§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Lord G. HAMILTON, Middlesex, Ealing)
The statement I propose to make to the House, as those acquainted with the finances of India are aware, covers a period of three years, and the period with which I have to deal commences with April, 1898, and terminates in April, 1901. In two out of those three years a drought of unparalleled dimensions, intensity and duration has upset the normal finances of the year, and inflicted terrible sufferings on a large portion of the population of India. I believe the House takes more interest in the cause of this abnormal affliction than in the ordinary prosaic comparisons between the revenue of different years. So I propose to devote a considerable part of my statement to describing the extent, progress, and future prospects of this terrible calamity. It is the practice in this country always to 1346 designate an affliction of this kind by the word "famine." But I do not think that word, although perhaps it may be the best word in our language, quite accurately designates the primary cause of an affliction of this character, and certainly does not convey to those who read about famine all the consequential evils entailed by drought. As the House is aware, India is one of the most purely agricultural countries in the world. Eighty per cent. of the population are usually engaged in agriculture, and agriculture in India, as elsewhere, is dependent on rain. But rain only falls at certain periods, and during the rest of the year a condition of more or less heat prevails. If rain fails during the periods when it ordinarily falls drought obtains possession of the area not touched by rain, and not only is there a lamentable curtailment of food supply to those living in the localities where there is no rain, but all means of earning wages ceases. It is very difficult to bring home to those of us who live in a densely populated country like Great Britain, where occupations are so diversified and varied and independent of climatic conditions, what terrible industrial paralysis the failure of the monsoon causes to those districts in India which are not adequately watered. The supply of food is almost the least of the difficulties with which the Indian Government have to contend. There is always a sufficiency of food in the great continent of India, even in years of drought. Owing to the increase of communication and the development of railway enterprise that food can with greater ease be carried to the districts which are distressed. The real difficulty is that of distribution and the supervision of distribution. Cattle are the only means of transport in rural India. In a period of drought vegetation ceases and cattle die. The number of officials at the disposal of the Indian Government is limited, and it is absolutely impossible to organise a system of supervision of distribution which would enable food to be brought to the multitudinous villages, and consequently it becomes necessary to take people from their villages and aggregate them in various places where supervision may be exercised and distribution of food may be made effective. Therefore the House should bear in mind that when a calamity of this kind occurs it is not merely that people are deprived of their crops, but all means 1347 of earning a livelihood disappear, vegetation ceases, their cattle die, and to keep them alive it is necessary to have recourse to the dislocation of the whole system of village and agricultural communities in India. All these difficulties the people in the distressed districts have borne with consummate patience and resignation, and I am glad to say there has been a remarkable absence of crime throughout the great majority of these districts. The House may perhaps like to know what are the dimensions of the present famine. Taking the most accurate data we have of the last three serious droughts, we find that in 1876 the area affected was 205,000 square miles and the population 36,000,000. In 1896 the area affected was 275,000 square miles and the population 52,000,000. This year I am sorry to say the area affected beats the record. It is 420,000 square miles and contains 62,000,000 of people. I am sorry to say the intensity and duration of the drought within that area is greater than in preceding droughts. The number of people on relief works in the last great drought on 1st January was 636,000. This year on 1st January the number was 2,750,000. On 14th July, in the last drought, the number in receipt of relief was 3,300,000; the number at the same time this year was 6,100,000. Now if we dismiss temporarily from our minds the enormous aggregate mass of suffering, both physical and mental, that this affliction has imposed upon the localities it has touched, and look simply at the material loss which these localities have sustained, the figures assume most serious dimensions It is very difficult to get accurate agricultural statistics as regards the edible crops, because a large proportion is consumed in the districts producing them, but we have more accurate statistics relating to the great agricultural exports, and I take these as an illustration of the loss which the country has sustained, putting on one side all other considerations. The wheat crop in a normal year is estimated to amount in value to £21,000,000. This year I am informed it cannot be more than £10,000,000. There is a loss in that one particular crop of £14,000,000. The cotton industry employs a larger number of persons than any other industry except agriculture. I mean not only in the cultivation of cotton, but also in the processes of manufacture, and she 1348 cotton industry largely depends upon the supply of raw material from Indian sources. The value of the cotton crop in a normal year is £12,000,000. This year it cannot be more than £5,000,000. Another very lucrative crop is that of oil seeds. The average value of that crop is not less than £18,000,000. This year it has disappeared altogether outside the Northern Provinces. I am informed on reliable authority that the reduction in the harvest in Bombay cannot be put at less than £15,000,000, excluding the frightful loss in cattle. Notwithstanding these tremendous losses, so large is India, so variable is its climate, and so unfailing is the law of compensation— that which is to the detriment of one province being very often to the benefit of another—that if we had only had to deal with one year's drought, I should, from the financial point of view, have been able to lay before the House an eminently satisfactory statement. But I am sorry to say that the reports of the last few days have not been at all satisfactory as regards the position of the monsoon, and we cannot dismiss the possibility that there may be a partial failure of the monsoon this year. Before I deal with the accounts, I may perhaps point out to the House that they are now stated in sterling; previously they were stated in tens of rupees. In the time of the East India Company the rupee was converted at 1s. 10½d., but in 1857–58 the exchange value was altered to 2s., a most convenient figure, introducing an unauthorised kind of decimal coinage. In the course of time the rupee steadily fell in value, and the difference between the nominal and the actual value became so great that it became necessary to alter the form of the accounts, and we took to stating the transactions in tens of rupees. That practice continued for some little time, but as during the past two years the exchange value has scarcely vaied fromr 1s. 4d. the Government in September last declared a gold standard in India, and we thought it a favourable opportunity to state all transactions in pounds sterling at the rate of 15 rupees to the pound. The first year I have to deal with is 1898–99. I estimated last year a surplus of £2,700,000; the actual surplus realised was £2,640,000. For the year 1899–1900 the Finance Minister estimated a surplus of £2,600,000. He anticipated a normal year and made no special provision for famine. During the year a very 1349 heavy expenditure has had to be incurred in connection with the famine, and very large remissions of revenue have also had to be made. These in the aggregate amount to very nearly £3,500,000. But the whole of that amount is not an additional charge against revenue. Every year there is included in the expenditure a certain sum which is allotted to famine. If no famine occurs, that money is used either in constructing protective famine works, or in reducing the debt. In the year in question £730,000 was so available, and that has been used for the purpose of direct famine relief. Therefore the amount of additional charge caused by the famine is only £2,631,000. That, of course, is a very large deduction from the original estimate, but I am glad to say that we have had certain windfalls, and certain branches of revenue show such an improvement that I have more than a corresponding balance to show on the other side. Army expenditure is much less in consequence of the European contingent which has gone to South Africa. The railways have given a very good return, nearly half a million in excess of the Estimate. Telegraphs also show a large increase, and the gain on revenue generally is nearly £1,400,000. Adding to this reductions in expenditure we get a gain on the Budget of last year of £2,870,000, and putting that against the loss caused by the famine, the first year of famine expenditure, after paying all expenses connected with the famine, closed with the substantial surplus of £2,800,000. That put us in a position of exceptional financial strength for dealing with the famine expenditure of this year. When, therefore, Mr. Dawkins had to balance the expenditure and the income for the year, he estimated that he might safely rely upon a normal monsoon for this year, a monsoon which would be adequate in its volume and effective in its distribution. Inasmuch as it was the west of India that was affected by this drought, parts which had not for a century known lack of rain, his estimate seemed to be a prudent one, and one upon which we thought we might safely rely. But I am sorry to say that during the past ten days the accounts of the behaviour of the monsoon have not been at all satisfactory, and I am afraid that we must contemplate a very considerable expenditure over and above that which the Indian Government 1350 estimated in March last. For this year, after all the expenditure and all the loss of revenue inflicted on the Government of India by drought, they thought they might rely on a surplus of £160,000. About eight days ago I got the revised account. The monsoon had then broken well, and the Indian Government thought would not be necessary to make any much larger provision than they included in the original estimate, and they informed me that they thought the surplus for this year would be about £50,000. Now the monsoon was very late this year. In recent years the Meteorological Department have established a direct connection between the fall of rain in India and the height of the Nile flood in Egypt. For the last twenty years, when there has been a failure of rain in India, the Nile flood has been low. Last year the flood was one of the lowest on record, and the failure of the monsoon was exceptionally bad. This year the Nile flood was normal, and that inspires the hope that ultimately the monsoon will fulfil its normal course. But on Tuesday night I received a telegram from the Viceroy in which he stated that after consulting with the Finance Department, he had come to the conclusion that it would be necessary to provide for an additional £1,200,000 for famine relief and the remission of land revenues. So that, instead of a surplus of £160,000, a deficit of £826,000 is now contemplated. I will read a telegram from the Viceroy, which states the facts upon which this estimate of increased expenditure is based. It is dated Simla, 25th July, 9 a.m.—Since my famine telegram to you of 20th July, conditions have changed decidedly for worse. No rain has since fallen in the Punjab, Sind, or Gujerat; insignificant rain in North Western Provinces, Bombay, Deccan, and Rajputana. On West Coast ordinary monsoon current has failed, and there are no present indications of revival. It is, therefore, not impossible that we may be faced, at any rate in Gujerat, Kathiawar, Baroda, and South-West Rajputana, with a far more serious situation than has yet arisen, while should monsoon continue to hold off a large part of India may be in for a second consecutive year of famine.Then Lord Curzon, with his characteristic vigour, adds—I am going down myself on Monday to Gujerat to spend a week in the distressed districts and personally inspect the state of affairs.The Viceroy and Lord Northcote will consult together, and before the end of 1351 the week we shall no doubt have a further report of the state of affairs. I have now a telegram from the Governor of Bombay of the same date as the Viceroy's telegram, but despatched at 4.15 p.m. As he is much nearer to the distressed area, we may assume that this telegram is some twenty-four hours later than Lord Curzon's—Your telegram, 21st July. Rainfall has been generally sufficient for agricultural purposes in Surat and Southern Gujerat States. Some rain has fallen in part of Broach, where cotton sowings being actively prosecuted; but more rain is urgently required in Kaira, Ahmedabad, Panch Mahals. Rain not sufficient for agricultural purposes except in a few places. Two-and-a-half inches of rain have fallen since yesterday, Godhra, Panch Mahals; one in several parts Ahmedabad; over half an inch in parts Kaira; rain sufficient in parts Baroda, adjoining Surat; no rain anywhere in Okhamandal division, Baroda; rainfall to date insufficient in the remainder of Baroda, where extensive failure of crops inevitable unless good rain falls in a few days.The area most severely threatened is a part of Bombay known as Gujerat, the richest and most fertile of the provinces of Western India, and for 100 years it has not known what drought is. It is a great cattle-breeding district and a country where the people to a large extent live upon a milk diet. We have in that part of the country only four small collectorships, and these are exceedingly difficult to administer, because they are inhabited by a great number of the non-Aryan aboriginal tribes, who are not easy to manage in times of drought. They are surrounded by native territories, which have not the same supplies and efficiency of administration as in our territories, and they are liable to be flooded with fugitives from the distressed native territories. There are four districts, and in the first rain has fallen; in the others rain is required. The Governor of Bombay's telegram proceeds as follows —No rain worth mentioning has fallen in any of the districts of Kathiawar, excepting small area south-east, where also more rain is urgently needed. Cultivation at a standstill for want of rain in almost the whole province. No signs of rain. Season is far advanced for sowing jowar staple cereal, but bajri can be still mostly substituted for jowar. Still time for cotton. Cattle dying from starvation. Scarcity of water increasing day by day.This refers to the northern portion of Gujerat, which has suffered exceptionally, and where the death-rate for 1352 June has increased by nearly one-half over the death-rate for May. As regards ways and means, I propose to raise a loan of £3,000,000. For some time past I have made arrangements for inviting applications, and these will be asked for on Friday next. It will be part of the unexpended balance of the borrowing powers which I obtained three years ago. I assumed at that time that the greater portion of it would be spent in the next two years; but our finances have been so good that I have still £9,000,000 unexpended. After consultation with my advisers, I am of opinion that I shall be able, with that and other resources, to meet any demands which the Viceroy or the Government of Bombay may make between now and the end of October, even assuming that the rainfall this year is a partial failure. If the rains are propitious the loan will cover the requirements for the whole financial year. But, of course, there may be difficulties. We may not be able to make available our existing credit; and in that case we shall appeal unhesitatingly to the British Treasury. I have always held that where life can be saved by expenditure the whole financial resources of the Indian Government must be utilised; and that if, owing to untoward circumstances, we are unable to utilise our credit, Her Majesty's Government will in that case come to her assistance.
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
The hon. Member must not anticipate. In dealing with the complicated conditions of this famine it is impossible for me now to anticipate the exact shape which that assistance ought to take. My hon. friend is under the impression that the Indian Government have been somewhat curtailed in their expenditure by desire for economy. I have had a table prepared of the total amount which the famine has cost India, and of the ways and means which we have, without any financial embarrassment, been able to apply to meet this exceptional expenditure. There has been spent, or provision has been made for spending, £6,190,000 in direct relief. Remission of land revenue and other reductions amount to £3,473,000. Loans to Native States for the purpose of meeting the famine have been £2,347,000; 1353 and advances to individuals have amounted to £1,098,000. That is an aggregate disbursement on the part of the Indian Government of upwards of £13,100,000 sterling in two years. Nobody who realises the magnitude of these figures can say—as has been said in some quarters—that there has been an attempt to run this famine on the cheap. No demand of the Government of India or of Bombay has been refused; we have complied with every requisition, and shall continue to do so as long as the object is the saving of life. Let us see how far success or failure has attended our efforts. A very considerable portion of the area now affected by drought was similarly affected three years ago; and any one who did not very carefully study the consequences and effects of the Indian drought and famine would naturally suppose that the mortality would be higher in the districts which had been twice affected than in the districts affected for the first time. But, curiously enough, exactly the reverse is the case. In 1897 the Central Provinces, which suffered for the first time, were terribly afflicted by scarcity, and there was a heavy mortality. This year they have been even harder hit, and there is a larger proportion of the people on relief works. But, except for those districts where epidemics have broken out, the mortality has been low. The conclusion at which I have arrived from a careful study of the famine of 1896–97, and from my previous experience of the famine of 1874, is that the first essential of successful famine administration is to get the people to come in early to the relief works, when they are still in good physical condition. If that is done, then it is easy enough; but if, on the other hand, from various reasons, the people will not come on the relief works until the last stage of exhaustion and inanition, their vitality is so low that it is almost beyond the powers of the authorities to revive them. They bring with them the germs of disease, which they communicate to healthy persons who are engaged on these works. Almost all the criticisms which have been hostile to the administration of famine relief have been devoted to the conduct of famine affairs in the province of Gujerat, which has not been afflicted by famine or drought for nearly a hundred years. The mortality in Gujerat has been exceptionally high. It has been a source 1354 of the greatest solicitude to myself, Lord Northcote, and the Viceroy. I have been in almost daily communication with them on the subject, but it is exceedingly difficult to put your finger on any mistake or error which has been made. The expenditure per unit there on relief is higher than in any other part of Bombay. The works there are more numerous, and the number of additional officers drafted there is higher than in any other part of Bombay. The collection of the land revenue has been almost infinitesimal. Undoubtedly the result, so far as mortality is concerned, is not satisfactory. In the past whenever famine operations are over it has been the practice to appoint a commission of inquiry for the purpose of investigating the various methods adopted. We shall have recourse to this procedure when this famine is over, and I hope that the collection of facts and the expression of opinions may be of use to the officials of the locality in dealing with subsequent outbreaks. But the difficulties which the local officers have to contend with are enormous and almost indescribable. I saw a report of the origin of the terrible outbreak of Asiatic cholera which suddenly occurred at the capital of one of the provinces. An American gentleman, the editor of a newspaper, published an account of what he saw in the Times of India. For many years he had devoted himself to charitable work, and he was a very competent authority to express an opinion as to the enormous difficulties which the relief officers have from time to time to cope with. There was great distress in the native States, and it was necessary, therefore, that some works of a certain size should be put up for the purpose of giving employment. In the middle of April a large tank work was opened in Godhra to meet the case of thousands of starving people from the outlying districts outside our own administration. Here is the account which appeared in the Times of India, and perhaps the House will excuse me reading it, but I do so because it will enable hon. Members more fully to appreciate the almost insuperable difficulties which these officers had to contend with—The story of the cholera outbreak in Godhra is ancient history, but it is worth retelling. In the middle of April the big Kanelao tank work was opened in the im- 1355 mediate vicinity of Godhra town to meet the case of the thousands of starving people flocking in from the outlying districts. The rush to this upset all calculations, and by the 20th of the month over 11,000 were crowded on to a work intended for only half that number. The administrative machinery broke down under the strain…. The people came hungry and resourceless; and hungry and resource-less they had to remain. … The receding waters of the tank confined within a limited space an enormous number of fish, and, deprived of other food, the starving people threw themselves upon this unwholesome diet and washed it down with the foul and putrid fluid in the tank. A great rise in the mortality gave rise to suspicions of cholera, and on the 20th one case was detected. On the 21st there was a lull; on the 22nd the storm broke, and 200 dead bodies lay about the camp. The ensuing panic was indescribable. The people gathered up their loins and fled from the unseen terror.It is a sad tragedy, but no one can blame the officers on the spot for not accurately forecasting the actual number of persons who flocked in from territories not our own. Although there was a terrible mortality among those receiving relief, it was not confined to them—The wife of Mr. Cooper, the superintendent of the work, was struck down, and since then both Mr. Cooper and his little child have fallen victims to the disease.It is a sad incident, only typical, however, of what was going on in other districts. All over the distressed districts our officers are combating these great evils with the greatest courage, success, and patience. In proportion to their numbers many have fallen victims to death uncomplainingly, believing that their work was appreciated by those with whom they came in contact, and quite confident that their fellow-countrymen at home will not be harsh or unfair critics of their action. Of all the men who visited those works no one was so competent to express an opinion as Dr. Klopsch, the American gentleman to whom I have alluded. After a visit to those works he wrote a final letter to the newspapers, in which he gave expression to these views—The more I see of the stupendous Government relief undertaking, the less I feel competent to criticise. With the limited number of intelligent workers at the Government's disposal it is a marvel that so much is being accomplished, and on the whole so well done.It has been pointed out by hon. Members that in their judgment my action is inconsistent, inasmuch as I appealed to the Lord Mayor and the public for funds to combat the famine, but at the same time 1356 I have not asked the Imperial Treasury to give a grant for that purpose. Hon. Gentlemen who have not given a close study to the principles of famine administration in India say that the fact of appealing to the public shows that the task