HC Deb 28 March 1893 vol 10 cc1376-97

rose to call attention to the grave and injurious consequences likely to ensue in the Civil and Military Services of the Indian Government from its failure to provide a compensation for the reduction of their salaries by the diminution of the value in the rupee, and to move that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the matter. He ventured to say the cause he had to plead that night was of greater importance than any that had been brought to the attention of the House for a long time. The cause he spoke of was that of six thousand of our fellow-countrymen in India who, under immense difficulties, were carrying on the government of that great Dependency, and whom an unforeseen and utterly incalculable event had reduced at the present time to a position of well-nigh bankruptcy. He doubted if the House knew the amount of the fall in the gold value of the rupee. Whilst the rupee formerly represented 2s., it now represented only 1s. 2½d. What that meant was that every man in the Indian Service to-day was receiving five mouths' less salary a year than he contracted for. In other words, 40 per cent. of salary was lost by the fall in the rupee. Then silver did not buy as much now in India as it did a few years ago, for the price of most commodities had risen. The result was that men with medium incomes under £1,000 had to make sacrifices which entailed loss of health and of physical efficiency; their wives had to struggle against hardships which amounted almost to a condition of poverty, and their children could only be given an inferior education, where they were given any at all. They had heard a good deal lately as to model employers. It had been said that the State should be a model employer of labour. He should be ashamed of himself as an employer of labour if he treated his employés in India as the Government treated theirs. There was not a firm of the first rank in India which had not compensated its servants for the fall in the rupee. In these circumstances, it was ridiculous to talk about the State being model employers. The Government extended a different treatment to their Dockyard employés, and he asked, were not their Indian officials to receive that consideration to which they were entitled simply because they had no votes? He had ventured to circulate among Members a statement as to the case of the Indian officials, in which he quoted a number of cases taken at random. He could read, if time permitted, dozens of communications which he had received, all disclosing cases of the greatest hardship. The discontent among the European servants in India would, if continued, lead to inefficiency, and, as a consequence, the administration of India must suffer. Those who knew India were aware how easily a little slackness, or neglect, or carelessness in the Public Works Department, the Revenue Department, or the Forest Department might lead to the loss of millions of rupees to the Government, and for that reason it would be wise to grant the small sum that would bring back the Civil servants to a state of content. In the existing condition of things men were crowding on to the pension list, and that was an important point for the consideration of the authorities both in India and at home. The time had come when the pay in India was no longer a temptation to remain in the Service, and the result would soon be seen in a crowded pension list and an increase of the home charges. He should like to read to the House a paragraph from a Memorandum by Lord Roberts to the Viceroy of India. Lord Roberts said— Should the present condition of affairs continue, or become worse, I have grave reason to apprehend that the morale, the position and the general efficiency of the officers of the Army in India, will be seriously effected. The evil was really admitted. The Government of India itself admitted it. The Viceroy, speaking the other day to a deputation, said that— The Indian Government was convinced that it could not ask public servants to tolerate for an indefinite period the distress borne with so much self command for some time past. Lord Wenlock had spoken to the same effect. It was easy to say that men went into the Indian Service with a certain risk, but he said there was not a man who went into this Service who anticipated that the exchange would fall from 2s. down to 1s. 2½d. He had a Circular in his hand, issued by the authority of the Indian Office, pointing out the advantage to be gained by going into the Indian Service, and quoting the pay at 2s. to the rupee. This Circular was issued with the view of inducing a high class of men, such as University men, to enter the Service. That was the way these men were induced to enter the Indian Service. Here, then, was a clear case of substantial injury, and a case for equitable compensation—an evident necessity that something ought to be done to save a great Service from grave injustice and discontent. He saw by The Indian Gazette, received by the last mail, that it had been resolved that the furlough pay, or absentee allowance, should be made at the rate of 1s. 4¾d. per rupee, and this fact was an admission that it was necessary to do something in the matter. It had been stated that they should wait for the Report of the Herschell Commission before taking action. They might as well wait for the Greek Kalends. The Herschell Commission had nothing whatever to do with the solution of the difficulty. The Civil servants felt they could wait no longer, and in their despair they appealed to the House for some relief. Were they to go on waiting for a solution month after mouth, year after year, getting poorer and weaker, with their children uneducated, and their wives reduced almost to poverty? Such a condition of things was not worthy of a great Government. The duty of a Government was to make up their minds on the question for themselves, and that question was whether they were prepared to allow their servants in India to remain in a state of demoralisation or to grant them some