§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Sir J. GORST,) Chatham
Mr. Courtney, I am very glad that the House of Commons at last has an opportunity of considering the finances of India as a whole, because the fragmentary discussion of Indian questions in this House is exceedingly dangerous to the financial stability of that country. I may remind the Committee that we have already had three definite proposals relating to India placed before the House of Commons during the present Session. The first and second were two successive attacks upon great items of revenue, inviting the Government of India to reduce the salt duty and to surrender the opium revenue in order to meet the sentimental views of Members of this House; and the third definite proposal was that the Government of India should increase its expenditure in a direction which the friends of India have always said is obnoxious to the people of India—namely, on its home charges. The only proposition made this Session in the direction of economy was that made by the Secretary of State for effecting a small economy in the home charges by a reduction of the number of members of the Council of India. That proposal was met in this House by the "friends of India "with the most determined opposition, and nothing but what I may call the phenomenal courtesy of hon. Members opposite allowed that very small measure to become law. Now, Mr. Courtney, I must begin by calling attention to the "Explanatory Memorandum" which has been already in the hands of Members for some six weeks, and in which statement I have to make certain corrections in consequence of the receipt of more recent intelligence. The Committee will bear in mind that in the discussion of this evening we have three years to deal with. First, we have the year ending March 31, 1888, which is the immediate object of the Resolution to be moved from the Chair, and as to which the accounts are closed and completed and now laid before Parliament. Then there is the year ending March 31, 1889, as to which we have the 611 revised Estimates; and although I shall be able to-night to inform the House with a tolerable approach to accuracy how the accounts of that year precisely stand, yet they are not finally closed. Lastly, we have the year ending March 31, 1890, as to which the state of the accounts is more or less a matter of conjecture. In regard to the first year I have little to add to what is found in my Memorandum. There is a deficit of Rx.2,028,832. That deficit, I may observe, only differs by Rx.68,032 from the deficit I predicted when I made my statement to the House a little more than 12 months ago. There have been criticisms in the public Press, asking why, when the accounts are closed on March 31, it is not possible by the middle or end of August to make a statement of account which should be absolutely accurate, and I have more than once explained to the Committee why that is impossible. There are a great number of local Treasury accounts, railway accounts, and other accounts, which are not audited till November or December; and consequently the accounts cannot be absolutely and finally made up till then. Therefore, it is not possible in August to describe the final accounts of the Government of India with absolute accuracy. But last year the variation of the expenditure was less than one-fourth per cent, and the variation in the net revenue less than one-tenth per cent. I should like also to remind the Committee that I fully explained last year the causes of the deficit in 1887–88, and I should like to remind the Committee that of the deficit of Rx.2,000,000, more than half was not a deficit at all. A sum of more than a million came into course of payment during that particular year, in consequence of the carrying out of the extremely useful conversion scheme, by which upwards of £50,000,000 were converted from 4 per cent into 3½ per cent stock; and therefore the real deficit of 1887–8 that we have to regret is somewhat less than Rx.1,000,000. We now come to the year ending March 31, 1889. The Budget Estimates for the year 1888–9 showed a deficit of Rx.698,000. But when I came to make my statement to the Committee last August, gloomy as was the prospect, I was obliged to draw a still blacker picture of the future of 612 Indian Finance. I predicted that there would be a deficit in the year ending March 31, 1889, of no less than Rx.1,540,000. I am happy to say, however, that my gloomy prognostications have not been verified. In March last the Government of India were able to announce that the deficit would only be Rx.201,700. The real cause of the great discrepancy between my prophecy in August last and its realisation was that the rupee, which we were afraid would fall to 16d., only fell to 16⅜. That is a very good illustration of what I may call the gambling character at the present day of Indian finance. It is impossible for any person, however experienced, to have the slightest real knowledge of the vagaries of the exchange, which may entirely upset all calculations. I am very happy to be able to announce that even the moderate deficit expected in March will not be realised, because the telegrams received from India show an improvement since then in the Revenue of Rx.17,700, and a diminution in the expenditure of Rx. 194,300, making a total financial improvement of Rx.212,000, which turns the estimated deficiency of Rx.201,700 into a little surplus of Rx.10,300, so that what was estimated in August last to end in a deficiency of Rx. 1,500,000 turns out to produce a surplus. I come now to the current year 1889–90 for which the Budget Estimate was made, and the Committee will see from the "Explanatory Memorandum "which I have circulated that the surplus at the time when the Budget statement was made in Calcutta was estimated at Rx. 106,300. Now, some financial critics find fault with my Memorandum because in it I take the figures as they were known to the Government of India in March last, when the Budget statement was made; while the figures have now to be corrected by experience gained since. When I prepared my Memorandum early in July, it was accurate according to the knowledge we had at that time; but it necessitated another correction to be made when I should come to make my present oral statement to the Committee. I hold that it was better not to issue a further printed statement, but to make the correction once for all in my vivâ voce statement. No doubt it would have been a good thing to have a 613 more accurate printed statement, but the difficulty is to know when the printed statement will be taken into consideration by the House. My Memorandum was circulated on the 15th of July, when we ail expected the Session to close on the 31st of July. [Laughter.] There was a very wide feeling, indeed, among Members that the Session would come to an early close in the last week in that month. But now we are in the last week in August, six weeks after the statement was issued, and two months since it was prepared, so I shall have to make the corrections to which I have referred. I know that these Indian figures are extremely perplexing when Members have several sets of figures to carry in their minds, but if it was the wish of the Committee to have a double set of corrections, I have no doubt they could b9 prepared. Now, the estimated surplus for 1889–90, according to the more recent figures we have received by telegraph from India, becomes one of Rx.693,300. I am sorry to say I have made a mistake, and the proper surplus is Rx.414,000.
§ SIR J. GORST
I am comparing the Budget Estimate for 1889–90 with the Revised Estimate for 1888–9, which gives an improvement not of Rx.414,000, but of Rx.308,000, when increases of expenditure are set against increases of revenue. As to these latter the chief increase has been in salt, which is taken at Rx.313,200 more than in 1888–9; in Provincial rates, Rx.240,100; inland revenue, Rx.99,200; and under other heads, Rx. 1,600. Hon. Members cheered when I referred to the salt revenue. I think they might have waited to hear the cause of this increase, because the increase is occasioned owing to the dealers having expected at the end of the financial year that there would be a diminution of the tax; and they therefore allowed their stocks to run low. Their expectation was not realised, and therefore they had to take out large stocks of salt, and so enhance the salt revenue. It is in consequence of this that the revenue is greater than it otherwise would have been. I do not know that I need refer to any other subject in connection with this part of the Budget estimate. [After a pause.] I am afraid 614 that even now I have not given the figures quite clearly. According to the figures recently received by telegraph there is a net improvement in the Accounts of Rx.587,000, as compared with the figures given in the Explanatory Memorandum; which makes the total surplus, as now estimated, Rx.693,300, the amount I stated at first. The improvements on the figures in the Explanatory Memorandum are under Land Revenue, Stamps, Customs and Opium; in respect of which latter there is both an increase in revenue and a decrease in expenditure. There is also, however, a variation in the exchange, which must be taken at 1s. 6 3/16d., instead of 1s. 3⅜d., which brings out the total net improvement at Rx.587,000.
§ SIR J. GORST
Over Rx.250,000; and the surplus now estimated is Rx.693,300. A sum of no less than Rx. 1,102,900 has been spent upon special defence works, and if it were not for this expenditure the surplus of the year would be Rx.1,796,200. I do not think that is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs. I do not see the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy who has a Resolution on the Paper in his place; but, perhaps, some Friend will tell him that the position of Indian finance is not so extremely unsatisfactory as that gentleman would like the House to infer. I think when you find that, in spite of the expenditure on special defence, in spite of the falls of the rupee, and in spite of the burden which has been imposed on India by the expenditure in Upper Burma—when you find that, in spite of all these adverse influences, in the year just closed there is a small surplus, and that there is a surplus of Rx. 693,300 anticipated during the current year, you cannot call that a very unsatisfactory financial position. Now, having printed my statement for the use of the Committee, and having made these supplementary statements, I do not want and I should not be justified in wearying the Committee with any further exposition of figures, but I dare say the Committee will allow me before I sit down to make one or two general observations upon some of the great items of Revenue and Expenditure, which may be useful in the discussion which is likely to ensue. The first thing I want to say a word about 615 is salt. Now, in the financial statement made by Sir D. Barbour in March last he anticipated a possible falling off in the consumption of salt in 1888–9. The statistics, however, prove that in India proper the consumption of salt in the year when the tax was put on was as nearly as possible the same as in the previous year, and that neither the expectations of Sir D. Barbour nor the startling anticipations of some hon. Members of this House have been realised in the falling off in the salt consumption. The actual figures are these—in the whole of India, excluding Burmab, the consumption in the year 1887–8 was 31,186,000 maunds; in 1888–9 the consumption was 31,184,000 maunds, there being a reduction in 1888–9 of 2,000 maunds only. In Burma, on the other hand, the reduction was very great indeed. The reduction there was from 1,931,000 to 314,000 maunds, which was, no doubt, an enormous reduction; but then the hon. Member who cheers that, must remember that in Burma the duty was raised from three annas to a rupee, and that there is no doubt that, the import of salt fish being duty free, the consumption of salt fish has largely displaced the consumption of salt. The Burmese peasant has consumed the duty free salt fish instead of British salt, which has caused an extreme falling off in the consumption of salt without any hardship whatever to the consumer. There is nothing shocks me more than the extraordinary statements made by people who ought to know better about this salt duty in India. I admit it is a matter of regret having to raise the duty on salt at all, but it is not the gigantic and enormous evil which sensational newspapers and sensational Members of Parliament describe. The fact is the operations of the Government in India during the past 10 or 15 years have reduced the price of salt to the consumers, and particularly the poor consumers, far more than taxation has increased it. Turning to the book published at Calcutta by the Department of Finance and Commerce, referring to prices and wages in India, I find that the purchasing power of the rupee in relation to salt is very much greater now than in 1877. A much larger quantity of salt can be bought for a rupee now than was the case in 1877, 616 showing that the Government of India, by its railways, by its canals, by opening up new resources in the interior of the country, has lowered the price of salt very much more than taxation has raised it; and that if you take the Government of India, with its advantages and disadvantages, it has on the whole not increased the price of salt to the unhappy ryot, but greatly diminished it. I should like also to remind the Committee that Bengal and Burma derive the greater part of their salt, not from India but from Liverpool, and that any increase of the price of salt in either Burma or Bengal may be in some part attributed to the salt ring, which raised the export price from 7s. to 14s. per ton, and that possibly some of the opprobrium which is heaped on the Government of India might be more justly applied to the combination referred to. The next subject is the cost of the Civil Departments. One hears a good deal of general declamation about the extravagance of the Government of India, accompanied by general exhortations to economy and retrenchment. Now, I do not think people ever reflect that in every civilised State there are always two antagonistic operations going on. On the one hand there is always a cry for revision of establishments and for reduction of expenditure; and on the other there is always a tendency to increase Government, expenditure and Government establishments in consequence of the demand that Government should do more work tor the people. The Finance Committee in India has gone carefully over the different kinds of Civil expenditure, and has recommended a vast number of reductions under various heads. I could give the House some examples of these recommendations—the Public Works Department, Rx.275,700; the Ecclesiastical Establishment, Rx.31,000; and various Civil Departments, Rx.42,220; the Army Department, Rx.161,050; political charges, Rx.48,945; and miscellaneous, Rx.10,795. These are illustrations of the minute criticism to which the expenditure of the various Departments has been submitted, and of the reductions which the Finance Committee recommend. It may, perhaps, in the course of the Debate, be asked whether these reductions have been carried out. I A great number of them have, but of 617 course it is in many cases impossible to carry out a contemplated reform at once. A despatch, however, has been sent by the Secretary of State asking that a statement may be submitted to him showing which of the recommendations have been carried out and which not, and setting forth the reasons why these latter have not been taken in hand. If any hon. Member, therefore, requires any information on this point next Session, I shall probably be in a position to give it to him in the fullest detail. When complaints are made of the large expenditure of the Government of India I should like hon. Members to reflect on the wide range and the immense extensions of the functions of that Government. There are the railways, which are largely increasing year by year; there are the telegraph and post office services, which are being largely extended; schools are being established everywhere; there are reforms in the police, and a great increase in the expenditure on law and justice and in the Agricultural and other Departments. It must also be borne in mind that the population of India is increasing by a million per annum. In view of this large increase of population and of the increasing demands upon the Government to do more and more for the people, it is ridiculous for the House to expect that an increase of expenditure can be avoided. Paraphrasing what was once a watchword of the Liberal Party, I would say—such expenditure has increased, is increasing, and ought not to be diminished. I now desire to say a word or two regarding what is known as the Famine Insurance Fund. Ever since I have had the honour of filling the position of Under Secretary for India, I have struggled and striven in vain to explain to the House what this Famine Insurance Fund is, but apparently with little effect, for I have found hon. Gentlemen as well informed as the hon. Member for Northampton getting up and speaking of it as if the Fund consisted of an immense sum of money of which the Secretary of State was the absolute treasurer, and which he had embezzled. As I have over and over again explained, the Fund is the result of a scheme to maintain a certain surplus to be devoted to the reduction of debt and to the construction of rail- 618 way and irrigation works likely to prevent the recurrence of famine, and to secure its mitigation should it occur. We have been able for a number of years to obtain this surplus, and during each of those years every penny of that surplus has been properly and justly expended in accordance with the scheme. [MR. MAC NEILL: Oh!] Yes, the money has each year been expended, and a Return showing this has been laid upon the Table of the House.
MR. MAC NEILL (Donegal, S.)
It was never spent in the year of the Afghan War at all.
