacle which existed to prevent a military force from advancing upon Candahar. Some trouble had been taken with regard to this proposed tunnel through the Amram Range to make out what we were doing there was entirely within our own territory. The Under Secretary of State had said we were only making this tunnel in order that if it should become necessary our troops might make a sortie into Afghanistan. But if one end of the tunnel was on British territory, surely the other was in Afghanistan.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
No; the hon. Member is mistaken. Both ends of the tunnel would be on British territory.
§ MR. J. M. MACLEAN
said, that even in that case it was a formidable new advance for the Government to undertake. It seemed to him idle to affect to believe that when this tunnel had been made at the cost of £1,500,000 sterling, 1165 it was not to be used at all except in case we required to make a sortie on Quetta—in case our own territory was assailed by an enemy. He would much rather take the larger view of what we were doing beyond the frontier there. He would say frankly that we were making a tunnel in order that we might extend our railways into Afghanistan and as far as Candahar. The hon. Member for Eveshatn had told them what many connected with India often heard from the officers employed there—namely, that since we had begun to construct this railway a good effect had been produced on the frontier tribes. The fact was, we had spent a large amount of money on these frontier works, and, therefore, it was not strange that we never heard of any raids being committed by the barbarous tribes on the frontier, who used to be so turbulent. The reason was plain. These barbarians were not men who liked war merely for the sake of fighting; they did it in order to get food to eat, and if we went amongst them and distributed large sums of money, paying them such wages as they never received before, it was not to be wondered that a good effect was produced on the national character, and that they were reconciled to English civilization. It was very much the same thing as formerly went on in the Scottish Highlands at the end of the 17th century, of whom hon. Members would remember Baillie Nichol Jarvie said, "What was it that kept the Highlands quiet in those times? It was siller, Sir; siller." There is no doubt that the Indian rupee had the same effect upon these tribes. If that was the effect of these works of peace, why should not we, if we were so welcome to the Afghans, and if they were so well-disposed towards us, ask the Ameer to encourage the extension of railways into his own territory as far as Candahar? He looked on this line not merely as a military line which we had constructed up the Bolan Pass, but as the first part of a great Indo-European line of railway which would be constructed some day across Asia to carry Engligh mails and passengers to Bombay and Calcutta. To his mind there was nothing which should make Englishmen more ashamed of themselves—men who used to take the initiative in all enterprizes of this kind—than to think that Russia had 1166 laid down a railway across Asia as far as Bokhara. It was 15 years ago since a Committee of the House of Commons passed a Resolution in favour of giving a British guarantee to a Company to construct a railway through the Euphrates Valley to the head of the Persian Gulf, and not a sod of this railway had been cut, whilst the Russians, in the meantime, had laid down a line, as he had said, across the Continent, and through arid districts which had been regarded as impracticable. The construction of a trans-Asiatic railway ought to become to England one of the first necessities of the day, and he agreed with what the noble Lord the Member for Paddington had said, that if the further extension of our railway frontier system into Afghanistan was to be carried out, then we ought to consider whether Indian finances ought to bear the whole strain of the increased expenditure. It would be an interesting question to have discussed by a Committee of the House, What was the position of India in what might be called the Imperial Federation? He could not help thinking that India was treated very much worse by us than were our Colonies in regard to all questions of the defence of the Empire, and if a Committee of the House were to go into the question thoroughly, he thought it would be found that the people of this country would not grudge the expenditure even of a large sum of money for the purpose of completing overland communication with India, and in order to give the people of this country the advantages which the Russians were about to possess for themselves. But, meanwhile, we had to consider the question of the actual effect of what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley (Mr. Slagg) called "our new frontier policy" in increasing the taxation of the people of India. Well, he must say that he thought that the noble Lord the Member for Paddington took far too gloomy a view of the present financial state of India. The noble Lord had spoken as if India were on the eve of bankruptcy. The hon. Member for the Evesham Division of Worcestershire had given very wise