is beyond the control of the Government, and that if this is the case we should frankly say so and come for aid to the Imperial Government. Those criticisms imply a very limited knowledge of the methods and the machinery which we employ in connection with famine administration. Many years ago, when the organisation was not systematised for the purpose of dealing with famine, money was subscribed by the public. Practically it was applied to the same objects as Government disbursements, and the result was that there was a great deal of overlapping, and distress did not get the full benefit of the money which was raised for relief. In 1878 the celebrated Famine Commission was appointed, of which Sir Richard Strachey was chairman. It had one of the most difficult administrative tasks which was ever laid before any body of men. There is no permanent poor law in India at all; it does not exist. But India is subject to periodical visitations that contract and expand with exraordinary rapidity. At one time drought may cause temporary distress; a few weeks afterwards it may sweep the whole province and deprive the people of the means of obtaining food. What that Commission had to do was to improvise a system of poor relief so thorough and elastic that it could be applied to all these various phases of famine. They laid down elaborate regulations the principal of which was that the Government of India took upon itself the obligation of finding food for all and work for those who were unable to obtain it, and to supplement this system of relief by kitchen poor-houses and hospitals. In fact, they were to take upon themselves as regards relieving distress a higher and wider obligation than was ever undertaken by any civilised Government in Europe. If the Government of India took all these duties on itself, was there any sphere of action for private charity and benevolence? The Commission emphatically replied in the affirmative; but they said that if an appeal is made to the public that appeal must be an authorised appeal of the Secretary of State and the Viceroy, and it must be arranged that 1357 every one subscribing will see that the money he gives is not in deduction of the Government aid, but in addition to it, and that the work of private charity shall be in clearly defined spheres of action, separate and distinct, and in addition to that which the Government undertakes. It is on that ground alone I appealed to the public, and not because we were unable to fulfil all the obligations we had undertaken of ourselves. It was because I wanted charity and benevolence to co-operate with us in that work that I appealed to the public, for in every country in the world such work is done by philanthropic co-operation. The object for which this money is asked is not work which the Government can undertake. There are four objects. First, to supplement the dole or the ration which the Government gives by special comforts in the shape of clothing or food. This is a work of discrimination, and it is impossible for the Government in the case of the enormous number of persons who come on the relief works to attempt that individual discrimination. The second object is to try and get together committees of all religious denominations, and through the instrumentality of these committees to get at the people who from caste and other reasons decline to participate in any system of public relief. The third object is to give special attention to orphans, and the last is to make advances to the cultivators of the soil to enable them to commence agricultural operations again. That last burden we have put on the shoulders of the Indian Government, because it seemed to us to be a proper and legitimate function for them to discharge, and we have practically, during the past year, devoted something like £1,100,000 to that purpose, relieving to that extent the charitable funds, and consequently enabling them to devote their attention exclusively to other objects. It is said that after all Indian Government aids and disbursements are regulated by the state of their finances, that India is poor, and that her poverty regulates the expenditure on famine, but what really regulates famine expenditure in India is the Famine Code. That Code makes provision for every conceivable contingency, and the two extreme principles upon which it is founded and which regulate its action are on the one hand that money 1358 should not be wasted, and that relief should be given in such a way as not to prevent the people going back to their normal occupations, and the second principle that wherever life can be saved by expenditure there expenditure is to be incurred. As far as the relief of famine in India is concerned, the whole financial resources, the whole administrative machinery, are at the disposal of those who are combating this terrible evil, and it is only in the event of our being unable to give effect to the regulations which we have deliberately laid down that we shall appeal for help or assistance elsewhere. May I just say a word to many hon. friends on both sides who, actuated by the most philanthropic motives, are desirous that the Imperial Government should, as an indication of sympathy and having regard to the safety of the people of India, contribute a large sum from the Imperial finances to help the Indian Government in their task? I quite admit that conditions may arise under which we may be brought face to face with facts which would necessitate such assistance on a large scale, but I for one have been brought up to believe that if you want to encourage effective economy in India, if you want to ensure financial reform, one of the primary conditions is that you must make Indian finance as far as possible independent and self-supporting. We live in a time when public expenditure is the fashion. There seems to be no class of expenditure to which a large portion of Members of the House are not ready to give their assent, and it is a very hard task when there is this craving for expenditure for the Chancellor of the Exchequer in England, with the taxpayer at his back, to stop this growth of expenditure and to prevent it advancing by leaps and bounds. There is no more unpopular and unpleasant task which any man can undertake than that of checking the demands so constantly falling upon him. In India there is just the same pressure; but if the Minister of Finance in India is consistent in trying to keep down expenditure, because he knows he must balance his income and expenditure, it is his duty to establish an equilibrium between the income and the disbursements of the Indian Government. It is nearly twenty-seven years ago since I first went to the India Office as Under-Secretary of State. My chief, who was the 1359 Financial Secretary at the India Office, was one of the ablest officials in the public service. We soon became friends, and we agreed on this, that the only hope of effective economy, the only hope of improving the financial system, was to make India independent and self-supporting. What inducement would the Finance Minister in India have to endeavour year after year to balance income and expenditure if he knew that there were a large number of Members in this House who were prepared to press the Chancellor of the Exchequer to give a large contribution to Indian finances. Therefore, if I have objected to and opposed premature proposals to the Imperial Exchequer it is not because I have not sympathy with the sufferings of the Indian people, but because I believe the course I have adopted is for the truest well-being of India. I feel that a sound system of finance is a convertible term for the improvement of the material and industrial products of the country. I believe that as soon as this cloud passes we shall be able to make considerable remissions of taxation and so to improve and ameliorate the general condition of the taxpayers. But I admit that this policy must be conditional upon the establishment between the Imperial Exchequer and the Indian Exchequer of an absolutely just principle as regards the apportionment of the charges in which the two Exchequers have a common interest, and that naturally brings me to the very elaborate Report, delivered after years of investigation, which Lord Welby's Commission have drawn up. In this House it is the fashion with a good many of my friends on both sides to accuse the representative of the India Office with taking an optimistic view of Indian finance. My facts and my figures are not the result of mere official optimism. We had a Commission consisting of men of the highest authority, who have spent their whole lives in examining questions of finance, and some of whom have been intimately associated with the Treasury here. What are their main statements? They say first that the financial machinery of the Indian Government is well organised and effectively controlled. Then they go on to say that though the growth of expenditure has exceeded the normal growth of revenue, this was mainly due to the increased cost of exchange due to the fall in value of the rupee, and that, except 1360 for this fall, a considerable reduction of taxation might have been looked for. They further say that during the past forty years the unproductive debt of India had been reduced 25 per cent., that the commercial services, the telegraphs and post-offices, were worked at a considerable profit, and that the railway and irrigation works, with their far-reaching benefits, entail but a very slight cost. And lastly they say that the apportionment of charge between the United Kingdom and India as regards matters in which they have a common interest has on the whole been equitable and fair. If, then, we take a more sanguine view than our critics, it is because we have our hand on the pulse of Indian finance. We know its vitality, and we are not unconscious of its weakness; but, as the Commissioners point out, if we can stop this fall in exchange, if we can in any way ensure anything like stability in exchange, I am perfectly positive it will be possible in future to make considerable reductions in taxation. Not only so, but you would offer the strongest inducements to capitalists in this country to make investments in India. It is often assumed in connection with this question of exchange that we have adopted a currency policy for the benefit of a few individuals. That was not the opinion of the chairman of the Commission. The question of exchange is indeed the key of the situation. If we can keep up present prices we not only hope to reduce taxation in India, but also to offer inducements to capitalists to invest in that country, thereby assisting its resources. The Commission suggests practically that a certain sum should be transferred from one Treasury to the other; and they assume that if this sum is so transferred, the arrangements between the two Governments will in future be practically equitable. Taking the proposals in their entirety, the amount which they propose should be transferred, and charged from one Treasury to the other, is £257,000. I have been in communication with the various Departments concerned, and with Lord Curzon. The Government wish to give the most favourable consideration to these proposals, and we hope that in the course of a few months we shall be able to make arrangements whereby a sum of £250,000, or thereabouts, shall be transferred as suggested, and India to that extent will be 1361 benefited. At the same time, I am bound to guard myself by saying that I do not necessarily bind myself to accept all the detailed proposals of the Commissioners. I naturally pass on from Lord Welby's Commission to the work we have done during the past year in connection with our object of establishing a gold standard associated with a limited gold currency. What did the experts tell us? We always like to consult experts. I think it is often pleasant to hear them talk; but the real satisfaction is when a number of experts have irretrievably committed themselves to a proposition which subsequent events show to be wholly and utterly false. The experts on this occasion who were opposed to our policy all told us that we might be able to establish a gold standard by proclamation in India, but as to associating with that a gold currency or getting any amount of gold flowing into India it was an absurdity. The gold, they said, would gradually filter back by process of exchange or trade. It was absurd, so they alleged, to think that any sensible person would take to India gold which had an even exchange in value all over the world in order to exchange it for rupees whose monetary value decreased 40 per cent. when taken outside India. The famine, to which I have so frequently alluded, caused a great falling off in the export trade of India; war broke out in the Transvaal, the world was deprived of its largest source of gold supply, and in consequence of the war expenditure the price of money rose. I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that if the Committee of which the right hon. Gentleman was chairman could have foreseen that in the first year after they concluded their report conditions so unfavourable to the realisation of a gold standard and currency in India would have existed, they would not have wanted action to be taken until a normal state of things had been reestablished. Yet, notwithstanding this rare combination of influences against us during the past year, so far from gold not going to India there has been a superabundance of gold there. I do not like to trouble the House needlessly with figures, but this is really so interesting a matter that perhaps I may be allowed to read a few. There is a very large note circulation in India, and a considerable portion of this note circulation is covered by 1362 Government securities, the remainder by coined metal, either rupees or gold. The rupee is valued in exchange at 1s. 4d., or at the rate of 15 rupees to the sovereign. In January, 1899, the note issues secured by metal were 15 crores 67 lakhs; against that was held silver, 15 crores 19 lakhs; gold, 48 lakhs. In October silver had fallen to 12 crores 36 lakhs, and gold had risen to nearly 5½crores. In January this year silver had fallen to 6 crores 78 lakhs, and gold had risen to about 10½ crores. At the end of May, of the notes for 18½ crores secured by metal, only 4½ crores were represented by silver; 14½ representing gold. We were in consequence obliged to buy silver and coin it to exchange it for gold. We have been compelled to buy £1,900,000 of silver, sufficient to coir 440 lakhs. About 1,689 lakhs of rupees or £11,200,000, have been added to the rupee circulation since 1st April, 1899. I think we shall have to watch very closely this addition to the currency, but still I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Chairman of the Committee on the singular success which has attended its recommendations. We have got over the initial difficulty of the currency reform, and I hope that with the exercise of patience and vigilance we shall in measurable time have accomplished the objects we have in view Sir E. Law reports that there was a large profit on the coinage of the silver, and in accordance with the recommendations of the Commission, he proposes to appropriate that to a special reserve fund which will facilitate our currency operations. I am afraid I have detained the House a long time, but there are a great many Amendments on the Notice Paper, and no doubt I shall be able to deal in reply to them with various other subjects of interest. There is only one other item of expenditure on which I wish to say a word or two—Army expenditure. The cost of military equipment seems to me to have almost escaped the control of the different Governments of the civilised world. I often wonder whether the great military Powers when they forced all the men of their nations into arms foresaw the result which would follow. The result has been that there has been such a demand for the manufacture of arms and munitions of war that their manufacture has become a most profitable undertaking. In the old 1363 days Governments for the most part manufactured their own arms and munitions; now there are great syndicates for the purpose controlled by men of the highest scientific attainments and genius, great chemists, great financiers. All the modern processes of production and industrial organisation are combined for the purpose of making more deadly weapons with which men may kill one another. The whole resources of civilisation are ransacked to obtain more and more effective weapons of warfare. The result is that the improvements are so great that it almost involves a change every decade. No Government can stand aside and allow its army to be armed with weapons which are a few years old. To such an extent is the manufacture of arms pushed that it has destroyed the difference which used to exist between the barbarous and semi-barbarous and the civilised Powers. The civilised Powers used to keep back barbarism by the superiority of their arms and weapons, but now these great syndicates are prepared to provide barbarous nations with arms of the most modern type, provided they can pay for them. In these circumstances the Government of India have no option but to see that our men are equipped with the most modern weapons. An illustration of what has occurred may be found in China to-day. Our native army in India until recently was armed with the Martini rifle. We thought it necessary that they should have the more modern weapon, and we were able, with the assistance of the War Office, to arm a considerable portion of the native army early in this year with Enfields. Some of these troops are under orders to China; and had it not been for this increased expenditure this year, these troops would have been sent to China with less effective weapons than those possessed by the Chinese. I regret that we have to incur this expenditure, but it is inevitable. The sums which have been paid by the British Government on account of the contingents to South Africa and China will to a very large extent cover the expenditure. In certain quarters it is suggested that, because the Indian Government in exceptional circumstances have allowed a certain number of the troops of their establishment to go to South Africa and China, the Indian establishments must be in excess of the requirements. The emergency, 1364 however, was in both cases altogether exceptional, and the Indian Government were perfectly justified under the circumstances in doing what they did. Because in abnormal circumstances we ran a risk, it is unreasonable to suppose that when affairs return to a normal condition we should still continue to run that risk. Therefore, I can hold out no hope whatever of a reduction of military expenditure. I think, if anything is done, we may have slightly to increase it That is not due to any wish to extend our territory, or to adopt any aggressive policy. During the last year Lord Curzon has shown great energy and determination in seeing everything for him self; he has passed all along the frontier. Two principles have been laid down for the regulation of our North-West Frontier policy. One is the substitution of levies and local Militia for British Indian troops, and the other withdrawal from cantonments outside the administrative frontier. That policy has been vigorously followed by Lord Curzon. He has placed a local Militia on the frontier, and has withdrawn the troops from cantonments outside the frontier and concentrated them in convenient cantonments where they will be in readiness to go at very short notice to the relief of the local levies if required. Suggestions have been made to the Indian Government to construct a railway down the Khaibar Pass, and to place a British garrison at Kotal, but these views did not recommend themselves to Lord Curzon and myself, and the only railroad made is one to Jamrud, in our own territory. I cannot leave the Indian Army without alluding to the irreparable loss India has sustained by the death of two distinguished soldiers—Sir Donald Stewart and Sir William Lockhart. Sir Donald Stewart's military reputation is well known. He was for fifteen years past a member of the Council of the Secretary of State, and a shrewder or more sagacious adviser never had a seat on that Council, and with his unfailing sagacity and great patience, he was as good an adviser in financial, political, and administrative questions as he was in military questions. Sir William Lockhart was a born leader of men, and a man of immense force of character. He no doubt shortened his life by his devotion to duty, for he was undergoing a course of German baths when he was 1365 called upon to take up the command of the troops in the Tirah campaign. He went out at a moment's notice, and I fear that the hardships he underwent so impaired his health that he was never able fully to recover. There is one characteristic about these two great men. Both had rare powers of attracting the native officers and natives who served under them in such a way as to secure their complete confidence. There is another most distinguished Anglo-Indian soldier, Lord Roberts, who possesses this characteristic to a superlative degree. We have made enormous changes in India during the last ten years. Our Government is stronger and more solidified than it was before that period. The material prosperity of a large section of the population has greatly increased, and our mechanism of government has so improved and developed that I think it may fairly be claimed for it that it is the most advanced and scientific system that India has ever possessed. Yet sometimes I have doubts whether our popularity has increased. Sir, we have gone on improving our administration, we have passed up through various stages of administrative improvements, until administration at the present moment has reached the highest point of development. This work has been accomplished by a great deal of labour and ability, and I do not think too much credit can be given to those who have achieved it. We have codified the laws and simplified procedure, and we have made uniform our methods of administration, but, looking at all these great improvements, can it be said that they are as palatable to the people to whom they are applied as the older and cruder system? We have no fault to find with those who have administered the laws. They are fully up to the standard of those of earlier years in intelligence and sense of duty, but they do not get the opportunities which were afforded to the young men who formerly went out from here to serve in India early in life and usually spent their lives there, being placed, not infrequently, in isolated positions in which they had to depend on their own resources for the preservation of law and order. That has all gone. We have passed from the old patriarchal methods. The gentlemen who go out to India now are in a different position. Everybody has a code for everything, and if the code fails 1366 there is the telegraph by which he can get assistance at the earliest possible moment. But that is not the only evil from which civil servants in India suffer. They have everything that develops—telegraphs and railways—and the result is that they are so over-burdened with correspondence,. Reports, and Returns, that they are really imprisoned in their offices for the greater part of the day, and it is only when such a great calamity as that with which India-is now afflicted occurs and sweeps away all their stereotyped procedure that these men are able to come out of their offices and join with the other forces at work in dealing with the trouble. Then the sympathy of these men brooks no denial, and we see them come out and toil to ameliorate the condition of the sick and. the poor. I hear from all sides in the distressed districts of India which are suffering such terrible loss that the work of these men has rekindled between the Government and the governed that feeling of regard and affection which was so marked a characteristic in India. We have a remarkable man as Viceroy, a man of untiring energy and unbounded power of work, and he has devoted his> energy to every branch of administration. His wish is so to free the official that he shall be able to get more time to give to the essentials of administration, and therefore I am hopeful that, although one cannot but deplore the mass of suffering and misery through which India is passing, and which may occur again in subsequent years — I sincerely hope and believe that the outcome of this misfortune will not be without its benefits to India, that the wounds and scars which this terrible calamity has inflicted may be forgotten, and that interchange of kindly feeling and mutual regard among all classes who have fought the common fight may be a lasting and increasing influence in guiding the future fortunes of' India.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed,. "That the Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Lord G. Hamilton.)
