§ Order for Committee read.
§ * THE SECRETARY of STATE FOR INDIA (Mr. BRODRICK,) Surrey, Guildford
The task which falls upon me of enfolding the present position of our financial affairs in India is an agreeable 418 one owing to the nature of the statement which has already been placed before the House. It would be ungracious on my part if, on making this annual statement for the first time, I were not to acknowledge the labours of those who have gone before me, notably of my noble friend the Member for Ealing, whom the House has been accustomed to see in this position for so long, who has for nine years made this annual statement, and to whom I think the least I can do is to tender my congratulations on an administration of the finances of India which has enabled him and his Council to leave so satisfactory a legacy to those who have come after them. Now, a large proportion of the figures to which I shall have to allude have already been brought before the House and to a large extent they speak for themselves. But I hope it will not be considered out of place if I endeavour to carry the House with me into a little closer inspection of those figures than is possible from a mere comparison of the receipts of this year with the preceding year. The number of men in this country who, so long as Indian financial matters go on well, come down to this House in order to investigate the general condition of Indian affairs is not very large; but even for those who do so it is not always easy to make the comparison or to realise how great a change there has been from the preceding period in the long continuity of Indian affairs.
Looking at these Estimates for the first time for this year, a casual observer would conclude that the task of the Indian financial Minister was a very easy one. It was pointed out last. year that we had for four years Budget surpluses, amounting in all to £11,000,000, and the revised Estimate for 1903–4 shows a result which is exactly in keeping with its predecessors in that respect. I am glad to think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not sitting on this Bench at this moment, for if he were, with the difficulties which have beset him this year, he might be inclined to ejaculate, in the well-known phrase, "What a Budget to loot!" We have a good Budget; but I think nobody among my hearers this afternoon will be tempted to forget that the Indian Budget is subject, perhaps more than any Budget, certainly more than the Budget 419 of this country, to great fluctuations and variations. A bad season in India means infinitely more than a bad season in this country. The monsoon affects not only, as a bad agricultural year here affects, a portion of our revenue, but in India almost the whole of our revenue. The revenue of India so largely depends on agricultural prosperity that 18 millions come directly from the land revenue and 20 millions more come from the railways, which are so largely occupied in moving agricultural produce and passengers, the reduction of whose means results in a reduction of freight to the railways. All the necessaries of life are affected in a bad year, and a surplus which looks large may be rapidly diminished by such an eventuality. I think, therefore, that a prudent treatment of Indian finance is incumbent upon us, and that we must not have too great a faith in the continuity of surpluses. The possibility of a bad season is our skeleton at the feast. But there is another consideration which, I think, must be present to the minds of every one of us, and that is that in dealing with Indian revenue we are necessarily dealing with revenue which to a large extent is paid by men who are themselves not far removed from poverty. The poverty of the very poor in India is a thing which only those who have long administered that country can clearly realise, and we cannot keep out of our minds the fact that, dealing with a population whose life is so simple, whose necessaries are so few, but whose continued enjoyment of those necessaries is so precarious, we have no right to trade on revenue even when it appears to be bounding, as this revenue is.
I have nothing to say about the accounts of 1902–3, which have already been placed before the House. They accord closely with the revised Estimates; and the difference on the whole in our favour is only about £330,000, due chiefly to increased receipts from Salt and Customs. In 1903–4 the figures again have shown a marked increase over those which were anticipated. The Budget Estimate was for a surplus of £948,700; the revised Estimate shows an increase of £1,762,500 over that Estimate. The Explanatory Statement shows that substantial increases have taken place with regard to opium, railways, Excise, Customs, salt, 420 irrigation, and land revenue, which justify us in congratulating ourselves on the advancing prosperity of India. On those increases I do not propose to touch but I should like to say one word on the question of salt.
This is a subject which has been so often debated in this House, and on which so much has been written that, in the first year for a considerable period in which it has been possible to make a reduction in the amount of the tax, I think it is only necessary that we should consider how far that reduction has been apparent to the mass of the people. Now, the facts are well known. The tax was reduced by eight annas or 20 per cent. Many doubts were expressed whether that reduction would reach those for whom it was intended. I have been at some pains to discover how far that has been the case. It is by no means easy, owing to the habits of the Indian peasantry, to make out how far the remission of the tax has stopped halfway in its effects, and how far it has gone actually into the pockets of those for whom it was intended. I have asked for evidence from various parts of India, and the difficulty of the subject is shown by, for instance, the case of Delhi. In this town alone there are three distinct prices for retail salt—one price, the lowest, in the market, the next lowest in the shops of good character in the main thoroughfares, and the highest price of all is in the shops not in the main thoroughfares, but in the back streets. In Southern India there is a great contest always raging as to whether the tax should be assessed by weight or by measure. The advocates of both methods show an eloquence and determination which make it very difficult to decide the matter. It is urged on the one hand that it is possible to produce light salt in which the crystals are large and the interstices large. Accordingly the tax having been paid by weight, a large number of measures are sold compared to the weight, and the dealer is recouped. On the other hand it is urged that salt which is not so treated contains an undue proportion of water and therefore weighs heavier. Consequently we are plunged into a sea of doubt whether it is better for the dealer to defraud the consumer by selling him air or water. 421 The view which has been taken is that we should assess the tax by weight, and that has been done. There seems to be a consensus of all authorities that the Indian peasant is as a rule a shrewd purchaser, that the competition between retail shopkeepers is very keen, and that in most places the retail prices have been favourably affected within a month after the reduction of the duty. That I am sure the House will feel to be a satisfactory conclusion. As to the incidence of the tax, it has been further urged that the tax is a particularly oppressive one and falls upon the poor. I was glad to see that in the discussion last year in the Indian Council a native councillor stated that in his opinion the salt tax was the least oppressive of all taxes levied by the Government in Upper India—that is to say, was least felt. Salt is dearer in the Central Provinces and in Bengal than in the Punjab, but the consumption per head is nevertheless higher in those provinces. One satisfactory point to which all statistics must be subordinated is that in the very first year the increase in receipts from the salt tax owing to the largely increased consumption brought down the loss by nearly a quarter of a million, and I shall presently show the House that the estimate for this year, as indicated by a telegram I have recently received, will probably be exceeded by £200,000.