reasons to show that this was not the case, and he (Mr. J. M. Maclean) might point out, in addition to the reasons that the hon. Member had given, that a great part of the expenditure 1167 which had caused an increase of taxation had taken place once for all. We had made those frontier railways; we had established these camps; we had paid enormous sums of money in nearly perfecting the scientific defence of our frontier, and that expenditure would not have to be incurred again. In the same way we might fairly hope that the great expenditure on the Army now maintained in Burmah would soon come to an end—that our troops, or a great proportion of them, would be released from service in that country, and that, in that way, a great source of expenditure would be stopped. Well, if that was the case, we might fairly expect to get back to the state of things which existed before the present year, when the Salt Tax was increased. Hon. Members opposite always seemed to forget that the increase of the Salt Tax was only going back to what was the state of taxation before Lord Ripon reduced the Salt Tax some six years ago. In fact, if the Salt Tax had not been reduced then, causing a loss to the Revenue of India at first of £1,500,000 and afterwards of £1,000,000 a-year for several years, there would have been enough money from the existing taxation of the country to pay for nearly the whole of the frontier defences. Lord Ripon had chosen to leave the money in the pockets of the people. He had thought there was no harm to be apprehended from Russia, and went to sleep in his Elysium at Simla until he was suddenly awakened by a thrust from a Cossack lance to the necessity of doing something to protect our frontier from the invasion of Russia. The Salt Tax had been discussed a good deal, both in the present debate and in the debate which took place a week or two ago by the hon. Member for Burnley and the hon. Member for Flintshire (Mr. S. Smith), a Gentleman whose credulity was as unbounded as the goodness of his heart, and who, when he went to India, was apparently passed on—like the delegates who went to Ireland—from one set of Indian Home Rulers to another, until he came back crammed to the eyes full of their views and opinions that India was being destroyed by English rule, and if they did not give her Home Rule the natives would not be able to live from one day to another. He (Mr. J. M. Maclean) had heard that 1168 statement made from gentlemen like the hon. Member for the last 25 years. India had been on the verge of bankruptcy every day during the whole of that period. Meanwhile the prosperity and standard of living in that country had been rising. In all outward show the prosperity of India would compare favourably with any country in the world at the present moment, and he did not think that the present slight increase in the Salt Tax would cause any appreciable burden to the Natives. It was stated that the Natives would prefer to return to the duties on cotton goods rather than have this Salt Tax; and the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington had spoken of the cruel wrong done to the people of India by the repeal of the Cotton Duties. Was the noble Lord of opinion that these Cotton Duties were paid by the manufacturers in Lancashire? If he was, he was labouring under a mistake, for, as a matter of fact, they were paid by the people who were the clothing in India. It was a heavier tax upon them to pay these duties on their clothing than it was to pay a fractional part of a fraction of a farthing for the pinch of salt which they eat every day. There was no comparison between the two modes of taxation; and another thing was that the people of India were accustomed to paying the Salt Duty, and disliked any strange form of taxation. The hon. Member for Barrow (Mr. Caine) said he was told by millowners out there—by very wealthy men—that they preferred a duty upon cotton goods, and that they themselves would be ready to submit to a corresponding Excise Tax on cotton of their own manufacture. No doubt they would. The rich inhabitants of India were all fond of indirect taxation; they would prefer that to an Income Tax. Free Trade had been called "The creed of enlightened selfishness," but Protection was certainly the creed of unenlightened selfishness, and was found all through India. The Natives were everywhere Protectionists. In the administration of the great city of Bombay he had always found that it was impossible to get wealthy Natives to vote for anything like direct taxes on their houses. They always wanted to put taxes on the commodities consumed by the whole community. For these 1169 reasons he thought that the Salt Tax would really give far less offence to the people of India—if that was what was desired—than would any other tax that could possibly be imposed, and he trusted that the increase which had now been made in it would be sufficient for the purpose for which it was imposed, and that if any further extension of our frontier defences was required, the whole question as to whether the cost should be paid entirely by the people of India, or whether we should pay it ourselves, would be considered by the House of Commons.