§ * SIR HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
I am sure the House is greatly indebted to the noble Lord for the admirable statement he has made. I have been struck by the pathos, eloquence, and luminous exposition of detail which has characterised his masterly speech 1367 I think it will rank among the foremost statements of Indian finance that have been made to this House. The noble Lord has gone over the greater part of the ground over which it is usual to travel, and he has also dealt in a sympathetic manner with the great calamity from which India is suffering, and has brought before us the difficulties which he and his colleagues have had to face in this difficult situation. There are one or two points on which, perhaps, I do not quits agree with him and on which I may have to express my views in a few words, and beyond that I do not propose to trouble the House at any length. I should like, however, to add my testimony to the great loss India has sustained in the death of the great soldiers to which the noble Lord has referred. I was associated with Sir Donald Stewart when I was in office as Secretary of State, and I can state that not only was he one of the wisest of military advisers, but also one of the soundest financiers and most practical men in administration. We have sustained another loss this year, happily not occasioned by death. I deeply regret that one of the eminent civil servants to whom the administration of India has been entrusted has found himself compelled to deprive the Indian Government of his services—I refer to Mr. Dawkins, to whom the greater part of the credit for the reform of the Indian currency belongs. There were several figures given by the noble Lord which were interesting to the House, and one or two I should like to supplement. I quite admit that the Currency Commission did not anticipate the calamity that has fallen on the Empire of India during the last few months. I am sure that the members of that Commission would not have signed that Report and adopted so great a change if they had known that within a year we should be engaged in a war with South Africa, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have issued the largest loan since 1815, and that India would be suffering from a terrible famine. As far as we can see at present everything that has transpired since is encouraging as to the probable success of the currency policy. The noble Lord has told us how the unfavourable predictions have been falsified, but he has not told us the effect of this change upon trade. The House 1368 will remember the abnormal condition of trade as far as famine is concerned, and the state of things produced in the cotton trade as far as China in concerned. The total trade of India, in and out, was in 1898 105 millions; in 1899, 109 millions and a quarter; and in 1900, 115 millions and a quarter. So far as exports were concerned, in 1898 they were 56 millions; in 1899 65 millions; and in 1900 65 millions, notwithstanding that the export of wheat and rice was necessarily reduced by the diversion into the famine districts. I understand from the accounts that, on the 1st April, 1899, the currency of gold in reserve was two millions sterling, and on 7th March, 1900, seven millions sterling, and, in addition, the Secretary of State had accumulated in London a million and a half of gold. So the aggregate of gold under the control of the Secretary of State was eight millions and a half. Now, there must be in India a silver reserve. The noble Lord has had this year to buy silver. There is one factor it is impossible to pronounce accurately upon—the quantity of silver necessarily diverted into the famine districts, and that may disturb calculations. I understand the Indian Government intend to have a gold reserve of five millions. Beyond that, they propose to give gold in exchange for silver. The gold taken from currency in payment of notes is £130,700. I mention that as showing that the people are still pursuing the old habits of trade, and that the Report of the Committee that the great bulk of the internal transactions of India would continue to be carried on in silver is being borne out and the quantity of gold circulated is equally small. The gain is in the fixity of exchange between this country and India, and estimating the cost of a common denomination. I hope this great change which has marked the administration of the noble Lord will act most beneficially on the trade, commerce, taxation, and prosperity of India. As far as I can gather, a sum of money has evidently been exported from this country to India for investment in India. With reference to the famine I have nothing to add to the pathetic statement of the noble Lord, and his just expression of admiration of the manner in which the famine has been grappled with by the officials, and I hope the House will note what has been stated by the noble Lord and 1369 the Viceroy of India, that the actual cost to the Government of India— not the people of India (that would have been a great deal more)—in the last two years has been thirteen millions sterling, an indication of the sound financial position in which India stands. The Secretary of State makes this a strong argument for objecting to India being relieved from Imperial funds. "India is able to meet its own requirements. We ought not to appeal to the Indian Exchequer to help us." I agree that an equilibrium should be maintained between income and expenditure, and I would oppose anything which would appear like the pauperisation of India. But the large excess of revenue out of which these large sums are being provided really means an excess of taxation levied beyond the actual requirements of the Indian Government in normal circumstances. In other words, if it had not been for this exceptional expenditure there must have been large reduction of taxation. That being so, I say we come to the point of voluntary contribution. There should be a payment made by Great Britain to her great dependency to help her in this great calamity. You may say India does not need it. But sympathy is a strong force in human affairs. Sentiment is a strong force in human affairs. We have recently received strong marks of sympathy from India and our colonies. There are two sides to this, and if we receive expressions of sympathy from India and the colonies we must be prepared in return to give expression of sympathy when the time arrives. A great Indian prince, the Maharaja of Gwalior, has recently offered to fit out a hospital ship for the use of the British Government in China. I suppose if that Indian prince had not come forward a hospital ship would not have been wanting, but throughout the length and breadth of the land this expression of sympathy from that great Indian prince to the mother country will be recognised and admired far more than its intrinsic value. If the Government had been prepared, not as a matter of dry finance, to say to India, "You are in financial difficulties, and we will relieve you," and the people of this country, through their representatives in Parliament, had said, "We will vote India a sum of money to aid her in her calamity as an expression 1370 of our national sympathy in addition to private charity," I believe that, as a matter of State policy, it would have been one of the wisest things the Imperial Government could have done. These perpetual appeals to the charitable section of the English public—I find no fault-are only responded to by a limited class, and the same class who give for the relief of the soldier, sailor, the suffering, and hospitals, whether in India or elsewhere. But there is a great mass of wealthy people in this country who give to nothing. It is only right and fair that they, deriving advantages from this great relationship between us and our colonies and India, should take their share, as part of the nation, in doing what I believe the nation would desire to have done. Whether the Secretary for India asks for a large or a small sum, and whether he terms it a loan without interest, or a grant, the handsomer, the more generous, and spontaneous it is, it will be better appreciated and approved by the people of this country, and will be accepted in the same spirit by the people of India. As to the proposals of Lord Welby's Commission, I think that the Report of that body has dispelled, and will dispel, a great many delusions which have taken hold of the popular mind in England and India with regard to our financial position there. That Commission was appointed with two objects. It was appointed to inquire into the administration and management of the military and civil expenditure of India, both at home and in India, and into the apportionment of the charge between the Imperial and the Indian Governments for purposes in which both Governments are interested. That Commission sat for two or three years and took the opportunity of ascertaining from the best authorities what were the facts of the case. I think the facts are stated in the Report with singular accuracy, clearness, and fairness, and for many years to come the various details of Indian finance will have there an authorised text-book. I have no fault to find with the facts which the Commission found as a jury. I am bound to say that I think the Commission have been very timid in their recommendations. There are some of their recommendations which I am glad to hear the noble Lord does not intend to accept. I am very sorry that they were not unanimous with refer- 1371 ence to the audit. There was a very strong weight of opinion that though the present audit was very admirable, still it was desirable that the Comptroller and Auditor General in India should be put in the same position as the Comptroller and Auditor General in this country, and should be absolutely independent of the Executive. The only ground of objection I can trace was the very familiar one, "Oh, it would cost too much; it is not worth the expense." I think it is worth the expense. The last estimate I have seen of the cost of an independent audit in India puts the figure at £15,000 a year. I do not think that is a sum worth saving on a question of this magnitude. There is another point with reference to the position of the Finance Minister in the Indian Council. At present there are two military members in that body. I think the Commander-in-Chief ought to be removed, just as the Commander-in-Chief here is from the English Cabinet. That is a subject which I hope the Government will very carefully consider. The question of the debt of India is one upon which we have often had discussions in this House. Some gentleman sent me a book this week in which he stated that, while the English debt had been reduced by something like £140,000,000 since the Crimean War, the debt of India during that time had steadily increased. This is from a very respected author, and I am sure he would not make a misrepresentation. But he did not divide the debt into productive and non-productive debt. There is the ordinary debt which every State must incur, and there is the public works debt, which pays its own interest and repays its own capital. At the close of the Mutiny the ordinary debt of India stood at £97,000,000. In 1897 that had been reduced to £72,750,000. The noble Lord's Memorandum puts it in the clearest way, and it shows that now the entire debt of India, productive and non-productive, is £212,000,000. The assets which India has in the shape of railways, canals, irrigation works, money lent to corporations, and other valuable assets, is £182,000,000. The net debt of India at this moment, after having gone through this terrible famine, is £30,000,000. I do not believe there is any great civilised Government in the world where there is proportionally so small a debt as there is in India at the present time. This Commission has also found 1372 that the civil expenditure is not excessive as compared with 1875, and that it has not been excessive as compared with the expenditure of other countries, and that although there has been a net increase of 25 per cent., yet there has been an increase in the population of 20 per cent. I hope the Government will take into its most careful consideration the various recommendations of the Commission, and even if they do not agree with them they should settle some of the questions once and for all. I do not think the Treasury has done what it ought to have done in the proposal now suggested as the financial settlement. I do not think £250,000 a year does adequately meet the claims of India. I think there is a greater claim, not upon the charity, but upon the justice of the people of this country, with reference to military charges. It has been proved, and the noble Lord's speech shows it, that a great portion of your military reserve is in India. You had to have recourse to India with reference both to South Africa and to China. I have no wish that India should in any way profit by the transaction, but, looking at it as a whole judicially and fairly, I think that the contribution from India to what is called the capitation grant is too high. I express again my thanks to the noble Lord, and I re-echo his hope in regard to the somewhat gloomy view of the Viceroy on Tuesday, which is certainly modified by the telegram on Wednesday from Lord Northcote, and of course Bombay is a most important district. We are at present in July, and I think August is an important month in the history of the monsoon, and I hope the situation may not prove to be so gloomy as it is at present anticipated; but whether that be so or not, I think we shall not forget, India will not forget, and history will not forget the admirable manner in which the British Government in India and the officials of the British Government have grappled with this calamity with a success which has no parallel in the history of India.
§ MR. SOUTTAR (Dumfriesshire)
The speeches to which I have had the pleasure of listening have encouraged me the more earnestly to say that which I have to say. The speech of my right hon. friend was, of course, a direct encouragement, and the speech of the noble Lord who repre- 1373 sents India in this House was also an encouragement of no mean order, for he told us three things. In the first place, he warned us that the danger was by no means at an end; in the second place, by the figures he laid before the House, he distinctly showed that, although the Government of India had been exceedingly generous as far as its power went, it had been unable to do more than meet a small proportion of the great loss which the country had experienced; and in the third place, if I may say so, he showed that his heart is not entirely closed and sealed against the proposition which I have to make. In making that proposition, I ought to explain that I have been advised that it is not in order for any private Member to propose that a definite sum should be granted from the Exchequer, and perhaps, instead of saying anything about a definite sum, if I substitute the words "a large and generous grant," and ask hon. Members to bear in mind that £5,000,000 is the amount I have in my mind, that will sufficiently meet the case. But before I proceed to say anything about that, I should like to be permitted, partly from my own personal knowledge of India, and partly from what I heard lately, to say how immensely everyone, so far as I know, on this side of the House appreciates the efforts made by the Government of India in connection with this famine. From the Viceroy down to the humblest official, both natives and Europeans, they have done their very utmost, as far as in them lay and as far as they had the power, to mitigate the great calamity which has befallen India. Of that there is not the slightest doubt, and concerning that there is no difference of opinion. One thing sometimes strikes me as rather strange, and I daresay other Members have thought the same, and that is, that in a country where so many men are working with extraordinary earnestness on behalf of the people, there should yet be such continued suffering. In the old days you could account for these things by saying that they were the product of war and misrule, but there has been no war within the frontiers of India for forty years, and during that time there have been ten famines, and 15,000,000 people have died of famine and of the diseases connected with famine. This famine is the worst of all. The noble Lord has given us extraordinary 1374 figures showing that this is a famine of no ordinary degree. It is perfectly impossible to really appreciate the meaning of these figures. The more one studies them the more one feels that perhaps in the history of the work) there has never been a famine like the one we are considering to-night. Moreover, this famine is the greater because it has so soon followed the famine of 1897. Many of the natives of India, I think, were only able to gather one meagre crop after that famine had passed before this second famine was upon them. I mention that, not for the sake of letting Members see what a big famine it is, but because I wish to impress upon their minds this circumstance, that this is an extraordinary famine, that therefore the occasion is an extraordinary occasion, and that the grant made in connection with this famine need not for a single moment be regarded as a precedent in connection with any future famine. The question is, Is there such an emergency as to need a considerable grant? I think there is; and for two very clear reasons. In the first place, I think the people have got to the end of their resources. Their ornaments are gone, their clothing is gone, their furniture is gone, and the very fittings of their houses have been sold in order to keep bare life within their bodies. Not only that, but this famine, which has been a famine of food and fodder and water, has swept away almost entirely the plough cattle of the people, and there they stand facing the future in perfect misery and hopeless despair. That is a very serious consideration. Here we have millions of people practically bankrupt, their cattle gone, their credit gone, having no hope in the present, and very little hope with regard to the future. But I think we may go further and say that we can prove emergency from the circumstance that the Government have got to the end of their resources. The noble Lord, in speaking of the resources of the Government, said he had yet borrowing powers to the extent of £9,000,000. I suppose, as a matter of fact, having the whole credit of the British name behind him, he has borrowing powers for £90,000,000 if he is so disposed, but surely borrowing is not the way to meet a great difficulty like this. Surely the noble Lord will not contend that the people of India should in that way be plunged yet more heavily into debt Moreover, it becomes more serious when 1375 you consider, as my right hon. friend has pointed out with great clearness, that the Government of India is the people of India. In this country you might possibly establish a tax by which you could raise a certain amount of money, the incidence of the tax falling at first on the wealthy people of the land—such a tax as the income tax. You could not do that in India, because the revenue is received from salt and land, and everyone who knows India knows that to pay more money as interest on loans, or anything else, is only to burden more seriously the miserably poor in order to help those who are yet more miserable. If we desire to see the exact condition of India we have only to look at the words in one of the paragraphs of the Viceroy's appeal. He says—If the question be asked, Why is Government not able to assume the entire burden, and to dispense with all external aid? no false pride need deter me from giving a frank reply. Government is straining every nerve, is pouring out its money, is shrinking from no obligation, however severe…. But over and above this expenditure, which cripples our development in a score of ways, there lies a vast area of need which, do what we may, we can barely reach, and in which extraneous contributions supply an invaluable reinforcement…. This is a field of enormous and almost undiscoverable extent, the margin of which the already overworked official hardly touches, but which is, in a peculiar and inevitable degree, the property of individual effort and private generosity.No words I can utter are likely to carry more conviction than those of the Viceroy. He tells us that the Government are straining every nerve, and that yet there is an enormous field of almost undiscoverable extent, the very margin of which is scarcely touched. The Viceroy's appeal has produced an altogether inadequate result, and that field will remain untouched until the British Parliament rises to a sense of its duty, and steps forward to do its part. Seeing the need of India, let me give one or two simple reasons why I think we should help her in her hour of need. The first is a somewhat selfish but a very forcible reason. India is the fourth best customer we have in the whole world as a commercial nation. The United States comes first, then France, then Germany, and then India. In a very little while India will be our second best customer. She is already a better customer to us than the whole of Australasia, and in a little while, if the present rate of progress continues, she will be a better customer 1376 than the whole of our colonies pub together. In ordinary business life, if a business man in a large way has a customer a little embarrassed for the moment, he does not crush that customer; he does his very utmost to help him. He remembers what he has made out of that customer in the past; he thinks of what he hopes to make in the future, and he does his best to help the lame dog over the stile. We have made a great deal out of India in the past; we hope to make a great deal out of her in the future; and we ought therefore to come forward and help her in this hour of trial. But there is a higher reason than that why we should help India. Notice has already been taken of what India has done for us. in connection with foreign affairs. In our embarrassments in South Africa, in China, and on the West Coast of Africa, who has come forward to help us loyally, if not India? Indian troops were, I believe, the first to face the enemy in South Africa; they will be the first in any number to face the enemy in China. India has lent 22,000 troops to her Suzerain, and she may lend a great many more. Have hon. Members ever reflected what would have been the case to-day if India had been disloyal? Have they ever reflected what might be the case if some day India should be disloyal? You cannot make a country loyal in a day; but you can gradually make a country loyal by good government, by a display of good feeling, and by acts of kindly generosity. I have lived for years in India, and I do not hesitate to say as my deliberate conviction that the Indians are the most grateful people on the face of the earth. If we would only rise to the occasion and make this grant —which we should never miss—I believe we should make India loyal for half a century to come. Fathers would tell their sons of the time when famine and pestilence walked hand in hand throughout the land, when the seed corn had passed away, when the plough cattle had died, and when apparently nothing remained for the people but to die; and then at that time England came forward with a great gift for new seed corn and for new plough cattle, and saved the lives of the people, and brought back happiness and contentment to the homesteads. There is one other reason I should like to give, and that is that India has cost us nothing in the past. We have heard the 1377 noble Lord speaking about the necessity of teaching India good finance, showing India a good example, and teaching her economy, and so on. There was not a word in regard to that with which we would not all agree, and yet at the same time the thought came that he was speaking as if India needed to learn that lesson. Nothing of the sort. India has cost this country practically nothing. Our colonies have cost us hundreds of millions of pounds; India has never cost us a penny. The British Empire in India was founded, and has been extended and consolidated, by Indian resources, and the British taxpayer has never been asked to contribute a single shilling. But beyond that, India costs us nothing at the present. Just consider the contrast for a moment between the Colonial Office and the India Office. We know how difficult it is to get up a debate in this House on any Indian subject. Why is that so? Because the expenses of the India Office, from the salary of the noble Lord down to the wages of the meanest employee in the office, are borne by the Indian peasant, and do not come before this House. We have no such difficulty with regard to the Colonial Office, because the salary of the Colonial Secretary, and the great expenses of that Department, are borne absolutely by the British taxpayer. If you look at the thing more broadly, it becomes even more striking still. The noble Lord at the head of the Government made a very remarkable speech a few days ago in which were words of very solid wisdom. He spoke of the burdens of empire, and showed that those burdens might have to be more evenly divided than at present.* I entirely agree, if I may be permitted to say so, with the doctrine he preached; but when that day comes India will have nothing to fear, as she already pays her full share. Every penny that can possibly be put upon India is put upon her today. The colonies subscribe in all one and a half millions towards Imperial defence, whereas India subscribes from twenty-two to twenty-five millions. Above and beyond that, India has been burdened with the expense of many wars; she has had to bear the expense of wars, either wholly or in part, to which the colonies have not contributed a single shilling.*See speech of Marquess of Salisbury, 20th July, 1900, page 616 of this volume.1378 Our richest colonies have been spared, but the poorest and most miserable peasantry in the world have been taxed not only for their own welfare but also to preserve the name and reputation of our great Empire in portions of two continents. The noble Lord indicated that it is quite possible that the colonies have been treated with generosity while India has been treated with strict justice. Surely that is an argument in favour of helping India to-day. If India has stood shoulder to shoulder with us in our times of trial, if she has borne the heat and burden of the day, surely it is right that we should stand shoulder to shoulder with India now that her great day of trial has come. I might contend that strict justice demands that we should help India. My right hon. friend went into that point, and I will not carry it any further. There are men in this House who understand these things a great deal better than I do, but my superficial judgment on the Report of the Royal Commission is that this is an act not of mere generosity but of absolute justice and equity. I believe the British Empire owes a debt to the Indian peasant of which these millions would be but a payment on account. Finally, it seems to me that our national dignity is indissolubly bound up in giving help to India at this time. We have made ourselves responsible in a very striking degree for the government of India. We hold in India 300,000,000 of our fellow-creatures in the hollow of our hand; we govern them just as we like, without even asking the opinion of the natives of India. Of course, we are not responsible for this famine; it is the act of God; but surely the position we have taken up in regard to India makes it absolutely necessary that we should, by every means in our power, mitigate the calamity which has come upon the people. We have vaunted the Government of India; we have said to the nations of the world, "Come and see how Englishmen can: govern Orientals," and it seems to me that the miseries of our fellow-subjects in India to-day touch our honour, and are a blot upon the fair fame of our Empire. The appeal of the Viceroy has gone throughout the length and breadth of the world; the whole world is therefore looking at us and wondering how we will act, and the strange thing is that this House has not yet granted even a £5 note towards the 1379 Famine Relief Fund. If the noble Lord is obdurate, and this proposal is cast aside, it may be that we shall have to record that the greatest famine of the nineteenth century was allowed to eat its way through the country without any help being given to the people from the legislative assembly of the greatest and richest Empire the world has ever seen. Surely such a conclusion would be to our everlasting shame. I cannot believe that the Government mean to put such an affront upon the nation. Rather do I believe that they will fall in with what I know to be the desire of the House and of the country at large, and make a generous gift to the Indian people out of the fulness of our abounding wealth, to strengthen the hands of an admirable Viceroy, and to gladden the hearts of a greatly suffering people. I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name.
