§ Order read for resuming the Debate on the Address in reply to the Speech from the Throne.
*Mr. NAOROJI (Finsbury, Central) moved an Amendment to add the following to the Address—
And we humbly pray that Your Majesty will be graciously pleased to direct Your Majesty's Ministers, to so adjust the financial relations between the United Kingdom and British India, with regard to all the expenditure incurred in the employment of Europeans in the British-Indian Services, Civil and Military, in
this Country and in India, that some fair and adequate portion of such expenditure should be borne by the British Exchequer in proportion to the pecuniary and political benefits accruing to the United Kingdom from Your Gracious Majesty's sway over India; and that the British Treasury should sustain a fair and equitable portion of all expenditure incurred on all military and political operations beyond the boundaries of India in which both Indian and British interests are jointly concerned.
Having expressed his regret that generally it was not the practice to mention India and to indicate any concern for its interests in the Queen's Speech, he said he was ready to acknowledge with gratitude the advantage which had ensued to the people of India from British Rule. He had no desire to minimise those benefits; at the same time, he did not appeal to that House or to the British nation, for any form of charity to India, however poverty-stricken she is. He based the claims of India on grounds of justice alone. The question was not at all one of a Party character, and therefore he addressed what he had to say to the English people as a whole. He was often supposed to complain about the European officials personally. It was not so. It was the system which made the officials what they were, that he complained about. They were the creatures of circumstances. They could only move in the one-sided groove in which they were placed by the evil system. Further, his remarks applied to British India and not to the Native States. It had been sometimes said that he resorted to agitation in bringing forward the claims of India, but on that point he would only quote a few words from Macaulay, who said in one of his speeches—
I hold that we have owed to agitation a long series of beneficent reforms which could have been effected in no other way. … The truth is that agitation is inseparable from popular Government. … Would the slave trade ever have been abolished without an agitation; Would slavery ever have been abolished without agitation?''
He would add that their slavery would not be abolished without agitation audit was well that it should be abolished, by peaceful agitation, rather than by revolution caused by despair. He next proposed to consider the respective benefits to Britain and India from their connection. From the annual production of India the Government took about 700,000,000 rupees for the expenditure of the State.
The first result of this cost was law and order, the greatest blessing that any rule could confer, and Indians fully appreciated this benefit of safety from violence to life, limb, and property. Admitting this benefit to India, was it not equally or even more vital benefit to the British in India, and more particularly to the British Rule itself? Did not the very existence of every European resident in India depend upon this law and order, and so also of the British power itself? The Hindus (and the Mahomedans also, the bulk of whom are Hindus by race) were, by their nature, in their very blood, by the inheritance of social and religious institutions of some thousands of years, peaceful and law-abiding. Their division into the four great divisions, was the foundation of their peaceful nature. One class was devoted to learning. Peace was an absolute necessity to them. The fighting and ruling and protecting business was left to the small second-class. The third and the largest class—the industrial, the agricultural, the trading, and others—depended upon peace and order for their work, and the fourth serving class were submissive and law-abiding. The virtue of law-abiding was a peculiarly and religiously binding duty upon the Hindus, and to it does Britain owe much of its present peaceful rule over India. It will be Britain's own fault if this character is changed. It was sometimes said that England conquered India with the sword, and would hold it by the sword; but he did not believe this was the sentiment of the British people generally. He could not better emphasise this than in the words of their present great Indian General. Lord Roberts had said that—
However efficient and well equipped the Army of
India might be—were it indeed absolute perfection, and were its numbers considerably more than at present—our greatest strength must ever rest on the firm base of a united and contented people.
That was the spirit in which he spoke. At present India shared far less benefits than justice demanded. Hundreds of millions of rupees were drawn from, and taken out of, the country for the payment of European officials of all kinds, without any material equivalent being received for it; capital was thus withdrawn, and the natives prevented from accumulating it; and under the existing system a large
part of the resources and industries of the country was thrown into the hands of British and other capitalists. The 300,000,000 or so of rupees which the India Office draws every year at present is so much British benefit in a variety of ways. British India was indeed British India, and not India's India. He next examined the material or pecuniary benefit derived by Britain and India. Out of about 700,000,000 rupees raised annually from the annual production of the country, nearly 200,000,000 rupees were appropriated in pay, pensions and allowances to Europeans in this country and in India. This compulsorily obtained benefit to Britain crippled the resources of British Indians, who could never make any capital and must drag on a poverty-stricken life. Hundreds and thousands of millions of wealth passed in principal and interest thereon from India to Britain. Thousands of Europeans found a career and livelihood in India, to the exclusion of the children of the soil, who thus lost both their bread and their brains thereby. Not only that. This crippled condition naturally threw nearly all the requirements of India more or less into British hands, which, under the patronage and protection of the British officials, monopolised nearly everything. British India was, next to officials, more or less for British professionals, traders, capitalists, planters, shipowners, railway holders, and so on, the bulk of the Indians having only to serve, for poor income or wages that they earned. In a way a great mass of I the Indians were worse off than the slaves of the Southern States. The slaves being property were taken care of by their masters. Indians may die off by millions by want and it is nobody's concern. The slaves worked on their master's land and resources, and the masters took the profits. Indians have to work on their own land and resources, and hand the profits to the foreign masters. He offered a simple test. Supposing that by some vicissitudes of fortune, which he hoped and prayed would never occur, Britain was conquered by a foreign people. This was no impossible assumption in this world. When Cæsar landed in this country no one could have dreamt that the savages he met here would in time be the masters
of the greatest empire in the world, and that the same Rome and Italy, then the masters of the world, would in turn become a geographical name only. Well, suppose this House was cleared of Englishmen and filled with foreigners, or perhaps shut up altogether, all power and plans in their hands, eating and carrying away much of the wealth of this country year after year, in short Britain reduced to the present condition and system of government of India, would the Britons submit to it a single day if they could help it? So law-abiding as they are, will not all their law-abiding vanish? No! The Briton will not submit, as he says "Britons will never be slaves," and may they sing so forever. Now, he asked whether, though they would never be slaves, was it their mission to make others slaves? No; the British people's instincts are averse to that. Their mission is and ought to be to raise others to their own level. And it was that faith in the instinctive love of justice in the British heart and conscience, that keeps the Indian so loyal and hopeful. There was no doubt an immense material benefit to England accruing from the Administration of India, but there was no corresponding benefit to the Indian people under the present evil system. For the sake of argument merely, he would assume that the material benefit was equal to the inhabitants of India as well as to the British people, and even on that assumption he contended that the British people were bound for the benefit they derived to take their share of the cost of producing that benefit. The position had been correctly described by Lord Salisbury, who said:—
The injury is exaggerated in the case of India, where so much of the Revenue is exported without a direct equivalent. As India must be bled, the lancet should be directed to the parts where the blood is congested, or at least sufficient, not to those already feeble for the want of it.
That was correct as far as the present British System in India was concerned, and "India must be bled." The result of this was that their Finance Ministers were obliged to lament and complain, year after year, of the extreme poverty of India, which did not enable them to bring its finances into a properly sound condition. The subject of the poverty of India embraced many
aspects in its cause and effects. But this was not the occasion on which such a vast subject could be dealt with adequately. It was the natural and inevitable result of the evil of foreign dominion as it exists in the present system, as predicted by Sir John Shore, above a hundred years ago. In order to give an idea of the position of India as compared with that of England he would point only to one aspect. The Secretary of State for India in his speech last year, on going into Committee on the Indian Budget, made a very important statement. He said—
Now as to the Revenue, I think the figures are very instructive. Whereas in England the taxation is £2 11s. 8d. per head; in Scotland, £2 8s. 1d. per head; and in Ireland, £1 12s. 5d. per head; the Budget which I shall present tomorrow will show that the taxation per head in India is something like 2s. 6d., or one-twentieth the taxation of the United Kingdom, and one-thirteenth that of Ireland.
The Member for Flintshire (Mr. S. Smith) then asked, "Does he exclude the Land Revenue?" And the right hon. Gentleman replied—
Yes, So far as the taxation of India is concerned, taking the rupee at 1s. 1d., it is 2s. 6d. per head. The exclusion of Land Revenue was unfair, but this was not the time to discuss that point fully. The Land Revenue did not rain from heaven. It formed part and parcel of the annual wealth from which the State Revenue is taken in a variety of different names—call it tax, rent, excise, duty, stamps, income-tax, and so on. It simply meant that so much was taken from the annual production for the purposes of Government. The figures taken by the right hon. Gentleman for the English taxation is also the gross Revenue, and similarly must this Indian Revenue be taken, except Railway and Navigation Revenue.
That statement of the right hon. Gentleman, if it meant anything, meant that the incidence of taxation in India was exceedingly light compared with the incidence of taxation in England. It was the usual official fiction that the incidence of taxation in India was small as compared with that of this country. But when they considered the incidence of taxation, they must consider not simply the amount paid in such taxation, but what it was compared with the capacity of the person who paid it. An elephant might with ease carry a great weight, whilst a quarter ounce, or a grain of wheat, might be sufficient to crush an ant. Taking the capacity of the two countries, the annual product or income of Eng
land was admitted to be something like £35 per head. If there was a taxation of £2 10s., as compared with that it was easy to see that the incidence or heaviness was only about 7 per cent, of the annual wealth. If, on the other hand, they took the production of India at the high official estimate of 27 rupees per head—though he maintained it was only 20 rupees—even, then the percentage, or incidence of taxation, was about 10 or 11 per cent., or at 20 rupees the incidence was nearly 14 per cent., i.e., nearly double what it was in England. To say, therefore, that India was lightly taxed was altogether a fiction. The fact was, as he stated, that the pressure of taxation in India, according to its means of paying, was nearly double that of wealthy England, and far more oppressive, as exacted from poverty. That was not all. The case for India was worse, and that was the fundamental evil of the present system. In the United Kingdom, if about £100,000,000 are raised as revenue, every farthing returns to the people themselves. But in British India, out of about Rs.700,000,000 about Rs.200,000,000 are paid to foreigners—besides all the other British benefits obtained from the wretched produce of Rs.20 per head. Even an ocean, if it lost some water every day which never returned to it, would be dried up in time. Under similar conditions wealthy England even would be soon reduced to poverty. He hoped it would be felt by hon. Members that India, in that condition, could derive very little benefit from British Administration. He spoke in agony, not in indignation, both for the sake of the land of his career, and for the land of his birth, and he said that if a system of righteousness were introduced into India instead of the present evil system, both England and India would be blessed, the profit and benefit to England itself would be ten times greater than it now was, and the Indian people would then regard their Government by this country as a blessing, instead of being inclined to contemn it. England, with India contented, justly treated, and prosperous, may defy half-a-dozen Russian, and may drive back Russia to the very gates of St. Petersburgh. The Indian will then fight as a patriot for his
own hearth and home. Punjab alone will be able to provide a powerful army. Assuming again, for the purpose of argument, that their benefit in India was equal to the British benefit, then he said that the British must share the cost of the expenditure which produced these results, and for which both partners profited equally. But in his Amendment he did not ask that even half of the whole cost should be borne by the British people, but on1y for that part of the expenditure which was incurred on Europeans, and that entirely for the sake of British rule. If it was not for the necessity of maintaining British rule there would be no need to drain India in the manner in which it was now drained by the crushing European Services. Lord Roberts, speaking in London in May, 1893, said:—
I rejoice to loam that you recognize how indissolubly the prosperity of the United Kingdom is bound up with the retention of that vast Eastern Empire.
But if the interests of England and India were indissolubly bound up, it was only just and proper that both should pay for the cost of the benefits they derived in equal and proper proportions. Lord Kimberley, in a speech at the Mansion House, in 1893, said:—
We are resolutely determined to maintain our supremacy over our Indian Empire … that" (among other things) "supremacy rests upon the maintenance of our European Civil Service. … We rest also upon our magnificent European Force which we maintain in that country.