§ SIR EDWARD HAMLEY (Birkenhead)
said, he would not attempt to follow hon. Members opposite along the mysterious path by which they had sought to connect fortifications with morals, and the liquor traffic with the defence of the Empire; but lie would endeavour to show that our frontier system was not that absurd and extravagant policy which they would have us believe. The hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Slagg) thought we ought to defend India within its own frontier. He (Sir Edward Hamley) quite agreed that some years ago it might fairly have been maintained that the Indus, if not the best, was at any rate a sufficient frontier, for at that time we never took the Russian Army of the Caucasus into account. It was then behind the Caspian. Few ships traversed that sea, and the country between the Caspian and the Afghan frontier was, to a great extent, a barren waste, inhabited by hostile and warlike tribes of Turkomans. Therefore, we never took the Army of the Caucasus into account. Our attention was then fixed upon the Russian Army in Central Asia. It was a small army, and it was at a distance; and yet, small as it was and distant as it was, it managed to give us a remarkable warning. When the Congress of Berlin was sitting, Russia wished, for her own ends, to put pressure on England, and accordingly General Kauffmann, commander of the Russian forces in Central Asia, assembled a small Army on the frontiers of Bokhara, with the declared intention of marching to the frontier of Afghanistan. He preceded this march by an envoy to the Ameer of that time, and the envoy and the Ameer between them entered into a Treaty hostile to England, from which we continued to suffer for 1170 many years. This fact made it clear that Russia was prepared, whenever her policy needed it, to put pressure on England, through her Indian frontier, and that pressure would be enormously increased when, instead of a small Army operating from a distance, her vast resources would be brought to bear on us close at hand. Let us see what means Russia had of late years accumulated for the purpose. From Batoum, on the Black Sea, a railway now ran through the Caucasus to the Caspian, and the garrison of the Caucasus could easily put into the field an Army of 50,000 men, as was proved in the last war, and this Army of the Caucasus could be reinforced to any extent from Southern Russia. As to Northern Russia it was traversed by many canals and railways, which ran to different points on the Volga, which was the great waterway to the Caspian. Thus men and material could be concentrated to any extent on the Caspian. A few years ago there were few vessels on the Caspian; but now it was covered with steamers, owing to the great trade which had sprung up in the mineral oil with which the district abounded, and consequently troops could be transported to the other shore. On that shore there was a railway which had been persistently run towards the Afghan frontier, and the first point specially interesting to us which it reached was one end of the valley of the Heri Rud, at the other end of which stood the city of Herat. It was originally intended to push the railway along this valley, and if it was our present entrenched camp which had caused the design to be suspended, that work had already done us good service. Russia had then directed the railway upon Merv, whence it was continued to the Oxus, and was to be carried on through Bokhara to Samarcand; thus she would have the Army in Central Asia, and the Army in the Caucasus in direct communication with each other, and the whole of the forces in that country could be combined for a general advance upon the Afghan frontier. The people in the country were no longer hostile to Russia; they had been conquered, and they were willing to become her auxiliaries. General Skobeleff, who reduced them to submission, had left a memorandum respecting the invasion of India, in one passage of which he said he would 1171 propose to organize masses of Asiatic cavalry, and hurl them against the frontier of India under the banner of blood and rapine, and thus bring back the times of Tamerlane. He (Sir Edward Hamley) had no doubt that programme would have an attraction for those truculent horsemen, who had hitherto lived by violence and plunder, and the probabilities were, that if we should see the Russian army advancing upon India, it would be preceded by swarms of Turkoman cavalry. Considering these facts, it would be seen that Russia had had a great, a deliberate plan—a stupendous plan if they considered the extent of the space and the interests involved—a plan which she had been executing with astonishing constancy; and whatever else might be thought about Russia, they must admit that she seemed to be a Power that knew her own mind. If we were to let her alone and allow her to do as she pleased, the chances were that if she found occasion to threaten our frontier, she would begin by an invasion of Afghanistan, and when she had possessed herself of the three corner cities of Herat, Cabul, and Candahar, she would in the space between them proceed to create an advanced base of operations, by filling it with immense supplies of men and material for a campaign against India. This was the problem that our Indian officers had had to face. The frontier of the Indus for the upper half of its length had beyond it a great mass of mountain country, pierced only by passes 200 or 300 miles long; it thus formed a natural rampart, and so long as we watched the issues of the passes on the Indus an invader could only seek to penetrate there at his own peril. But the lower half of the frontier, down to Kurrachee, was a great plain stretching to Candahar. If we were to await Russia behind the Indus, we should certainly, in the event he was imagining, find her sending her troops across the plain, and should she succeed in placing herself on the river there she would sever our Army either from its base at Kurrachee, or from Bengal, which would be a most serious, and possibly a fatal, injury. Besides that, our Indian officers were agreed that nothing could be more dangerous than to sustain even the slightest reverse upon the soil of India. 