§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Lord G. HAMILTON,) Middlesex, Ealing
The statement I have to make to night refers to a triennial period which is one of financial oscillation and contrast, and I think it will be admitted of exceptional interest. A comparison of the figures of the separate years is not only full of financial and statistical interest, but it is a clearer index than any Budget statement I have previously made of the economic and material condition of India under British rule. The first year deals with the closed accounts of 1897–98; this was the last year in which the effects of the great famine disturbed the equilibrium of Indian finance. But famine was not the only disturbing element. Plague, earthquake, and a great frontier disturbance all contributed to diminish the revenue account and to augment the general expenditure of the country. I estimated last year, on the revised figures before me, that the deficit would Rx. 5,283,100. The closed accounts give a somewhat larger sum—namely, Rx. 5,359,211—the net income being less by Rx. 214,191 and the net expenditure less by Rx. 138,000 than was anticipated. We now know the total cost of the famine 174 of 1896–97and 1897–98, both direct and indirect, to the revenues of India, and it is estimated to amount to Rx. 16,649,399. This is a somewhat lower estimate than that which I gave in June, 1898, and of this amount no lessthan Rx. 9,313,987 may be estimated as chargeable in the accounts of the year with which I am dealing. But this was not the only extraordinary charge. Frontier operations cost Rx. 3,887,000, and the cost of combating the plague and the effects of earthquake put on the revenues of that year further charges, all of which fell on the shoulders of this hapless financial year. I appointed, shortly after the conclusion of the famine operations, a Commission, for which I was fortunate enough to secure the services of Sir James Lyall as chairman, to inquire into and report upon the result of the procedure adopted to meet the famine. That report, which was issued at the beginning of this year, showed that, though here and there a mistake had been made, the campaign as a whole against famine was devised and carried through with prescience, with resource, and with success. Yet, notwithstanding all the exertions of the Government, seconded as they were by private effort and voluntary subscriptions, there was very heavy mortality and widespread privation and misery over a vast tract of country affected by the scarcity of food and employment consequent upon the drought and its attendant evils. There are two theories current as to the cause and origin of this distress. There is a small but active body of propagandists who are never tired of complaining that British rule is bleeding India to death; that owing to our system of taxation the people are so reduced in their resources, that independent of any abnormal visitation they are dying off; and that the distress of recent years, culminating in the great famine of 1896–98, was not primarily due to natural causes, but that it is the result of persistent over taxation and heavy assessment which has so reduced the condition of the mass of the people, and that they are expiring of inanition. There is another school who maintain a wholly contrary opinion. They assert that from time immemorial famine, due to want of rain, has been a regular and periodical scourge of India, and that under our rule, decade by decade, the effects of famine when it occurs are being narrowed and arrested, not 175 only by the increased resources of the people assailed, but by a systematic and progressive scheme of famine protection which the British Government has created and is continuously improving. The figures I am about to cite will, I think, conclusively show which of those two theories is right. If it be true that, quite independently of famine, our system of taxation is levied in such a way that the people are so reduced and so near the end of their resources that they are ready to collapse at the first touch of any abnormal visitation, then it is clear their recovery when that visitation was passed would be so slow and their recuperative power so small that for years to come it would be scarcely appreciable. If, on the other hand, it be true that British rule has greatly increased the resources of the community, and that the suffering and failure in revenue of the famine years were entirely due to the exceptional magnitude of the visitation itself, then, so soon as the visitation had passed away, the community at large would at once show signs of recuperation and rapidly make good the losses caused by the abnormal phenomena. If no recuperation is shown, then the bleeding to death theory may have some substance in it; but if the recuperation be immediate, rapid and continuous, then I think even the most perverse of mortals must admit that the theory is based on imagination alone. Now, Sir, let us test the merits of the two theories by turning to the year succeeding the last year of the famine. In March, 1898, Sir James Westland estimated his surplus for the year ending April, 1899, at Rx. 891,000. A few months later, with fuller data before me, I expressed my own view that this figure would be largely exceeded. We have now the revised figures before us, and the surplus has grown to Rx.4,759,400. The first fact I wish to impress on the House is that this is the largest surplus ever realised in India in one year since our rule has been established there; but side by side with this fact there is another, scarcely less significant, to which I have already alluded—namely, that the year which immediately preceded this surplus was the worst famine year of the century. The House will, I am sure, appreciate the significance of this juxtaposition of extreme depression and of exuberant recuperation, for it is 176 the annihilation of the bleeding to death theory. I know statistics are dull, especially at this time of the session, but the figures of this financial year are really so remarkable that they are well worthy of examination and analysis, both on the expenditure and on the revenue side. This surplus is due not only to an augmentation of revenue, but also to a large reduction in expenditure. We took the exchange value of the rupee at15⅜d. The actual rate at which we were able to sell rupees was 15.978d., or approximately 16d., and this rise in the rate of exchange diminished by Rx. 1,070,600 the amount of rupees which had to be remitted. The rise in exchange is always a satisfaction, but the rise this year was associated with some unusual facts. I had calculated that I should be able to draw, in the course of the year, bills equivalent to£16,000,000 sterling, the rupee being taken at15⅜d., and a good many thought I was too sanguine. The actual amount I was able to draw was or£18,695,200, or£2,695,200 in excess of my estimate. It may be laid down as a general ride that the larger the number of bills drawn in the year the lower becomes the rate of exchange at which the individual rupee is exchangeable; but this year we drew the whole of this larger sum at a higher rate of exchange than that which we assigned to the lesser sum we had calculated on drawing, and the sum remitted for the year is the largest amount ever sent from India, and it has enabled us to reduce our estimated gold liabilities in this country by£2,695,000 in the course of the year. In addition to the reduction of the gold debt here we were able during the year to exchange rupees for gold to the amount of Rx. 2,616,000 in the currency reserve. The next great item on the expenditure side is that connected with the railway and irrigation account. The receipts from both sources of productive works were the largest ever recorded in India, and they improve the railway account by Rx. 848,000 and the irrigation account by Rx. 226,900. There was also a saving on Army expenditure of Rx. 520,800. This was due to the cessation of frontier operations, and there were a number of other minor savings and certain increases under other heads, the aggregate result of which was a total net reduction, independent of 177 exchange, on the expenditure side, amounting to Rx. 1,973,000. On the revenue side it is noteworthy that there is an increase under every head of revenue, except for a small falling off in stamps and registration, and the total increase amounts to Rx. 1,658,200. Those who are familiar with Indian finance are aware that there is an elaborate arrangement between the provincial governments and the Imperial Government under which the provincial governments are quinquennially assigned certain portions of certain revenues, and as these revenues increase, so does the amount the provincial governments are entitled to claim increase also. For these and other automatic reasons the provincial governments receive out of the augmented surplus Rx. 834,700 more than was anticipated; and if Members of the House will deduct this amount from the gain in revenue and the reduction in expenditure and exchange it will bring the surplus down to the figure I originally gave—namely, Rx.4,759,400. The Government of India, however, having had a successful financial year, naturally took into consideration the exceptionally heavy burden which recently had been laid upon the provincial governments, who have simultaneously had to face increased expenditure with revenues either curtailed or whose expansion had been arrested by the very evils requiring this additional expenditure. The Indian Government, therefore, made them free grants which in the aggregate amount to Rx. 700,000, thus bringing down the available surplus to Rx. 4,059,400. Then the trade and treasure statistics of this remarkable year are also noteworthy. The exports from India, including treasure, exceed the figure of Rx. 120,000,000, being a crore and a half over the highest amount of exports ever before recorded. The imports, including treasure, amount to upwards of Rx. 90,000,000, an amount which has only been exceeded in two years. The surplus of exports over imports was, therefore, upwards of Rx. 30,000,000, a figure which has only previously been exceeded in three years. The net imports of treasure amounted to Rx. 10,484,192, a figure which has often been exceeded, but of that amount no less than Rx. 6,500,000 represented gold, the highest amount of gold ever absorbed by India in one year. I quote these figures to the House, first, because I think 178 they are interesting, and, secondly, because they show that from whatever standpoint we view the past year, whether from a financial, a commercial, or an industrial standpoint, the results are far more satisfactory than the most sanguine could have anticipated last year. We have faced and have succeeded in overcoming a great cumulative series of difficulties with far less loss of vitality than I could have believed possible; scars that I feared were indelible are being rapidly obliterated, and if we can only depend on normal phenomena for a few years I think a period of great development and great prosperity will dawn on the great majority of the inhabitants of India. But there is one side to our rule in India which always causes anxiety to the Government of that country, and that is the enormous increase in the population, a growth which is so abnormal that in many districts it presses heavily on the means of subsistence. Some time back I appointed Sir James Lyall's Famine Commission. I thought that in the course of their inquiries and wanderings they would have very special opportunities of examining into the industrial and economic conditions of the populations through whose country the drought had passed: and I thought that a general opinion from a Commission so exceptionally circumstanced, with the traces of the recent disaster displayed before their eyes, would be of the greatest value in enabling us to decide how far during the last twenty years that have elapsed since the last great famine we have improved the material condition of the mass of the people and their powers of offering resistance to exceptional distress. The most important of the conclusions which Sir James Lyall and the Commission arrived at are stated in the last paragraph of his report. It is somewhat lengthy, but I daresay the House will excuse my going into it in view of the importance of the subject. Sir James Lyall says:The general conclusions we are disposed to draw are that it may be said of India as a whole that of late years, owing to high prices, there has been a considerable increase in the incomes of the landholding and cultivating classes, and that their standard of comfort and of expenditure has also risen. With a rise in the transfer value of their tenures their credit has also expanded. During the recent famine these classes, as a rule, have therefore shown greater power of resisting famine, either by drawing on savings, or by borrowing, or by reduction of expenditure, than in any previous 179 period of scarcity of like severity. Whether it can be safely said that they have much improved in thrift—that is, in the accumulation of capital—seems open to doubt. There is some evidence to the effect that the export trade and the improvement of communications have tended to diminish the custom of storing grain as a protection against failure of harvest, which used to be general among the agricultural classes.I may here state that the land owing and cultivating classes constitute 57 per cent. of the rural population of India. Sir James then passes on to the artisan class, as to which he says:The skilled artisans, excepting weavers, have also greatly improved their incomes and their style of living, and very few of them required relief. The commercial classes, whose numbers are relatively small, are not generally injuriously affected by famines of short duration. Beyond these classes there always has existed, and there does exist, a lower section of the community living a hand-to-mouth existence, with a low standard of comfort and abnormally sensitive to the effects of inferior harvests and calamities of season. This section is very large and includes the great class of day labourers and the least skilled of the artisans. So far as we have been able to form a general opinion upon a difficult question from the evidence we have heard and the statistics placed before us, the wages of these people have not risen in the last twenty years in due proportion to the rise in prices of their necessaries of life. The experience of the recent famine fails to suggest that this section of the community has shown any larger command of resources or any increased power of resistance. Far from contracting, it seems to be gradually widening, particularly in the more congested districts. Its sensitiveness or liability to succumb, instead of diminishing, is possibly becoming more accentuated, as larger and more powerful forces supervene and make their effects felt, where formerly the result was determined by purely local conditions.It is estimated that the labourers of all sorts constitute 17 per cent. of the rural population, and it is only with a portion of this body that this Report deals. The problem before us is not one to be solved by the reduction of taxation or the cheapening of food. These poor people practically pay no taxes, and food is cheaper in India than in any known civilised country in the world. Even at the height of the late famine prices never rose to a level to make the importation of food into British India, except from Burma, remunerative. We are face to face with the consequences of the long establishment of the pax Britannica. India is the most prolific human nursery in the world. We have removed or restrained all the influences by which in the past this prolific ness has been counter 180 acted. War and plundering are no longer permitted, and all the energy of modern science and civilisation is devoted to the arresting and stamping out of those epidemic diseases which in the past played such havoc with human life. Sir Robert Giffen the other day estimated that since 1871 the population of British India had increased seventy millions, and that the increase of our territory since that period accounted for but a small part of this increase. It is the one unnatural law of nature that when population rapidly increases, that section in which the increase is quickest is the one nearest to the brink of destitution. I am afraid that this residuum in India is expanding, and will continue rapidly to expand under our rule. We cannot reverse our past humane policy of protection to life, and we must therefore try and see how far we can otherwise ease the new economic and social difficulties we have ourselves created. I see no other solution but in opening up the country by railroads and canals, encouraging private enterprise to develop the native resources of India, and notably the practically untouched mineral wealth of the country, attracting capital from this country to multiply and augment the great stable industries of India, and associating with this policy of industrial development a more technical and utilitarian system of education. Such a policy belongs to the future, and I will therefore turn to the Budget year of 1899–1900, as it is associated with these ideas. For this year—the Budget year—our revenue is estimated at Rx.62,477,000 and the expenditure at Rx.58,544,400, giving a surplus of Rx.3,932,600. The figures of this Budget closely approximate to the revised figures of last year, the aggregate revenue being taken at a reduction of Rx.599,600, and the expenditure also showing a reduction of Rx. 47 2,800. There are also sundry adjustments in the receipts and expenditure of the provincial governments which affect the total, but there is nothing specially noteworthy in the various items of expenditure of the revenue which necessitates my detaining the House, unless it be the estimate of railway receipts. The railway net receipts for the preceding year were exceptionally high; Sir James Westland put them somewhat higher for this year. On the other hand, he took a low rate of exchange for the remittance of rupees— 181 namely,15⅜d. I have recently received further information as to the prospects of the financial year. It is now estimated that the railway revenue will be considerably less than the Budget estimate, but this loss is more than counteracted by the improvement under the principal heads of revenue and by a reduction of frontier expenditure. It is now estimated that the rate of exchange may be taken at 16d. This will give an improvement of more than 40 lakhs. The surplus this year may therefore be taken at Rx. 4,400,000. This is the last year for the finance of which Sir James Westland will be responsible. His tenure of office has been one of exceptional anxiety, for he has had to contend with unprecedented difficulties, both as regards exchange and currency; and, in addition, he has had to find the ways and means of simultaneously combating a great frontier outbreak, famine, and plague. He has throughout this trying ordeal shown perspicuity, courage, and judgment of a very high order, and it must be a gratification to him and his friends to know that, when he resigned his responsibilities to his successor, he was able to associate with his retirement the two highest surpluses of the century, and he has also the gratification of knowing, by the approving Report of the Currency Committee, that his efforts for the establishment of a gold standard and currency in India are within measurable distance of being fulfilled. I am glad to add that his services will not be lost to the public, for Her Majesty has approved of his appointment to the vacancy in the Secretary of State's Council. Those interested in India are aware that during the past few days there has been considerable anxiety with regard to the monsoon. I requested the Viceroy to inform me periodically whenever he had reliable and comprehensive information, and the latest telegram I have is dated August 3. It is:Crop prospects. Rainfall in Northern India, Bengal and Burma has been above the average, and agricultural prospects are satisfactory. On West Coast, in Central India, and in parts of Madras there has been a keen deficiency of rain, and there is some cause for anxiety, although a heavy rainfall in present month would still arrest serious scarcity.The latest telegram through the Press announces that rain has fallen in Bombay and other parts of Western India during 182 the last few days. At this time of the year it is absolutely impossible to forecast if the monsoon partially fails what may be the scarcity consequent upon that failure, because the area contracts or expands owing to the accidents of the rainfall with extraordinary rapidity. I am hopeful, as the weather all over the world has been abnormal, that there may be a heavy rainfall this month, but I am afraid that in any case there will be some scarcity. The famine organisation, however, is in excellent order, and I can hardly think that Nature will so fail again as to seriously disturb the financial arrangements of the year. It will be seen that we have not remitted taxation. Independently of the partial failure of the monsoon, we desired to make good the financial losses of the two preceding years; and as we were about to advance another stage in our currency policy we were desirous of occupying during that phase as strong a financial position as was permissible. But in addition to these reasons, sufficient and valid as they are in themselves, there was a further wish to carry on the prosecution of our public works policy with as little addition to our gold debt as is consistent with reasonable progress, and perhaps I might therefore just explain to the House what is the system under which capital is supplied for public works. The practice of the Indian Government is to charge 4 per cent. interest on the whole capital supplied for reproductive public works, and this interest is charged against the railway and irrigation portion of the account. The capital so supplied comes partly from loans, partly from revenue. When it is supplied from revenue the amount so obtained is deducted from the ordinary debt, which, but for this expenditure, would to that extent have been diminished. Under this system the larger the surplus the less the amount borrowed in the year for public works, and we shall for the forthcoming year be able to devote a considerable proportion of the surpluses of the last two years to capital expenditure on public works, thus avoiding borrowing. All sums borrowed for public works by the Government are raised upon the general security of the revenues of India; and though the strictest account is kept of the sums so obtained, they are not earmarked so as to enable any outsider to distinguish between the debt liabilities incurred on 183 railways and irrigation, and those incurred for other purposes. Every year in the explanatory memorandum of the Secretary of State, there is a table of assets and liabilities of the Indian Government, and this table will be found at page 10 of my memorandum of this year. The assets include the