HC Deb 26 January 1897 vol 45 cc517-53

proposed, at the end of the Question, to add the words:— And we humbly pray that Your Majesty will be graciously pleased to direct that a full and independent Inquiry shall forthwith be made into the condition of the masses of the Indian people, with a view to ascertain the causes by reason of which they are helpless to resist even the first attacks of famine and pestilence. He said he was sure India would feel grateful for the expressions of sympathy contained in the Queen's Speech, and for the assurances that the State would do all in its power to save life. But he felt it his duty to move his Amendment because the Government did not seem fully to realise the nature and magnitude of the calamity. The methods of State relief adopted sought to mitigate the outward symptoms, but they did not tend to remove the cause of the evil, which was the extreme poverty of the masses. So far from removing this evil, the expenditure on famine relief aggravated it. He did not know how much would be spent, whether three millions, or six millions, or three times six millions. But where would this money come from? It would not come down from the clouds. It would have to be raised by the taxation of the masses; the dying would be fed at the expense of the hungry survivors, making the survivors more destitute, more heavily burdened, and less able to resist hunger and disease. Also he felt it his duty to place prominently before the House the Indian view of the calamity and its proper remedies. These remedies were not heroic ones, but they proceeded from an intimate knowledge of the condition and habits of the people. If it were asked from what sources Indian public opinion could be learnt, he would say, from his friend Mr. Naoroji, who was both a trusted representative of his Indian fellow countrymen and a true well wisher of British rule; from the Indian Press, and from the resolutions of the Indian National Congress, which gave voice to public feeling in India. The view hold in India with regard to the famine might be briefly expressed in three simple propositions. The first was, that the excessive mortality in times of famine was owing to the chronic destitution of the masses, who existed precariously on the verge of subsistence. He hoped that the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India would not deny the truth of this proposition. It was true that in the Queen's Speech the cause of the famine was declared to be the "failure of the autumn rains," but he assumed that was only stated as the immediate cause, the last straw which broke the camel's back, and that the noble Lord looked further back for the causes of the ryot's feeble powers of resistance. How, indeed, could the proposition be denied? For it stood to reason that the population must be living from hand to mouth if, on account of the failure of one harvest, they died of hunger, not by hundreds and thousands, but by hundreds of thousands and millions. If, however, the extreme destitution of the people was denied, he trusted that the House would call for inquiry and insist on this issue being fairly tried, as between official optimism on the one hand and unanimous Indian public opinion on the other. His second proposition was, that mortality from famine would practically be prevented if the ryot possessed a store of food, money, or credit sufficient to tide over one failure of harvest. This proposition seemed to be self-evident. For men did not die from hunger out of mere perversity, but because they had neither food in their houses to eat, nor money to buy it, nor credit to borrow it. As a class the ryot had not only nothing, but much less than nothing, being hopelessly in debt to the village money-lender. He remembered that in the early part of his service in India every ryot, however poor, had a little store of grain put away in a store room under his house sufficient to last his family two or three years. But that was now impossible, for we had sot up Debt Courts upon the European model, and these little stores were swept away by the bailiffs in execution of decrees. The first step towards helping the ryot was to release him from this bondage to the money-lender. His third and last proposition was a more hopeful one, and it was this, that if certain simple remedies were applied in the village adminstration the ryot would not only possess a sufficient store, but might become comparatively wealthy. In approaching the question of the ryot's condition the important fact must be borne in mind that, although India was at present a very poor country, she possessed almost boundless possibilities of wealth. She had a fertile soil, an unfailing sun, and abundance of labour, skilful and cheap. All she wanted was working capital. If the ryot had that in sufficiency, at reasonable rates, to provide himself with water and manure, he would turn all India into a garden. He had seen this operation going on near Poona, where land that produced a crop of millet worth perhaps 10s. an acre was, by irrigation and manure, made to produce a crop of sugar cane worth £30 an acre as it stood on the ground. And such was the skill of the ryot that whatever crop he produced, whether rice, indigo, opium, tea, wheat, or tobacco, it in the end always came to the top of the market. From these three propositions would be seen the nature of the Inquiry which he asked for by his Amendment. What he desired was a village inquiry, practical and definite, in order to ascertain in detail the condition of the ryot, to learn the causes of his poverty, and to apply remedies to the evils from which he was suffering. The inquiry he wanted was a village inquiry, because in the rural villages were included 80 per cent. of the population, and because the village community was the microcosm of all India, and if they could discover the means to make one village prosperous they held the clue to make all India prosperous. For such an inquiry no imperial Commission was necessary. The local administration might be directed to select typical villages in each province and to appoint a Committee to make a thorough diagnosis of their condition. The Committee must be representative, consisting of Europeans and Indians, officials and non-officials—such as were appointed to the Deccan Riots Commission 20 years ago. Their investigation should be of a microscopic kind, to detect the microbes which blighted the ryot's prosperity. He believed that those microbes would be found to be the usurious money-lender, who should be replaced by agricultural banks; the Civil Court, which should be replaced by popular conciliation and arbitration Courts; and the harsh and rigid collection of the revenue, which should be replaced by methods suited to the habits and wishes of the ryot. If these simple remedies were adopted he believed that famines would be rendered impossible. In making these proposals he did not desire to impute any blame to the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India; but he had carefully studied the condition of the ryot for 30 or 40 years, and in this great crisis he desired to place the results of his experience at the disposal of the noble Lord and of the House. He earnestly trusted his proposals would receive sympathetic consideration. ["Hear, hear!"]

MR. HENRY J. WILSON (York, W. B., Holmfirth)

seconded the Amendment. He said that all that was asked for was some inquiry for the purpose of ascertaining whether something could not be done to prevent a recurrence of the present terrible state of affairs in India. He should be out of order were he to refer at any length to the subject of famine itself, but he might be permitted to say that they all recognised with satisfaction and pride the remedial efforts made in this country, and that they had no doubt that the Government were doing all they could to alleviate the immense mass of suffering which must ensue. They imputed no blame whatever to the present Government or any other, and, far from wishing to complain of the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India, they desired to diminish the responsibility at present resting upon him, and all Indian Secretaries. In the case of famine prevention was better than cure, and if anything could be done to prevent it it ought to be clone. The poverty of India was, he supposed, recognised by everyone, but he did not know whether it was as generally recognised how extreme that poverty was. Poverty was a comparative term. He remembered the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton saying on one occasion that India was lightly taxed, the taxation being only half a crown per head of the population. But it should be borne in mind that in India half a crown meant something very different from what it meant in this country. The wages of ordinary labourers in many parts of India were only about a shilling a week, whereas here £1 a week was not considered high wages. He remembered having a conversation with the late Mr. Haridas Veharidas, who was a very loyal subject, and a Member of the Royal Commission on Opium, as to the condition of the people in the native States and under British rule respectively. That gentleman told him that the native Princes screwed more out of the people than we did, but that their methods were more elastic, and that they did not press for taxes in hard times. Our methods, on the other hand, were inelastic, and pressed very hardly upon the ryots in times of scarcity. If something could be done to prevent these recurrent disasters in India, the sooner that preventive was known the better. If, on the other hand, there was really no remedy, if it was in the natural order of things that these famines must occur, it would be well that the fact should be publicly known once for all. We should then realise that all we could do was to strengthen the Famine Fund and improve the Famine Code. He thought that the result of his hon. Friend's drawing attention to this subject and initiating that Debate would be to strengthen the hands of the noble Lord opposite.