1172 He had another authority to the same effect, and that was General Skobeleff—Everybody," said Skobeleff, "who has concerned himself with the question of a Russian invasion of India would declare that it is only necessary to penetrate a single point of the Indian frontier to bring about a general rising. Even the presence of an insignificant force on the frontier of India might lead to a general rising throughout the country, and the collapse of the British Empire.Not only was Skobeleff a great fighting soldier; he was a scientific soldier who well knew the politics of war. The hon. Member for Burnley was of a different opinion; but Indian officers thought with General Skobeleff that our line of defence should be pushed on, and it was fortunate that we had a country suited to carrying our resources forward from the Indus. The railway ran from Kurrachee up the bank of the Indus, meeting the railway coming from Calcutta and passing on, so that they would be able to concentrate on that point of junction at Sukkur the resources of Bengal on the one side, and the resources from England by Kurrachee on the other. From this point the railway ran on to beyond Pishin and Quetta, and they were now engaged in constructing an intrenched camp which would enable an Army there to defend itself against an enemy of much greater force, and to protect this important line of communication. The railway operations from Kurrachee to the frontier, and the defensive works in connection with them were a work of some finality, for they might hope that it would give tranquillity to India for generations. If the hon. Member for Burnley would candidly reconsider the case, he thought the hon. Member would see that with this short line from England to Kurrachee, and thence to the last point within our own frontier, we possessed admirable means for defending India. The Amram Range was only four or five marches from Candahar, and in case Russia should attempt to make a great advanced base of operations in Afghanistan, surely it would not be considered an offensive or aggressive movement on our part to endeavour to prevent her, and as we should be so much nearer to Candahar than she, we could always anticipate her. What an advantage it would be to transfer the war into a country which 1173 afforded admirable defensive positions, and to meet Russia with the support of our Afghan allies. That was not all that was to be said for this railway. When Sir Frederick Roberts and Sir Donald Stewart were making their campaign in Afghanistan, they drew their supplies of pack animals of all sorts from the neighbouring districts of India, and the destruction of those animals was shocking and horrible. Sir Donald Stewart, writing to him on the subject, said—The experience of the last war proved conclusively that without railways the movement of large bodies of troops in the region before and adjoining the frontier becomes well nigh an impossibility. We contrived to get along, no doubt, but at what cost and at what sacrifice to human and animal life! It is appalling to think of the sacrifice of animals that the Afghan war cost us, and I doubt if the country has yet recovered these losses—I mean the loss of camels and pack animals.He (Sir Edward Hamley) in fact believed there could be little doubt that the railway could have been made at less cost than the sacrifice of these animals. But that was not all, because the districts from which these animals were taken had not yet recovered the loss thereby entailed upon trade and agriculture. He trusted that there were many people in the House and the country who would consider that this decried frontier policy was really a wise and sagacious policy, that it was the reverse of aggressive, and that if we were to hold India at all it must be held by that plan, and by no other, and, as it was indispensable for the security of India, the best thing we could hope for was that it should be completed with all possible expedition.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
said, they were all indebted to his hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Slagg)for an interesting debate, though he was bound to admit that it would have been better if the Resolution had not linked together two subjects distinct from one another, each of which might well have occupied an evening. He had been much struck with the clearness of the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Birkenhead (Sir Edward Hamley); but he thought that exactly the same arguments which were used to explain the advance of Russia might be used to explain the steady advance of England in India. In reality 1174 it was not of set purpose that the English had conquered India: they had been led on to conquer it; and the same was largely true of Russia in Central Asia. He refused to believe that our officers and civilians in India were really of opinion that the appearance of Russia on the frontier would be the signal for a general insurrection. To believe that would be to cast an unjust and unworthy reflection upon the loyalty of our Indian