§ * SIR WILLIAM WEDDERBURN (Banffshire)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for India, whether, in accordance with Section 21 of the Indian Councils Act (24 and 25 Vic. c. 67), the Governor General has transmitted to him authentic copies of The Cotton Duties Act, 1896, and the Act to amend the Indian Tariff Act of 1894, and whether, under that section, he will disallow those Acts on the ground that they increase the burden of taxation on the poorest class in India, while lightening the taxation on those who are comparatively well to do; if not, whether, by Executive Order, he will remit both import and excise duties upon the coarser cloths used by the poorer classes of consumers; and, will he state whether Members of the Council of the Secretary of State have recorded Minutes with regard to the rearrangement of the cotton duties; and, if so, will he place such Minutes upon the Table of the House?
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Lord GEORGE HAMILTON,) Middlesex, Ealing
I have received copies of the Acts named in the Question, and have informed the Government of India that those Acts will be left to their operation. It is probable that the poorer classes of the population of India are the principal consumers of the cloths made in Indian mills from counts of 20 and under, which are now taxed for the first time; but, for this among other reasons, the duty has been reduced to 3½per cent. ad valorem, and, considering the enormous number of consumers, this additional taxation, upon a very small proportion of the cotton cloth consumed in India, represents an infinitesimally small increase of cost to the individual purchaser; while, on the other hand, the duty on yarns has been abolished, so that the whole products of handlooms are untaxed. It has been found by experience on more than one occasion that it is not advisable to fix a standard of quality below which goods are exempt from taxation, and, in these circumstances, I do not propose to advise the Government of India to remit the duties recently imposed by the Legislature. Minutes regarding these two Acts were recorded by two Members of Council and by myself. There will be no objection to laying these 1544 Minutes on the Table if the hon. Baronet will move for them.
§ * SIR W. WEDDERBURN
In consequence of the unsatisfactory nature of the answer of the noble Lord, I beg to give notice that at the earliest possible opportunity I will call attention to this arrangement as to the Cotton Duties, which relieves the rich at the expense of the poor.