§ SIR WILLIAM WEDDERBURN (Banffshire)
I beg to second the motion, and I trust that the House will favourably consider this appeal to its pity. When the proposal for a Parliamentary free grant was discussed last April,*it was received with favour by hon. Members on both sides of the House, but the Government did not then see its way to take any action. The First Lord of the Treasury recognised the terrible distress of India, and was prepared, if needful, to apply without hesitation to Parliament for assistance, but he did not accede to our request, as the Government of India did not then anticipate difficulty in providing relief. It will be seen that this refusal was conditional; and I submit that since April things in India have become much worse, and that the time has come to reconsider the original decision. I hope also that when I make clear the purpose for which we ask the grant the objection taken by the First Lord may in some measure be removed. He pointed out that the Indian revenues sufficed to provide the relief undertaken by the Indian Government. We quite understand that; and we do not propose that the Parliamentary grant should go as an addition to the Indian revenues. On the contrary, we wish the Parliamentary grant to go to the famine-stricken people by way of*See discussion on Resolution proposed by Sir W. Wedderburn, 3rd April, 1900, The Parliamentary Debates [Fourth Series], Vol. lxxxi., page 1080.1380 charity in ways altogether outside the scope of ordinary Government relief. Our object will become clear if the House will consider the Famine Code rules, which distinguish by a broad line between the relief functions of the Indian Government, on the one hand, and the functions of charity on the other. These rules were summarised in a Memorandum sent last April by the Secretary of State to the Lord Mayor, at the time the Mansion House Fund was opened. In this Memorandum the noble Lord stated first the duties undertaken by Government. He said that "the Government undertakes to prevent death, and to relieve misery from famine in British India, at the cost of the Indian Treasury, so far as organisation and effort can accomplish these ends." And he then proceeded to specify the four purposes for which charity was required. These were (1) extra comforts in the shape of food and clothing, (2) the maintenance of orphans, (3) the relief of specially helpless classes, and (4) the provision of cattle, seed-corn, and implements to enable the cultivators to make a fresh start. This division of labour was in accordance with the recommendations of the Famine Commissioners, the functions of the Government being limited to the preservation of life and health; while charity was expected to supplement this work in certain exceptional cases, devoting itself principally to the duty of giving the cultivators a fresh start in life. Now in 1897 the charitable contributions were very large, so that no less a sum than three quarters of a million sterling could be allotted out of the Charity Fund for cattle, seed grain, and implements. It thus resulted that in 1897 the duties undertaken by Government, and the duties undertaken by charity, were both sufficiently fulfilled. But this unhappily is not the case in 1900. As regards the duties undertaken by Government, we know, from the assurance of the First Lord, that the Indian Government have the necessary funds, and no help is required. But as regards the relief dependent upon charity the resources are altogether insufficient, and it is here that special and exceptional help is required most urgently. I would specially invite the attention of the House to the almost despairing appeal made by Lord Curzon to the world's charity on the 28th of May. In that appeal he pointed 1381 out how vastly greater the present famine is than that of 1897, both in extent and intensity, while up to date only about half the amount previously subscribed had come in. This cry for help has been answered from many quarters of the globe—from our own colonies, some of whom have voted Parliamentary grants, from the United States, from the Emperor of Germany, even from the mandarins of China, and the Sultan of Turkey. Under these cir cumstances it does not seem fitting that this Parliament, which represents the richest community in the world, should stand aloof and refuse a contribution proportioned to the wealth of this country and its responsibility for the welfare of the Indian people. As far as I can judge, there is in the country no unwillingness to make this free grant. On the contrary, expressions of public opinion seem all to be in its favour; and I brought specially to the notice of the noble Lord the memorial in support of a free grant from so important a public body as the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce. As regards the purposes of this free gift, I would repeat that we do not desire it to be used in support of the general finances of India. It should be placed at the disposal of the Viceroy, to be utilised, according to the local needs of the suffering provinces, in helping the prostrate cultivators to their feet, and giving thorn a chance of regaining their normal condition. The excessive need in the present case has arisen from the wholesale destruction of plough and much cattle by the drought, the loss amounting to 80 and 90 per cent. in some districts. Without plough cattle the cultivators cannot take advantage of the rains now falling; and so pressing is the need that the Government of India is making advances to the cultivators for this purpose exceeding a million sterling. But this relief will only be partial and temporary, for those loans are only made to those who can give security, and, as they must be repaid, the object of giving the cultivators a fresh start will not be accomplished. What is wanted is a free gift of cattle, seed, and implements, to all who desire to return to their village homes and regain their old position of skilful and industrious peasants. The noble Lord has told the House how devotedly the officials in India have worked, high and low. I desire respectfully to associate myself in 1382 appreciating the noble work that has been done, and would specially mention that from all parts of India communications reach me expressing deep gratitude to his Excellency the Viceroy for his personal exertions. And I would ask whether this House would not be fitly recognising these exertions by placing at Lord Gurzon's disposal funds which will enable him to deal promptly and effectually with the misery by which he is surrounded. I see it announced that he is about to visit Gujerat, which is probably the most sorely afflicted province in India; and if the House will bear with me I will read a short extract describing the condition of the people there, as seen by Mr. Vaughan Nash, the special correspondent of the Manchester Guardian—When I look back on the scenes through which I have passed and think of the sum total of human misery, and the despair I have seen on people's faces, and the ruin this famine has brought on their homes and fields and on their families, I feel it is hopeless to attempt to put into words the agony of India. You see these simple childlike races, devoted to their homes and their children, made outcasts by the famine and forced to abandon their customs and leave their homes to get a, little bread by labour at stone-breaking or earth-carrying. Most poignant of all in the appeal it made to me was the silence and submission with which they bear their trials. In the hospital sheds, where you pick your way between the rows of dying, or out in the burning sun, where mothers are hammering stones with one hand and hugging a child with the other, you rarely hear a complaint. Even the gift of tears seems to have dried up, except among the children, whom you see crying sometimes by the side of a sick mother. Those who know India may be able to tell you what spirit it is that looks out from the eyes of these miserable?, broken and quenched as they are, and which keeps them dignified and composed in surroundings that are degrading and horrifying. It seemed to me to be the spirit of a noble people, who had won refinement and discipline when our own forefathers were savages, a people we may well be glad to succour and proud to rule, looking out at the wreck of all things, seeing their gods, their homes, their country shrivelling to dust and ashes.No words of mine will add to the pathos of this description. But in asking hon. Members to take a merciful view of the present appeal I would remind them that the famine in India is essentially a famine of money, not of food, and that, on an average three-halfpence a day is sufficient to keep these poor people from the pangs of death by hunger. I beg to second the motion of my hon. friend.
To leave out from the word 'That,' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'looking to the special needs of the famine stricken people in India at the present time, this House recognises that funds are urgently required to feed, clothe, and house the cultivators in their villages until their crops are ripe; to provide them with plough cattle, seed, and other requisites of cultivation; and to restore them to their normal economic condition; that these requirements cannot be adequately met from Indian revenues raised from the suffering Indian people, and within the necessarily restricted field of ordinary relief operations; that the funds subscribed by charity are altogether insufficient for these purposes; and this House is therefore of opinion that a large and generous free grant should be provided to assist in meeting this unprecedented calamity,' instead thereof."— (Mr. Souttar.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir M. HICKS BEACH, Bristol, W.)
I do not think it would be respectful to the House that I, who am very little cognisant of the affairs of India, should attempt to detain it with arguments on the general subject on an evening when the debate must range over so vast a field; but the Amendment which has been moved induces me to detain the House for a short time while I express the views of the Government on this subject. It is a subject which commends itself to all our sympathies. All of us must have deeply felt the sufferings in India from this terrible famine; all of us have desired on the ground of that sentiment to which the right hon. Member for East Wolverhampton referred to assist India if she needs assistance, even at considerable cost to ourselves. I hope, therefore, that in what I have to say to the House, I shall not be considered as in any way approaching this subject merely from the point of view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But I am bound to say something as Chancellor of the Exchequer, for I am afraid that what my noble friend the Secretary of State for India said in the earlier part of the evening is but too true—that nowadays every one sympathises with expenditure, and few people indeed care how that expenditure is to be provided. What are we asked to do by the Amendment of the hon. member? It would not have been, I believe, in accordance with our rules that 1384 it should have specified any sum as a grant to India in the painful circumstances in which the Amendment is submitted, but on the Paper we find that the hon. Member desires to grant a sum of £5,000,000 to India in aid of this famine. Now the speech of the hon. Member who made this proposal differed in one very material respect from the speech of the hon. Member who seconded. The hon. Member who made this proposal dwelt at some length on the sufferings of the population of India from taxation; and that view was also taken by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton, who, I think, suggested to the House that if it had not been for the famine large remissions of taxation would have been made in India; and therefore he argued—though I do not quite see that the argument was justified—that India was more highly taxed than this country. If there is to be a question of a grant to India from the Imperial Exchequer, I hope hon. Members will recollect when they talk so readily about the Imperial Exchequer that the Exchequer is the Exchequer of the United Kingdom and not of the Empire at large; and if it be a question of the power of India to bear taxation for this purpose, and the power of the United Kingdom at the present time to make this grant, there are some facts which I should like to place before the consideration of hon. Members. We have heard from my noble friend that the surplus of India in the year just closed is £2,800,000. I believe that in the previous year it was £2,600,000; but I have to remind the House that our deficit in the year just closed was nearly £14,000,000, that our estimated deficit in the present year is something like £23,000,000, and that within the last few days additional Estimates to the extent of £13,000,000 have been laid on the Table of the House. It is perfectly clear, therefore, that for our own objects we are not only not paying our way at the present time, but that we are largely increasing the debt of the country. What does the proposal of the hon. Member amount to, and how is this £5,000,000 to be provided? Is it to-be provided by increased taxation in this country? Increased taxation for this object would be no more possible than it was for the whole of the great expenditure of the war. What we are asked to do, therefore, when we have in the present 1385 year and last year added to our debt £37,000,000, and when we may have to add more, is to increase our debt still further for the purpose of granting £5,000,000 to India, the whole net debt of which is no more than £30,000,000. But is it for the relief of our Indian fellow subjects? I speak subject to correction, but I believe that the main suffering from this famine is in the native States, for the finances of which and for the subjects of which we are in no degree responsible; and therefore it is proposed that either by way of increased debt or increased taxation—probably by way of increased debt—the taxpayers of this country should at such a time as this provide £5,000,000 mostly for the benefit of the inhabitants of the native States, over whose finances, we have no power at all. That is a proposition which appears to me to demand the most careful consideration of anyone who has the least regard for the finances of this country. I notice that the hon. Baronet who seconded the Amendment did not put it on the ground of the taxation of India at all. He says, "I do not want to relieve the finances of India or the taxation of India." He agrees that the Indian Government has sufficient means and power to raise money to meet all the exigencies; the hon. Baronet put it purely on the ground of charity. His suggestion was that it was a grant we should never miss, and I think the hon. Member who made the proposal said it would be a generous gift out of our fulness and abounding wealth to the poverty-stricken population of India. I have shown the House the condition of the Exchequers of the two countries at the present time, and I confess astonishment that such a proposition should be based on such grounds as these, because it is not as if those who are responsible for the finances of India came to the Government of this country, or came to the House of Commons, and said, "We are in a position in which we are unable to provide sufficient means to meet what is required of us; we feel that we require the help of the United Kingdom in this great Indian difficulty; we appeal to you for that help which we think you ought to give us in remembrance of the past and what we have done for you." That would be a request which I should be the last man to disregard; it would be a request which I should feel bound to con- 1386 sider to the utmost of my power, whatever the condition of our finances here; but it is not the proposition we are considering to-night. We have been told by my noble friend, speaking after communication with the Government of India and with the authority of the Council of India, that this grant is not required; and, more, not only that it is not required, but that nothing could be done in the circumstances as they now exist which would be more prejudicial to the future of India than such a grant as is suggested. I think someone said that it would make no precedent, because this is the most serious famine that has ever been. But it would be a most dangerous precedent. Cannot the hon. Member see that if there be one duty more than another incumbent on the Government of India it is to provide be- forehand for serious famines of this kind? Cannot he see that if we were to once give such a grant as is proposed without a request from the Secretary for India in Council, little provision for famine would be made in future? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton felt the force of that argument used by my noble friend, and I for one would never be responsible for detracting so completely from the responsibility of the India Office, for the thing which above all others they right to care for, the preparations they should make by the machinery of their administrative government for famine by imposing upon ourselves a burden that they do not ask us to bear, and for which they have a special fund.
§ * SIR M. HICKS BEACH
Why? Be cause it was the opinion of the Parliament of that day that the Afghan War had been undertaken at the instance of the Home Government and against the necessities or requirements of India, and, therefore, in fairness the people of the United Kingdom should pay for it. But this is an entirely different thing from making a grant towards the Indian famine against the wish of the Secretary for India. Is it suggested for a moment that we are not doing anything at the present time to assist the Indian Government in matters of finance? The hon. Member who made this proposal stated that among the advan- 1387 tages which India had given to the United Kingdom was that she had lent 32,000 troops for South Africa and China. That no doubt is the case, but we are paying for them. We are relieving India of the whole cost of those troops while they are employed in South Africa and China. Why is it that the people of India maintain an army like every other State? It is required not merely for quiet times but for times of emergency; and this being a quiet time in India she is able, at our request, to spare some Indian troops for service both in South Africa and in China. We are paying the whole of the cost of those troops, though from my point of view it appears that India has some interest in Chinese affairs as well as the United Kingdom. By paying the whole of the cost of these troops we shall relieve India in this present financial year, I suppose, probably of not less than £3,000,000. I do hope that the House will have some regard in this matter not only to the claims of sentiment and sympathy,; but also to the claims of reason and sound finance in India and in this country. The hon. Member deprecated India being called upon to meet this famine by borrowing. Why should we who are not responsible for this famine be called upon to meet it by borrowing? If the Indian Government comes to us and says that their resources are exhausted, that the future before them is so dark that they do not see their way to meet this terrible calamity without assistance from us, that assistance will be cordially given; but till that request is made I hope the House will support the Government in declining to assent to a proposal which, recommended as it may be by claims of sentiment and sympathy, is, in my opinion, contrary to the future advantage not merely of the United Kingdom, but of India itself.
§ * MR. MACLEAN
The House has now had the privilege of hearing from the Chancellor of the Exchequer the real reason which has induced Her Majesty's Government to refuse to give a grant to India. Such a grant has been approved of by the public feeling in this country, but it has never been listened to by Her Majesty's Government. Now we know from the responsible administrator of the finances of this Empire what is the real reason that has induced the Government 1388 to take up this position in regard to this matter. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says that this is a time of great pressure upon the finances of the United Kingdom, and he also says that it is a, time of great prosperity for the finances of India. But is there any real comparison between the two countries? Are not the resources of every taxpayer in England one hundredfold greater than those of the Indian peasant? Do we not know the extreme pressure of the taxation on the poor people of India? In this country taxation is scarcely felt by any body, and it is a very light pressure upon the country. The taxes here are mainly paid by the wealthy, and they are hardly felt by the poorest in our midst. But every poor man in India pays his share of taxation, and feels the pressure of it very acutely indeed. I was surprised to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer say that no appeal had ever been made from India for help, and that if such an appeal were made it would have at once been listened to.
§ * MR. MACLEAN
Why has Lord Curzon had to scour the world in the hope of getting charity from all the nations of the earth instead of coming to Her Majesty's Government at home, from whom he might have got fifty times as much as all the foreign countries were subscribing in charity for the benefit of India? Is it not that he has had hint from the Government that it is not desirable, and that it is not considered appropriate that they should be pressed to give a large grant to India at the present moment. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says that no need has arisen. I say it has arisen. It has been asserted in many of the speeches which have been made that everything has been done in India to avert famine that was possible, but that is not the case. Within the last forty years there have been ten recurring famines in India which have swept away at a moderate computation 15,000,000 human beings. These people have been absolutely wiped out of existence. The present famine is incomparably a greater famine than any of the nine famines which have preceded it. We cannot tell at the present moment what the extent 1389 of that famine has been, but I should say it would be no exaggeration to declare that between 2,000,000 and 3,000,000 human beings have died through the ravages of this famine in India. Therefore, when it is said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton that the administration of famine relief in India during the past year has been marked by wonderful success, I deny that that has been the case. The first plain duty of the Government has been frankly acknowledged to be to pre-! vent death, and I say with perfect fearlessness in this House that the Government have not prevented death, and that people have died every week by tens of thousands without getting any help from the Government at all. Look at the returns published from Bombay of the deaths which have occurred in that Presidency, and in the native States. There are 1,500,000 people on famine relief in the Bombay Presidency, and the deaths among those people alone amount to 13,000 per week—that is to say, between 650,000 and 700,000 deaths in one year. Therefore in two years, if this famine lasts, the whole of that population of 1,250,000 human beings will have been completely swept away by the ravages of famine. It has been stated in many quarters that it is not famine that has caused the death of all these people but cholera, or intermittent fever. But those are merely different names for the same thing, and they are merely aliases for what is the real cause of the death of the people which is simply starvation. The people come to these relief camps which are nothing but pest houses where they are exposed to the ravages of epidemics. They come to these relief camps from their homes in the last stage of exhaustion, for they have not the means of subsistence j or the means of recovering strength to do the work which they are called upon to do. Consequently they fall victims to these epidemic diseases and they die off rapidly. That is the cause of the appalling mortality which has occurred in India. Upon whom does the responsibility for this mortality rest? It is a mortality which is admitted on all hands, and even the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India would not venture to deny it. Upon whom does the responsibility rest? It is divided between the Secretary of State and the Viceroy of India. I do not mean the 1390 Secretary of State personally. I have no doubt of his sympathy with the people of India, and I agree with a great deal he has said about the admirable way in which a great part of the work has been done. I am aware that large sums of money have been spent, but the staff out there has not been sufficient to give the people relief. Directly cholera appeared, those great camps that are formed should have been broken up and the people distributed in their own districts, and looked after more carefully by officers of the Government. The Governor of Bombay acknowledges that his staff was so small that the areas affected could not be covered. There is room for the employment of Imperial funds and Imperial officers to help those civil and military servants of the Crown in India who have been so splendidly doing their work as Englishmen under most difficult circumstances. But nothing of the sort has been done by the Government of India. On the contrary, they have sat still and done nothing. The noble Lord has waited in his office for the monsoon to appear. He has of course written the inevitable letter to the Lord Mayor, which seems to be a remedy for all the ills which flesh is heir to. Instead of presenting money to that country, he is now going to accept a large gift of money from the Maharaja of Gwalior, who is a rich Indian prince. The noble Lord came down here the other day with an admirable ingenuousness which we cannot too much applaud, and spoke of the great gift which the Maharaja of Gwalior has made in order to fit up a hospital for the benefit of our soldiers and sailors engaged in the Chinese War. I should say that when the Imperial Government received an offer of that sort—which seems to me to be only another illustration of that spurious Imperialism which is spreading like a parasite over the whole British Empire—at a time when India is suffering the terrible ravages of famine; when they received an offer of nearly £200,000 from an Indian prince, they would have had the politeness to refuse such an offer and tell that native prince that he could better employ his money by giving it to his own starving fellow countrymen at home. We have had. enough of these offers of gifts of hospitals from all parts of the world. England ought to be ashamed to accept 1391 such gifts from any country so long as we are rich and strong enough to maintain our own soldiers and sailors in health or in sickness; and we do not want to have hospitals sent to us as free gifts, either by enterprising citizens in America or India who desire social recognition in English society, or from Indian princes who wish to compete with one another for the favour of the Imperial Government. So much with regard to the responsibility of the Home Government. But the responsibility of the Government of India lies much deeper. The noble Lord the Viceroy of India is a man of great personal energy and ability, and he has taken a step which I ventured two months ago to recommend him to take in this House. I stated here that it would be very much better if instead of issuing admirable regulations he came down from the heights of Simla and went about in the poor districts to see for himself what could be done to deal with this great difficulty.