fellow-subjects. There was no ground for saying that there would be general disaffection even if Russia were at the gates of the Suliman range. But whatever the views of Members individually might be, either with regard to the purposes of Russia or with regard to the loyalty of our Indian subjects, they all agreed that the North-West Frontier of India ought to be put into the same condition of defence as if it was certain that Russia desired to attack it, and that a revolt in our rear might be dreaded. But the question which they had now to ask themselves was whether they would be justified in sanctioning the expenditure of £1,500,000 for the purpose of piercing the Khojak Tunnel. That was an expenditure which the revenues of India could scarcely bear, and it must also be borne in mind that when we should have reached the level plain leading to Candahar the temptation to go on to Candahar itself would be almost irresistible, and the dangers and responsibilities, political as well as military, of such an advance would be very great indeed. Those were the two main grounds upon which hon. Members objected to this expenditure of £1,500,000. The view of the House in 1881—a view affirmed by a large majority—ought not to be forgotten. It was that the political results of the occupation of Candahar and of the consequent breaking up of Afghanistan would be far too serious to be lightly faced, and would outweigh any advantages that might accrue from such a course of action. In connection with the subject of the Indian liquor traffic, he wished to lay before the House some facts relating to the attempts to introduce the use of liquors into Upper Burmah. Under the Native Monarchs the use both of opium and of ardent spirits was prohibited in accordance with the precepts of Buddhism, and nothing was more rare than to see a drunken person in the 1175 street. The few Chinese who were under Native jurisdiction were allowed to smoke opium and consume liquor, but the prohibition was enforced in the case of the Burmese themselves, and practically there was no consumption of liquor before we annexed the country. After the annexation in 1886 it was found that money was wanted, and the idea occurred to British officials of introducing the system of licensing the sale of spirits and granting a monopoly of opium. The officers in charge of districts in Upper Burmah were consulted by the Government, and they returned answers adverse to the proposal—they advised that it would be better to leave things as they were. He had been assured on high authority that, the Native view was also opposed to the plan. This took place early last year, and as far back as April last, in spite of the advice given by the officers, a certain number of licences were issued for the sale of spirits and opium. He questioned the India Office in July last, and was promised information, but none had been so far given. Returns on the subject were ordered by the House last August. Recently he (Mr. Bryce) addressed some questions relating to this matter to the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for India (Sir John Gorst), who, however, did not appear to have received any additional information. The House had reason to complain of this inordinate delay, which, however, he did not believe to be owing to the Office at home, but to some functionaries in India, who seemed to desire to keep the House of Commons in the dark in regard to this subject. It was said that these licences were to be granted in order to regulate the traffic, but it did not appear to him that the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for India had met the case of his hon. Friend the Member for Barrow (Mr. Caine). If the licences tended to diminish the consumption, how was it that the consumption steadily increased? It appeared to him that in Upper Burmah, at any rate, it was the pressure of the cost of administration and the desire to relieve the Central Government of India which led to the expedient of granting licences being resorted to. He hoped that the India Office had been frank and candid in saying that revenue was no part of the 1176 object in the granting these licences. But what, then, was the motive? Why, n Upper Burmah, did the British officers in charge of districts, as well as the Native Burmese, object if the tendency was to diminish consumption? It must have been because they feared that the introduction of the Indian licence system would have the effect of stimulating the use of opium and spirits. The House used to hear a great deal before we annexed Burmah about the massacres by King The baw and the tyranny and oppression that went on under the Native Kings of Burmah; but the harm done by a King of Burmah during the whole of his reign would not be as great as the demoralization of the people, which seemed likely to be introduced by this licence system. This was not a case in which there was any danger of illicit manufacture or sale to apprehend from refusing the licences, because—as he had said—before the annexation there was little or no consumption amongst the Natives of spirits or opium. Therefore this country was open to the reproach of introducing vices which were scarcely known before. He trusted the matter would have the serious attention of the Government, and that hon. Members recognizing the heavy responsibility that lay upon England in regard to these comparatively weak Indo-Chinese races, would do their utmost to prevent the traffic both in opium and in spirits from taking root in our newly-conquered territories.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir JAMES FERGUSSON) (Manchester, N.E.)