§ MR. BRODRICK
For the current year.
The other great disturbance of receipts in 1903–4 is due to the larger payments of provincial balances. I think we shall all be glad that the Government of India have exercised their discretion in a good year by increasing the sum paid for the purposes to which the provincial governments are able to apply them. In the last few years of prosperity there has been a considerable increase in this respect. In 1897–8 the special grants-in-aid given by the Government of India to provincial governments amounted to £254,000, in 1898–9 to £803,000, in 1901–2 to £1,362,000, in 1902–3 to £1,432,003, and last year to £2,326,000. Education grants have been made in the last three 422 years amounting in all to £800,000, and in regard to civil works of public utility the amount last year was £727,000. The other sums which have been given have, I think, been of material assistance to the provincial governments and have enabled them to carry on the works and continue to enlarge the sphere of education, on which I shall have something more to say to the House in a few moments. For the present year we have budgeted for a smaller receipt and a larger expenditure. The receipts have fallen because the prices of opium in 1903–4 were reckoned to be abnormably high. The railway receipts have fallen because it was desired to make further provision for special expenditure and renewals. There have been other minor changes which are detailed in the Explanatory Memorandum. There is also a considerable increase of expenditure to meet the expenditure on civil works—£584,000—which will not, I think, be grudged by the House. There are in some other departments rises which mostly explain themselves.
There is also a very considerable rise in military charges. That increase, which now amounts to £1,700,000, is partly due to the fact that troops who have been employed in China and Somaliland come again on the charge of the Indian Government. It is partly due to the increase of pay which has been discussed here on previous occasions, and which will have to be maintained under the scheme of the Secretary of State for War. I am glad to say that the larger proportion of the increase in military charges is of a temporary nature. The increased expenditure on special defences and military works—£242,000—is part of a programme to be completed next year or the year afterwards. The expenditure on artillery and rifles is connected with a scheme of rearmament which we are fortunate in being able to carry out without any change in the other Budget provisions. Beyond that we shall have to face some further expenditure which has recently been demanded of us from India. Lord Kitchener has now been nearly two years in the country. It was expected of him when he went out there that he would undertake to some extent the reorganisation of the equipment and mobilisation of the Indian Army. Everybody 423 who has followed the Army debates in rains are frequently late, revenue is this House knows that in the last five years we have had to incur, quite apart; from questions of Army schemes or development, the expenditure of very heavy sums under the Mowatt Committee for improving our equipments for mobilisation. The Indian Army has required similar consideration. Lord Kitchener has gone carefully into the matter. He has brought forward a scheme, after most minute consideration, which is now being carefully gone into by the Indian Government, for the purpose of mobilising a larger number of troops from those already in India than it was previously proposed to mobilise, in the event of trouble on the north-western frontier. The House will, I know, feel with me that, however little we desire to increase the charges for the Army in India, what Army we maintain there must be capable of rapid and effective mobilisation. India must also have its own resources for the manufacture of weapons. so that it may not be dependent on this country in the case of hostility, with the sea between us, and it must also be dependent upon itself for the stores and transport necessary to mobilise its own troops. As regards reinforcements from here, that is a question upon which a great deal of the scheme of my right hon. friend is based. As regards the troops actually in India there can be no doubt that Lord Kitchener is right in taking care that only troops which can be mobilised shall be maintained, and that troops not thoroughly efficient shall be replaced by troops which are efficient or can be made efficient. It is necessary to add something to the charge this year for the purpose of providing equipment and stores; and although I cannot now go into Lord Kitchener's general scheme, at will be brought before us at a later date, after it has been considered by the Government of India. It is thought desirable by all who have to deal with the matter that we should, out of our surplus in the current year, provide extra stores and equipment to the extent of £666,000 as demanded by Lord Kitchener. This we shall find ourselves able to do without the least difficulty from the increased revenue which, according to the present estimate, we have reason to expect.
India is rapidly recovering from the effects of the last famine, and though 424 coming in well, even in the provinces such as Berar, in which the effects of the famine were most severe, and we hope there is no further cause for anxiety, the outlook being distinctly favourable. The Government of India under the present outlook are of opinion that opium will show 115 lakhs more in the present year, salt will produce 30 lakhs above the Estimates, Customs 10 lakhs, railways 50 lakhs, and altogether the excess will be about 230 lakhs. A large estimated increase, to be taken of course with some reservation at this period of the year. Beyond the expenditure on the Army which is contemplated in the Estimates we expect to have to spend an additional 54 lakhs on Tibet, and have also in contemplation some expenditure on the new provincial settlements in Bombay and the Punjab.
SIR MANCHERJEE BROWN. AGGREE (Bethnal Green, N.E.)
Am I to understand from my right hon. friend that 54 lakhs is the extent of the cost of the Tibet expedition.