§ * MR. MACLEAN
Yes, that was a long time ago. But I am very glad to see that he is now trying to put all the new energy he can into the people who are charged with the duty of conducting the administration in India. There is this to be said with regard to the resolution proposed by my hon. friend opposite: that it will have to come eventually to a free gift to the people of India from the Imperial Treasury. There is no doubt that India is bleeding to death under our rule, and that the country is nearly exhausted. India has mainly an agricultural population, but the people have not the means by which they can produce crops and restore the land to a state of fertility unless a free gift is made to them. A free gift given in the way of charity will not suffice, for the money will be spent upon necessaries and the land will be no better off. Such gifts ought to be supplemented with a comprehensive policy, and one distinguished by foresight. That policy was framed long ago by the Government of India on the recommendation of & gentleman who was one of the most distinguished public servants who ever existed in India. Forty years ago when there was a great famine in the North- 1392 West Provinces Lord Canning, who was Viceroy of India, appointed the late Colonel Baird Smith, who was equally distinguished by his valour and his administrative capacity, to draw up a report upon the famine and advise the Government of India as to what could be done to prevent the recurrence of such a stupendous calamity. Colonel Baird Smith injured his own health in pursuing that work, but he furnished a most comprehensive and able State paper in which he recommended that the land assessment of India should be permanently settled for the whole of that country, and not merely in a few provinces of Bengal. That was a distinct recommendation that he made, and he converted to his view not only Lord Canning, but also Lord Lawrence and Sir Richard Temple. Not only did he convert people out in India, but that policy of settling the land revenue on a fair basis and fixing it for all time was taken up in this country by the late Sir Charles Wood and Sir Stafford Northcote, and it only failed because the Manchester school at that time foresaw that if the land revenue was reduced very heavy indirect taxation would be the result and large import duties would be levied on English piece goods. That is the real remedy for the state of things which exists in India, and it is the only manner in which the will be enabled to accumulate stock and to devote all his energy to the cultivation of the soil. At the present time the Indian peasant is virtually taxed upon his own improvements. He is rack-rented on his own improvements. Directly he gets his head above water and succeeds in cultivating a certain portion of land, and getting more out of it, the agent of the State comes down on him and demands half the net profit of his field, and drives him back again to the stage of despair from which he had just emerged. Depend upon it, if we are ever to appreciate our real responsibility to the people of India we must undertake a reform of this land assessment, and we must fix it on a reasonable scale. When I mentioned this subject in the House a couple of months ago, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton rebuked me for saying that the land revenues of India brought in £18,000,000 a year, and were in spite of the famine expected to bring in that amount next year. The right hon. 1393 Gentleman quoted Mr. Fawcett to show that these land revenues were merely a portion of the rent. Those of us who I have had any connection with India, and who have studied the working of the land assessment and the terrible results which follow from it, know the position much better than Mr. Fawcett, and we are not going to be overawed by schoolmen from Oxford or Cambridge. Only to-day I came upon an extract from a book which was sent me which shows the view taken of this matter by no less a person than Sir Louis Mallet, who is one of the most fervent disciples of Cobden, John Stuart Mill, and the Manchester school. He had also some acquaintance with India, and he said that the results of this land assessment were underrated, and that he would rejoice to see it placed on a more satisfactory footing. That would be a policy worthy of an Empire like this to undertake. We are accustomed to speak of the benefits which railways and irrigation works have conferred in India. I do not undervalue these great improvements, but I say the natural fertility of the land in spite of them is decreasing in India. I will quote one or two figures showing that. In the middle of the seventeenth century, during the height of the prosperity of the Mogul Empire, the average produce of rice in India was 1,335 1b. per acre, of wheat 1,155 lb., and of cotton 67 lb. The statistics for the nineteenth century show that the average yield of rice per acre is from 800 lb. to 900 lb., of wheat 600 lb., and of cotton 52 lb., so that the actual produce of the land, in spite of all that has been done, has fallen something like 50 per cent. The question which suggests, itself is, what remedial measures must be adopted to improve the fertility of the soil? I venture to point out one such measure based on the most careful study of India, and recommended by some of the most able statesmen who have ever ruled that country, and that is to revise the system of land assessment and to give fair play to the Indian agriculturist. I am quite sure that if Lord Gurzon would examine this matter for himself he would build up for himself an enduring fame and would redeem this country from the reproach that while India has a most fertile soil and a most docile population she has a very incompetent Government.
§ * MR. JOSEPH WALTON (Yorkshire, Barnsley)
Having travelled through the famine-stricken districts in India early this year, and having seen the terrible suffering of the population, I feel I must' offer a few remarks in support of the proposal which has been made that India should be given a grant of £5,000,000 out of the Imperial Exchequer. I desire to bear testimony from my own personal observation to the most admirable and self-sacrificing manner in which officials, from the Viceroy down to the lowest official in India, are grappling with this terrible devastating famine which has spread over so wide an area and which is greater in relation to the number of people affected by it than possibly any famine which has ever occurred in the history of India. I think it would be a great act of sympathy if the House of Commons unanimously voted this money without a word of discussion, but I go beyond that, and I say that it would be an act of restitution to the people of India. We have a right to come to their assistance in this time of severe emergency. Lord Welby's Commission acknowledged that more than a quarter of a million annually was being overpaid to the Exchequer of this country from India, in connection with the financial arrangements between the two countries, and that it should be put an end to. But I should like to know whether this policy is not to be retrospective. We know that this sum of money at least has been exacted from the people of India for the last twenty years, which amounts to the £5,000,000 proposed in this resolution. If we grant it, we shall have had the benefit of the whole of the interest we have derived from that money, to which we have no just claim. Is it not also a fact that a third of the whole British Army is quartered in India, and that one-third of our Army Reserves are being created at the cost of India? I do not know how far that aspect of the question was taken into consideration by Lord Welby's Commission. We have been told to-night by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the inhabitants of the native States of India have practically no claim on the sympathy and the financial aid of this country. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is or is not true that the Queen of England is Empress of the whole of India, and that every inhabitant of India is a subject of the 1395 Empress? That being so, I venture to say that the inhabitants in the native States have an equal claim to our assistance and generosity as have the inhabitants of the States directly governed by us. We are told that India is to receive considerable financial relief by the fact of 20,000 troops from that country have gone to South Africa and to China to uphold the interests of the British Empire. We are told that that will mean a saving of at least £3,000,000 sterling. I find that the total net cost of the army in India is £15,000,000 sterling, and that 20,000 troops are just about a tenth of the whole native and European army, and therefore it appears to me that the utmost saving to the Exchequer of India that can be effected if these troops remain absent for a year will be one and a half millions, not three millions. With regard to the famine and to the measures which are necessary for the relief of its victims, my own view is that what is needed is a vigorous policy of opening up and developing India by the laying down of more railways, and especially the construction of irrigation works, so as to grapple with the question once for all and lessen immensely the probability of the recurrence of famine. I am sorry to notice that in connection with the heavy expenditure on famine relief it has been found necessary to reduce the amount spent on railway construction and irrigation works. When I was in Calcutta, in January last, I had an opportunity of discussing this whole question with the Viceroy. He is as keen on railway extension, and the construction of irrigation works as anyone can possibly be, and I know that he greatly regretted being obliged to stop the construction of railways in various parts of India on account of the special expenditure rendered necessary by the famine. But what I wish to submit to the House is whether there is any reason why the construction of railways should not proceed irrespective entirely of any special expenditure on famine. What are the facts? The railways of India last year, including military and famine lines, earned an average dividend of 5"32 per cent., and we know that by the construction of many feeder lines, which will pay well in themselves, the profitable character of the main lines is likely to be increased. That is the financial result of 1396 the whole railway system in India, and it can be improved still further. We know that reproductive public works have not given sufficient employment to the people of India; but we would not only be giving them present employment by opening up the country in this way, but works would be undertaken which would permanently give considerable employment to the people of India. In connection with the East India Railway, we find that they cannot get the Government of India to allow them to raise money which is so urgently required for the purpose of supplying the line with rolling stock. The other day a deputation of Calcutta merchants brought this matter specially under my notice. We find that the great East India Railway during the last twenty years has not only discharged nine millions of capital debt, but has also covered a capital expenditure of from six to seven millions, and has reduced its liability to the Government of India by twelve millions. At present the surplus profit from the East India Railway coming into the Exchequer is more than a million annually. What is the situation at present? One firm owning collieries had 30,000 tons of coal stocked at the collieries; they had ships waiting at Calcutta for it; and yet they could not get them loaded for six weeks because the railway company had not the necesssary rolling stock to carry the coal to the port of shipment. It is also true that wheat and seeds have been detained at railway stations for weeks together for want of trucks. A gentleman whom I only met to-day, and who owns large works in Calcutta, told me he had to cease work because he could not get coal from the collieries.
§ * MR. JOSEPH WALTON
I had no intention of going beyond my right, and I will defer any further statement in regard to this matter until this particular Amendment has been disposed of; but perhaps I would be in order in urging that the proper way to deal with famine in India is by opening up and developing the country by railway extensions and the construction of irrigation works. I think I am justified in advocating that, by reason of the fact that the railways pay exceedingly well, as do also the irrigation works. The irrigation works last year 1397 earned on an average a profit of 7 per cent. The interest was only 4 per cent., and therefore there was a clear profit of 3 per cent. which went into the Indian Exchequer. Is the financial position of India, after all, so bad that the work of constructing railways and the carrying on of irrigation works should not proceed? The railways of India earn 5.32 per cent., and I presume that money to extend them could be borrowed at 3½ per cent. I find in the explanatory statement that has been issued that, in taking account of the assets and liabilities of India, the capital value and not the present value is taken. I submit to the House that the 140 millions which is invested in railways earning 5⅓ per cent. is worth more than that capital sum, and, in the second place, that the irrigation works on which 23 millions have been spent, and which pay on an average 7 per cent., are certainly a marketable asset worth twice the amount they have cost. On that calculation the total realisable market value of our assets in India to-day would be 269 millions, whereas the total debt of India is only 212 millions, showing a surplus of 57 millions. Then, again, consider the enormous revenues from land. We got last year 16 millions from that source, which at twenty-five years purchase would be worth 400 millions. The only reason I quote these figures is that I hold that the financial position of India today is so excellent—there is no debt in the sense that we have a National Debt, because it is more than covered by revenue-producing assets—that we should be able to proceed with railway construction and irrigation works, irrespective altogether of the value of the telegraphs and public buildings, and the enormous revenues from land. Why, then, does not the Government of India deal with this question of railway construction and irrigation works on its merits? Why do they not separate the railway and irrigation accounts from the general finances of India? They would then have a splendid security, and they would be in a position to raise all the money they required for railway extension and irrigation works. I hope the right hon. Gentleman's sympathies will j be with this proposal, and that he will be able to announce in the House to-night that at any rate he will give it favourable consideration, and that before long a 1398 separation of accounts may take place so that the opening up of India will not be retarded by any special expenditure in connection with famine. The extension of railways and irrigation works is the one practical way to increase the prosperity of India, and to prevent to a large extent the recurrence of famine, and even if famine did appear we should then be in a much better position to grapple with it.
Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present (Dr. TANNER, Cork County, Mid). House counted, and forty Members being found present,
* SIR MANCHERJEE BHOWNAG GREE (Bethnal Green, N.E.)
There is one feature with regard to the debate to-night on which I wish specially to express my thanks to Her Majesty's. Government—namely, the unusually early date granted for the discussion of the Indian Budget. I welcome this arrangement, as it has boon considered a grievance in India that almost the only definite opportunity this House has of discussing' questions affecting that country is postponed to the last night of the session. The present change will be regarded with, satisfaction in India, and I trust that it will be allowed to form a precedent in future years. I am pleased to find that all the Amendments on the Order Paper relating to the Budget have reference to the famine, which evinces the great concern which the House as a whole feels about the terrible calamity from which. India is suffering, and this sympathy by the representatives of the nation will be regarded with a sense of gratitude by the people of that country. But as the particular motion now before the House does not embrace all the points covered by the several Amendments, I wish, Mr. Speaker, to ask your decision as to-whether it would be in order to refer to those points, and especially to the one with regard to the development of technical and industrial instruction, which forms the subject-matter of the Amendment standing in my name as follows—That the spread of famine and scarcity over extensive areas and affecting millions of inhabitants in India, although recurring at irregular intervals, may be regarded as a. certain calamity to which that country is periodically exposed; that the disastrous consequences of such visitation are rendered unconquerable by the fact that an unusually 1399 large proportion of its population is allowed to remain dependent for its livelihood upon agricultural labour exclusively, whereas nearly all other industrial pursuits, for which the natural resources of the country offer wide scope, are neglected; that one of the most effective methods by which the rigour of the famines could be modified, and the buying power of the people now succumbing to them increased, would be to enable large classes of the agricultural population to pursue other industries; and that, therefore, it is the opinion of this House that the Government of India should adopt measures for the elementary industrial and technical instruction of the poorer communities, so as to fit them for more profitable manual labour in other directions besides agriculture.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member will be in order in dealing with any method of relieving the famine, or any measure which he thinks would prevent its recurrence.
§ * SIR MANCHERJEE BHOWNAGGREE
Of the several methods suggested there are four which deserve special attention as being calculated to mitigate the rigours of future famines, if not altogether to prevent their recurrence, cither by lessening the burden upon the taxpayer, or by increasing the production of wealth in the country. Modifications in the different systems of assessment, and the adoption of protective measures against undue and uncertain enhancements, are admitted to have a close bearing upon the ultimate prosperity of the cultivator, and I am glad to find that the Government of India has before it important materialin connection with these questions, as well as with regard to the question of elasticity, which is engrossing its attention. It seems to me a sound principle that enhancement should be regulated on the ground of an increase in prices. From the. discussion in the Viceroy's Council on the last Financial Statement it is satisfactory to note that the revised Estimates were less than those of the Budget by 83 lakhs of rupees in Bombay, and by 35½ lakhs and 38 lakhs in the Central Provinces and the Punjab, respectively, and that for the coming year large reductions are already promised in the estimates which were originally based on a favourable anticipation. The surplus shown in the revised Budget, in spite of adverse circumstances, is due in a great measure to the steady increase in the earnings of railways and irrigation works, and this fully justifies the provision of a crore of rupees for the 1400 extension of irrigation works, to which as a remedy against famines Lord Curzon has wisely directed his attention. Under the head of "Reduction of Expenditure" might be included a readjustment of the cost of maintaining in India forces which are required to perform Imperial duties. We have had considerable and valuable testimony from competent statesmen that the Indian foreign policy was determined by Imperial rather than Indian considerations, and I hail the announcement made by Lord Onslow in another place a few nights ago that Her Majesty's Government are willing to accept the recommendations of the Commission, and to give at least £250,000, and probably more, towards the relief of the revenues of India; that Her Majesty's Government desire to treat India not only equitably, but liberally; and that if time were given them they hoped to give effect to other recommendations of the Royal Commission. I trust Her Majesty's Government will go a good deal further in their final action on those recommendations, j and see their way to make further concessions in the direction in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton has made so eloquent an appeal to-night for an ampler measure of justice to India. I also gladly welcome the determination of the Government to accept the recommendation of the Commission as to referring to arbitration questions in dispute that j may arise between the Imperial i and. the Indian Governments. The interests of India, safeguarded as the are, no doubt, by the Secretary of State and the Viceroy, are apt to be brushed aside if submitted to the final determination of the Cabinet alone. But if, upon any question in which the authority directly connected with India differs from the Imperial authority, the points upon which they differed were referred to arbitration, it would go far to convince the people of India that the final decision arrived at was a fair and just one. I would now refer, lastly, to the great cause which leads to the impoverishment of the resources of India, and exposes her population to the ravages of scarcity and famine, which is not inaptly called the drain of the wealth of India. Under this head political thinkers and speakers include a great many questions, such as the large civil and military expenditure of the*See page 610 of this volume.1401 country, the home charges, the interest paid on foreign capital, and so forth, and they have their different panacea for these evils. To my mind, this great drain, the existence of which cannot be denied, is due to the enormous volume of foreign manufactured articles which are imported into the country. India pays out somewhere about fifty millions of tens of rupees under this head every year, or, to do away with what Lord Curzon very aptly termed "the dreadful and bewildering symbol of Rx.," a sum exceeding £33,000,000. Against this huge figure the value of manufactured articles exported from India is absolutely insignificant, so that the conclusion is undeniable that the manufacturing capacity of the country is infinitesimal. On former occasions I have quoted figures and statistics to prove this, and I shall not trouble the House by going over the ground again. When I first drew attention to this subject I was misunderstood and misrepresented by a certain class of people who imagined that my object was to discredit high literary education in India. Even my hon. friend the Member for Dumfriesshire was misled in that way, but I should be very much mistaken indeed if he is still of that opinion. It is naturally gratifying to me that the arguments I then advanced have found wide acceptance, and the necessity for the propagation of such industrial and technical teaching as might fit the people of India to bestow skilled labour upon the natural materials which are found in such abundance in their country is recognised. The interest evinced in this matter by the noble Lord and the Viceroy must be gratefully acknowledged. I regard the development of instruction in this direction as the most important of all remedies suggested against the terrible affliction of the oft-recurring famines. I shall briefly illustrate this by alluding to the fact that 90 per cent. of the population of India subsists on agricultural pursuits, and that if we succeed in withdrawing say, even 10 per cent. from this occupation, we at once reduce by so much the burden on the soil, and increase the productive power of that 10 per cent. by teaching them to turn raw material into articles of domestic use, every one of which nearly they now import from foreign countries. Owing to the scarcity of fodder in the present famine, large numbers of cattle have perished. I am told that for want of skilled manipulation, the hides were 1402 exported to foreign countries at the ridiculously low price of a few annas a piece. These same skins will return to the country in the shape of manufactured goods. If the natives were taught to manufacture such goods, to how many hundreds of thousands of people would this very material furnish lucrative occupation, and how much money on this one head be retained in the country? This is what might be said with respect to horns, bones, seeds, and almost every variety of material which is to be found copiously in India. In short, the extension of industrial enterprise would stop the enormous drain on the resources of India, and furnish the means of subsistence to a large number of those who succumb so easily to the ravages of famine. Gratifying as is the fact that the need for such teaching as might make this enterprise possible is widely and even authoritatively recognised, it is necessary that some steps should be taken to supply that need, and means devised to provide the necessary instruction. I have often been confronted with the argument that the people of India are averse to such education, and asked how it is possible to get a people to adopt trades or industries to which they are not inclined and would not take kindly; but the answer is plain. The mission of the British Government in India is absolutely a paternal one, and it places an obligation upon them to guide the people of the country. It is no excuse for the Government to say "The people do not want it, and will not do it"; that is not the position that ought to be taken up. It is the duty of the Government to find out what is good for the people of India, and then place such means at their disposal as they might be induced to adopt. All the schools in the villages and towns throughout the country should be provided with workshops and scientific laboratories, on a scale proportionate to their size and capacity, and by that means the people of India would be brought to see the desirability and the necessity of adapting themselves to the pursuit of industries of a lucrative character. At present the education of India proceeds in the direction of making the people literary scholars, which is right enough in its due proportion, but a nation of literary scholars is not one that is likely to advance in the paths of prosperity. 1403 The bulk of a prosperous nation must be composed of people skilled in industrial arts and crafts, and it is the duty of the British Government to remedy the gross ignorance of India in that respect. If the people could be induced to gradually enter upon the manufacture of even one-fifth of the articles which are now imported, and which have entered into their daily wants, and which they are now compelled to purchase, famine would to a large extent disappear. I submit that this is the most effectual way of subduing the effects of this curse that overwhelms India periodically. This is the root cure for the future. Meanwhile, for the present, we have not only the prevailing famine, but unfortunately a dismal prospect for the coming year. Reports from India about the rainfall are alarming, and there is promise of continuous scarcity. This has enhanced the disappointment with which I heard the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. When the right hon. Gentleman rose to speak, I fully expected he would make some announcement which would carry comfort to the hearts of the people who are in such dire distress, and that, at all events, he would hold out some hope of help. But the argument which he mainly employed was that Great Britain could not spare money for an adequate grant, because her Exchequer was poorer than that of India. This statement will be read to-morrow everywhere with surprise and even consternation. The right hon. Gentleman further argued that the credit of India was unshaken, and that she can borrow more than she requires for her needs. No doubt the credit of India is as good today in the midst of her sufferings as it ever was, and she can draw upon her credit as largely as she chooses for the purpose of obtaining relief, more especially as it is generally known that England is at her back; but a nation in this respect is like a man, who might have any amount of credit, but who, if he drew upon it too largely, would become a helpless bankrupt, and ultimately perish.
§ * SIR MANCHERJEE BHOWNAGGREE
I am grateful for that assurance. I make no claim on the part of India on the ground of right, of her past 1404 wrongs, or anything of the kind. I only appeal to the benevolence of the British nation, and to the high Imperial instincts which have recently been shown by the nation in various ways, so that India may feel that her relationship with England is not merely one of pounds, shillings and pence, but that England will stand by India to-day as India has stood by England whenever called upon to do so. I remember during the time of the American War, when there was a great crisis in the Manchester cotton trade, how the merchant princes of Bombay sent stupendous aid to Lancashire.