relief. Many suggestions had been made as to the remedy best calculated to deal with the difficulty. He would ask the Government to appoint a Select Committee to consider what was the best remedy. If such a Committee were appointed he would undertake to prove before it every word and fact he had stated. The servants of India, for whom he spoke, recognised the difficulties of the Government of India. They did not ask for impossible compensation, and they did not desire to embarrass the Government. Their whole record showed conclusively that the servants of India had borne their suffering to the last moment, until this strain had become intolerable and the breaking point had been reached. They most loyally desired to help the Government and not to cause it the least trouble. Upon the amount of the furlough allowance depended the power of the Civil servants in India to come home to this country on furlough, which was absolutely necessary for the health of nine out of ten of them, and all they asked for now was that their absentee allowances should be paid at a fixed rate of exchange of 1s. 9d., and that one-half of their salaries, with a fixed limit of £600 a year, should be allowed to be remitted home at the same rate of exchange. He did not ask the House to pledge itself to any particular remedy; all he asked was that it should express an opinion that there was a case for inquiry by a Select Committee. His hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury intended to move an Amendment to the effect that if any fixed rate of exchange should be determined upon by that House or by the Secretary of State for India the difference between such rate and the market rate should not become a burden upon the Indian taxpayer. It was satisfactory to him to note that his hon. Friend did not deny that there was a case demanding relief, only he proposed that the relief should come from the English Exchequer. It was always easy to be generous at other people's expense. His hon. Friend reminded him of the lines— Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike, Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike. It would be better if his hon. Friend associated himself with some of the best opinion in India on this matter. The Hindu Patriot, a fair and legitimate exponent of Indian opinion, said— The undoubted hardships suffered by Europeans in India, who are paid in the currency of one country while they are obliged largely to support their families in that of another, claim our commiseration upon a totally different ground, and we by no means withhold it. The article pointed out that the Government of Bengal had recognised the fact that the rupee no longer bought the same quantity of rice, and had raised the pay of certain classes of officers in inferior service in proportion to the rise that had taken place in the price of food grains. There may be differences of Indian opinion as to the number of Europeans who should be employed in the superior Administration. But there is no difference of Indian opinion as to the necessity of drawing those officers from the best available sources of supply, or as to the danger of demoralising their Indian career into a life-long pecuniary embarrassment, and into a perpetual temptation to the devices to which such a condition gives rise. In The Statesman, there was a similar passage in which, speaking of the Viceroy's reply to the deputation, it said— It shows that the Government are not prepared to accept the alternative of a discontented service, or of a service composed of cheaper material, but holds that, in default of other remedies, it will be under an obligation to compensate its European employés in every branch of the Administration for the loss inflicted upon them by the depreciation of the currency in which they are paid. Whatever differences he might have with his hon. Friend on this question, his hon. Friend ought to support him in asking for an inquiry by a Select Committee, because he could urge his remedies and suggest to that Committee that the Ex- chequer of this country ought to bear the burden. He was sure the House itself would never listen to such a proposal. India was not so poor a country as his hon. Friend would lead the House to suppose. There were few countries which could compare with India in all those tests by which one judged whether a country was rich or poor. During the last 30 years she had imported bullion on balance to the extent of £387,000,000 sterling, or at the rate of £11,250,000 a year; her trade had increased at the rate of 22.25 per cent., and her cultivated area had increased from 100 per cent. in Burma and Assam to 20 per cent. in Oudh. The ryot class enjoyed a considerable share in the increased profits of agriculture, and the wages of the labouring class and of domestic servants had risen. In every point he could prove that the wealth of India had increased within the last 30 years in the most satisfactory manner. No doubt the Indian Exchequer at the present moment was temporarily embarrassed by the sudden fall in the rupee. But there were also other causes for this, such as excessive home charges, and excessive military expenditure, with which he should be glad to deal on another occasion. He held that a further reduction in the European staff was impossible. Our hold on India and its peace and prosperity depended on the purity and efficiency of our administration in that country; its purity and efficiency depended on the quality, the integrity, the zeal, and contentment of our European agents: these largely depended on their being adequately paid and kept from anxieties and temptations which had a double force in the conditions of Indian life. On behalf of those gentlemen, therefore, he asked, in the interests no less of England than of India, that the House should, by a Select Committee, inquire into the circumstances he had so imperfectly sketched out to it, and recommend such measures as should save one of the finest, and most noble Services in the world from suffering and degradation.