The European Civil Services and European residents, he contended, were the weakest part in the maintenance of their rule in India. Whenever any unfortunate troubles did arise, as in 1857, the European Civil Service, and Europeans generally, were their greatest difficulty. They must be saved, they were in the midst of the greatest danger, and in such circumstances they became their greatest weakness. The loyal Indians saved many lives. To suppose that their Civil Service, or the British people, could have any other safety than that which arose from the satisfaction of India, was to deceive themselves. Whatever might be the strength of their Military Force, their true security in the maintenance of their rule in India depended en
tirely on the satisfaction of the people. Brute force may make an empire, but brute force would not maintain it; it was moral force and justice and righteousness alone that would maintain it. If he asked that the whole expenditure incurred on Europeans should be defrayed from the British Treasury he should not be far wrong, but, for the sake of argument, he was prepared to admit that the benefit derived from the employment of Europeans was shared equally by Europeans and Natives. He, therefore, asked that at least half of the expenditure incurred on Europeans here and in India should be paid from the British Exchequer. Indians were sometimes threatened that if they raised the question of financial relations, something would have to be said about the Navy. Apart from a fair share for the vessels stationed in India, why should England ask India to defray any other portion of the cost of the Navy? The very sense of justice had probably prevented any such demand being made. The fame, gain and glory of the Navy was all England's own. There was not a single Indian employed in the Navy. It was said the Navy was necessary to protect the Indian commerce. There was not a single ship sailing from or to India which belonged to India. The whole of the shipping was British, and not only that, but the whole cargo while floating was entirely at the risk of British money. There was not an ounce exported from India on which British money did not lie through Indian banks. In the same way, when goods were exported from England, British money was upon them. The whole floating shipping and goods was first British risk. Lastly, there is every inch of the British Navy required for the protection of these blessed islands. Every Budget, from either Party, emphasises this fact, that the first line of defence for the protection of the United Kingdom alone, demands a Navy equal to that of any two European Powers. He had asked for several returns from the Secretary of State. If the right hon. Gentleman would give those returns, the House would be able to judge of the real material condition, of India; until those returns were presented, they would not be in a position to understand exactly the real condition of India under the present
system. He would pass over all the small injustices, in charging every possible thing to India, which they would not dare to do with the Colonies. India Office buildings, Engineering College building, charge for recruiting, while the soldiers form part and parcel of the Army here; the system of short service occasioning transport expenses, and so on, and so on. While attending the meeting upon the Armenian atrocities, he could not help admiring the noble efforts that the English always made for the protection of the suffering and oppressed. It is one of the noblest traits in the English character. Might he appeal to the same British people, who were easily moved to generosity and compassion when there was open violence, to consider the cause why in India hundreds of thousands of people were frequently carried away through famine and drought, and that millions constantly lived on starvation fare? Why was it that after a hundred years of administration by the most highly paid officials, the people of India were not able to pay one-twentieth part of the taxation which the United Kingdom paid, or even one-thirteenth which poor Ireland paid? Were the English satisfied with such a result? Is it creditable to them? While England's wealth had increased, India's had decreased. The value of the whole production of India was not £2 per head per annum, or, taking into account the present rate of exchange, it was only 20s. The people here spent about £4 per head in drink alone, while India's whole production is only a, pound or two per head. Such should not be the result of a system which was expected to be beneficent. He appealed to the people of this country to ask and consider this question. If there were famine here food would be poured in from the whole world. Why not so in India? Why the wretched result that the bulk of the people bad no means to pay for food. Britain has saved India from personal violence. Would it not also save millions from want and ravages of famine, owing to their extreme poverty caused by the evil which Sir J. Shore predicted. The late Mr. Bright told his Manchester friends that there were two ways of benefiting them
selves, the one was by plunder, and the other was by trade, and he preferred the latter mode. At present, England's trade with India was a miserable thing. The British produce sent to all India was about worth 2s. per head per annum. If, however, India were prosperous, and able to buy, England would have no need to complain of duties and the want of markets. In India there was a market of 300 millions of civilized people. If the wants of those people were provided for, with complete free trade in her own hands and control, England would be able to eliminate altogether the word "unemployed" from her dictionary, in fact, she would not be able to supply all that India would want. The other day the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that where injustice and wrong prevailed, as it did prevail in Armenia, a Liberal Government was called upon to obtain the co-operation of European powers in order to repress the wrong. Might he appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to give an earnest and generous consideration to India? The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Midlothian, made a very grand speech on his birthday upon the Armenian question. He appealed to that right hon. Gentleman, and to all those of the same mind, to consider and find out the fundamental causes which make the destitution of forty or fifty millions, a figure of official admission, and destruction of hundreds of thousands by famine, possible, though British India's resources are admitted on all sides to be vast. In the present Amendment his object was to have that justice of a fair share in expenditure to be taken by Britain in proportion to her benefits. He asked for no subsidy, but only for common justice. By a certain amount of expenditure they derived certain benefits; they were partners, therefore, let them share equally the benefits and the costs. His Amendment also had reference to expenditure outside the boundaries of India. He maintained that if England undertook operations in Burmah, Afghanistan, and in other places beyond the borders of India for the protection of British rule, she was bound by justice to defray at least half the cost. The benefit of these operations was for both Britain and India. The principle was admitted in the case of the last Afghan war, which
was certainly not a very necessary war, but the Liberal Government defrayed a portion of the expenditure. That India should be required to pay the cost of all the small wars and aggressions beyond her boundaries, or political subsidies, was not worthy of the British people, when these were all as much, or more, necessary for their own benefit and rule as for the benefit of India. He hoped he was not appealing to deaf ears. He knew that when any appeal was made on the basis of justice, righteousness, and honour, the English people responded to it, and with the perfect faith in the English character he believed that his appeal would not be in vain. The short of the whole matter was, whether the people of British India were British citizens or British helots. If the former, as he firmly believed to be the desire of the British people, then let them have their birthright of British rights as well as British responsibilities. Let them be treated with justice, that the cost of the benefits to both should be shared by both. The unseemly squabble that was now taking place on the question of Import Duties between the Lancashire manufacturers on the one hand and the British Indian Government on the other illustrated the helpless condition of the people of India. This was the real position. The Indian Government arbitrarily imposed a burden of a million or so a year on the ill-fed Indians as a heartless compensation to the well-fed officials, and have gone on adding to expenditure upon Europeans. They want money, and they adopt Lord Salisbury's advice to bleed where there is blood left, and also by means of Import Duties tax the subjects of the Native States. The Lancashire gentlemen object and want to apply the lancet to other parts that would not interfere with their interests—and thus the quarrel between them. However that is decided, the Indians are to be bled. He did not complain of the selfishness of the Lancashire people. By all means be selfish, but be intelligently selfish. Remember what Mr. Bright said—
Your good can only come through India's good. Help India to be prosperous, and you will help your prosperity.
Macaulay truly said—
It would be a doting wisdom, which would keep a hundred millions, now more than two
hundred millions, of men from being our customers in order that they might continue to be our slaves.
They had no voice as to the expenditure of a single farthing in the administration of Indian affairs. The British Indian Government could do what they liked. There was, of course, an Indian Council; but when a Budget was proposed it had to be accepted. The representatives of the Council could make a few speeches, but there the matter ended. The people of India now turned to the people of Great Britain, and relying on the justice of their claim, asked that they should contribute their fair share in proportion to any benefits which the country might derive from the possession of India.
§ *SIR W. WEDDERBURN (Banffshire)
seconded the Amendment. He expressed his great regret that no reference to India had been made in the Queen's Speech, because the people of India were in a condition of extreme anxiety as to the nature of the proposed Financial Inquiry which was promised last Session. They were anxious to know whether that Inquiry was really to go to the root of the matter; whether it would be a genuine effort to learn the true causes, and apply the real remedy, to the disastrous financial condition of India. Many Members of the House also shared in that anxiety with regard to the proposed Inquiry; especially hon. Gentlemen representing Lancashire constituencies were deeply interested in connection with the question of Import Duties on cotton goods. It could not be too distinctly understood that the imposition of Import Duties was a direct consequence of excessive administrative expenditure in India. It was, in fact, one incident in the downward course of Indian Finance. It was one of the stages in the Rake's Progress. They had two other steps in that career in the closing of the mints, which convulsed Exchanges all over the civilized world, and in the misappropriation of the Famine Fund, on which the lives of the people of India depended. Therefore, he asked hon. Members from Lancashire to say that this excessive expenditure should stop, and then Import Duties on cotton or anything else would cease to be necessary. Several other hon. Members who took a deep interest in Indian affairs were also anxious to know the terms of the refer 580 ence to the proposed Committee of Inquiry. He did not think that those hon. Gentlemen, if asked to sit on the Committee, would be willing to give their time and labour if the Inquiry was to be a mere book-keeping inquiry of no more value than the bogus audits of the Liberator type. They wanted to go to the root of the case, to find out the causes of the financial difficulty, and to ascertain what were the means by which the finances of India could be placed on a solid basis. They were ready to prove certain propositions before that Inquiry: first, that the condition of the people of India was one of extreme poverty; second, that the burden of taxation was more than the people could bear; third, that the proceeds of this taxation were being employed in useless and mischievous frontier wars; fourth, that if this useless military expenditure were stopped it would not only not be necessary to impose Import Duties, but would be possible to remove a certain amount of taxation, and provide funds for objects tending to promote the progress and welfare of the people. It was often said that it was a dreadful thing to have a submerged tenth in this country. But in India there was a submerged fifth. A fifth of the whole population had only one meal a day, and they went through life without ever having their hunger fully satisfied. The Secretary of State for India refused to go into the question of Revenue, and only offered an inquiry into expenditure. It appeared to him that the natural course was to take income first and expenditure afterwards. It seemed a curious thing to lay down how much they ought to spend before they knew how much they had got to spend. His contention was that expenditure in India was on too high a scale for the capabilities of the country. He regretted that the Secretary of State for India was unwilling to go into the question of the reasonable amount of taxation that ought to be raised from India. He thought the Inquiry on that point was all the more necessary, because—and he said it with regret—the right hon. Gentleman seemed to be possessed with a spirit of optimism. The right hon. Gentleman took too rosy a view of the condition of Indian finance, and also of the financial condition of the Govern 581 ment of India. It appeared to him that those optimistic views were a dangerous delusion under existing circumstances. The maximum estimate of the average income of the people of India was 27 rupees per year, or three halfpence per day. Where was the surplus to tax out of three halfpence per day? As a matter of fact, the cultivating class had no savings; they had nothing put away, and having no food in store a single failure in the harvest produced the death of hundreds of thousands, and even millions of those unfortunate people. How was it possible to tax further such a people as that of India, who were now paying in proportion nearly double what the inhabitants of this wealthy country were paying. The Secretary of State for India also took much too favourable a view of the financial condition of the Government of India. There was an interesting and authoritative article in The Nineteenth Century on the subject by Sir A. Colvin, in which it was stated that, unless the aggressive military expenditure was stopped, there would only be three courses open to the Indian Government—to get assistance from the British Treasury, to further tax the Indian people, or to declare India bankrupt. One fact which alone was sufficient to prove the dire financial straits of the Indian Government, was the imposition of the Import Duties, which were giving such great dissatisfaction in Lancashire. No Secretary of State for India would be willing to excite the anger of the Lancashire Members unless it was impossible otherwise to meet India's liabilities. India must have been squeezed very dry before Manchester was called to help. But the Lancashire Members ought to consider the unfortunate position of the Indian taxpayers in this matter. They (the Indian taxpayers) did not want Import Duties; but they asked for them as the form of taxation least painful to them. They preferred to pay 5 per cent, on imported goods, mainly affecting the richer classes, rather than an extra duty on salt—a commodity which was now taxed 4,000 per cent., and which was a necessary to the poorest. He appealed to the great, noble policy associated with the men of Manchester, and Mr. John Bright, who was a friend of India first, and of all other interests afterwards. Let the hon. 582 Members for Lancashire obtain their object in another way, and join in asking for a reduction in the expenditure which made Import Duties necessary. He regarded this military expenditure not only as useless, but as absolutely mischievous. It was an abandonment of the policy of Lord Lawrence, which was that India should remain within her natural boundaries and barriers. The basis of a safe defence of India was the contentment of the people themselves, with friendly neighbours and a full Treasury. At present, India had an empty Treasury; enemies on the frontier, and an overtaxed and starved people within. He begged to second the Amendment.
§ *THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Mr. H. H. FOWLER,) Wolverhampton, E.
There is one part of the speech of the hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment with which I cordially agree. He said that India asked for no charity, for no subvention, but that her claim was for simple justice. I can assure him that not only this Government but the preceding Government, and the Government which will follow, can have, as all English Statesmen can have, no other wish than to treat India with the strictest, and, I may say, the most generous justice. He said that he moved his Amendment in no Party spirit. I believe and I accept that statement. I can conceive no greater calamity to Indian interests, and to the Indian Empire, than that it should become one of the shuttlecocks with which the Party game of battledore is played. We want to keep Party out of Indian affairs altogether. The people of this country have undertaken—or have had placed upon them—a great trust. I believe, in direct opposition to the statements of the Mover and the Seconder of this Motion, that that trust has been hitherto faithfully, justly, and honourably discharged. I believe that it has conferred unspeakable benefits upon the people of India; and, although no one can be more ready than I am to admit that there are many points in which improvements are desirable, and many spheres in which financial reform can be widely extended, expenditure reduced, and efficiency increased; at the same time, I must express my strong dissent, both from the facts and figures, and from the conclusions which my two 583 hon. Friends have brought forward. The Mover of this Resolution, I am sure, did not himself believe that at the present day the people of India are, under British Rule, suffering grosser outrages, more acute wrongs, than those which it is alleged the people of Armenia suffer under Turkish rule at the present time. I put it to him as a friend of India, as one who, as he tells us, desires to secure perfectly amicable relations between these two great Empires, whether it is wise for him to say in the English House of Commons words which will, no doubt, be transmitted to the whole people of India, and which will record that there is a man in this House who believes that the people of India are at this moment suffering at the hands of the Queen Empress and her advisers wrongs which can be compared even in one-thousandth degree with the wrongs which the Armenians complain of suffering under Turkish rule at the present time. I am sure that that was a mistake of my hon. Friend; and I will also pass by all his allusions to what he called "a conquered people" being treated as slaves and helots. That is not in harmony with the ideas of the people of England, and it is not in harmony with the facts. But the hon. Member gave us two or three figures, and perhaps by the accuracy of those statements I may be justified in judging to some extent of the accuracy of his conclusions. It is in reference to those figures that such largely incorrect views are put before the public mind. I will only refer to two or three of the statements which my hon. Friend made in the course of his speech. In the first place, he said that we were dealing with an expenditure of 70 millions. As I pointed out last year, those very large sums include a variety of incomes and expenditures which have no application to taxation or public expenditure as we use the terms in this country. If you were to include in the financial statement of this country the whole rental of England, the traffic receipts of every railway and canal, an enormous amount of public works, which in itself produces an income sufficient to discharge the entire cost of construction, you would swell the English Budget from 100 millions to 1,000 millions, and then you might say that, you had such a sum to deal with. As I said six months ago, and no one can 584 deny the statement, the real net revenue and expenditure of India are about 50 millions. There was another statement which I was sorry to hear my hon. Friend make, as it may be misunderstood, and may produce in many minds an idea of extravagance and injustice. Though the statement has at first sight some justification, it is not based on the facts of the case. My hon. Friend told the House that the people of India were called upon to pay Rx.20,000,000 to English officials. The conclusion that any one would draw from that statement would be that the ordinary civil expenditure of the Government of India includes something like that sum for salaries. Let me tell the House exactly what was the cost at the date of the last complete return, some six years ago. The cost was Rx.11,726,000, and of that sum over Rx.6,000,000 were paid to natives.