said that he knew the hon. Baronet opposite in India, and was familiar with his habits of thought. He could not agree with the hon. Baronet in his wholesale condemnation of the methods of administration in India. When he knew him in India the hon. Member used to propose very much the same remedies as he proposed now, and in his general views of administration was not in harmony with the great majority of the service to which he belonged. The hon. Baronet had made some very strong statements, but they were quite unsupported by evidence. He had begun by saying that the Government had not realised the magnitude of the disaster that had befallen India. Well, the papers that had been presented and the statements that had been made on behalf of the Government must have shown, he thought, that the Government of this country and the Government of India did realise to the full the enormous magnitude of the disaster. If they had not recognised for many years the necessity of making preparations for meeting disasters of this kind, the present famine would have attained such a magnitude and been so far-reaching in its consequences, that the mortality would have exceeded any known in similar times in the present century, if not in our history. But the Government had been preparing for such an event for a great many years. When he left India more than ten years ago, preparations had already been made for a long time, founded on the Famine Commission of 1878. So full and thorough had those preparations been I that the moment it was known that over a wide extent of country a great number of people would be exposed to destitution, the most ample remedial machinery was ready to be set in motion by an order of the Government. The hon. Member said that the excessive mortality that occurred in native famines was due to the poverty of the people. They might thank God, however, that up to the present time there had been no excessive mortality in consequence of the scarcity. A correspondent of the Times, writing a few days ago, said that he had been passing through some of the districts visited by the famine, but that he had not come across one single case of death from destitution. That was a most gratifying statement, even if it did not apply to every district. It was certain that up to the present time the deaths had been extremely few, and that happy state of things, as compared with the incidents of former famines, was the result of the preparations made by the Government. The hon. Member declared that a single year of scarcity caused deaths by millions. In the present case, however, it had not caused deaths by even thousands or hundreds. The hon. Member also said that starvation would be prevented if the cultivators could have stores of food, and of course if they possessed such stores they would be able to withstand for a considerable time the results of the failure of their ordinary crops. But it was manifestly impossible for the poor cultivators to have the necessary stores, for they lived from hand to month. But was their poverty greater than in past times? The assertions of the hon. Member on that point were unsupported, and as a matter of fact the ryots were better off now than formerly. The hon. Member affirmed that a great part of their destitution was duo to their indebtedness to moneylenders, and that that indebtedness was caused by their taxation. It was true that the cultivators were indebted to the money-lenders, but the extent of that indebtedness was not as great as it was half a century ago, or at the time when the British Government undertook the administration of the Peishwa's territories. From an analysis prepared at that time it appeared that two-thirds of the population were at one time indebted to moneylenders, but when he left India, not more than one-fifth were so indebted. The Government of India and the local Governments had directed their attention to this evil for many years. As a result of the inquiry made by the Deccan Agricultural Ryots' Commission legislation was promoted to relieve the people from the consequences of their indebtedness. Courts of conciliation were founded on Eastern ideas, and they to a great extent had prevented the impoverishment of the ryot owing to his incautious indebtedness, and had made the money-lender more careful. The Government of India had extended that system, and by irresistible evidence it had been shown that it had improved the material condition of the people. He said without fear of disproof that the system of land assessment which had for many years been pursued in India was more fair than the old system. The ryot only paid according to the capacity of the land, and until the last severe famine in Southern India, the amount of revenue not collected was altogether unimportant. He was surprised to hear it said that the native system of collecting in kind was preferable and more fair. That system had been abandoned, because it was found to be so oppressive and so troublesome to the people. Native chiefs had told him that they were most glad the old system had been abolished, because it was so full of abuses and so oppressive to the people. He had himself seen the grain brought into fenced enclosures so that the people could not touch it until the agent of the State came round, took his proportion, and carried it away. If the agent was not honest he exacted bribes from the people to measure their grain in such a way as to let them off more easily, and under that system the number of petty exactions were infinite. To restore the system of payment in kind would therefore be to restore a crop of abuses from which most happily they had rescued the people. [Cheers.] Something had been said as to India's immense capabilities. We had been developing those capabilities by carefully selected public works, and if the present terrible disaster did not result in India's great impoverishment, it was because by carefully selected measures and public works we had for many years past been setting up the surest and most effective system of famine relief. Since he went to Bombay in 1880 the railways of India had been doubled. It might now be truly said that there was no place in the tracts of country now threatened with the famine which was more than 50 miles from a railway station. In former times of famine it was impossible to throw grain into the country because the water springs had dried up, and the other possible means of transport was not available because pack animals could not travel through the country. But now the grain, through the natural operation of commerce, flowed to the threatened districts like water running down a hill. We had besides constructed enormous irrigation works. When he was in Bombay they constructed three enormous systems of irrigation, each system irrigating a hundred miles of country. In those parts of the country where in 1877 no green blade was seen, now enormous tracts of crops were to be found independent of a rainfall. It could not be said, therefore, that nothing had been done to develop the resources and capabilities of India and to give reasonable help to the ryots. The House also knew that the assessments were not harsh. They were carefully regulated according to the capabilities of the soil, and in such a time of scarcity as the present the assessments due to the State were suspended with no sparing hand. The Government of India and the Secretary of State were in possession of the most exhaustive reports, and the library of the House was full of the results of previous inquiries into the circumstances mentioned by the hon. Baronet. In addition to that there was abundant proof that the inquiries had not been undertaken in vain. Every possible means had been taken to relieve the necessities of the people of India, and to enable the Government of India to meet this great crisis without damage to the people. ["Hear, hear!"]

MR. HERBERT ROBERTS (Denbighshire, W.)

commented on the divergence of views entertained by men of large experience in Indian affairs as in itself a proof that some further inquiry was needed. The right hon. Baronet referred to the inquiry asked for as a wide and far-reaching inquiry; but his hon. Friend made it clear that the inquiry he asked for was to be a limited one in extent and scope. Neither the Government nor hon. Gentlemen opposite would deem it to be unfitting at this time to bring the question before the House of Commons. It would be of some value to know that the attention of Parliament had been drawn to the condition of India at present. These famines formed a terrible incident in Indian history, and to whatever extent the Indian Government was able to improve these matters by taking precautionary measures and in spending money to prevent the recurrence of these scourges, he thought it was well for the House to show its keen sympathy with the Government of India in the efforts they were making. They should keep themselves closely in touch with the condition of the Indian people and their special relation to the recurrence of these famines. In the famine of 20 years ago he found that £11,000,000 were spent in relief works and that there were on one occasion at that time no fewer than 2,590,000 persons in India obtaining relief from the Famine Fund. Five and a half millions of the Indian people died from famine on that occasion, and £700,000 had been generously given by Great Britain towards the famine. He feared from the reports in the newspapers and the information given by the Secretary of State that the state of matters in India at present was approaching the seriousness of the famine of 1877–8. At present, according to the noble Lord, 136,000 square miles, with a population of 37,000,000, were affected—quite as large a number as were affected in 1877–8—while the number of Indian people receiving relief was on January 22nd, 1,750,000. Those facts proved that although we had not arrived at the pitch of disaster reached in India 20 years ago, there were undoubted elements of seriousness in the present position. In order to provide against such scourges in future they must ask themselves what had been done in the past. Now, 16 years ago, after the great famine, a Commission was appointed to inquire into the condition of India. That Commission recommended that a Famine Fund should be started of £1,500,000 a year and extra taxation was imposed on the Indian people for the purpose of raising the money. The idea was that the money should be stored up for the specific purpose of providing for future famines. In 10 years this would amount to £15,000,000, and so this might be borrowed on its security without placing the country in a worse position financially than 10 years ago. Were they in a position to-day to say that that had been done? No one knew how in the main the money had been expended. Part of it had gone in the Afghan War. He held a strong opinion that, whether war occurred or not, that Famine Fund should be left untouched. It was also clear, from the accounts, that the money had not been allocated as intended. Of the total sum which had been raised only 2 per cent. had been devoted to the special purpose of famine relief. On irrigation works—which he at once admitted was an essentian object—10 per cent. of the funds had been expended; on railways, 60 per cent., while 18 per cent. had been devoted to the reduction of debt. He could not help regretting that on the occasion for a desire being expressed to found a Mansion House Relief Fund, the Secretary of State found it impossible at once to concur in the suggestion. In the Report of the Commission, which was directly referred to in the Dispatch of the noble Lord, it was pointed out that the people of India had a profound sense of their duty to help their friends and relations in times of distress, and that this profound sense of duty made it unnecessary to provide any State aid for poor relief. But that very fact made it all the more necessary that in times of extraordinary distress we should come to the rescue of our Indian fellow-subjects generously and without delay. For the reasons he had stated, he contended that it was desirable to have the inquiry asked for, in order to obtain further and fuller information as to whether the steps recommended by the Commission which eat in 1880 had been carried out, and whether those recommendations were adequate to the changed condition of India, and also whether the administration of the Famine Fund which issued out of that inquiry had proved satisfactory or otherwise.