MR. CARSON (Dublin University)

I rise with very great pleasure to second the Motion that has been so eloquently moved by the hon. Member. I do not profess to have any technical knowledge whatsoever upon the question of currency, but it appears to me that the subject of bimetalism and monometalism has nothing in the world to do with the question of the House doing justice to those who serve them in India. I venture however, to assert to the House that as the Member for the University of Dublin I happen to represent perhaps more than any other hon. Member in this House many of those who are serving us in India. Any person who is at all acquainted with our University life in Ireland will bear me out in this, that we have supplied for the Service in India, whether the Civil Service or the Military Service, all our best men, the men who have attained the highest distinction in the various schools to which they belong, and who have been led away to join your Service in India by the promises you held out to them, and by the prospect put before them of making a competency for themselves, and enabling them to educate their children. When that is the case, and where you have got our best men upon the promises of certain recompense for undergoing the risks and dangers they are prepared to undergo in joining your Service in India, and when it is admitted that these men have served the country faithfully and well, I can imagine no more important subject being brought before the notice of Parliament than the question of what is to be done, in view of the fait that circumstances, have arisen which practically take away half the pay promised to them on entering into the Service. We are always met by the statement that in India the value of the rupee is practically as much as ever it was. Well, I believe that is not a correct statement. In the present day, when the means of communication between the various countries are so easy, it is impossible that gold should be appreciated to the extent it is in England and the Dependencies of England, and that the rupee silver currency should maintain the same value even in India itself as it had originally. But even conceding that the value of the rupee in India remains the same, I say we have put before yon a specific grievance with regard to furlough allowances and the transmission of money which cannot be affected by the value of the rupee in India, and we say, as regards these two matters at all events, there is a very great hardship to those men who are serving us in India, and who have been brought there under the inducements I have already pointed out. The questions comes to this. You have hitherto had from our Universities our very best men for your Services in India. They have served you in the best possible way—do out want our best men in the future? I can assure the House that I have had many letters from those of my constituents who are in India asking me to warn University students not to be led into joining the Indian Services upon the representations which are set before them by the British Government, and it does appear to me to give rise to very serious consideration if our young men in the University are to be deterred from joining your Service by reason of having promises made to them which are not likely to be realised. I really do think that when we ask the Government to accede to the appointment of a Committee of Inquiry into the matter they should do so, because we are really asking very little. I hope the hon. Gentleman who represents the Indian Department in this House so worthily will not for one moment refuse an inquiry into the grievances of those servants of the country who are unable to come forward to agitate in the way that persons can agitate in this country, and who very soon have their grievances listened to. As has been well said, those who serve us in India have no votes. Yes, and it does appear to me that this House is being gradually turned into a medium for considering solely those who have votes, whilst the go-by is given to those who have no votes. We have had, I think, a lamentable instance of that in the few nights' Debate that has lately occurred. ["Order, order."] The question is a very germane one—the question of the Army, whose grievances have been passed by entirely in this House solely because it has no influence in the country, by reason of the men having no votes. [Opposition cheers, and "Order, order!"] This Government, if anything, is essentially a Government of Inquiry, and, Sir, with all the laurels they have obtained by instituting inquiries, I think they may very well add one more laurel to those already obtained by granting the Motion of my hon. Friend. I have great pleasure in seconding the Motion, and I feel assured that the grievances felt by those who are serving us in India will receive favourable consideration.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the effect of the diminution of the gold value of the rupee on the Civil and Military Services of the Indian Government."—(Sir Seymour King.)

MR. NAOROJI (Finsbury, Central)