§ *MR. D. NAOROJI,
interposing, said, there was a return of the salaries paid to officials receiving 1,000 rupees and upwards, which showed that the salaries, pensions, and other payments made to Europeans in this country and India would be nearly 200,000,000 rupees.
§ *MR. H. H. FOWLER
I dissent from those figures. I come down to officers receiving 250 rupees, which figure practically covers the Civil Service. The numbers which constitute that large army of public servants, both Europeans and natives, who discharge their duties with the greatest ability and efficiency, are 7,991 Europeans, 5,347 Eurasians, and 119,514 natives. My hon. Friend and the Seconder also made a statement with reference to taxation in India. I do not understand my hon. Friend to represent correctly the answer which I gave to the hon. Member for Flintshire (Mr. Samuel Smith), who asked whether I excluded the land revenue when I stated that the taxation of India was the figure which has been quoted. I did not include the land revenue, which is rent, and not taxation. How much of taxation falls on the people of India? As to this Rx.50,000,000 of tax and non-tax revenue forming the taxation of India, you must divide it by one-half in order to obtain the tax revenue; and when we are told that the people of India are unable to pay taxation, I can only say to the House that 585 the only tax which the Indian peasant need pay—and I am sorry he has to do so—is the tax on salt. I have never defended that tax; and I said last year that I should be exceedingly glad to see it repealed. I am satisfied that if our expenditure admitted of a reduction of taxation, Indian opinion would not demand the repeal of Customs duties, but rather the repeal of the salt tax, which presses on the poorest classes of the Indian people. The salt tax amounts to five annas per head; and I ask the House to remember that figure. Then my hon. Friend said it was a monstrous thing that India should be made to contribute towards the cost of the Navy. There is a great controversy going on between the India Office, the Admiralty and the Treasury with reference to the contribution to the Navy. So acute has become the difference of opinion between the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the First Lord of the Admiralty, and myself, that we have referred this matter to arbitration. Originally it was hoped that a very distinguished Member of the other House—the Duke of Devonshire—would have been able to undertake the task of arbitrating between us; but he was unable to undertake that duty, and now it has been agreed to refer it to the final decision of the Prime Minister. India is now paying £50,000 a year for what we may call the police of the Indian seas—that is, for the protecting work of the British Fleet. My hon. Friend said we have no such thing as Indian commerce, that there is no Indian commerce. It is the commerce, according to my hon. Friend, of Great Britain; and my hon. Friend drew a glowing picture of some future state of affairs which would come into being after England was expelled from India, when there would be an enormous trade in India. I do not know what the trade of India was before the East India Company went there, or 20, 30, 40 and 50 years ago; but when my hon. Friend speaks of there being no Indian commerce, I can only tell him that, according to the last "Statistical Abstract," the value of merchandise and treasure bought by India, excluding Government stores and treasure, in 1892–3, which was not a particularly prosperous year, amounted 586 to £79,000,000; and the value of what India sold was £113,000,000. Before I come to the Amendment, let me say a word or two in reply to the speech of the Seconder, who, I am bound to say, did not very accurately approach the wording of the Amendment. The hon. Member first charged us with the closing of the mints and with having convulsed the exchanges of the world. I am not going to open the bimetallic question this evening. But all I have to say is that the closing of the mints has been of great pecuniary advantage to India. Since I have been in office I have had the figures taken out of the value, month by month, of the coining and melting value of the rupee, and its currency value. The value of the rupee has been enhanced by the closing of the mints, and the percentage between the two values is one of those accurate, uniform laws which seem to pervade the whole realm of statistics, which you may wonder at and note, but which you cannot define. Practically it has not varied during the whole of that period in anything more than a fraction per cent. There has been a difference of between 19 and 20 per cent., by which the Government of India has received more for its bills through the closing of its mints. From April to the end of January I should have been nearly two and a quarter millions worse off than I am if the mints had not been closed; and the money would have had to be found from some other source of taxation. We had a full debate last year on the Famine Fund. There are Gentlemen who think that that surplus revenue over expenditure ought not to be applied to any purpose except the purposes which are connected with famine works, and also connected with the railway communication works. My hon. Friend knows that the vast scheme of works which was contemplated 10 or 12 years ago is now completed, and nothing further of a large character is necessary to be done. These works have been provided out of that fund. But the hon. Member spoke of the "misappropriation of the Famine Fund." I am not the Finance Minister of India, but I am the representative of the Finance Minister in this House, and I say that this is language which ought I not to be used regarding the head of any finance department, unless one is prepared 587 to prove it up to the hilt. "Misappropriation" is a very ugly word in connection with finance. My hon. Friend compared the Committee which we are anxious to see sitting to a bogus audit. I do not know what that means, unless it means "dishonest," the auditing of the accounts dishonestly, and the presentation of a dishonest report of what has been done. I do not see the similarity between a bogus auditor and a Committee of this House, and I cannot accept the very severe and harsh criticisms that my hon. Friend has indulged in. What is it my hon. Friend the mover of this Resolution proposes? He proposes that the Ministers should be directed—to so adjust the financial relations between the United Kingdom and British India, with regard to all the expenditure incurred in the employment of Europeans in the British-Indian services, Civil and Military, in this country and in India—I suppose that includes every British soldier—that some fair and adequate portion of such expenditure should be borne by the British Exchequer in proportion to the pecuniary and political benefits accruing to the United Kingdom from Your Gracious Majesty's sway over India; and that the British Treasury should sustain a fair and equitable proportion of all expenditure incurred on all military and political operations beyond the boundaries of India in which both Indian and British interests are jointly concerned.If the Amendment stopped at the words "British Exchequer," I should not say that the subject was one undeserving of inquiry, although I do not understand his constitutional mode of dealing with the matter. It amounts to a serious change in the government and policy of India, and that would require the authority of an Act of Parliament. Who is to decide what is "a fair and equitable portion of all expenditure?" [An hon. MEMBER: The Duke of Devonshire.] I do not know that he or any number of men could deal with so difficult a matter. I do not say that we have not derived great benefits from India, but India has derived great benefits from her connection with England. My hon. Friend said there was no capital for improving the position of India. Where has the capital come from with which the railways and canals have been constructed, which have changed the whole face of India? It has come from here; it is British capital. [An 588 hon. MEMBER: "Indian, taxes."] I hope my hon. Friend will abstain from these interruptions; I carefully abstain from interrupting him. I do not know whether it is wished to penalise the employment of Europeans. It is a crime as well as a calamity that Europeans have taken a part in the administration? That, I think, will not be the opinion of this House, of England, or of India—that the distinguished soldiers and civilians, and the vast army of English Public Servants who have during the last century carried on the affairs of India, have not served India well. England has no reason to be ashamed of them, and India has no ground to complain of them. We are asked to agree to some apportionment between the two countries, and I admit that difficulties have arisen between the two Exchequers with reference to this apportionment. This is not the first time this question has been raised. A Committee sat a great many years ago, at the instance of Mr. Fawcett. After that Committee had reported, in 1874, a departmental Committee was appointed of which the late Mr. Bouverie was the chairman, but the report was so unfavourable to India that it was practically impossible for the Government to impose it or for India to accept it. India being still justly dissatisfied with the apportionment of home charges, a departmental Inquiry took place under the auspices of the present Lord Derby, who was then Financial Secretary to the Treasury. This Committee gave the subject their consideration for 14 years, and during that time they issued a long series of Reports. But when that Inquiry closed, Lord Northbrook, the Chairman, was dissatisfied, and the Duke of Argyll—no small authority—was also dissatisfied. I shall quote the remarks of one of my own predecessors, Lord Kimberley, on this question. They were all agreed that there were substantial, just, and reasonable grounds of complaint with reference to these military costs. Lord Kimberley said—Upon those questions of general policy which I have been invited to discuss, I do not think it at all safe to express very confident views. As to the share that India should bear of the expenses of expeditions out of that country, it appears to me that if India is really interested in an expedition, it is right that that 589 country should contribute fair amount towards the cost of it. It is impossible to decide upon such matters beforehand. They must be dealt with at the time. All I can say is that we think India should be fairly arid generously dealt with, and not charged with the cost of these expeditions unless she has a distinct interest in them. With regard to Egypt, for instance, India has a very considerable interest. The question of military charges is incapable of any complete solution; but it is one which I am quite certain successive Viceroys and Secretaries of State will continue to press upon the Home Government—that is, that we should not have to bear so large a share of the Army expenses. We must try to reduce them, but I am not very sanguine that we shall be able to do so. We shall not fail at the India Office to do our utmost to keep these charges within a reasonable amount.I should like to quote one paragraph from the Duke of Argyll. He said—We have only to consider what India would have been but for English rule, to see the enormous benefit she has derived from it. It is no exaggeration to say that our government of India is such a government as the world has never seen before. The Roman Empire in its greatest extent was not so wonderful. We govern 180,000,000 men of opposite races and religions, sometimes fanatically opposed to each other, and govern them more quietly, calmly and peacefully than we could govern our own people in Ireland. I desire to say nothing which would diminish the loyalty and sense of obligation which the Indian people feel and ought to feel towards us; and it would have the worst possible effect if there were any suspicion aroused in India that, for the purposes of making convenient Budgets or of party Government, the people of India were being charged with expenses which ought really to tie defrayed by the Home Government.That, after all, is the chief point of my hon. Friends complaint. [Mr. NAOROJI dissented.] Well, I am sorry there is not that common ground which I thought there was. I said last Session, in reply to the Member for the Forest of Dean, that the Government does not mean to inquire into the whole policy of the Indian Government. That is impracticable, and it is useless. Imperial policy is a question to be brought before this House—before Parliament. No Select Committee could be given the power to inquire into the wisdom, say, of the annexation of Burmah, the fortification of the North-west Frontier, the delimitation of boundaries which is now proceeding between India and Afghanistan—all these are matters of Imperial policy and are not questions for a Select Committee. There are those who think that an unfair share of home charges is placed on the 590 Indian Exchequer, and this is a question with which a Committee or a Royal Commission is competent to deal; but, after the experience we have had, and the utter breakdown of the Committees which endeavoured to cover the whole range of Indian affairs, I shall be no party to embarking on any such fresh inquiry. The Government are anxious that there should be a full and complete inquiry in the direction I have indicated. We have not yet decided the mode in which that inquiry should be conducted. The Member for Banffshire last year proposed the appointment of a Royal Commission. That, however, I thought then would be rather a cumbrous method of proceeding, and I said that I much preferred myself a Parliamentary Inquiry; but I am bound to say that since then reasons have been urged upon me to show that a Parliamentary Inquiry is not the best mode. A Parliamentary Inquiry would cease when the existing Parliament ceased. Accidents happen to Parliaments. Parliaments only last a certain number of Sessions; they may come suddenly to an end. Accidents, too, sometimes happen to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen. Though they are Members of one Parliament, they may not be Members of the next; and it has been urged upon me whether it would not be desirable to have an impartial, small, but thoroughly efficient Royal Commission to inquire into the question. I do not wish to express any opinion on this point at the present time. The Amendment of the hon. Member is an unconstitutional Amendment. We cannot direct the repeal of an Act of Parliament. That is a matter for Parliament alone. With reference to the opinion expressed in the Amendment that a fair and adequate portion of the expenditure should be borne by the British Exchequer, we are quite willing that such an inquiry should take place, and we should be quite satisfied to abide by the result. In conclusion I would say to the House that, whatever may be our financial views, whether our policy has been wise or unwise—I say, not only for my colleagues in the Government but also for my colleagues at the India Office and for the Indian Government, that it is their desire not to oppress India, not to bleed India, not to injure India, but to go on in that career of progress that has 591 hitherto characterised the rule of India by Great Britain, in the belief that that rule has conferred on the people of India an unspeakable boon, while it has redounded in no small degree to the glory and honour of the United Kingdom.
§ SIR D. H. MACFARLANE (Argyll)
thought that no case had been made out against the Government of India which could justify the matter being brought before either a Committee or the House of Commons with a Royal Commission. Still he had been asking for years that there should be a Commission or a Committee appointed to ascertain the real facts, and to show to the people of India that they were treated fairly. It was most desirable in his opinion, that that should be made known to the people of India. Let them take the small matter of the payment of the Opium Commission. A portion of that expense was to be charged to the Revenues of India, but the people of India did not ask for that Commission. It was thrust upon them by the House of Commons. If there was, as the result of it, any interference with the habits of the people, it would not be strange if there was an insurrection from one end of India to the other. He cordially agreed in the tribute paid to the Civil Servants in India. Nothing could surpass the high character of their services or of the benefits they had conferred upon India; but at the same time it might be said that probably as good men might be got for smaller remuneration. There might be a saving made in that way, but he did not know that it was desirable, for if there was one thing more necessary than another, it was that the officials should be above reproach. He would remind his lion. Friend that the chief duty of district officers in India was to keep one native from oppressing another, and to restrain the arbitrary conduct of the native police. This country had saved India from the continual wars and troubles that used to afflict her, and had made the country so safe that a single man could walk through it without being molested. That, he thought, was something to be proud of. He did not deny that this country derived very considerable advantage from India, but the advantage was not all on one side. The greatest blessing that India ever saw was the landing of the first English 592 man on her shores. England administered India with justice and fairness, and had succeeded in that in a way that no other country in the world had succeeded. Let a Commission be appointed to go carefully into the question, and if it was found that anything was unfairly charged to India, let reparation be made. He repudiated, as far as he could, the general innuendoes of his hon. Friend, but he should support the demand he had made on the grounds which he had stated.