MR. M. M. BHOWNAGGREE (Bethnal Green, N. E.)

said the views expounded by the hon. Baronet in his speech had been so fully answered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for N. E. Manchester that there was nothing left for him on that score to say except to express his concurrence with every word the right hon. Gentleman had uttered, and also emphatically to bear out his statement that the payment in cash from the ryots had proved a success as compared with the old system of payment in kind. The object, however, with which he had undertaken to trouble the House was to point out the mischievous effect that would be produced in India by the acceptance of the Amendment. He did not pretend to represent the whole of India, as, perhaps, the hon. Baronet the Member for Banff wished the House to believe that he did—[cheers and laughter]—and he was not an influential member of that microscopic body the British Indian Committee. [Laughter.] But he would say that the mischievous effect of the hon. Baronet's Amendment would be more far-reaching than was supposed by the hon. Baronet. ["Hear, hear!"] At the present time the Government in India—whether it was the Supreme or the Provincial Government—were doing their best to meet and cope with difficulties which were not due to human deficiencies, but which represented the visitation of Providence. To take advantage of such an occasion, and indirectly to cast a slur on Governments which were valiantly and actively coping with the difficulty, was, to say the least of it, not to show gratitude for services which were undoubtedly entitled to recognition by the House of Commons and the British nation. [Cheers.]


I must point out that I cast no slur on the Government. I even said that India would be grateful for the exertions which were being made.


said that he had heard of three cheers being given for the Queen at meetings full of disloyal sentiment. [Laughter and cheers.] The hon. Baronet's Amendment was practically a vote of censure, not only on the Government of India but upon the India Office and all the provincial Governments. The hon. Baronet said that the people of India would be grateful for what had been done, while in the same breath he charged the authorities with neglecting a most elementary duty. [Cheers.] The hon. Baronet said that his Amendment contained self-evident propositions; but the whole tenour of the Amendment, and the manner it which it was proposed, were simply calculated to advertise a certain class of agitators, who were never tired of impressing upon the people of India the inadequacy of British rule and the want of sympathy between the rulers and the ruled. [Cheers.] The hon. Baronet said that he was uttering the sentiments expressed by Indian public opinion. Where had Indian public opinion called for this inquiry? [Cheers.] Had not that opinion been manufactured in a small room, not far from the House of Commons; sent out thence to India; brought back in the form of newspaper articles; and passed off on the House of Commons as the public opinion of three hundred millions of people? [Cheers and laughter.] These proceedings were not worthy of one who had been a Member of the Government of India, and who was now a Member of the House of Commons. [Cheers.] To show how the innocent-looking Amendment of the hon. Baronet had a bearing on proceedings afar off, he would read a sentence from an Indian newspaper which had arrived by the last mail. The Chairman of the National Congress, of which the hon. Baronet was so fond, and which he was always trotting before the House—[laughter]—said— that the famine was a reason not for holding no Session this year, but rather for persisting in and holding it and making it as grand as possible, for these miseries of India were due to the grievances of which the Congress had been agitating the redress. That was to say, that the want of rain on India was due to the grievances of which the agitators had complained. [Cheers and, laughter.] By the next mail news of this Amendment would go to the people of India, who were not, as a rule, acquainted with the procedure of Parliament. The story told to them would be that the great and only friend of India in this House, the hon. Member for Banff—[laughter]—had proposed something by which plague and famine were to be avoided; the Secretary of State, from hardness of heart and want of sympathy, had refused the proposal; and therefore that the right hon. Gentleman and the authority which he represented were the enemies of the people. Knowing this—as the hon. Baronet must know it—and if he did not he was sorry for him—[laughter]—was he right in bringing forward the Amendment at all? The hon. Baronet could not exist without bringing forward some Amendment at the beginning of the Session and again at the end, with a Motion for the Adjournment of the House in between—and all without the sympathy of his own leaders—for the purpose of using poor India as a handle for obstruction of the Government which he did not support. ["Hear, hear!" and cries of "Oh!"] Last year, he remembered, when the opportunity occurred for submitting a Motion with regard to the Cotton Duties, the hon. Baronet told him that he could not undertake it, as he had not studied the question. But at a later day, when every five minutes were valuable, the hon. Baronet chose to bring forward a sickly, paltry Motion—[laughter, and cheers]—on the subject which was quite beside the main issue. And the story that went to India, of course, was that the hon. Baronet had been trying to do some great service to the down-trodden three hundred millions, and that the Secretary of State and the Conservative Party would not hear of it. There was another reason why this Amendment had been brought forth. This great body, the National Congress, with the pure and simple objects of which he was in perfect agreement—[Opposition cries of "Oh!"]—but with the motives and methods of which he certainly quarrelled, was mixed up with it. The Congress was represented by a microscopic body called the British India Committee, which gathered up a few schoolboys studying for the Bar—[laughter]—and the great lights of which were the hon. Member for Banff and the other hon. Gentleman whom his constituents would not again return. [Laughter.] This Committee, in confidential letters which somehow became public, applied to the Congress to be supplied with the hard cash without which it could not carry on its great work in, Parliament. And when this appeal for hard cash was not responded to, the Committee, by measures such as this Amendment, tried to impress its importance and its existence on the people of India. The complaint of this Committee was, "We have piped unto you, and ye will not dance; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented." [Laughter.] He hoped it was the last time that he should have the painful duty of protesting against these manœuvres, which did no good to India, and promoted dissatisfaction in the place of the gratitude for which the British Government had established a claim on the Indian people. [Cheers.] He wished to express the great satisfaction and contentment which prevailed in India in relation to the measures which had been adopted to arrest the great disaster and famine. Through the length and breadth of India there was gratitude to the British nation for coming forward so liberally to meet the needs of India. He was expressing the sincere and heartfelt satisfaction which he had heard and witnessed throughout the country to the British nation at large. [Cheers.]

MR. C. E. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)

said it was not difficult to find the cause for the splenetic utterance of the hon. Member who had just sat down. The hon. Gentleman had recently returned from India, where he had gone with the expectation that he would be received with the same outburst of popular enthusiasm that had greeted Mr. Naoroji, but his mission had been a complete fiasco.


That is a perfect fiction. [Laughter.]


repeated that all the popular demonstrations the hon. Gentleman expected in India had failed to come off. A people, whether they were four millions or three hundred millions, knew their friends, and it was absurd to contend that a small body of men could have engineered the receptions which had been given to Mr. Naoroji. ["Hear, hear!"] It must be admitted that in the administration of a country with 300,000,000 of people many questions arose which ought to be brought to the ear of the House of Commons, and as the opportunities for discussing Indian matters were few and far between, he thought his hon. Friend the Member for Banffshire was well advised in moving his Amendment to the Address. He was glad that, so far as the objects of the Indian Congress were concerned, they had the full sympathy of the hon. Member for Bethnal Green. Those Members of the House who were members of the Congress were in some respects but the mouthpiece of the facts and details and figures sent to them from India. [Ministerial ironical cheers] He did not see how anyone could find fault with the Amendment. Of course no supporter of the Amendment expected that the Government could regulate the weather, which was the great cause of famine in India; but an inquiry might lead to the devising of means for ameliorating the sad condition of millions of the people of that country.


The speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for Banffshire was a great surprise to me. It is impossible to reconcile the hon. Member's speech with the Amendment he asks the House to accept. The Amendment asks that a free and independent Inquiry shall forthwith be made into the condition of the masses of the Indian people. At the present moment the Government of India are engaged in what is universally admitted to be one of the most enormous and difficult tasks that has ever been imposed upon the Indian Administration on behalf of suffering humanity, and one which imposes a strain upon the whole administrative machinery of the country that it can scarcely stand. And yet the hon. Baronet comes down to the House and proposes that a certain portion of the forces of the Indian Government which are now warring against the advances of famine and plague shall be removed from the region of action to the region of speculation, and required to devote their attention not to the consequences of famine but to the causes of famine. [Ministerial cheers.] A more inopportune moment for such a proposal could not be imagined. Let the hon. Baronet reflect on the meaning of his Amendment. It asks for a full inquiry into the condition of the masses of the people of India. The masses of the Indian people constitute one-fifth the total population of the globe. This inquiry would enable every single act of the whole administration of India—judicial, administrative, and financial—to be brought under the survey of the persons conducting the investigation. They would be enabled to go also into every custom, tradition, or habit of these 300,000,000 of people, and to discuss even every variety of their married life from polygamy to polyandry. [Laughter.] A more vital and far-reaching, inquiry could not be conceived. ["Hear, hear!"] I am glad to be able to say that the hon. Baronet made a more sensible speech than I thought would have been possible on such an Amendment, and he advanced some practical suggestions. But what the House has to consider is the Amendment before it. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green—who made a very effective and proper speech on the Amendment—that this Amendment emanates from the National Indian Congress. That body never loses an opportunity of attacking the Indian Administration and of endeavouring to diminish the influence of that Administration over the people of India. They passed a resolution in reference to the action taken by the Indian Government to mitigate the Indian Famine. Every-one knows that the Government of India are leaving nothing undone to cope with that calamity. I say the forces of civilisation were never better organised than they are now to fight against pestilence and famine—["Hear, hear!"]—and those gentlemen who meet in the Indian Congress know that no native rulers ever attempted to oppose the advance of famine on so large and so successful a scale as the English rulers of India are doing now. [Ministerial cheers.] Yet those gentlemen find fault with all that has been done; and they insist upon a national appeal to the country, which, however, they do not seem inclined to initiate themselves. The hon. Member for Bethnal Green, who has just come back from India, vigorously attacks the policy of the Indian Congress. I am glad he makes a strong protest against the absurd assumption of a number of gentlemen, who, as has just been admitted, take all their facts and figures from India without analysing them, and arrogate to themselves the representation of millions of the people of India. [Ministerial cheers.] There never was a more preposterous claim; the hon. Member for Bethnal Green, who has the confidence of many sections of the Indian community—I do not suppose he claims to represent them all [laughter]—has effectively ridiculed it. ["Hear, hear!"]


Will the right hon. Gentleman read the resolution of the Indian Congress to which he objects?