capital value of the railways and irrigation works constructed, amounts lent, and cash balances. The liabilities include the debt, and other obligations of the Indian Government. For this year our excess of liabilities in Great Britain is estimated at £53,029,000. But in India we have an excess of assets over liabilities to the amount of Rx.32,010,000. Taking the rupee at 16d., this sum is the equivalent of £21,330,000. Therefore the total amount of what I may call the un-remunerative debt of India at the present moment only amounts to £31,699,000. I doubt if any other great Government in the world could show so small an amount of indebtedness. The question naturally arises—does our policy of public works annually tend to improve this balance-sheet, and are we better off from this point of view than we were five years or ten years back? I therefore propose to compare the balance-sheet of this year with the balance-sheet of ten years back—namely, the year 1889. The decade since 1889 has been one which has severely tried the finances of India. We have had a heavy fall in the exchange value of the rupee, and we have had all the disturbing influences and elements of war and famine with which to contend in India itself, and therefore it might be assumed, taking these untoward events into consideration, that our balance-sheet at the end of the ten years would be worse than it was at the beginning. But such is not the case. In 1889 there was an excess of liabilities over assets in India of Rx.4,500,000. This at 16d. is equivalent to £3,000,000, and the excess of liabilities over assets in this country was £36,844,000. Adding these two sums together, we get a total liability of £39,844,000, or a balance-sheet £8,200,000 less favourable than that which we can show this year, and if we can only continue for the next thirty years at this rate to annually show such an improvement in our assets, at the end of that period there will be practically no unremunerative debt left. We are, therefore, able gradually to diminish by our public works policy the dead-weight 184 interest charged on borrowed money, and side by side with this annual reduction to show an improving annual balance-sheet. Putting these two facts together seems to me conclusive justification, on financial grounds alone, for a vigorous prosecution of reproductive public works in India. Some three years ago I sanctioned a programme of railway extension amounting to nearly Rx. 30,000,000 to be spread over the period named. Owing to financial exigencies and the heavy expenditure connected with famine and frontier operations the Government found it necessary to reduce this amount to Rx.27,600,000. The new three years' railway programme is estimated to cost Rx.20,322,000, but owing to lapses through the engineering strike and other causes in 1898–99, there are arrears to be added to the extent of Rx.2,050,000. The total for the three years is, therefore, raised toRx.22,372,000, and of this amount Rx.8,822,000 is comprised in the Budget for the present year. This includes all railway construction for which the Government undertakes the responsibility or guarantee, whether on State lines or those of the old companies, or branch lines with a firm guarantee; but it does not include outlay by native States without a guarantee by the Government of India, nor does it include outlay on branch lines to be constructed with conditions of rebate, nor on unguaranteed private enterprise. The House will recollect that in the course of last session I obtained a loan Bill to the amount of £10,000,000, and that at the time the House gave their sanction to that increase in the borrowing powers of the Secretary of State those powers had been reduced to £418,000. The total amount, therefore, of the borrowing powers, which at this time last year was at the disposal of the Secretary of State was £10,418,000, and I proposed, as I informed the House at the outset, to raise a loan of six millions sterling, though I hoped to be able, in the course of the year, to discharge considerable amounts of debentures and other debts which became due. This has been done, and I am glad to be able to inform the House that at the present moment my borrowing powers amount to £9,377,000, or in other words, I have been able to finance the exceptional requirements of the Indian Government and the capital outlay on public works by adding only about one million 185 sterling in the course of the year to the obligations of India in this country, leaving out of account the sums raised by the railway companies; and in India, although we estimated that it might be necessary to raise Rx.3,000,000, the cash balances stood so high that the loan was reduced to Rx.1,200,000. For the present year we do not propose to borrow either at home or in India, but we shall try to find ways and means for carrying on public works out of surplus revenues or cash balances. Whether we shall be able to do this or not depends upon the rainfall in Western and Central India, and the failure of the monsoon may alter our plans. The present Viceroy, with whose powers of work and initiation the House is well acquainted, has given close attention to the encouragement of private enterprise in railway construction, so that side by side with Government expenditure railway promotion may be pushed by private individuals and private capital. When his Minister for Public Works came home on leave he took that Department under his own supervision, mainly with the object of ascertaining whether he could not simplify and shorten the existing procedure for dealing with applications from promoters of railways. It is not very easy to so dovetail the prosecution of State railways and railways promoted by private means into one great system of railway progress and expansion. In this House we know how jealous any great railway company is of extensions which might cut into their system and ultimately affect their local profits; and when, in addition, powers of purchase over individual railroads are conferred upon the Government, as is the case in India, the value of the property to be ultimately bought and sold may be considerably influenced by such extensions. It is, therefore, necessary to proceed with great caution and consideration before assent is given to any private enterprise where a railroad to be constructed might have such effects upon the railways in its vicinity. Still, making allowances for all such difficulties, there is room for accelerations and improvement in the procedure now in force for dealing with railway promoters. But it is not only in connection with railways that we wish to encourage private enterprise. The mineral wealth of India has scarcely been touched, with the exception of the working of coal, which is making great strides. I ap 186 pointed an exceptionally strong committee at the India Office some time back to supervise and amend the existing rules and regulations. These regulations were sent to India, and the Viceroy issued rules, in accordance with the instructions he received, that have given universal satisfaction. What we have done as regards mines is only typical of what we wish to do in connection with the other undeveloped resources of India—encourage the bonâ fide promoter and trader, but try to exclude the concessionaire, who looks upon his concession only as something he can sell at a profit to others. Side by side with this material development of India we wish to make the higher branches of education more practical and utilitarian. At present we are annually turning out thousands of young men with a purely literary education, and with no means of employment when their education is finished but to join the overcrowded ranks of the pleader and pressman. But if we wish to secure the thorough co-operation of enterprise and capital from this country in developing India we cannot more effectively achieve that purpose than by establishing a currency system which will closely link together the monetary and the commercial interests of the two countries. And this naturally brings me to the Report of the Currency Committee over which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton presided. Sir, the special thanks of this House are due to the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues for the time and consideration they gave to the complex subject referred to them. And they have their reward in the almost unanimous approval with which it has been received. It is a Report characterised by lucidity of arrangement and language, and a natural sequence of statement, both of fact and argument, that renders it one of the most convincing and easily digested documents that I have ever read upon any currency controversy. The Report is, moreover, on all essential points unanimous, and this unanimity is, I think, due to the composition of the Committee. Sir, there are some persons who think that, whenever a difficult and controversial question is to be investigated by any tribunal of this character, the bulk of the inquiring body should be composed of the extreme partisans on both sides of the question, with a sprinkling of impartial persons to keep the peace between them. Commis 187 sions so constituted invariably result in a minority as well as a majority Report. The whole responsibility for any changes proposed rests upon the shoulders of the limited few who do not take sides. I composed this Committee on the opposite principle. I selected the best men available who had not committed themselves irretrievably to either one side or the other, and whose judicial tendencies were such that they could be trusted to be influenced by the evidence before them. And not the least of the merits of the Report is its self-evident fairness and freedom from bias. It perhaps would be convenient to the House if I were, very briefly, to recapitulate the present condition of currency in India, and contrast it with the proposals of the Committee. At present the mints are closed to the unrestricted coinage of silver; gold is not legal tender, though the Government receive it in favour of public dues. The rupee, by law, is the only coin in which payments can be made, though the Government have declared a rate at which they will exchange rupees for gold—namely, a rupee for 16d.The Committee recommend that the mints should continue to be closed to the unrestricted coinage of silver, but that they should be thrown open to the unrestricted coinage of gold; that gold be made legal tender and current coin; that Government be not bound by law to part with gold for rupees or for external purposes, but that it should be freely available for foreign remittances when foreign exchanges fall below specie point—namely, 16d. Now, Sir, these recommendations, in the aggregate, will result in establishing a currency system in India very similar to that which prevails in the United States and France, and the Committee point out, in paragraph 37, that if the United States and France were ever hereafter to come to the Indian Government with responsible proposals for an international agreement, as they did some two or throe years ago, India will be in a better position to consider such proposals than she was before. But, to my mind, the most valuable portion of the Report of the Committee is that in which they clearly prove that the establishment of a gold standard in India is as much for the interests of the Indian people as it is for the Indian Government. Attempts have been made to try and show that, although a gold 188 standard might be beneficial to the Indian Government on account of the large gold obligations they have annually to meet in this country, yet it would be detrimental to the interests of the general community; that India was too poor a country for such an experiment as a gold standard; that it is an exporting country, and that a fall in exchange was beneficial to an export trade; and that if a gold standard was established, India could not hereafter compete with the silver-using countries who export commodities similar to those which India produces. I am glad to say I think the Committee have finally and successfully exploded these fallacies. During the past few years the commercial world has been passing through a period of depression and fall in prices. The general price of commodities had fallen simultaneously with the exchange value of silver; therefore, certain individuals argued that it was the demonetisation of silver which caused the fall in the price of commodities, and that, unless silver was rehabilitated, there could be no hope of prices rising. Argentina was used as a familiar illustration of how a depreciated currency benefited a great exporting country. Argentina is a country with almost unlimited undeveloped agricultural resources. Her Government borrowed largely to develop these resources, but that Government over-borrowed and was unable to pay the interest on its debt. Then, to save their credit, they issued wholesale a mass of paper money which became very heavily depreciated. Almost simultaneously with this heavy depreciation, the result of previous outlay began to take effect and Argentina began to export largely; therefore certain gentlemen argued that this great expansion of exports was due to a depreciating currency. For the last three years the gold premium in Argentina has continuously fallen, and her exports continue, simultaneously with the appreciation of her paper, to expand. The industrious statistician will always find in the commercial world coincidences, synchronisms, and sequences which, if he be not master of his subject, he is apt to confound with cause and effect; but the Committee conclusively demonstrate that the volume of exports from India is not associated with, or governed by, a rise or fall in exchange. I have more than once challenged those who hold different views 189 from my own, to show how a depreciating currency benefits the majority of the community amongst whom it circulates. In India our great difficulty is that wages, owing to the increase of population, are in many branches of industry too low. A depreciating currency raises prices, but there is always an interval between the rise of prices and the consequent rise of wages, and during that period the employer gets the benefit. There are no Consular reports on trade more worthy of perusal than those which emanate from the United States Consuls. The Consul-General for the United States at Calcutta, in his official report to his Government, puts the position with a terseness which is my reason for quoting it:—From the best information obtainable, the merchants and large dealers in the products of the country would favour the reopening of the mints, which would enable them to buy silver at the present low prices, have it coined into rupees, and use them in their business greatly to their advantage; and the ryots and wage-earners would be the sufferers, as is always the case in a country with a debased and depreciating currency.In this country there has been of recent years a general crusade against the practice of what is known as "sweating." Sweating results from unscrupulous employers taking advantage of a congested labour market to establish a system of over-work and under-pay. Let everybody understand who advocates a depreciating currency as a benefit to the community that he is supporting a system of currency that is nothing more or less than a legalised form of sweating. Ceylon is, as regards its currency, its trade, and its exporting power, a miniature of India, excepting that its export trade forms a much larger proportion of its general trade than is the case in India. I have here the latest official Report on the financial and industrial condition of Ceylon. It is dated September 27th, 1898, and it relates to that year, in which the gold value of the rupee rose to a greater extent than has occurred for the last thirty years. According to certain theories this rise in exchange should have had a depressing effect an island which mainly depends for its prosperity on its exporting power. This is, however, the official Report:The progress of the island during the year under review was very marked. The rise in 190 the revenue, amounting to considerably more than Rx. 2,000,000, to use a popular phrase, 'broke all previous records.' This satisfactory increase was in no wise due to increased taxation or any unexpected windfall, but to the general prosperity of the island, the people of which, in the year under review, imported more goods, travelled more, bought more Crown land, ate and drank more, wrote more letters and telegrams, and generally flourished more than in any previous year, to the no small gain of themselves and the Government.I can say on behalf of myself that I never should have taken the interest that I have taken in this question, or have exerted myself to try to bring about the establishment of a gold standard in India, unless I had satisfied myself that the establishment of such a standard would be one of the most effective instruments by which we could improve the industrial condition of the lowest-paid of the wage-earners of India. The Committee in their Report do not favour the idea of raising a great loan for the purpose of buying gold and thus accelerating the period at which convertibility would be commenced. I admit the strength of some of the objections urged against a policy of borrowing for the acquisition and accumulation of gold, and we are ready to forego for the present any intention of that kind, but subject to this understanding we intend to utilise all our powers and opportunities to push on the currency changes proposed by the Committee through the procedure suggested by the Committee. We hoped, and we still hope, not to borrow this year, but if the failure of crops in the central and western portions of India becomes serious and exchange with India in consequence is upset, either as regards the rate or the amount of the bills tendered, we may find difficulty in providing the ways and means we anticipated, in which case we shall be compelled, as on former occasions, to fall back upon the existing borrowing powers. After the fullest consideration and after an examination extending now over many years into the currency system of India, we have deliberately arrived at the conclusion that the attainment of a gold standard is desirable in the interests of the Indian people; and we shall not in any way be deterred from vigorously prosecuting that policy by all the means in our power merely because the next phase through which it has to advance may be coincident with an abnormal and temporary failure of crops. But, while I 191 am quite ready to forego for the present the idea of a special loan, there are two aids of a very different character to which we can legitimately have recourse, and which will undoubtedly accelerate convertibility. There is a most important suggestion to which the name of Mr. Hambro is appended. Mr. Hambro is a Governor of the Bank of England and a financier deservedly occupying a position of high reputation in the City, and he speaks with authority when he points out that the insufficient banking facilities of India will be an obstacle to the realisation of the proposals of the Committee, and undoubtedly banking in India has not kept pace with the growth of trade and commerce. The presidency banks do their work very well, but their capital is small, and, as regards their available cash balances, these are almost entirely supplied by one account—namely, that of the Government. In a paper which was laid before the Committee, Sir James Westland points out that during the thirteen weeks of the busiest part of the year 90 per cent. of the available cash balances of the Bank of Bengal were derived from the Government account, and 80 per cent. of the cash balances of the Bank of Bombay were derived from the same source. The Government account forms a very much larger proportion of the cash balances of the presidency banks in India than is the case here, for at times the Bank of England could almost dispense with the Government account and still carry on their business; and it must be remembered that the cash balances of the presidency banks in India form a far more important banking factor there than do the Bank of England cash balances here, and that the flow and movement of cash in India is very much slower than is the case in England. I have certainly come to the conclusion from my experience that we are endeavouring to finance the export commerce and trade of India on too narrow a cash basis, or perhaps I should be more correct in saying too narrow a loan able capital basis. I believe there is room for a bank such as that suggested by Mr. Hambro, but in attempting to establish any such bank the legitimate rights of the presidency banks must in no sense be prejudiced or overlooked. Some contend that there would be difficulty in finding continuous employment for a bank with a large amount of capital, but Mr. Alfred de Rothschild, 192 who speaks with exceptional authority on this point, read an admirable paper before the Committee, which pointed to an opposite conclusion. The views which I have expressed are, I know, held both by the Viceroy and the Finance Minister in India; we are in communication with the Indian Government on this point. Although I quite admit that there are various serious difficulties to be overcome they do not seem to be in any sense insuperable. If we can establish in India a great bank somewhat on the lines of the Bank of England or the Bank of France, we should have a most powerful ally in effecting ourobject—viz.,the establishment of a gold standard and currency in India. But there is another method by which we can accelerate convertibility, and the preliminary steps for giving effect to this idea have already been taken. The production of gold in Southern India is estimated to amount to the annual value of £1,500,000. This gold is all shipped to London, and freight paid upon it by the exporter. We are entering into preliminary arrangements with the southern companies by which the Indian Government will have the option of purchasing this gold in exchange for rupees, and thus we shall contrive to annually increase our store of gold without in any degree interfering with or drawing upon the stocks of gold reserve in this country. Short, therefore, of raising a loan, we utilise all our powers and opportunities of giving affect to the policy laid down by the Committee, which is the consummation of the action taken in 1893 by the closing of the mints. We are now within a few months of the dawn of a now century. I earnestly hope that we may be able to associate the commencement of this new epoch with the establishment of continual financial surpluses in India available either for the remission of taxation, or the development of the industrial resources of the country, and that we shall be further able to associate these advantages with the establishment of a currency system which will give to India the fullest benefit, both monetary and commercial, of her direct connection with the cheapest, the largest, and the most fructifying money market in the world.