The hon. Member for Hull told us in very emphatic language of the sufferings of the Anglo-Indian Services in India. I do not blame him for that. Not only he, but even the Viceroy in his long speech went over the same ground, and in as emphatic a manner as possible pourtrayed what he called the sufferings, and hardships, and cruel wrongs of the Anglo-Indians, and in every way possible emphasised the demands of the Anglo-Indian servants. But it never occurred to either the hon. Member for Hull or the Viceroy that there is another side to the picture. And if these Anglo-Indians are suffering, there are also other people who are suffering far more. What is the position of the Indians themselves from the fall in this exchange? Have the hon. Member or the Viceroy, or any of the English gentlemen who are talking about this subject, given a single thought to the effect which is being produced upon the people of India? "Certainly not," as I suppose you would say. [Cries of "No!" "Certainly!" and "Oh! oh!"] Here is this long statement by the hon. Member for Hull, in which he has pourtrayed in very strong terms the sufferings of the Anglo-Indian servants, but he has not said one single word as to what the Indians them-selves have suffered. And not only the hon. Member, but the Viceroy also—as I have already said—emphasised as strongly as possible the sufferings, and used all the strong words to be found in the English vocabulary with regard to the hardships of the English servants, but in these long speeches there has not been one word of pity or sympathy with regard to those from whose pocket whatever is demanded has to be paid and what these people themselves have already suffered. Lord Macaulay has said that "the heaviest of all yokes is the yoke of the stranger." ["Oh, oh!"] So long as this House does not understand that the yoke as it, at present exists practically in India is "the heaviest of all yokes," India has no future, India has no hope. [Loud cries of "Oh, oh!"] You may say "Oh, oh!" but you have never been, fortunately—and I hope and pray you may never be—in the condition in which India is placed in your hands. ["Oh, oh!"] Wait a little, please. The saddest part of the picture is that while the British people and the British Parliament do not wish and have not willed that India shall be governed on the principle of "the heaviest yoke is the yoke of the stranger," yet it is so. It is distinctly laid down what the policy is to be, and this Parliament has actually willed 60 years ago that the rule over India ought to be the rule of justice, righteousness, beneficence. That was repeated again in the great Proclamation of 1858. But what has been the actual practice? What has been done by those who have been thus instructed? The actual practice has been to make this yoke the heaviest yoke—"the yoke of the stranger." ["Oh, oh!"] Has the hon. Gentleman who cries "Oh!" ever been in such a condition as we are? If he has not he can never understand it. I pray that you may never feel that yoke You have been free from it ever since the time when the Normans became assimilated with the English people [Cries of "Question!"] From that] time forward you have been a free people, and I hope and pray you may ever remain so. But, at the same time, it is difficult for you to even surmise the condition of the people of India. If is within your power to make this rule a rule of justice and honour, and at the same time beneficent and profitable, both to yourselves and to us. But I cannot now enter further into that point. The hon. Member for Hull introduced the subject of the poverty of the people of India and treated it with a light heart. That is exactly the question that has to be fought out by me upon the Floor of this House, but the time is not now. I cannot now enter into a Debate upon that point, because you, Mr. Speaker, would very properly call me to Order. I can only intimate my point, and give you some high testimony upon that subject. I will not go into my own reasons, but only quote you the testimony of some of the highest financiers of India. First of all, a Viceroy like Lord Lawrence has distinctly stated in those words—it was in the year 1864— India is, on the whole, a very poor country. The mass of the population enjoy only a scanty subsistence. Then, again, in 1873, he repeated his opinion before the Finance Committee— That the mass of the people were so miserably poor that they had barely the means of subsistence. It was as much as a man could do to feed his family, or half feed them, let alone spending money on what might be called luxuries or conveniences. Thou, coming down to a more recent date—to the days of Lord Cronier—these are the words of Lord Cromer in 1882— It has been calculated that the average income per head of population in India is not more than Rs.27 a year. And though I am not prepared to pledge myself to the absolute accuracy of a calculation of this sort, it is sufficiently accurate to justify the conclusion that the tax-paying community is exceedingly poor. To derive any very large increase of revenue from so poor a population as this is obviously impossible, and, if it were possible, would be unjustifiable. Later on this authority goes on to show the extreme poverty of the mass of the people. Then he reverts back again to the question of the Salt Tax in India— He would ask hon. Members to think what Rs.27 per annum was to support a person, and then he