Yes; it is the following resolution: Resolved,—This congress deplores the outbreak of famine in a more or less acute form throughout India, and holds that this and other famines which have occurred in recent years are due to the great poverty of the people, brought on by the drain of the wealth of the country, which has been going on for years together, and by the excessive taxation and over assessment consequent on a policy of extravagance followed by the Government, both in the civil and the military Departments, which has so far impoverished the people, that at the first touch of scarcity they are rendered helpless and must perish unless fed by the State or helped by private charity. In the opinion of this congress the true remedy against the recurrence of famine lies in the adoption of a policy which would enforce economy, husband the resources of the State, and foster the development of indigenous and local arts and industries, which have practically been extinguished, and help the introduction of modern arts and industries. In the meantime the congress would remind the Government of its solemn duty to save human life and mitigate human suffering (the provisions of the existing famine code being in the opinion of the congress inadequate as regards wages, rations, and oppressive as regards task work), and would appeal to the Government to redeem its pledges by restoring the famine insurance fund (keeping a separate account of it) to its original footing, and to apply it more largely to its original purpose—viz., the immediate relief of the famine-stricken people. Everyone that was at the Congress must know that that resolution is both ungracious and ungrateful. [Ministeriel cheers.] The next resolution calls the attention of the Government to the deplorable condition of the poorer classes in India, full 40 millions of whom, according to high official authority, drag; out a miserable existence on the verge of starvation even in normal years, and suggests that they should be exempted from the payment of income taxes. I do not, therefore, wonder that the hon. Member for Bethnal Green should enter a vigorous protest against this preposterous assumption on the part of a committee sitting in England, and I am certain that when his speech is read in India, it will be acceptable to very large masses of the people of that country. ["Hear, hear!"] Now, Sir, the hon. Baronet seemed to indicate that if the inquiry was made and effect given to the recommendations of such a body, it would be possible to stop famine in India. I contest that altogether. It is much better to look facts in the face. An hon. Member who supported him described famines as terrible and inevitable incidents in India. I thought that was a happy expression. Famines are terrible and inevitable incidents. I think it is a mistake, and is wrong for any Member of this House to hold out the hope that any remedies which he can suggest can prevent famines from desolating India. What is the problem we have to face? There are 300 millions of people in India, and over 80 per cent. of these are entirely dependent on agriculture. The one industry upon which they subsist is agriculture, and wherever a great community is entirely dependent on one industry, and whenever the raw material of that industry fails, you cannot avoid great distress and famine itself. Rain is the raw material which is essential to agriculture in the East, and whenever rain fails, not only is there great scarcity of food, but there is a total cessation of employment. In this country there are many diverse trades and industries, but wherever you have a community which is entirely dependent on one industry, and if the raw material of that industry fails, there must be intense distress. Take the cotton famine in Lancashire, that affected probably the richest community in the United Kingdom; but because everybody there was deprived of the raw material great distress ensued. Therefore so long as India remains a purely agricultural country, and so long as agriculture depends on rain falling within certain periods, when rain does not fall then distress must be widespread and great. And on the present occasion the difficulty with which we are dealing is one of a very exceptional character. It is not, as the Amendment indicates, the first attack of famine with which we are now dealing. The hon. Baronet's Amendment suggests that the masses of the Indian people are helpless to resist even the first attacks of famine and pestilence. I repeat that the hon. Baronet knows that this famine now occurs owing to a total failure of rain on the top of a number of bad seasons, and that is what makes the position so serious. I do not believe that any famine has occurred of which we have any record in which there has been so wide an area of scarcity over a district so large, and where very high prices now prevail. I am glad to say that there is an enormous improvement in the machinery of the Government by which they can conquer famine. I happened to be Under Secretary for India, and spokesman for India in this House in 1874, 1877 and 1878, and it is most gratifying to notice how the Indian Government and people have developed and improved all their machinery for dealing with these evils. I do not know if any Member of this House has looked at the Famine Code which is at the end of the Return which I have laid on the Table of the House. It is well worth studying; it is a masterly document, which has been in the course of preparation for many years, and certainly shows with extraordinary clearness and detail how the forces available to cope with famine are mobilised. I am glad to say it shows that we are much better able to combat the effects of famine now than ever before. I go so far as to say that if we had had to deal with the present difficulty 20 years ago, the mortality that is already reported would have been enormously increased. Whilst on this subject I should just like to notice one or two observations which the hon. Member for Denbigh made in reference to the Famine Fund. It happened that I was Under Secretary at the time the Famine Fund was established, and all the papers relating to the subject presented to the House at that time bear my name, and I cannot understand how any body of gentlemen can go on repeating that there has been any infraction of the promise made by the Indian Government in regard to that fund. The hon. Member for Manchester has explained how these charges are made; they are founded on statements coming from India, the accuracy of which is not tested by the gentlemen who make use of them here. Sir John Strachey never established a Famine Insurance Fund in the sense which the hon. Gentleman described. The position of affairs at that time was financially somewhat difficult. Since India had been transferred to the Crown there was always difficulty in establishing an equilibrium between income and expenditure; and then occurred a series of famines which entailed upon the Government a net outlay exceeding 15 millions. It is quite clear that if the Government had every ten years to spend 15 millions on famines, as was estimated to be necessary, financially they were in a very unsound position. And therefore Sir John Strachey endeavoured to increase the resources at the disposal of the Government by imposing a certain amount of taxation, and he proposed by an ingenious contrivance to raise an insurance fund which in the first year he estimated would amount to £1,500,000, or a crore and a half of rupees. But he never undertook in any way that this should be a statutory Famine Fund, and that the money should be placed in a, box and allowed to accumulate; on the contrary, right throughout his speech he combated that view. He went further. He was a man of exceptional ability and of rare administrative experience, and he knew perfectly well, what any man in this House knows, that if in a particular year you Try to appropriate a certain sum annually to a specific purpose, emergencies may; afterwards occur which will prevent the money being so appropriated. It has happened over and over again in this House. I recollect a Bill brought in by which 28 millions sterling was annually voted in payment of debt and as provision for a sinking fund. Circumstances occurred under which it was necessary to reduce that provision, but nobody-contended that there was any gross breach of faith. Sir John Strachey, to make it clear that under certain conditions this money might not go to the specific purpose, used very plain language, I which has never been quoted in full. He described how he proposed to give effect to this intention. "It is," he said, "the firm intention of the present Government to apply the funds now to be provided for this special purpose strictly to the exclusive objects which they were designed to secure." Those words are always quoted and circulated, and the last sentence, which I shall presently read, is also quoted, but the intervening part is always omitted:— In such matters, no doubt, Governments cannot fetter their successors, and nothing that we could now say or do would prevent the application of this fund to other purposes. Without thinking of a future far removed from us, events might, of course, happen which would render it impracticable even for us, who have designed these measures, to maintain our present resolutions. He, of course, had in contemplation the emergency of a war or a similar difficulty. So far, however, as we can new speak for the future, the Government of India intends to keep this million and a half as an insurance against famine alone. In saying this I should explain that we do not contemplate the constitution of any separate statutory fund, as such a course would be attended with many useless and inconvenient complications, without giving any real security. Unless, then, it should be proved hereafter by experience that the annual appropriation of a smaller sum from our revenues will give to the country the protection which it requires, we consider that the estimates of every year ought to make provision for religiously applying the sum I have mentioned to this sole purpose, and I hope that no desire to carry out any administrative improvement, however urgent, or any fiscal reform, however wise, will tempt the Government to neglect this sacred trust."' ["Hear, hear!"] Not a farthing of this money has ever been appropriated to carry out any administrative improvement or fiscal reform. ["Hear, hear!"] Since that fund was established a very large sum has gone to the prevention of famine throughout the country. Of course, it would have been useless to put so much in one box by itself and to add to the debt by borrowing an equivalent amount. In the same way, during the time when the exchange value of the rupee fell very heavily, the Government were compelled to make a reduction in the amount which applied to the famine insurance, but the outcome of the arrangement is that after 20 years the Government are able to say that they have realised two-thirds of Sir John Strachey's most sanguine expectations. Two-thirds of the maximum amount which he proposed to devote to famine insurance has been so applied. I will undertake to say that any statesman or financier who is able to frame a scheme which is liable to be affected by nearly all emergencies and yet who at the end of 20 years has realised two-thirds of his most sanguine expectations is a most successful administrator, and no allegation ought to be made either against him or against his successors for breach of faith. I do think it is desirable that this matter should be made clear once for all. No famine fund in the sense suggested by the hon. Gentleman was ever established. Sir John Strachey from first to last maintained that the object of this fund was, if possible, to reduce the debt, and he concluded his last speech in words which exactly describe the present position of the Indian Government:— I think, my lord," he said, "that I have now made it sufficiently clear how we propose to apply the £1,500,000 which we hope to provide as an insurance against famine. We shall apply it virtually to the reduction of debt; and when the calamity of famine actually arrives we hope not only to he able to meet it without throwing fresh burdens upon the country, but to find that our means of giving efficient relief have been immensely increased by the useful works which we have carried out in the preceding years of prosperity. That is exactly the position of the Indian Government at this moment. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Gentleman asked me how the necessary funds were to be provided for the cost of the famine. I am glad to say that the Indian Government are in no want of funds. If it had not been for the catastrophe of the present famine we had hoped that there would have been a large surplus this year, and we should have hoped that we might have then been able to remit certain portions of the existing taxation of India, but in view of the expenditure which will be caused by the exceptional difficulties of the present situation, there will, no doubt, be a deficit at the close of this year. The position of the Indian Government to meet emergencies is immeasurably stronger than it was 20 years ago. The hon. Baronet states that the great mass of the people of India have deteriorated, and are now less able than they were to meet pestilence and famine. I say there is not one iota of evidence in support of that. All the facts point the other way. If the hon. Baronet will look at the reports of independent witnesses on the various relief works, notably those in the Punjab, he will see that, by universal concurrence, it is admitted that the people are now able to meet emergencies in a way they could not years ago. From the papers laid before Parliament it will be found that in the North-West Provinces the people are fighting against the exigencies of the present situation with a courage and confidence never before shown. [Cheers.] Whatever test you apply to India as a whole you will find that the community have prospered, and that the mass of people are better off than was the case 20 years ago. But I admit that there is one side of the problem which requires attention—namely, the enormous increase that has taken place in the population of India. The House is, perhaps, not aware that during the last 20 years the population of British India has increased by 50 millions. A certain proportion of the increase is due to annexation, but the greater portion consists of an ordinary and legitimate addition to the normal population. Scarcity of food, to a certain extent, always prevails in certain parts of India, and also a considerable amount of pestilence and disease which affects mortality in other parts. Yet the Government of India have so managed affairs during the last 20 years that the population in that country has been able to increase more than in any other part of the world. Of course, there is always in India an enormous class of people which exists entirely upon charity and which has done so from time immemorial. But contrasting the present condition of affairs with that of 20 years ago, I say the people are better able to withstand emergencies of the present kind than they were then. Twenty years ago a Commission was appointed to inquire into the methods which had been adopted to avert famine, and it made reports and suggestions which formed the basis of the present Famine Code. Therefore, the Government are in a better position, as protectors of the people against famine, than they have ever been before. I agree with the hon. Baronet that the opportunity this famine affords ought not to be allowed to pass without our taking every opportunity to inquire into and ascertaining the best methods of protecting the people of India from the recurrence of similar calamities. No doubt the reports which will be made by the Local Governments and received by the Viceroy will contain suggestions in, various directions and suggest improvements. If the Government do their part, may I suggest that the hon. Baronet might do his? He informed us that one of the great evils of the present day in India was the manner in which moneylenders made use of Civil Courts. But they are represented in the Indian National Congress. [Laughter.] If the hon. Baronet will be good enough to exercise his influence to try and induce them to make humane exercise of the Courts of Law it may add to the effect of his appeal. I think I have shown that there is no need for the House to accept the Amendment. All the hon. Baronet proposes will be done by the Government itself, and I think if the House were to accept the Amendment it would cause great surprise in India and be interpreted there as a censure not only on the Indian Government but upon the Government at home. [Cheers.]