§ MR. CALDWELL (Lanark, Mid)
I beg to move: "That under the existing procedure the superintending authority of Parliament over Indian affairs is not 193 effectively exercised; that the salary of the Secretary of State for India should be placed on the Estimates; that the Debate on the Indian Budget should be appointed for an earlier day in the session; and that, with a view to the more effectual discharge by this House of its existing duty to the unrepresented Indian taxpayer, the East India Accounts should each year be referred to a Select Committee, with instructions to report on any special features deserving the attention of the House." I do not intend to go into the matters of detail which have been so ably discussed by the noble Lord in the most satisfactory account which he has given of the progress of India, and upon which I may be allowed to congratulate him. India is largely dependent on its agricultural produce for its prosperity. It is a well-known fact that agricultural prosperity all over the world has largely increased, and it is impossible that India should not lie benefited from the same. But if a depression in the prices of agricultural produce were to come this year, or later, India would be certain to suffer. Another fact has to be borne in mind, and that is the phenomenal increase in the population. In olden times that increase in the population was kept down by tribal wars and famines. The policy of the British Government has been to prevent these tribal wars and famines, but that policy has increased the population to the extent of 70,000,000. "What is necessary for the prosperity of India is irrigation works and the extension of railways, and any expenditure on these two items will amply repay the capital invested in them. The noble Lord has stated that it is the intention of the Government to open up the mineral wealth of the country; but that will take a considerable time, and not very much is to be expected from it for many years. The noble Lord also referred to the expansion of manufactures in India. We know quite well that the manufactures in Bombay and Calcutta have been of great advantage to India, but these have been regarded with a certain amount of jealousy in this country, which has been in the habit of regarding India as an appanage for the benefit of our manufactures. The noble Lord did not touch upon one factor which has an important bearing on the social condition of the people of India. I refer to money-lending at exorbitant rates. It is all 194 very well in a country like this to have free trade in money; but that policy is not suited to the conditions of India, and a legal rate of interest should be fixed. Every Member of the House of Commons is naturally the representative of the people of India. We profess to be greatly interested as to the granting of the franchise to the people in the Transvaal, but what about the franchise in India? It is not sufficient to say that India is progressing under British rule. If this country were under French or German rule, it would not be much comfort to us to be told that the country was prosperous. We would urge that it was the right of the inhabitants to have some voice in the government of their own country. My first point is that under the existing procedure, the superintending authority of Parliament over Indian affairs is not effectually exercised. Anyone can see quite well that there is no effective discussion of Indian affairs in this House, and very little interest is taken in these affairs by the ordinary Members of the House. My second point is, that the salary of the Secretary of State for India should be placed on the Estimates. Nothing could be more reasonable. The salary of the Secretary of State for the Colonies is placed on the Estimates, and surely the salary of the Secretary of State for India, which is the most important appanage and jewel of the British Crown, should also be placed on the Estimates, especially as we are dealing with a civilised population which have no rights of their own, and no direct representation in this House. My third point is, that the Debate on the Indian Budget should be appointed for an earlier day in the session. The peoples of India have no representation here in the management of their own affairs, and anyone looking into this House can see the amount of interest taken in Indian affairs, which are relegated to a period of the session when everybody is away. I do not know anything more calculated to create discontent among perhaps the most contented people on earth. We have often heard in this House that we ought to have this Estimate referred to a Select Committee in order that we might have a Report on Supply. If that is the proper thing generally, surely it is more so in the case of India, and I see no reason why the noble Lord should not accept its being. 195 sent to a Committee. I think that the acceptance of a resolution of this kind would not only tend to the contentment of the people of India when they felt the advantage of it, but that it is the only way to obtain their sympathies.
§ SIR WILLIAM WEDDERBURN (Banffshire)
When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton was Secretary of State for India he declared in this House that all the Members of the House were Members for India. The sentiment was received by hon. Members with great enthusiasm; and I rejoiced that this was so, as showing that they recognised their responsibility towards India. At the same time, looking to-night at the empty benches, it must be confessed that the attendance is not what it would have been if the vital interests of British constituents had been in question. I will, however, gladly assume that this House sincerely desires to perform its duty of superintending Indian affairs and redressing Indian grievances; and my remarks will be of a strictly practical kind, showing how the machinery of this House fails to secure the object in view. I speak from sad personal experience, for during the last six years I have striven to get a hearing for the Indian view of Indian affairs, but in no case have I been able to obtain independent inquiry into any complaint, nor the redress of any Indian grievance, whether that grievance is suffered by an individual, by a class, or by the whole Indian people. Even in this country serious grievances arise, although the supreme authority is in the hands of the representatives of the taxpayers. It will be readily understood that grievances are more liable to arise in India, where the taxpayers have no voice whatever in the choice of their rulers; where the whole power is in the hands of officials; and where those officials, though undoubtedly able and honest, are foreigners, imperfectly acquainted with the people, and dependent for information upon ill-paid and untrustworthy subordinates. Under this system serious grievances must necessarily arise. The question is, what machinery exists by which the House of Commons, as the ultimate Court of Appeal, can secure the hearing of complaints and the redress of these grievances? The theory, of course, is that this can be done through the 196 Secretary of State for India. He is supposed to be responsible to Parliament, and when dealing with Indian complaints he is supposed to occupy a position of judicial impartiality. But this is altogether a delusion. The Secretary of State for India, being backed by the Ministerial majority, is, in Indian matters, practically the master, not the servant of the House of Commons; and so far from being an impartial judge, ready to hear complaints and eager to afford redress, he is in reality the mouthpiece and champion of the official hierarchy, against whom the complaints are made. Deriving his views and information solely from the India Office, he becomes naturally the apologist of all official acts, and resents every complaint as a reflection upon the administration of which he is the head. Accordingly the regular routine is to refuse all independent inquiry; to refer complaints for report to the official complained against; and when that official pleads not guilty, to assure the House that no grievance exists. Unfortunately also, this refusal of independent inquiry extends even to important questions of fact where there is no personal complaint against an official. For example, for the last forty years I have specially interested myself in the ryots, the peasant proprietors who form the mass of the Indian population. Now, there exists an irreconcilable difference of opinion as to their condition. The India Office theory is that the ryot is a fat and comfortable person, increasing each year in prosperity, pleasantly conscious of the blessings of British rule. On the other hand, all Indian public opinion knows and asserts that he is a miserable starveling, hopelessly in debt to the money-lender; without store of food, money, or credit; living from hand to mouth, so that he readily dies from famine if there is a failure of one harvest. Here is a clear issue of fact; and, again and again, I have asked for a detailed village inquiry which would settle the point. No expense to speak of need be incurred. All that is wanted is to select a few typical villages in each province and ascertain the detailed facts of the ryot's condition, the inquiry being conducted by independent local committees, including officials and non-officials, Europeans and Indians. The village community is the microcosm of all India; if we could find out how to make one village prosperous, we should have a clue 197 to make prosperous the half-million of villages of which India is made up. Three times in the last three years I have moved resolutions in this House asking for such an inquiry, and on each occasion it has been refused. I think I have said enough to show that the House of Commons cannot depend upon the Secretary of State for India to give a ready hearing to complaints, to make impartial inquiry, and to afford effectual protection to the weak against the strong. Failing him, what other machinery exists in the House of Commons for the redress of Indian grievances? There is the official Opposition, and in all other Departments, the ex-Minister takes the lead in criticising the doings of his successor on the Treasury Bench. But this is not the case as regards India. The ex-Minister, during his term of office, has become so thoroughly saturated with the spirit and traditions of the India Office that he cannot emancipate himself when he crosses to the Opposition side; so that when Indian complaints are under debate he seldom comes forward, and when he does it is generally to exchange compliments with his successor in office, and denounce the independent Member who has brought forward the grievance. Unfortunately also the group of independent Members who try to redress Indian grievances got little support or encouragement of public opinion in their uphill battle. As a general rule the Press seems to find some curious satisfaction and amusement in recording how the House empties itself when India is discussed, and instead of rebuking this neglect of duty it calls the speakers on behalf of India bores and faddists, as if the "ancient tale of woe" of the Indian cultivator was a topic suitable for light and humorous treatment. One hundred and twenty years ago Edmund Burke lamented this corrupted condition of public opinion in England, which, he said, "makes all reform of our Eastern Government appear officious and disgusting." He pointed out that "in such an attempt you hurt those who are able to return kindness and resent injury." "If you succeed you save those who cannot so much as give you thanks. … Our Indian Government is in its best state a grievance. But it is an arduous thing to plead against abuses of a power which originates from your own country, and affects those whom we are used to consider as strangers." Unhappily things 198 are now much worse than they were when those words were spoken, especially in two particulars. In those days India was administered in the name of the East India Company, and there existed a wholesome jealousy, both in the House of Commons and the country, of a chartered monopoly. That wholesome jealousy has been lulled to sleep since the Crown has openly assumed the administration. The other great benefit that India then enjoyed, and has now lost, was that every twenty years there was a full and impartial inquiry into the Indian administration, previous to the renewal of the charter. Out of those inquiries arose all the most useful and progressive reforms by which Parliament has benefited India. Also, the East India Company put its house in order and redressed grievances when those inquiries were in sight. Now all these benefits are lost. Since 1856 there has been no such inquiry, no day of reckoning for the Indian administration, and the Indian people are quite powerless to obtain that thorough and independent investigation into facts which used to come to them automatically and without effort once every twenty years.
§ SIR WILLIAM WEDDERBURN
The House of Commons examined whoever was willing to give evidence, and all grievances were brought forward.
§ SIR WILLIAM WEDDERBURN
Fortunately now we can get intelligent persons to give evidence who are not in that position. I think I have sufficiently shown that, with the existing machinery, Parliament is not in a position to redress Indian grievances. Indeed, our system does not even provide a hearing for complaints. The question is, what are the remedies? Our suggestions are of a mild and moderate kind, which need frighten nobody. The first is that the Indian Budget Debate should be brought on at an earlier date in the session. An hon. friend on the other side has just put down an Amendment to my motion to the effect that the present system is satisfactory. But I hardly think his approval will extend to the practice 199 of postponing to the last day of the session the financial affairs of our 250 million Indian fellow-subjects. I will not labour this point, for I know that in this matter I have the sympathy of the House. I have not yet found a Member who did not consider this practice, which is common to all Governments, a scandal and a discredit. Our next proposal is that the Indian accounts should be referred to a Select Committee to report on any special feature deserving the attention of the House. Surely this is a reasonable proposal, and in accordance with the practice of the House, when it has to deal with any intricate and important matter. Three years ago I brought forward this proposal, but it was rejected by the noble Lord the Secretary of State, who said that "he was convinced that it would be almost impossible to bring the members of a Committee of this kind together in sufficient numbers and sufficiently often to enable them to report with effect on a question of such importance." I submit that this is an undeserved reflection upon the industry and capacity of the House. One reason why at present an Indian financial Debate is futile is because there are no clear issues for decision, and because no hearing is given to the case for the Indian taxpayer. This would in some degree be remedied if independent members of the Legislative Council in Calcutta had power to move Amendments on the Budget and divide the Council. These Amendments would show the crucial points which a Select Committee should consider, reporting the result for the decision of the House. Our third proposal is that the salary of the Secretary of State should be placed on the Estimates, like the salary of the Colonial Secretary. This would be a financial justice to India, which ought not to pay for the current business of the House of Commons; but it would also afford a constitutional opportunity for dealing with Indian grievances. I have sometimes occasion to bring forward grievances in other Departments of the State, and have always received courteous treatment from Ministers, who give a ready hearing to complaints, never refuse inquiry, and generally discover some means of redress. I cannot say the same of Indian Secretaries of State, who are conveniently free from the ordeal of getting through Votes on the British Estimates, while their own salaries are beyond the reach of the 200 House of Commons, being taken direct from the Indian Exchequer. I am convinced that if the noble Lord's salary had been on the Estimates such a grievance as that of the Natu brothers would have been redressed long ago, as in the case of Dr. Lament, who had to wait till the hon. Baronet the Member for the Bridgeton Division compelled attention by moving a reduction of the Scottish Secretary's salary. It is now more than two years since the Natu brothers were cast into prison, without trial, and without to this day knowing the real cause of their imprisonment. When questioned in the House the noble Lord has given contradictory replies on this point. In August, 1897, he stated that they were imprisoned in order to unravel a murderous conspiracy. But the murderers of Mr. Rand and Lieut. Ayeost have been discovered, tried, and executed; and the presiding judge found that the crime was an isolated act of fanaticism, and that there was no murderous conspiracy at all. Next, in February, 1898, the noble Lord said that the Natus were imprisoned because they worked against the plague regulations. But the published correspondence shows that Sirdar Natu acted zealously on the Committee for carrying out the plague regulations, and that he did so at the personal request of the Governor of Bombay. Again, in April 1898, a third and different reason was given, when the noble Lord said that the Natus were detained because the public tranquillity was endangered. Upon this the comment of the Times of India, the leading Press supporter of the Government, is as follows:The time has come for the Government either to bring the detention of these men to an end, or to take the public more into their confidence in regard to it than they have yet done.And referring to the modified arrangement, under which the Natus are now detained at Belgaum away from their homes, this journal argues that:If so light a restraint as confinement within the limits of a spacious collectorate is sufficient to make these men harmless to the State, they cannot now be very dangerous, persons.We have heard much of the Dreyfus scandal, and rejoice that it is now being dealt with by the French Government. 201 But in some respects the case of the Natus is worse, for Captain Dreyfus had some sort of trial, whereas the Natu brothers are absolutely refused a trial, and do not even know the reason of their imprisonment. I submit that the good name of this House is involved in this case, and that the Natu brothers should be either tried or released. In seconding this resolution, I appeal for support to independent Members on both sides of the House. No revolutionary changes are proposed, but only constitutional methods of fulfilling our existing duty of superintendence and control over Indian affairs. Poor India has been suffering in the last few years from war, famine, and pestilence. This need not be so. On the contrary, with an industrious and docile population, and a fine soil and climate, India ought, under British rule, to be the abode of peace and of plenty.