§ * SIR MANCHERJEE BHOWNAGGREE
I am surprised at my hon. friend, after his speech to-night, using this argument against the appeal I am making. I repeat, Mr. Speaker, I do not base my appeal as any sort of claim whatsoever. I would not hark back on the past, or I might be tempted to dwell on the various instances in which the Indian Exchequer was unjustifiably burdened with large payments on account of the Persian and Abyssinian expeditions, the entertainment of the Sultan, the demonstration at Malta, and the Egyptian campaigns. I only plead for a generous grant in this time of India's need, on the ground that it would be essentially the sort of charity that covereth a multitude of sins. I make my appeal because I feel that amid our present distractions, and owing to the numerous calls that have been made on its purpose, this nation has not fully acted up to its noble traditions for sympathy with suffering fellow-subjects. A few days ago I made an appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the concluding words of which I would take the liberty of reading to the House—As head of a Church the beneficence of whose operations and whose resources for doing good are practically boundless, I venture to appeal to your Grace in this time of India's direful need to make a call upon this nation for succour and relief. A day of general prayer and intercession, to be followed by a collection, in all the churches, would provide such a remedy. Divine grace thus supplicated would not be withheld, while the donations of the religious-minded specially called for from innumerable pulpits would result in a copious flow of that material help which would sensibly mitigate the evils of this gigantic 1405 calamity. Should it please your Grace to take ray appeal into your favourable consideration, I need scarcely say that you will earn the unutterd blessings of countless masses of our suffering fellow-subjects in India, endear the Church to their hearts in its charitable aspects, and demonstrate as has never been done before to three hundred millions of the inhabitants of that country the benevolence, the potency, and the saving grace of Christian prayer and Christian charity.The Archbishop's reply to that appeal was to the effect that it would be best for intending subscribers to send all contributions to the Mansion House Fund. Such a reply from the highest dignitary of the Church showed unmistakably that the heart and conscience of the nation had not been awakened. On this ground I urge that it is the clear duty of the Government to make a grant, and I trust that the decision announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be reconsidered. In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I would make an appeal to hon. Members opposite. If they really mean to serve India in this time of her distress, I would ask them not to press the motion for a grant to a division. We know that the division will be on the usual party lines, and the motion will be rejected by a large majority. It will be regarded as a decision which confirms and stereotypes the unfortunate declaration that has been made; but if the appeal for a grant is allowed to rest on the expression of views that has taken place to-night and which will be echoed in the press to-morrow, there may be some hope of a favourable consideration of this question before long.
MR. HERBERT ROBERTS (Denbighshire, W.)
I am not going to follow the hon. Gentleman in any of the arguments he has placed before the House. I will merely say that I do not think that he drew the right inference as to the amount of interest that there is in the motion under discussion. I believe that the country and the House are deeply moved at the distress in India through this famine, and I desire to add my personal appreciation of the closing remarks of the noble Lord, the pathos of whose words, to my mind, was expressive of the sincerity of the deep feeling of this country. I much regret that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer made the speech he did. Though I quite see that there may be reasons why the Government could not accept this resolution, I object to the 1406 grounds which he gave for coming to that conclusion. I agree with the hon. Gentleman opposite that the comparison which the right hon. Gentleman drew with regard to the Exchequers was entirely fallacious, and one which will not bear the grip of argument for a moment. With regard to the famine now raging in India, I feel that no words are too strong to express our admiration for the way in which all officials responsible for the famine administration at the present time are doing their duty. From the highest officer down to the humblest official, whether English or Indian, they are doing their duty. They are doing duties which, if done on the field of battle, would have been made known to the world, and would have won the admiration of the public generally. They are doing their work silently, loyally, and unwitnessed, and I am sure that this House and the country cordially endorse all that has been said in praise of what they have done. The fact is, as has already been pointed out by the noble Lord, this is the greatest famine of the century, and the most widespread in its effects. We must remember that cholera in its most fatal form has been added to the horrors of the famine, and that has made the situation still more serious. In many districts in India the people had scarcely recovered from the effects of the famine of three years ago when they received this second blow. I do not desire to dwell to-night in any way on certain mistakes which have been made in the famine administration. I will only call attention to two things which I think have been unfortunate. First of all, there was the massing of the sufferers in relief camps distant from villages. I would also note the fact that the people receiving relief are paid a minimum of wages cut down to the starvation point. Those things have had the effect, I think, of intensifying the evils resulting from the famine. No doubt when this famine is over there will be an inquiry into the whole circumstances. I am not going in any way to anticipate what will be the result of that inquiry. I would rather refer for a few moments to one or two of the remedies which I think are essential before India can be placed in a position satisfactorily to resist the awful consequences of these famines. It is a commonplace to say that the immediate cause of all these famines is 1407 the lack of rainfall. No possible remedy can affect that immediate cause, but I think all hon. Members will agree with me when I say that it is possible to make such changes in regard to the position of the great masses of the population in India who are peculiarly liable to the effects of famine as will make them stronger to resist its effects. I will mention one or two of these remedies which I think would permanently improve the position of the cultivators of the soil in India. My hon. friend below me has already referred to the need of extending irrigation works. I am not going into this question at any length, but I would like heartily to associate myself with what he said. There is need for extending irrigation works for famine-protective purposes in India. I notice that Lord Curzon in his speech at his Council in March last complained a little of the insistence of a certain number of those interested in India in this country upon this point. He said that apparently we were not aware that already a great deal had been done in the way of providing irrigation works for the purpose of preventing famine. That is perfectly true. What we say is, we think a great deal more ought to be done than has been done already. We have spent in India up to 1897 the enormous sum of £250,000,000, or thereabouts, upon the construction of railways. We have only spent £32,000,000 upon the construction of irrigation works. I think that that is a great disproportion, which ought not to exist, between these two kinds of public works, which have mainly for their purpose the prevention and the amelioration of famine. Of course the objection is made that you cannot make canals in high and hilly countries. This is a difficulty which no doubt prevails over a large portion of the Central Provinces of India. I reply to that—if canals are impossible, lakes are not. I would remind the House that there is a large number of storage tanks in certain districts of India, especially in the Central Provinces. They have been used throughout history in India. They have been a practical method for alleviating the horrors of famine, and I will ask whether it is not possible to construct storage tanks, at least in such districts as I have named in the Central Provinces, if it cannot be done elsewhere. If we cannot erect these storage tanks, what about 1408 wells? There are in Northern India a great number of these wells, and they could be, I venture to assert, multiplied to almost any extent. In concluding what I have to say on irrigation works, I would like to remind the House, and especially the noble Lord opposite, if be will allow me, that there was a specific recommendation in the Famine Commission Report of 1898, on this subject. It stated this—As the State in India is generally in the position of superior landlord, there are special reasons why the Government should undertake, without expectation of direct return, works peculiarly protective of agriculture, such as irrigation works.I venture to say that this is a sound piece of advice. Although the Government have not had a very long time to carry out that recommendation, I hope the noble Lord will to-night be able to say that they agree with the policy which underlies the statement. I hope also the noble Lord will be able to give the House some information in regard to the attitude of the Government to the Madras Irrigation Bill, which embodies a point of policy with the most direct connection with the question of famine. As some hon. Members may be aware, the Government of Madras passed a Bill making the irrigation rate compulsory. This is a most retrograde policy. It is contrary to the distinct recommendation of the Commission I have already alluded to. It is contrary to the universal usage in India, and there is no reason why this change should be made. That is a change which means that, in regard to Madras, there shall be a compulsory rate for the use of water from irrigation works, because, as my hon. friend below me has already pointed out, the interest earned by the irrigation works upon the whole is about 7 per cent.—at all events, it is over 6 per cent. I should point out also that the policy that underlies this Madras Bill is contrary to the position taken up by more than one previous Secretary of State with regard to similar legislation. Thirty years ago a similar measure was proposed, and the Duke of Argyll, who was Secretary of State for India at the time, for three specific reasons refused his sanction. I am not going to trouble the House with the reasons in detail, but they were in the first place that a canal might not be able to supply for irrigation purposes the expected quantity of water; secondly, that the 1409 expected quantity being available, cultivators might decline to avail themselves to the expected extent; and thirdly, that excessive costliness of construction might, in order to render a canal remunerative, necessitate the imposition of higher rates than cultivators could afford or would voluntarily pay. If these three reasons against making the rate compulsory in regard to these works were valid in 1870, they are valid to-day. I hope the noble Lord will be able to give us some ground for hoping that he will not sanction this particular Bill. As the hon. Member for Cardiff has already pointed out, the root of the famine is the land question. India is an agricultural country. I agree with the hon. Member opposite entirely that it is of the utmost importance we should develop, as far as we can, the industrial resources of India, and I think he will also agree with me when I say that it will take many decades before India can hope to compete with the capital, the skill, and the science of Europe. Even when this does take place, the great masses of India will depend primarily upon agriculture. Therefore, in dealing with the land question in India with regard to famine, you are dealing with an issue of vital and permanent importance. I would like to make one or two remarks as to the principle regulating land assessment in India, and to point out that these facts have a direct bearing upon the consequences of the famine. Take, first, the principle now obtaining in Northern India. I will content myself with simply showing what the system there is. After a number of reductions had been made on the scale of assessment about fifty years ago, it was finally fixed at 50 per cent. of the rental. The system is to allow the landlord and the tenant to make their own arrangements, and then the State comes in and takes 50 per cent. of the rental. It is interesting to note that the then Governor of the North-west Provinces, Sir Antony MacDonnell, a man of the largest experience, and a most distinguished public servant in India, points out that this means, generally speaking, 8 to 10 per cent. of the gross produce of the soil. The arrangement has worked well hitherto, and I wish to suggest that it would be most desirable that a similar limit should be placed in regard to land assessment in the Southern Provinces of India. Just one word as to Madras and 1410 Bombay. Here the matter stands in a very different condition. As hon. Members know, the Government deal direct with the cultivators. The rent in many cases is excessive, and the cultivators are in a state of chronic poverty. I will only mention one fact to prove that statement. I find on reading the Report of the Famine Commission of 1878 the statement—The Government takes in rent not from 8 to 10 per cent. of the gross produce, as in Northern India, but from 12 to 31 per cent.I am afraid if the present day facts were examined the matter would be still worse in regard to that point. As to Bombay, the only evidence I will trouble the House with is what is divulged in the Crop Experiments Report in reference to the relation between the assessments. I find that, judging from the results of these experiments, it has been discovered with regard to the Presidency of Bombay that the assessment is very high, and that in some cases it reaches a scale of 42, 67, and even 96 per cent. of the gross product of the soil. Without wearying the House with any further facts and figures, I will content myself with simply pointing out that it seems to me plain that there is an inevitable connection between the scale of assessment and the present famine in these districts. With regard to the Central Provinces, I will remind the House that six years ago an enhancement took place of similar dimensions. Rents advanced from 20 per cent. to 105 per cent., and the effect of this enhancement has been inevitable. People are afraid to embark capital in the land, and when famine comes, as it has come to that district to-day, the people are practically helpless to resist it. The moral of these facts is written, I believe, very plainly in the history of the famines in India. I do not wish to say that it is only in those districts where land assessment is very high that famines ever come. What I do say is that an examination of the facts of the case proves beyond doubt that it is just in those districts that famines are always most severe. For instance, in 1877, as the House knows, it was in Madras that 5,000,000 died of famine, and in 1897 and 1900 it was in the Central Provinces where the famine seemed to have the worst results. To-day it is in Bombay. It is in these three districts and Presidencies that land assessments are higher than they are in any other portion of 1411 India. The House will ask, "In the face of these facts, what do you suggest?" I do not recommend a universal system. That would be obviously impossible. I do not recommend the extension throughout India of the permanent settlement. I do not recommend the creation of landlords in Bombay and Madras, as in other parts of India. What I do suggest is that an equitable limit should be fixed to the land revenue demanded by the Government, and that reasonable security should be given to tenants that this rate will continue. What do hon. Members think would be an equitable limit to impose with regard to land assessment? I would suggest this practical solution of the difficulty. I should suggest as to the limit that it should not exceed in any single area 20 per cent. of the gross product of the soil. Where you take an entire district into account, the limit should be 10 per cent. It is quite obvious that, if for famine purposes it is necessary to bring about some changes in the way of moderating the land charges throughout India, you must have money to do it. It is perfectly foolish to suggest that these reforms should be carried out and the remedies applied unless you are at the same time to make some suggestion as to the source from which the money required is to come. The remedy proposed in the resolution is for a temporary and exceptional state of things. It does not go to the root of the matter, and will not be a permanent remedy. I would suggest that there is one source from which a large portion of the expenditure of India might be justly and reasonably curtailed, and that is the military charges now imposed on the Indian Exchequer should be reduced. I do not think I should be in order in going into the reasons that obtain—
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman is discussing a question that does not come within the scope of this Amendment.
MR. HERBERT ROBERTS
I said I would be out of order in going into details on that point. The hon. Member below me who moved the resolution spoke of the claim India had for some reduction in regard to this matter.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! That hon. Member in speaking on that matter was speaking on the main question, but 1412 it cannot be discussed on the motion now before the House.
MR. HERBERT ROBERTS
If I cannot refer to it, it will be impossible for me to give even briefly my suggestion as to where the money required for bringing about this should come from. There was one remark the Chancellor of the Exchequer made in his speech which was not in any way sound. In reference to the fact that we are now making use of Indian troops in China and South Africa, he said that we pay in full for these services, and that therefore the Government of this country ought not to be asked for any assistance to India on that account. It seems to me that that is not an adequate reply to the question. The fact that we pay for the services of these troops while abroad does not in any way compensate for the fact that they are held in India, and that such a large sum of money is expended on them permanently for Indian purposes. I feel that in this direction we shall find some day a solution of the financial aspect of the question. I am glad that we have had an opportunity of discussing this question. I am grateful to the First Lord of the Treasury for giving us an opportunity earlier than the last day of the session for doing it. I regret deeply that the Government have found it impossible to acquiesce in the Amendment, but I do not altogether despair that the day is not far distant when they will reconsider their conclusion. If they do so I feel that the granting to India of a generous gift upon this trying occasion in the history of the Indian Empire will have results of the most wide-reaching and salutary effect.
§ * SIR EDGAR VINCENT (Exeter)
It appears to me that the decision come to upon the motion before the House must depend in a large measure upon the opinion which is formed as to the financial position of India. It is quite clear that the decision with regard to the grant of £5,000,000 we are called upon to make depends to a large extent on the opinion we hold with respect to two questions—namely, is India in a position to pay? And, secondly, is it to the permanent advantage of India that England should pay this free grant? With regard to the first question I do not perceive in the arguments brought forward in favour of the motion any real 1413 attempt to prove that the finances of India are in such a condition that they are incapable of standing the strain of the present famine. If we look at the tables presented to us, what do we find? We find that there have been surpluses in the last two years averaging about £2,500,000 sterling. If we look at the commerce of the country, we see no sign whatever of diminution or exhaustion. On the other side of the tables I do see that during the last two years a reform—a great and permanent improvement of financial value—has been carried out. I think insufficient attention has been paid to the reform which has been executed with respect to the currency. It is within the knowledge of the House that during the last twenty years the one great danger of India, the great bane, not only of Indian finance, but of Indian commerce and administration, has been that proceeding from the fluctuations of exchange. I believe that the noble Lord the Secretary of State and the Indian Government are entitled to claim that in the coarse of the year under review they have practically solved that question. It is undoubtedly true that the immediate results of the reform of 1893 were disappointing, but the Committee presided over by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton deserve the greatest credit for having perceived, in the midst of apparent failure, those elements which made for final and complete success. The redundancy of silver currency existing in 1893 could only be worked off by degrees. That absorption of the rupee has now taken place, and I believe we have attained a position of assured equilibrium. Surely that is a circumstance which should not be lost sight of in considering any question of a grant to India, or any question affecting the strength or weakness of the Indian financial position. On the second point, namely, whether it is to the permanent advantage of India that England should pay this free grant of £5,000,000, I admit that there are strong substantial reasons, which I do not at all underrate, for being generous, and if I argue the question, I will not do so from the point of view of the English exchequer or the burdens now incumbent upon English taxpayers. I would prefer to view the question from the point of view of Indian financial administration. It has been my fortune to be intimately concerned with 1414 the finance of several countries somewhat similarly situated to India, and I am sure of this, that had similar circumstances presented themselves I should have been opposed to a grant of this kind, and for various reasons, which I will state with all deference to the House. In the first place the right hon. Gentleman who spoke recently said that every country has its dignity in these matters, and that it is undesirable, unless it is absolutely necessary, to go to the English Exchequer in forma pauperis. Were India to fall back upon assistance from England there would be distinct deterioration. Leaving aside the question of dignity let us examine the question of practical administration. I have no doubt whatever that the task of the Financial Minister at Calcutta would be rendered considerably more difficult were this assistance to be given, because it is impossible for assistance of that kind to be given without its being considered, rightly or wrongly, as a precedent. We may say that here the circumstances are exceptional, and will never occur again. I wish I could take so optimistic a view. I am certain that if a grant is given to-night, or in the course of the present year, circumstances generally similar to those now present will recur, and recur very shortly, while the power of resistance will diminish. I believe that the forces which work under all Governments for extravagance, and work with particular strength under a military Government, which I take that of India to be, to a large extent would gain force. The military Members, who have always a great many reforms they desire, would say, "Well, if Indian resources are insufficient you know perfectly well you have only to turn to Downing Street, and from the Treasury you will receive the assistance you require." I am convinced that the Members who have most experience in the financial administration of States will agree with me that it is essentially important that a country should remain financially independent, and that it should sail, if I may be permitted to use the expression, upon its own bottom. It does not appear to me that sufficient proof has been afforded that real difficulty has arisen in India. I rather incline to the view that the present difficulty and the present stress is due in some measure to the fact that the Indian Government, somewhat like the ryot, does not in 1415 the days of prosperity make sufficient provision for those years of famine which inevitably come. Although I differ from the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who have spoken in favour of a Vote from England, I agree with them to some extent in this, that I do not consider the present system of administration of famine relief and insurance to be altogether satisfactory. It appears to me that the Indian Government have put their case forward somewhat unwisely. Their administration of famine relief may be sound, but in giving an account of their stewardship they have created distrust and suspicion. Mr. Dawkins says that a new departure will be taken in regard to this fund. As the programme of railway works destined to relieve famine has been nearly exhausted, and the programme of irrigation works has been largely reduced, there will be a considerable balance of money unexpended on famine relief. The Secretary of State proposes to devote that sum to public works which without it would have to be met by incurring new debt. In other words, the Public Works Department will borrow from the famine relief fund instead of from the market. Is this a solution of the question? I admit that it is an advance on the present practice. That money will figure as an asset in the books of the Famine Relief Department, and as a liability in the books of the Public Works Department; but I should criticise the proposal from this point of view, that a departmental entry is not a commercial realisable asset in the ordinary sense of the word. I am convinced that the only satisfactory plan of meeting these recurring famines in India is to constitute such a reserve, either from surpluses or from an annual Vote, as shall place the Government of India in a position of assured independence, and as shall enable them to deal with famine in a more free and decided manner than would be now either justifiable or possible. Under the plan which I venture to advocate this annual sum or sums would be placed to the credit of an extraordinary fund, which would be invested in high-class non-Indian securities, and would be available to meet unforeseen emergencies without recurrence to English support. The Indian financial situation appears to me not to want relief by a grant-in-aid from London, but to require broader 1416 treatment. The management of a great exchequer does not consist merely in bringing in money, in reducing balances, and in saving interest. You cannot conduct the finances of a great empire on the same principle as the finances of a money-dealer or a bill-broker. The effect which your measures will have upon the mind of the financial world, and the impression you create upon the imagination of the taxpayers in India, are circumstances which must be taken into account. I hold it to be of supreme importance that in a country like India the population should realise that the Government is strong and wealthy, and disposes of ample resources to meet any emergency. During the recent famine I have seen it stated in an Indian newspaper that it was most undesirable for the Government to appeal to private benevolence lest it should be thought that they were in financial straits, and that they were obliged to appeal to individuals in India and in this country in order to give that relief to suffering which their straitened circumstances rendered them unable to furnish themselves. I contend that the mere fact that such a statement is made shows not that there is anything wrong with the financial administration of the country, but that there is something wrong with the method by which the results are brought before the public. I have a clear opinion regarding the financial soundness and prosperity of India, and I differ by the whole breadth of the heavens from those who think that India is either overtaxed or misgoverned. I differ no less strongly from those who think it is good policy to make India appear poor so as to diminish the financial burdens which may be cast upon her. My conviction is that the only right course is for the Government to make the finances strong and to let them appear strong. I would constitute such a reserve as would put this question beyond doubt, and I would invest that reserve not as is now proposed, in a departmental entry, but in such a manner as to show that it is a financial asset which is realisable, which the Government can fall back upon in times of distress, and which would enable the Government to deal with famine or war in a thoroughly efficient and satisfactory manner. It is within the memory of all that in Egypt, at a time when that country had gone through greater financial straits than 1417 India has ever been placed in, the moment years of prosperity commenced it was decided to apply all surpluses to the constitution of a reserve fund. Those who are acquainted with the administration of Egypt will agree with me that the existence of that reserve fund, which now amounts to about four millions sterling, has been the corner stone of all subsequent financial operations, and that it has imparted to Egyptian finance a strength and vigour and elasticity which appear to me to be somewhat lacking in a country of much greater strength—namely, India. The noble Lord the Secretary of State for India has had the rare privilege of having relieved India of one grave financial danger—that of the fluctuation of exchange. I hope that the noble Lord will crown this considerable achievement by establishing in India a reserve which will place the Government in a position of assured financial security. I believe that this is the way in which future famines can be dealt with, and the remedy which I venture to propose is one of a permanent character, and not one merely a temporary relief like a grant-in-aid. The present scale of taxation in India in a normal year should leave at least a surplus of £3,000,000 sterling to constitute a reserve fund, and to this may be added the profit which will be realised upon the coinage of silver. I do hope that we shall in future abandon the practice adopted in past years of dissipating the surplus in small Departmental doles. Let the noble Lord in future adopt the bold and courageous policy of constituting a material and an effective, a public and manifest, reserve. If he adopts this course, I am convinced that the financial clouds which now obscure—and which have for so long obscured—the finances of our great Indian dependency will roll apart, and the peace, the prosperity, and the happiness of the inhabitants of that great Empire will be notably enhanced and confirmed.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
I have followed with the closest attention the able speech which has been delivered by the hon. Member who has just sat down. The only remark I wish to make in regard to that speech is that, so far as my memory serves me, the mode of creating a famine fund which he has just sketched out was, in substance, the 1418 plan upon which the famine fund was originally established, and which successive Governments of India have, for good reasons or for bad, diverted from its original application. But, whatever be the merits of the plan, it seems rather to be concerned with the future than with the immediate present, and it is not, I venture to say, very intimately associated with the question which is now before the House—namely, the condition in which the Indian people are found at the present time. I listened very closely and with much interest a little while ago to the speech of the hon. Member for North-East Bethnal Green, and I may say that I cordially agree with him in the disappointment which he expressed at the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I only regret that at the conclusion of his speech the hon. Gentleman announced that he would not have the courage to support his views by his vote in this House.