§ *MR. J. SEYMOUR KEAY (Elgin and Nairn)
thought that the figures of the right hon. Gentleman, with regard to the number of Europeans in the employ of the Government of India, ought to be multiplied three or four-fold in order to get at the truth. Only about three years ago a return was laid on the Table of the House on his Motion, by the courtesy of the Under Secretary of State for India in the late Government, and there the whole thing would be found in black and white. He would therefore in the briefest way take from it the number of, and the emoluments paid to, Europeans, only reckoning those in receipt of a salary of 1,000 rupees and upwards. Instead of 7,000, the number stated by the right hon. Gentleman, there were no less than 28,000 Europeans in the service of the Government of India, drawing a salary out of the Indian Revenue of more than 1,000 rupees, and their salaries aggregated no less a sum than 154,000,000 rupees every year. His hon. Friend the Member for Central Finsbury estimated the whole amount of the pay of all Europeans at about 200,000,000 rupees. He did not know whether he included the rank and file of the British Army, but if so his figure was under the mark and not over it. It was further material to ask where were these 154,000,000 of rupees received and expended. The Return showed that 60,000,000 of them, or 40 per cent., were remitted to and spent in England in the shape of pensions. The same Return showed that only 11,000 persons who were natives of India were allowed to be employed in the service of their own country, at over Rs.1000 per year, and that only 30,000,000 of rupees were divided amongst them. Therefore, retired and ineffective Europeans received double the amount disbursed among the natives 593 of India. The fact that such an enormous sum was spent upon retired Europeans was in itself enough to show that there was ground for moving the Amendment in the benefit which the English nation received under the system which now obtained.
§ MR. W. S. CAINE (Bradford, E.)
expressed his regret if he had unduly interrupted the Secretary for India with interjections, which he thought, were pertinent, and by which he thought he might be saved the making of a speech. If the Government really meant to grant a Committee—and the right, hon. Gentleman's instincts in that direction were sound—it would scarcely be necessary to divide on the Amendment. There was no doubt there did exist in the minds of the educated natives of India, as reflected not only by the National Congress but also by the Press, a strong impression that this country did to some extent milk India by charging to her revenue much that ought by right to fall on our own Exchequer. If it could be understood that the reference to the Committee could be so framed as to make it quite clear that the Committee was to investigate the relative proportions in which certain charges ought to be distributed, then this Amendment might probably be withdrawn. [Mr. FOWLER: That would be the meaning of the Inquiry.] Then he was quite content. Last Session he called attention to the charge upon India, for 12 years, of £10,000, as a subsidy for the cable between the Mauritius and the Continent of Africa; and he was told that the justification for the charge was the strategic position of the Mauritius as regarded the defence of the Indian Empire. That was a charge which ought never to have been imposed on India at all, and it was but a single instance of charges that ought to be borne by this country but which were cast upon India. As to the British Army in India, we should withdraw a considerable proportion of it without scruple if we required it; and it was really in India for British purposes. The men served in India for four years out of seven; and, if India paid for taking them, Great Britain ought to pay for bringing them back again. The Committee ought to be appointed soon, or otherwise there would be disappointment in India.
§ *MR. G. N. CURZON (Lancashire, Southport)
said the House would have listened with respect arid admiration to the straightforward and statesmanlike speech of the Secretary for India, and particularly to his broad general statement of the services Great. Britain had rendered and was rendering to India, and of the spirit which animated us in our relations with India. The right hon. Gentleman made a clear statement as to the nature of the promised Inquiry into the financial relations between Great Britain and India; and, whether the Inquiry were conducted by a Committee or a Commission, he believed it would have the co-operation and support of both sides of the House. From the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment, it would appear that they must be singularly oblivious of former Debates in that House. Every argument they had used had been heard before, and those who recollected the Budget speech of the Secretary of State last summer would be aware how complete was the answer given to the statements that had now been repeated. Nevertheless, the same platitudes, the same worn-out, threadbare, and preposterous fallacies that were then brought out to be shattered, pulverized, and destroyed, had come up to be again answered six months afterwards. He must say a word upon the concluding part of the Amendment, to the operation of which the Secretary of State had not found occasion to allude. The Mover asked the House to say—That the British Treasury should sustain a fair and equitable portion of all expenditure incurred on all military and political operations beyond the boundaries of India in which both Indian and British interests are jointly concerned.This was a somewhat vague and indefinite proposition, but the hon. Member explained that he would adopt the boundaries which existed when the Government of India was taken over by the Crown nearly 40 years ago. The hon. Member did not lay stress upon the fact, but the wording of the Amendment would bring political as well as military operations within the rule. Did the hon. Member really know what were the boundaries of India in 1857? Had he any idea how the India of today differed from the India of 1857? Did he know the prepos 595 terous demand he was making upon intelligence and statesmanship? The Amendment would apply to our operations in Beluchistan, which were now not military but political, and were concerned with the organization of an administration. Was the cost of that to be met jointly by the Indian and the British Exchequer? The proposed rule would mean that the cost of the Waziri Expedition and of boundary demarcation in Afghanistan should be borne by the two Exchequers, and also of the campaigns on the North-West frontier, which were provoked by turbulent frontier tribes who were repelled by local levies. Lastly, it would mean that the expense of the annexation of Upper Burma, authorized, of course, by this House, but in no sense an operation directly affecting British as distinct from Indian interests, should also have been divided between the two Exchequers. He hoped the legitmate responsibility of England for military operations upon the Indian frontier would never be ignored, and he could conceive of occasions of invasion when a demand might legitimately be made upon this country for co-operation. But that these small frontier wars and expeditions, and the civil organization resulting from their successful issue, should be, borne by us in common with India was an idea which could not commend itself to any but the hon. Gentleman, and the section for whom he spoke. When he complained that the people of India had no voice in the expenditure of their country, he forgot that, by the Legislative Councils Bill of the late Government, which he was fortunate enough to pass, for the first time Members of those Councils were at liberty not only to ask questions, but also to make statements and speeches, upon the Budgets of the Government. The hon. Member must know that the Government of India was conducted in as fierce a light as that of this country, and perhaps even under a more concentrated blaze. The right to ask questions and to make speeches was a positive guarantee, not merely that the views of those for whom the hon. Member spoke would be represented, but that nothing in the nature of substantial injustice would be done. It would have been more to the point if the hon. Member, instead of refe 596 ring to military and political operations, had alluded to certain Commissions of Inquiry ordered by this House, and the cost of which was thrown upon India. He listened with astonishment to the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for Banff. The hon. Baronet was a distinguished member of a body of civilians whose rule in India had been eulogised by more than one speaker, and of whom it might be justly said that they were the pride and glory of their country. Yet, coming back here with the traditions of the Service upon him, with his great knowledge of Indian affairs, he lost no opportunity of traducing the body of which he was once a member, and slandering the great and splendid work it was carrying on.
§ *SIR W. WEDDERBURN
said he admitted that the Service was doing good work, but he contended that it was done on a scale too expensive for the country. He had, in his speech, made no charge against the service to which he had had the honour to belong. But he wished its members to be the servants of the people and not their masters. He had no wish whatever to "traduce" the Service.
§ *MR. CURZON
said he was glad to have that repudiation, but the hon. Baronet's speech undoubtedly supplied this foundation for his charge—that, if the bulk of his accusations were true as to the poverty of the people of India and the oppression of the Government, it would constitute a grave charge against those responsible for the administration of the country. The hon. Baronet complained that no reference was made in the Queen's Speech to matters connected with India. For his own part, so far from deploring that India was not mentioned, he was glad that the condition of affairs in India was so satisfactory that there was no need to allude to it in the Queen's Speech. The assumption underlying the speech of the hon. Baronet was, that the military expenditure of the Indian Government was unwise and unjustifiable and their policy rash and unsound. He himself had made, in a humble way, some attempt to understand the question, and he deliberately stated that, broadly speaking, the frontier policy of India, with the great expenditure it had entailed, had been not merely a wise and statesmanlike, but 597 an absolutely necessary, policy. No doubt great mistakes, involving enormous financial responsibility, had been committed. Nobody would now deny the fatal policy and ruinous cost entailed by the first Afghan war. But we had learnt by experience, and were, he should imagine, extremely unlikely to make any such blunder again. The policy of military expenditure, the frontier expeditions, and the cost of setting up an organised Administration after victory had been won, constituted a policy of insurance which we were bound to pay for our great Empire. Our long immunity from war in India had been simply due to the effect of the millions of money we had been content to spend upon that object. The only way, in his judgment, by which we could escape the invasion of India was to render invasion sufficiently dangerous to make it not worth while for any one to attempt it. Seriously as he thought that the House should scrutinise the various acts of the Indian Government and their consequent financial responsibility, for his own part he was of opinion that the policy of Lord Lansdowne, Lord Roberts, and the great men who for the past 15 years had been making secure the frontiers of India, was one that should meet with the gratitude of this country and the support of the House.
§ *MR. A. WEBB (Waterford, W.)
denied that the hon. Baronet the Member for Banff had either traduced or slandered the Civil Service of India. The members of the Service were servants of the people. They should not be above criticism, and he regretted those who criticised their public actions should be accused of traducing and slandering them. What struck a casual observer like himself (who had recently spent some time in India) was the extreme poverty of the mass of the people and the extent to which they were taxed. When he considered what wages were in England he wondered how wage-earners in India managed to live upon the low wages they obtained. The services of horses and dogs commanded a higher price than those of men in some kinds of employment. It was his firm conviction that both policy and justice required that the people of this country should pay a larger proportion of Indian military expenditure than at present. He believed that 598 we ought to be prepared to pay a larger portion of the cost of Indian frontier wars, and, if we did so, it would redound largely to our honour and to the satisfaction of the people of India. He strongly deprecated a feeling of self-satisfaction with regard to our Indian Empire. It was a great charge and a serious responsibility, and we ought not to be too self-complacent as to it. The Secretary of State for India intimated that the government of India had been uniformly good in the past. Good intentions were by no means a proof that right had been done. In Ireland the British Government and officials, with the best intentions, had, in the past, failed, because they had not been acting in accordance with the wishes of the people of Ireland. He was a supporter of the present Government through his Party; he was an admirer of the Secretary of State for India; but he regretted the temper which the right hon. Gentleman had shown in treating this Indian question, and especially in the way he met the hon. Member for Finsbury. Without going further into the question, he believed that, no matter how well-intentioned our Secretaries and Councils on this side were, they should take more efficient means than at present to seek the advice and ascertain the wishes and desires of the natives themselves. Until this were done we should not be on safe ground. He desired to support the Amendment.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)
said that he was very unwilling to trouble the House, and it was very desirable that this discussion should close. Something more ought, however, to be said. From the remarks of some hon. Members opposite it might be supposed that our military expenditure in India was too high—in other words, that our fighting strength there could be reduced. He did not suppose that it could be argued that the military expenditure could be reduced unless the fighting power were lowered also. He would like the House and the country to consider whether the fighting strength of India was more than what was wanted, or whether it was less than we wanted. He would advise any hon. Member who wished to understand the fundamental essentials of the military problem in India carefully to peruse the work of his 599 hon. Friend the Member for Southport, published a few years ago, upon "Russia in Central Asia." That work showed that the advance carried on by Russia for more than a generation had carried that Power to the very gates of Afghanistan; it showed that, upon a declaration of war, Russia could pour her forces like a thunderbolt over Afghanistan; and it estimated Russia's forces, and went on to consider what reply England could make from India. Though he hoped that the gathering of the forces there represented would be enough, yet it would require all that we knew to do so. Let them consider well the awful issues that would depend on such a conflict, and let the House and the country say whether we had more than enough—whether, in fact, we had enough—to meet the dread issue of such an eventuality. And if not, how could it be assumed that our military expenditure in India could be reduced? Suppose we could put, at the outside, 50,000 men into the field to meet such an enemy, that would be barely enough; and anyone who considered the relative muster of the forces of the two Empires would pray God from his heart to aid our soldiers at that grave moment. Such grave issues as this ought not to be trifled with, as they were always trifled with, both by the Mover and Seconder of this Amendment. He would tell the hon. Member who moved it that England would suffer far more if things were to go wrong with the British arms in India than would India herself. The frontier defences of India wore wanted for India, and not for England. What did England care for a stony desert to the west Merv or a tract of waste land in Afghanistan if it were not for the sake of India? With regard to Burma, upon what ground could it be asked that the expenses of annexing Upper Burma should be borne by England? Burma was an integral part of the British Empire in the East at the time of that annexation. What did we care for the upper regions of the Burmese rivers, except for the sake of India? He recognised that the mover of this Amendment came from one of the most loyal sections of the people of British India. He highly respected the noble clan from which the hon. Member came, and he quite admitted that it contained some of the 600 bluest blood of all the nationalities on the earth. But, coming from such a clan, speaking, as the hon. Member did, in high terms of the benefits of British rule in India, he was astonished at his bringing forward such an Amendment as this. He did not think that the speeches made by the hon. Member in that House could be delivered by him with safety before his fellow-countrymen in Bombay. His fellow-clansmen would be astonished at such utterances.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE,
continuing, said that this Amendment was not seriously regarded by any other Member in the House except, perhaps, by the Seconder of the Amendment and, possibly, by the last speaker. Did the hon. Member for Finsbury suppose, if he were to tell the British electorate that India was putting a burden upon our Budget, that it would not be very awkward and would set up jealousies between those who were interested in trade with India and those who were not? It was time for someone to stand up and expose in their true light the sentiments which had been expressed. He was astonished that the hon. Member should make such a proposition as that contained in his Amendment and could suppose that it could be seriously regarded either by a British House of Commons or by a British electorate. These questions had cropped up, and had been pulverized Session after Session. He himself had contributed to their pulverization, but they cropped up again just as if they had never been dealt with before. Again and again they were told that the people of India were dying of starvation—the very people who were increasing and multiplying more than any other nation under Heaven. They were told that the people were half starving when they were sending £150,000,000 sterling annually to foreign countries, and when they were flooding the British corn markets with grain to the dismay of the British farmer. They were told this at a time when the trade of India was expanding, when their agriculture was spreading fast, and their capital could be shown to be growing and accumulating. His hon. Friend who had just sat down urged as an argument that the wages were very low; but the prices were also low. These misrepresentations had been 601 constantly exposed. As one who had served the Municipality of London in one of the poorest parts of the Metropolis he ought to know something of the distress which prevailed here, and, nation for nation, country for country, he declared that there was far less real distress in India than there was in this country, and that the actual want and necessity was greater arid more perceptible here than in India. He utterly denied the hon. Member's statements as to the growing poverty in India; he believed the opposite was the case. A great deal of our commerce we owed to India, but what did India owe to us? The people of India owed their lives to us, their homes, hearths, freedom, rights, and liberty. It astonished him when he considered the way in which his countrymen had given their lives in the service of India that such scant justice should be shown them by the hon. Member for the Central Division of Finsbury. He would add his testimony to that which he was sure would be borne by every Member on that side of the House who was acquainted with Indian affairs to the remarkable skill, ability, and patriotic spirit with which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India had defended Indian interests. He congratulated him on the statesmanlike capacity he had shown in dealing with Indian problems.