To leave out from the word 'that' to the end of Question, in order to add the words. 'under the existing procedure the superintending authority of Parliament over Indian affairs is not effectively exercised; that the salary of the Secretary of State for India should be placed on the Estimates; that the Debate on the Indian Budget should be appointed for an earlier day in the session; and that, with a view to the more effectual discharge by this House of its existing duty to the unrepresented Indian taxpayer, the East India Accounts should each year be referred to a Select Committee with instructions to report on any special features deserving the attention of the House.' "—(Mr. Caldwell)—instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ COLONEL MILWARD (Warwickshire, Stratford-on-Avon)
I rise for the purpose of opposing the Amendment which has been placed upon the Paper. It proposes that the salary of the Secretary of State should be placed on the Estimates of this country, but I do not see any possibility of that being done unless this country wishes to pay that salary for the sake of discussing Indian affairs. I agree with that part of the resolution which says that the Debate on the Budget should take place on an earlier day, but I presume the difficulty is that the accounts of India are made up to the 31st March, and that it is almost impossible that they should be considered here, and discussed, much earlier than is now the case. With 202 reference to the Select Committee which it is proposed to form for the purpose of considering these accounts, the House will probably agree that it has quite enough accounts of its own to consider without embroiling itself in the accounts of India. The House has not forgotten the farce which took place on Thursday evening last, when we walked through the lobbies about eighteen times in Divisions upon the accounts of our own country, and upon many of which we were unable to say a single word. Apart from that, I wish to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the accounts and affairs of India are managed by a set of men of the very highest qualifications, and it is simply impossible that we could meddle with or effectually superintend those accounts without taking away from the responsibilities which rest quite properly upon, our Indian Civil Service. Within the last few months I made a short tour in India, and I had opportunities of making myself acquainted with certain phases of Indian official life, and especially of frontier life. One of the first gentlemen I was speaking with on this subject was the Colonel commanding the 2nd Goorkhas, who was at one time private secretary to Lord Roberts, and therefore had an inner view of official life. He suggested to me that the army we have in India is too small for the great responsibilities which are laid upon it, and that our frontier is so great that our troops are not sufficiently numerous to guard it properly. I said, of course, that the army of India and the affairs of India depended very largely upon the politics of Europe, and the question of the possible invasion of India was certainly more a question for us at home than for India; and therefore it seemed only fair and reasonable that this country should contribute a portion of the cost of maintaining an army which was expressly put through for the purpose of resisting an advance from the north. The Colonel's reply to that struck me very forcibly. He said, "We do not wish Parliament to direct or have any right of minute interference with our financial affairs, such as it would have if it made a grant towards the maintenance of the army." It occurred to me at the time that that was probably the explanation of what took place some three years ago when hon. Members opposite were very anxious that we should contribute 203 £2,000,000, I think it was, towards the expenses of the Chitral expedition, and the Secretary of State for India on the part of the Indian Government declined it. It also has to be considered whether in dealing with our colonies with regard to finance we do not very often look at them through coloured spectacles—coloured in the interests of this country. In the West Indies we have colonies which are actually going into lower and lower depths of ruin, but which could be saved at once were it not for the fact that this country is so wedded to a system of its own that it would rather see these colonies go to ruin than stretch out its hand in a particular direction to help them. Then too, all through the recent sugar Debate it was the policy of England and not the policy of India that was being discussed. It was simply the fear that countervailing duties might be introduced in this country. Everyone was looking through the coloured spectacle of England with regard to the Cotton Duties. Some three or four years ago India was obliged to put a tariff of 5 per cent. on almost every article that came to India; we forced the country to adopt an excise duty for the sake of our English manufacturers; that is to say we increased the cost—not of a luxury, but of a prime necessity of life—for the sake not of India, but of our population at home. Under these circumstances I am not surprised that India will not have more direct interference from this country than she can help. If for no other reason, I should oppose this motion because it is inopportune. At this moment, as the Secretary of State has pointed out, we see India singularly prosperous and well governed; she is using her prosperity in the best possible way, namely, for the purposes of constructing railroads and developing her manufactures and commerce. She is also at the same time largely diminishing the military expenditure which presses so greatly on the people of India. During the last few days we have seen in the papers that the military expenditure on the north-west frontier has been largely reduced. When I was in India I went through the Khyber Pass, and I found it already marked the whole way where the new railway was to go.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! I must remind the hon. Member that the 204 only question before the House is the procedure and method by which this House should exercise its superintendence and control over the affairs of India. That is the only question as long as this Amendment is under consideration.
§ COLONEL MILWARD
With reference to that, I was using the argument that India herself is at the present moment advancing by the very means we desire; she is exercising the very greatest economy, and endeavouring to expend her revenues in the best possible way. However, I might very easily go too far in that direction, and I will merely say that I most strongly oppose the resolution which has been brought forward. Another reason why I oppose it is the splendid character, to which I have already alluded, of our Indian civil servants. I had always believed that we had sent to India to serve us, both in the Army and Civil Service, men of the very highest quality, but when I visited that country I was surprised at the splendid men that are to be found there in every branch of the service. It would be a slight upon those men to pass such a resolution as this, which is really a reflection upon the administration which has hitherto taken place in India. Nor must we forget the noble Lord who left here last year to take up the Viceroyalty of India. We could put no greater slight upon him than to choose this particular opportunity of saying that the whole accounts of the administration of India should be controlled and checked by this House. When Lord Curzon went to India there were some on both sides of the House who thought he might pursue a policy which was not only not particularly safe, but even venturous with regard to the countries outside India, but from what I have heard and seen in India——
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Member is again travelling into questions which are not before the House.
§ MR. HARWOOD (Bolton)
I venture to ask the House to look at this matter from the point of view of one who is not perhaps very familiar with 205 Indian matters, but one quite familiar with the official presentation of things, and if the noble Lord will allow me I would venture to congratulate him on the rose-water sprinkling he has given the House this afternoon. That official treatment reminds one of a sort of political "Badminton," in which a shuttlecock of pleasant phrases is tossed from one Front Bench to the other. Then we have those who speak on behalf of the natives of India, who have not many people to speak for them; but I do not propose to look at the matter from that point of view, because I think it may be pressed too far. I am not at all disposed to agree with everything of which natives complain, nor do I think it would be wise to grant everything they desire. But there is a third point of view—that of the ordinary English Member of Parliament who looks at the simple facts of the case. What are those facts? Surely there is nothing more wonderful than the fact of the government of India by the people of England—the government of a country containing a quarter of the population of the globe, the home of philosophy and of all the most interesting products of human intellect and human fancy, as it were the very destination at which Alexander arrived—this country, containing a quarter of the population of the globe, and that population differing in race, tradition, and language, ruled by the white-faced people of a little island in the Northern Sea, more than 8,000 miles away. I say, this is a fact which has charmed my fancy since boyhood, and when I came to this House I thought it was a fact which would fire the imagination and stir the enthusiasm of the House of Commons. At all times I expected that that would be so, but more especially should I expect it in these days—days of rampant Imperialism, when everything concerning the Empire seems to catch popular interest and stir popular enthusiasm; and also when we remember that India is the keystone of the arch of our whole Empire. If we so misgovern India as to lose her, then farewell to the British Empire. That being so, I should have expected that Indian questions, and particularly the great Debate—I will not call it the "great" Debate, but the Debate on the Indian Budget—would, at any rate, firstly, be taken at a convenient time; and secondly, be attended by a full House. 206 What do I find? I find that this question is relegated to the last dying gasp of the session, when only a few wearied Members can assemble, with whatever intellect they possess pretty well used up and their physical energy equally exhausted. There is an inconsistency somewhere, and it makes me doubt all these fine phrases about our Imperial instinct and our Imperial devotion when I see what that devotion leads to. Surely it is a sort of insult to these people whom you are governing not to care to give more attention to, or to put more spirit into, our consideration of their affairs. It may be said, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite remarked, that we have got faith in our own people. I would echo with the greatest possible pleasure all that is said on that point. I do not think any country in the world has over produced a class of public servants of whom that country might be so proud as may this country be of its public servants in India at the present time. I am quite prepared to admit that, but that is not the question. The question is a deeper one than that. It is, is it wise, is it right for us so to handle our responsibilities that we do not pay the least attention to those responsibilities, but put all this load upon the backs of our public servants? In the first place, it is not just to those public servants, because their services are. not understood or appreciated as they would be if they were fairly discussed in this House and fairly known and considered by Parliament. Secondly, it is not just to the people whom we entrust to these servants. The common teaching of all history and political experience is the dangers of bureaucracy. That is the lesson we are learning from the contemporary history of other countries in other parts of the world, and yet we choose to hand over a quarter of the population of the globe to this bureaucratic government. However good or however capable that government may be, it is not a wise policy for an enlightened country like this to adopt in regard to a vast Empire such as ours. Some of the papers say that the Indian Debate is a solemn farce. I question the accuracy of the expression. It is not dignified enough to be solemn, and certainly it is not humorous enough to be called a farce. Looking at the bare facts—the one fact, this mighty Empire; the other fact, our responsibility towards it, and the atten 207 tion given to that responsibility—I say it is not a farce; it is a tragedy, and it is a tragedy which makes me ashamed of the pretensions I hear and read, ashamed of our loud boasts of Empire, when we care to do so little for it and pay so little attention to it. This state of things is not an accident; it is not a dramatic incident merely; but it is an indication of a direct policy against which we are bound to protest—the policy of bureaucratic government. This Debate is an instance of the way in which the financial statement is brought forward. It has been said that it could not be brought forward earlier because the accounts are only made up to March 31st. Surely there is no law of the Modes and Persians as to making up the accounts to that particular date. Surely if it is worth while, in order that Parliament might consider these accounts at a proper time, and have opportunity of discussing them, they could be made up to a different date. But I see the same thing in regard to India herself. There is one question which proves that there is a deliberate attempt to do away with representative government of India as far as this Parliament is concerned, and there is also a deliberate attempt to do away with representative government in India as far as its local affairs are concerned. I would mention Calcutta as a case in point. It would not be so much in itself, but it is one link of a chain. What is one result of this bureaucratic government? It is our daring to do with India what we should not dare to do with any other portion of the Empire. We are going to make her the corpus vile of economic experiments. Sugar bounties form a case in question. That is probably too large a point to be discussed here, but I say emphatically that we have no right to make India the testing ground for economic heresies of that kind when India must pay the consequences. The House ought only to take such steps with its eyes wide open, and ought to be prepared to do in its own country all that it does in regard to other countries for which it is responsible. I congratulate the noble Lord upon the departure which has been made in the matter of the currency. Reference has been made to the selfishness of the county from which I come. I can only say, that as far as I know the feeling of the county, it is unanimous infavour of the policy which the 208 Government has adopted as to the currency. I am not quite clear that the arrangement of having an unlimited supply of silver——
§ MR. HARWOOD
I was only instancing this as one illustration of our method of governing against which I protest. I will not go further, except to say as to developing the resources of India, particularly as to gold and iron—
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! I must again remind the House that the only question before it is whether the mode of procedure under which this House exercises its control of Indian affairs is capable of amendment or alteration. The question of the affairs of India generally and the policy of this country towards India generally is not a matter for discussion on this Amendment.
§ MR. HARWOOD
I quite see the justice of your decision. I will only say, therefore, that I thoroughly support the Amendment, on the ground which you have ruled to be the ground of discussion—viz., that I consider our system of governing India, of bringing on this Debate and making the financial statement so late in the session, and putting the Secretary of State without the purview of the criticism of this House, as not a system which is wise for India or wise for England.
§ SIR H. H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
I should not have interposed in this Debate just now but for the speech which my hon. friend has just made. I feel that I must not transgress the rule you have laid down with reference to this Debate, and as there are half-a-dozen remarks I should like to make on the statement of the noble Lord, if the House will allow me so to do, I will submit them when we have disposed of this Amendment. But I must say a word or two in defence of the Government of India and the supervision of the Government of India by this House, arid also in defence of the House itself, after the speech of my hon. friend to which we have just listened with so much pleasure. My hon. friend has been in Parliament 209 long enough to be familiar with its recent history so far as Indian matters are concerned, and I say with all respect to him that it is not correct, or in accordance with the facts of the case, to state here, and to let it go from here to India, that this House—and I am speaking of the House as a whole—is indifferent to Indian affairs. I venture to say that during the last few years there have been no Debates which have excited greater interest, and there have been no more important Divisions than those upon Indian affairs. I might instance the Debates upon Indian finance, upon Frontier policy, the Debates upon Chitral, the Debates upon questions which have been raised with reference to the internal policy of India, and the Debate to which the hon. Member himself alluded in regard to the recent change in the fiscal system of India. All these matters have excited interest in all parts of the House. Members of all shades of opinion have spoken upon them, and attention has been drawn to them in every organ of public opinion in the country, and the decisions upon them—it is not for me to say whether those decisions were right or wrong, with some of them I have agreed, and from others I have differed—are the decisions of the House of Commons, not of a bureaucracy, but of the House of Commons, representing for the time being the decision of the majority of the constituencies of this country. No man has a right to imply—and I am sure the hon. Member is the last man to wish to convey a wrong impression—thatthis House is indifferent to Indian affairs, or treats them as a solemn farce or tragedy.
§ MR. HARWOOD
I did not wish for one moment to convey that impression. I wished to imply that this House has not an opportuity of showing its interest, because of the date fixed for the Debate.
§ SIR H. H. FOWLER
I am very glad my hon. friend interposed, because I am sure he did not wish to convey a wrong impression, and I am glad to have given him the opportunity of making it perfectly clear to the public, as it was capable of some misapprehension. I go, however, to the gravamen of this Resolution, and I join issue not only upon the remedies but on the allegations therein set forth. I say the superintend 210 ing authority of Parliament over Indian affairs is effectively exercised, and I say that, in my judgment, the modes proposed would not promote the more efficient discharge of that duty. The government of India is a statutory government. It is a government prescribed and regulated by Acts of Parliament, and Parliament alone has the power to alter or modify that form of government. The government of India is a government unique in itself. We have no parallel for it elsewhere in the British constitution, and we are liable to fall into error when we attempt to apply to it either the illustration of our government at home, or of our self-governing colonies, or of our Crown colonies. It is not a self-governing colony. It is not a Crown colony, which is practically a despotism tempered to a certain extent by some local adminstration under the control of the Secretary of State. Parliament has constituted for India—and it is not for me to say whether Parliament was right or wrong; all I want to impress upon the House is what Parliament has done, Parliament has constituted for India a legislative authority, and it has constituted an executive authority, and it has put both those authorities under the control of a Cabinet Minister responsible to the House of Commons. The Secretary of State for India is as responsible to the House of Commons for every act of Indian policy as is the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, or the Secretary of State for the Colonies, or the Secretary of State for the Home Department. I will not weary the House by quoting what I quoted a very few weeks ago—the lucid, powerful, and unanswerable argument of Lord Salisbury as to the absolute responsibility of the Secretary of State for every Department of Indian affairs. Parliament has associated with the Secretary of State—and again there is no parallel for this in any part of the Empire—a Council or Cabinet or Select Committee. In these Debates this Council is generally ignored or some offensive remark is made about it—as, for example, that it is an official hierarchy—but there is no more important body of public men discharging public duty in this kingdom at this moment than the Indian Council of the Secretary of State. It is a Council which is always in session. It has no holidays. It is bound by Act of Parlia- 211 ment to meet every week. Its longest vacation is from Monday in one week to Saturday in the next. It sits all the year round. It must be presided over either by the Secretary of State or by a Vice-President, who is chosen at the commencement of every year. We are told we want men of experience of Indian affairs—not ignorant Secretaries of State who come and go, and who, never having been there, know nothing about India. I will trouble the House with the names of a few of the men who constitute that council. On the civil side we have Sir Alfred Lyall's. Will any man question Sir Alfred Lyall's knowledge of India in every aspect of its government, history, and administration? We have Sir James Peile, Sir Steuart Bayley, Sir Charles Crosthwaite, Sir Dennis Fitzpatrick, and we are glad to hear that to the Indian Council is to be added that able financier, Sir James Westland. These are all men whose names are written on the pages of the history of India—who know all about it, who have governed with singular success some of the largest provinces under the British Crown, men who have spent their lives in India, and who are as jealous for the honour of England in connection with India, who are as anxious to promote the well-being of the people of India, rich or poor, high or low, as any man in this House or in this kingdom. Associated with these great administrators you have two distinguished judges, the late Chief Justice of the North-West Provinces, and another distinguished Judge who served in the India Office in a judicial capacity, Sir John Edge and Sir Philip Hutchins. Then, with a great military empire you require a military representation, and I think Field-Marshal Sir Donald Stewart and General Gordon well represent the Military Department on the Council. Added to these you have commerce represented by one of the most distinguished English and Indian merchants, who has spent the greater part of his life in India, who is well known in the City of London, Sir James Mackay, and you have also one of the most distinguished bankers in the City of London, Mr. Le Marchant, who is the successor of Mr. Bertram Currie. Such are the men who form the Council of India, and I do not think the public really know how the government of India is carried on, and they cannot know it without appreciating the men by 212 whom it is carried on. The Council is divided into committees. There is the Finance Department, the Military Department, the Political Department, the Judicial Department, the Public Works Department, and the Revenue and Statistical Department, and in every one of these great departments you have distinguished permanent Civil servants, men of the character and class of Sir Francis Mowatt, Sir Alfred Milner, Sir Arthur Godley, and Sir George Murray. This Council is divided up into committees, constantly sitting, constantly overhauling, constantly controlling the whole administration of India. And when you say that grievances are not considered I give to that allegation the most positive contradiction of which the English language is capable. All grievances are considered by the Council and by its committees, and by the Secretary of State personally. I know no Department where there is a more vigorous personal supervision in all its working than there is in the Indian Department. The Secretary of State being assisted by such distinguished men as I have mentioned, and his Parliamentary responsibility being unchallenged, what do we want further in the way of superintending authority? We must apply the analogy of the superintending authority of other Departments. The Secretary of State has to undergo—and I know what it means myself—a daily fire of questions. I have always resisted any attempt to curtail the right of hon. Members to ask questions in the House. I know no more effective control than the power of asking questions Next there is the opportunity of the debate on the Address. For several years there has always been an Indian Amendment. Then there are the opportunities of Debates on specific subjects. Certainly the policies both of the past and present Secretaries of State have been submitted to the censure or approval of the House, and the House has dealt with them on great questions. I can go back to my own recollection. There was an important Debate on the cotton duties. My action on that occasion was challenged and the House did not see fit to censure me. Then a very important question was raised with reference to the opium question, and there was a full Debate and a very large division upon it. Then there was another question on which I acted with the 213 full approval of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, and not on my own authority, as has often been said. I declined to carry out the resolution of the House with reference to competitive examinations, a resolution which in the opinion of Mr. Gladstone and his colleagues menaced the existence of the British Power in India. A deputation waited on me to remonstrate with me on my action, and I frankly admitted that I had done what might be called an unconstitutional thing in disregarding a resolution of the House of Commons; but I told them that I should stand by my action, and that I was quite willing to take the judgment of the House upon it. I said that if they desired to propose a vote of censure upon what I had done I would insist on the Leader of the House giving a day for its discussion. But they never asked for a day. They never put a motion down, and I perfectly understood why, because a member of the deputation said, "If we did get a day you would get a large majority." I said, "Perhaps I should," but I declined, as I was of opinion that a snatch Vote, carried by a majority of eight on a Friday, evening in a House of somewhere between fifty and a hundred Members, was not the deliberate judgment of the House of Commons on a question of vital importance to the maintenance of our rule in India. I am simply quoting that to show that there is the amplest opportunity of challenging the conduct of the Secretary of State for India. The present Secretary of State has been more subjected than I was to this mode of warfare. He has had to face a great Debate on the retention of Chitral, as well as Debates on Indian troops being sent to the Soudan, and upon, the great question of policy in connection with the sugar bounties. On all these occasions the House had opportunities of exercising its control over the Secretary of State, and my point is that the Indian Minister is subject to the same control as any other Minister of State. Then it is said that the Budget is brought in too late in the session. The hon. Member asks, "Is there any reason why it should not be brought in earlier?" There is one reason. There is an Act of Parliament which prevents the Debate being taken before May 15. Within fourteen days after May 1st the Secretary of State is bound to lay on the Table a 214 full statement of the Indian revenue and expenditure, and of the moral and material progress of India. If the House really wished the Indian Budget to come on a month or six weeks earlier the matter is in its own hands, for no Minister would resist the feeling of the House on that point. But the Secretary of State is in no way responsible in the matter. It rests entirely in the hands of the Leader of the House, and Leaders on both sides of the House have taken the same view, and put the Budget off to the last hours of the session. But when the Budget does come on there is no automatic closure; the Debate is unrestricted, and can be protracted to a late hour. I repeat, the House of Commons cannot exercise a minute daily and hourly supervision of the government of 300 millions of people. That would be an impossibility. If there is one thing more than another that the House is crying out for it is devolution, and there is no necessity for putting this heavy burden upon it in respect of work which is as well done as it could be done under any change which might be suggested. Then it is proposed that the salary of the Secretary of State should be put upon the Estimates. The Chancellor of the Exchequer would have a word or two to say to that addition to the expenditure. I suppose such a proposal would include the salary of the Viceroy and of the whole Indian establishment.