SIR HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)

I am sure the House and the country will agree that the first duty of Parliament in this crisis is to support to the utmost of its power, morally and in other modes, the Government of India in fighting this gigantic contest against two great calamities which are almost overpowering that country at the present time. The Government of India is confronted by a terrible famine and a terrible plague, and I think certainly there is no period in modern Indian history when the Government was confronted by two foes of such magnitude at the same time. Whatever differences of opinion there may be as to minor points, our first duty is to strengthen the Administration in carrying out, as I believe they are carrying out with the greatest ability, the work now before them. [Cheers.] I should not have intervened in this Debate except on one ground, and that is that there has been an amount of misconception and misunderstanding with reference to the Famine Insurance Fund, which cannot be too soon or completely explained away. We see and hear ugly words—and if they are ugly words in England they will be still more ugly words when translated into the vernacular in India—to the effect that the Government of India—not merely the Viceroy and his Council or the Secretary of State and his Council, but the British Parliament—have all been guilty of what has been called a breach of trust—an abandonment of a sacred trust—that something has been done with public money that ought not to have been done. That I know to be an absolutely groundless impression—[cheers]—which ought to be removed. My hon. Friend the Member for Denbigh indicated what I may call the prevailing impression by apportioning in various percentages the appropriation which had been made of the fund. He stated that two per cent. had gone in relief of famine; 60 per cent. in the construction of railways (which he thought a large proportion); and the remainder in the reduction of debt, to which he took exception. As the noble Lord has explained to the House, the Famine Insurance Fund is the surplus revenue. It is nothing more nor less than a sinking fund. An assumed surplus of Rx.1,500,000 was to be applied in four distinct ways—first, in the relief of any existing famine in the year in which the money was raised; secondly, in the construction of irrigation works for the prevention of famine; thirdly, and principally, in the construction of those protective railway works (to which the right hon. Baronet, who was formerly Governor of Bombay, has alluded) which were intended to alter the state of things which caused such a calamity in 1877—namely, the impossibility of conveying food actually in existence to the parts of the country that needed it; and, fourthly, it was to be applied to the reduction of the Indian Debt. Why? Upon the very principle—to which the former and present Chancellors of the Exchequer have called attention—of the Sinking Fund of this country. By paying six millions a year towards the reduction of the National Debt the Chancellor of the Exchequer put into the hands of the Executive Government of the day a power of borrowing in case of emergency equivalent to the capital value of that fund. Therefore, the paying off five or six millions of debt means that, supposing the present calamity required it, the Indian Government would be in a position to borrow nearly six millions, practically without adding to the debt of India. The noble Lord told us what Sir John Strachey said when the scheme was propounded. I will read what he has written within the last two years on this question, after having seen the working of the scheme:— This policy of insurance against famine was simple in its nature, but it has been constantly misunderstood. It has often been supposed that a separate fund was constituted, into which certain revenues were to be paid, and which could only be drawn upon for a specified purpose. No such impracticable notion was ever entertained, and every idea of the kind was from the first repudiated by the Government and by myself who was responsible for the original scheme. The 'Famine Insurance Fund' of which people have often talked never existed. The intention was nothing more than the annual application of surplus revenue to the extent of Rx. 1,500,000 to the purposes that I have described. Financial pressure has sometimes made it impossible to make the full annual grant under the famine insurance scheme, but substantially the system has been successfully maintained. That is the story of the "Famine Insurance Fund," and if Sir James Westland's financial statement of a year ago is referred to, it will be seen how much revenue has been set aside for this purpose. During the 15 years the fund has been in existence Rx.17,614,185 has been appropriated to it, and only in a small number of years has there been any reduction in the surplus. In the years 1881–2–3–4–5 the whole amount was appropriated; in 1887–8 the amount was suspended. In 1889 it was reduced to one million; in 1890 it was one million; in 1891 it came back to one and a-half million; in 1892–93 it was one and a-half million; in 1894 it was £1,489,000, and last year, by the Act of the Legislature—the wise Act, I think—the amount was reduced from one and a-half million to one million. I do not wish to weary the House, but I should like to give hon. Members the facts of the fund. There has been applied in actual famine relief, £312,000; in the construction of irrigation works, £800,000; in the construction of protective railways, about ten millions; and in the payment of debt, over five millions. And Sir Charles Elliott, the late Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, who was the secretary of this Famine Insurance Fund, and knew all about it, after expressing, in words even stronger than those I have quoted from Sir John Strachey, the utter delusion as to there being any separate fund in existence, and that the Government had no other object in view than the construction of these protective works and paying off the debt, calls attention to the magnificent irrigation works to which the hon. Baronet has already alluded, and which have been constructed between 1870 and to-day. I venture to say that there is no parallel for it in the history of the world. [Cheers.] No Government has ever constructed such magnificent works as have been constructed in India for the protection of that country against famine. [Cheers.] Then as to the railway system of India. There have been something like 10,000 miles of railway constructed over the period which I have mentioned, and Sir Charles Elliott says, with reference to 5,000 of those miles, that they were demanded exclusively almost for the purpose of protection against famine, and he shows how every one of those railways which were mentioned in the Famine Insurance Fund Commission has been constructed and completed, with the solitary exception of the East Coast Railway, which, I believe, is now in hand under the noble Lord's administration and rapidly approaching to an end. Of course we are entitled to have our differences of opinion. I have strong opinion of the goodness of the Government of India. Some of my hon. Friends do not think it so good as I do. I think it a wise, a strong, and an economical Government—[Ministerial cheers]—a Government which has conferred upon India untold blessings. [Ministerial cheers.] I do not believe in what is called "the economic drain" from India. That is rather a favourite phrase in the present day, and I do not perhaps accurately understand its meaning. No money is sent from India to this country which does not either repay the interest upon capital which has been sent from this country to India, and which has been employed in the construction of the works which have been such a great boon to the people, or in payment of services amply and richly deserved by the English Government in carrying on the government of India. [Cheers.] I fully appreciate—the House knows that perfectly well—the very heavy drain upon India by the depreciation in the value of the rupee, but Sir John Strachey, in the book from which I have already quoted, says that the cash advantage to the people for whose use these railways have been constructed is something between 50 and 60 millions sterling per annum. I think the entire loss to India upon these railways, which entirely arises from the depreciation in the value of silver—because if we were still at the old rate of ten rupees to the sovereign there is a large profit—is something like two and a-half millions of tens of rupees. That represents "the economic drain" from India in respect of these large works. ["Hear, hear!"] Whatever our differences of opinion may be, I think we shall all concur in thinking that the Government of India, supported by the Government at home, are doing the very utmost to grapple with this calamity. I have myself gathered, from what the noble Lord has said, that he is perfectly satisfied with the effect of these protective works in preventing loss of life. It does seem to me very gratifying that no loss of life has yet occurred, and I think it is the duty of the Government to prevent any human being, any subject of the Queen in India, losing his life from starvation. ["Hear, hear!"] Then, I think, when you have passed the starvation limit and come to compassionate relief, that is the sphere for private charity. I take this opportunity of saying that I hope the Government of India have not closed their minds finally as to the question of an Imperial contribution—[cheers]—not to the national relief fund, but to the Indian Exchequer. I understood the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury to say that the time has not yet arrived to consider that question. I quite agree with him, but if it should prove to be the fact, notwithstanding the surplus of which the noble Lord has spoken, that this famine will entail, as I am afraid it will, a very considerable charge upon the revenues of India, for the loss from the land revenue will be considerable, I think that is the time for this House, and I am sure this House will be really representing the people of the country, in the same spirit in which it made a contribution in the case of the Afghan war to the Indian Exchequer, to make an Imperial contribution to the Exchequer of India in aid of the taxation of India. ["Hear, hear!"] It would be in relief of the whole people of India, and it would be a sum given by the whole people of Great Britain. [Cheers.] It would not, in my opinion, in any way interfere with private charity. I am only throwing that out as a suggestion, as a hope that the Government have not I finally made up their minds as to this matter. There is one other suggestion I would make to the noble Lord. It is in reference to the question whether the money paid at the relief works is entirely in cash. I would suggest whether it would not be desirable—perhaps this is an economic heresy—to consider, though it was an unfortunate word to use, the introduction of something in the nature of the Truck Act there, so that you could pay these poor people on these relief works in grain instead of money. The object of that would be to prevent grain being forced up to an extreme price by competition. I believe the noble Lord is perfectly sound in the view that he took that it, is not the duty of the country to buy and sell grain; but I would suggest whether, as in this country, under our administration of the Poor Law, a certain amount of relief is given in kind, a certain amount could not be given in India in these cases. It is quite certain the Government could buy at a much lower rate than the poor people themselves could buy, and perhaps of a better quality too. I apologise to the House for having detained it so long. [Cheers.] I hope my hon. Friend will not put the House to the trouble of dividing upon this question, and will withdraw his Amendment, which can have no practical value at the present time, and which would be very much misunderstood in India if it were pased. ["Hear, hear!"] It will be much better to send forth a united message to the people of India that this House, representing the people of Great Britain, will do all it can in order to mitigate those two terrible calamities which are now devastating the country. [General cheers.]