would ask whether a few annas was nothing to such poor people. There is the testimony of your highest Finance Minister, Lord Cromer, who is able to give a very satisfactory account of the work he is doing in Egypt, but was not able to give much encouragement as to India. And when we ask for information from the Government that would satisfactorily show whether, under the most highly praised administration in the world, and after 100 years of this administration, India is poor or not, a Finance Minister as late as 1882 expresses the same opinion as was expressed long ago. Nothing more can be said than that India is extremely poor. These are the words of your own Finance Ministers. Now take the conclusion to which Lord Cromer came in 1882, an extract from which I have read to you with regard to the income of India being not more than Rs.27 per head per annum. This calculation is based upon a Note prepared by the present Finance Minister, and I ask the Government of India, I ask the Under Secretary of State for India, for a Return here in this House of that Note. It is only by complete information given by the Government in conformity with the requirements of this House, which requires that a complete statement of the moral and material progress of India should be laid upon the Table every year, that hon. Members can become acquainted with the actual condition of India. We have it every year of a kind it is not worth the paper it is printed on. There is a certain half-truth line of view always expressed in it, but the information that is required is what is the actual income of the country from year to year. My wish, Sir is to compare figures and see whether the country is improving or becoming poorer. But such information as is needed is not given. I have asked for this Return, and what is the answer given? "That it is out of date." That is to say, that while this Note of 1881 was the basis upon which this public statement was made by Lord Cromer, this Return is not to be given to us. I now ask again that this Return should be given to us, and also a similar Return for 1891, that we may compare and judge whether India is really making any progress or not. Until you get this complete information before the House year by year, you will not be able to form a correct judgment as to the improvement of India. So far, we have, however, these high financial authorities telling us that India is the poorest country in the world, that it is even poorer than Russia. I trust that these facts are sufficient to satisfy hon. Gentlemen. Again, never has England spent, so far as I know, and so far as my information goes, never has there been a single farthing spent out of the British Exchequer, either for the acquirement of India, or for the maintenance of it, or administration, or in any manner connected with India, whilst at the same time hundreds of millions of the wealth of India have been constantly poured into this country. Whether any country in the world could stand such drain as India is subjected to is utterly out of the question. If England itself, with all its wealth, was subjected to such a drain as India is subjected to, it would be reduced to extreme poverty before long. When the necessary information is before this House I shall be able to show how during the whole of this century Englishmen themselves have pointed out that India was kept impoverished. Now, what has been the effect upon the natives of India—the taxpayers themselves—from the fall in exchange? During the 20 years from 1873 up to the present day there has been a heavy loss in exchange in the remittances for home charges. I am not hero to-night discussing the justice or injustice of the home charges; I am taking the home charges as they stand, and taking the effect upon the Indian taxpayers. The people live on a very scanty subsistence, and, according to your highest financial authorities, they are extremely poor, yet in their ordinary condition they have to pay Rs. 100,000,000 to the Anglo-Indian servants for salaries, &c., of Rs. 1,000 and upwards per annum, and salaries under Rs. 1,000 besides. There is a large military expenditure to be kept up, and you have other payments under "the system of the yoke of the stranger." All this means a great loss of wealth, wisdom, work, and capacity to India. I hope the House will be able to take all these points into consideration. Now let us see what a further heavy burden is put upon India by this fall in the exchange! There has been already, during the last 20 years, about Rs. 650,000,000 lost to the taxpayer on account of this fall of the exchange, and before next year is over it will be something like Rs. 1,000,000,000. And with these heavy burdens under which the taxpayer of India are groaning, you do not pay the slightest attention to them. You simply think of the sufferings and hardships of your own fellow-countrymen, for which I do not blame you at all. ["Oh, oh!"] It is only natural you should feel for them, but at the same time you ought to have some heart and some justice to consider from what sources this money has to be made up. You do not give a single thought to the sufferings of the men who are being ground to the very dust—as Sir Grant Duff once truly said. To these people who are being literally ground and crushed to dust and powder you wish to add a still heavier burden. They have already suffered greatly from these causes. Can you have the heart to do it? They