§ SIR H. H. FOWLER
I do not know what my right hon. friend means by a token Vote. It is a financial impossibility to put in the Estimates a token Vote, even of 5s., if it is not to be paid out of the Estimates. At all events, this is a part of the constitution of India with reference to finance, and cannot be altered except by legislation. It just occurs to me there is one thing in which the Secretary of State has not a dominating power. He is supreme in most things, but he cannot spend a £5 note without the consent of the Indian Council, and on questions of finance he has only one vote. The control of the Indian Revenue and Expenditure has been placed by Parliament in the hands of that Council. Then there is the alternative that there should be a Select Committee. To do what? The Indian 215 system of finance is not so simple as the English system. There are more than 1,000 treasuries in India, and there is a gigantic system of audit and control. The Select Committee, of course, would be precluded from considering questions of policy. I remember it was once said, by my right hon. friend the Member for West Monmouthshire, "You cannot refer the British Constitution to a Committee upstairs." When it is suggested there should be a Select Committee to consider Indian accounts, no doubt the idea is to have something like the Public Accounts Committee. But that Committee is a body holding a judicial position as between the Controller and Auditor-General and the Treasury. I have never seen any allegation that the control of the Indian Controller and Auditor-General is defective; but I am quite certain that a casual Select Committee meeting once now and again could not exercise any effective control over Indian finance, and that the effect would be only to introduce confusion and dissatisfaction. These are the grounds on which I object to this motion; but there has been a spice of personality introduced into the Debate. There has been an attack on the Secretary of State in his personal capacity, and in order to deprive it of anything of a party character and so make it as broad as possible, it was clearly indicated that the attack did not refer solely to the noble Lord, but included the ex-Minister. It was said that these two officers were not impartial judges, that they were simply the mouthpiece of the official hierarchy of the Indian Council, that they resented all complaints and were guilty of personal discourtesy to hon. Members with reference to Indian matters. I plead not guilty to every one of those charges, and I am sure the noble Lord will also repudiate them. If any man says that the Secretary of State is not impartial, I say he knows nothing of the facts of the case, he has not been inside the India Office, and does not know how its business is transacted. If I appealed to the other members of the Indian Council, they would say that the Secretary of State is the last man to act as the mouthpiece of the Council, and I say that it is an unfair and unfounded attack to say that he would. I will put it to the hon. Baronet who has made this charge. Was there a single grievance which he brought 216 to my notice when I was in office that I did not personally investigate? Some grievances he brought to my notice were well founded, and I did my best to remedy them; on some of them I came to a different opinion than that held by the hon. Baronet. One word more on the personal question. Fault has been found with me here and in certain organs of the Press because I will not make India a party question. I never will. I would forfeit my position on this Bench or any other, if it was to be a condition of public life so far as I was concerned that India was to be looked at through the spectacles of party, and that all was wrong which the "ins" did, and all was right which the "outs" suggested. The one salvation of India is to keep out of party politics, and feel our individual and personal responsibility to India, not as members of the Conservative or Liberal parties, but as Members of the House of Commons representing India. I believe that in the main that condition has been preserved to the present hour, and that this House has always shown the greatest respect and sympathy for those Members of the House, no matter on which side they sit, who have shown interest in Indian matters and have submitted to the House propositions of grave importance. I feel strongly upon the government of India, not as a romance, as the hon. Member for Bolton says, but from a personal knowledge and personal interest. I have a profound admiration for our system of government in India. I believe it is the only system of government which could have welded India together, and maintained the pax Britannica. There is no such thing as a nation of India possessing any unity, physical, political, social, or religious. India consists of a large number of separate nations, of people of different creeds and races, residing in different climates, and exposed to opposing influences, and it would be impossible to weld them together as one nation. They never have been and they never will be. It is the one dominating; power of the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland and Empress of India which governs that vast mass of people, a people who have, as Sir John Strachey said, fifty different languages, and he adds there is as great a difference between the Scot and the Spaniard as there is between the Bengali and Punjabi. A native of India! You might as well talk of the 217 political opinions of a native of Europe. In India we have consolidated a splendid system of government. Of course, the system has its faults. There are stupid men and stupid blunders in the government of 300,000,000 people, but I do not think that the history of Asia has ever recorded so just, so equitable, so peaceful, and so successful a government as the government of Great Britain of the Empire of India. I hope that this House
§ Main question again proposed.218
§ will never tamper with the outworks of that great system, but will go on doing its best, according to its own lights, to promote and develop the true interests and resources of India.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 95; Noes, 36. (Division List, No. 363.)217
|Arnold, Alfred||Davies, Sir Horatio D (Chatham||Mellor, Colonel (Lancashire)|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir Ellis||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Mendl, Sigismund Ferdinand|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Evershed, Sydney||Milbank, Sir Powlett Chas. J.|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline Fitz Roy||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Milward, Colonel Victor|
|Balfour, Rt Hn Gerald W.(Leeds||Fisher, William Hayes||Moon, Edward Robert Pacy|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Flannery, Sir Fortescue||Morrison, Walter|
|Barnes, Frederic Gorell||Flower, Ernest||Murray, Rt Hn A Graham (Bute|
|Barton, Dunbar Plunket||Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.)||Perks, Robert William|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benjamin||Fowler, Rt Hon. Sir Henry||Pier point. Robert|
|Bethell, Commander||Garfit, William||Purvis, Robert|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Gedge, Sydney||Ridley, Rt. Hon. Sir M. W.|
|Bigwood, James||Giles, Charles Tyrrell||Ritchie. Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson|
|Bill, Charles||Gladstone, Rt. Hon. Herb. Jno.||Runciman, Walter|
|Birrell, Augustine||Goldsworthy, Major-General||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)|
|Boscawen, Arthur Griffith-||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Sandys, Lt.-Col. Thos. Myles|
|Brassey, Albert||Greville, Hon. Ronald||Scoble, Sir Andrew Richard|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord George||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Butcher, John George||Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm.||Stanley, Edw. Jas. (Somerset)|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Hayne, Rt. Hn. Charles Seale-||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|Cavendish, V.C.W. (Derbysh.)||Helder, Augustus||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Hertford, E.)||Henderson, Alexander||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray|
|Chaloner, Captain R. G. W.||Johnston, William (Belfast)||Valentia, Viscount.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J.(Birm.)||Keswick, William||Vincent. Col. Sir C. E. Howard|
|Chamberlain, J. Austen(Worc'r||Kimber, Henry||Williams, Joseph Powell-(Birm|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Lawrence, Sir E. Durning-(Corn||Wodehouse, Rt. Hon E. R.(Bath|
|Chaplin, Rt Hon. Henry||Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool||Wrightson, Thomas|
|Cochrane, Hon. T. H. A. E.||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Wylie, Alexander|
|Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter(Liverpool||Wyndham, George|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Wyndham-Quin, Major W.H.|
|Colomb, Sir John C. Ready||Macartney, W. G. Ellison|
|Cox, Irwin Edw. Bainbridge||Maclure, Sir John William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Cranborne, Viscount||M' Arthur, William (Cornwall)||Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Mappin, Sir Frederick Thorpe.|
|Abraham, W. (Cork, N.E.)||Horniman, Frederick John||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Lambert, George||Price, Robert John|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumberland)||Randell, David|
|Caldwell, James||Lewis, John Herbert||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Cameron, Robert (Durham)||Lloyd-George, David||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)|
|Clough, Walter Owen||Macaleese, Daniel||Steadman, William Charles|
|Colville, John||Maddison, Fred.||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Curran, Thomas B. (Donegal)||Molloy, Bernard Charles||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Curran, Thomas (Sligo, S.)||Morgan, J. L. (Carmarthen)||Williams, John Carvell (Notts.)|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||O'Connor, Arthur (Donegal)||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)|
|Edwards, Owen Morgan||O'Connor, J. (Wicklow, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||Palmer, Sir C. M. (Durham)||Sir William Wedderburn and Mr. Harwood.|
|Hogan, James Francis||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
§ which it has just arrived on the Amendment which has been under discussion, and thank the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton for having shown so forcibly and clearly that 219 important Indian questions did not fail to receive proper and fair treatment at the hands of the British Parliament. The only item in the Amendment with which I agree is that the Debate on the Indian Budget should take place earlier in the session; but while pleading for that arrangement in the future, I would express my warm appreciation of the convincing arguments by which the right hon. Gentleman has just proved that the complaints alleged in the other parts of the Amendment were unsubstantial and groundless. The Amendment was, on the whole, contrived to convey a wrong impression to the people of India that the House of Commons is wanting in that sympathy and attention to which the interests of India are entitled at its hands. The mischief of such misrepresentation is not felt within this House or by the British public; but, Mr. Speaker, in India, where the people are not acquainted with the modes of Parliamentary procedure, the prevalence of such a notion is apt to be very harmful. I would therefore express my sincere thanks to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton for having in such a masterly manner vindicated this House against the charges implied in the Amendment. His defence of the system of Indian administration will make it apparent to the people in India that there is no neglect of the supervision which this Parliament may be rightly expected to exercise over their affairs, and will be regarded with satisfaction as an effective answer to the complaints that both their own administrators and Parliament neglected any of their legitimate duties to secure the welfare of our Indian Empire. Turning to the financial statement which the Secretary of State has laid before the House this afternoon, the announcement of the surplus of over Rx. 4,700,000 which the Budget shows is one on which the Government and people of India ought to be congratulated. When in the course of his speech last year the noble Lord predicted that, with the disappearance of the famine, a solid surplus was likely to result in the ensuing twelve months, the statement was doubted and challenged by those who are always ready to find fault with the responsible administrators of India. They insisted that the condition of the people was rendered so helpless, and the recuperative power of the country so ex- 220 hausted, by British rule, that the effects of the famine would be permanent, or endure for many years. It has not taken long to explode these fallacies, and I rejoice to be able to congratulate the noble Lord on his prediction coming true. To this pleasant feature of Indian prospects may be added the announcement made within the last day or two of the modification in our frontier policy which Lord Curzon had determined upon. He had, after close study of the question, found out that, for the present at least, there was no longer any need to construct large fortifications to be manned by permanent garrisons. The new arrangements would inspire confidence in the hill-men and bring them under our friendly control. As tribal Militia Corps they will prove serviceable for the protection of the frontier, and a large annual saving to the Indian Exchequer would be the result. It has been stated that this is a departure from the present Government's frontier policy, but there is nothing in these arrangements to preclude us from adopting active measures for the defence of our frontier should occasion arise in the future. Lord Curzon has grasped the situation in a statesmanlike manner without disregarding the necessity of an effective frontier defence, and in deciding at the same time upon measures which would result in a large saving to the finances of India, he has rendered signal service both to England and to India. The anxiety which has been caused by the failure of the monsoon rains in western and central India has been to some extent relieved by the news received this morning that there had been some rainfall in those areas within the last day or two. The record surplus of the year, and the large saving which will be further effected by the frontier arrangements I have just noticed, may be contemplated with enhanced satisfaction in face of the possible prospect of another period of scarcity. Should such a calamity again arise, these conserved resources, and the experience of the last famine administration, will no doubt enable the Indian Government to cope with it successfully. But let me express the hope that our fears of a new famine may prove untrue, and that no such dire visitation is in store for the poor, patient people who have already suffered so much. During the past few months the attention of the Viceroy's Government has 221 been directed to a change in the Municipal Corporation of the town of Calcutta. Since the subject was discussed in this House at the commencement of the session, the Bill has been referred back to the Bengal Government on the ground that "the Government of India have been led, after a careful and independent investigation, to think that there are features in Sir Alexander Mackenzie's Bill which arc not in entire accordance with the principles just laid down, and which might not in practice ensure that amicable and patriotic co-operation of all parties in the future municipal government of the city which is essential to its efficient administration." On this ground it is prudent of Lord Curzon to have desired to effect a change in the original measure. Another object of the reference is to create "a strict balance and equality of interest between the European and native elements." This is an unfortunate phrase, as pointing to race distinctions; but evidently, as they themselves define in another part of their letter of the 17th June last, which gives cover to the reference, what the Government of India mean is a proper adjustment of the various interests of the town which are entitled to municipal representation. European and native interests are not, and ought not to be, distinct or distinguishable in India. The interests of both are the common interests of India. I wish this to be recognised in relation to all measures in India, and I trust that the Amendments which are to be made in the original Bill will be of such a character as to give adequate representation in the municipal administration of Calcutta to all those interests and sections of its inhabitants which are justly aspiring to it, in such proportion as their relative strength in numbers and intelligence and tax-paying capacity taken together can claim. In approaching the subject of the motion which is on the Paper in my name, I feel I must offer an apology to the House for recurring to a subject similar to the one which I brought to its sympathetic notice last year. But so much has been done, since I first mooted it, to advance the purpose I had in view, that it has reached a stage when further considerations and suggestions regarding it might be profitably discussed. When I first advocated the promotion of technical and industrial education in India, I was attacked by 222 certain people as seeking to aim a blow at higher education. It was said that I wished to turn the rising generation of India into mere intelligent carpenters or bricklayers or craftsmen of some sort, instead of allowing them to become full-blown politicians, and to derive all those positions and profits which high education is supposed to confer. This malicious misrepresentation of my purpose and views has, however, even in the brief space of a few months, been exploded. The people of India have found out that neither I nor any hon. Member in this House ever intended to attack the cause of higher education, and that our aim was to consider in what channels that education should be directed in future so as to make it subserve the best interests of India. Many of those even who had so far regarded education as an exclusive means for the attainment of political ends, have been converted to the view that it would have other more beneficial uses if it could be made to develop the industrial energy of their countrymen. Some of these very men have, within the last few months, written treatises on the subject, and others have offered to subscribe munificently to projects which are designed to divert education from its present purely literary or academic ends into channels of practical utility. This is all very gratifying. But that which is likely to prove of the greatest value to the furtherance of this cause, on which the future prosperity of India must mainly depend, is the policy which Lord Curzon has enunciated almost from the day he set foot on Indian soil, of giving ample opportunities to her people to acquire scientific and technical training, in order to encourage among them the growth of industrial pursuits. In the passage of the Bill for imposing countervailing duties on bounty-fed sugar, the Viceroy supported that measure on the very just grounds that it was necessary to save a great indigenous industry from threatened destruction, and called forth the unanimous approval of the country by his declaration that by that and other measures he meant to give practical effect to the speeches which he had made for the encouragement of native enterprise. And it is with the view of signifying our appreciation of the policy announced in this and other utterances, and our desire to see it put into active operation that I have placed this 223 motion on the Paper to-night,—"That this House highly approves of the policy advocated by His Excellency Lord Curzon of Kedleston to further the development of industrial and technical education in the Indian Empire, and trusts that immediate practical effect will be given to that policy by the establishment of scientific and technical departments in the existing schools, and of polytechnic institutions, in the larger towns of India, as well as by holding out special facilities to industrial projects." In the prevailing system of education in India there is an almost entire absence of practical and technical instruction. It is now generally recognised that this is a great drawback, and that the money and labour spent