§ * SIR MANCHERJEE BHOWNAGGREE
I must object to that phrase, because I made my meaning perfectly clear, and explained that in the best interests of India I wished the motion should not be divided on, as it was sure to be defeated.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL
I am perfectly aware of what the hon. Member said, but I think the excuse he gave for supporting the Government was a very thin pretext.
§ * SIR MANCHERJEE BHOWNAGGREE
I rise, Mr. Speaker, to a point of order. I am accused of opposing this Amendment upon a thin pretext, when I have absolutely given adequate reasons for the course I intend to take. Is the hon. Member in order in using that language?
§ MR. PICKERSGILL
I say again that it is the thinnest pretext I ever heard advanced. The hon. Member said that the relations between this country and India were the relations of a benevolent Imperialism. The only commentary I desire to make upon the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is that it seems to me that both the benevolence 1419 and the Imperialism were conspicuously absent. One is always willing to make allowances for the position of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But after all, a Chancellor of the Exchequer is a Minister of the Crown, and I rather think that when the people of this country read the arguments by which the right hull. Gentleman has opposed the proposal which has been made from these benches they will feel humiliated. What are the arguments which he used? The first was that the present was an unfavourable time for making such a demand upon the national credit. He mentioned the burden which the war in South Africa had laid upon him. All that is true, but it does not seem to me that this unhappy war in South Africa, in which the Government has involved the country, should be permitted to relieve this country from its obligation towards our Indian fellow-subjects. If we are to take the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as representing the views of the Government, then we knew exactly where we stand. We know from his statement that this war in South Africa is not only to prevent the fulfilment of the promises which the Government made to the people of this country, and to stand in the way of much-needed social reforms in England, but it is also to prevent the fulfilment of our obligations to the people of India, and prevent us assuming our proper position in relation to the affairs of China. This South African War seems to mo to have weakened, humiliated, and paralysed the action of the Government in almost every quarter of the globe. The second argument of the right hon. Gentleman seemed to me, if possible, even more extraordinary than the first. The right hon. Gentleman said that he understood the bulk of this money which we are voting would go not for the benefit of British India, which is under the immediate government of the Crown, but as to the bulk of it would go to benefit the Native States. I will show that that is not so; but supposing it were so, the right hon. Gentleman knows that we interfere with the internal affairs of these Native States. To a large extent we prevent them governing themselves according to old Oriental methods, and insist on them adopting Western methods. It shows a curious want of the Imperial instinct when the right hon. Gentleman repudi- 1420 ates all responsibility for these Native States. The Indian Famine Paper issued this morning gives us the means of calculating roughly, but not inaccurately, the proportions in which this fund will go to the benefit of British India and the Native States. The grants which the Government propose to make are to be divided in the proportions of twenty-six lakhs to the Native States and fifty-five lakhs to British India. This question can hardly be decided without considering how far the Government has discharged its duty towards the Indian people. I cordially recognise the self-sacrificing efforts of the Civil servants in coping with this famine. They have not spared themselves; they have given their health, and even their lives, to the cause, and not a few of them have used their own pecuniary resources in aid of the famine-stricken people. What I want to do is to attack the system, not the men who administer it. The right hon. Gentleman stated this afternoon that over 11,000 natives had been crowded in a relief camp, and that terrible mortality had broken out, that the people ran away and carried the infection to other districts. He said that that was an exceptional case, but I question whether it was really exceptional. If we are to believe the testimony of credible and authentic observers, it was not an exceptional case. There were many places like it in the Bombay Presidency. There were camps in which 30,000 people were crowded together, and that was directly contrary to the Code, which lays down that relief works camps should be limited to 5,000 persons. What was the effect of having these large crowded camps? They became the centres of disease. Mr. Nash tells us that the Government of India knew perfectly well that cholera would inevitably break out in these camps, yet they did not take medical precautions which they ought to have taken; nor did they provide an adequate service of medical men in order to cope with the danger. The second point which I wish to emphasise is the incalculable loss of cattle during this famine. Now, could that loss of cattle have been avoided? The cattle died because there was no fodder for them; but there was plenty of fodder in other parts of India, and the cattle died because the fodder was not brought to the spots where the cattle were. If the testimony of competent observers is true, the transport of fodder hopelessly broke 1421 down. Mr. Nash, the correspondent of the Manchester Guardian, says that there was plenty of fodder ready packed for transport. Big stacks of grass running into hundreds of thousands of tons were stacked along the railway lines in the Central Provinces, and the whole of it was allowed to rot, and the few cattle left were allowed to die. The transport was ineffective, and unnecessarily aggravated the loss of cattle. The right hon. Gentleman, in the course of his very interesting speech, referred to the relations between the rulers of India and the ruled. He said there was an amount of sympathy between the Government of India and the people to an extent which had not prevailed in former years. But I would respectfully ask the right hon. Gentleman whether his own conscience is altogether clear in this matter, and whether the relations between England and India and between the Government and the governed in India have been improved by the recent changes carried through in the Indian Council. I would ask him whether he thinks that these relations of sympathy were promoted by the harsh treatment given the brothers Natu, who were imprisoned for two years without trial, and in relation to whom the charges on which they were arrested were changed from time to time, and they were at last released without any charge having been established against them. I ask him further whether these relations of sympathy are likely to be promoted by what has happened at Cawnpore? I hope that the spirit which the right hon. Gentleman has shown in his speech this evening will be practically illustrated in the future relations between the Government and the governed in India.
§ * COLONEL MILWARD (Warwickshire, Stratford-upon-Avon)
I am sorry that this debate has been rather narrowed down, because there were a great many questions of general interest in the speech of the Secretary of State for India, with reference to currency, trade, military preparations, railways, and irrigation works, all of which would have been very interesting if we could have followed them up. I regret very much the non possumus position taken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to the Free Grant, and I think that the people of this country to-morrow morning will rub their eyes when they see that our Exchequer is so 1422 poor and the Indian Exchequer is so rich. It is perfectly true that India had a surplus for two years, but owing to the famine there will possibly be a deficit this year. On the other hand, I do not think that any nation, however rich, has ever undertaken with so light a heart as we have an expenditure this year of something like fifty millions on a distant war, and I cannot help thinking that under these circumstances we might have spared one million at all events for the relief of the famine in India. The resolution which I have placed on the Paper* differs from that of the hon. Gentleman opposite. My position is this. The Chancellor of the Exchequer states that the Government of India have made no. demand on the Imperial Government. That is true, but if they had made a demand on us it would have robbed us of the grace of making a free gift, and we should not then be in a position to voluntarily give this money. But although the Government of India have not made any demand of that kind on us, Lord Curzorn has reiterated over and over again that there are things which public money cannot do, and that the famine victims cannot be helped in the same way out of public funds as by private charity. You cannot administer the assistance that is required in every degree and in every case out of public money. These are the things which a free gift may accomplish, and what I want to plead for is not to assist the finances of India, not to give a million or any other sum to help the Indian Exchequer, but that we should place a million at the free disposal of the Viceroy for the purpose of supplementing the inadequate subscriptions of the people of England. I do not blame the people of England for having inadequately subscribed. The charitable and philanthropic people of this country have been drawn upon from every direction in connection with the war, and it is not only a million that was subscribed to the Mansion House War fund, but I am perfectly sure that at least five millions must have been subscribed to the* Colonel Milward had on the Paper the following notice:—"To move, That, having regard to the widespread distress in India, and to the comparatively poor result of the appeal for subscriptions for aid in Great Britain, it is desirable to supplement these subscriptions by a free gift from the National Exchequer of one million sterling, and that this sum be placed at the unfettered discretion of the Viceroy.1423 various funds. Can we wonder, therefore, that the amount subscribed for the famine in India has been singularly small? In 1897 the famine subscriptions were £700,000, and in March, 1898, the date of the dissolution of the 1897 Commission, the receipts amounted to £1,190,000, besides which there were large gifts of grain and clothing also received. What is the state of the Mansion House Fund now? It only amounts to £325,000.
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
The Mansion House Fund is only about £350,000, but, in addition, £170,000 has been subscribed in Scotland and Lancashire.
§ * COLONEL MILWARD
I did not intend to convey that the Mansion House Fund included all that had been subscribed, but, even taking that fund as it stands, it is quite £200,000 below what it was three years ago, in addition to which there were then great gifts of food and clothing, all of which are now sent to South Africa. What I venture to urge is that we might give a grant to India such as would supplement the small sum subscribed by the public in this country. The Report of the Indian Famine Commission of 1898 states—The testimony is unanimous and overwhelming as to the incalculable good the charitable fund has done as an auxiliary of the State system of relief and the universal gratitude it has evoked among the people. Seventy-one per cent. of the fund has been spent in giving a fresh start in life to peasant cultivators and small landowners who have been forced to eat their seed grain and part with their plough cattle, or whose plough cattle had died from want of food, or who had no agricultural resources left or no credit wherewith to procure them.That is exactly what is taking place in India at the present moment. It is said that there would be no precedent for such a grant, but this very Parliament supplies a precedent. A year and a half ago there was a hurricane in the West Indies. At that time the Colonial Secretary addressed a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in which he stated that the inhabitants of Barbados were unable to house or feed themselves. What happened? This Parliament gave a free grant of £40,000, and a loan of £50,000 without interest. Surely that was a case precisely on all fours with the present case, and surely the famine-stricken districts of India appeal to us at least as strongly as the Barbados. Then 1424 there is another reason which appeals to me very strongly, and that is the loyalty which has been shown by the people of India. I think the House ought to be reminded that on the 28th of December, the Nizam of Hyderabad offered his purse, army, and sword in the defence of Her Majesty's Empire, and also that the Maharaja of Gwalior offered a troop of horse and transport. On the 29th of December the whole of the 3rd Bengal Sikhs offered voluntarily one day's pay for the War Fund, and it therefore does seem to me that when the Nizam of Hyderabad offered his purse and his sword and the Maharaja of Gwalior offered a troop of horse, we have now an opportunity of showing our appreciation of such loyalty. I wish to associate myself with what has fallen from my hon. friend with reference to a division on this Amendment. I am not going into the lobby against the Government, because I will not be a party to squeezing the Government in order to get them to grant this money. Unless it is done freely there will be no grace in the grant at all. I hope the arguments I have addressed to the House will be considered. I believe that public feeling throughout the country is favourable to this grant. I mentioned it myself at one public meeting recently, and it was most enthusiastically received. What is a million among the many other millions spent in other directions when by it we may create a feeling of loyalty in India, and a feeling also that in the hour of her distress this country came to her assistance?