are a poor people living on a scanty subsistence, merely hewers of wood and drawers of water. I can say nothing more. I leave the matter to your sense of justice, to your heart, to consider whether it is right or proper that you should put still more burdens upon these poor people already so low. I have said there has not been a single shilling spent, out of the British Exchequer upon India during all this long connection. But I should make this one exception. On the occesion of the last Afghan War the then Prime Minister, who is also now, offered and gave £5,000,000 towards the expenses that were put upon us by the War. But that was only about one-fourth of the expenses of that iniquitous war. We suffered very heavily by that Afghan War, and heavy military expenses are going on without check or hindrance. Had the British people to pay (which they must pay at least in some fair proportion), we would have heard on this very floor a great deal about them. Now the House is asked by the hon. Member for Hull to put another burden upon the Indian taxpayer. What is the use of asking this? The fact is the Viceroy has already committed himself in as strong language as he could that he would do something for the Anglo-Indians, whether the burden upon the poor taxpayers becomes greater or not. He has not said a word about the sufferings of the poor Indian taxpayer. He has not even thought of him. The only thing he said in his long speech was that he did not yet add to the taxation simply because he thought it would be a temporary difficulty. But if it became a permanent difficulty, and as the Anglo-Indian Services could not tolerate the suffering that they have been put to, then he would determine to do something for them by additional taxation. "Very well, then," says the hon. Member for Hull, "we must do something." You should not put the expense on the poor native taxpayer, who has no vote. One right hon. Member talked about the vote, and that is just because the poor Indian has no vote that there is so little heed for him. He is truly helpless and crushed down with every possible burden. If hon. Gentlemen here, after drawing millions from the native taxpayer, intend to put this additional burden upon him, then I can only say Heaven save him. With regard to the proposed relief, I would like to direct the attention of hon. Gentlemen to the words of the Viceroy in which he almost wholly commits himself to do something. In the face of that admission what is the good of a Committee. The Viceroy says that, whatever may be the Report of Lord Herschell's Committee, he is determined that if the present state of things continues, the distress which has been borne for some time past by the officials cannot continue to be tolerated. Well, after that you may appoint Committees, but what the result will be is perfectly clear. You have a Committee of Europeans, you have European witnesses, European interests, and all the European sympathy. We know very well what the result will be of the deliberations of such a Committee. We have had ample experience of those Committees in the past. At all gatherings which had been held, where the interests of Europeans and Indians clashed, we know very well that the Indians had gone to the wall. There has hardly been an instance in which a Commission has sat on such a matter as this, and decided in a manner that can be called impartial and unbiassed. [Cries of "Agreed, agreed!"] I can quite understand that hon. Gentlemen should become impatient. A Committee is not required to prove the cases the hon. Member for Hull has brought forward. No doubt there is a great deal of suffering, but I ask you not to drag the relief from those who are already crushed, or as he himself said, not to be liberal with other wretched people's money. I appeal to the British people in this instance to say that it is proper, right, and just that the British Exchequer should find the amount of money wanted. I will give a special reason for this. Every farthing that will be paid for this relief will be spent in this country. It will be simply passing from one hand to another. On the other hand, if you put the burden on the Indians, it means that every farthing taken out of their scanty sub- stance will be carried away from India to this country, and thus our distress and our poverty will be enhanced. The money given for this relief will not be spent in India, but in this country, and I appeal to your justice, to your honour, and to your conscience whether it would be right to put such additional burden on the taxpayer of India? At the present exchange he has lost nearly Rs. 1,000,000,000. I appeal to hon. Gentlemen of this House, to the British people at large, that in this case especially it will be the right and proper and humane thing to give this relief to Anglo-Indian servants from the British Exchequer. The Motion is for a Committee. You may have it, but it is merely a farce; the whole thing is a foregone conclusion. Do not put additional taxation on these poor people. The pressure at present upon them is already far too heavy. Lastly, the only effective and permanent remedy for our woes is to remove the cause—the inordinately heavy foreign agency must be reduced to reasonable dimensions—and then there will be no burden and no problem of loss by exchange. Remove the yoke of the stranger and make it the rule of the benefactor, and you will be as much blessed and benefited as we.