thereon have not been adequately compensated by the results achieved. In fact, those results have proved detrimental to the growth of that spirit of industrial enterprise and pursuits without which no country an prosper, and the time has arrived when measures for the prosecution of a more solid and profitable teaching can no longer be delayed. This can be done in various ways. In the first place, schools of forestry, like the one at Dehra, in Northern India, which has turned out some men who have distinguished themselves by the excellence of their practical investigations into some of the most difficult questions of forestry, should be multiplied. Secondly, wherever practicable, polytechnic and industrial schools should be established in the principal towns, and if sufficient funds for the purpose are not available, it might be possible to get over the difficulty by attaching to existing schools and colleges classes or departments for scientific and technical instruction, on the model of some of the high schools here and in other European countries. Thirdly, with a view to give Indian manufacturers and artisans opportunities of becoming acquainted with the results of kindred industries in different parts of the country, and of giving due encouragement to them for improvement and progress in their several crafts by means of competitive prizes, a central industrial exhibition board should be formed. Fourthly, Government should, by means of certain concessions and offers of patronage and other facilities, encourage the first Indian manufacturers of articles hitherto imported from foreign countries. Fifthly, prizes, that is, university diplomas and degrees and 224 official appointments, should be granted as freely to men trained in practical schools as to literary scholars; and a few scholarships, like those at present awarded to capable students for studying in the universities, or for professions, in England, should be made available for persons who desire to receive technical instruction in Europe. These, Mr. Speaker, are some of the measures by which the Government of India can give effect to the policy which Lord Curzon has wisely advocated. Some of them have before now been strongly recommended to Government for adoption. A series of eight resolutions, formulated with great skill by men of ability and of critical knowledge of the economic products and material needs of India like Sir Edward Buck, based on the proceedings of the agricultural conferences of 1893 and 1895–96, were issued as recently as in 1897, and they embody similar suggestions in respect of agricultural instruction. They properly lay stress upon this dictum of Professor Huxley, that a system of teaching which does nothing for the faculty of observation, which trains neither the eye nor the hand, and is compatible with utter ignorance of the commonest natural truths, may naturally be regarded as strangely imperfect. They point to the necessity of founding technical instruction on a preliminary training of a practical character in primary and secondary schools, so that students might be encouraged to seek advanced education in that direction as they grow up, and be prepared to assimilate such further teaching. What is true of agricultural education as thus enunciated is equally true of technical instruction in connection with other industries. This furnishes the starting point for the prosecution of Lord Curzon's new educational project, which can be fostered by the suggestions I have already made, and many others with which I have at present no time to deal. I recognise fully that, more than Government themselves, the people for whose benefit I plead for this departure in the educational system of India have a responsibility to recognise and duties to undertake. But the people of India have been accustomed to look to Government for guidance, and I maintain that in this matter especially it is for the Government to initiate the necessary reform. Let them impress on the people the benefits of sound practical and industrial instruc- 225 tion and pursuits, and by holding out due encouragement and the stimulus of prizes and offices, make this new educational development "fashionable." If they do this, it will be found in a very few years that the intelligent people of India will not be slow to appreciate its advantages, and that the munificent liberality of the native chiefs and India's opulent citizens will not be withheld from a movement which is rich in promise for that country's welfare. I thank the House for allowing me to engage its attention at some length in a matter which, perhaps, is not of immediate concern to it; but on this one night in the year, when India's interests come under its general purview, I thought I could better utilise my opportunity for doing substantial service to that country by dwelling on this important subject, than by retailing any of those hackneyed grievances which naturally tire the patience of hon. Members. The task Lord Curzon has set his hands to will be of incalculable good to India in future; he will have, in accomplishing it, many obstacles to overcome, possibly much opposition to encounter; and, although his own powerful personality and the influence of his high position may be depended upon to carry it to a successful issue, it is due to him that an expression of approval should be uttered in Parliament with regard to it. With this object, Mr. Speaker, I placed on record the motion which stands in my name, and I rejoice to note that the noble Lord the Secretary of State has signified his concurrence with my views in the course of his speech, and also that the House evinces its appreciation of the policy to which I have been permitted to draw its attention.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
I have given notice to move. "That the separation of judicial from executive duties in India is imperatively and urgently necessary in the interest of the administration of justice." I am sorry that by the forms of the House I cannot move this Amendment, but I desire to say a few words in regard to it. What I complain of is this, that in India the thief-catcher and the revenue collector is also judge. No doubt the functions of a detective or policeman are eminently useful and necessary, but, so far as I know, they do not tend to develop the judicial faculties; and when the very same person who has hunted down an alleged criminal may forthwith ascend the judg- 226 ment seat and try the prisoner, I say it is a case so gross that it hardly requires argument to condemn it. And yet that is to a large extent the system which prevails in India. The head of the police for a district has jurisdiction to try, and does, in fact, try, either in person or through his immediate subordinate, offences for which the maximum punishment of two years' imprisonment, with the equivalent of hard labour, can be imposed. That is the existing system, and I desire to see it changed. We should establish in India one chain of subordination for judicial duty, and another chain for executive duty, and these two should not commingle, but run along parallel lines. A distinguished barrister in India has drawn up a list of cases illustrating the evils of the present system. I do not propose to bring them forward, for it must be evident to every one that such a system must poison the springs of justice. What can be said on the other side? Briefly, a year or two ago, Sir Charles Elliott, a distinguished advocate of the existing system, defended it in an elaborate article, in which he said that all power should be centred in the hands of a single official. My answer to that is, that there may be stages of society in which the union of the judicial and executive functions may be necessary, or at least expedient. I am not anxious to deny, it is not part of my case to deny, that there may be backward and primitive parts in India to which the system I am attacking may be well adapted; but what I do say, with all the force of conviction, is, that so far as the great mass of the people and the major part of the territory of India are concerned, the existing system is an anachronism, and fertile in mischief. Sir Charles Elliott says truly that as a matter of fact the district officer himself tries very few criminal cases, but they are, for the most part, tried by magistrates who are directly subordinates of the officer of the district. My answer to that is, that the exceptional cases which he himself tries are the very last which he should try, because they are cases in which a certain amount of political feeling is aroused. I understand that those who are responsible for Indian affairs have not for some years defended the system on its merits, but their objection to the substitution of an alternative plan is based upon financial grounds. I believe that Lord Kimberley said that if the 227 functions were differentiated, we should require to double the staff.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL
I am surprised the right hon. Gentleman should endorse that statement, for it goes much further than anything advanced by Sir Charles Elliott, who admits that the desired change could be effected in half the districts in Bengal by a rearrangement of duties. A distinguished Civil servant has drawn up an elaborate and definite scheme by which a complete separation between the judicial and executive functions in Bengal could be effected at the cost of the appointment of only twenty or thirty additional deputy collectors. I do think we are entitled to ask that that scheme should be carefully examined. I am afraid that the evidence is overwhelming, that, as presently constituted, the police of India are rapacious and corrupt. If the district officer was relieved of his judicial functions he would have more time to devote to the management and control of the police. I have for many years devoted the closest attention to Indian affairs, and I have noted with great regret that of recent years the executive officers in India, from the highest to the lowest grades, have shown a growing impatience of legal restraints. That is very significant, because it is altogether alien to the genius of Englishmen. The sense of law and the love of law are more deeply engrained in Englishmen than in any other nation, with the exception, perhaps, of the ancient Romans; and when we see this impatience of the restraints of law it is a more serious mark of the deterioration of character than it would be in the case of other nationalities. Attention has lately been drawn in this House and in another place to gross assaults committed by soldiers and civilians of a low class upon Indians. Well, the authorities in India are taking steps to put down these assaults. I am sure that they are honestly anxious to do so, but I think that if the reign of law is to be re-established in India we must begin at the top. Respect for law must be enforced on the heads of the Revenue Department; upon the Governors of provinces, and upon the Secretary of State himself. There have been some cases in which in the highest quarters there has been the grossest disregard 228 of the restraints of the law in India. A few years ago Sir Charles Elliott claimed to call to account the Judicial Bench in Bengal. That was an extraordinary step for an English executive officer to take, and if it had been done in the Transvaal a good deal would have been heard about it; but two wrongs do not make a right, and I should condemn as strongly as any man any interference with judicial independence in the Transvaal. But we ought to set our own house in order. In the second case there was an arrest on railway property in the territory of the Nizam of a person who it was alleged had committed an offence at Simla, and when the matter came before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council they came to the conclusion that the arrest was illegal, and set the decision aside. The most regrettable part of the case was that it appeared that the arrest of this man purported to be effected under what is called a notification of the Governor-General in Council. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council declared that that notification was not worth the paper it was written upon. Again, only a few months ago there was a very important case before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, in which the Judicial Committee declared that the Government of Madras had been wrong throughout. Lastly there was the case to which the hon. Member referred, the case of the Natus, in which the Secretary of State was himself concerned. In that case there were two points: first, the point with regard to the property which was taken, with regard to which it was admitted that the Government's action was in part illegal, and the property was subsequently restored; and the second point, which was a personal one, the imprisonment and detention of the Natus. That detention, perhaps, might have been justified under the regulation of 1827; but even if it were, it would appear from the words of the regulation itself that it goes only to this—that persons cannot be placed under restraint without an ultimate view to judicial proceedings. I submit there must be an intention to take judicial proceedings within a reasonable time. Here the Natus have been imprisoned for more than two years, and they ought to be brought to trial or set at liberty. In conclusion, I hope that the noble Lord will be willing to give Mr. Dutt's detailed 229 scheme his very careful attention, because I am firmly convinced that the administration of justice in India is intimately concerned with the carrying out of this reform.
§ SIR ALFRED HICKMAN (Wolverhampton, W.)
called attention to the practice of the Indian authorities of purchasing railway material in America instead of this country. An account furnished to him by the courtesy of the noble Lord showed a variety of material purchased in America, not only at lower prices, but with much quicker delivery than could be obtained in this country. He admitted that if something was wanted quickly which could not be obtained in this country, the Indian authorities were justified in getting it wherever it was to be obtained; but he pointed out that with a little foresight the extreme hurry, in most cases, might be avoided. It was not to be presumed that because the price was lower the American article was necessarily the cheaper. In the case of some locomotives purchased from England and America for a Japanese railway it was found that after six months' wear the fire-boxes of the American engines began to give out, and the engines had to be laid up for repairs after having run only 7,000 miles. The English engines, on the other hand, ran 150,000miles before any repairs were necessary. It was found that the American engines cost £300 a year in coal more than those which were sent out from England. It was perfectly true that America could supply locomotives with much more celerity than the manufacturers of this country, for the reason that American locomotives were made by machinery to certain standard patterns. All the parts were interchangeable, and were kept in stock; if an engine was required all they had to do was to put the parts together. In his opinion, the English hand-made locomotives, in the matter of wear and consumption of fuel, were far cheaper than the American by much more than the difference in price. The American bridges, like the locomotives, were made to standard patterns, but in England the engineers designed each bridge differently. If the circumstances were fully realised, and English engineers would aim at uniformity and suit the convenience of the bridge makers, they would hear very 230 little of American bridges being made more quickly or supplied at cheaper rates than English bridges.
§ MR. PERKS (Lincolnshire, Louth)
drew attention to a question which was greatly exercising the minds of the Scotch Presbyterians and the English Wesleyans, namely, the defective arrangements made by the Indian authorities for the religious service of men of these persuasions. He said an absolute requisition had been laid down in the recommendations to the Indian Government that it should make provision for religious services for all the soldiers in the British Army. The soldiers were classified into four groups—Church of England, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, and Wesleyans—and up to a recent date the churches provided by the British Government in India had been used, not only for the services of the Church of England, but for Presbyterian and Wesleyan services also. The Government churches were in no sense established, because in India the Established Church did not exist. But the arrangement had not been altogether a satisfactory one. Before a church could be used for other services, the convenience of the Anglican Church had to be consulted, embracing as it did the largest proportion of the troops serving in the British Army. But it not infrequently happened that Scotch Presbyterian regiments were ordered down to the military station, the men of which desired to worship according to the tenets of their own faith. It had been found impossible to make definite provision for such regiments, with the result that they had had to worship in the open air. Indeed, in Northern India there were sometimes ten or eleven Scotch regiments, many of the men with wives and children, and they could not sit down contentedly, nor could the Wesleyan soldiers, under the present system. Profound annoyance was felt among the officers and men, and recently the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland was roused to a state of great excitement on this subject. He trusted that the noble Lord would find some relief for what was seriously complained of.
§ COLONEL SANDYS (Lancashire, Bootle)
said he desired to bring two points to the attention of the noble Lord the Secretary of State. The first was the 231 want of efficiency in native regiments, owing to the paucity of British officers. In times of peace no doubt the number of officers on the establishment was sufficient, but in times of war they were quite insufficient for the duties they had to perform. He suggested that native battalions should be divided into four strong companies, and that two British officers as captains, and two as subalterns, should be attached to each company. The second point to which he drew attention was the recruiting for the Gurkha regiments. There were no native soldiers who had covered themselves with more glory or were more trusted by their officers than the Gurkhas, but they were limited in numbers, their country was a small one, and for that and other reasons it became more difficult every year to secure the requisite number of recruits. But there were other hill districts in India inhabited by extremely brave, loyal military races, of whose capacity he could speak from personal experience. Those men felt being left out in the cold when recruits for the Army were needed, and he suggested that the Gurkha regiments might very well be augmented by enlistments from a district inhabited by men of the same race.
§ MR. KIMBER (Wandsworth)
asked the Secretary of State for India, with regard to the proposed currency legislation, whether it was meant, by the expression that the rupee was to be taken at the value of 1s. 4d., that contracts made in India expressed in sterling terms might be liquidated by the legal tender of fifteen rupees per pound sterling. He understood that while the Government was willing to give fifteen rupees for one pound sterling, it was not to be bound to sell at that rate. In other words, fifteen rupees were not to be legal tender for a sovereign. If that was correct a promissory note payable in India might be liquidated by the tender of fifteen rupees per pound sterling, but the payee, if he wished it, could not have sovereigns for his silver. That appeared to involve an anomaly. With reference to the question of the chief ship of Kythal, on which he had a motion on the Paper as follows:That, having regard to certain petitions from the late Chief of Arnowli and from several thousands of the inhabitants of the Cis Sutlej territory in the Punjab presented 232 to Parliament and praying inquiry, and having regard to the printed Return, dated 11th February, 1896, to an address and to the facts recorded therein, this House is of opinion that the Government of India should be advised by the Secretary of State for India to restore the Chiefship of Kythal in the person of the present head of the Bhaikean family (the eldest son of the late Chief of Arnowli), with territory sufficient to maintain that Chiefship in its former rank as one of the four principal Cis Sutlej States.he asked the noble Lord to inform the House in what position the case now stood.