said, he thought that it would not be necessary for him to do more than answer one or two of the questions which had been raised in the course of the discussion since the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for India (Sir John Gorst) spoke, because he considered that the Motion of the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Slagg) had been pretty effectually disposed of by speakers who had preceded him. In his (Sir James Fergusson's) opinion the Motion in itself was one of the strangest which had ever been put on the Motion Paper of the House. It contained irreconcilable matters and an absolute fallacy. He had observed that the hon. Member had given Notice of a Motion of a simple 1177 character—namely, to call attention to the frontier policy of the Government, and to move a Resolution with regard to the existing financial difficulties. That morning, however, the matter of intoxicating liquors had been introduced, and this was absolutely fatal to the logical character of the Motion, since this excise was of a local character and devoted to local objects, and so could not have anything to do with the frontier policy of the Government. But matters had emerged from the somewhat common place level at which they had been left by the hon. Gentleman the Mover of this Motion. The Motion of the hon. Member had elicited some interesting speeches from great Indian authorities, and he ventured also to hope that the effect of these speeches would be to remove from the mind of the hon. Member some deeply-rooted prejudices which he had expressed, not for the first time. The hon. Member seemed to think that the Government of India did not exist or labour for the benefit of the Natives of India, that their policy was founded on prejudice and carried on in a spirit contrary to the true interests of the Natives.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
said, that such was the purport of the hon. Member's speech. With regard to the frontier policy of the Government, the hon. Member wholly disapproved it. The hon. Member was under this misfortune, that he believed that the Government had carried their railway into Afghanistan, and that they were at this moment occupying that country. That belief had been shown by the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for India to be absolutely unfounded. We were well within our own frontier; and in answer to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Clitheroe Division of Lancaster (Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttle-worth), who had put the question, he would say that there was no question of having any intention to cross the British frontier. They had established communications which made that frontier a strong one, but without any intention of passing beyond that frontier. He contended that there was not the slightest ground for the idea that in strengthening the frontier of India we were either holding out a defiance to any other Power or manifesting any distrust of the in- 1178 tentions of any other Power. They did not express any distrust of the honesty or good faith of their neighbours by putting their frontier in a proper state of defence. They did not express distrust of their neighbours in France because they maintained forts at Dover. No country would be wise if it did not maintain its frontiers in such a state of defence that at all times it would be prepared for any emergency which might occur. It was absolutely contrary to the policy of Her Majesty's Government and the Government of India to say that the construction of a well-defined scientific frontier was any defiance to, or expressed any mistrust of, any other nation in the world. But in the last few years, when it had been necessary to strengthen the defences of India, the public credit had been greatly improved thereby and very gratifying results had followed. Some of the great feudatories of the Empire had made expressions of loyalty and offers of support of which he thought this country was very sensible, and which went far to prove that our government of India had not been distasteful to the Natives of India. The admirable speeches of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Evesham Division of Worcester (Sir Richard Temple), himself a great Indian statesman, and of the hon. and gallant Member for Birkenhead (Sir Edward Hamley), a great scientific soldier, had placed this question upon a just footing, and shown that the Government of India was not narrow or short-sighted, bat far-reaching and statesmanlike. He (Sir James Fergusson) did not think anything had been said to give any support to the purport of the Motion which had been moved, to the effect that that House mistrusted the frontier policy of the Government of India. It was true that there had been an increase of expenditure on account of