§ * MR. BRODRICK
Yes, to the end of the year. The material condition of India, as shown by these figures, indicates satisfactory improvement; but I think it is still more satisfactory to note the evidences of recovery from the effects of the desolation caused by the famines of 1896–7 and 1899–1900. The Estimates necessarily show year by year large sums expended by the Government for the relief of India from the devastation caused by famine, for defence, and for developments in good government. The course of British administration has relieved India from wars and civil disturbances which formerly desolated her population, and to a large extent we have relieved India from the consequences of disease and famine. But everybody, I suppose, will agree that, when the history of British administration in India comes to be written, and, if that history were to finally close to-morrow, what our successors and critics would dwell upon would not be the sums we found it possible to devote to measures for the prevention of the disastrous results of wars and famine, or the sums expended annually in improving the civil conditions 425 by good government, but what we have been able to do to render India permanently more free, more immune, from the periodical desolations by famine by which enormous numbers of the population have been swept away. Remarkable figures have been put before us, and even at the risk of wearying the House I will read some of them to show what has been the increase in revenue in proportion to civil population in the last four or five years, following closely on one of the severest famines ever experienced in India. I will take the figures showing the growth of revenue from the year 1899 to 1903. Stamps have risen from £3,265,476 to £3,588,100, Excise from £3,859,942 to £4,925,500, Customs from £2,914,857 to £3,624,200, and Post Office revenue from £1,308,315 to £1,480,800. That shows an all-round increase of nearly 15 per cent. Imports of merchandise have increased from £50,202,000 to £61,718,000, and the export of merchandise has increased from £72,722,000 to £102,476,000. That is an enormous increase. The area under agricultural cultivation in 1899 was 204,000,000 acres, it is now 234,000,000 acres; the area under irrigation has increased by 3,000,000 acres; and the area under cotton, which in 1899 was 8,300,000 acres, has been increased to 11,000,000 acres. I look with great interest on this last-mentioned increase. Of the production of cotton the world has not enough, and great efforts have been made in India both to improve the quality and to increase the quantity. Efforts to produce cotton of longer staple have been made, and though they have rot yet been successful, our Lancashire friends tell us that, even though we produce only short staple cotton, that pro action will be most valuable, and its use will set free the long staple cotton to be used for other purposes. This year the increase has been larger than before. I go on with the figures in relation to railways, and I find that the goods and materials carried in 1899 amounted to 40,000,000 tons, and that amount had risen in 1903 to 48,000,000 tons. The number of passengers carried in 1899 was 163,000,000 and the number had risen in 1903 to 213,000,000, and the increase has been among the poorest part of the population. No less instructive is the 426 growth of private deposits in the banks-The figures show that in the Presidency banks the deposits in 1899 were £7,470,000, and in 1903 the amount was £12,113,000. In joint stock banks the amount had increased from £4,895,000 to £7,263,000, and in postal savings banks the increase was from £6,285,000 to £7,614,000, an increase of 20 per cent. Anybody will see that by these figures the general proposition is established that whereas in old days it took many years for the whole of India to recover from the effects of a famine, that recovery is now complete in a very short period. It is a remarkable fact that in the districts chiefly affected, in the Punjab, the Central Provinces, and Behar, we have reached to-day the position in which we were before the famine occurred; destitution is absent, the demand for labour is again set up, and agricultural production shows a further increase.
An index of prosperity in India is the returns under the head of land revenue, and though I know that the hon. Member opposite apprehends that the collection has been enforced by urgent measures, these have really been of a mild description. I was looking the other day through that admirable book by Sir W. dee-Warner, the "Life of Lord Dalhousie," one of the greatest of Indian Viceroys. and I was struck by a reference in his diary while on a tour in the North-West Provinces in 1851, five years before Oudh was annexed. In that entry Lord Dalhousie says—All day I heard a heavy cannonading going oh, and marvelled to think that we should be able to hear the artillery practice all the way from Cawnpore. Before the evening I discovered it was our neighbours in Oudh collecting their revenue! Nothing more common, people say, all along this border.It is satisfactory to know that the Army is no longer required for such a purpose.
But if there has been this rapid recovery in India from the elects of famine, may I put before the House for a few moments the facts showing how this has been achieved and how we may carry the process still further? In the matters which have come before our review this year specially reference has been made to railways. In their construction progress has been rapid, according to some people too rapid, according to others not rapid 427 enough. Early last year an investigation was undertaken by Mr. Robertson, whose interesting and comprehensive review has been placed before the House. It shows, I think, that on the whole our rate of progress in regard to railways has been satisfactory. When Lord Dalhousie started in India his policy in regard to railways, in the administration of which he had had considerable share in this country during the forties, he was soon able to point to thirty-five miles in existence. That was in 1854, and in ten years the extent reached 2,234 miles, in 1874 5,638 miles, in 1884 10,784 miles, in 1894 18,459 miles, and in 1904 27,144 miles. I remember that one of the earliest Committees upon which I was privileged to sit was one appointed for assisting the desire of the House that the pace at which railways in India were being constructed should be increased. The pace was increased; in 1894 the number of miles open was 18,459, and last year it was 27,144. It is a large mileage, and it is interesting to compare it with the mileage in other countries. We have in India one mile of railway to every eighty-two square miles of territory and 12,231 inhabitants. I do not know how we may most usefully make a comparison, but I take European Russia, and there I find there is a mile of railway to every sixty-eight square miles and every 3,556 inhabitants; in Siberian Russia there are 1,242 square miles of territory, and 1,499 inhabitants to every mile of railway; and again, taking Japan, there are thirty-three square miles and 12,713 inhabitants to every mile of railway—that is to say, about two miles for one in India, but with a smaller number of inhabitants. That does not complete the story, for Mr. Robertson's Report shows that upon the average of the last seven years 900 miles of railway are added annually. That shows that a considerable change in administration had been going on. The Government had direct financial responsibility in respect of four-fifths of the railways, and had control in some degree over the remainder.