MR. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)

I beg to second the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words If any fixed rate of exchange be determined upon by this House, or by the Secretary of State for India, to be allowed to the Civil and Military Services of the Indian Government, the difference between such rate of exchange and the actual market rate of exchange shall not become an additional burden on the Indian taxpayers."—(Mr. Naoroji.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


I greatly regret that this Debate must be brought to a conclusion within a few minutes of this time, but during the short period left to me I desire to make such a reply as circumstances will permit me to make to the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I also regret that the interests of India and the India Office are not repre- sented more adequately on this occasion, because I cannot but be conscious that the hon. Member for Hull speaks on these subjects with the authority of not much less than life-long experience, and that with his knowledge I cannot even pretend to cope. I confess, however, I hardly felt that the same amount of authority attached to some of the observations which fell from the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Carson.) He appears to survey mankind if not from China to Peru, at any rate from Gweedore to Hindoostan. I must dissent from the sentence in his speech in which he said—if I understand him rightly—that the great and learned University he represents sends its best men into the service of India. I always understood that the best men from the University of Dublin passed to the profession of the Law, and became Irish Law Officers. But we live and learn. I am exceedingly glad to know that the vast Empire of India, with which I am officially connected, has in its service the best men from the University of Dublin. But lot me for one moment turn to the arguments which the hon. Member for Hull and the learned Member for the University addressed to the House. I will make one joint reply. I understand the hon. Member for Hull to say, and I think the hon. Member for the University agreed with him, that the grievances of the Indian Officers and servants in this matter have long been urged, and been systematically, year by year, neglected by the responsible Government. Well Sir, I cannot say what happened under the arbitrary rule of my Predecessor in Office, but the grievances of our Indian servants have certainly not been excluded from the consideration of Her Majesty's present Government. I know that till within the last three or four years the depreciation of the rupee was regarded as a standing joke—the hobby of a few crotcheteers. But that condition of things has passed away. I am certain there is not the slightest disposition to disregard or minimise this most serious question. Certainly sympathy is amply forth coming. No one would pretend to treat the grievances as imaginary or unreal, or to make them the subject of a joke. Everyone recognises, completely, fully, and candidly, the grievances which the hon. Member for Hull has brought before us. I think we cannot at this moment argue whether the purchasing power of the rupee in India is what it was or is less than it was. I think it will be universally admitted in the hard case given by the hon. Member for Hull, where a man has nine children at home in England, that the man is in need of sympathy, and, indeed, demands something more substantial than sympathy. The hon. Member says that when the subject dealt with in the Motion had been brought up this Session he and his colleagues were told to wait. Well, that disagreeable injunction to wait has been communicated to him and his clients by the Government through my lips, and I confess I am as sick and tired of giving that advice as he can be of receiving it. Nothing can be more distasteful to any one interested in the expedition of public business than to meet inquiries in this House by stating that the subject is under the consideration of a Committee. Still, if the House will remember for one moment who composes the Committee on Currency, which the hon. Member referred to, I do not think they will share his depreciatory tone. I will admit—everybody will admit—that this financial question, the question of the value of the rupee and the possible remedy for its depreciation, involves financial considerations of the most delicate and most far-reaching kind. The consequence is that a rash or unconsidered or mistaken action may have disastrous effects in a very wide area. I cannot admit that. A competent Committee of experts, with Lord Herschell at its head, dealing with such subjects as the currency, is not the tribunal to refer this matter to. The Currency Committee is, in a financial sense, very strongly constituted. I am prepared to admit that the deliberations of that Committee have been very long; they may be prolonged very much further. But even if the deliberations are prolonged I do not see they are adequate grounds for sneers and jests about unnecessary delay. The hon. Members of that Committee have other public works of various kinds to attend to, and they cannot proceed more quickly to a decision. They, however, are the best judges as to the conduct of their own affairs. The hon. Member may be assured that during the weeks—it may be months—this Committee is sitting the most constant and most conscientious care has been bestowed upon this vast question of the currency, and more particularly the interests of his clients in respect to their loss through the depreciation of the rupee. That has not for a single day been lost sight of. It may be said, that the Committee to inquire into the currency is not exactly the Committee to which a question of this kind should be referred. Certainly the two questions are not absolutely identical, but they are closely related. I think that no Committee—even such a Committee as the hon. Gentleman contemplates in his Resolution—can possibly proceed to a decision until they are possessed of the facts brought out by the Finance Committee. That would be an indispensable element in their calculations, and one which until it is forthcoming would make it impossible for them to proceed. In fact, my belief is that the most important elements in the question which the hon. Member has brought before the House are constantly before the minds of the Currency Committee, and, therefore, really such a Committee as the right hon. Gentleman seeks to be appointed is sitting. I must say that the House of Commons is overdone with Select Committees. A Government which goes in for a multiplication of Committees certainly runs some risk of not being able to know its own mind. ["Hear, hear!"] Hon. Gentlemen I see share that sentiment. Well, for my own part, I must admit I do not know what is being done by the Currency Committee, for the best of possible reasons, that at the present moment I have not been advised. I have said over and over again in answer to questions that it will not be long before the Report is presented to the House. I know it will commend itself to the serious consideration of the House of Commons, considering the distinguished qualifications of the gentlemen who compose the Committee. I think the House of Commons will be well advised to abstain from asking for the appointment of another Committee to deal with this subject until they are possessed of the Report of the Currency Committee. If the Report should prove to be unsatisfactory it would then be time to proceed in the direction of having another Committee. At the present moment, as things stand, we are not able to ask the House of Commons to assent to the formation of a Committee which we believe to be superfluous, and which in our opinion could not come to any profitable conclusion until the Report of the Currency Committee is forthcoming. Now, Sir, I must say one word with regard to what has been said by the hon. Member for North Finsbury. He is very anxious as the Representative of our fellow-subjects in India. [Opposition cries of "No, no!" and Ministerial cheers.] Well, Sir, there is such a thing as moral representation as well as mere political representation. The hon. Gentleman was bred and born in India, and is qualified—["No, no!"]—to speak with authority on Indian questions. His authority on such matters is at least as great as any Member in this House. I go all lengths with him in wishing to protect the pockets of Indian taxpayers. I agree with him generally we are bound in duty and honour to protect as far as it is in our power the natives of India. But if the proposition of the hon. Member for Hull is carried, the cost must fall somewhere. If it does not fall on our fellow-citizens in India it must fall on England. On which part of the Empire it should fall I will not presume at this moment to lay down the law. That he will have to settle with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I wish him all possible success. However, I am exceedingly unwilling to stand between the House and a decision, and I will conclude by saying that although I ask the House to await the decision of the Currency Committee, it has not been dismissed from my mind that even after the Currency Committee have reported it may be necessary for the Government to recommend a pecuniary compensation to its servants in India. That must not be taken to mean a pledge or a promise. I only say I do not dismiss the possibility from my mind. It is conceivable that the Report of the Currency Committee may lead us to a conclusion that some pecuniary compensation is due to our servants in India. If that is the view of the Committee, I presume it will receive the sanction of Government and of Parliament. In view of that possibility, I think I can appeal to the House not to support the hon. Member's Resolution. I regret that, owing to the late hour, I have not been able to expound more fully the views of Her Majesty's Government on this subject, or to avail myself of the abundant material placed at my disposal by the highly-skilled officials of the Indian Office. I only ask the House to believe that what I have said is literally true. This matter is not one which has been neglected by those responsible for the Government of India. It engages their conscientious and constant attention, and they have still the full confidence that the Committee of highly-trained experts dealing with this subject will before long guide Parliament to a practical decision consistent with the wishes and intentions of my hon. Friend.