MR. J. M. MACLEAN (Cardiff)

said he had heard with very great pleasure the expression of opinion of the right hon. Gentleman that this country should in case of need give a national contribution to the Indian Exchequer. His noble Friend in his speech referred to the way in which the Indian Government was at present enabled to meet the expenses of the famine, and he said that there was no need of money, but at the same time he pointed out the very great pressure that would be brought to bear upon the finances of India. He (Mr. Maclean) thought they ought not to underrate the immense amount of pressure that was going to be brought to bear upon those finances. The famine would cost the country a good many millions of money. There would be a very heavy loss in land revenue alone, and they knew that in the last year or two the Indian Government had had to impose fresh taxation in order to make both ends meet. Now if there was a deficit of several millions of money owing to the famine, how was the Indian Government going to find the money except by fresh taxation? He did not in any way join with those who always talked about British rule having impoverished India, but he did maintain that of late years England had pressed too hardly upon the finances of India; that to a certain extent India had been impoverished, and unfairly so, by the very great burden cast upon the taxpayers of India, in maintaining such an extensive scheme of frontier defence as they were called upon to support. That frontier had been extended for many thousands of miles, and millions of money had been taken from the taxpayers in the plains in order to pay the cost of that vast scheme of frontier defences, and so when misfortune fell upon the country at large, those taxpayers were not so well able to pay their way as they would otherwise have been able to do. He had always maintained that this enormous frontier defence scheme of India, which Lord Roberts told them would not be complete until they had extended the railways to Cabul and Candahar, ought to have had some support from the Imperial Government, and in that way the people of India had some real claim upon the people of this country for assistance. He hoped the Government would listen, when the time came, to an application from the Indian Government for a national grant from the Imperial Treasury. The First Lord of the Treasury said he believed there was no precedent for anything of the kind, but there was a famous phrase of Burke's, "that the opportunity for a real statesman is when the file affords no precedent." That was his opportunity for showing what a wise and magnanimous statesman could do. He believed if this occasion were seized upon to impress upon the people of India the readiness of this country to come to the help of the poor taxpayers of that country when they were sorely pressed, it would have a most widespread and lasting effect, and gain them the hearts of the Indian people more than any other act of theirs could do. We must remember that however much they collected by the way of private charity, it was very small in comparison with the enormous expenditure that had now become necessary not only on account of the famine, but also on account of the plague. He joined in the encomiums passed on the servants of the Government of India for the efforts they were now making to save life in that country, but while he accorded the highest praise to the district officers, he must say he had seen a certain holding back on the part of the Central Government which he very much regretted, and an attempt to minimise the awful sufferings of the people of India at the present moment. The Governor of the North West Provinces of India, in his admirable despatch of November 23, had said that he was anxious to hold a public meeting for the purpose of obtaining subscriptions from charitable persons in order to meet the distress among the poorer classes which was likely to be caused by the famine and the plague. The Central Government, however, after taking a whole month to consider the subject, came to the conclusion that the time had not yet come when it was necssary to take that course.


Order, order! The hon. Gentleman is now discussing the conduct of the Government with reference to the existing famine and plague in India. That is not raised in the Amendment. The Amendment only deals with the predisposing causes of the famine and plague.


said that he thought that as a certain latitude had been allowed to other hon. Members he might be permitted to refer to those subjects which, in his view, were of real moment to the Indian people. He could only deprecate the action of the Government of India in endeavouring to minimise the effects of the famine and plague in that country. It was impossible to exaggerate the horrors which were affecting the people of India as a result of that famine and plague; while he did not hesitate to give credit to the Government for what they were now doing to relieve the distress in India, they ought to look at what was going on with the view of giving India our assistance as a nation. ["Hear, hear!"]

DR. CLARK (Caithness)

said that he was in India during the famine of 1877–1878. The Indian Government had then created a special famine fund from the proceeds of two new taxes—namely, the income tax and the assessed taxes. At that time Sir John Strachey, the then Finance Minister, had pledged himself that those taxes should only he imposed for a year, and that their proceeds should he applied only to the relief of the distress caused by the famine. It was pointed out at the time that these new taxes must necessarily cause great pressure upon the people of India, and the only excuse for imposing them was (hat they were to he used for the purpose of creating an insurance fund against the effects of famine. It was urged that it would he most unfair to impose these new taxes upon an impoverished people who had been suffering under a two years' famine. Of course, the assurance that was given by Sir John Strachey at the time that the proceeds of these new taxes should be used for the purpose of a famine insurance fund disarmed opposition to the proposal. The pledge of Sir John Strachey had been followed up by declarations on the part of the Indian Government that the arrangement should be faithfully carried out. The Indian Government were, therefore, fully pledged not to apply the proceeds of these taxes to any other purpose than for the relief of famine. It was, however, now clear that that pledge had been broken, and that the proceeds of these taxes had been used for the purpose of the Afghan and Burmese wars. He recollected that some dozen or 15 years ago he had been Chairman of the British Indian Committee, of which the hon. Member for Bethnal Green had been a member, and had expressed some strong views—


said that there was no such Committee sitting 15 years ago, and that he certainly had never served upon it.


said that the hon. Member must recollect that they were both on the Committee to which he referred.


said that he denied that such was the case.


Order, order! These personal questions are a long way from the, Amendment before us. ["Hear, hear!"]


said that he had only referred to the matter as the hon. Member had made statements which had reflected upon the motives of the hon. Baronet the Member for Banffshire. The noble Lord had practically admitted all that the hon. Baronet had contended for. The noble Lord had asserted that there had been a vast improvement in the condition of the agricultural classes in India during the last 30 years, but that he denied, because, in his opinion the improved condition of India was to be attributed not to agriculture, but to manufactures and commerce. They had now got their own cotton mills in Bombay, and it was by their means that India was becoming prosperous. However successful Indian agriculture might have been some years ago, when the prices of agricultural produce were high, it had suffered greatly in recent years owing to low prices. Another cause of the present prosperity of India was to be found in the development of her coal fields, which enabled Indian manufactures to be carried on with success. He was rather afraid they were poorer to-day, because they were probably much more in debt. He believed the ryots, in some places in the protected States, were more favourably situated than the ryots in places under the British Government—that they had really a higher standard of comfort. The reason of that was that the native Governors considered matter's more carefully than the British Government. The British Government might reasonably be compared to a rack-renting landlord. The people of India and Bombay were practically tenants of the State, and they had been racked by the State, with the result that there was poverty. He did not desire to suggest that the Government would not do all that they possibly could—common humanity demanded that they should; and perhaps the noble Lord was justified in preventing private charity acting earlier. He hoped, however, that if they erred at all they would err by spending too much instead of too little in the endeavour to keep the people alive.

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

The House divided:—Ayes, 90; Noes, 217.—(Division List—No. 5—appended.)