The administration of so large a system requires, I think, a special administrative body. I am all for decentralisation of work so far as it can be accomplished, and I think the Secretary of State for 428 India and the Government of India should give as large powers as they can to those who immediately control this great body of business. We think, therefore, in accordance with the recommendation in Mr. Robertson's Report, that to obtain greater freedom of action, administrative and financial, there should be a delegation of the work of the Secretariat to a Railway Board of three practical men, one to be skilled in matters relating to traffic, though not necessarily with Indian experience. We propose to set up such a Board, giving to it considerable increase of power and responsibility, though we are, of course, bound to preserve the ultimate financial control over the large sums expended to the Secretary of State and the Government of India. But in all minor matters, in questions for better working of the traffic with the companies, for the reorganisation of the staff, for improvements in working of traffic, speed, trains, and accommodation, for greater approximation of fares on different lines and better catering for the public, for the better classification of goods and rates for traffic traversing different lines, for improvements in rolling stock and a more general application of the block system, it is proposed to give authority to the Board. We also propose the institution of an Indian railway clearing-house, and we shall bring managers and locomotive and railway superintendents into closer association. These matters will come within the purview of the Board, who will not necessarily remain at Calcutta or Simla, but will go about to various localities and have direct access to the Council. Generally, responsibility in reference to financial matters will be made more elastic, and we shall do away to some extent with what I am sure the late Secretary of State feels as strongly as I do has been the cause of wasteful expenditure—I mean by the abolition of the 31st March system, by which a sum not expended in the financial year lapsed to the Exchequer. Whatever advantage there might be in this from a Parliamentary standpoint, it has led to wasteful expenditure, and I think we can get over the difficulty, and, leaving the Secretary of State with proper control, we may proceed to delegate to a Board the powers I have mentioned.
429 From irrigation there is an immediate return, for you have what is, if not actually in the nature of a cure, a palliative of famine. Then we have the railways and branch lines that run into those districts of the Central Provinces where irrigation cannot be carried out as largely as in some other districts. Our whole expenditure on railways amounts to £228,000,000 and our revenue is 4.61 per cent. of our expenditure. The extent of our railway programme is not only a great element of the civilisation we have given to India, but it is one of the best preventives of that visitation of which India suffers so much. An important Report was published during this year of Sir Colin Scott Moncrieff's Committee on Irrigation. That Committee has laid down the limitations as well as the possibilities of irrigation in India. We have afforded protection against drought, but our old irrigation projects have varied enormously in their success and in the return made by them. Some have paid 27 per cent.; others, on the other hand, though a protection against famine, have not been so successful. The main question is not whether these works can be made directly remunerative, but whether the financial burden is too high for protection against famine. I think that the speech which Lord Curzon delivered on the Budget at Calcutta may be studied with regard to the future, and I do not think that I can lay the subject better before the House. Lord Curzon said on that occasion—People sometimes talk as though practically unlimited sums could be spent on irrigation with little or no trouble. They could perhaps be spent, if experiments were rashly made in every direction and if there were no objection to flinging money away. No science, however, demands for its practice more careful forethought and planning or more trained supervision.It would be wrong if I did not pay some tribute to the engineers on whom we have depended both in regard to railway extension and irrigation. When I went to the India Office a few months ago I found that the abolition of Coopers Hill College had been practically decided upon. A strong Committee had recommended this, and the visiting committee was of the same mind. Engineering opinion in this country was apparently unanimous on this point, that 430 candidates for the Public Works Committee and the Forest Department of India could be obtained, possibly with less cost, with equal efficiency, from the general engineering schools all over the country. In these circumstances it was difficult for any Secretary of State to make out the case he was bound to make out for the maintenance of an educational establishment of his own, if sufficient candidates of merit could be obtained from other educational establishments. The maintenance of Coopers Hill, which has had an excellent record in the past, must have involved a larger charge as time went on. I cannot part from such an institution without regret, for it has maintained a high standard of efficiency and esprit de corps among those who went out to India. I only trust that the good feeling and the meritorious work which have been produced through the agency of Coopers Hill may be found prevailing in those candidates coming from the large training centres, and in which work Oxford and Cambridge will. I hope, in future take a share. I hope that this training will give as satisfactory result, as we have obtained in the past.
Hon. Members know that India has incurred an enormous amount of debt solely through her reproductive works. Out of £213,000,000 of debt the Indian Government has spent on railway construction £83,000,000, and other railway undertakings cost £85,000,000. They also advanced £11,000,000 to railway companies, or a total in all of £179,000,000. For irrigation works there is a sum of £25,000,000, with a return of 7 per cent. Then there is a gold reserve and cash balances which make up a large figure. Practically we have assets for the whole of our expenditure on debt, and I trust that with a similar prudent management of our finances, enabling this result to be attained, the reproductive public works of India may in the future be satisfactory. But I would urge hon. Members who may be inclined to press either for the reduction of taxation or for any new class of expenditure to remember that we have certain items of government which have by no means reached the ideal point of perfection. I have been asked several times to lay the proceedings of the Police Commission on the Table. That Commission was appointed 431 in 1902, and reported about a year ago. It has undoubtedly shown that reforms are needed in the standard of training, and it has made suggestions as regards pay. I mention this in order that the House may not suppose that we are giving that Report the go-by, and in order to warn the House that it is possible there may be some increased charge in respect of the police in future years. I think it would be unwise, and, indeed, unprecedented, to lay on the Table a Report which finds serious faults with the existing system before we can state the remedies that we propose to apply to them, and which would establish expectations with regard to increased expenditure before either she Indian Government or the Council in London have satisfied themselves of the necessity of that expenditure. But I hope the time is not far distant when we may be able to lay that Report before Parliament.
There is another question which is always before us—the education of the people of India. We are still behindhand with primary education. Out of a population of 240,000,000 it is reckoned that 18,000,000 of boys ought to be at school, but only about one-sixth of these are receiving education. The figures vary very much in different parts of India. In the Punjab and the United Provinces 8 or 9 per cent. are at school; in Bombay or Bengal it goes up to 22 or 23 per cent. The census of 1901 showed that 90 per cent. of the males were still illiterate, and that only seven per 1,000 females were literate. The rate of increase in the schools after 1870 was for a time very rapid, and the 16,400 schools, with 607,000 scholars, which existed in that year had risen in 1881 to 83,000 schools with 2,061,000 scholars. But in 1901, twenty years later, the schools had only risen to 98,500 and the scholars to 3,268,000, out of the 18,000,000 supposed to be of educational age. The expense has risen in fifteen years from forty-two lakhs to sixty-three lakhs. The Government of India remark in the statement they have issued with regard to education that—They cannot avoid the conclusion that primary education has hitherto received insufficient attention, and an inadequate share of public funds. They consider it possesses a 432 strong claim to sympathy both of the supreme Government and of the local Governments.They go on to add their belief—That the local Governments are cordially in agreement with them in desiring such extension.That points to a large expenditure of money, and that expectation is fortified by the statement made by the Viceroy in his Budget speech. Lord Curzon said he agreed that education was mainly a matter of money. He referred to the extra grants of forty lakhs, or dearly £270,000, given three years running to local Governments.These grants are in addition to the ordinary educational assignments in the provincial settlements. We have also promised a contribution of twenty-five lakhs to Universities. I should like, however, to go further and provide a serious and sustained expenditure for educational improvement extending over a long series of years.If we are ever to make the Indian peasant available for some higher work, if we are ever to cause manufactures and industries suitable for India to grow up in India, I think we must prepare for an amelioration of that kind by extending the education of the people. I should be very sorry if we framed our Budget so close that in future years we should have no margin for this work.