MR. GOSCHEN (St. George's, Hanover Square)

In the few minutes that remain I wish to put a question to the right hon. Gentleman. I would first congratulate him on his speech and the ability he has displayed. I am glad to see him in his present position, and I am sure he has treated this matter with fit earnestness and in a tone which is separated by a great gulf from the manner in which the question is treated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am afraid the Chancellor of the Exchequer regards it as a fad. I recognize, however, that the India Office treat this matter more seriously. I recognize that a Committee of great experience and financial knowledge has been appointed, and I hope their deliberations will lead to some result. I noted with pleasure what the hon. Gentleman said that something might be done for the Indian officials. Well, that is a considerable step. There is one further step which I would urge the hon. Gentleman to take. I suppose the Government do not see their way to get the consent of this Committee to inquire into the matter. They may be placed in the position of choosing three alternatives—either the decision of the Committee which is now inquiring and which would deal with this matter, or the Govern- meet would deal with it administratively, or, failing these two, they will have to consider whether we shall be able to have a Select Committee. I think hon. Members will see I am anxious to come to an agreement upon this matter. I do not wish to force the hand of the Government, but I think the suggestion I made would be the best one.


The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down cannot expect to have an answer to the somewhat elaborate question he has put. I must confess, for my own part, that with regard to a Committee of the House of Commons it is not the instrument which I think most suitable for the purpose of conducting an inquiry on the topic we have been considering. That is my own personal view. I have no authority to speak on behalf of my Colleagues. I think the right hon. Gentleman must judge for himself of the intentions of the Government from the general tone of the speech of my hon. Friend the Under Secretary, with which he avowed himself satisfied. There is no disposition on the part of the Government to treat this as a light matter, or to disregard our duty with respect to it.

MR. C. F. ALLEN (Pembroke, &c.)

[Cries of "Divide!"] I will not keep the House one moment. I associate myself with the hon. Member for Finsbury in the matter of his speech. I fully recognise the sufferings of the Indians, and say that any relief to Indian Civil servants should not be put on the Indian taxpayer.

Sir Seymour King rose in his place and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put;" but Mr. Speaker withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.

Debate resumed.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 66; Noes 131.—(Division List, No. 53.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there added."

It being after Midnight, the Debate stood adjourned.