§ MR. NAOROJI,
in asking leave to withdraw the Amendment, inquired whether the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India adhered to his pronouncement in regard to the Committee of Investigation. [Mr. H. H. FOWLER assented.] He very much regretted that decision.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
COLONEL J. P. NOLAN (Galway, N.) moved that the following words should be added as an Amendment to the Address—
And we humbly express our regret that Your Majesty's Gracious Speech did not contain a reference to the severe distress existing in some parts of Ireland, and failed to convey an assurance that public works would be undertaken to alleviate such distress.
He said he had been very much surprised that no reference was made to this distress in the Queen's Speech. He did not think there was any necessity for giving proofs of the severe distress at present
existing in Ireland. In the first place the Poor Law Guardians had, almost all over the western part of Ireland, passed resolutions deploring the distress which existed, or which they apprehended. In the second place, it had been, to a very great extent, admitted by the Chief Secretary for Ireland. He did not wish to exaggerate the prevailing distress, but there was in some districts a very large failure of the potatoes. Some of the potatoes had been frost-bitten, and others were attacked by the disease, and the crop of potatoes was poorer in every way as a general rule. The action of the disease in Ireland had been very irregular Another cause of distress was the low price of pigs. This was really a most important matter to the Irish peasant. There were a few people who would have potatoes, but for a large number the supply would give out in March, and unless something was done for them there would be three months, and perhaps four, of the greatest distress from this cause. The peasants possibly might live upon their live stock, but that would be to cripple them for five or six years at least. There was no large labouring class in Gal way and Mayo, and other parts of Ireland affected; the people must be small holders of land, or nothing. The labour market was very poorly paid, and unless the peasant had some land, and the moans of stocking it, he was very badly off indeed. He hoped to ascertain in the course of the evening what the Chief Secretary was going to do to meet this state of affairs. What had he done? He was going to introduce a Seed Potatoes Bill, and he had taken upon himself the responsibility of telling the Local Government Board, and the Board of Works, that they might advance money to the Unions to purchase potatoes. By his prompt action, the people would be able to buy proper seed potatoes in the market, but the Bill could not come into effect until the end of July, and therefore his action, although extremely useful, could have no immediate, effect in stopping the distress. If by expending a reasonable sum on relief works the country could be made hereafter passably prosperous, the Exchequer would gain an advantage in the end in the form of increased receipts from taxation. He wanted the Government to dip their hands into the
national pocket in order to relieve the distressed poor of Ireland from the necessity of selling their stock and household goods. In making this request he was not asking for any really British money. The sums collected by taxation in Ireland were considerably larger than the amount expended in Ireland by the Government, and all he asked was that the balance transmitted this year from that country should be smaller than usual, and that the difference should be devoted to relief works. He, therefore, did not occupy the position of a beggar asking for money. His demand was, that a little more of their own money should remain in Ireland, and that the Government should forego a little of the tribute annually paid by Ireland to the British Exchequer. At least £15,000,000 were expended every year in warlike stores, including ships, guns, fortifications, &c. Only some £50,000 or £60,000 out of this amount went to Ireland, and that went to Belfast for the construction of engines. Irishmen were justified in asking to share in this expenditure on warlike stores—£500,000 of it ought surely to go to Ireland. If there were not in that country the same facilities for manufacturing warlike stores as were found in England, the £500,000 ought still to go to Ireland as a set-off to the large amount expended in Great Britain on stores of that kind. The undertaking of public works in Ireland as a means of alleviating distress, and at the same time of benefiting the country permanently, was not a Party question, and there was no reason why all Irish Members should not support his proposal. He asked Conservatives to support it, as being in accordance with the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Manchester (Mr. Balfour) when he was in Office. He hoped that the present Chief Secretary would rival the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Manchester in this kind of well-doing, and that when his term of Office came to an end there would be public works which could be pointed to as having been undertaken by Mr. Morley. The Congested Districts Board was trying to improve the condition of the worst parts of the country, but it had not enough money at its command to cope with anything approaching to
exceptional distress. Then the action of the Board was restricted within certain limits, and did not extend beyond Connemara and parts of Mayo, Donegal, and Kerry. The greater part of Ireland was not within its jurisdiction. The Congested Districts Board, therefore, was powerless to cope with the existing situation. Works for the relief of distress ought to be such as to effect some permanent improvement in the country. In his own district he should say that drainage was most needed. He did not mean the draining of great rivers which were navigable, because that was a matter of extreme difficulty, involving complicated engineering problems. What he had in mind was the drainage of certain localities in Roscommon, Donegal, Mayo, and elsewhere. But he would not quarrel with the Chief Secretary about the nature of the public works to be undertaken if the right hon. Gentleman would only promise to prepare a suitable and adequate scheme. He did not much like the right hon. Gentleman's declaration that he was carefully watching certain districts. Why was "watching" necessary? Of course inspection was necessary, but as soon as the condition of districts had been ascertained it ought to be easy to come to a decision upon the question of their wants. Considering that no warlike stores were turned out in Ireland, he thought that, as an equivalent, the Chief Secretary might undertake, though on a small scale, some means of developing certain parts of the country in order to help in the relief of the existing distress.
§ MR. SEXTON (Kerry, N.)
said, the fiscal question, or the question of taxation, had a direct and important bearing on the claim the Irish Members had then to make. It was not agreeable to him and his colleagues to have to make such claims, but the recurrence of those partial famines was one of the incidents of the incapacity and neglect of Imperial Administration, and they might be expected to recur from time to time until the resources of Ireland were placed in the hands of Irishmen themselves. Last year was the worst year in Ireland since 1879; indeed, some thought it the worst year since 1848. There could be no doubt of the existence and extent of the distress. In 1892, the last year of Office of the late Government, the Revenue 605 derived by the Imperial purse from Ireland was considerably less than in the past year; yet the late Chief Secretary spent in 1892 in the country about half a million more than the present Chief Secretary had expended during the past year. New imposts were placed on Ireland last year which produced £200,000 more in Revenue than was received in the preceding year, yet much less had been spent in the country. This was the basis of their claim that Ireland was entitled to some assistance. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had expressed regret that there was no reference in the Queen's Speech to the distress in Ireland; but the important point was, not that there was no allusion to the question in the Speech, but rather what were the intentions of the Government with regard to Ireland. He was bound to give credit to the Chief Secretary for giving notice on the opening day of the Session of his intention to bring in a Bill to supply seed to small occupiers and farmers in certain districts in Ireland, and that he had taken upon himself the responsibility of making certain advances. They, therefore, knew that the right hon. Gentleman had undertaken to do something; it might be inadequate, but still it was a better earnest that the Government would undertake some means of relieving the distress than a mere verbal assurance in the Queen's Speech. It was his duty in the month of November last year to bring under the notice of the Chief Secretary the distress which existed among the poorer occupiers in the extensive Union of Listowel. Ample and reliable evidence was furnished by the Poor Law Guardians as to the extent and depth of the distress, showing that the potato crop had not yielded more than one half in most cases, and not more than one-eighth in others, of the usual amount; and yet when a Local Government Board Inspector was sent to inquire into the nature of the distress, he reported that the potato crop had been an excellent one. On the other hand, the Union officials were agreed that the crop had failed to a very serious extent, and that the distress was patent. The fact was that the Inspector had not enquired of those who were in the best position to furnish him with accurate information. He was convinced, by the unanimous resolutions which had been passed by 606 Boards of Guardians, that great and bitter distress now prevailed all along the Western seaboard of Ireland. It would take more than the Report of a Local Government Inspector moving about the country to remove that impression from his mind, and he hoped the Chief Secretary would adopt means of securing accurate information as to the prevalence of the distress. What, then, was the position? The potato crop had failed. The potato was still the staple food of the people during several months of the year. The supply having run terribly short, the price of the commodity was doubled or trebled. Consequently, on the one hand the labourer was unable to purchase a necessary of life, and on the other the farmer was deprived of the means of employing labour as well. The people could not live; they would not have the means. In this condition of affairs he respectfully, but earnestly, protested against the application of the Workhouse tests. Whether the indoor or outdoor test was applied, the result was most fallacious and misleading. As regarded the former, to say that there were not more people in the Workhouses now than a year ago proved nothing. A solitary member of a family could not be taken in; the whole family must go. In the case of a poor labouring family, bearing in mind the great repugnance they felt to the Workhouse, they must have reached a pitch of suffering and starvation almost imperilling life before they would consent to go into the House. As regarded the outdoor test, again, if a family held more than a quarter of an acre of land they could not have outdoor relief. A monument this of the wisdom of Irish administration! The fortunate possessor of a quarter of an acre of land was held disentitled to outdoor relief under any circumstances! There would be, and were, tens of thousands of families who were starving but still able to walk about, and they did not come within the definitions which would enable the Guardians to give them outdoor relief. He, therefore, asked the right hon. Gentleman to revise the whole system of inquiry and inspection, and to lay down some rules which would give some guarantee that the evidence given by the Inspectors in their Reports should correspond with the facts of the case. He also urged the expediency of 607 extending the term of repayment for the seed potato loans. It was very hard to impose on the Guardians such conditions as obliged them to collect the whole of the money within two years from an extremely poor class of occupiers, and he would, therefore, venture with every confidence to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he could not extend to four, or even to three, years the repayment of the loan. As to the Public Works, he agreed that it was a rather small and trivial system that had been set on foot, and he rather thought the Department were trying their ingenuity to avoid starting important works. He hoped they might hear from the right hon. Gentleman that, considering all the circumstances of taxation and of revenue, and the depth and extent of the distress, the Government would be prepared to deal with this question in no niggardly spirit. In some districts lines of light railways could be constructed with great advantage, as, for example, between Tarbet, connecting with the sea and Listowel. The right hon. Gentleman might consider also the desirability of reverting to the system of loans, free of interest, such as was made to the land-lords in 1880. It was a cruel thing to set up central Public Works 10 or 12 miles away, and to drag the people 10 or 15 miles away from their homes, and to call that relief. It was torture under the name of relief. But if the right hon. Gentleman would, under reasonable conditions, establish a system of loans of moderate amount to occupiers of land, free of interest, either out of the balance of the Church Fund or any other fund that might be available, he thought that would complete a system which, without such an element, would be altogether inadequate to meet the necessities of the case. Whilst the right hon. Gentleman might think he had spoken in a critical spirit, he would admit the responsibility which lay upon the Irish Members in the presence of such suffering and danger imposed that critical spirit upon them, and would not mistake anything he had said as implying any want of confidence in himself, because he knew the right hon. Gentleman had to contend against a hide-bound official system. If the personal spirit of the right hon. Gentleman could, merely by the exertion of his will, dominate the official system of Ireland, 608 the Irish Members need take very little trouble in that House to press such matters as these upon him.