§ * MR. EMMOTT (Oldham)
I venture to intervene in this debate not only because of the interest which I myself take in this question, but also because my constituents have such a deep interest in all that concerns the welfare of the inhabitants of our great Indian Empire. I speak, of course, to-night my own views, but I am certain I carry with me also the views of the great majority of my constituents. The interest which Lancashire has in India, whatever may be said about isolated matters in the past, is by no means a purely selfish one. In the present dire straits of the Indian people my own constituents have shown their active sympathy, and have extended generous help. Although, like other inhabitants of this country, they have subscribed liberally to 1425 the various war funds, they have also subscribed largely to the Indian Famine Fund, and if the inhabitants of the remainder of the United Kingdom subscribed in proportion to numbers, as much as my constituents have subscribed there would be a fund of one and a half millions instead of half a million at the present time. But I am afraid, even if there were a fund of a million and a half, it would be far too little to relieve the dire necessities of India at the present moment. May I thank the noble Lord for his speech, which was able, luminous, most interesting, and above all intensely sympathetic? Lord Curzon on one occasion made an offer to pay the fare of any rich man to the famine districts in order that he might see for himself the sufferings of the people, and agreed to take a chance of a subscription on his return. I cannot help feeling with my hon. friend that the people of this country hardly realise the extent of this calamity. This famine affects ninety millions of people, or between a third and a half of the whole population of India. At the present moment there is a population larger than that of this great city dependent from day to day on the relief which the Government can give. Largo tracts of country have become desert; there has been an immense destruction of cattle—in some districts as much as 90 per cent.— and comparatively well-to-do people have lost their all, and have been driven from their homes. I am therefore afraid that there must be a greater slowness of recovery than after previous famines. Added to all the misery and disease which accompany famine, there has been a great outbreak of cholera. Just about the time that we were mad with joy over the relief of Mafeking—and I think we did perfectly right to rejoice about it—what was happening in India? An English doctor arrived at one of these cholera camps, and he found 400 people dead, other people scattered about dying on the ground, others struggling in the water, where they had gone to drink, and had been seized whilst drinking, and everyone who could had run away. Could a worse inferno than that be imagined? There were many other places where similar scenes occurred, and I think that we should all remember it to the credit of India that all the misery and destitution of famine and all the agony caused by disease were borne with that silent dignity and uncom- 1426 plaining patience, so characteristic of those docile races whom it is our pride and privilege to rule in India. Such grief and pain borne silently is not, however, less pathetic than a sorrow which cries aloud in the bazaars and proclaims itself at every street corner. I do not wish in the least, however, that we should be governed by emotion in this matter. The loss of life from this famine may be loss than usual, but the exhaustion that will follow it will be very much greater. The number of cattle that have died is simply enormous, and the low condition of the people seems to be so great that many will be unable to do any work for a long time. Lord Curzon, seeing what would occur, appealed first of all urbi to the Lord Mayor, and then practically orbi to the world at large, and among those who responded was the Sultan of Turkey. I almost wish he had kept his money for another object, and that he had saved us the necessity of accepting it. The total response to Lord Curzon's appeal was, however, miserably inadequate, and my own impression is that money must be found somewhere, or very serious permanent injury to India will be the result. There are only two methods of obtaining money, one by a loan in India and the other by gift from England. Large loans have already been made in India on the security of impoverished landowners. Most, if not all, of this money has to be paid back, and I fear the tax collector will appear only too soon after the famine. I think, therefore, that loans in India cannot extend much farther than they have done, and I think it is a case of a gift from England. It is said that would be against precedent, and I do not in the least decry precedent. In a matter of this kind it is easy to relieve our consciences by generosity, and do permanent harm unless we give wisely. But the famine is unprecedented. It is an act of God, not the product of man's carelessness, and any precedent could only affect a future famine of equal proportions. Again, it is the second famine in three years. I further think that the Indian race is not a race with the instincts of paupers. There are other reasons of great cogency which might be urged. In the first place, it is desirable, even from the point of view of our trade relations, that as soon as possible India should return to a normal condition, but I attach more importance almost to the effect this 1427 gift will have on the people of India. A new era is now opening up in the Far East, and it is surely worth our while to try and bind India to us by the chains of affection. But my main argument is a financial one. India is already doing so much to relieve famine that I do not think she can be expected to do any more. She has been paying Rx. 1,000,000 or Rx.1,500,000 per annum for many years for famine insurance, but in addition to that there are the import duties which were put on in 1894. They are practically a famine tax. They were put on because of the fall in the rupee, and were kept on because of war and famine, and I imagine, having regard to the noble Lord's past action, they would have been taken off had not this famine occurred. These amount to Rx. 3,500,000. Therefore India is already paying Rx.5,000,000 for famine at the present time. I will not refer to the Report of Lord Welby's Commission, except to say that it recommends that we should treat India generously, and that a considerable sum is due for past overcharges. I congratulate the noble Lord on the success of his currency policy. I do not want to say one word against that policy, because whatever one's opinion may have been regarding it at first it is now an accomplished fact, and no one would desire to disturb it. But there is a reverse side to it. The rupee was raised from 1s. 1d. to 1s. 4d. between 1895 and now, and that has had the same effect as a contraction of currency. It helped the Government, but I do not think it helped the traders or the agriculturists. We are hearing again from India the same pitiable tale of these silver ornaments being sold at even less than their melting value. This is an extract from the Civil and Military Gazette of Lahore—The fact that the Government of India have bought seventy-two lakhs worth of silver more than their programme contemplated means nothing. The fact that the silver comes from Gwalior means much. It means that the people of Gwalior have unearthed their long-buried hoards of silver ornaments and sold them to the bunnias, who have sold them to the Gwalior authorities, who have melted them down and sold the bullion to the British Government. We may expect to hear of other native States in the famine area following in the steps of Gwalior.I have here a private letter showing that these silver ornaments are being bought for 5 to 8 annas per tola instead of the 10 annas they are worth. Here we 1428 have poor and middle-class people being cheated again, and not even getting the full value of the silver for melting purposes. Even if they had got full value they would have obtained only about 60 per cent. of what could be obtained seven years ago. I have tried to give some reasons why we should help India at the present time. I do not know whether my hon. friends will go to a division, but all I can say is that if they do I will vote with them with the greatest pleasure. I am a new Member of this House, and whether my stay be long or short in it I feel sure I shall never give a vote which I believe to be not only in the interests of India, but also, when rightly understood, in the interests of this country, with greater certainty than I shall vote on this occasion.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
No one can have heard the concluding words of the hon. Member's speech without feeling that at all events they came from the heart. The hon. Member stated he was going to vote for the Amendment on grounds which appealed to him as an Englishmen and a citizen of the empire of which India is a part. I believe the hon. Member is absolutely sincere; but, if he will forgive me for saying so, I think he is absolutely wrong; and if he considers this matter in a thoroughly impartial spirit he will come to the conclusion, I think, to which I at all events have been driven—that not only the interests of India, but the interests of England and of sound finance throughout the Empire are really involved in the House coming to a sober and rational decision on the issue presented tonight. But there is one smaller matter on which I must first touch almost parenthetically. My hon. friend the Member for Cardiff in the speech he delivered made an attack on one of the great princes of India—a gratuitous and wholly unmerited attack. The Maharaja of Gwalior has made a most generous offer of assistance in connection with the trouble which we have to face with all the rest of the world in China. I should have thought that that offer would provoke the gratitude and thanks of every man in the House and of every citizen in the Empire. But that is not the way the matter has presented itself to my hon. friend. He says— Why did not the Government 1429 compel the Maharaja to devote the money which he has offered so generously and patriotically to the alleviation of the sufferings of his own countrymen?" My hon. friend spoke hastily and without adequate knowledge of the fact. This prince is still young; but he has had time to show himself one of the most energetic, public-spirited, and patriotic Princes reigning under our suzerainty in India. He has not confined his efforts, as my hon. friend thinks, to extraneous charity or outside the boundary of our Indian possessions. His own subjects, some of whom have been touched by the famine, have received from him the most generous assistance; and, not content with dealing with the subjects within the limits of his own province, he has gone to the assistance of other and poorer Princes in India. And, after all, for whom is this hospital intended? It is in the main intended for that Indian contingent which has gone from India to China to fight the battles of the Empire, and I cannot imagine a cause which would more naturally and more properly appeal to the generous instincts of an Indian prince than that cause to which this prince has so nobly and generously subscribed. I said I would treat this matter parenthetically, but I could not leave it untouched because it involved a personal and most unmerited attack upon a prince who is an example to all who have similar great responsibilities cast upon them within the limits of our Empire. Everyone must fool that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Dumfries has been prompted by generous sentiments which have nothing in them of self-interest, but which are dictated purely by a feeling of sympathy with India in the appalling and almost unprecedented calamity now affecting that country. But in this House we have to ask ourselves not whether the sentiments which prompt a particular resolution are generous and praiseworthy or not, but whether its results are likely to be beneficial not merely to the relatively narrow interests of the United Kingdom, but to the larger interests of which the United Kingdom is the principal guardian. I venture to submit that the arguments my noble friend urged in his admirable speech, reinforced as they have been by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, have not been replied to. The Amendment as avowedly an attempt to substitute 1430 Parliamentary charity, extracted pro rata from the pockets of the taxpayers, for the spontaneous gifts of those anxious to relieve distress in India or any other part of the world. No doubt there are occasions when a Vote of the House may rightly be invoked in favour of a cause for which charity has been invoked. But the inevitable result of the House accepting the Amendment can only be that never again will any appeal of this kind be responded to by the public. It will be felt that Parliament itself has declared solemnly that it is a matter for the taxpayer and not for charity. Charity will be dried up at its source, and in every case in which hitherto charity has been invoked you will have gentlemen coming to this House and saying, "You have set a precedent which should be followed. This is not a case in which private benevolence should be appealed to. The proper course is to propose a Vote in Committee of Supply, or ask for a loan from the investing public." That is a precedent which, if set at all, should only be set with the utmost caution and in cases of the extremest necessity. Is this a case of the extremest necessity? It would be if the refusal of the House to accept the Amendment were likely to produce any additional loss of life from this famine. But my noble friend has told us repeatedly that if India should be unable to meet the necessities of the case she has behind her the British Exchequer. It is not pretended that the finances of India are in such a condition that she is unable, so far as the preservation of life is concerned in the afflicted districts, to deal with such a crisis of unprecedented magnitude as that with which she has to contend. Under these circumstances any charitable donation made by the House at the expense of the British taxpayer—for that is the proposition—would be made to India without India requiring it, without India pretending she required it, and in advance of any necessity. If indeed the Government were to tell the House that our interests are so alien from the interests of India that we regard India as a possession from which we mainly derive indirect profit and direct glory, but to which we feel ourselves so little responsible that we are not willing to come to her assistance, then hon. Gentlemen would be justified in saying that the British Empire was indeed unworthy of our great Indian possession. 1431 We put forward no such proposal. All we say is that sound principle requires that the financial responsibility of the different parts of the Empire should be kept separate, and it is only when the financial resources of any particular part of the Empire absolutely fail that it is legitimate to call upon the rest of the Empire for assistance. My hon. friend behind me, who spoke last but one, quoted the precedent of the West Indies. He said that in 1891, and again last year, or the year before, a sum was voted by this House to meet the calamity which had desolated the Leeward Islands. But the precedent quoted by my hon. friend is in favour of the Government, and not against it. For the precedent is this— that it was only when a dependency of the Crown was practically in financial extremeties, when it had not at its command the resources which would enable it to meet the strokes of evil fortune by which it was overwhelmed, that this Parliament and people came to its assistance. If ever India is in the condition of the Leeward Islands, this country will come to the assistance of India as it came to the assistance of the West Indies. I would venture to suggest that even the action we took in the case of those islands, used as it has been by my hon. friend, shows how careful we should be in starting new precedents of this character. The late Secretary of State for India, who made so excellent a speech, I remember, two years ago divided the House in favour of a grant to India to meet a famine which was then raging in another portion of that Empire, although at that moment she had a large surplus at her disposal. Now, supposing the right hon. Gentleman had succeeded in his endeavour on that occasion to induce the House to subscribe a large sum for that famine, followed as that case would have been by the present famine, would it not be clear that an Indian famine meant a Vote of this House towards Indian needs as regularly as in the past an Irish famine has meant an appeal to this House for Irish needs? Is that a precedent which this House would readily set? Do they desire so to mix up the Indian and British Exchequers as to make it a matter of course that whenever a famine exists in India, even though Indian finance may be in the highest state of prosperity, that is a just cause for coming to this country for financial assistance? That 1432 would be, as has been pointed out by my noble friend, the most certain method of introducing disorder into Indian finance. I am one of those who believe, and, indeed, it will be accepted as a commonplace, that the most fruitful parent of social troubles is financial irregularity and extravagance, and that the country which is reckless of its resources is a country which is rapidly approaching the greatest social and political difficulties. [Opposition cheers.] That appears to be a commonplace accepted by both sides of the House. Can that danger be more certainly produced in India than by that kind of charity which has met with so much favour on both sides of the House tonight? Can you conceive of a temptation which it would be more impossible for any Indian financier to resist than the temptation of appealing to a House, for whose action he was not responsible, to taxpayers whose interests it was not his business to guard, for resources which would enable him to meet difficulties occurring many thousands of miles away? My noble friend certainly did not go beyond the truth when he said that to come forward to Indian assistance when India is not in financial straits would be to infuse into the veins of the Indian financial system a principle of corruption from which it would never recover. I hope the House will never consent to that proceeding. I am reluctant, and I do not mean, to put the matter on selfish grounds. I do not mean to base the main stress of my argument upon the position of the British taxpayer or the burden thrown upon him, but I must say I listened with some surprise to an observation that fell from an hon. friend behind me. The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon said that when we were spending forty or fifty millions upon the South African war, could not we spare one million for the Indian famine? [Opposition cheers.] Apparently the argument of my hon. friend meets with approval on the other side. Let us translate it into simpler language. So translated it comes to this—that the heavier the burdens and the greater the expenditure which Imperial necessities throw upon the British taxpayer, so much more ought the subscriptions of the British taxpayer to be for the financial needs of other parts of the Empire. Surely 1433 that is a financial paradox which can hardly be accepted by the sober reflection of the House. Let it be remembered that this Empire of ours is at present run on a system never tried in the world before. The Empire is one of unprecedented extent in more area, and portions of it are to be found in every quarter of the globe. It is all paid for, as an Empire, by these islands.
§ MR. JOSEPH WALTON
I beg pardon; India pays more than its own share, according to Lord Welby's Report.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. Gentleman is probably not aware that as soon as Lord Welby's Report was made public the Government announced their intention of paying their quota. I may therefore assume that, according to Lord Welby's Report, the balance of payment between these islands and India is equitable. But the Empire as a whole is run by these islands, and if you are going, in addition to that responsibility, to say that whenever a calamity occurs in any part of that Empire the responsibility is also to fall upon the taxpayer of these islands, I say you are rushing into financial responsibilities of which you may have in a very few years great reason to repent. I am one of those who watch with considerable alarm the growth of expenditure we have to view already. But if to that expenditure, great and growing, and, I fear, likely to grow as it is, you are going to add these additional burdens, then, indeed, even the wealth, the enterprise, and the patriotism of this country may feel itself at last overburdened. I feel most strongly that the resolution which the House has got to take to-night is one of the deepest import for the future of the Empire. What we ask the House to affirm is that the financial responsibility for the various portions of the Empire rests primarily upon those portions of the Empire, and that in particular the financial responsibilities of India are Indian responsibilities and not British responsibilities. We admit, and I would take leave to ask the House to affirm, 1434 that in cases where Indian resources are not equal to Indian needs this House may well be asked to come to its assistance. But at the same time we also ask the House to affirm that, until these needs do become greater than Indian resources can bear, it is not only not true charity, it is not only not sound policy, but it is absolutely suicidal for us to endeavour—in a mood of sentiment with which everybody must sympathise, in response to motives which everybody must feel, to relieve sufferings that go to the heart of every feeling man—to prematurely and unnecessarily burden the already heavily-burdened finances of this country.
§ * MR. SAMUEL SMITH (Flintshire)
I ask the permission of the House to read an extract from a letter which I have received from India this evening. My correspondent writes from Poonah, under date 6th July, and his letter indicates that the extremest point of necessity has at last arisen. He says—It is with a heavy heart, with no little sense of responsibility, that I now sit to write to you; and I beg your thoughtful and very prayerful consideration of what I am about to say. The month of June—the first month of the monsoon, and in some respects the most important—has come and gone. The result, as far as the rainfall is concerned, tabulated from the official returns, is shown in the Deccan, Herald, dated 3rd inst. Briefly stated it is this: In the famine affected areas the rainfall has been defective from 71 to 91 per cent.—that is, in regions of the severest distress where 100 inches would have barely brought alleviation, only nine inches had fallen! But this is not the most appalling feature, for assuming a late rainy season, the monsoons with their refreshing freight might be yet looked for; but the affected regions have 'been outside the influence of both monsoon currents.' In other words, both the N.E. and S.W. monsoons have come, and spread feebly, but without bringing the longed-for refreshing and fertilisation to the death-stricken regions. This means—no relief for the present, and hardly any hope for the future. The ominous forecast of this prolonged drought is summed up in the Vanguard of 30th June. 'This famine is, perhaps, the most fearful calamity that has ever visited this earth. The worst is to come. The most reasonable estimates are that from 18,000,000 to 20,000,000 will perish in this dearth now spreading over the whole peninsula. Nothing of the kind has appealed to the hearts of Christian people as the death-cry of these starving millions.'If this is not a case of extreme necessity I do not know what is.
§ * MR. SAMUEL SMITH
It is a financial necessity, because it is quite beyond the power of India to feed the twenty millions of people who are famine-stricken. India is an extremely poor country. The great majority of the Members of the House have no conception of the poverty of that country. The taxation of India is very heavy upon the very poor people, and it is entirely beyond the power of India to cope with this famine. Personally I shall heartily vote with my hon. friend.
§ * MR. MADDISON (Sheffield, Brightside)
It is not my intention to stand long between the House and the division; but I think there need be no apology for any Member of this House at ten minutes to twelve o'clock to rise and express his opinion about the questions which have been discussed all night. I merely wish to say that while we appreciate to the full the kindly spirit which the noble Lord the Secretary for India and the First Lord of the Treasury have displayed —and I am quite sure they are sincere in deploring the terrible calamity to India— I submit that this sympathy does not go far enough. I would humbly tell the First Lord of the Treasury that, in spite of the great cost of the war in South Africa, to which we object, you could not go to a centre of the working class population in any part of England where you would not get unanimous approval of a free grant to the Indian Government for the purposes of famine relief—a grant of five millions, aye, of ten millions, if that sum is needed. I was rather surprised at the peculiar way in which the First Lord of the Treasury dealt with the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon, who thought, rightly, that if we could spend fifty or sixty millions on the war in South Africa, we ought to spare a million or two for the relief of India. The right hon. Gentleman says that that was a policy of the greater the burden in one direction the more extended should the appeal to the British taxpayer be in another. The hon.
§ Member for Exeter gave us some very wise advice, and told us what was healthy and what unhealthy finance. He is a great authority, doubtless, but I wish that he would apply his finance theories in this country as well as to other countries. He has shown no great objection to grants-in-aid here and grants-in-aid there in England and Ireland. But when he told us of the probable bankruptcy of the British Empire he had to admit that the country for which we ask this grant-in-aid is the one part of the Empire which costs us nothing. We are told in solemn tones that a grant of five millions from this House would rob the people of India of their proper dignity and self-respect. But what dignity and self-respect could these terrible crowds of famished people have? All the argument about sound finance and self-respect was absurd when applied to 300 millions of people who had no more control over their own government than they have over the inhabitants of France. I think that British rule has been on the whole good for the Indian people; but does anybody in this House believe that we hold India for the benefit of the Indian people? No, we hold it for Imperial purposes. I do submit that we would be acting consistently with the highest and soundest finance—that we would be not only giving vent to a healthy sentiment but exercising sound justice in making this grant, and on these grounds I support the motion. I was surprised that the hon. Member for Bethnal Green had been disappointed at the result of his application to the Archbishops, who have referred him to the Mansion House Fund. Nothing could have been more reasonable than such an answer as that coming from such a quarter! I regard this help to India as part of our Imperial obligations, and those who vote against the motion will be the true Little Englanders.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 112; Noes, 65. (Division List No. 244.)1437
|Allhusen, Augustus Henry E.||Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol)||Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.)|
|Arrol, Sir William||Bentinck, Lord Henry C.||Cecil, Evelyn (Hertford, East)|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Blundell, Colonel Henry||Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Brassey, Albert||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm.)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r)||Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc'r)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. G. W. (Leeds)||Bullard, Sir Harry||Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Butcher, John George||Coghill, Douglas Harry|
|Bartley, George C. T.||Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Cohen, Benjamin Louis|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Knowles, Lees||Richardson, Sir T. (Hartlep'l)|
|Colomb, Sir J. Charles Ready||Lafone, Alfred||Ridley, Rt. Hn. Sir Matthew W.|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Lawrence, Sir E. Durning (Corn)||Ritchie, Rt. Hon. Chas. T.|
|Cornwallis, Fiennes Stanley W.||Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Cross, Alexander (Glasgow)||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.)||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)|
|Curzon, Viscount||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert|
|Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew)|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Lowles, John||Simeon, Sir Barrington|
|Doxford, Sir William Theodore||Macartney, W. G. Ellison||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Faber, George Denison||Macdona, John Cumming||Smith, Abel H. (Christchurch)|
|Furgusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Manc'r)||Maclure, Sir John William||Smith, Jas. Parker (Lanarks)|
|Field, Admiral (Eastbourne)||M' Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.|
|Finch, George H.||M'Killop, James||Talbot, Rt. Hn J. G. (Oxf'd Univ.)|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Malcolm, Ian||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Maxwell, Rt. Hon. Sir Herb. E.||Warde, Lieut.-Col. C. E (Kent)|
|Fitz Gerald, Sir Robert Penrose-||Melville, Beresford Valentine||Welby, Lt.-Col A. C. E. (Taunt.)|
|Fletcher, Sir Henry||Middlemore, Jn. Throgmorton||Wentworth, Bruce C. Vernon-|
|Flower, Ernest||More, Robt. Jasp. (Shropshire)||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Gedge, Sydney||Morgan, Hon. F. (Monm'hsh.)||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Gibbons, J. Lloyd||Morrell, George Herbert||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath)|
|Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon||Morton, Arthur H. A. (Deptford)||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Goschen, Rt. Hn G. J (St George's)||Murray, Rt. Hon. A. G. (Bute)||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Goschen, George J. (Sussex)||Murray, Chas. J. (Coventry)||Wrightson, Sir Thomas|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||Percy, Earl||Wylie, Alexander|
|Green, Walford D (Wednesbury)||Phillpotts, Captain Arthur||Wyndham, George|
|Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury)||Platt-Higgins, Frederick||Wyvill, Marmaduke D'Arcy|
|Hamilton, Rt. Hn. Lord George||Plunkett, Rt. Hon. H. Curzon|
|Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm.||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Haslett, Sir James Horner||Purvis, Robert||Sir William Walrond and|
|Henderson, Alexander||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne||Mr. Anstruther.|
|Hornby, Sir William Henry||Rentoul, James Alexander|
|Asquith, Rt. Hn. Herbert Henry||Harwood, George||Robson, William Snowdon|
|Austin, M. (Limerick, W.)||Hayne, Rt. Hon. Chas. Seale-||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Bainbridge, Emerson||Healy, Maurice (Cork)||Seeley, Charles Hilton|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Healy, Timothy M. (N. Louth)||Shaw, Chas. Edward (Stafford)|
|Billson, Alfred||Humphreys-Owen, Arthur C.||Smith, Samuel (Flint)|
|Burns, John||Jones, William (Carn'rvonshire)||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Burt, Thomas||Lambert, George||Souttar, Robinson|
|Caldwell, James||Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cumb'land)||Steadman, William Charles|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Lough, Thomas||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Macaleese, Daniel||Thomas, D. A. (Merthyr)|
|Clark, Dr. G. B.||MacDonnell, Dr. M A (Queen's C)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Crilly, Daniel||Maclean, James Mackenzie||Ure, Alexander|
|Dalziel, James Henry||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Donelan, Captain A.||M'Leod, John||Wedderburn, Sir William|
|Doogan, P. C.||Maddison, Fred.||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Duckworth, James||Morton, Edw. J. C. (Devonport)||Williams, John Carvell (Notts.)|
|Emmott, Alfred||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)|
|Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough)|
|Flynn, James Christopher||Pease, Joseph A. (Northumb.)||Woods, Samuel|
|Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Power, Patrick Joseph||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Gourley, Sir Edward Temperley||Provand, Andrew Dryburgh||Mr. Herbert Gladstone and|
|Gurdon, Sir William Brampton||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)||Mr. M'Arthur.|
Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ 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, 1899, was £67,595,815; that the total expenditure in India and in England charged against revenue was £64,954,942; that there was a surplus of revenue over expenditure of £2,640,873; and that the capital 1438 outlay on railways and irrigation works not charged against revenue was £3,279,316.—(Secretary Lord George Hamilton.)
§ Resolution to be reported.