The figures I have given have impressed upon my mind the enormous increase in the work of administration which has fallen on the Government of India in the last fifteen years. You cannot have an increase in every department without having an increase also in the responsibility of those at the head of affairs. The Government of India has long been overworked. Of the members of the Council, six in number, two are military members, one is official, and one is legal, and practically the whole Home Office and Local Government Board work of India—far exceeding the work which falls on those Departments in this country—falls upon two men. One of these men in the last few months has broken down under the strain, and has had to go away on a holiday. We hope to relieve that pressure in two ways—first, by delegation in regard to the Public Works Department under the railway scheme, and, secondly, 433 by the extra member of the Council whom, under the Bill which was read a third time last night, we shall have power to appoint and to entrust with duties which will relieve his overworked colleagues. I hope we may find a man thoroughly able to deal with the commerce of India, a Department which has hitherto been shared by others, and which requires the sole attention of one man.
I have nothing more to do hut to thank the House for the indulgence with which they have listened to this long statement. I do not profess that it is possible for any man in the course of an hour to make a complete review even of the financial position of India. I have endeavoured to touch a few of the salient points. I am the less anxious to occupy more time because opportunities of discussing India in the House of Commons are not very numerous, and I am here not merely to speak, but to listen. There is one quality which is always the s me in these discussions. There is no Party question involved between the two sides of the House. I believe these discussions are an example in that respect. We have fortunately to a large extent in recent years taken the Foreign Office out of the purview of Party discussion. There are signs that we may yet reach the time when colonial affairs may be discussed in the same spirit. I often wish that it could also he applied to the two great services, but that is a Utopian idea. But, at all events, with regard to India, let us keep our good name in that respect. I believe that if to-morrow right hon. Gentlemen opposite replaced us on this Bench the broad lines of policy in dealing with Indian matters which we have pursued would be maintained. The spectacle of a discussion in this House in which there is no Party recrimination, in which the e are no personal scores to be made, is as inspiring as it is unusual. Not all the devotion to duty of men who under great difficulties administer these services in India, and not all the ability of the men whom we send out to aid them, would, in a country in which so large a portion of the population is ill-informed, which is so open to prejudice, and in 434 which grievances can so easily be manufactured, have enabled them to carry on their work so efficiently as it has been carried on if it were not that there is in this House no appeal to Party or prejudice, but a calm review of the great issues which are involved. And I believe that the spirit on the part of this House has had a great share in creating that prosperity of the country which has enabled us to have before us those promising figures which I have been privileged to unfold this afternoon.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair (for Committee on East India Revenue Accounts)."
§ * SIR HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
said he was sure he was only expressing the general feeling of the House when he said that they had listened with great satisfaction to the lucid, comprehensive, and fair statement of the Secretary for India. Although he might have to differ with the right hon. Gentleman in some of his conclusions, lie thought he had put the whole question of Indian administration frankly and fairly before the House and had kept his speech free from those partisan and recriminatory elements to which he had alluded. The right hon. Gentleman was to be congratulated, not merely upon his speech, but also upon his Budget. Whatever might have been the discussions which had taken place upon Indian matters, the story of India's financial condition during the last few Years had been not only satisfactory, but marvellously satisfactory. They had now got a separate statement of the accounts, showing exactly the true burden of taxation. The system with which we were familiar in connection with English finance had at last been applied to Russia. He would like to suggest that perhaps a new Secretariat might induce the right hon. Gentleman to introduce further uniformity in the accounts. It would be a great reform if the various figures and details of the accounts were stated in pounds as well as in rupees. He noted that the right hon. Gentleman in his Memorandum did that, but it was not done in the Indian Statement, where the totals were set out in lakhs and crores of rupees. The real net revenue for 435 1903 was £44,780,000, and the Budget of the right hon. Gentleman was based on an estimated revenue of £45,844,000, and an expenditure of £44,925,000. The surplus of 1903 was upwards of £3,000,000 and of 1904 of £2,750,000. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman had appreciated the enormous surpluses in the Indian accounts. Taking a range of five years, the surpluses amounted to the sum of £15,165,000.
The right hon. Gentleman made a very ingenious defence of this budgetting for apparently small surpluses and the realisation of large surpluses. They were familiar with such things in this country. Mr. Lowe had a reputation for budgetting for a less income than he would probably receive and a larger expenditure than would probably be incurred, and then when the time came for the presentation of his Budget the House and country were lost in admiration of the financial prudence of the statesman who produced such a large surplus each year. The right hon. Gentleman had said there was an uncertainty about Indian Budgets. Well, there was an uncertainty about all Budgets, but they must deal with probabilities, and when the surpluses ranged over such a period as five years, he thought they were on pretty safe ground. One of the native members of the Legislative Council of the Viceroy, in the very instructive and interesting debates in the Viceroy's Legislative Council, called attention to this matter. He said that during the last four years the amount of the surplus had been uniformly understated. In 1891, the actual surplus was £1,670,000; the next year the estimate was £690,000 and the result £4,950,000; in 1902 the estimate was £837,000 and the actual surplus £4,950,000; in 1903 the surplus was £3,069,000 and in the Budget for 1904 the revised Estimate was brought up to £2,711,000. One effect of this system of underestimating surpluses was to encourage what were euphemistically termed special grants, but which were in reality grants for objects which tire Government did not contemplate at the time the Estimates were framed. The hon. Member further pointed out that but for this system the Government would be obliged either to make a substantial reduction in taxation or to 436 bring forward schemes for the real improvement of the administrative machine. Finally, the speaker he was quoting went on to show how the course which had been followed encouraged reckless expenditure. He recommended the right hon. Gentleman to give this matter his first consideration, because his defence of these extravagant surpluses, if ingenious, was not convincing. Personally, he agreed with the Member of the Council, that the Estimates should show as nearly as possible the probable income and expenditure, and he would commend to hon. Members generally a careful study of the full report of that debate on Indian finance to which he had been referring.