§ SIR J. GORST
In 1881, the surplus of £1,567,000 was expended; in 1881–2, £1,495,000; in 1883, £1,522,000; and in 1884, £1,548,000; and in 1885, £1,529,000. Whenever there has been a surplus it has been expended. But when the time comes as it has now when there is no excess of Revenue over Expenditure, then the only way of obtaining a surplus is to reduce expenditure —which I have shown is not feasible in India—or to increase the Revenue by taxation. I shall be very glad if any other course can be pointed out to us. With regard to the expenditure on Army services, I desire to point out that the increase is in one respect only apparent owing to the increase in the exchange. There has, however, been a real increase, and this has been due to the fact that the Army in India was four years ago increased. There is one more subject I should like to mention. The special defence works have been a great drain on the resources of India. It must be borne in mind that they are of very great importance to the country. These special defence works were proposed at the close of the year 1884, and they were then estimated to be likely to cost Rx.6,000,000, exclusive of other charges. A comprehensive plan was prepared in 1884, by which it was proposed to make a network of frontier railways and frontier roads, and to expend Rx.6,000,000 on roads and fortifications and other defence works exclusive of railways. Up to the present time the frontier railways have cost Rx.10,500,000, and the special defence works Rx. 3,000,000. There remains, to complete the plan, an expenditure of Rx.750,000 on railways, and Rx.2,500,000 on special defence works. There has also been 619 spent on defensive military roads, as part of the ordinary public works expenditure, Rx.750,000. The Committee will therefore see that although large sums have already been spent upon defence works, we shall have to expend at least two and a half millions more before they are complete. I do not know that this is the proper occasion to discuss the policy of works of this kind; but I may perhaps remind the Committee that the works have been approved by successive Governments belonging to both parties in the House; and that the expenditure on these works is regarded by the Government of India as one of the most necessary and valuable outlays of public money that can take place, because it is above all things essential that India should have security and peace, and the object of this expenditure is to make India, as far as fortifications and railways and roads can do so, a place where the maintenance of peace shall be secure. The last subject in connection with the accounts on which I want to say a word is that of a Provincial finance. It is a subject which hardly comes under the notice of the Committee in the same way as Imperial finance; but really Provincial finance is by far the more important element in the prosperity of the people of India. It is rather a remarkable thing that the efforts of the Party opposite in this House are generally directed, as far as Indian politics are concerned, towards a system of the greatest possible centralisation ["No"] as distinguished from local administration. It is very remarkable that in these days, when both Parties profess the greatest desire for local self-government, and when the zeal for local self-government is carried so far as, in our opinion, to threaten the dismemberment of the Empire—it is very odd that in this House hon. Members like the hon. Member for Northampton, who claims to be the representative of the millions in India, should rather aim at the construction of a great centralised Indian nation ["No"] than at the separation of India into its natural component parts, and at the creation of a great number of separate and distinct nations in the several Provinces of India. But the course of events is too strong for them. There is no chance, as far as one can judge, of anything like a centralised Indian nation. There 620 is every probability of a great number of distinct and varied communities being formed, and, so far as finance goes, of a very thorough decentralisation. The Provinces of India now receive 26½ per cent of the whole revenue of India, and they spend 36½ per cent of the Indian expenditure. The Central Imperial Government restricts its expenditure to such matters as interest on debt, the Army, opium, Post Office, Telegraph Office, the greater part of the railways, and all the military works. The Provincial Governments have, generally speaking, the whole of the domestic expenditure in their hands. They have the whole duty of collecting the revenue, except the revenue from salt and opium; they control the expenditure on the administration of justice, and on schools, gaols, and medical sanitary works; and the greater part of the irrigation works, and the whole of the civil roads and bridges all over the country, are in their hands. In order to enable the Provincial Governments to carry out these works there is concluded with them what is called the Provincial contract, which is a five years' arrangement, under which the Provincial Governments collect the whole of the revenue, except that derived from opium and salt, and hand a fixed portion over to the Imperial Government, keeping the rest for defraying the expenditure to which I have alluded. Every Province keeps, for example, three-quarters of the whole Stamp Revenue, a quarter of the Excise Revenue, the whole of its Provincial rates, a half of the revenue derived from assessed taxes, forests, and registration; and they also have a percentage of the Land Revenue, which varies from Province to Province according to the amount required to make up the sum for additional expenditure. The Land Revenue retained by the North-West Provinces is 22 per cent, Madras 27 per cent, British Burma 34 per cent, Bengal 38 per cent, Punjab 43 per cent, the Central Provinces 48 per cent, Assam 50 per cent, and Bombay 58½ per cent. It will be quite apparent to the Committee that ail the comfort of the people, all the liberty and prosperity of the people of India, depend upon the good administration of the Provincial finances. The greater Imperial questions are under the control of the Central Govern- 621 ment, but all that which relates to the personal happiness, the private life, and the individual prosperity of the various peoples of India depends upon the efficient administration of the local finances. It is the settled policy of the Government of India to encourage as much as possible independence on the part of the various Provincial Governments. The wants and the necessities of the people vary from Province to Province. It is impossible to administer the affairs of India on one hard and uniform rule; and the policy of the Government for many years past has been to encourage as much as possible the legislative and administrative independence of the different Provinces, so that the Government may bo shaped and framed in accordance with the necessities of the people. In conclusion, I will refer to the transactions in regard to the debt of India which were carried out during the past year. The conversion of £53,261,820 Four per Cent Stock is now complete. It is reduced to 3½ per cent. The whole cost of the operation is now paid for, and the saving henceforth to the revenues of India by the operation will be £266,300 per annum. The Government of India has also just converted Rx. 1,787,540 from 4½ per cent to 4 per cent. The operation was carried out with the greatest possible success. Less than Rx.200,000 were demanded in cash; and there is a saving to the Indian Exchequer of about Rx.89,000 per annum. The usual loan for public works in India has taken two crores of rupees. It was negotiated at 99.93, compared with 99.79 last year. In this country, under the Act which Parliament passed last year, 3½ millions was borrowed to lend to the Railway Companies. That sum was borrowed at 3 per cent at a rate little over 101. The money was lent to the companies at 3¼ per cent, and thus the Government reaped a small profit of £8,750 a year. With regard to the prosperity of the country, the Committee will observe from the statistics contained in my printed Memorandum that the exports were 6½ millions over those of the previous year, which exports were the largest up to that time; and the imports 4½ millions over those of the previous year, which were, till then, the largest on record. That is satisfactory evidence of the material prosperity of the 622 country; and I think I may invite the Committee respectfully but very firmly to reject the gloomy view foreshadowed in the Resolution which the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy has given notice of his intention to move, and to take the more sanguine view which I have ventured to lay before the Committee.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That it appears, by the Accounts laid before this House, that the Total Revenue of India for the year ending the 31st day of March, 1888, was Rx.78,759,744; that the Total Expenditure in India and in England charged to Revenue was Rx.80,788,576; that there was an excess of Expenditure over Revenue of Rx.2,028,832; and that the Capital Outlay on Railways and Irrigation Works was Rx.2,781,824.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
I have placed on the Paper notice of my intention to move an Amendment expressive of the deep regret of the House that the accounts have not been laid before it at a period when they could be properly debated. I do not propose to move that Amendment, because the state of the House is such that no Division on it could accurately represent the feeling of the House upon it; and if I did divide, it might go forth to the people of India that a very large number of Members had no regard whatever for the Indian people, and that a very small number of Members of this House thought their affairs ought to come before Parliament for discussion. Therefore, while making as I do a most earnest protest—a protest which, I believe, would be joined in by Members on the other side of the House as well as by Members on this side, if it were not for Party exigencies at this late period of the Session—I desire to give it especial emphasis because of the fact that the modification in the new Rules of Procedure during the last two years has deprived those who desire to present to this House any statement or criticism of any opportunity whatever of doing so, unless such opportunity is furnished by the action of the Ballot. Even if a Member happens to be fortunate enough, as I was early this Session, of obtaining first place for a Motion dealing with the affairs of India, it may be that the Government will take away the opportunity which the Ballot has given him. India stands here in an entirely different position from any other part of the dependencies of this 623 great Empire. There is no colony, however small, but that upon the Estimates we have afforded one or more opportunities of raising any question which any Member thinks ought to be brought before this House in relation to it; but the same thing cannot be said with regard to India, with the enormous population, to which the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary has referred, of something like 210 millions of actual subjects of the Imperial Crown, and another 65 millions of people more or less subject to its influence. I think the present system is one which any person taking any interest whatever, however remote, in the honour of Britain ought to deplore and endeavour to have changed. I would venture to appeal—it seems rather a mockery to say to the Government, with only the Under Secretary for India, able Representative of the Government as he is, present in the House. It seems also a mockery to appeal to the leaders of the Party on this side of the House, none of them being present. I deem it right to say that if the Government are deaf to our appeal, and if they will not so modify the new Rule as to enable us to raise questions which we cannot now raise during this Debate, I shall take the one opportunity which I have never taken since I have been a Member of this House, and shall take care that the question is raised by an Amendment to the Address. At any rate, the Government cannot deprive me of that opportunity as they have twice this Session deprived me of the opportunity I had obtained by means of the Ballot. While I admired the good-humoured and able speech to which we have just listened, I could not help being struck with the marvellous coolness—I suppose I must not say audacity—which characterised some of the statements of the Under Secretary for India. He was good enough to tell us that the only proposal of economy had come from the Government, but he coolly ignored the fact that he and his Government had taken away from me the opportunity I had obtained of submitting to the House proposals which I thought would have tended in that direction. He had the frank audacity to inform the Committee that the Council of India Bill had been hindered on this side of the House and had only got through with great diffi- 624 culty, when he knows as well as any other Member of the Committee that the Government never put it down earlier than the ninth Order of the Day—I think that one night I saw it the 19th— and when he knows it was in the power of the Government to have put it down as the first or second Order of any day they pleased, and so have tested the question whether there was any real opposition to it. Surely the hon. Gentleman might have acknowledged that on the first appeal made to me by the Leader of the House to the effect that if I kept on the Paper a notice of Amendment I had to the Second Reading of the Bill he would be obliged to withdraw it, I at once withdrew the notice, although I regarded the Bill as wretchedly small and exceedingly ineffective, and although I regarded it as being more effective in words than it would be in reality. If I had pressed my Amendment on the attention of the Committee I should have pointed out that any discussion of the Indian Budget with the Benches as they are now is utterly impossible. It is impossible to take the sense of the Committee on any proposition which may be submitted to it without a shameful and disgraceful exhibition of the utter neglect by so many Members of Parliament of the interests of so many millions of our fellow-subjects. I cannot say I quite followed the right hon. Gentleman's first figures. It seems to me that they do not quite agree; but on this point it may be that I did not pay sufficient attention to his corrections, and I shall confine myself more especially to the figures which I have in print, and which at any rate are capable of being more clearly examined. The hon. Gentleman complained that he was met by ironical cheers when he referred to the chief increase in the income of India this year as resulting from the Salt Tax; and he went to the length of saying that he was shocked by the statements made by people who ought to know better as to the effect of the increase of the Salt Duty on the consumption of salt. Well, he managed to shock me because, with the almost blind reliance that I have on the accuracy of everything told me by the hon. Gentleman, notwithstanding that I have occasionally found that he has been misled by those who instruct him to reply in this House, I had 625 thought that the Blue Book circulated under his authority amongst the Members of the House, only within the last few days, has told us expressly that the consumption of salt had fallen off in consequence of high prices, which, I propose to show, were the result of the increase of duty. I do not understand why he should be shocked at our entertaining an opinion which the Government of India officially puts to us. The hon. Gentleman complains also that we have spoken of the "Famine Insurance Fund." Well, that is how his own Government have spoken of it and has described it. They have now spent the whole of the fund, and do not like to acknowledge that such a fund existed. In a marvellously emphatic tone the hon. Gentleman appealed to the Committee, and said—We have spent the surplus we had; if a larger surplus is wanted for this purpose do Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House advocate increased taxation, which is the only way of getting a larger surplus?Our answer is that we have had increased taxation for the purpose of raising a specific sum which you pledged yourselves never to apply to any other purpose, that you have applied it to many other purposes, that you have seldom applied it to the purposes for which it was intended. Before examining the Memorandum of the Under Secretary, which was issued later this year than last, I will very briefly draw the attention of the Committee, in view of the fall in silver, to the impolicy of maintaining even the slightest hindrances to the consumption of silver for manufacturing purposes. As was most fully pointed out in a Debate on this question in another place about a month ago, the duty of 1s. 6d. per ounce and the requirement of hall marking were practically prohibitive of the importation for trade purposes of Indian manufactured silver articles and the exportation of English manufactured silver for the Indian market. I appeal specially to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this question, which is of high importance to India, and vitally affects our silver trade with many foreign countries. I now come to that branch of the speech made by the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for India, which has occupied so prominent a position in this evening's Debate. I allude to 626 that portion of it which relates to the provision for famine relief and insurance, or, as I prefer to call it, to the Famine Insurance Fund. I ask the Committee to turn to the Famine Relief and Insurance item, on page 50, in the Explanatory Memorandum of the Under Secretary. But, in the first place, I desire to say a word or two as to what has been urged by the hon. Gentleman with reference to the correction of figures which appear in that Memorandum. I would point out that it would have been quite possible for the Government to have taken the discussion on the Indian Budget a week or a fortnight after the Indian Budget Statement had been circulated, and had the hon. Gentleman taken that course there could not then have been any necessity for the corrections he now makes. The hon. Gentleman has taken credit for the fact that the Memorandum has been circulated for a period of more than six weeks; but I would point out that it was published later this year than last year, and, therefore, it might have been criticised at an earlier date, as the financial year ends at the same date in one year as in another. I think that, considering the matter is one which affects the welfare of 275 millions of Her Majesty's subjects, the Government ought to recognise it as being one of sufficient importance to be discussed in this House at a period of the year when it can be freely and fairly debated, and nearer to the end of the financial year. It is quite possible that every explanation the hon. Gentleman has given has been comprehended by every Member of this House except myself; but I certainly do find it difficult to follow a set of figures as to which the hon. Gentleman himself is not quite sure, and which even in their corrected form do not commend themselves to us as matters about which there is a possibility of our all being in agreement. Well, the hon. Gentleman has referred to the Famine Insurance Return, which I myself moved for, and which has been laid on the Table of this House. He referred to it as a document of which the Government might fairly be proud. Now, Sir, I should say that if it were possible to imagine any man holding the position of a Minister being capable of shame— and I believe such a phenomenon has never been known in the history of 627 Parliament—I should have thought that I that Return was a document of which any Minister ought to be heartily ashamed; and although I do not put it personally to the hon. Gentleman as being any ground for shame on his part, yet I think he might reasonably feel a sort of vicarious shame in finding that promises which have been so solemnly made have, nevertheless, been so deliberately broken, and that a large sum of money collected for a particular purpose has been just as deliberately misapplied. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for India referred to the origin of the Famine Relief Fund, but he did so in the vaguest of all fashions. The first reference I will make is to the financial Statement for 1878–9, to the Financial Resolution of the Government of India, dated 18th March, 1878, and to a Minute by the Viceroy of India, dated 12th March, 1878, for a detailed explanation of the principles on which it was proposed to make a systematic provision against periodical famines and deaths from starvation. In the Parliamentary Paper, No. 37, dated 1878, page 5, the speech of the Finance Minister in the Legislative Council of the Government of India proposes to raise an additional £1,500,000 a year "on account of famine alone," and he says that this is done because of theRecognition of Her Majestys' Government of the duty of making definite provision for the cost of famine.On page 24 of that Paper he further says—It is the firm intention of the present Government to apply the funds now to be provided for this special purpose strictly to the exclusive objects which they were designed to secure;and he also goes on to say—The Government of India intends to keep this million and a half as insurance against famine alone.Now, there have been 12 years during which that sum of a million and a half has been collected, making a total of £18,000,000 sterling, and I shall presently show that that money has not been kept, as was promised, and also how little of it has been spent for the purposes it was intended to serve. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary has told us that it has been religiously disbursed. For my part, I cannot imagine in what sense the ton. Gentleman uses that expression; 628 but I can say that it was certainly not honestly disbursed nor truly disbursed. Well, in the same speech the Finance Minister says—We consider that the Estimates of every year ought to make provision for religiously applying the sum I have mentioned to this sole purpose; and I hope that no desire to carry out any administrative improvement, however urgent, or any fiscal reform, however wise, will tempt the Government to neglect this sacred trust.They imposed a specific tax of £1,500,000, and promised that it should be devoted to famine, and to famine alone, and hoped that no Government would be able to make away with it. Indeed, the then Viceroy, Lord Lytton, used language so strong that I feel bound to refer to it, and to show that this "sacred trust" was neglected by Lord Lytton himself for the purposes of war; while when the noble Lord the Member for Paddington, Lord E. Churchill, was Secretary for India the same "sacred trust" was abandoned for purpose of annexation. Well, as I have said, Lord Lytton, the then Viceroy, used very remarkable language on the 27th December, 1877, which is to be found on page 36 of the Paper I am referring to. He anticipated that objectors might say, "Your good intentions are possibly sincere; but the path to the nethermost pit is already paved with good intentions." I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary was thinking of that downward path when he spoke of the money having been religiously disbursed; but Lord Lytton proceeds with what the objectors might say as follows:—Promise is a good dog, but Performance is a better; we have often heard the bowwow of the first; we have yet to see the tail of the second. We have been told over and over again by the highest authorities that India is to be insured against famine in this way, or in that; but when famines come upon us we find that the promised way is still wanting.Lord Lytton then solemnly declared—We promise nothing which we have not, after long and anxious consideration, provided ourselves with the means of performing. I must have very imperfectly explained myself thus far if I have failed to make it clearly understood that I am not now speaking of what we ought to do, or would do, to insure this country against the worst effects of future famine had we only the means of doing it; but of what we can do, and will do, with the means already provided for, in the measures now before the Council.629 In the Debate on the 16th January, 1878, in the Legislative Council, in Parliamentary Paper No. 118 of 1878, page 5, a native Member of the Legislative Council, speaking of this Famine Insurance, suggestsThat it should be formed into a separate fund with a separate account, so that it may satisfy the people that it is what it in reality is intended to be—a separate famine fund.And, on page 44, Lord Lytton says—The necessity of a Famine Insurance Fund and the duty of the Government to provide such a fund, has been generally acknowledged.And yet this Session the Under Secretary denies that it ought to be called a fund, and admits that that duty has never been fulfilled. These are not mere empty words, for the hon. Gentleman said he did not know whether his trusted Indian Councillors had been dead or alive.
