§ MR. SEALE-HAYNE (Devon, Ashburton)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, having regard to the recent abolition of the tax on dry grain in Ceylon, and the expression of opinion on the part of the Ceylon National Association, and the debate in the Legislative Council of that colony on the 17th of December last, showing a strong desire for the abolition of the Paddy Tax on the part of the representatives of the Sinhalese people, the British and other planting interests, and the burghers, he will give such instructions as shall permit the official members of the Council to vote for its abolition?
SIR J. GORST
In the unavoidable absence of my right hon. Friend, perhaps I may be allowed to reply to the question. All the Papers connected with this subject are now before the Secretary of State, and will require the most careful consideration, as, whatever may be the merits or demerits of the Paddy Tax, it could not be abolished without substituting other taxation. The question, as it stands, is a little misleading. It should be borne in mind that the repeal of the Dry Grain Tax is in no way connected with the various proposals that have been made with respect to the Paddy Tax. It is a matter that stands by itself, and on its own merits. As regards the debate to which the hon. Member refers, I may observe that the speeches of the unofficial members, four of whom had previously signed the Report of the Select Committee against the abolition of the tax, will show the difficulty which is felt in dealing with the subject. The burgher representative, it may be noted, stated distinctly that he was not an advocate for the entire abolition of the tax, but for its reduction. Pending the decision of Her Majesty's Government it would be impossible to permit any individual official to give his vote for the abolition of so important a portion of the Colonial Revenue.