Lord Curzon had called attention to the fact that there had been no reduction of taxation in India for twenty years until the reduction was made last year. There might have been and ought to have been. He thought the salt tax might have been reduced earlier. The result of that reduction had been a decrease in the revenue—much less than was contemplated—and a large increase of consumption. There had happened what always happened in this country, that when taxation was taken off an article of general consumption it was followed by increased consumption. The salt tax in India was difficult to deal with, because they could not abolish it without parting at once with a great source of revenue, which was not unlike the income-tax here. It could be raised and developed rapidly. It had a universal bearing and fell on the whole population. Therefore it should be kept in times of peace as low as possible. He thought a reduction of the tax in the present circumstances of India would he very desirable and he could not understand why there should not have been some reduction in taxation this year. The taxation in India at the present time represented ls. 10d. per head of the population. That was, of course, exclusive of the land revenue. But that was not taxation. The land in India belonged to the Government, and the revenue for it represented rent for tenure.
One point which merited attention was the increase of Indian trade. India had 437 been forgotten in the last twelve months as a trading country of importance to the Empire, though it ranked above our other dependencies. The fact that last year the aggregate imports and exports of India reached £164,000,000 gave sonic idea of the magnitude of the transactions, and showed how impossible it was to ignore India in any considerations affecting the trade and commerce of the Empire. The receipts from railways provided for the payment of all the interest on the capital expended in construction and yielded a net profit of £854,000 for the benefit of the Exchequer. He hardly agreed with the complaint as to the slowness of railway construction in India during the last ten years. There were now something like 27,000 miles of railway, and last year 3,000 miles were under construction. With regard to the currency, the present system had been tried for five years. The scheme was entered upon with great anxiety and a considerable amount of doubt. It was prophesied that it would eventually be necessary for this country to borrow largely to supply India with gold to carry out the scheme. The Currency Committee which considered the subject recommended that the Indian Government should not be allowed to treat the profit from silver currency as an element of income, but that it should be kept in a separate account in order to provide against any possibilities that might happen. The result had been a net profit from the coinage of silver which, with the accumulated interest, amounted to £6,376,000, and was bringing in an income of £166,000 a year. That was ample justification of the Committee's recommendation and the legislation which followed. In addition to that, the currency reserve in the hands of the Government was £10,500,000 in gold, so that if any catastrophe should happen in India there was this available surplus in gold, and nearly £6,500,000 invested in sterling Government securities which would be available also.
He now came to a point where he was not in so much agreement with the right hon. Gentleman. The military expenditure last year was £16,784,000, and the Budget estimate for this year was £18,215,000. For a number of years 438 military expenditure had been rising very rapidly, and the right hon. Gentleman held out no hope of a decrease. He had always thought that India was treated very unfairly in reference to military expenditure. A heavy burden was placed on India in respect of the Army and in relief of Army expenditure in this country. The Report of the Royal Commission on Military Expenditure in India was, from the historical and literary point of view, a valuable document on Indian taxation past and present. but from the point of view of practical recommendations it was unsatisfactory. The recommendations were singularly below what the evidence called for, and he thought the Report could not be accepted as a final settlement, and that the views entertained many years ago by the Duke of Argyll and Lord Northbrook were the sound views as to the proportion which India ought to pay England. The right hon. Gentleman rightly attached great importance to the necessity for rapid mobilisation. He would not presume to express an opinion on military questions, but he remembered that, when he was in office and it was necessary to take steps to rescue English subjects shut up in Chitral, the Indian Government mobilised and sent across the frontier in three weeks with complete equipment a force of 15,000 men; a thing which military men said at the time could not have been done by the War Office at home. It was so thoroughly well done that the expedition was rapidly brought to a close. The right hon. Gentleman could not be surprised, therefore, if he looked with some suspicion upon the statement that we were very defective in our preparations for mobilisation it India, and that a large expenditure was necessary to bring them up to a proper standard. He hoped that when the Government of India and the Secretary of State in Council had come to a decision as to the increased military expenditure which Lord Kitchener recommended, that decision would be laid before Parliament before Parliament was committed to it. In the debate in the Legislative Council there was no carping or parsimonious criticism of this military expenditure, but there was evidently 439 a very strong feeling as to the unfairness of the present arrangement between the two countries, and a great dread of this rapidly increasing expenditure.