§ SIR J. GORST
I did not say that I did not know whether they were dead or alive; but that the hon. Gentleman did not ask the question whether they were dead or alive.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
Whether we were told that he did not know whether they were dead or alive, or that I did not ask the question whether it was a Council composed of living or dead men, is a matter as to which it is not easy to make a distinction. At any rate, in order to raise that £1,500,000 it was necessary to levy increased taxes on the natives of India. Well, what does the Finance Minister say upon this? In 1878–9 the Finance Minister observed, by way of justifying the increased taxation—I feel confident that I shall be able to satisfy the Council and the public that the resolution which the Government has proclaimed will be faithfully carried out, and that the proceeds of these new taxes will be expended for the purpose of providing what I nave called an insurance against famine, land for no other purpose whatsoever.If words have any meaning at all Lord Lytton and his Finance Minister say—We impose a special tax—a new tax—for the purpose of raising a special sum of money, and pledge the honour of ourselves and our councillors that that money shall never be applied to any other object.If hon. Members will refer to the Return moved for by myself they will see that this promise was never kept, except when Lord Ripon was Viceroy. That I 630 am not stating the case unfairly may be seen from the Minute of the Viceroy, dated 12th March, 1878. The Viceroy then wrote—The sole justification for the increased taxation which has just been imposed upon the people of India for the purpose of ensuring this Empire against the worse calamities of future famine, so far as such an insurance can now be practically provided, is the pledge we have given that a sum not less than a million and a half sterling, which exceeds the amount of the additional contributions obtained from the people for this purpose, shall be annually applied to it.And here I would ask how have you applied the £18,000,000, and I repeat that I will show that except when the Marquess of Ripon was Viceroy you never applied it to the purpose for which it was intended, and that if you have not got it now it is because you have devoted it, as I have already said, to purposes of war and annexation and the erection of costly buildings at Simla, and for similar purposes, while the people of India have been starving. The Viceroy's Minute goes on to say—We have explained to the people of this country that the additional revenue raised by the new taxes is required, not for the luxuries but for the necessities of the State, not for general purposes, but for the construction of a particular class of public works; and we have pledged ourselves not to spend one rupee of the special resources thus created upon works of a different character.The English language has very little value if this can be so translated from the Ministerial Benches as to explain away its plain and direct meaning; and surely in such a case we ought not to be treated with what I must call a miserable farce of arithmetic like that I hold in my hand. But there were people who doubted whether this £1,500,000 would be applied to its intended purpose; and when the British Indian Association later on hinted at the possible breach of faith on the part of the Government, Lord Lytton openly rebuked them in these memorable words—You have entirely failed to recognise the fact that the sole purpose of this additional taxation you complain of was the preservation of the lives of the people from the effects of famine. To insinuate the contrary is to insinuate a calumny.After the 11 years' experience we have had I not only insinuate the contrary, but I say that that which Lord Lytton 631 characterises as a calumny has been proved up to the hilt. I now proceed to complain of and criticise the Return. The tax was first imposed in 1878, but the Return commences with 1879–80. Why is the year 1878–9 omitted? Surely £1,500,000 is a sum worthy of being accounted for. Probably the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary will tell us what was the intention of the Indian Government in omitting that year. He might also tell us what was the amount applied in 1878–9 to the prevention of famine, that being a year so close to Lord Lytton's solemn promise. I refer again to the summary of the 12 years contained on page 4 of the Return. There ought to have been £18,000,000 sterling raised by additional taxation for famine relief alone during those 12 years. How is that sum accounted for? It is only alleged that 9,900,737 tens of rupees, or much less than £10,000,000, has been so applied; and I ask what, in that case, has become of the remaining amount of over £8,000,000 sterling? The only years in which Lord Lytton's promises were kept were the years 1881–2, 1882–3, 1883–4, 1884–5, and 1885–6, during which years Lord Ripon was Viceroy. In those years the promise which Lord Ripon did not make was kept; but the promise which Lord Lytton did make has never been kept at all, and since Lord Ripon's time no one appears to have been in a position to keep it. I may here say that I am going to make the Under Secretary and the Secretary of State himself both responsible for what has been going on. Reverting to Lord Lytton's specific declaration that the "sole purpose of the additional taxation" was the "preservation of the lives of the people from the effects of famine," I will ask the Committee to refer to page 2 of the Returns. I would remind the Committee of the questions I have felt it my duty to put, sometimes, I fear, in a way that must have been somewhat wearisome to the House, and for which I invariably laid myself open to rebuke; and I would point out that since last October it was certainly known to the Government of India that famine was approaching in Madras and Bengal and was also threatening in Bombay. This was known, as far as a great portion of India was concerned, by the partial failure of the South-Western monsoon of 1888, which was due in June 632 and July. The effect of this was aggravated by the almost complete failure of the North-East monsoon which was due in October. The Government must have known that the natural result of these things, without any other cause, would have been higher prices for food, great pressure, possible hunger, and even probable famine. Well, what is the estimated provision made by the Government out of the earmarked £1,500,000? It is of no use your saying you have not got it. You have spent it. You took it, and promised to keep it for the purpose of saving life in case of famine. See what a mockery you have made of it. This Return shows that £20,500 was devoted for relief—namely, £500 for charitable relief in Madras and £20,000 for charitable relief in Bengal. No provision was made by the present Government for the relief works, for want of which hundreds of people certainly, many thousands probably, died of starvation before the works were commenced. I beg pardon; I was wrong in saying the Government made no provision. In 1888–9 they actually wrote off as irrecoverable the sum of £200, which was the amount of debt due from some wretched Madras agriculturists whose lands were producing nothing, and who were themselves famine-stricken. The general result is that in 11 years' real famine relief has been given to the extent of 2,631,750 tens of rupees only; and on page 5 of the Statement exhibiting the moral and material progress of India we are told that "no surplus was available as a reserve against famine in future years." This £18,000,000 has been extracted from the peasantry of India on the solemn promise that it should only be applied for the purpose of making provision against times of famine, and that promise has never at any time been kept. In 1877–8 the Government found itself unable to make provision against famine, but at least it did something for the promotion of starvation. I trust I shall not shock the Under Secretary in what I am about to state. I know that his feelings are generally shocked, especially by any statement made from this side of the House with regard to legal questions, which may be accounted for by the fact that the hon. Gentleman has been sitting for so many years on the same Bench with the Law Officers 633 of the Grown. Well, what did the Government do? On the 19th January, 1888, they actually raised the Salt Duty 25 per cent, namely, from two rupees per maund of 82 1bs. to 2½ rupees per maund; and the Government themselves, in their own statement, say that the effect of this was to reduce the consumption of salt. Less salt means less food, and the official declaration is that in 1888 the consumption of salt fell off markedly in the District of Ganjam. Page 75 of the Statement— and a very explicit Statement it is— shows that the consumption of salt in Ganjam fell from 12.31 lbs. per head to 8.27 1bs. per head owing, as the Government say, partly to high prices, or, as I say, almost wholly to the high prices resulting from the increased duty. No wonder there has been famine and starvation in Ganjam. If I possessed the cool freedom of speech which characterises the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for India when attacking Members on this side of the House, I should be inclined to use exceedingly hard words against a Government which takes credit for its high officials going into a district where it had been pointed out that famine existed, and where they must have known that it was going on eight or nine months before (for it had been pointed out in this House), having previously extorted some Rx.180,000 to make provision for such contingency. It is one of the misfortunes of only one Debate in the year taking place on the finances of India that a Member is obliged to be exceedingly wearisome in the length of the matter he addresses to the House. But I must ask the Committee to note on page 4 of the Explanatory Memorandum a most extraordinary difference between gross and net revenue and expenditure—the gross being swollen by matters of account, and clearly in some instances creating a false impression. For example, railway receipts go to make up gross totals. From page 12 it will be seen that in the three years 1887–90,railways impose a burden upon the taxpayer of Rx.7,502,780, though the hon. Baronet the Member for Hythe (Sir E. Watkin) urges the Government to spend £100,000,000 on more railways. In the Official Statement, page 14, it is admitted that— 634Though the dividend on the total railway capital is apparently more than 5 per cent, and though the Government is not liable for more than 5 per cent on any guaranteed capital, or for more than 4 per cent on State Railway capital; still the Indian Treasury lost on its current railway transactions Rx.2,267,800 in 1887–8, and estimated to lose Rx.2,115,000 in 1838–9.The actual loss turned out to be more than half a million of rupees larger than the estimated loss. I am sure the Under Secretary did not purposely omit it, but I should have liked an explanation of the fact that the actual loss was more than half a million of rupees greater than the estimate.
§ SIR E. WATKIN (Hythe)
The hon. Member has referred to me. I should like to ask whether he is not aware that it has been proved that the advantage to the people of India of Indian railways is, year by year, greater than the whole gross millions of the annual receipts of the whole of the railways of India?
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
The hon. Member will have an opportunity of following me. I do not see how his interruption is to the point. There is one matter as to which the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary has told us nothing in his Explanatory Memorandum, and I am rather surprised that he has not, because it is a matter upon which I have felt it my duty to ask him several questions already. He has not in the Memorandum under the head of "Railways" given any information as to the change of policy with reference to the projected railway to Chittagong, as to which a concession of 3,000 square miles of waste land with the right to prospect for coal and petroleum has cither been actually granted, or is under consideration. If this be a wise policy there is no necessity for concealment, nor ought Members of this House to be driven to obtain information from private sources. I do not suggest that such a concession would be bad or good, but the House is entitled to know what are the views of the Department and of the Viceroy. What is the reason of this entire change of policy; on what conditions are these rights of prospecting to be conceded? The hon. Gentleman, in reply to a question the other day, said that if all railway enterprise was to wait until Parliament had expressed an opinion there would be no railways in India at all. I admired the clever- 635 ness and ingenuity of the reply, but unless the Secretary of State is the master of Parliament as well as of India, it was his duty in making his annual statement to tell us if such a change of policy has been made or is contemplated, to give the House information on this point, so as to enable the House to form a judgment upon it. Referring to irrigation works on page 13, I wish to ask as to table 2 which in column I states the total cost to 1886–7 as Rx.23,770,346, from what date the commencement of cost is taken? And whether the two tables mean that a total expenditure to the present date of Rx.25,332,935 shows an estimated loss for the year of Rx.725,400 and whether, as a higher loss still is shown in the two other years given, he will state the deficit for the preceding years. I also ask the Under Secretary, as he states the total capital outlay to date on the irrigation works, first, to state the total deficit of all the years covered by the capital outlay. I ask whether the Rx.629,400 mentioned in column 3, table 1, page 13, is the portion of the Land Revenue from new works only, or does it include receipts from old works? And I ask whether, to give the Committee an opportunity of comparing, he can state the amount credited to Land Eevenue from irrigation in 1858? Further, I would ask him if he will state the net addition to the food production of the Empire which has accrued from the total expenditure of £25,000,000? In the statement of assets and liabilities on page 20 I would ask are the railway and irrigation works set down at their full cost? Is any allowance made for depreciation? Is any Sinking Fund provided? Referring to page 10, on Burma, I would ask the Committee to note that while the cost of annexation was originally estimated in November, 1885, at some £270,000, it has already cost some £8,000,000, and it is impossible to limit the further expenditure required to carry out what the Under Secretary of State has called the pacification of the country. I note that in relation to the Burma Ruby Mines Parliament has never had submitted to it the particulars, with names and amounts of the various tenders. I would ask the Under Secretary to state the cost of and incidental to the sending out of Mr. Barrington Browne 636 as Government expert? What kind of valuation he made, and the general nature of his Report, and how many higher tenders—and to what amount— were received than the one accepted, with the names of the persons tendering?
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
I should like to know whether the hon. Gentleman attaches any subtle meaning to the word "tender," and whether there are not offers in writing within the knowledge of the Viceroy of India?