these precautions. It was a pity they had not been taken sooner, because, to his personal knowledge, the burdens on the resources of India had been largely caused by the want of railways which were now completed. In 1885, when certain precautionary measures had been necessary, immense expenses had been incurred for the transport of troops which would have been avoided if railways had existed then which existed now. The construction of these railways had enormously strengthened 1179 the resources of India. He would have been glad to have avoided the bathos of reverting to the Excise question; but he was compelled to notice the remarks of the hon. Member for South Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce), who had somewhat unjustly referred to the measures of the Government of India with respect to Burmah. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for India had not been able to inform the House fully as to the licences to be given in Burmah, and he might add that the Government of India had given stringent orders that no opium licences were to be given in Burmah, except in parts where there was a Chinese population. There was a distinct difference between the encouragement and the regulation of the sale of liquor. It was only a question whether the sale of opium and liquor should be under regulation ox not. Therefore, giving licences to places where there were no Burmans was not, as had been represented, encouraging the Burmans to practices from which they were happily free. The hon. Member for Flintshire (Mr. Samuel Smith) had quoted from a pamphlet on India which he had endorsed in a preface, and in which the writer quoted an official despatch purporting to come from the Secretary of State to the Government of India, in which it was questioned whether the temperance movement should be permitted to spread. The Papers before Parliament showed that the expressions attributed to the Secretary of State were from a despatch of the Acting Commissioner of Customs to the Chief Secretary, and it was not stated that this was a temperance movement, but a strike against the high rate of licences on liquor and spirits imposed by the Government of Bombay. Those interested in the profits from the sale of spirits at a cheaper rate, disliking the high rate of duty, had intimidated people into refusing to use spirits. Hon. Members who spent a month in India should be cautious in taking up ideas and believing stories against Englishmen who were administering the affairs of the country under very great difficulties, and, he believed, with a high sense of duty and every desire to ameliorate the condition of the people. To his personal knowledge they had accomplished with very scanty means a great deal in the cause of the amelioration of the condition of the people of India, 1180 and he would ask the House to reject decisively the Motion of the hon. Member for Burnley.
§ MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh S.)
said, that before the Motion went to a Division, he should like to explain the way in which he regarded it. Two days ago, two distinct Motions were before the House—one by the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Slagg), raising the whole question of the frontier policy of India, and the other by the hon. Member for Barrow (Mr. Caine) calling the attention of the House to what had happened in connection with the liquor traffic. He (Mr. Childers) would have supported the Motion of the hon. Member for Barrow; but now the two Motions on entirely different questions had been merged into one, and the way in which frontier policy and the liquor traffic were now mixed up placed him in a somewhat difficult position. He could not vote for a Motion in which they were asked to condemn, as unwise, our frontier policy. As one who was responsible for our Indian policy two or three years ago, it was impossible for him to condemn the frontier policy, as settled then and but slightly modified since, as unwise. The declaration which had just been made by the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, that the railway, although carried through the Khojak Tunnel, would not pass beyond the Indian frontier, took away any doubt he might have had as to these recent modifications, and he therefore must abstain from supporting his hon. Friend (Mr. Slagg).
§ Question, "That the Question be now put," put accordingly, and agreed to.
That, in the opinion of this House, the unwise Frontier Policy of the Government of India is producing grave financial difficulties in that country, leading not only to increased burdens of taxation, but to the extension of the sale of intoxicating liquors for Revenue purposes, with serious results to the moral and material welfare of the people."—(Mr. Slagg.)
§ The House divided:—Ayes 72; Noes 122: Majority 50.—(Div. List, No. 37.)