There was one item in this year's Budget as to which they did not know exactly where it was going to end, I and that was the expenditure on the expedition to Tibet. He thought they were entitled to ask the right hon. Gentleman to say what really was the intention of the Government in regard to that expenditure. What the Indian Government had asked the House for was really a small sum, which would not cover anything like protracted military operations. He would not go into the past history of the expedition; though he did not understand why it was undertaken, and what we could gain if it succeeded. But he did want to know from the Secretary of State what was the intention of the Government in the future. What were they likely to do in the next six months? In November last there was the telegram sent defining the policy of the Government. On 13th April he put the matter to the Prime Minister in these words—I may say in passing that the principle that there would be no annexation, no interference with Tibet internally, no appointment of any Resident, and no protectorate, laid down in that telegram, was also next day repeated by Lord Lansdowne to our Ambassador in China. He was informed that as soon as reparation is obtained a withdrawal should be effected, the Mission having been undertaken for the sole purpose of obtaining satisfaction. That is a distinct utterance, and what we now want, if I may say so respectfully, is that the Prime Minister, without any qualification, and without any doubt, should lay down the line which he intends, so long as he remains in office, to follow with reference to the question of our position in Tibet.To that the Prime Minister gave a very clear and distinct answer. There was no unsettled conviction in his mind on the matter, and it was well that his words should be repeated, so that the House might have them fresh in its mind. The right hon. Gentleman said—I do not want anything to do with the Tibetans in a political sense. Let the Tibetans manage their own affairs. Let them keep themselves to themselves. I desire nothing better. But if their wish to exclude foreign influence is to be used against us, but is not to be used against others, then it will be admitted by every hon. Gentleman in the House who has seriously considered this problem that a very different 440 state of things presents itself than that with which we have to deal at the present time. As appears from the Blue-book, Russia, at the present time, has absolutely declared not merely that she does not mean to occupy Tibet in a military sense—of which I am not seriously afraid—but that Tibet is outside her sphere of influence, and that she does not desire to have a Resident there, or to exercise power, or authority, or influence there. Sir, I accept absolutely that statement; and, that being so, I am not able to imagine a contingency which would compel the Government to abandon that policy which has been so clearly expressed in the despatch of 6th November last. Our wish is to live at peace with Tibet; to leave Tibet independent; to have no responsibility as regards the internal affairs of Tibet; not to keep a Resident in Tibet, with the responsibility which inevitably attaches to keeping a Resident there.He thought that before the House broke up, Members were entitled to know whether that was still the decision of the Government, because, according to signs to which they could not shut their eyes, there was evidently a movement in certain quarters in favour of having a Resident in Tibet. He thought that would be a dangerous proceeding, especially in view of whit happened in Cabul when Cavagnari as the English Resident was forced upon the people of Afghanistan. We should be unable to protect a Resident in Lhasa except by means of a large expenditure such a course would arouse a spirit of religious fanaticism; and he did hope that the right hon. Gentleman would tell the House that there was no fear that such a policy would be adopted. He was one of those who did not apprehend danger on the North-West Frontier. He was one of those who believed that it was to the interest of this country and India that our relations with Russia, should be of the most friendly character, and that the time would come—as he believed it had come in time past and advantage had not been taken of it—when we should have a clear and distinct understanding with Russia on this point and that the two great Asiatic Powers should define what their spheres of influence were to be. He thought that an enormous expenditure would be saved to this country if we could allay to some extent the suspicion of an invasion of India. He would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that in the archives of his office he would find the opinions of, with one solitary exception 441 many great generals who had been connected with India against, he might almost say, the possibility of an invasion by Russia.
He could not sit down without one remark bearing upon the Viceroy. In spite of disagreement in some particulars he was not disqualified from expressing his strong opinion of the great services Lord Curzon had rendered to India in the last five Years. He went to India with some very noble ideals in reference to a variety of subjects with which he intended to grapple, and when they looked back to the history of the past five years they saw at once that with many of these he had dealt successfully. He had dealt with financial reform, and to him and to the noble Lord opposite must be given the credit for what had been done in that regard. He had dealt with education; he had dealt with the railway question, with irrigation, with education, with the Civil Service, and every branch of Indian administration. He had also grappled with the worst famine of modern times. He thought it was due to Lord Curzon, when criticisms were passed which might appear to conflict with his views, to say that in the main character of his administration he had the confidence of all Parties.
§ * SIR HENRY FOWLER
said that in that case he would withdraw the statement. He was speaking of the Viceroy's internal policy and not his military policy, and he mentioned great items of that policy, education, irrigation, and financial reform, matters which to so large an extent went to make up the life and history of the Indian people, and in regard to which he, personally, thought Lord Curzon deserved well of this country. Without presuming to express the opinion of anybody else, he felt that he would not be doing justice to himself if he did not say openly and before the world that which he believed with regard to Lord Curzon.
With reference to the India Council Bill, he cordially supported it, with 442 this qualification: while admitting there must be additional members of the Council in order that the great and growing home work of India might be carried on, he thought that two military members was too large a proportion of the Viceroy's Cabinet. In the Cabinet at home there was only one representative of the War Office, and he could not see the necessity for a larger number in the Indian Council. On the whole he thought that the statement which the right hon. Gentleman had made was eminently satisfactory. We were proceeding rapidly, and, he thought, safely, and he believed. that the position of our administration in India was never more satisfactory to this country and never conferred greater benefits upon India than at the present moment.
§ * LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said he desired to associate himself with his right hon. friend the Member for Wolverhampton in congratulating the Secretary of State on the lucid speech he had made. His right hon. friend had a most satisfactory statement to unfold, and he was glad to see that, so far from being elated by it, a precautionary note ran throughout his speech. It was quite true that, as regarded trade returns and other criteria by which the prosperity of a country was gauged, the case of India now responded satisfactorily to those tests; but his right hon. friend must recollect that there was very little taxing power behind the present system of taxation in force in India. His right hon. friend the Member for Wolverhampton thought that the Indian Government ought to remit taxation rather than continue to budget with the idea that the original Estimates would be largely increased. He was not quite sure of the wisdom of that advice. Popular as it might be to remit taxation, it was tenfold more unpopular to have to reimpose it, and it would be very difficult for his right hon. friend to select any tax from the list of taxes now in force which he would be ready to remit permanently; and, looking to the immense extent to which India was dependent for her revenue on good seasons, it would be a most risky thing to remit a tax which, if financial difficulties arose, they would not be able or willing to reimpose. It must be remembered, 443 too, that these large surpluses were not wasted. They all went to diminish the amount of borrowing that would otherwise be necessary for carrying out public works in India. The process that took place was a two-fold one. The surpluses reduced the amount borrowed for unremunerative purposes, and the amount by which it was so reduced was put into remunerative enterprises. Therefore the Indian Government were making a banker's use of the surpluses for the benefit of the Indian people. It must be remembered that if they pushed the railway and irrigation programme beyond a certain point they had mainly to depend on the English market for loans. He would rather retain the whole of these surpluses and find the ways and means for the continuance of the construction of public works in the Indian market than year by year come to the London market.