§ SIR J. GORST
The tender for the Burma Ruby Mines was settled in this country by public advertisement in the newspapers. Tenders were received at the India Office, and they were opened in my presence. I can vouch for the fact that no other tenders were received.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
I cannot think that I and the hon. Gentleman mean the same thing in the words we are using. I should be glad, however, if the hon. Gentleman would oblige the Committee with the names and particulars of the various tenders, together with the replies, so that the Committee may be enabled to form a judgment as to the higher or lower tenders. Will the hon. Gentleman tell the Committee why it is stated on page 17 of the Government statement dealing with the moral and material progress of India, that a lease of the Burma Ruby Mines was granted to a British Company in 1887–8, when the hon. Member more than once in the most express terms has stated in the House that no such lease has been granted? The company is to pay a rental of £40,000 a year and one-sixth of the profits, and I should like to know why it is that in the estimated receipts for 1888–9 and 1890, there is no sum whatever even entered in the Estimates as likely to be received? If the hon. Member tells me that this statement as to the rental to be paid is not true, I will not press him further, but he must not wonder if I am a little shocked—electrified—in dealing with such matters. And now, I have only to apologise to the Committee for the length of my remarks. I hope, however, that what I have said will show that there is some need for effective financial control in India, and that if it be possible—as I believe it to 637 be—to exercise that effective financial control in this House, even supposing more than one day in the year is devoted to the work, something will be done to enlarge the Legislative Councils in the various Provinces, and to increase their powers, so that they may have a better opportunity of interpellating in relation to these matters of finance. I would assure the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State that it is not our desire to destroy Provincial activity in India. On the contrary, we desire to enlarge and develop it. I should like to see the Government carry out their promises in this respect. I should like, to use the words of Lord Lytton, "having heard their bow-wow of promise, to see at least the tail of the performance." We hope that there may be enlarged Councils strengthened by a Committee of this House, or a Joint Standing Committee of both Houses, to which may be addressed questions on which it is necessary that some expression of opinion should be obtained as to the advisability of bringing matters in dispute before Parliament. Although, in the present scanty House, it seems a mockery to do so, I would venture to appeal to hon. Members, and, if necessary, I will go from this House to Parliament, and from Parliament to the people—that some opportunity of bringing forward their grievances may be given to those who are connected with the movement for reform in India. I agree that they are only a small body, but small as they are sufficiently important to have some attention paid to them. There assembled at Allahabad some 1,200 delegates, representing some millions of people. I appeal to the English people for reasonable attention to the wants of India, especially as its grievances are now finding constitutional expression in the great Congress movement, of which Lord Dufferin said that he regarded with feelings—of approval and goodwill their natural ambition to be more extensively associated with their English rulers in the administration of their own domestic affairs.From the Report of that Convention, it is evident that the natives are inspired with a laudable ambition to be more closely associated with their English rulers in the administration of their own affairs. It is, of course, impossible to 638 hope that within these walls any criticism or complaint made under existing circumstances will have any very great effect, but I do hope that the protest now made and concurred in, as it seemed to me at the beginning of the speech with which I have troubled the Committee, by Members sitting on the Conservative Benches—that the protest now made against the late period of the Session at which this subject is brought forward will not be without effect. The House is wearied with the labours of a long Session, and the bulk of the Members have gone away. I do not make this protest from Party motives, as I acknowledge that the Party with whom I vote are as amenable to every kind of blame in the matter as the Party opposite. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer is now in his place, and I appeal to him, during the Recess, to give effect to words which I hope I have not wrongly understood— and I am only dealing with words uttered across the floor of this House— which have come from the Leader of the House, that it is only due to the vast mass of our Indian fellow-subjects that at some time they may be able to approach this House in a Constitutional way, with the Speaker in the Chair, and not be driven to bring forward their grievances at a time when a question of finance is under discussion, and they are not susceptible of radical and effective debate.
§ SIR E. TEMPLE (Worcester, Evesham)
Once more the hon. Member for Northampton has been on the oratorical rampage. I am aware that the hon. Member is nothing if he is not querulous; his voice seemed to quiver with emotion when he mentioned even so light a subject as the filagree silver work from India. He seems to have a mission to complain of India all round. But I demur to the censure passed by him on the English Parliament for postponing this Budget Statement so long. I challenge him to point to a single evening that has been wasted, and on which the Indian Budget could have been taken. I also deny that the House of Commons has not devoted any time to the consideration of India this Session. There have been three full-dress Debates on the condition of India.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE
The truth is, that the House of Commons knows its duty perfectly well. It has constituted by legislation a proper Government for India, and, having done this, it thinks that the less we meddle with the subject the better it will be for India and ourselves. The hon. Member has referred to the Native Congresses, and while we are precluded by the rules of the Committee from entering further on that subject, I may just say that I have long thought that elective Members might be substituted for the appointed Members on the various Legislative Councils. I shall be prepared to bring forward a moderate and practical scheme to give effect to that principle on the proper occasion. Meanwhile out of the numerous topics of the hon. Member's speech I will select three only. The points I desire to touch upon are the railways, the irrigation works, and the Famine Insurance Fund. The hon. Member cannot deny that the railways are now paying 5 per cent, and in this respect they will undoubtedly compare favourably, if not to better advantage, with the railways of Europe or America. Nevertheless, the hon. Member seems surprised that a yearly charge should be debited against these railways. But that was on account of the years while they were under construction and before they were fully opened. The hon. Member inquired anxiously about the concessions. It is quite true that valuable concessions of land have been made to the Indian Railway Companies, but had they not been made the companies could not have raised the necessary capital and the railways could not have been constructed. The same thing was experienced in the railway development of the North-West of Canada. The same observation applies with equal force to the irrigation works, which are now paying 5 per cent interest on their capital, which had been borrowed at 4 per cent interest, and which, therefore, are earning 1 per cent per annum, which is available for paying off the charge on which the hon. Member animadverted, and which relates to the years that passed before the network of subsidiary channels was completed. The hon. Member opposite asks for statistics as to the additional amount of food supply for the people of India, which is the result of the construction of these 640 irrigation works. It is quite possible to furnish those statistics, although they would have to be of a very elaborate character, seeing that it would have to be calculated how much additional produce is derived from irrigated land which had already been in cultivation before the works were constructed, but which has been immensely benefited by them since their construction. The hon. Member referred to the Famine Insurance Fund, the idea of which was first conceived in 1878–9, just after India had passed through one of its periodical famines. But no such insurance represented the provision which the people of India had against death by starvation. That provision consisted of the whole might of the Government, which had several times been magnificently exerted, and, despite inevitable disasters, had worked wonders. No fund of that kind has ever actually been raised. The hon. Member quoted two instances which proved that the Natives knew quite well that no fund really existed. But it was resolved by the Government of India to set aside a portion of the revenue amounting to about one and a half million sterling, which was to be expended on public works in the event of a recurrence of famine. The additional revenue required for this purpose had been raised, not by the imposition of new taxes, but by a development of old ones—that is, of License and Income Taxes with which the people had long been familiar. For some five out of the ten years which have since elapsed, the Government have scrupulously expended the money as intended. But during the other five years the Government had to find the means for warlike operations. Therefore, it was deemed preferable to suspend the appropriation of this portion of the revenue for this purpose rather than to raise the sum required by new taxation. Of the two alternatives before the Government, the Native taxpayers preferred the one that had been adopted. If it be asked what had been done with the remaining half, the other half having been spent on railways and canals, the answer is that it has gone for the defence of the North-Western Frontier. Lord Lytton tried as far as he could to act up to the resolutions he had formed. But there were war and pestilence, and it was extremely difficult 641 to make both ends meet under those trying circumstances. In fact, it was impossible for him to carry his resolutions into effect during the closing year of his administration. After him Lord Lytton had a peaceful time, and the million and a half was spent yearly on the public works as originally intended. There was no promise as the hon. Member supposes—except to ourselves—no contract, for there were no two personal parties. We formed the one party, and our national conscience was the other party. When Russia assumed a menacing attitude in 1885, Lord Dufferin had to undertake frontier defence, and found himself obliged to spend all the revenue he had got, so that he was unable to carry out the academic resolutions which had been formed seven years before. I shall conclude with the briefest résumé of what appears to me to be the financial condition of the Government of India, of which the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy wrote in rather doleful terms. Considering the sorrow and disapprobation indicated by the hon. Member's Motion on the Paper, the House will perhaps be surprised to hear that the condition of the finances of India is as follows: — For several years past India has paid her way. Sometimes there has been a deficit, sometimes a surplus; but, one year taken with another, she has paid her way, and she appears now at the Bar of this House with a surplus in her hand. During this period she has paid, without incurring any debt, for one great war and two great famines. She has defended her frontier, or placed it in a state of impregnable defence. She has munificently administered the newly-conquered Province of Upper Burma. Nor has she neglected her internal administration. She has spent millions on education, hundreds of thousands on science and art, and she has devoted millions again to sanitation and preventive and curative measures for the health of the people. She has done all this in face of a most damaging fall in exchange that entirely upset the calculations of financiers and landed them in a deficit when they least expected it. What has been her public debt all this time? Is the financial condition of any other country, except Holland and Prussia, so favourable? The whole debt only amounts to a little 642 more than two years' revenue, and of that one-half has been expended not on productive operations, but on measures destined for the material welfare of the people. And how about the Revenue of India? I will say nothing now about Excise or opium, as I have made two speeches this Session on the subject, but I will add one word of congratulation on the able and satisfactory statement of my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State regarding the statistics of the consumption of salt in its relation to recent taxation. The natives of India have the lightest taxation of any people on the face of the earth. The poor man in India pays a tax on one article only, and that is salt, for the people, as a rule, are temperate, and only a small fraction of them consume spirituous liquors. A whole host of various kinds of oppressive assessed taxes which prevailed under native rule have been remitted under the British Government. Our taxation is immeasurably lighter than that of the Native Governments. Though we own territories broader than those of the Great Mogul, yet historians know that our revenues are less than his were. Take, again, the case of the land. It is the Land Tax which has been the basis of some of the greatest measures for the improvement of the country that have ever been designed in India or in any other country in the world. By means of the Land Tax we have been able to undertake a cadastral survey equal to the best in England—field upon field, holding upon holding. It extends over an area containing not much less than a million and a half square miles, from the base of the Himalayas to Cape Comorin, in the Southern Sea. Following this survey and the consequent recognition of property, there has been a registration of all mutations of property, thereby settling many questions which we have not been able to settle in England this Session in spite of all the efforts made in another place. These property rights were ancient. But the modern recognition is such as to amount to a fresh recognition of property—superior, subordinate, and collateral. To secure this property Courts of Justice have been set up which are above the Government. The smallest Court may give orders which we Governors, 643 though masters of many legions and of many millions of population, are bound to obey. We should speak of India with triumph instead of complaining. In stead of talking of the sorrows of the people of India I would rather talk of their happiness—a happiness unknown in their previous history. The people are growing in numbers, and their agriculture and trade are spreading. Their moral, social, and intellectual status is rising rapidly every year, under the beneficent influence of the civilisation which we are introducing into the country. And now, as I conclude, I will advert to that frontier, the defensive cost of which has been at the bottom of the indictment by the hon. Member for Northampton, and has largely figured in the Financial Statement of the Under Secretary of State. We are seen to be spending one and a half to two millions a year now. The items presented by the Under Secretary of State of part expenditure, if totalled, would amount to seven, perhaps to eight, millions. Now, I know that frontier through its many hundreds of miles, having governed one half myself, and having been once Secretary to those who governed the other half. And I apprehend that the eight millions will rise to 12 or 13 before the great defence is completed. What, then, should we have for all this cost? Let us look. We may one day be invaded. Well, if we are, then let the invaders come now while we are in the zenith of our strength; the sooner the better, if come they must. Let us, indeed, stand in imagination on the fertile plain round Peshawur and observe the dark jaws of the Khyber Pass. Let us peer into that gloomy defile, and think that the invaders must penetrate that in order to meet the serried array of England around Peshawur. Then behind that historic and romantic city is the Indus, flowing smoothly but with fearful rapidity, and spanned by a mighty railway bridge, a model of constructive engineering and a monument of British science. Thence, down the left bank of the mighty river run the new railways southwards till we reach Sukkur, in Scinde. There, again, it is bridged by a structure which is one of the wonders of the world. Thence runs the railway across the Sibi desert, scaling the steep flanks of what is called the Khorassan 644 plateau to Pishin and the Amran range—Let us stand on the summit of that range and contemplate the matchless view, so-full of political and military, as well as financial, significance. At our feet is the stony plain running towards Candahar. On our left is the desert, with, the clouds of sand ascending. On the horizon to our full front is the group of turret-like rocks overlooking Candahar itself. Around the city we may dimly discern the blue lines indicating that supurb cultivation that can furnish supplies for armies-There we behold the possible battlefield between the Russian invader and the British defender. On that dread day the value of this costly frontier defence will be tested. I trust that the defence will answer that extreme test, and that the invader will be defeated, never to return. Then, after that crowning victory, a cry of joy and thanks will arise to heaven from the whole earth of India. The native Princes will rejoice to seethe triumph of that British suzerain that protects their territories. The old man will be glad when he remembers the ancestral stories of the revolutions stopped by that benign Power that preserved the Pax Britannica. The thoughtful man will be thankful who reflects on the moral and material blessings we have-showered on his country. The poor man will be grateful for the victory-of that Power that guards his crops from devastation, his home from plunder, his family from captivity. And all classes, rich and poor, will unite in a chorus of thanksgiving for the safety of that Government whose force rests not only on India itself, but also on a distant basis beyond the sea, on the land of the free and the brave, on the moral strength of Western opinion, and on the confidence of that Parliament which is the centre of Imperial authority and holds the keys of the Eastern Empire.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy)