§ MR. WILLIAM FIELD (Dublin, St. Patrick),
said that relief in the way of grants of seed potatoes should not be restricted to persons whose valuation was under £15. He thought that anyone in need of seed potatoes whose valuation was under £50 ought to receive the relief. It was hard to fix so fast a rule that a man valued at £15 could receive seed potatoes, while his neighbour, equally destitute but valued at £15 10s., was denied the relief. As an addition to the present method of relieving distress in Ireland, he suggested the construction of new harbours and the improvement of existing harbours in fishing districts. The fishing industry of Ireland was entirely neglected. Foreigners fished all round the coasts of Ireland, and owing to the absence of that assistance from the State which countries having paternal Governments received, the people of Ireland were unable to reap any of the harvest of fish which abounded around their coasts. Light Railways were also much needed in some districts of the country. Again, if the Chief Secretary could see his way to have more labourers' cottages erected, it would give much-needed employment, and, at the same time, provide house accommodation for labourers, which was badly wanted in many parts of the country. New roads and main and surface drains would also be very useful. He contended that Ireland was entitled to an equal share with England of the increased taxation. Ireland was not at all as prosperous as England, and one of the reasons why there was so much destitution in Ireland was, because the taxation wrung out of Ireland was mainly spent in England. He contended that the workhouse test of destitution was fallacious. It was a matter beyond contradiction by any one who knew anything of the feelings of the people of Ireland that many of the people would rather starve than enter the workhouse. In England it was, moreover, much easier to get out-door relief than in Ireland. He was not, however, much in favour of outdoor-relief, except where it was found to be necessary, because when carried to excess it had a demoralizing 609 tendency amongst the poor. Irishmen could not, from their experience of the past, have much faith in the permanent officials. There seemed to be a want of sympathy between the permanent officials and the people whom they governed. It was a mistake to suppose that in these details Parliament governed Ireland; the permanent officials were the real rulers. He wished to urge upon the Chief Secretary that in this matter it was necessary to look ahead a little. Mere temporary expedients would not cure this disease of Irish distress. If the present system continued, public works might be necessary for a period which the Treasury would not care to contemplate. The institution of a Board of Agriculture for Ireland would be a great benefit in helping the Irish peasant to be less entirely dependent upon the potato crop. It was a most extraordinary thing that the United Kingdom imported foreign produce to the amount of hundreds of millions every year, while the country was going out of cultivation. If the right hon. Gentleman could devise a scheme whereby the waste lands and the idle hands could be brought together, it would be a national benefaction. At present £20,000,000 of taxation was being raised for protecting a mercantile marine which poured into the country foreign produce of all kinds, a great part of which we could produce at home. He had made these practical suggestions irrespective of Party, for this was not a Party question. It was a question of humanity, in which all sections of the House could co-operate in the spirit of Christian co-operation. He trusted that the Chief Secretary would give the question his serious attention, and try to devise a remedy for a very serious defect.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
said, that hon. Members opposite were more interested in this question than he could possibly be; for he represented a part of the country which fortunately did not suffer in this way. In Ulster they were not exposed to the cruel sufferings common in the special area on the west coast of Ireland. To begin with, he hoped that the question of distress would not be complicated with any question of the rights and wrongs of taxation, and the financial relations between Great Britain and Ireland. No 610 doubt in that respect Ireland might make out a good case; but this was a question, of humanity. What he desired to say next was, that wherever exceptional distress was proved to exist, a prompt and sufficient remedy for it ought to be found. But in his mind the point was, that the proof of this exceptional distress should be sufficient. He did not undervalue the testimony of Boards of Guardians in Ireland. They were the only representative authorities on which the State could rely for information in certain lines of action. But human nature was the same all the world over; and if a district were suffering in any way, though the suffering were not exceptional, and if relief were being given in exceptional cases; there would be a natural desire that that relief should not be confined to the exceptional cases, but should be extended to the other. These Boards of Guardians, like other local bodies, were exposed to pressure. All he would say with respect to them, therefore, was that when an allegation of exceptional distress was made by one of them, it should constitute a prima-facie case for inquiry by the Government. He also thought that the Government ought to be very careful in these inquiries. It was quite true that in Ireland there were hide-bound officials—men accustomed to dealing with distress, who had become callous by constant association with it. In sending those officials to institute inquiries, care ought to be taken that they were in communication with those who had the best information at their disposal. In matters of this kind, he believed that the strong ought to help to bear the infirmities of the weak; and he had risen to say that, in relieving exceptional distress, wherever it had been proved to exist, the Chief Secretary might rely on the co-operation of hon. Members from the North of Ireland, whose constituents were free from the cruel sufferings of other districts, but must sympathise with them. He cared for no Irish policy which did not recognise that the district on the western coast of Ireland was exceptionally situated, and required exceptional treatment from any Government or Party.
§ MR. J. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said that the Nationalist Members were grateful to the hon. Member for his assistance in this matter. He 611 fully accepted the principle laid down by the hon. Member that the Government, before deciding to take exceptional steps for the relief of distress in Ireland, were bound to hold a careful inquiry into the facts. But what the Nationalist Members had urged upon successive Governments was, that inquiry should be held in good time, and when the local representative bodies had urged the existence of distress; and that the inquiry should be held in some form which would command the confidence of the people as to its results. Past bitter experience in Ireland had led them to distrust, he would not say all, but many, inspectors of the Local Government Board, particularly on account of the secret way in which their inquiries were held. They ought to be held in some open fashion, so that those who lived in the localities might have an opportunity of publicly bringing their knowledge before the Inspectors. He knew that the House was only too familiar with demands from Ireland for the relief of distress. To Irishmen, as could be imagined, there was nothing more painful or humiliating.
§ MR. DILLON
said, that at any rate he felt the humiliation. One of the reasons for his discontent with the present system of Government was, that it had produced this condition of things, which ought not to exist in any properly governed country in the world. Some hon. Members might think that Irish Members were premature or too clamorous in their appeals. Let them read the history of Ireland, and learn that on more than one occasion it had been proved beyond all question that, so far from being too early in their appeals for relief of distress, the Irish Representatives had been too late. In the terrible years from 1846 to 1848 thousands perished of starvation before any relief came to their assistance. In these and many subsequent years fault might have been found with the representatives of the Irish people that they did not raise their voices on behalf of the starving peasants in the west of Ireland in time. In the whole of Ireland there was hardly a district so universally distressed and congested as East Mayo, the constituency which he represented. 612 He believed that in every period of distress that took place, the dark cloud which settled so often on the people of Ireland, settled with peculiar darkness over the people of East Mayo. The Swinford Union, which covered the greater portion of his constituency, had a population of 48,000 persons, and the valuation was £41,000, or less than £1 per head; in other words the average rent of 10,000 families who constituted his constituency was about £4 per family. The result of that condition of congestion was this: They had a population always living on the verge of famine. In prosperous years they lived in a very humble, parsimonious way, in a state of great poverty, it was true, but still able to keep themselves alive. The moment there was any failure of crops starvation ensued, and the people had nothing to fall back upon. It was therefore a painful and humiliating duty on the part of the Irish Representatives to force on the Government the necessity of relieving that state of affairs. The relief to be given in the Swinford district must be mainly in the nature of relief works. Personally, he believed that the distress which existed in many districts in the west of Ireland was more acute than in 1890. In that year there was a Conservative Government in power, and the Government spent nearly £1,250,000 to meet that distress, while a public fund, in charge of the Leader of the Opposition, also existed. In his own constituency the Government spent not less than £40,000 or £50,000, and he trusted that the Chief Secretary would not forget the example which was then set. On the chronic aspect of this question, he had raised his voice more than once by putting to successive Governments the question—Are they content that this system should continue, that large portions of the population in Ireland should go on living in this abject and most demoralising condition, unable to make both ends meet, and always living on the brink of starvation, to be pushed over that brink every four or five years:He had heard it stated that this aspect of the question had nothing to do with rent. What was the amount of rent taken out of East Mayo alone? In Swinford Union the rent was about £50,000; since 1890, therefore, roughly speaking, £200,000 had been levied in 613 rent in that district. Now, it would take £20,000 to save the people from starvation by the creation of public works. The people, indeed, were paying £50,000 or £60,000 in excessive rent; and this was a point which ought to be considered by the Government. He admitted that a first step had been taken towards the solution of the congested districts problem, but he maintained that, while the Congested Districts Board was an excellent institution, having done very good work, it was insufficient to cope with or to solve this problem, and that, with its present constitution, powers, and resources, it would not solve it for the next 200 years. Would it not be better to make one great effort to constitute a body in Ireland as a sort of insurance against this perpetual recurrence of famine, with sufficient powers and resources to grapple with the problem, and to put the people in the position of becoming self-supporting for the future? He directed the attention of the Chief Secretary to the Wood ford district of County Galway, where the people who had settled under the Congested Districts Act had not received a penny of work since the Board was constituted. He was informed that acute distress prevailed there. Then at Falcarragh, County Donegal, acute distress also existed. If steps could be taken to promote the scheme for the river drainage in East Mayo, he believed that employment could be given to many persons, while effecting a great improvement in the surrounding country. He believed that the Chief Secretary had devoted his attention to this distress with the greatest possible assiduity for many weeks past, and he had every confidence that the right hon. Gentleman would do all in his power to alleviate it.
§ MR. M. M. BODKIN (Roscommon, N.)
urged the right hon. Gentleman to recognise the necessity for some public works being provided in North Roscommon, stating that the people in the district were willing to contribute largely to the expense of the drainage works in connection with the River Laune. 614 He heard an English Conservative Member the other night declare in the House that in Norfolk on middling land reductions of rent to the extent of 40 to 60 per cent, were given, while on poor land no rent at all was paid. If this were suggested as to Ireland they would be accused of confiscation. In Ireland on this poor class of land only 20 pee cent, reduction was given, although thr tenants made all the improvements.
Several Irish Members rising along with
THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. J. MORLEY)
; the right hon. Gentleman said: I am sorry to stand in the way of my hon. Friends, but perhaps I may facilitate matters if I state now the steps which the Government have taken in order to meet that condition of things which claims the special intervention of the Government. The Member for Mayo and others have opened up very large issues, but I for one do not complain of those issues being raised or of the suggestion as to the propriety of establishing some great body in Ireland to deal with this ever-recurring and afflicting distress. I was Chief Secretary in 1886, and it was my duty then to make proposals to the House on this subject. Since 1886 there was one very serious failure of the potato crop—the staple food of the people—and I think the Irish Members have done no more than their duty when they remind the House, when one of these demands are made, that there is a great social question with which this Parliament has hitherto shown itself incompetent to deal. I think, however, that the criticism of the Seconder of the Motion really vindicated the Government, and that it will not be necessary to go to a Division on the Amendment. That Amendment expresses regret that the Queen's Speech''did not contain a reference to the severe distress existing in some parts of Ireland, and failed to convey an assurance that public works would be undertaken to alleviate such distress.The Member for Kerry remarked upon that most fairly and conclusively that a 615 better thing than putting a polite sentence in the Queen's Speech was from the very beginning when this distress appeared to the present moment to make prompt and sufficient preparation. I think I may take credit to the Government for having done that very early last autumn. It was quite clear from the information that I received from official sources that the outlook was rather serious. There were some western localities well known to gentlemen from Ireland where the danger was very serious indeed. I directed special examination to be made in all districts where there was the slightest chance of any scarcity or destitution arising. Early in December I called for further and more specific Reports as to the probable duration of any distress which might arise, and as to the resources which the Local Authorities might have. These inquiries were very carefully made under the direction of the Local Government Board. In the middle of December I was convinced that we should have to supplement the resources at the disposal of the Boards of Guardians by some form of Imperial or Government aid. The Secretary for War kindly allowed an officer of engineers to go to Ireland and inspect the districts which were likely to experience something like abnormal distress, and see what measures could be recommended. The end of that operation was about January 3, and the results were immediately placed before me. I found that there was a falling off in the potato crop more or less serious in some 50 unions in the western counties, but, at the same time, immediate gave destitution was threatened in only some 13 unions in Gal way, Mayo, and Donegal. Drawing a line from Lough Swilly to Cape Clear, the potato crop was from 20 to 50 per cent, below the average. In some lands the failure was very considerable indeed. I do not quarrel with the Member for Kerry as to his warning me against taking the workhouse test as the test of the degree 616 of the suffering which prevails. I may say if that test were applied—and I say this to the hon. Member for Tyrone, who spoke very fairly and reasonably on this point—the number of recipients for relief would not be greater in these districts than it was in the corresponding period last year. I do not know that I go the full length with the Member for Kerry as to the unsatisfactory nature of this test, but I do agree with him in saying that we cannot take it as a conclusive test by which the Government is to be guided. Though, taking Ireland as a whole, the pressure on the Poor Law Authorities is not greater than in the corresponding period last year, yet it cannot be denied by those who resorted to observation that in certain of the western unions there was a pressure, especially in the matter of outdoor relief, which was increasing. The Member for Kerry cast some doubts upon the trustworthiness of the Reports of the Inspectors. The hon. Member for South Tyrone, too, suggested that, though these gentleman were no doubt experienced men, their very experience made them callous to distress, and so untrustworthy. Well, we all know that constant contact with great distress, with horrible material suffering, does produce a certain callousness
MR, T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
I should not like it to go forth that I had pronounced the officers of the Local Government Board as untrustworthy. All I intended to say was this—that their very experience of this distress made them think less of it, and that they had an idea of the endurance of the Irish peasant in their minds which ought not to exist.
MR. J. MORLEY
No doubt the endurance of the Irish peasant is one of the most extraordinary phenomena in nature. I am sure that to-night we are all agreed, in all parts of the House, in recognising the patience and endurance of the Irish peasant and the hardness of his lot. But to return to these gentle 617 men. My hon. Friend the Member for Kerry spoke of them as irresponsible plenipotentiaries from Dublin.
MR. J. MORLEY
I think there is. These gentlemen do not live in Dublin. They live in their own districts, and their whole life is passed in close contact with those who are administering the Poor Law on the popular authorities, such as they are; and really I do not see how, unless I were to go on a pilgrimage with hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite, which, of course, I should like to do, from whom I am more likely to hear of things as they are on this western seaboard than from these gentlemen. Reviewing, therefore, their Reports, reviewing all the resources of the ordinary Poor Law to cope with the distress, I came to the conclusion that those resources were not adequate, and that we could not rely on the ordinary operation of the Poor Law. I felt also that it would undoubtedly be a hardship on the small landowners, who are precluded from the ordinary means of obtaining relief, if I were to leave the whole condition of affairs to the operation of the Poor Law alone. Serious consequences might follow to those little humble homes referred to by the hon. Member who moved this Motion, which it is to the interest of all to keep up and to preserve from that broken position which, as the hon. Member for Galway pointed out, would necessitate the sale of their little stock and deprive them of the means of living. So the Government felt bound to undertake the responsibility of organising measures for the relief of the people concerned, and that resolution was arrived at long before there was any notion of an Amendment to the Address—in fact, five or six weeks before Parliament was to meet. It was taken in view of the exigencies of the circumstances, and not in fear of Parliamentary pressure. The particular form which 618 commends itself to me after consultation with experts has been found fault with and criticised in this Debate. It is the completion of the repairing and fencing of public roads, on such terms and in such a way as to afford employment to unskilled labourers at a low rate of wages. I admit that when I first approached this question I was not satisfied that the old policy of road-making should again, without any alteration or addition, be applied; and I cast about in other directions for other methods of public works. But if we look at the suggestions that have been made to-night, hon. Members who made them will, I think, feel that the Government were right in not departing from the old lines. My hon. Friend the Member for Kerry said that these are small and trivial undertakings. I admit that that is so, but I will ask my hon. Friend, who may, some day or other, have to deal in his own country, I hope, with these matters, or the hon. Member for Tyrone "What will you do if you do not go in for road-making?" The hon. and gallant Member for Galway said, "Why not have some of the ships built in Ireland?"