MR. J. H. ROBERTS (Denbighshire, W.)
I desire to call attention to a few of the salient points with regard to the Municipal Government of Calcutta. Some six months ago I drew attention to this question by moving an Amendment to the reply to the Queen's Speech. At that time a municipal Bill was being considered by a Select Committee, and I pointed out some of the objectionable features of that measure; and as I received an assurance from the noble Lord opposite that he would consider all I had said I did not consequently divide the House upon that occasion. Since that date the Bill to which I refer has gone through the Select Committee of the Bengal Legislative Council, has been amended, and referred for consideration to the Government of India. The Government of India conveyed to the Legislative Council their opinion of the measure and Amendments made. My object this evening is threefold. First of all I call attention to the fact that the Bill introduced previously and criticised by myself and others six months ago has been in connection with many of its most important provisions vetoed in India. The scheme proposed by Lord Curzon is no better, but considerably worse than a Bill which was introduced six months ago. There are two points for the House to keep in mind, first of all the present constitution of Calcutta, and second the proposed alteration of that constitution. The municipal body of Calcutta is composed of seventy members—fifty being elected members and twenty members nominated by the Government. There is also a central body of eighteen, twelve of whom are elected and six nominated. The essential feature of that scheme is that the influence exercised by 233 the representative element, as against the nominated element, is in the ratio of two to one, and the same ratio obtains with regard to the executive committee of the Corporation. The Viceroy proposes to change the constitution, reducing the number of representatives to fifty, twenty-five of whom are to be nominated by the Government, and in the same way reducing the executive committee to twelve, eight of whom are to be elected out of the Corporation and four to be nominated by the Government. From that it is clear that the native Indian population of Calcutta will elect rather less than one half of the whole body, and the other portion, rather more than half, will be elected by Government officials and European residents. The native ratepayers will have less than one half of the representation on the Corporation and only a third of the representation of the executive committee, and in that case the native population would be helpless either to regulate or to resist taxation. If this scheme is carried out the result will be to practically withdraw from Calcutta that measure of self-government which has worked so well for the last twenty-three years; it would be far better to strip the constitution of every fragment of its representative element than to give the semblance of self-government without giving the reality in any way. I want to place before the House one or two considerations that have been brought forward by the Government of India in favour of the proposed change. It was said that the Corporation was too large, to which my reply is that the number can be reduced without destroying the representative character of the Corporation. Then it was said that not sufficient interest was taken in municipal affairs by the native population, and that only two and a half per cent. voted in the municipal elections. First of all that depends upon the franchise, and secondly upon the number of contested elections, and here I would point out that if you take the City of London only 10 per cent. of a population of five millions take part in the elections of the London County Council, and with regard to London the same argument might be brought forward with regard to that institution as is brought forward by the Government in regard to Calcutta. The third point brought forward on behalf of the proposal of Lord Curzon by the Government of India is 234 that the solution of the difficulty would be found in creating a balance between the interests of the European population preponderating in wealth, and those of the native population preponderating largely in numbers. In the first place I should like to say that it is not true that European interest and wealth largely preponderates in Calcutta, and further I would like to make this comment. I do not think municipal government has to do directly with the commerce of a State but rather with the conditions of life under which the people of the country live and carry on their work. I am quite ready to admit with regard to Calcutta and other states in India that distinctions may be drawn as to the condition of municipal life; but I lay down as a principle that if the rights of municipal government be given at all to any state those rights must be accompanied by a state of things which assures that the ratepayers who predominate in number should have a preponderating influence in the municipality, otherwise self-government should be entirely withdrawn. It has been said that the present proposal has been made upon the Bombay model. I wish to point out in the first place that Calcutta has a more liberal constitution than Bombay, and if that constitution has worked satisfactorily on the whole and answered its purpose during the last twenty-three years it should not be withdrawn or altered for the sake of bringing it into line with the constitution of Bombay. There is no reason why we should adopt such a system as prevails there, which has not been a great success, and discard a form of constitution at Calcutta which has worked satisfactorily in the past. In conclusion, I desire to make a practical suggestion, and that is that there should be a postponement of the settlement of this matter for some months, and that a committee of five—two natives, two Europeans, and a chairman, selected by the Government—should be appointed to make an inquiry during the winter into the practical abuses to which the present constitution of Calcutta is exposed, and to submit amendments to remedy the defects, without withdrawing from that city the right of self-government. Lord Curzon has in a marked degree won for himself the sympathy, confidence, and affection of the Indian people, and it would be very regrettable if it should fall to his lot to have to put 235 his seal to a measure which was foredoomed to failure.
§ MR. WYLIE (Dumbartonshire)
I desire to make a few remarks upon some of the points raised by my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for India. Last year the Debate on the Indian currency resulted in a Committee being appointed to deal with that question. This year there was also a Debate on the Indian Tariffs Act, and the result of it was that that Act was confirmed by a very large majority in this House. I was very much surprised that the hon. Member for Bolton made disparaging remarks in connection with this question, but I was still more surprised that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton, whose conduct of affairs has resulted in very great benefit to India as well as credit to himself, should have led the attack against these countervailing duties on sugar, because they are a continuation of his own policy. In 1893, the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was a member closed the Indian mints to silver, a very wise and statesmanlike action, but still, in the opinion of many so-called Free Traders, a far more drastic infringement of the fundamental principles of free trade than the countervailing duties in question. In 1894 the right hon. Gentleman strongly recommended the imposition of countervailing excise duties in order to give British manufacturers a fair field and no favour in India, and why he objects to countervailing duties upon sugar in order to give a fair field and no favour to native manufacturers against bounty-fed foreign competition is more than I can understand. It is fortunate for the sugar industry of India that the right hon. Gentleman's successor took a much sounder view, and the admirable speech which he delivered on that occasion showed that he possessed not only a strong grasp of details, but also of the fundamental principles of Free Trade, and the result of that Debate has been that the sugar industry of India is now being conducted on what are practically Free Trade lines. The noble Lord the Secretary of State for India is to be heartily congratulated upon his appointment of such an able and industrious Committee in connection with the Indian currency. This Committee has examined forty-nine witnesses, and the result of its labours has 236 been presented to the House in two large volumes and a masterly Report on the subject. Some hon. Members in this House are inclined to disparage Royal Commissions and Committees appointed to investigate special subjects, but I can safely affirm that this Report is one of the most important and useful Reports which has been presented to the House for many years; and in addition to the immediate purpose which it will serve, I believe it will be a source of information upon many important subjects connected with the trade and commerce of India for some years to come. Therefore the members of this Committee deserve the very greatest credit, especially the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton, who acted as chairman, and whose large experience of Indian business made him particularly fitted for that purpose; and he was also very ably assisted by the energetic secretary, Mr. Chalmers, of the Treasury, whose services, I was glad to see, were so fully acknowledged in the Report. The evidence of two witnesses is especially deserving of attention—I allude to Mr. Alfred de Rothschild, and to Mr. O'Conor, the head of the Statistical Department in India, whose able mastery of all the facts connected with Indian business served the Committee in good stead and enabled them to dispel many of those illusions which have been so long current in many circles regarding questions of trade and commerce. The finding of this Committee has been to confirm the determination of the Indian Government not to revert to the silver standard, but to keep the Mint closed. They also recommend the establishment of a gold standard, and hope that effective measures will be taken to secure that change. They propose that the British sovereign shall be coined in India and made legal tender, that the mints shall be opened to the free coinage of gold and only to a very limited extent of silver, and that the value of the rupee shall be 1s. 4d. These recommendations have been confirmed by the Secretary of State for India, and by the Indian Government, who will act upon them immediately. This has been a disappointment to some bimetallists, because they recognise the great importance of India as a lever for inducing this country to enter into an international bimetallic arrangement. I am glad to know that a large section 237 of the bimetallists concur with the monometallists in those findings, which will relieve India of the pressure of free silver, and place her on an equality with the gold standard countries with which more than four-fifths of her business is transacted. As to the further measures for the effectual establishment of a gold standard, I was very pleased to see that in the instructions of the Secretary for India to the Viceroy there was one calling his particular attention to the recommendation in the separate Report of Mr. Hambro with regard to the improvement and concentration of banking facilities. This, in my opinion, is a most judicious and important instruction to the Viceroy, to consider what is in effect a recommendation for the establishment in India of a State Bank on somewhat similar lines to those of either the Bank of England or the Bank of France. In India at the present time there are three Presidency Banks—the Bank of Bengal, the Bank of Bombay, and the Bank of Madras, which are isolated institutions, each serving a separate region, and prohibited from undertaking business within the sphere of either of the others. With their restricted capital they are inadequate for the expanding needs of trade, are unable to regulate the rate of discount and to prevent violent oscillations, and instead of being a support to the Government, as the Bank of England is here, they constantly look to the Government for support, and in times of monetary pressure have generally no money available beyond the permanent balances. The isolation of these banks is an anachronism, a relic of the old times, when there were no railways or telegraphs and no internal trade, and Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta were three isolated points on the coast from which three almost independent administrative systems were conducted. Even had there been no change in the currency of India, it was high time to change this obsolete system and to have one great bank for the whole country resting on a wider basis of capital and credit; and to carry out in the most advantageous manner the proposed change to a gold standard the introduction of such a bank is absolutely necessary, and this is a most opportune time for doing so. The object to be aimed at is the introduction into India in a cheap and convenient way of the gold which is essential to maintain 238 the gold standard effectively. An adequate gold reserve is wanted at starting, and a method which would secure the free flow of gold into the country as well as out of it when need arises; and, in my opinion, this object could be best attained by means of a State Bank with a large sterling capital, which I would prefer to see arranged on lines similar to those of the Bank of England, which is more in accordance with the scope and freedom of British institutions than the Bank of France. Mr. Alfred de Rothschild, who has given most valuable evidence before the Committee on this point, which I would commend to the special attention of hon. Members, thinks that the capital might be the same as that of the Bank of England, viz., £14,000,000; but I think that, seeing that the imports into India and the exports from it to a certain extent balance each other, and that most of the payments are made by bills of exchange, a capital of £10,000,000,say,with £6,000,000 paid up and £4,000,000 uncalled, would be ample. Under such an arrangement the Bank of India would possess all the privileges of the Bank of England, including the right to issue notes marked with their sterling and rupee value, and to pay either in gold or silver, the latter, of course, according to the recommendation of the Committee, retaining its full legal tender capacity.
§ MR. WYLIE
The bank's. Under ordinary circumstances the bank would pay in gold if demanded, and only under abnormal conditions, indicating a prospect of large withdrawals of gold for export, would it resort to the raising of the rate of discount for the protection of its gold reserve. The advantages of such a bank would be very great. In the first place it would be a consolidation and extension of the three Presidency Banks on a broader, more stable, and sterling basis. It would, of course, do no exchange business, but would confine itself to such business as is done by them. A large amount of gold would be immediately provided by private enterprise, thus avoiding the necessity of burdening the country with a Government loan. It would bring in the gold and be able to keep it in the country and in circulation 239 profitably employed in trade and commerce, whereas the Government would be obliged to lock it up unfructuously. It would provide much more effective machinery for the conduct of operations connected with the effective maintenance of a gold currency and other banking functions, than by any official Department wrought by the Government. It would maintain as steady a rate of discount as on this side, because it would be able to issue notes in India, against any amount deposited in the Bank of England (which would act as its agent here), on receipt of telegraphic advice. And above all it would establish absolute confidence in the minds of the public as to the safety and permanence of the gold standard, and as to the credit of the bank, because they would know that the Government would come to the rescue of the bank if there was any danger of its gold being taken away, and such knowledge would be quite sufficient to obviate the necessity for taking actual steps under this provision, and this confidence would immensely encourage the flow of British capital into India which is so much needed for the development of that country. And I hope that the Secretary for India will see that his instructions on this point are carried out as soon as possible. Some critics have referred to minor defects, but in the face of the great and predominating result which has been secured by the action of the Secretary of State for India, viz.:—that all possibility of doubt as to the determination of the Government to take measures for the effective establishment of a gold standard has been removed. All the alleged minor defects sink into insignificance in comparison. The establishment of a gold standard will do great things for India. It will prevent the currency of India from being overwhelmed by the flow of silver into that country from all parts of the world, which would have reduced the value of the rupee to 9d. or 10d.; it will give the Imperial Exchequer very reasonable prospects of a surplus, and it will greatly increase the imports and exports of the country; and, above all, it will give that confidence to the British public which is necessary to induce the flow of capital into India. I will just give one example. The Viceroy, in an admirable speech which he delivered at the opening of an extension of some irrigation works in 240 the Punjaub this year, said that the ground on which he was then speaking, which now has the appearance of a flourishing town, and possesses a large market for agricultural produce, was four years ago a barren and uninhabited jungle. The value of the crops there in a single year was equal to the total cost of those irrigation works. The interest paid on the money was 10½ per cent. With such large prospects, and with the stability which the gold standard will give to the monetary condition of India, we may expect that there will be a great flood of British capital into India. There are more than 100,000,000 acres of cultivable land in that country not cultivated at the present time. The sugar industry occupies about 3,000,000 acres. Now that it has been freed from the threat of extinction by bounty fed sugar, it is highly probable that British capital will be induced to take up this enterprise, to clear away the unprofitable and obsolete methods of cultivation and refining which now exist, and make it a great industry of the country in future. This is only one of a thousand different ways in which British capital will come to the aid of Indian trade and commerce. India has hitherto been like a business perfectly solvent, but stinted for lack of capital, and with a bad financial system necessitating the payment of exorbitant interest even for the limited capital at its disposal. The newly acquired right to employ the sovereign as a legal tender virtually brings India into partnership with the wealthiest country in the world, which will provide the requisite capital, and whose credit will entirely revolutionise the financial system of India, and elevate her to a foremost position amongst the gold standard countries of the world. Her greatest general has not done half as much for the prosperity of India as will be accomplished by this peaceful act, the rapid achievement of which has been due in large measure to the great ability, energy, and tact of the right hon. Gentleman whose tenure of office it will mark as one of the most auspicious in the annals of the Empire.
§ MR. KESWICK (Surrey, Epsom)
I desire to call attention to an important matter in connection with the revenue of India. There was a feeling in the House that a pledge was given that when an 241 improvement in the exchange admitted of it, the impost of duty on imports should be removed. I only rise therefore to express in a few words the hope that that promise will be borne in mind. I am aware that at the present time it is too early to have an assured opinion on the success of bimetallism founded on what is called a gold standard, but I think it will accomplish a very great work. Therefore, bearing in mind what was promised when the duties on imports were imposed, I hope the success of this financial measure will bring about in due time the removal of those duties.