I am not one of those who desire to complain of the lateness of the Session at which the Indian Budget is brought on for Debate. I am rather inclined to take the view that the less this House hears of India the better; that we had better abrogate the management of it to a competent authority. I think we may as well be content to take the chance of talking on the subject whenever it occurs. Now, Sir, to-night 645 I propose to confine myself to the prosaic region of finance, and I am sorry to say, in regard to this particular subject, that I am inclined to take a somewhat unfavourable view of the present position of Indian finance and the methods on which it is conducted. We are accustomed to hear the Under Secretary for India, in introducing the Budget, talking of what would have occurred in regard to finance if something had not happened. But something does happen every year which upsets the calculations of the best financiers. With regard to the present Budget, I should have thought that the statement of the Under Secretary was extremely gratifying, for he told us that an estimated small surplus had been turned into a considerable surplus. But I fear that one remark which the hon. and learned Gentleman made will suffice to entirely destroy the favourable impression that the rest of his speech produced upon me. I understood him to say that one of the items on which there had been a considerable saving within the last few months was that in the cost of opium, and that that cost had decreased by no less a sum than £600,000. If that is true, the whole gratifying fabric -set up by the Under Secretary falls to the ground, for everyone knows that a decrease in the cost of opium production means a very considerable decrease in the proceeds from the sale of the opium crop, and that one item would more than counterbalance any improvement which has been achieved in the matter of Indian finance. Now, I maintain that Indian finance is in an unfortunate position. There has been a considerable loss on silver exchange, and we have been told, time after time, that if it had not been for that loss, Indian finance would have been in a much better condition. I fear that we cannot look for any improvement in the direction of the silver question. On the contrary, there seems to be a reasonable probability that things will go from bad to worse, and the result of the investigation I have made into this matter is not hopeful. I confess, after having long been a bi-metallist, now that I learn that silver has appreciated instead of depreciated, I have grave doubts as to whether any measure which would raise the price of silver would really have any beneficial effect on 646 India, because every debtor in India would suffer. I also know that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, the Leader of the Opposition, has, in a letter, declared himself almost fanatically opposed to bi-metallic ideas. Under these circumstances, seeing that, in addition to no hope of improvement in this direction, we have the prospect of a grave decrease in opium revenue, I hold that appearances are far from satisfactory. I look upon the expenditure in Burma and on the North-West frontier as part of ourtrouble. I am afraid we are pursuing a clumsy policy, and I believe also that we must accept the annexation of Upper Burma as a financial disaster, and as regards the North-West frontier, the expense will not be limited to three or four millions sterling. There is no prospect of a large revenue from there; but our expenses are enormous. My belief is that the further we advance the further we require to go. The hon. and gallant Member for Evesham has looked upon Candahar with covetous eyes; but it strikes me that this is a miserable district. It is not a food-producing country, and if we attempted to take it over we should find it a very bad bargain. We ought, in fact, to place a decided check upon our advance in this direction. These scientific military frontiers entail not only enormous expense in creating them, but they are still mere expensive to defend and occupy with a garrison. Now, the Under Secretary in his Memorandum has given us a very useful statement, showing the net revenue and the net expenditure. The net revenue, according to this statement, is 47,108,000 tens of rupees, and deducting from this 3,624,000 tens of rupees, the interest paid upon debt, we have available for expenditure 43,484,000 tens of rupees. Now of that 23½ millions is expended for military purposes, and should the time come when we have those battles on which my hon. and gallant Friend has so eloquently descanted, I hope we may reap all the glory he anticipates, although I fear it is certain that we shall also reap financial disaster. Seeing what heavy expenses we necessarily incur there now, I cannot hold that the taxation in India is excessively heavy; indeed, I think my hon. Friend is right when he says it is not too great to be borne by the people of India. But 647 what I do complain of is that we have, when we have been compelled to resort to an increase of taxation, put the additional burden on a necessary of life. I do maintain that the Salt Tax is a most unfortunate tax, and it is only the direct and worst necessity should compel us to impose it. It is one of the worst forms of taxation; the burden is an unjust and impolitic one; it is a capitation tax, which falls equally on the poor with the rich; and it is injurious to health in its effects, for it prevents the salting of fish, which Nature provides so abundantly in India, and it drives the natives to eat stinking fish dried in the sun. I very much regret the increase of the Salt Tax in India, and I think that the enormous comparative increase of that tax in Burma is still more dangerous. What has happened in Burma? Formerly there was in that country an almost nominal tax upon salt, but you have suddenly raised the tax to a very considerable sum. The Under Secretary of State has told us there has been an enormous decrease in the consumption of salt in Burma. That is a very injurious state of things, and I believe it is politically dangerous. At a time when you are trying to pacify that country, there is nothing more dangerous than suddenly to raise the price of salt. We must have additional taxation, but we ought not to tax things most necessary for the health of the people. We must extend our area of taxation; we must find new subjects of taxation; and I would recommend the Government to tax tobacco, which is a luxury, rather than salt, which is a necessary of life. As regards the question of Excise, I am free to admit that in the greater part of India the Government of India are honestly endeavouring to carry out the policy of raising the largest amount of revenue from the smallest amount of consumption. But there is a Province with which I am intimately acquainted in which that policy has not been carried out. While in other parts of India a gradual return is being made to the Still-head Duty, the out-still system largely prevails in Bengal. But we are only making a gradual return to the old civilised system. My belief is it is simply and solely on financial grounds that you do not make that sweeping return to the old civilised system which ought never 648 to have been departed from. No doubt the Government of Bengal are anxious to return to that system, but for financial reasons the Government of India will not allow them the revenue necessary for the purpose. If there is any other reason, I hope the Under Secretary will reveal it. Then, I must express regret at the abandonment of the fund to provide for the famines which periodically occur in India. These famines cost many millions of pounds sterling, and the revenue of the year is not sufficient to meet the expenditure. Some years ago the Government of India very wisely and prudently came to the conclusion that to meet the great expense consequent on famines it was necessary and desirable to provide a fund. It was decided that £1,500,000 should be set aside annually for this purpose. It was permitted that some part of the money should be spent on works likely to avert famines, but the main object was to meet the cost of the periodical famines in the country. There is reason to fear that the future famines will be more extensive than those which have occurred hitherto. The population yearly becomes denser, and therefore the disaster is more difficult to deal with. No doubt railways are very useful in the way of bringing food to the people, but railways do not bring to the people money to pay for the food. The Government must find the money, and, therefore, I maintain it is only right and prudent that they should put into the account a specific sum—say £1,500,000 per annum—as a Famine Insurance Fund. It is most unfortunate that the Government have abandoned the provision of this fund. The result will be that this year, or next year, or the year after, when there is a great famine costing, perhaps, eight or ten millions sterling, you will not have the means to meet it, but you will have to borrow the money. We are bound to assist the people of India in time of famine, and if the population continues to increase at the present pace we may be called upon to assist them in many ways. I hope we shall do our best to encourage the industrial arts in India. I hope that even if it be that Indian artisans are allowed to rival those of Lancashire we shall not throw obstacles in the way. I am a little suspicious of the kind interest taken by the representatives of Lancashire in the 649 welfare of the Indian operatives. I hope, too, that something may be done in the direction of State colonisation— that the people of India may be encouraged to resort to the tropical parts of Her Majesty's dominions. [The Chairman: Order, order!] I will not pursue that subject, but will turn to the question of public works. I object, as I say in the Motion of which I have given notice, toThe grant of large and unnecessary railway guarantees to London syndicates while the more economical construction of light local lines by means of cheap money borrowed by Government for the purpose is neglected.It seems to me it would be very much better that we should avoid the working of these syndicates, and I very much regret the reversion of the Government to the old system of guarantee which it was supposed we had abandoned. We were led to believe that the deficit in regard to Indian railways had disappeared, and that we had indeed reached a period of surplusage. Now we learn that that is an entire mistake, and that upwards of £2,000,000 is the deficit on the railways. I cannot understand the policy of the Government in regard to these guarantees to railways. The Government are continually granting fresh railways at a time when they are buying back the old guaranteed railways at an enormous premium. I suppose the Government consider it is advantageous that the State should control those railways and be possessed of them. If that is their policy why are they continually guaranteeing new railways? Excessive terms are given to the London syndicates, with the result that a great burden is thrown on the Indian taxpayers. It seems that new Secretaries of State on coming into office are always filled with enthusiasm for the promotion of public works, but are not strong enough to resist the city syndicates. What is the result? It is that two great trunk lines of railway have been made in recent years to compete with two Government lines already existing. The Government have been forced by the persistency of railway syndicates in London to give liberal guarantees to additional trunk lines which are to compete with old lines. The policy of the Government in this respect is unfortunate. It shows a want of strength in the India Office to 650 resist pressure brought to bear upon them by great financial syndicates in the City of London. I believe that India wants more railways, but it is regrettable that the Government submit to the terms imposed by London financiers who always act on the principle "Heads I win, tails you lose." My opinion is it would be very much better that instead of guaranteeing great lines which compete with their own lines the Government should borrow cheap money and make small local lines which are really required. India is a flat country, metal is very scarce, roads are very expensive, and light railways can be cheaply made. The Government should settle the lines required for the benefit of India, and then borrow cheap money with which to pay for the con struction of those lines. At one time the Government had not the necessary experience in railway matters. They have since acquired that experience; they have competent officers, and I do not think they would find any difficulty in making the lines I recommend. While upon the question of railways I desire to ask the Under Secretary two questions. The first is in respect to the Delhi and Umballa Railway. This line is amongst the recently sanctioned lines. I should like to know on what terms that railway has been sanctioned, and who is to make it. I earnestly hope the line is either to be made by private people without guarantees or by the Government. Then I should like some statement from the Under Secretary as to what is proposed in regard to the proposed Chittagong and Assam Railway. I desire to see the line made, but at the same time I am extremely suspicious as to land grants. I do not object to land grants if they can be fairly given, but I know the country extremely well, and I confess I do not know where you are to find land where there are no native claims and rights and where it would pay syndicates to make railways by means of grants of land. I have only one word to say in regard to the irrigation works. I am rather surprised the hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham (Sir R. Temple) did not allude to the disastrous results of the great irrigation works made in the Province of Bengal, where the Government were forced by persistent clamour to take over works of private companies, works 651 which did riot pay their working expenses. That is one of the things we ought to accept as a warning not to rush too hurriedly, as a warning not to give too readily guarantees and concessions to promoters. I have confined my remarks to the prosaic region of finance. I cannot regard the financial position of India as favourable. We only approach equilibrium by additional taxation and by abandoning the famine fund. The situation cannot safely be described in glowing colours, and the problem must be faced by some method of taxing the rich, or the luxuries, not the necessaries, of the poor.
§ SIR R. LETHBRIDGE (Kensington, W.)
Before I proceed to make a few remarks upon the exceedingly interesting and very lucid statement of my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for India, I should like to be allowed to express my keen regret that the recent alteration in the Rules of Procedure precludes us from discussing in this Committee some of the most important current events in India. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) and my hon. Friend the Member for the Evesham Division (Sir R. Temple) have referred to the movement which is going on in India under the name of the National Congress Movement. Into the merits of that movement you, Sir, will not permit me to enter any more than you would permit those hon. Members, further than to say that though we sympathise with some or most of the points of that movement, in other respects we regard it as a dangerous movement. I cannot help thinking that it is a movement of such a character that this House is peculiarly qualified to express an opinion upon it, and I think it would be well if the House were afforded an opportunity of discussing it and of stretching out, as it were, a hand to our fellow-subjects in India and of preventing them falling altogether into the hands of interested agitators. Then, with regard to the period of the Session at which this discussion takes place, I hope my hon. Friend the Under Secretary for India, or some other Member of the Government, will offer some tangible defence of the practice of putting off the Indian Budget until this period of the Session, or else give us a pledge that next Session the Government will endeavour to take the 652 Indian Budget at an earlier period. It is little less than a scandal that during the speech of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir Q. Campbell), an hon. Member who speaks with very great knowledge of the subject, there was for a large period not a single Member of the House upon the opposite Benches. Let me turn for a moment to the remarks of the hon. Member for Northampton and the hon. Member for the Evesham Division on the question of what is known as the Famine Insurance Fund. That dispute is now a matter of ancient history. The quarrel was settled years ago; it was determined to be simply a dispute about words. There never was any such thing as a permanent Famine Insurance Fund, and it never was intended there should be any such permanent fund. All that was attempted was—and that has been done as far as has been compatible with the circumstances of each year— that a certain sum should be allocated— ear-marked as it were—for the purpose of providing against famine, and should be set apart for public works, railways, irrigation works, and so forth. Turning to the subject-matter of my hon. Friend's statement, the finance of India generally, no one can fail to be struck with that part of the statement which refers especially to the railways of India and to very great expansion of those railways of late. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy has brought up the question of the comparative merits of the plan of constructing light local lines by State effort and that of the Government guaranteeing the construction of railways by companies. I think there is very much to be said on both sides of the argument. With the command of skilled labour which the Public Works Department of India possesses, the construction of light local railways might be advantageously undertaken by the Government of India; but, on the other hand, it must be remembered that State control of enterprises of this kind is always somewhat expensive. The State always must pay its servants on a higher scale than private companies pay their servants. The organisation must always be more elaborate, and, therefore, I do not think Her Majesty's Government can be blamed that, in the case of the Delhi and Umballa railway and other railways they have entrusted 653 the construction to companies, aiding those companies by a certain amount of guarantee. Another point dwelt upon by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy, in which I cannot agree with him, is the comparative recovery of the finances of Upper Burma. He quite forgets that in Upper Burma we have been passing through a transition stage, from a state bordering on war to a condition of peace. There is still a great deal of dacoity and robbery going on. I do think, Sir, that the figures which have been presented to us as to the expansion of the revenue of Burma are, on the whole, exceedingly satisfactory. I should like, whilst on this subject, to refer to the question of the working of the magnificent teak forests by the Bombay-Burma Corporation. The Government say they cannot do otherwise than confirm the monopoly, because it was given by King Theebaw. But a monopoly under King Theebaw is a very different thing from a monopoly guaranteed by the might of Great Britain. All the Corporation had a right to expect was that they should be put in a position of equal value with that in which they were before, and some compensating advantages might, I think, have been secured by the Government of India. I agree with much that fell from the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy in reference to the shortcomings of the Government of India and the India Office in commercial matters generally. They have, somehow or other, been unfortunate whenever they have interfered in such things, as, for example, in the case of the Hyderabad (Deccan) Mining Company. We had a Committee sitting on the subject, and it reported unfavourably to the system, but not much has come from it. I would suggest that for the safeguarding of the interests of the finances of India in such matters, it would be worth the consideration of Her Majesty's Government whether we might not have attached to the Government of India something like a Board of Trade Department. I am glad to learn that Her Majesty's Government have recommended the Government of India to take steps for the cultivation of sericulture in Bengal. The silk industry is likely to be not only of great advantage to the Presidency, but most useful to our own manufacturers in Macclesfield and else- 654 where in supplying them with raw material. In Mr. Wardell the British Sericulture Society possesses an adviser who has devoted himself to this subject in a remarkable degree, and has carried on investigations into the silkworm cultivation of Bengal such as will afford to the Government the best data for founding any experiments of this kind upon. On one other point the Secretary of State deserves the thanks both of Indian producers and English consumers. I refer to the persistence with which he has encouraged efforts to promote the purity of Indian wheat, and to provide wheat for this country of the best possible quality. I turn now to the Excise policy of the Government. Hints have been thrown out that the Government are thinking of imposing a tax upon a very promising young industry which has been growing up for many years, and which many of us who are interested in India have watched with much care —namely, the brewing of light beer in the hill stations for the consumption of English soldiers. Now, Sir, this beer is brewed simply to supply to our English troops in India. It is not intended for, and will not go to the natives of the country. If the Government put taxation on the more or less injurious and poisonous native spirits which are consumed by the native population, even if they imposed almost prohibitory duties upon them, they would be acting in entire harmony with public opinion in India. I believe that actual prohibition would not be objected to by public opinion in India, and it would certainly have a great effect upon the morals of the native population. But with regard to these hill brewers of light beer, I maintain that the cause of temperance is really served by them. They put light and wholesome beer within the reach of the British soldier, and if he does not get that he drinks those atrocious country spirits. I think it would therefore be a great mistake if the Government throttled that industry by putting any excessive or even moderately light taxation upon it. I had intended to speak in some detail on the alarming state of affairs disclosed by the Report lately presented to us respecting the Crawford case in Bombay, but I will not dwell on it further than to say that it is a matter of great importance 655 which deserves the attention of Parliament. I merely allude to it to point out to the Committee that the time has come when, in order to clear up all these points, and to rehabilitate the character of our civilisation in India, we ought to have at length the long promised Royal Commission to inquire into the affairs of India. My hon. Friend (Sir J. Gorst) says the Financial Committee has done all that is necessary, as far as the finances are concerned. I maintain that that Committee was really a departmental committee in India, and one of the worst type. One of the results of its inquiry was the appointment for a considerable period of a Financial Commissioner, drawing a salary of five or six hundred a year, and of some smaller officials. The appointment of such a set of officials was clearly not the suitable outcome of the proceedings of a Committee appointed to cut down the expenditure of India, and to establish something like equilibrium in the finances. The Army Commission of 1879 reported strongly in favour of certain financial retrenchments, and the military Sub-Committee of that Committee took it upon itself, if I am not mistaken, really to reverse a large number of the recommendations of the Army Commission, in the direction of greater extravagance. I think the recommendations of the Army Commission, headed by Sir F. Roberts and some of the first authorities of the day on these subjects, might fairly have been taken into account. I was very glad to hear from my hon. Friend (Sir J. Gorst) that some of the recommendations of the Finance Committee with regard to the expenses of the annual picnics of the Provincial Governments of India to the hills in the summer will be carried out by the Government of India. I should be glad to hear further details on that subject, because the question is one which interests public opinion in every one of the Presidential towns of India. Every year a large unnecessary expenditure is still incurred in these picnics, which do no good to anybody whatever. I would point out to my hon. Friend and to the Committee that the cost of any one of these picnics would be sufficient to meet all the demands which have been brought before the Committee for turning the silver pensions of the Un- 656 covenanted servants of India into sterling pensions. I think justice clearly demands that the voice of such a large body of officials as those of the Uncovenanted Service should be listened to, and those demands could be carried out at the cost of one of these picnics. The general question of silver pensions has been debated once this Session, and I shall not now attempt to go into it. I will merely refer to the payments made to the Cooper's Hill Civil Engineers, who went out in the years 1871 and 1872. Those pensions are henceforward to be paid in sterling and not in silver. And why, Sir? Simply because in the prospectus of that particular year there was a statement to the effect that the rupee would be valued at 2s.