§ COLONEL J. P. NOLAN (Galway, N.)
No, I did not. I said, "Why not have drainage?" I spoke about shipbuilding, but I never suggested you should build ships.
MR. J. MORLEY
Well, as to drainage, my hon. and gallant Friend knows very well that the necessity for drainage does not exist in the places where you need to give this relief.
MR. J. MORLEY
I think not. But whether that is so or not, you would have to get the leave of Parliament for such works. You would have to wait weeks and months before you could get your Bill through. I wonder whether my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland would assist us in getting such a Bill through?
§ MR. S. STOREY (Sunderland)
My right hon. Friend refers to the fact that 619 I opposed certain works in Ireland. So I did, but only because they were useless works.
MR. J. MORLEY
Yes, but this is a case of urgency. The inhabitants of this part of the country do not want to leave their homes, and go to all parts of Ireland. Drainage works would not effect the desired object. My hon. Friend the Member for Kerry talked about draining bogs. Well, when I was in Ireland one Board of Guardians sent me a resolution urging me to relieve distress in the form of draining a particular bog; but I pointed out that the effect of that would be that public money would be paid in wages for the improvement of property which did not belong to the public, and all the benefit of which would go to the landlord. Then one hon. Member talked about labourers' cottages, but you require skilled labourers for such work as that, and those labourers to whom we seek to give relief to tide over this period of distress are not skilled labourers in that sense. I have no great prepossession in favour of light railways; and they would not help me in my difficulty. Railway making is skilled work; and much of the money that was paid for the making of light railways in 1890 and 1891 did not go into the pockets of distressed people, but gave employment to skilled workmen in all parts of Ireland. Therefore, for an emergency of a peculiar kind, light railways would not help us. It was suggested that it would be desirable to advance money by way of loan on easy terms to small distressed owners, just as a million was advanced in 1880 to landowners to carry out improvements. I have examined a little, not very profoundly, into what became of that million voted by this House; and I wonder how much of it went to the relief of the distress for which it was intended. And how much would do so if we were to advance money to small holders in their present distress? The present Leader of the Opposition had to 620 consider this question when he was Chief Secretary, and he, as I have found, arrived at the same conclusion as I have done. He has been held up as a model, whom I should do well to follow, for the lavishness with which he scattered money; and he came to the conclusion that it would not be expedient to lend money in times of distress, for the purposes of land improvements, to occupiers of small holdings, who might be expected to carry out those improvements in the years of comparative plenty. It is not the risk of repayment I am thinking of; but I believe that loans would have a demoralising influence upon those unfortunate persons.
MR. J. MORLEY
Quite true; I am the last person to disparage the making of loans to tenants; but here you have to deal with the distress of small men living in small holdings and fighting the tremendous battle of life under extraordinary difficulties. I do not think this is the class of men whom the policy of making loans to tenants is calculated to benefit.
§ MR. SEXTON
I do not suggest that loans should be made to small holders. I suggested that loans should be made to occupiers, irrespective of class.
MR. J. MORLEY
My hon. Friend knows a great deal more about these districts than I profess to do; but does he think that loans should be made to small farmers in a condition of chronic distress, deprived of subsistence by the failure of the potato crop, and absolutely in need of subsistence for themselves and their families at the time when these necessary works should come into operation? Besides these general schemes of relief, we have made provision for sudden emergency. What is vital is that no life shall be lost if it can be prevented; and, in addition to the general powers conferred upon relieving officers, we have allowed Local Authorities to grant relief, 621 without restriction, in-door or out-door, in all cases of emergency which may arise. No case of dire want will be left in these districts unprovided for. Care must be taken that relieving officers shall not be left at any moment without funds to deal with any emergency which may arise. I will conclude the account of our projected operations. The areas in which these works are to be instituted are to be determined by persons to be selected by the Local Government Board. We have been able to strengthen the staff by adding three Inspectors to it. They will work in the west in those districts under the supervision of those experienced higher officers who are already familiar with the districts. The general supervision of these measures, both administrative and financial, will be carried out in the Chief Secretary's office. The engineer placed under our directions is now executing works elsewhere, and will advise on future works to be projected. The foremen of the works are to be non-commissioned officers of the Engineers, placed at the disposal of the Irish Government. The timekeepers and paymasters will be the officers of the Royal Irish Constabulary, and that is the only function the Constabulary will have to discharge. The Sappers and Miners, foremen of works, and Royal Constabulary will have nothing to do but keep the time-sheets and see to the pay-sheets. Then we have made an arrangement by which the County Surveyors, with the consent of the Grand Juries, will serve under Major Conder and co-operate with him on the works. The wages of the labourers are to be what they were in 1890–1s. 2d. a day, or 7s. a week. We are anxious that as little money as possible should go in the expenses of administration, and the expenses of administration with respect to each person employed will be about 2s. a week; that is to say, for every man employed in these works 7s. a week will go into his pocket and 2s. a week will be ex 622 pended in the cost of administration. The number of families in the Unions to whom it is intended to give relief by-opening works is 5,400, and we think a very much smaller sum than that mentioned by hon. Members from Ireland will probably be sufficient to meet any demands which may be made upon it. But I do not at present contemplate asking this House for a larger sum than £80,000. If this House were to give half a million of money I am perfectly sure I could undertake, with the assistance of hon. Members from Ireland and the Local Government Board, to spend half a million, or much more, advantageously in Ireland. But that is not my task at the present moment—which is to meet a particular crisis, a crisis whose dimensions I have done the best I can to form an ample judgment upon and to meet in a way which shall prevent one farthing of money finding its way into pockets which Parliament would not desire it should, and which would not leave behind it any demoralising traces or consequences such as have too often followed operations of this kind. Sir, I think I have said enough. On another occasion, when I introduce the Seed Growing Bill, I shall have other things to say, and when the Supplementary Estimate is moved for, for these various operations I shall then be able still more fully to deal with any criticisms, remarks, or suggestions which may be made by gentlemen from Ireland. I hope I have said enough to satisfy them that it is not necessary to press this Amendment to a Division, and that the Government, whatever omissions they have made in the Queen's Speech, have not been at all wanting in promptitude or foresight in dealing with a crisis which we, in common with them, deplore.
§ *MR. D. CRILLY (Mayo, N.)
said, he had listened with mingled feelings of satisfaction and dissatisfaction to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. He was, however, struck with the keynote of sympathy which ran through it. All 623 who knew the right hon. Gentleman knew well enough that anything he could do personally to alleviate distress in Ireland would be done. But in other respects the speech was of a purely negative kind. When they left the negative and came to the affirmative portions of the speech, what did they find? Conceding to the right hon. Gentleman an earnest desire to alleviate distress in Ireland, what was the sum total of his speech? From the right hon. Gentleman's replies to questions about the distress in Ireland, he had been under the impression that the Chief Secretary had committed himself to two remedies to meet the distress—one, the supply of seed potatoes, and the other, the making of roads. But, so far as he could gather, not a single word had been said in his speech about the supply of seed potatoes.
§ *MR. D. CRILLY
Well, passing away from that, the right hon. Gentleman committed himself to the making of roads. But he now said he was going to use the Royal Irish Constabulary, the Local Government Board, and the Relieving Officers "to complete the fencing and repair of roads" In his constituency money could be most usefully spent in opening out new roads, and he trusted the right hon. Gentleman, in considering the allocation of the £80,000, would not simply confine it to the completion, fencing and repair of roads. He associated himself with his colleague in the representation of Mayo in protesting that the Local Government Board Inspectors, by going in a secret way through the country without consulting those who really knew the country and its people, could not report to the right hon. Gentleman as to its true condition. The Government were simply intending to spend this money on the reports of inspectors of police, of resident magistrates, and relieving officers. Why should the right hon. Gentleman consult 624 the relieving officer, who was only the servant of the Board of Guardians? Why not consult such men as the priests or the dispensary doctors of the district, who lived amongst the people day by day, and knew most as to their wants. He himself knew of districts which had never been visited by the Local Government Board Inspector since the distress began. How could those districts be relieved? Did the right hon. Gentleman think that this terrible distress was to be met by the appointment of three more Inspectors? It would need more than twenty three to cope with the terrible amount of distress existing there. But besides the making of roads, and other matters which had been mentioned, his hon. colleague was right in suggesting that some little money might be expended by the Government in drainage, of which various methods existed. A large amount of the country had been reclaimed by the vast sacrifices of the poor labourers and tenants themselves, and if some little assistance could be given to those poor cottier tenants to drain their land, it would be found that there would not always be the necessity for supplying them with seed potatoes, and some return might be looked for by the Government and the tenants from such a mode of assisting them. He had made special inquiry into the subject of seed potatoes, and was prepared to offer some suggestions to the Government, but he would defer those remarks till the Bill was introduced. One suggestion he would, however, make to the Chief Secretary, and that was, that in framing his Bill he should take care to make it impossible for the landlord to step in and seize the crops of potatoes for arrears of rent before the tenant could dig them. This was, in fact, done by the landlords on former occasions. He did not believe that the remedies suggested by the right hon. Gentleman would meet the desperate condition of affairs in Ireland. He agreed with his colleague that it was a humiliating thing for them to have to come to the House and beg 625 periodically for their poor people. The blame for this lay, not with the Irish people, but with the British Government and with the system by which Ireland was governed. He trusted, however, that the right hon. Gentleman would yet, have the satisfaction of voting not merely some beggars' dole to the people of Ireland, but that he would have a hand and part in bestowing on Ireland the one measure which would give to the people of Ireland the right of governing themselves for themselves.
§ MR. J. G. SWIFT MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)
said, the kindly and noble speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary that afternoon must force the conviction on everyone that he was as anxious to alleviate the distress as the men who sat upon the Irish Benches. He wished to direct his attention from the abstract, however, to the concrete, and to give him some few instances of individual distress in districts which had come under his notice. They believed that the Chief Secretary had nailed his colours to the mast in regard to these congested districts. It was he who by constant speeches, and by bringing the matter before the public mind, first of all directed English public attention to the distress of Ireland, who actually enforced the institution of the Congested Districts Board, and who was the prime mover in the works which were instituted by the Member for East Manchester. His right hon. Friend had spoken of the distress as a matter of futurity, but the distress, as he knew, was instant, immediate, and pressing. Past Chief Secretaries had been utterly misled as to the extent of this distress by trusting exclusively to official information. This distress was as old and as hateful as the Union, and he could trace its history for 50 years. The last speech O' Connell ever made in the House, was in February, 1847; he was broken in body and in mind, and he burst into tears while asking for food for the people. He was met with the ordinary stereo 626 typed answer that everything was being carefully watched and considered. Within three months of the great Irish famine of 1846 it was stated from the Treasury Bench that all arrangements were made for meeting the distress, and Lord Stanley, afterwards Lord Derby, the then Irish Secretary, said that all fear of an Irish famine had been the baseless fabric of a dream. He was extremely sorry to say so, but the right hon. Gentleman had the same instruments as had the right hon. Member for East Manchester as to the distress in Ireland in 1890. In October, 1890, the Member for East Manchester stated in a letter sent to the Times that the distress in Ireland would be abundantly met by the ordinary provisions of the Poor Law. That was done to counteract two speeches made, at Swinton and St. Helens, by the right hon. Gentleman, the present Chief Secretary himself, in which he described Irish distress, and especially the state of the congested districts in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman the present Chief Secretary knew at that time better about, the condition of the country than the official Chief Secretary for Ireland, because the latter relied only on Local Government Board Inspectors and other Officials, and the former got his information from all who could give it. They wished to penetrate the ring of officials round the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman had not told the House the names of the 13 Unions which were to be included in the area to which he had referred.
MR. J. MOKLEY
The Unions are Ballina, Ballinrobe, Bawnboy, Belmullet, Castlebar, Clifden, Galway (West), Glenties, Killala, Milford, Oughterard, Swinford, and Westport.
§ MR. MACNEILL
said that Inver and Arver ought to be included in the list. The workhouse test was absolutely fallacious, for the people in many places would rather die than go into the workhouse. This was proved by the statements of Boards of Guardians and many 627 witnesses. As to outdoor relief, no one could obtain it who owned more than a quarter of an acre of land. That law was passed at the instigation of the landlords for the purpose of driving the people into the workhouse. He had himself visited the distressed districts, from which complaints reached him that the officials were unsympathetic. Local Government Inspectors, he was told, had asked the people whether they were to support them every year, posing apparently as the Executive Government. They also took up the position of advocates of self-reliance, saying—If we did not give you relief for one season you would learn to be self-reliant.He suggested that the Chief Secretary should do something for the development, on a small scale, of piers and harbours. At the village of Inver, a few miles from Donegal, the potato crop had failed completely, and the inhabitants were depending upon the precarious livelihood which they made by fishing. There was a natural bar outside the Bay near Inver, and the Bay, if deepened, would make a wonderfully good harbour. At present the boats were sometimes kept outside the Bay for three or four hours, waiting for a prosperous tide. Masons and skilled labourers would not be required for the construction of the harbour, for the necessary dredging work could be done by the inhabitants of the place themselves under intelligent guidance. There were fifty or sixty cottages in the village, and compared with them any English gentleman's stables were a palace. When he visited these cottages in many of them there was not a morsel of food. In the bedrooms there were only wisps of straw for the occupants to lie upon. Still, they put a good face on their sufferings, and did not seek to make the most of them, although their poverty and actual want were distressing. To mark how the poor people prized their seed potatoes was pathetic and miserable in the last degree to witness. He could assure the Chief Secretary that he now had an opportunity of greatly benefiting Ireland if he would institute work of the kind he had referred to, and would undertake also to see that the public roads in certain parts of the country were renovated and made serviceable. Thus immediate employment might be 628 given. In the village of Glencolumbkille the parish priest told him that in less than a month 100 out of his 300 parishioners would absolutely be in want of food. He went into the houses of many of these people, and could not find a morsel of food in them. He would point out that the distress was not confined to one particular part of Donegal, or one particular part of the western seaboard. He had visited other districts than those he had already mentioned, and in going through the villages he saw the same woe and distress prevailing in them all. He made inquiries in many of those villages as to whether the local Government Inspector had visited them, and was informed that he had not, so that the activeness of the distress had not been officially reported. Both Protestant and Catholic clergy and local officials had told him that the past year had been one of the worst ever experienced in Ireland, and in going from cottage to cottage in the villages along the coast of Donegal he constantly heard the same deplorable story of suffering and distress. He regretted to say that many of the poor people had the idea that if they had not been Catholic peasants, but Protestant loyalists, they would not have been left to starve as they had been. He, of course, did not lay any stress upon this, but it showed the feeling that existed. He questioned the wisdom of employing the officers of the Royal Irish Constabulary to act as paymasters in the distribution of the seed potatoes, for he thought Constabulary ought not to be employed in this duty, as there was the risk of their coming into collision with the people. The right hon. Gentleman would no doubt admit that it was an unpleasant duty for him to appear, as he then did, in the guise of one supplicating for assistance for the poor in the distressed districts of Ireland. He relied on the statement of the Chief Secretary that there would be no starvation. He was sorry he had occupied so much time, but a Member of Parliament was unworthy of his position who did not endeavour to the utmost of his ability to alleviate the woes and sufferings of his fellow-men. In conclusion, he would only observe that, having regard to bygone transactions between Irish Members and former Chief Secretaries, there was not a true-hearted Irishman who did 629 not regard the presence of the right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench with very great delight.