§ SIR H. H. FOWLER
I do not propose to occupy the attention of the House for more than a few minutes, but I think it is due to the noble Lord, not only on account of his Budget statement, but also on account of his reference to the proposed change in the currency, that one word or two should be said on the Opposition side of the House; and even at the risk of exposing oneself to the accusation of saying polite and courteous things to him, I will, nevertheless, not as a matter of courtesy or politeness, but as an utterance of sincerity, express my admiration of the manner in which he has discharged his duty in making his financial statement. I congratulate him and the Government of India on the fact that such a statement can be made at all. The prosperity which has attended India, both financially, commercially, and agriculturally, during the last year is a matter which, I think, everybody who takes the slightest interest in India is exceedingly thankful for; and I note with considerable interest the fact that, whilst last year was a record year of deficit, this year has been a record year of surplus. The hon. Member who has just sat down has alluded to the question of relieving India from taxation. The noble Lord omitted to call attention to one paragraph in his memorandum which bears upon the question of taxation. In the last sentence he states:If the taxation proper be divided over the population of British India, without making any deduction on account of the portion derived from salt, excise, Customs, &c., which must fall on the inhabitants of the native States, the burden of taxation per head in the Budget for 1899–1900 is R.1 4a. 5p, which, at the exchange value of 16d. per rupee, is equal 242 to not quite 1s. 8½d. If to this be added the amount of the land revenue, the average is raised to Rs. 2 6a. 7p., or about 3s. 2½d.That, I think, is a very low rate of taxation in any country deriving the advantage India does from its Government. As to the remarks of the hon. Member for Epsom, I am not aware that any pledge was ever given by the Government who imposed the import duties or the Government who have modified them since that they should be the first subjects of consideration when the time arrived to deal with taxation in India. I have again and again stated that the salt duty has the first claim on the consideration of the State; but that is simply a private opinion of my own. I only put in a word of caution so that there should not be an impression prevailing that there has been any undertaking on the part of either Government as to the order in which relief of taxation should be granted. I have to thank the noble Lord and the House for the manner in which they have received the reference to the Report of the Currency Committee. I cannot forget that when that Committee was appointed many persons in and out of the House were of opinion that the Committee was not the most competent that might have been selected, and in that, perhaps, they were quite right. But there were also criticisms based on the possibility or probability that the Committee had made up their minds on the question, and that they were simply going to meet for the purpose of recording a pre-formed opinion. I think that any one who reads the evidence will see that that was not the case. I can assure the House—and I have had some little experience of Commissions and Committees—that it would be impossible to find a body of gentlemen who were more anxious to arrive at the truth and to do justice to the great interests which fell within the purview of their consideration. They had a perfectly open mind on the difficult questions submitted to them. I am bound to say I had no idea as to what was the opinion of any one of my colleagues upon the various questions until we met, and I am satisfied I am speaking for them as well as for myself when I say that our sole desire was to find out what was the best and most practical mode of dealing with the difficulty. In reference to that Report, I have only two or three remarks 243 to make. The first is that the Committee studiously avoided any grappling with details. They felt that their business was to lay down certain principles, and that the details ought to be left, and must be, in the hands of the responsible Government of India. Many persons have said, "Why did you not say how this should be done?" and so on. We often discussed how the thing should be done, but we came to the conclusion that that was not our business; our business was to point out the lines on which we thought this great reform should be based. The responsible Government of India—and I include in that, of course, the Government at home and the Government at Calcutta—must be left to decide on the best mode of carrying those principles out, and also the time they may choose for the purpose. There has been considerable reference in the course of the evening to the formation of the new bank in India. There is a memorandum to which the Secretary of State referred, by Mr. Hambro, who, perhaps, is as great an authority as we could have upon such a question. I think it is due to Mr. Hambro to say that the first sentence of his Report really explains my own position. He says:Although I am aware that the question of the banking facilities of India was not referred to the Committee, I venture to call special attention—and so on. If I had not been Chairman of the Committee I should have signed the memorandum of Mr. Hambro, but I thought it would be rather irregular for a chairman to express an opinion on something which had not been referred to the Committee. I thought Mr. Hambro was perfectly justified in signing this memorandum, and, so far as I am individually concerned, I should like to assure the Secretary of State that I entirely concur in Mr. Hambro's suggestion. With reference to the question of borrowing, three very competent and able members of the Committee signed a separate memorandum objecting to borrowing for the purpose of carrying out currency reform. That must have weight, and is entitled to very great weight. The rest of the Committee did not concur in that 244 view. Their view was expressed in the last sentence of the Report:It is eminently desirable that the Government of India, with whom it would rest to decide when successive steps should be taken, should husband the resources at their command, exercise a resolute economy, and restrict the growth of their gold obligations.I need hardly say that those words were very carefully considered, and were inserted with a meaning. The meaning was that we did not desire to tie the hands of the Executive in dealing with the question. There was one other question on which the noble Lord did not say anything, possibly because he intends to lay Papers on the Table—namely, the announcement in the Press that the Viceroy, with the consent of the home authorities, has decided on the modification of frontier policy. As I understand the matter—I am quoting the words of the Viceroy:The proposition, if carried, will restore to the regular Army a large number of troops hitherto quartered at fortified posts in the tribal country, and will, it is hoped, result in an annual saving of many lakhs of rupees to the Exchequer.I need hardly say that if, when we receive documents, that appears to be, as I have no doubt it is, the policy which Lord Curzon is going to carry out, it will meet with the cordial approval of some gentlemen who have expressed themselves very strongly upon questions of frontier policy. Then my hon. friend behind me, the Member for Louth, called attention to a matter which I should also like to say a word or two about, viz., the discussion which has arisen in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and among Nonconformists generally, with reference to the change in the regulations for the uses of public buildings belonging to the Government and erected by the Government. The Principal of the University of Glasgow, who is one of the foremost Ministers in Scotland, Dr. Story, addressed a letter to The Times a few days ago, which doubtless many Members have read. He puts the case very clearly and 245 concisely, and I should like to call the special attention of the noble Lord to the letter.
The simple fact," says Dr. Story, "is that certain churches have been built at public expense by the Government of India for the use of the Protestant soldiers in Her Majesty's service. The fact of so-called consecration and the adornment of some of these buildings by the members of the Anglican Communion cannot be held as legitimately diverting them from the original purpose for which the Government designed and erected them at public expense—viz., the accommodation of Her Majesty's Protestant troops. What the Church of Scotland demands is that this diversion shall not be allowed to continue, and that Scottish regiments shall not be forced to worship in riding schools, music halls, schoolrooms, disused theatres, or on the parade ground under the burning sun, when a Government church is available, the exclusive use of which they do not claim, but the right to a share of the use of which they assert.I am sure the noble Lord will not dissent from that view, and he will perhaps say something to-night to reassure both the Church of Scotland and the Nonconformists of this country that the matter is receiving his most careful consideration, and that their representations will have due weight with him. Without going into any of the religious controversies of the day, which I should wish to keep out of as far as possible, I must enter a caveat against the claim that the supreme tribunal in a matter of this sort should be the head of any Church whatever, and that we are to exchange the control of the Government of India, that is, the Secretary of State, for the Metropolitan of India. That, I think, is a position which this House would not tolerate, and to which I do not think the noble Lord will give a moment's sanction. No man respects the Bishop of Calcutta more than I do; I have the honour of his personal friendship, and I feel the greatest admiration of his character and public conduct; but this is a question of a constitutional character, and we cannot in any way weaken or detract from the cardinal principle on which the government of India is based—namely, the absolute supremacy of the Queen in all matters, not only civil, but ecclesiastical. This is not a question affecting the people of India, but one purely affecting the Protestants and Roman Catholics. These are the only criticisms I desire to make upon the noble Lord's 246 Budget. I congratulate him on the figures he has had to present, and the manner in which he has presented them, and I express a strong hope that there will be no return of famine, and that within a few days we may receive the welcome intelligence that the monsoon is discharging its beneficent work in the western part of India. Even if we are called upon to face scarcity or famine, I think the experience which has been derived during the last three or four years, and the admirable manner in which the famine organisation met the recent calamity, will relieve our minds of much of the anxiety which would otherwise oppress us as to what might happen. We may feel quite certain that the Government of India will be ready to grapple with that difficulty when it does arise, and the Government will receive all the support of this House and the Government at home which they will deserve under such circumstances.
§ LORD G. HAMILTON
I would desire to thank the right hon. Gentleman for the kindness of his references to myself. In all matters relating to the Government of India the right hon. Gentleman has always taken care that the partisan element should not, as far as he is concerned, enter into the subject. With regard to the import duties on cotton, while I should be glad to reduce any unpopular taxation, I am not pledged in any way to consider the import duties as the first to be abolished. As regards frontier administration I did not allude to the changes which Lord Curzon has proposed, because the policy he proposed to adopt is entirely in accord with the principles of a despatch which I myself sent to India two years ago in the name of Her Majesty's Government, in which was laid down the line which the Indian Government should pursue for the future in connection with the frontier. I have in a previous Debate summed up that despatch in two words by saying that the principles it represents are concentration and conciliation. I am glad to say that Lord Curzon has thrown himself with his characteristic energy into the realisation 247 of this policy, and I believe it will meet with the unanimous approval of both sides of the House. Then the right hon. Gentleman opposite went to the somewhat difficult question of the procedure which has been laid down for the use of churches in India. That is a matter to which I have given a great deal of attention, and I entirely agree that we should not allow our theological polemics here in any wav to interfere with this question in India. I think if all recollections of the views held by hon. Members in regard to the Established Church here are banished, it will be found that the arrangements in India in this matter are the best possible under the circumstances. There is a mistaken idea abroad with regard to the user of these churches. It would be just about as difficult to have there a church built for all denominations as it is to have an undenominational religion here. When the Indian Government build churches they must assign them to a certain religious denomination. That is also the practice of the War Office in this country. These churches are distributed amongst the various denominations, and each particular church is absolutely under the control of the authorities of the denomination to which it is allotted, and nobody has ever dreamt that such churches should be used by other denominations without the consent of the controlling authority. In India Episcopalians form an enormous proportion of the troops. I am speaking off-hand, but I think the figures at present show that 68 per cent. are Episcopalians, 18 per cent. Roman Catholics, 8 per cent. Presbyterians, and the remaining 6 per cent. are classed as Wesleyans, that term including Baptists and other Nonconformists. I may add that the churches in question are by no means entirely constructed out of public money. In order to obtain private subscriptions to a church, in addition to the Government grant, it is almost essential that the church should be devoted to some particular denomina 248 tion, and I am informed that in Northern India the relative contributions of the Government and of private subscribers, almost entirely members of the Church of England, have been as follows: in Calcutta diocese Government contributed Rs. 870,000, private subscribers Rs. 497,000; in Lucknow diocese, Government contributed Rs. 584,000, private subscribers Rs. 350,000; in Lahore diocese Government contributed Rs. 242,000, private subscribers Rs. 243,000. Two years ago I received a deputation of Presbyterian and Wesleyan ministers, who complained that there were undue restrictions in the use of certain Episcopalian churches. I replied that where the Episcopalians were in a great majority they must be consulted first, but that there might be cases in which a more conciliatory spirit would be practicable. I forwarded the representations to the Government of India, and Lord Elgin issued a fresh set of regulations. Up to that time the consent of the chaplain was necessary for the use of any church associated with the Church of England; but the new regulations issued by Lord Elgin provided that ministers of other denominations who were dissatisfied with the decision of the chaplain could appeal to the local authority, who would consult with the Bishop, and in case of disagreement the final decision was given to the local authority or the Commander-in-Chief. Lord Elgin had authority to issue those regulations without consulting the Secretary of State, and he did so; but when they reached this country the Archbishop of Canterbury and other dignitaries of the Church protested against them. The objections were sent out to the Viceroy, but in the interval two decisions had been given, and in both cases the local authority had decided against the Nonconformist claims, though the Metropolitan did not approve of those decisions. Therefore Lord Elgin's regulations did not work well, and their effect was the contrary of 249 that which was intended. There is also this difficulty—that the churches associated with the Church of England have as they were built been consecrated, and it is contended that consecration gives power to the consecrating authority to determine the use of the church. If that be so it is evident that the best way of obtaining for Presbyterians and Nonconformists a more extended use of Church of England churches is by application to the responsible authority, and the Metropolitan is a man of very liberal spirit, and may be trusted to exercise liberally the powers given him by the rules now in force issued by the present Viceroy, in super session of the rules issued by Lord Elgin's Government. As to the Presbyterian chaplains, there are not many of them, and they are permanently attached to the two or three Scottish regiments, and are consequently moving about constantly. But where there are a considerable; number of Presbyterians permanently stationed in one place it will be desirable that a church should be built for them. The House will understand that whatever difficulty has arisen in connection with these rules has not proceeded from any spirit of antagonism. There are certain legal rights which the Church of England possesses as well as the Presbyterian and the Roman Catholic Churches, and as the Episcopalians constitute by far the largest body in the community, it is only fair that they should be at least on terms of equality with members of other religions. The Presbyterians cannot expect to have churches of their own, over which they have absolute control, and demand also the use of Episcopalian churches. I assure the House that I will do my best to arrive at a satisfactory settlement, but it is impossible to come to a decision until I have received the opinion of the legal authorities I am consulting as to the legal rights which it is contended by the authorities of the Church of England are created by the ceremony of consecration. With regard to the Calcutta municipality, which was referred to by the hon. Member for the Louth Division of Lincolnshire, it is generally admitted that they talked too much and did not do their work well, and that some reform is necessary. It should be borne in mind that the 250 sanitary condition of Calcutta is not a local, but is practically an Imperial question. It became impossible for the Government to shut their eyes to the inefficient administration that prevailed, and when it became necessary to introduce a reform, I said, in the Debate on the Address, at the beginning of the session that I would do my best to see that the representative principle was as far as possible maintained. Among the variety of suggestions, a scheme similar to that which has worked well in Bombay found favour, and this Lord Curzon has adopted. It has worked well in Bombay, and I see no reason why it should not succeed in Calcutta. I can hold out no hope of its being modified. As to the number of European officers attached to Native regiments, this is a question that has been carefully considered. In time of peace it is inadvisable to increase the number, for there would then be not enough work for the Native officers to do, who, I take the opportunity of reminding the House, have always proved themselves most efficient in warfare. Some progress has been made with a plan for organising a reserve, whereby the number of European officers could be increased in time of need. The remarks of my hon. and gallant friend the Member for Bootle, in reference to recruiting of Native regiments, will be brought to the notice of the Government of India. As to the question of the hon. Member for Wandsworth in reference to the currency proposals, I can only say that terms of sterling contracts will be enforced as now. The currency proposals will enable a debtor to tender gold instead of rupees, and I have explained this in my previous speech. As regards the remarks of the hon. Member for West Wolverhampton on American competition, I have sent him figures showing the difference in prices in English and American tenders for contracts. I sent my hon. friend these figures because I wanted the ironmasters, as well as the men they employed, to seriously consider the new form of competition with which they have to deal. There cannot be the slightest doubt that the Americans are Introducing new methods of production, and every engineer connected with Indian railroads who has been over to America has been surprised at the development that has taken place there. I desire, as far as possible, and wherever I can, to 251 give contracts to British firms, but I do think it is advisable that both masters and men should fully realise what progress America is making. The hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green urged the separation of the judicial from the executive functions in certain branches of Indian administration. I do not deny that theoretically there is a great deal of force in the hon. Gentleman's contention; but, on the other hand, I am assured by very competent civilians that the present system does not work badly, and that the proposals the hon. Gentleman has put forward would entail a very heavy expenditure. I must wait until I get somewhat fuller information from the Indian Government before I can give an expression of opinion on the subject. In the course of the Debate opinions have been expressed in various quarters that the House is indifferent as to Indian questions and takes little interest in Indian subjects. I have been very many years in the House, and I do not think I have ever known a House of Commons where the interest taken in Indian questions is more intense that it is in the present House of Commons. I cannot help being struck by the pathetic admission of the hon. Baronet the Member for Banff. The hon. Baronet said that for six years he had been working away under the impression that he represented the whole of the natives of India, and that he had never succeeded in getting one single, solitary grievance he had brought forward remedied. The Press, he went on to say, public opinion, Parliament, and the India Office were all against him. How was it the hon. Baronet had not been able to get any redress for any question he had brought forward? How was it that public opinion, the House of Commons, the Press, and the India Office were all combined against him? Has it ever occurred to the hon. Baronet that his want of success is a little due to the tactics he adopts? The hon. Baronet complained that he was not a persona grata at the India Office. Why should he be? The hon. Baronet—I do not say intentionally—and those with whom he worked do everything in their power to stir up bad feeling against the Indian Government. I consider the hon. Baronet responsible for the fact that a 252 paper called India circulated the grossest falsehoods, which are repeated a hundredfold in the Native Press. So long as the hon. Baronet associates with people who make that class of assertion, I decline to associate with him. I do not care how hard a man hits if he hits honestly and straightforwardly. A man ought to use to a man's face the same language that he uses behind his back in the Press, and if the hon. Baronet has constituted himself the leader of the opposition in this matter, and if he has failed, as he has described in so pathetic a manner, it is not due to the House of Commons or to the Press, but to the tactics which he has pursued.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Considered in Committee:—
§ (In the Committee.)
§ [Mr. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, East) in the chair.]
§ Resolved, That it appears by the Accounts laid before this House that the Total Revenue of India for the year ending on the 31st day of March 1898 was Rx. 96,442,004; that the Total Expenditure in India and in England charged against Revenue was Rx. 101,801,215; that there was an excess of expenditure over Revenue of Rx. 5,359,211; and that the capital outlay on Railways and Irrigation Works not charged against revenue was Rx4,328,541.—(Secretary Lord George Hamilton.)
§ Resolution to be reported.
§ In pursuance of the Order of the House of the 17th day of July last, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House without Question put.
§ House adjourned accordingly at twenty-five minutes before Eleven of the clock.