§ SIR R. LETHBRIDGE
As I see I am wandering beyond the Financial Statement, I will not further dwell upon that subject. My hon. Friend has taken a great deal of credit to the Government for the reduction in the number of the Council of India. He has told us that the Government will save no less a sum than £6,000 a year to the taxpayers of India by the reduction in the numbers of the Consultative Body which advises, and checks, and to a certain extent controls the action of the Secretary of State. Now, Sir, I submit that this is one of those fiddling and cheeseparing reductions of which my hon. Friend so justly speaks with a good deal of contempt. The reduction has been sanctioned by this House, but it has been condemned in the strongest manner by the whole of the Press of India. It is condemned by papers like the Pioneer of Allahabad, which says it is a device to increase the despotic power of the Secretary of State; and papers like the Englishman of Calcutta, which speaks of it in the same way. The very organ of the taxpayers, of whom my hon. Friend (Sir J. Gorst) has constituted himself the champion— the Indian Mirror—has spoken in the strongest terms of this pettifogging reduction, because it objects to anything which will enable the Secretary of State to diminish the effectiveness of the control or check upon his despotic authority. [A laugh.] My hon. Friend laughs, but the powers of the Secretary of State are necessarily despotic, and are necessarily unchecked by any public opinion in this 657 country. The only check exercised on his despotic power is that furnished by the Council, and I think the Press is right in deprecating any diminution of the numbers of that Assembly. I think the plea which has often been advanced by the hon. Member for Northampton, that a full Parliamentary inquiry into all these affairs is necessary, is really one which the Government cannot afford any longer to reject. The contention is founded on the promises of the Government itself. The noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), when Secretary for India, gave the strongest assurances that it was the intention of the Government to carry on such inquiry; and I must say that I myself, as a very humble supporter of the Government, thought I could fairly pledge myself that the Government would carry out its promises. I did so pledge myself; and I shall never cease, whilst I am in this House, to indicate that fact, and to support any movement for carrying out the pledges which were given by the Government, and especially by the noble Lord the Member for Paddington, for a full inquiry into the Indian administration generally.
§ MR. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)
I should not have been inclined to take part in this discussion were it not for the fact that the Government of India seem inclined to look on further railway extension in India as a sealed book. I am afraid I shall have to trouble the Committee with a number of figures; but it is necessary for me to do this, in order to prove my contention that the progress of India to a considerable extent depends upon the extension of her railways. I do not say it exclusively depends on railway extension, for; no doubt, irrigation works demand attention; but I hold that the prosperity of the Indian portion of the Empire depends in a large measure upon railways, and as there is an impression in certain quarters that the era of railway building in that country has closed, I desire to encourage the Government to push on the work. I am glad to say that the new Viceroy, Lord Lansdowne, before setting out to India, spoke in very encouraging terms on this subject, and on arriving in India his language was not less 658 satisfactory. In November last, at Lansdowne House, he said:—I observe in the conversation I have had with gentlemen familiar with India that, in spite of apprehensions which they may feel as to financial difficulties consequent upon the fall of the exchange, they are all of them disposed to look forward with sanguine expectations to the improvement in the general position of the country, which the attribute very much to the manner the railways in India have been expanded during the last few years.At the end he said:—Hence, as regards railways, I think we may say that everybody is agreed, and it is merely a question of the rate at which the system can be developed.On arriving in India Lord Lansdowne said:—I feel that at the present time all proposals involving an increase of the public expenditure require the closest examination and scrutiny. There is, nevertheless, I am convinced no duty more incumbent upon the Government than that of extending the railway communication of the country and of bringing to light and rendering available for human use the wealth which is latent within it.It is quite clear that Lord Lansdowne, before settling down to such an important charge as that which he had undertaken, would have consulted those authorities best qualified to advise him, and so far nothing has taken place to induce him to change his opinions of which we have any information. Of course, it would not be right to-put on his words a stronger meaning than he intended, but the Committee will have gathered his views from what I have quoted, and we may expect that he will use his best efforts to bring about the fulfilment of them. There can be no doubt that the commercial railways in India have proved of great advantage to the Indian Empire, leaving out of account the strategic railways which open up a large question, one which I do not feel called upon to go into. It has been stated that the total net profit on Indian railways during the past year was 5.12 per cent on the capital outlay, and I think that is a fair profit in a country new to railways. That this will increase in time I have very little doubt. If we look at the statistics which have been given we shall find that in 1888 the passenger traffic in India increased 8.12 per cent over that of 1887, and that the ton mileage of 659 goods increased 11.94 per cent. It was foreseen when the Government entered into this system of railway construction that for some years there would be no return, but that a return would be reaped in later years. Hear Sir Auckland Colvin's testimony on this point—The loss will probably be progressively greater for the next three or four years, not because the lines which are open to traffic are not paying, but, on the contrary, because, in spite of their increasing receipts, all they can yield, and far more, is swallowed up in the interest on capital on other lines under construction.I, therefore, feel that on so important a subject I need not apologise for troubling the Committee. Feeling as I do that railway extension is the real need of our Indian Empire, I would draw attention to one or two salient facts bearing on the question. In the first place, although India has a population of some 270,000,000, it has only 17,000 miles of railway, which it will be admitted is a very small amount for so large a population, and for a territory of—including Burma—1,570,000 square miles, which is 27 times larger than England and Wales, and 13 times larger than the United Kingdom. It has been said by Dr. George Watt, C.I.E., in a Paper read before the Society of Arts, that according to the most recent survey one hundred millions of acres of land suitable for cultivation in India have not as yet been ploughed. It seems to me that with such an extent of land cultivable, and such a growth and progress as India is making under British rule we may look forward to a time when her railways will be one of the most paying institutions, producing the best results in that great Empire. Last year the Commercial State Railways made a very fair profit indeed, and have occasioned an increase in the revenue of the whole country, though, on the other hand, there was a net loss on the Military Railways opened and unopened. The development of trade in India has, I maintain, been commensurate with the development of the railway system, though I do not attribute the whole increase to the railways. India's foreign trade in 1852–3, with 21½ miles of opened railway, was 385 millions of rupees; in 1859–60, with 336 miles, it was 695 millions; in 1869–70, with 4,766 miles, it was 1,003 millions; in 1885–6, with 12,376 660 miles, it was 1,520 millions of rupees respectively. Therefore, with increased facilities for transport the whole trade of India has increased to a large extent. Whilst India has benefited, there is not the slightest doubt that our own country, and Lancashire in particular, has enjoyed an extension of trade. I do not for a moment believe that the people of Lancashire desire to advocate an expenditure of Indian money merely in their own interests, but the fact that the interests of the two countries run on parallel lines in this respect is, I think, a forcible argument in favour of the view I am advocating. If we turn to an article which appeared in 1887 in the Journal of the Manchester Geographical Society we find the following statement: —The Board of Trade returns show that the export of cloth in 1886 exceeded that of 1881 to the extent of 73 million yards, but during this time the exports to India increased 479 millions, showing an actual decrease to other parts of the world to the amount of 406 million yards. This shows very clearly our great dependence upon India as a customer for our cotton manufactures.Between the end of March 1877–87 the import of Lancashire piece goods into India increased from 1,186,418,810 yards to 2,155,713,385 yards, or by 82 per cent. The same thing will be found to be true of many other trades I have no doubt —hardware manufactures and so on. India, it will be found, is taking the place of other countries, which in the past were large consumers of English manufactures. I would venture to point out that the custom of India is a matter of life and death to Lancashire, and depends upon railway extension in India upon which depends also the progress of India. Our Continental trade is diminishing, and it is only right that Her Majesty's Government, in view of the large and growing populations in our manufacturing districts, should do what they can to increase the means of transport which encourage the consumption of our goods by Eastern populations. We do not wish in any way to play the dog in the manger, but at the same time we do not wish to fall behind our neighbours in these large branches of trade and commerce. I am glad to think that the revenues of India have been improved by the great railway undertakings that have been carried out. Lord Cross, at Ashton-under-Lyne, in 1877, said— 661If it had not been for the railways in India there is no doubt that the Government Revenue would have been in a very awkward condition. In 1857 India, with 151 miles of railway, had a revenue of £32,000,000 (rupee pounds); in 1887, with nearly 14,000 miles of railway, its revenue had increased to upwards of £77,000,000, and according to Sir John Strachey, the growth of the revenue had not been due to an increase of taxation. In 1857, the foreign trade of India amounted to £55,000,000; in 1887, it was 163 millions. Between 1877 and 1887 the gross revenue of India, excluding railway receipts, increased by £8,130,624. In 1880, the ordinary debt of India was 106,000,000 tens of rupees; by 1887 it had been reduced to 74,000,000 tens of rupees; or, in seven years, by more than one-fourth.I have been told by friends who know India more intimately than I do that the effect of establishing a station on one of the lines in India is almost magical, and that immediately on its installation the district bursts into a scene of new life and progress. It may be said that the Government has done enough, that they have carried out to a large extent the recommendations of the Select Committee of this House which sat in 1884. They have carried out nearly all the railways in Schedule A of the Committee's Report, and it may be thought that they have done their share of the work, and that it must be left to private enterprise to make the smaller lines or feeders of the large trunk railways. But I am not certain that this is the real solution of the railway question. Colonel Conway-Gordon, the Director General of Indian Railways, in his evidence before the Committee of 1884, said—The whole history of Indian railways is one long and unsuccessful attempt to get railways constructed with a State guarantee.The prospect of profit from the feeder lines is remote. In India, as in other countries, the branch lines have little and a non-paying traffic, the trunk lines being those which benefit most by the larger amount of traffic. An accident on a small feeder line puts a stop to dividends for two or three years; and the result is that a very few business men are inclined to put their money in these lines. Where feeder lines are likely to be profitable there is no doubt the Government will make them themselves. The Government, as we all know, is the great landowner of India, and it is the Government who would 662 reap the greatest benefit from new branch lines. Great changes of policy, however, take place on the part of Indian Governments from time to time, which also renders railway building more difficult, as the policy changes frequently. At one time the policy is to guarantee railways, at another to construct State railways, and at another to rely on private enterprise. Moreover, there is no permanent body in India to settle railway disputes. The Bengal and North-Western Railway has been more than four and a half years negotiating with the Secretary of State for the transfer to the company of the Tirhoot S. R., and the matter is still unsettled; and the Rohilkund and Kumaon Railway Company has been three years negotiating for the completion of a section of line 60 miles in length, between Sitapur and Philibit, and the matter has only just been settled. Then there is much opposition on the part of the State Department to new railways on the part of engineers and officials who magnify their office. The subject of private enterprise was well dealt with by General Trevor, Chairman of the Bombay and Baroda Railway Company, in his speech at a meeting of shareholders, when he said—I am not one of those who believe that private enterprise unaided can do much to provide India with railways. The country is too vast, too poor, and too conservative to have its wants for communication met by capitalists, who require an early and fair return for their invested capital. The State must, either directly, or by guarantees, or by subsidies, build the greater part of the railways that are required to open out the country. What private enterprise can do is here and there to construct some lines that from their low initial cost cannot fail to be directly remunerative, and that will be of great value to Government, both by setting free their funds for the larger and more expensive works, and by bringing to railways, already the property of the state, traffic that will swell their revenues. Within this limited sphere private enterprise can, if judiciously carried out, be of service both to investors and to the State; but for the four or five thousand miles of new railway that ought now to be built to open out Assam, the east coast of the Bay of Bengal, the northern part of H. H. the Nizam's territories, the central Rajputana and Malwa States, and the north-western parts of the Bengal Presidency … the State must step in if anything is to he done.I do not wish in any way to detain the Committee beyond reasonable limits as there are other hon. Members who wish to address the House. I would only 663 say that I hope that the time when the natives of India will be entrusted with a greater share in the government of their own country is fast approaching. It would be a mistake to repeat in India the experience we have had in Ireland, where the neglect of the opinions of the representatives of the people has naturally brought about very regrettable consequences.
§ MR. J. M. MACLEAN (Oldham)
I agree that it is very inconvenient for the Indian Budget to be brought forward for discussion at this late period of the Session. The practice of the Government in this respect fits in very well with the doctrine laid down not long ago by the Under Secretary of State that Parliament had divested itself of its authority to interfere in the administration of Indian finance and had delegated the power to the Government of India. I noticed in the course of the Debate that the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy agreed with the hon. Member for Evesham in thinking that this was an ideal state of things. It is natural that they should take that line, both of them having held Office in India, but I think most of us in this House will be of opinion that public servants, however wise and good they may be, are the better for a little free criticism, and that it is just as well now and then to open the window and let the free breath of public opinion sweep away some of the official cobwebs. I fancy that when the Under Secretary of State for India laid down that doctrine as to the delegation of authority he intended in that mocking humour of his to suggest what would be the effect if this Parliament were to delegate to local Legislatures in different parts of the Empire the authority which it now wields. If a Dependency is no sooner established than it sets up a remonstrance against the interference of Parliament, what would be the result of establishing independent Legislatures in other parts of the Empire not so submissive as India is? I would venture to suggest that there is one way in which Parliament may exercise its power more directly than it has done in times past. I think the Under Secretary was a little ungrateful in speaking of the way in which that Bill has been received by the House of Commons. It is the only Bill 664 I can recollect which has been read a third time in this House without the Minister in charge of it having given a word of explanation as to its meaning. The Under Secretary for India stated in his speech that Lord Cross is extremely anxious to make other reforms in the India Office at Westminster, besides that which he has accomplished by means of the Council of India Bill. Would it not be a good thing if the establishment of the office at Westminster were put upon the Estimates which are submitted to this House for all the Ministerial Offices in this country? The amount could be recouped afterwards out of the revenue of India. But at present we have the Secretary of State and the Under Secretary in a curiously anomalous position. Every other Minister draws his salary from the Imperial Exchequer, and is responsible to Parliament, but the Under Secretary is perfectly independent of this House so far as the payment of his salary is concerned. So is the Secretary of State, and they are both virtually free from the control of Parliament, and at the same time they cannot have their responsibility enforced by the Government of India, which is strictly subordinate to them. Therefore, we have the India Office a practically irresponponsible office, and that is one reason, perhaps, for the enormous amount of money spent upon that establishment at Westminster. I think it would be a good thing if the House passed a resolution placing the establishment at Westminster upon the Civil Service Estimates, in order that when a Minister or private Member wishes to bring forward any reforms they can be properly discussed. In the statement of the moral and material progress made by India reference is made to the new postal contract and the saving to Indian revenues, but I am sorry to say that, in my opinion, the Indian Government have made themselves entirely subservient to the English Treasury, and no country could be treated more shabbily in the matter of postage than India. An amount of £100,000 was saved on the new contract for India and China, and yet the postage is kept at the same rate, neither the people of India nor of England getting any benefit from the saving, and the saving is actually taken to subsidise a new Postal Service 665 to Australia and a new and ridiculous I contract between Canada and Japan and China. It is really a scandalous thing that this money should be diverted in this way from the Indian Postal Service. The English Treasury, I think, must have been overcome by the persistent clamours of our Colonial friends. Our Colonial cousins are keen hands at a bargain; while we talk sentiment they mean business, and so they get the better of us. Next Session I hope we may hear of a reduction of the extravagant rate of postage between this country and India. Our material interest is concerned with India more than with all our Colonies put together. India is our best customer; with her we have a perfectly free trade. We derive from our possession of India far more advantage than people generally believe. As a Lancashire Member, I can confirm the statement of the hon. Member for Manchester that Lancashire does not desire to push her claims against India in any way to the disadvantage of India, but Lancashire asks fair play from India in return. We are perfectly willing to vote for the repeal of the duty on silver plate, but, on the other hand, we demand consideration in the cotton twist and yarn trades. There has been a remarkable development in India in the manufacture of cotton twists and yarn; this trade is worth five and a half millions a year, more than the value of all the twist and yarn imported into India. Then the value of machinery and mill-work imported into India, which in 1887 was £1,370,000, now reaches £2,316,000. New mills are being erected in India, and trade is rapidly developing, but under conditions of labour that are exciting strong feeling in Lancashire. With the extraordinary hours of labour in Indian mills the competition is not fair.