§ MR. W. H. K. REDMOND (Clare, E.)
asked whether the Chief Secretary would not reconsider his decision not to do anything in the shape of instituting relief works in the County of Clare. The right hon. Gentleman knew very well that in various Unions in the country resolutions had been passed by the Guardians calling on the Government to do something in face of the distress likely to occur consequent on the failure of the potato crop.
MR. J. MORLEY,
interposing, stated that in his speech he did not speak of any intention not to do anything, but only that at present the Irish Government were confining their attention to the 13 Unions he had named.
§ MR. W. H. K. REDMOND
was glad the right hon. Gentleman had not definitely made, up his mind to do nothing in Clare, but he was thinking, not of the right hon. Gentleman's speech that night, but of his answer to a question, on the subject the other day. In face of the resolutions alluded to, the right hon. Gentleman could not feel surprised that he should feel it necessary to call particular attention to the distress in various portions of Clare.
MR. J. MORLEY
Yes; but I must point out that the distress will come in different Unions at different times. My information is that in the Kilrush Union it will be some time between the end of March and the beginning of July.
§ MR. W. H. K. REDMOND
said, that if the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to consider the situation again, that was all that was required. In the Kildysart Union the Inspector had reported that the potato crop had failed by one-half. It would be a mistake to imagine that there was no likelihood of acute distress in various parts of the county. Whether distress existed acutely now or whether it was more likely to come on in March, there were various portions of County Clare where the condition of the people was very serious, owing to the failure of the potato crop. He thought, however, that the right hon. Gentleman would now see the necessity of doing something to meet that distress. He agreed that it was a most humiliating thing for an Irish Member to have to 630 come to that House and appear to beg; but in asking the Chief Secretary to spend some money on this head he did not feel one bit like a beggar. And why? Because last year the House imposed additional taxation to the extent of £300,000 a year upon Ireland, not one penny of which, as far as he knew, would be spent in that country. If they were to pay this additional sum, a large portion of which was to be used for giving employment in the dockyards of England, he failed to see why the Irish Members should be called beggars when they claimed that some portion of the money should be used for the purpose of meeting the distressed condition of their own people. He thought the Chief Secretary was making a great mistake in thinking that the sum of £80,000 would, after deducting the cost of administration, be at all adequate for the purpose of dealing with the distress now existing in all quarters of Ireland. If the right hon. Gentleman confined himself to that amount, he would find, before long, that he would be compelled to come to the House again and ask for additional money. He would ask the Chief Secretary to reconsider his determination with regard to this very limited sum, and to make ample provision for completing the work of relief. He did not know whether the hon. and gallant Member for Galway intended to divide upon the matter or not. [Colonel NOLAN: Certainly.] If he did, then he should feel ihimself compelled to vote with the hon. and gallant Gentleman, for the reason that he considered the sum which the Chief Secretary had named, to be altogether inadequate. The right hon. Gentleman might, perhaps, be inclined to discount somewhat what he (Mr. Redmond) said, because he voted against him the other night, but he would ask him to take the opinion of any Irish Member, even from among his most enthusiastic supporters, as to whether this sum of £80,000, after deducting the costs incidental to administration, would be sufficient to bring relief to the distressed portions of Ireland. He did not think there was an Irish Member who would say that that was a sufficient sum. He, therefore, asked the right lion. Gentleman to reconsider the question of the amount of the relief. In conclusion he hoped the Chief 631 Secretary would not forget he had warned him with regard to the serious condition of certain parts of Clare. If the distress became acute there, it would not be his fault but the right hon. Gentleman's.
§ MR. S. STOREY (Sunderland)
Right hon. Members from Ireland might be quite content as to the amount of the expenditure. He never knew an instance yet in which a sum voted for such a purpose as was now contemplated was not exceeded. He had been long enough in the House to witness many deplorable spectacles of representatives of a nation coming to a House, the majority of which consisted of representatives of other nations, and, like mendicants, begging for what was really their own. An hon. Member opposite had said he felt pained to do it. He (Mr. Storey) was always pained to hear his Friends doing it; but he supposed that until the Imperial Parliament gave the Irish people the capacity and means of managing these things for themselves, hon. Members must submit to witness, and the English people must submit to read of, such spectacles again and again. He did not object to the proposed expenditure. Knowing, as he did, how much. England exacted from Ireland, or rather how much more the United Kingdom, for he was anxious to bring in Scotland, enacted from Ireland than she ought, under any righteous arrangement, to take, he was not prepared to object to the small expenditure which was now proposed. He had objected in times past to expenditure in Ireland, and the Chief Secretary had rather twitted him for it. But he had never objected to expenditure there that he thought wise and prudent, and he was quite prepared to admit that, under the special circumstances of the case, the expenditure it was now contemplated to make was a painful necessity laid upon the Chief Secretary and the Government. As an English Member however, he wished the right hon. Gentleman and the Members of the Government to think of the object lesson they were teaching to the English and the Scotch. As he understood the proposal, £80,000—probably a much larger sum—of public money was to be expended in making roads in Ireland, and in giving loans to small holders.
M R. J. MORLEY
That is just what 632 I said I would not do. I distinctly said I agreed with the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Balfour) that that was a demoralising form of relief.
§ MR. STOREY
was very glad to hear that explanation. The right hon. Gentleman was going by-and-bye to provide a sum with which to provide seed potatoes. [Colonel NOLAN: No, no.] He was going to give indoor and out-door relief to any person, able-bodied or otherwise, so that no person should be left who was in absolute want.
§ MR. STOREY
thought that was only a quibble. The right hon. Gentleman intended to take public money, so that no person who was in absolute want should be unprovided for. He made no objection to the proposals of the Government, but wished to point the moral to the House of Commons and especially to the Conservative Party. It was urged in support of this expenditure that Ireland was a poor country and that England was a rich country. All he had got to say to that was that "rich" and "poor" as applied to countries were terms difficult to explain. A country might be rich and yet contain an enormous quantity of poor; and he had no hesitation in saying that to-night there were in London more poor people and more wretchedly poor people than there were in the whole of Ireland. Again, take his own constituency. He was sorry to say that amongst his constituents those in absolute want could be numbered by thousands. The working classes had not been able for months passed, in any of the great industrial centres, to earn more than nine, or ten, or eleven shillings a week. [Mr. T. W. RUSSELL: Regular wages," and "hear, hear" from the Nationalist Members.] Yes, but the Irish poor lived in country districts, and not in towns where everything was dear. That made all the difference. He was sure his hon. Friends from Ireland understood that. And for weeks past those working-men had not been able to do a hand-stir, and they were now in misery. In the County of Essex there was also great poverty and destitution. An hon. Member who represented part of Essex had told him that all the industries of 633 Essex were going to wreck and ruin, and even the oysters, against whose credit never a word had been said before, were now suffering depression because it was said they produced typhoid fever. But what he wanted to impress upon the Government was that by adopting those methods in Ireland, for the reasons which they had advanced, they were furnishing an object lesson to the people of England, and they and their successors would find it very difficult to refuse to apply the same policy to this country. That was one of the disadvantages which accrued to Great Britain for not allowing the Irish to manage their own affairs. The Irish had obstructed Parliament, and so compelled the adoption of the Closure; and they had managed in their own way to destroy chances for obtaining reforms which the people of great Britain urgently needed. They had now compelled Ministers to adopt a financial policy which, if it were not applied to England also, would cause immense annoyance and disgust amongst the poor of England; and if it were applied to England would involve the State, as a State, in an enormous expenditure, the end of which no man could foresee.
§ MR. J. GILHOOLY (Cork County, W.)
said there were portions of his constituency, lying along the seaboard of Cork, in which there prevailed destitution as acute as the destitution in any part of the West of Ireland. If the money to relieve this distress was to come out of the Local Rates and not out of Imperial Funds many of the people who would have to contribute the rates would be as poor as the people for whose relief they were intended. That, he thought, was a curious expedient for relieving destitution.
§ MR. L. P. HAYDEN (Roscommon, S.)
asked the Chief Secretary to state by what means he expected the poor unions to provide funds for meeting the distress when their cheques were dishonoured at the bank. There were other unions and districts besides those on the western coast enumerated by the Chief Secretary, which were just as much in need of relief; and he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would reconsider the area of relief proposed as well as the amount of the loan. It had always been found in the past that the official classes tried to minimise 634 the distress, as in the Autumn of 1879 the Duke of Marlborough and Mr. James Lowther proclaimed that there was no such thing as distress in Ireland. Yet within a month after those declarations relief funds had to be raised. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would again examine the information which he had been furnished with. Ample provision should be made for giving employment next summer, and in good time, as he feared that the distress would become acute before the harvest began.
§ *MR. T. D. SULLIVAN (Donegal, W.)
said, that he shared the feeling expressed by the hon. Member for East Mayo that it was disagreeable and painful to have to come year after year before the House of Commons and make these appeals for the relief of distress. But for this state of things no shame or blame attached to the Irish Members or to the Irish people. They had not been allowed to put a hand to the control, direction, or management of their own affairs, and if, 95 years after the Act of Union, the state of a great part of Ireland was what it had been represented to be that night, the blame and the shame rested upon the English Government, with whom rested the responsibility. England was a rich country because it had had the care of a Native Government. Ireland was a poor country because the knowledge and sympathy of a Native Government had not been devoted to her affairs. The hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey) said that there were poor also in Great Britain, and that the precedent which the Government were making now would be brought against them in respect of those poor. As an Irish Member he could only say—and he expressed the views of his colleagues—was that he had great sympathy with the poor in Great Britain; and if the Irish Members could do anything to help in the bettering of their condition by legislation they could rely on the hearty and thorough co-operation of every Irish Member. Did the Chief Secretary mean the relief works to be confined to the making and repairing of roads? That was a very good work. It had this advantage, that it could be set about almost immediately. A memorial was forwarded by him within the past few days to the Local 635 GovernmentBoard in Ireland, asking them to make a mile and a half of new road at Dunfanaghy in the County of Donegal, in order to connect two roads. Within the last 24 hours he had received from the Congested Districts Board in Dublin a reply to the effect that they had no funds with which to make the new road. No doubt this was a perfectly good reason; but, under the scheme sketched by the Chief Secretary, that work, and others of a similar kind, might be carried out with advantage to the people of the district. Again, on the western coast of Donegal an immense benefit would be conferred on the people by the repairing, extending, and creating of new piers. He knew of many small piers which were now inadequate and insufficient, and which might be made very useful to the people if further extended. There was a pier on this coast which was almost useless, because outside were two rocks practically debarring vessels of any size whatever from coming within shelter of the pier at certain stages of the tide. By a little expenditure of money those obstacles could be removed, thereby improving the position of the fishermen and others in the locality. Was such necessary work as this outside the scope of the right hon. Gentleman's scheme? On the whole he thought that the Chief Secretary had handled this subject in a sympathetic spirit. The scheme in his judgment would be a useful one, and it would work well. He thought, however, that the grant of money was put at a rather low figure; and he suggested that as the House was in a generous mood it would not quarrel with a Minister who proposed a somewhat more liberal grant for the completion and carrying out of useful and necessary works. He invited the Chief Secretary to have courage in this matter, and he hoped that before it was closed the right lion. Gentleman would reconsider his proposal.
§ MR. C. DIAMOND (Monaghan, N.)
requested the Chief Secretary to reconsider that part of his scheme which dealt with the interference of the police. He could not help observing that during the evening the representatives of the landlords had been absent from the House.
MR. J. MORLEY
said, he had no right to interfere again, but he should like to be allowed to answer one or two questions, He was asked, "Why confine 636 the work exclusively to roads?" So far as his inquiries had gone that seemed to be the form of work most conducive to the object they desired to pursue; but if in the course of their inquiries they found out other work, this point would be carefully considered. As to the amount of money, he believed that the sum of £80,000 would meet the demands likely to be made upon it. If it was found that the sum was inadequate, it was open to them to come down to the House and ask for more. That would be their imperative duty. It was their business to see this crisis tided over.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 13; Noes 200.—(Division List, No. 3.)
§ On the Motion of Mr. CLANCY, the Debate on the Address stood adjourned.