Allison, Robert Andrew Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale- Provand, Andrew Dryburgh
Atherley-Jones, L. Healy, Maurice (Cork) Reid, Sir Robert T.
Austin, M. (Limerick, W.) Healy, Thomas J, (Wexford) Roberts, John H. (Denbigh)
Barlow, John Emmott Healy, Timothy M. (N. Louth) Robson, William Snowdon
Barry, E. (Cork, S.) Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H. Roche, Hon. James (East Kerry)
Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire) Hogan, James Francis Roche, John (East Galway)
Brigg, John Jones, David Brynmor (Swansea) Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)
Burl, Thomas Jones, William (Carnarvonshire) Schwann, Charles E.
Caldwell, James Kearley, Hudson E. Sheehy, David
Channing, Francis Allston Kilbride, Denis Stanhope, Hon. Philip J.
Clark, Dr. G. B. (Caithness-sh.) Knox, Edmund Francis Vesey Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)
Collery, Bernard Lambert, George Sullivan, T. D. (Donegal, W.)
Condon, Thomas Joseph Langley, Batty Tanner, Charles Kearns
Crean, Eugene Leng, Sir John Tennant, Harold John
Crilly, Daniel Lloyd-George, David Thomas, Alfred (Glamorgan, E.)
Curran, Thomas B. (Donegal) Logan, John William Tuite, James
Daly, James Lough, Thomas Tully, Jasper
Dalziel, James Henry Luttrell, Hugh Fownes Wallace, Robert (Perth)
Davies, W. Rees-(Pembrokesh.) Macaleese, Daniel Walton, John Lawson
Davitt, Michael MacNeill, John Gordon Swift Whittaker, Thomas Palmer
Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles M'Ghee, Richard Williams, John Carvell (Notts.)
Dillon, John McKenna, Reginald Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)
Donelan, Captain A. McLeod, John Wilson, John (Govan)
Doogan, P. C. Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen) Wilson, Jos. H. (Middlesbrough)
Dunn, Sir William Murnaghan, George Woodall, William
Farrell, James P. (Cavan, W.) O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Young, Samuel
Flynn, James Christopher O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary) Yoxall, James Henry
Gibney, James O'Connor, Arthur (Donegal)
Gilhooly, James O'Keeffe, Francis Arthur TELLERS FOR THE AYES, Sir William Wedderburn and Mr. Henry J. Wilson.
Goddard, Daniel Ford O'Kelly, James
Gourley, Sir Edward Temperley Pickersgill, Edward Hare
Hammond, John (Carlow)
Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir A. F. Bowles, T. Gibson (King's Lynn) Darling, Charles John
Allen, Wm. (Newc. under Lyme) Brassey, Albert Davenport, W. Bromley
Arnold-Forster, Hugh O. Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.
Arrol, Sir William Brookfield, A. Montagu Digby, John K. D. Wingfield-
Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir Ellis Brown, Alexander H. Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph
Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry Butcher, John George Dixon, George
Atkinson, Et. Hon. John Carson, Edward Dixon-Hartland, Sir Fred. Dixon
Austin, Sir John (Yorkshire) Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.) Donkin, Richard Sim
Bailey, James (Walworth) Cecil, Lord Hugh Doughty, George
Baird, John George Alexander Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. (Birm.) Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-
Baker, Sir John Charrington, Spencer Drage, Geoffrey
Balcarres, Lord Clarke, Sir Edward (Plymouth) Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V.
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r) Clough, Walter Owen Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir William Hart
Balfour, Gerald William (Leeds) Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E. Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton
Banbury, Frederick George Coghill, Douglas Harry Ellis, Thos. Edw. (Merionethsh.)
Barnes, Frederic Gorell Cohen, Benjamin Louis Engledow, Charles John
Barry, Francis Tress (Windsor) Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse Evans, Sir Francis H. (South'ton)
Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benjamin Colomb, Sir John Charles Ready Fardell, Thomas George
Beach, Rt. Hon. Sir M. H.(Bristol) Compton, Lord Alwyne (Beds) Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward
Begg, Ferdinand Faithfull Cook, Fred Lucas (Lambeth) Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Manc'r)
Bemrose, Henry Howe Cooke, C. W. Radcliffe (Heref'd) Field, Admiral (Eastbourne)
Bentinck, Lord Henry C. Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow) Fielden, Thomas
Bethell, Commander Cubitt, Hon. Henry Finch, George H.
Bhownaggree, M. M. Curzon, Rt. Hn. G. N. (Lanc. S. W) Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne
Bigham, John Charles Curzon, Viscount (Bucks) Fisher, William Hayes
Bigwood, James Dalbiac, Major Philip Hugh Fison, Frederick William
Birrell, Augustine Dalrymple, Sir Charles FitzGerald, Sir. R. U. Penrose
Boscawen, Arthur Griffith- Dane, Richard M. Fitz Wygram, General Sir F.
Flannery, Fortescue Laurie, Lieut.-General Richardson, Thomas
Fletcher, Sir Henry Lawrence, Edwin (Cornwall) Ridley, Rt. Hon. Sir Matthew W.
Forster, Henry William Lawrence, Wm. E. (Liverpool) Ritchie, Rt. Hon. Chas. Thomson
Forwood, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur B. Lawson, John Grant (Yorks) Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)
Foster, Colonel (Lancaster) Lecky, William Edward H. Russell, T. AV. (Tyrone)
Fowler, RtHn Sir Henry (Wol'tn) Lees, Elliott (Birkenhead) Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)
Fry, Lewis Llewellyn, Evan H. (Somerset) Seely, Charles Hilton
Galloway, William Johnson Llewelyn, Sir Dillywn-(Sw'ns'a) Sidebotham, J. W. (Cheshire)
Garfit, William Lockwood, Sir Frank (York) Simeon, Sir Barrington
Gedge, (Sydney Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine Skewes-Cox, Thomas
Gibbs, Hon. Vieary (St. Albans) Lowles, John Smith, Abel H. (Christchurch)
Giles, Charles Tyrrell Loyd, Archie Kirkman Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)
Gilliat, John Saunders Lucas-Shadwell, William Stanley, Edw. Jas. (Somerset)
Godson, Augustus Frederick Macartney, W. G. Ellison Stanley, Henry M. (Lambeth)
Golds worthy, Major-General Macdona, John Cumming Stewart, Sir Mart J. M'Taggart
Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon Maclean, James Mackenzie Stone, Sir John Benjamin
Goschen, Rt. Hn. G. J. (St. G'rg's) McArthur, William Strachey, Edward
Goschen, George J. (Sussex) McCalmont, Maj-Gen. (Ant'm N) Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley
Graham, Henry Robert Mclver, Sir Lewis Sutherland, Sir Thomas
Gray, Ernest (West Ham) McKillop, James Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury) Malcolm, Ian Taylor, Francis
Greene, W. Raymond-(Cambs.) Maple, Sir John Blundell Thorburn, Walter
Gull, Sir Cameron Massey-Main waring, Hon. W. F. Thornton, Percy M.
Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord Geo. Melville, Beresford Valentine Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray
Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M. Valentia, Viscount
Hare, Thomas Leigh Mildmay, Francis Bingham Verney, Hon. Richard Greville
Heath, James Milward, Colonel Victor Warr, Augustus Frederick
Heaton, John Henniker Monekton, Edward Philip Webster, R. G. (St. Pancras)
Helder, Augustus Monk, Charles James Webster, Sir R. E. (Isle of Wight)
Hill Rt. Hn. Lord Arthur (Down) Moon, Edward Robert Racy Welby, Lieut.-Col. A. C. E.
Hoare, Edw. Brodie (Hampstead) More, Robert Jasper Wharton, John Lloyd
Hobhouse, Henry Morgan, Hn. Fred.(Monm'thsh.) Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)
Houldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry Muntz, Philip A. Williams, Joseph Powell-(Birm.)
Howard, Joseph Murray, Rt. Hn. A. Graham (Bute) Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Hubbard, Hon. Evelyn Myers, William Henry Willox, John Archibald
Hudson, George Bickersteth Nicol, Donald Ninian Wilson, Frederick W. (Norfolk)
Hutton, John (Yorks, N. R.) Parkes, Ebenezer Wilson, J. W. (Worc'sh. N.)
Jebb, Richard Claverhouse Phillpotts, Captain Arthur Wilson-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks.)
Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick Pierpoint, Robert Wodehouse, Edmund R. (Bath)
Johnston, William (Belfast) Platt-Higgins, Frederick Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm
Johnstone, John (Sussex) Plunkett, Hon. Horace Curzon Wyndham-Quin, Major W. H.
Kemp, George Pollock, Harry Frederick
Kenny, William Powell, Sir Francis Sharp TELLFRS FOR THE NOES, Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther
Kenyon, James Pretyman, Capt. Ernest George
King, Sir Henry Seymour Pryce-Jones, Edward
Lafone, Alfred Purvis, Robert