§ MR. MACLEAN
I bow to your ruling, but I think this is a matter connected with the administration of India, and, as I understood fom the statement, of moral and material progress, could be brought under inquiry; but I will simply express regret that no answer has been returned to the Despatch of Lord Cross suggesting an equalisation 666 of the hours of labour in India to those in this country. Other commercial matters I should like to touch upon; for instance, the want of attention shown by the Government of India of late to the introduction of cotton in the country. Time was, I remember, when my hon. Friend (Sir R. Temple) was Governor of the Central Provinces, when energetic efforts were made to improve the cultivation of cotton in India, but that cultivation has not been conducted with anything like the same zeal of late years in India.
§ MR. MACLEAN
It is difficult to avoid these subjects, which really do affect the finances of India, but I may say I wish Lord Cross had done as much to encourage the cultivation of cotton as he has to obtain large supplies of wheat to compete with American wheat. I join in the congratulations to the Under Secretary on the favourable statement he has been able to make. I wonder that the hon. Member for Northampton, usually so clear-headed, does not see that what he calls the "Famine Insurance Fund" is really a revival of the old Sinking Fund fallacy. The fact is, there is no fund out of which the Government can form an insurance against famine; it can only do so by raising taxation. The hon. Member has referred to Lord Lytton's promises that the fund should only be used for famine purposes, but Lord Lytton's promises are like those of Benedict—When I said I would die a bachelor,I never thought to lire to be married.Lord Lytton did not think that a war was at hand and that the requirements for the protection of India would override all other considerations. It is not generally recognised what a large expenditure India has had to incur of late years for warlike and defensive purposes. The total expenditure on the frontiers has been close on 19 millions, and the conquest of Burma, including the railway, has cost about nine millions. Then the subsidy to the Ameer of Cabul must have amounted to another million. It shows, therefore, the elasticity of Indian finances that there is now a surplus. The hon. Member for Manchester has spoken at some length on railways. I agree that nothing 667 can be more beneficial to India than the extension of the railway system. The Government are apt to take a too narrow view of this question. No doubt it is a good argument to say, "Oh, you have only 16,000 or 17,000 miles of railways in India, and in America they make as many miles a year"; but it must be borne in mind that in America the people are spending their own money, whilst in India they are spending the money of other people and creating discontent and possibly mutiny. The Government are apt to take a too narrow view of this question; and I believe that the railways of India are really more profitable to that country than is generally supposed. The bugbear as to loss by exchange, the effects of which are often very much exaggerated, has been removed altogether by the natural expansion of the revenue of India. How has that expansion been brought about? Simply by the construction of railways, which have developed the country, increased the land revenue, and greatly stimulated trade in all parts of the country; they have not only brought in a large return to the Government, but have immensely improved the general condition of the people. That has been the result of the construction of railways in India. The hon. Member for North Manchester has shown that in the last year the railways of India paid an average percentage of 5.12 on the whole capital invested, but on some of these commercial railways a larger dividend than that has been paid, reaching in one or two cases to nearly per cent. Ought not the Government, therefore, to do everything in its power to encourage the formation of lines of railways like these? There is plenty of room for new railways to be made in India, and I should say that the credit of the Government never stood so high as it does at the present time. It would be a good thing for the Government of India to expend a large sum on some new and well-considered expansions of the railway systems there. That would be one of the best means the Government could take for increasing the prosperity of the country and the contentment of the people.
§ MR. M'LAREN (Crewe)
The speeches of hon. Members opposite have shown how widely changed has 668 been the Rule which relates to Debate on these matters when you, Mr. Courtney, are in the Chair; but that is a small matter compared with the great inconvenience and want of consideration to the people of India in having the Indian Budget postponed to so late a period of the Session. I see no reason why we should not have had this Debate a month ago, when, I am sure, the time would have been much better spent than has been a good portion of the days that have been given1 to other and less important matters. I cannot but regret that the Under Secretary, in alluding to the two previous Indian Debates of this Session—namely,, that on the opium traffic and that on the Abkari question—should have stated that those subjects were brought forward to satisfy the sentimental feelings of certain, hon. Members; and I may say that I think it a pity that a Member of the Government should sneer at the action of those Representatives who take an interest in the welfare of the Indian people. It is, however, not unnatural that the hon. Gentleman should feel somewhat sore on these points, seeing that one of those Debates resulted in the defeat of the Government. With regard to the question of expenditure, there are many Members on this side of the House who have constantly protested against increased expenditure, especially military expenditure, such as that taking place in Burma, and a large number of us protested against the annexation of that country, which was brought about by the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord R. Churchill.) It is not, therefore, for the Under Secretary to taunt us with not being in favour of economy; and even in the Civil Establishments we regret tha the Government should not allow the doctrine that the expenditure ought to be diminished.
§ SIR J. GORST
What I said was that, it required extension in such matters as schools, police, sanitary matters, and law and justice.
§ MR. M'LAREN
If I have misrepresented the hon. Gentleman, I am very sorry to have done so. I think with regard to Home Charges there are certain items which are always charged to India which ought to be thrown on the British Exchequer, such as those for the Persian Mission and the Diplo- 669 matic and Consular Charges in China. I believe that the people of this country would be prepared to pay legitimate charges of this kind. I should like to know why the charges for the Home Administration of the Indian Government have increased. In 1887–8 the sum was £137,600, in the present year it is £136,900, and next year it will be £139,400. There is a considerable increase in other portions of the Home Charges, and it is to be regretted that while we are making efforts to economise the charges in India, the sum required for the Home Charges should be increased by such a large sum as a quarter of a million. I rejoice to hear that it is the settled policy of the Government to encourage as much as possible not merely the financial, but the legislative and administrative independence of each province. In addition to that, however, the Indian reformers desire that the people of India should have some voice in their affairs. I earnestly hope that some steps may be taken to carry out the policy advocated by the Congress Party in India.
§ SIR R. FOWLER (London)
I am glad to hear the announcement of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) that he intends to return to the subject of India on the next Debate on the Address, for although it is inconvenient to have prolonged Debates on the Address, yet when we find how the time of private Members is taken up by the Government, so that they have little or no opportunity of raising discussions on important matters in which they are interested, I do not think the Government can complain that a question of so much importance as the Administration of India should be raised on the Address. I remember one remark of the late Mr. Fawcett which deeply impressed me, and that was that no responsibility weighed more heavily upon him than the responsibility he owed to the people of India; and I really do hope that next year, and in future years, we shall have better opportunities than hitherto of discussing Indian affairs in this House. I am glad to find that although in this Debate some hon. Members have taken a rather doleful view of the state of things in India, my hon. Friend near me (Sir R. Temple), who speaks with great authority on these matters, has regarded them 670 from a more hopeful point of view. It is very natural for my hon. Friend to vindicate the state of affairs in that country; and we cannot help feeling that we owe a deep debt of gratitude to him as well as to other eminent men, who have devoted a great part of their lives to the service of the people of India in the administration of that country's affairs. At the same time, there are things in that part of the world which we cannot but regret, and among them I would mention the Land Duty, the Opium Revenue, and the Salt Duty. I have already given my opinion on the opium question in a previous Debate, and will not now repeat what I then said; but with regard to the Land Revenue, I cannot but feel that it is a large tax on the people of India. I was somewhat surprised that this question was passed over in the able speech of the hon. Member for Northampton. The Under Secretary has said this is only what it was in the days of the Moguls; that, in fact, the revenue is less now than it was then; but, at the same time, I think it would be a satisfactory thing to every Member of this House if we could see our way to reduce this revenue, although, of course, in the present state of things, we cannot do so. We know that in the Presidency of Madras, where this revenue is raised directly from the ryots, it is a heavy incubus on the people; but in Bengal, under the permanent settlement of Lord Cornwallis, a less amount is raised from this source than in other parts of the country. I think it hardly satisfactory that there should be a difference in the incidence of this tax in different parts of India, and I shall be glad when the time comes that will enable a general reduction to be made. As to the Salt Duty, although it is said that that is the only way in which the bulk of the Indian people contribute to the taxation of the country, it should be remembered that the lower class of the Indian population are very poor, so poor that my hon. Friend near me, in a pamphlet he gave me when I visited him as Governor of Bengal, described that class as receiving as little as was possible to keep human nature together. Under these circumstances, it would be very satisfactory if we were able to refrain from taxing them at all. I cannot, therefore, but regard the Salt Tax as a hardship on 671 the Indian people, and express a wish that they could be relieved of it altogether. As to the Abkari Tax, I think it most undesirable to introduce alcoholic liquors into a hot climate like that of India; and I believe the hon. Gentleman who brought this question forward did good service to that country. In conclusion, I must congratulate my hon. Friend the Under Secretary on the very satisfactory statement he has been able to make of the condition of affairs in India.
MR. MAC NEILL
I listened with very great attention to the observations of the Under Secretary for India, and I could not but admire the sagacity with which he grasps the salient points of the situation, and the great dexterity with which he calmly skates over dangerous places. I was reminded of an able article which he wrote on Indian affairs long before he occupied his present high position, in which he said—In our present system of Government in India we shut our eyes to disagreeable things.Undoubtedly the hon. and learned Gentleman pursues that policy now, and it will be my endeavour to open his eyes to a few disagreeable things. The hon. Gentleman has admitted that the expenditure of India has increased.
MR. MAC NEILL
Yes; the hon. and learned Gentleman qualified that statement, for he pointed out that in the great Departments of Education and Police rigid economy had been exercised. But in the other great Departments the very reverse has been the ease. I do not like statistics, because I cannot remember them. But I believe that out of 210 millions of people in India only 104 men in every thousand can read, and yet you are enforcing the most rigid economy in the Education Service. Again, I find in regard to the police that the salary of a native policeman is only about £4 per annum, and the consequence of this seeming economy is that substantial and gross injustice is caused, because the officials receiving these wretched salaries naturally levy blackmail, and use their authority against persons whom they ought to protect. There is another item as to which I should like an expla- 672 nation, and that is that for the first time this year there appears in the Accounts a sum of £1,000 for secret service. How is it that that item appears? I have not yet had time to verify it. I think it is to be very much regretted that the discussion of Indian affairs should be driven off to the end of the Session. I know that on this occasion we can only speak on financial topics; but we ought to remember that we are dealing with money which is extracted from people who have no voice whatever in the expenditure of the money, and therefore we ought to take especial care to see that it is properly expended. Now, there are two subjects to which I wish to draw attention, one is the Salt Tax and the other the Famine Relief Fund. The Salt Tax is a tax which is levied on a necessary of life; it is naturally viewed with very great suspicion, and it is hateful to the people who have to pay it. We know what occurred in this country when it was suspected that it was intended to impose a duty on a necessary of life, we know what a fierce agitation arose in regard to the Sugar Bounties question, an agitation which compelled the most powerful Government of the present century to give in. Many hon. Members can also remember the fierce agitation on the Corn Law. Now, this Salt Tax is ground from the very vitals of the starving poor. The people of India are steeped in poverty to their very lips, and I fear that much of that poverty has been superinduced by artificial means. And now I come to the Famine Relief Fund. This fund was established in 1878, the year in which the enhancement of the Salt Tax occurred. A special fund was ear-marked for the purpose of mitigating famine miseries; but the fund, which was originally one and a half millions, was, unfortunately, appropriated to something else. Now, remember that the people of India are poor to the last degree, and they are subjected to periodic famines, which I think are a disgrace to our administration. Let us consider how the population of India is made up. Five-sevenths of it is purely agricultural, for the manufactures for which India was famous in the 18th century have been destroyed by the fiscal policy of England. A few months ago we were told by the Chief Commissioner for Assam that 673 half of the agricultural population of India never knew from year's end to year's end what it was to have their hunger satisfied. Yet you are under your administration taxing a necessary of life for these people. Again, Mr. Hunter, of the Bengal Civil Service, has stated that many millions die through the want of sufficient food; while Mr. Robertson, the head of the Agricultural Department in Madras, said that some natives preferred to grow cotton to grain, although the former was less productive, because they could not eat the cotton, whereas they could, and would, eat the grain. Yet these are the people on whom you impose this Salt Tax. The late Mr. J. K. Cross, when he occupied the same position as that now held by the hon. and learned Gentleman, said that any financier who was able to abolish the Salt Tax would confer almost as great a boon on the people of India as the repeal of the Corn Laws had given to the people of England. Lord Ripon, after he returned to this country, said that the reduction of the Salt Tax had the result of strengthening our financial position by rendering it more elastic. By the enhancement of the Salt Tax, according to a speaker at the Indian Congress, we took away a whole day's food from the Indian people. It is a tax which falls by far heaviest on the lower orders in India, as they require salt in a greater degree. A decrease in the yield upon the Salt Tax, however small, shows that men are stinting themselves of what is really a necessary of life. Railways, instead of being the great blessing they have been represented to be, have been a heavy tax on the people of India. Of the expenditure of the country a large part goes to Europeans for work for which natives are equally competent and less costly. For instance, you can get black soldiers at a cost of £40 per annum. Your English soldiers cost you £200 a year, yet although the natives are quite as capable you will not employ them. Natives, indeed, are excluded from spheres where their employment would be a reduction of Imperial expenditure and a lightening of Imperial taxation. The people of India, however, are now awakening to a knowledge of their rights, and I hope they will sooner or later assert those rights in a manner which will appeal to this House. As things are, 674 the people of India are being basely and mercilessly robbed for the benefit of middle-class families in England; and I believe that when the people of this country become fully acquainted with the real state of affairs, they will promptly put an end to the present system.
§ SIR J. GORST
I will not waste time in replying to the remarks of hon. Members as to the late period of the Session at which the Indian Budget is discussed. I will content myself with remarking that the fault that the Indian Budget is not brought on until so late a period, lies, not with myself nor with Her Majesty's Government, but with the House of Commons, which would not have tolerated the interruption of the discussions upon the more exciting subjects of the condition of the Irish prisons, of the conduct of Irish Resident Magistrates, or of the tithes, by the introduction earlier of a Budget that involves the welfare of 270,000,000 of our Indian fellow-subjects. And until the House of Commons repents, and expresses a sincere desire that Her Majesty's Government shall bring forward this subject at an earlier period of the Session, it is mere hypocrisy to pretend to lament year after year the delay in the introduction of the Indian Budget. As I anticipated, I have failed to make either the Committee or the hon. Member for Northampton, supported as the hon. Member was by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy, understand all about the Famine Insurance Fund. As I have already endeavoured to explain, there was at one time an intention on the part of the Indian Government to create such a fund, but that intention has never been carried into effect. As far as I understand the action of the Government of India, they made a good resolution that they would keep up a surplus revenue of one and a half millions; and, in the outset, no doubt it may have been intended to carry that surplus to some fund which might be drawn upon in time of famine. That good resolution, however, was never acted upon. The only time that it could be said that there was a Famine Insurance Fund in existence was in the very first year of its creation. In 1878–9 I there appears to have been a surplus of J revenue in India of two millions, and one and a half millions of that surplus was placed to the credit of the Famine Insur- 675 ance Fund. That million and a half was, however, swallowed up the following year by the expenses of the Afghan War. From 1878–9 until 1880–1 there was no surplus revenue in India, and when the revenue again showed a surplus, Lord Ripon, who was then Viceroy, applied the surplus, not in laying aside a Reserve Fund, but in the construction of railways and of irrigation works, and in the reduction of the debt, and his example was followed by Lord Dufferin. I maintain that the action of these noble Lords was wiser than if they had hoarded the money up in order to meet the possible emergency of famine. No fund in the world would prevent the recurrence of famine in some districts of India; and I feel bound to defend the action of Lord Ripon in this matter from the attacks of the hon. Member for Northampton.
§ SIR J. GORST
The hon. Member has praised Lord Ripon for what he has not done and has blamed others for what Lord Ripon has done. Nor has the policy of the Famine Insurance Fund anything to do with the distress in Madras. The attention of the Government was turned to the threatened scarcity in Ganjam long before questions on the subject were asked in this House, and the most careful provision made by the Government of Madras as soon as it was known that there was the danger of a failure of the crops in the district, to provide against the possibility of famine. With regard to the Famine Fund, arguments have been used which show the kind of information on which some hon. Gentlemen base their views. It is asked, for instance, how it is that such a surplus could be raised in Lord Ripon's time and not now? Those who put this question appear to be ignorant of the fact that in the last year of Lord Ripon's reign the sum of Rx.3,426,000 was paid for exchange; whereas, in the present year, the sum chargeable for exchange was Rx.7,054,000, or an increase, owing to the fall in the value of the rupee, of about Rx.3,500,000, a sum which would pay the famine insurance more than twice over. The hon. Member for Donegal no doubt speaks with perfect honesty and benevolence; but he appears to have based his arguments on statistics which are not as reliable as the official informa- 676 tion of which he is so suspicious. It is quite true that the expenditure on education ought still further to be increased. I understood the hon. Member to say that the expenditure on education represents only 1 per cent of the revenue.
MR. MAC NEILL
My authority was a Bombay Magistrate, and he states that the sum spent on education represents only 1 per cent of the Imperial Revenue.
§ SIR J. GORST
If the hon. Member refers to Papers presented to the House he will find that the expenditure on education in 1886–87 was Rx.2,544,341, and in 1887–88 Rx.2,619,128, which certainly is a much larger amount than he suggests. Much has been said with regard to the Salt Tax. I have admitted over and over again, on behalf of my noble Friend the Secretary of State for India, that he does not regard the increase in the Salt Tax as in any way desirable. It has been raised with reluctance on his part, but there has been much exaggeration as to the dire effects of this increase. In Bengal, from the year 1836 to the year 1880 the tax on salt was almost constantly between 3 and 3¼ rupees per maund. In 1880 it was reduced to two rupees, and it remained at that rate till last year, when the state of the Indian finances necessitated its being raised to 2½ rupees. Calculating that a family of six persons used 11 lb. or 12 lb. of salt a year ahead, a whole family would pay a tax of about two rupees and one anna, and each person about 5½ annas, which gives an increased burden of about one anna on each person. I regret even this small increase of the tax; but it is foolish to exaggerate its effects and to contend that the whole people are starving in consequence of its imposition. But the hon. Member for Donegal objects to the Income Tax as much as he does to the Salt Tax. You cannot please him. He belongs to that class of Indian critics who find fault with everything that the Government of Great Britain have done or will do, in India, in the past, present, and future. They draw their inspiration from the speeches of some of those ambitious Brahmins who attend Congresses for the purpose of distinguishing themselves. As long as they continue to draw upon those sources they may 677 no doubt make speeches which are amusing and interesting; but their speeches will not greatly assist the Government of Great Britain in solving the problem of the government of India. The hon. Member for Northampton has found fault with the railway policy of the Government. I need not enter at great length into that policy, because the speech of the hon. Member for Northampton has been, I think, directly answered by the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Maclean), the hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham (Sir R. Temple), and by a speaker from his own side of the House (Mr. Schwann), whose remarks on Indian railways appear to me to be very sound and valuable. The mistake into which the hon. Member for Northampton has fallen is in treating as an unmixed evil the net charge of two millions on the Railway Revenue Account. Let me remind the hon. Member and the Committee that the railways included in the Revenue Account are not the large Trunk Lines only, but also the railways made for frontier defence, which are not expected to be remunerative, and the famine protection railways, which have been constructed in sparsely-populated districts for the purpose of protecting the people against famine, and not with a view to traffic receipts. It also includes railways like the Indian Midland, the Bengal Nagpur and other lines not sufficiently advanced in construction to pay any profit. Then it should not be forgotten that the cost is enhanced by the necessity of paying the guaranteed interest on the loans in this country in pounds sterling, while the receipts of the railways are in rupees. But if the railways were to cost £2,000,000 a year to India for all eternity, I should hold that it is a good outlay, because this is not only a question of net revenue. The capital sunk in railways in India has increased commerce and developed industry, has protected the country against famine, has augmented our power of defending the country against foreign invasion, and has benefited the people in a thousand ways, quite apart from the returns on the capital expenditure. The same observations apply to irrigation works. The hon. Member has asked me a number of financial questions; but as he is not now in his place, I do not know why I should 678 weary the Committee by attempting to reply to them. But as regards these irrigation works, it may be enough to say that although I do not say that every penny spent on those works has been wisely spent, and although in past times there has been a good deal of useless expenditure, for which the hon. Member in his general censure desires to make the present Government responsible, yet, on the whole, the money has been well and wisely laid out on irrigation works. And there must still be expenditure on those works, although the results may not be directly profitable to the Indian Exchequer. Just as the railways pay indirectly, so do the irrigation works; and he would be a very bad Indian financier who would allow the works to fall into ruin or who should refrain from such extension of them as may from time to time be desirable. The hon. Member for Northampton has again raised the old ghost of the Burma ruby mines. I really thought that that ghost had been laid at rest for ever. It is quite true that the "Moral and Material Progress" Report includes for the year ending March 31st, 1888, the transaction that took place in November, 1888, and this shows the disadvantage of having Reports based on statistics received long after the period to which they belong. It is no doubt a mistake, and the Burma ruby mines lease ought not to have been included in that Report. In November, 1888, when the House was sitting, the Secretary of State for India advertised for tenders in respect of the mines, and the tenders were received on November 21 at the India Office. They were duly opened in the presence of the proper officials, amongst whom I was one, and after consideration, the best tender, irrespective of names, was accepted. As the House was sitting at the time, if there had been any suspicion of impropriety in the transaction, the hon. Member could easily have moved in the matter. The question, however, was not raised, and the conduct of the Secretary of State was not challenged. The whole transaction was perfectly bonâ fide. If the hon. Member wishes to have the Papers on the subject laid before the House, I am quite ready to accede to his wish. I was asked some questions by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir G. Campbell), to which I ought to reply. First, on the subject of the Bengal 679 Excise. I can at once assure the hon. Member that the Secretary of State, the Government of India, and the Government of Bengal, have all most actively and energetically entered on the reform of the Excise system of Bengal. They are not going on in a slow and hesitating manner, nor are they delaying the work for the purpose of extracting more revenue from the Excise system. The Des-patch written by the Secretary of State and the principles laid down by the Government of India are being honestly carried out, and there is no doubt that the work of replacing the out-still system by a better system in the Province of Bengal will be speedily carried out. Then the hon. Member expressed a gloomy view of the opium revenue, and said that the reduction in the opium crop was a very unfortunate matter. This is not so. Owing to the very large crops of recent years there has accumulated a large store of manufactured opium at the opium factories, which would deteriorate if not sold; and it is fortunate, therefore, that this year's crop, being small, an opportunity is afforded of getting rid of the surplus stock. With regard to the Delhi-Umballa-Kalka Railway, the Government have agreed to provide the land, and have arranged that, on the completion of the line, which will be constructed by a private company, the East India Railway Company shall work it for 50 per cent of the gross receipts. There is no other expense and no other subsidy or guarantee of any kind given to the new company.
SIR G. GOEST
The private company undertake the construction of the line, which will be worked by the East India Company. In 25 years the Government will have the right to buy at 25 years' purchase of the average receipts of the last five years. Another question upon which the hon. Member for Northampton and the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy made some stringent observations was the proposal for a railway from Chittagong through Eastern Bengal and Assam, and those observations afforded a good illustration of the great anxiety of hon. Members to do the work of the Secretary of State in Council. Hon. Members want to have all the proposals and opinions of everybody disclosed to the House and 680 the contract to be settled in the House instead of in the India Office. Certain proposals have been made concerning this railway, including a large grant of waste land. They have been submitted to the Secretary of State, who has considered them, but he has not so far seen his way to enter into any contract.
§ SIR J. GORST
I cannot say exactly where the waste land is. The proposal is to grant to the company, for subsequent sale, lease, or disposal, Government waste lands in the proportion of 10 square miles per mile of railway, or 7,250 square miles, the land to remain revenue free for a period of years, after which revenue would be assessed on all that had been brought under cultivation or rendered productive. And there are other terms as to minerals and forests. The Secretary of State has not seen his way to enter into any contract, but if any new railway policy of the kind is determined upon, it will, of course, be stated to the House, where it can be condemned or approved by Resolution. But I object to the fussy kind of interference in the Executive business of the Government of India, to which some hon. Members are addicted, who raise questions before the Secretary of State has had time or opportunity to form a decision. This arises from the anxiety of hon. Members to do the business of the Secretary of State instead of minding their own business, which is to criticise the Government's action when it has been determined upon or taken. Their business is not to attempt by agitation and threats to exert an undue influence upon the Executive Department of the Government while action, is still pending. The hon. Member for Oldham raised two questions, in which I very strongly sympathise with the hon. Member's views. The hon. Member first said that the expenses of the India Office ought to be a charge upon the English Consolidated Fund. But to give effect to these views the hon. Member must convert the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It does not matter to me whether my salary is paid out of the Revenues of India 681 or Great Britain. I am not afraid that the House of Commons would reject any proposal made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the adequate remuneration of the services of the Under Secretary of State for India. But it is no use attacking the Government of India because the charges of the India Office are not borne by the Consolidated Fund. I am ready to accept any principle the wisdom of Parliament may adopt.
§ MR. MACLEAN
I did not urge that the expenses of the India Office should be permanently placed on the taxpayers of Great Britain, but that they should be recouped from the Indian Treasury after the money had first been voted by the House of Commons.
§ SIR J. GORST
That part of the proposal, I am bound to say, seems preposterous. Let the House exercise a controlling voice over the expenditure of the Revenue raised by the taxation of those were present, but for the House to vote money in Committee of Supply and afterwards have the money repaid out of the Revenue of India would be a proceeding which would not commend itself to sound financiers. In regard to the question of rates of postage, this is really a matter which ought to be settled with the Postmaster General and the Treasury. If any reduction in the postage rates is made, a very heavy burden may be thrown upon the revenues of India; and I think nobody will contend that we have any right to make the taxpayers of India pay for cheaper postal communication between this country and India. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy asks for information as to the Simla Exodus, but I cannot give the Committee any detailed information as to the amount of the savings likely to be ultimately effected in the expenditure under this head. The Indian Finance Committee estimated that there would be a saving of from 3¾ to more than five lakhs of rupees, provided that certain rules for the migration of officers to Simla were adopted. In April last the Government of India informed the Secretary of State that they had appointed a special officer to collect information and make proposals on the subject, and that the matter was still under consideration. The Secretary of State intimated to the 682 Government of India that he was glad to find that they were endeavouring to reduce the cost of moving their establishments as much as possible, consistently with efficiency, and he has called for a further Report showing the conclusions arrived at and the total amount of the reduction of expense effected. This is how the matter stands, and I have at present no more detailed information on that subject. In conclusion, I wish to refer to one observation made by the Member for Northampton, and concurred in by many subsequent speakers, and that is the desire that there should be some extension in the constitution and functions of the Provincial Councils. I do not know whether Members are aware that at the last meeting of the Legislative Council of the Governor General at Calcutta in the beginning of this year, Lord Lands-downe stated that he was in favour of enlarging the number of Provincial Councils and giving them increased functions, including the right, under certain restrictions and conditions, to question Members of the Executive Government on public matters, and also the right of discussing the annual financial proposals. Lord Lansdowne also stated with accuracy that the Secretary of State generally concurred in this view; but I put it to the Committee—what chance has the Secretary of State of carrying any legislation which affects India through the House in the present state of Parties? I can only say that I have advised my noble Friend the Secretary of State that it is impossible in the present state of Parties and the present temper of the House to attempt to carry any Indian legislation. I can only point to the unhappy little Bill, the Council of India Bill. The difficulties encountered by that Bill prove what I have said. It is useless to introduce measures dealing with the constitution of the Provincial Councils in India until the House is prepared to deal with it in a spirit conducive to legislation. I can conceive nothing more mischievous to the administration of the Government of India than that proposals should be hung up Session- after Session in this House—with but a slight chance of passing into law—yet effective for disturbing the stability of the Government of India. The hon. Member for Donegal has talked about the people managing their own affairs; but I think 683 if he examines a little more closely into the subject upon which he speaks, he will find that the natives of Bengal are anxious to manage the affairs of the Punjab, where they are just as much foreigners as we are. Would they manage affairs with more fairness than we do? It has been for years past the settled policy of the Government of India to encourage the people of various parts of India to manage their own affairs so far as they are capable of doing it, but I do not believe that the people of any part of India would prefer the rule of Bengal baboos to British administration. I think the hon. Member does little justice to the benevolence of British rule in India if he overlooks the efforts that have been made, and are being made, to raise up that public spirit and capacity for self-government among the natives of every part of India which every well-wisher of the country desires to bring about. The end is not to be attained by misstatements and misrepresentations calculated to bring the Government into discredit. The end is to be attained quietly and gradually. We must gradually educate the people of the various parts of India, and give them by degrees those powers as they learn how to use them for the benefit of themselves. When hon. Gentlemen like the hon. Members for Donegal and for Cheshire rail against the administration of their fellow-countrymen in India—
§ SIR J. GORST
I am afraid I was travelling beyond the limits of the question before us; but I hope I may say this—that I hope this financial discussion which has taken place to-night may have a sobering effect on the zeal of some Members opposite, and that they, having considered the revenue and expenditure of India as set out in the Accounts laid before us, may come to a better and more charitable view of the administration of that great Empire by their fellow-countrymen.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported to-morrow.