He entirely agreed with his right hon. friend that it was not advisable to produce the Report on the new Police scheme until the Indian Government and the Council of the Secretary of State were agreed as to the form they would adopt. His right hon. friend spoke of the increasing demands made upon him for military purposes. He had all his life fought for economy, and he had kept down expenditure in India as far as he could; but he recognised that we had probably the ablest administrator this country had produced for many years past as Commander-in Chief in India, and he was an economical administrator. Therefore he would he disposed to give every consideration to any mature request Lord Kitchener might make. If an increase in military expenditure was demanded his right hon. friend might, he thought, insist on Lord Kitchener using all his exceptional powers of discrimination to get rid of or diminish those portions of the Indian native establishment which were not up to modern requirements. He had listened with great satisfaction to his right hon. friend's statement of the manner in which the salt tax had recouped itself. There had been an increase of £200,000 this year on the Budget Estimate, and the Budget Estimate was an increase of £180,000 on the Estimate of last year; that was to say, that although the 444 reduction of the salt tax gave lack in taxation about £1,100,000, the increased consumption had already recouped the revenue to the extent of £360,030. That seemed to him conclusive evidence that the tax was too high. He would like to see this tax allowed to go on recouping itself in this way. The process gave relief to the taxpayer and formed a financial reserve which could be relied upon in times of emergency. The only other financial reserve which the Indian Government possessed, as far as he knew, was that which came from railways and irrigation. The building receipts were certainly in a most satisfactory state. They were going on year by year, getting a larger net return after payments for interest and working charges, and the working charges included an annuity of £600,000, which was to run for fifty years, and at the termination of that period the Indian Government would be in possession of a magnificent railway property which was now valued at £85,000,000, and which, he thought, paid something like 5 per cent. Under the public works system, therefore, a two-fold process was going on by which India's indebtedness would be reduced. On the one hand the unremunerative debt was being steadily diminished, and on the other, under the system of terminable annuities, the Government was making steady progress towards the acquisition of this magnificent railway property.
He was glad that his right hon. friend was giving Serious consideration to alterations in the railway administration of India. He entirely agreed with the proposal to establish a Commission to regulate railway enterprise and to manage the Indian railways. He thought the great difficulty would be to find eligible people in this country who would be willing to form that Commission. It ought to consist of first class railway experts. In view of the large salaries paid to first class railway experts here he doubted whether the Indian Government would be able to offer sufficient salaries to induce the best men to go out. No doubt there were many engineers connected with the railways of India who had done their work admirably, but no one could tell in anticipation whether a good engineer would be a good railway manager so far 445 as financial results were concerned. What they wanted in India was not so much engineers as managers who could look into small details in connection with the handling of traffic. His right hon. friend went on to say that the Government of India were very properly spending a large sum on irrigation, and there he would like to put in a word of caution. Many of his friends in this House and outside seemed to think that because India suffered from drought, all that was necessary was to make irrigation canals and ditches, and that there always would be a supply of water. The only test of whether irrigation works were worth constructing was whether they would pay or not. Certain works paid magnificently, while there were others made under different conditions which did not pay their way. It must be a matter of great satisfaction in India that there had been developed there a school of irrigation engineers who were the foremost in the world. All the magnificent results attained in Egypt had been achieved by Indian engineers, and he thought the House might rest assured that the Indian Government, with the advice at their disposal, were not likely to get into any trouble in connection with irrigation schemes. With regard to Coopers Hill College he was sorry in one sense that it had been decided to abolish it. He fought for that institution as long as he could. The main reason for abolishing it was that it was most desirable that in a profession like engineering the door should be open to poor men. The fees at Coopers Hill were so high that it cost more for a man to get into the Public Works Department than into the Indian Civil Service. There was also a considerable annual charge on the revenues of India in connection with the college. The only way a wider selection could have been obtained would have been by decreasing the fees largely to the students. The college had a good record. The old Fellows of Coopers Hill had done splendid work in India. He was confident that with the immense development in engineering education in recent years the Indian Government would have no difficulty in obtaining competent men to enter the public service at considerably less cost.
He had defended the Indian Government before now for sending the diplo- 446 matic expedition into Tibet. His right hon. friend had stated that he could not understand why the Indian Government had insisted on sending that expedition. It could be summed up in a sentence. We had made treaties with Tibet, and the Tibetan authorities deliberately declined to give effect to their own treaties. The Government of India was composed of a network of treaties, and we could not allow any Power to flout its obligations. In his opinion there never was an instance in which Indian opinion was more unanimous than in regard to the expedition to Tibet. The Indian Government and the Council of the Secretary of State were unanimous on this matter. If any mistake was made it was that when we first sent the expedition we allowed it to stop too long at one place. For that he must take his share of blame. He was perfectly certain that the Government would not submit to the insults of a clique of monks intoxicated with a sense of their own sanctity. The only method was to be firm and uncompromising, not in our terms, which might be considerate and generous, but in our procedure, and he was quite sure that under the control of his right hon. friend and Lord Curzon there would be no undue compromise in dealing with Tibet.
What to him and his right hon. friend was most satisfactory to know was that one of the main contributing causes of the financial prosperity of India was the success of the currency reforms. That task was not so easily achieved because there was a large number of Members of this House who called themselves currency reformers, and who were strongly opposed to any principle other than that of bi-metallism They attacked their opponents vehemently and held out the wildest expectations of prosperity to all who adopted their policy. Some years had passed since then, and he thought his friends, the currency reformers, could now smile at their own speeches. He noticed with some little satisfaction that no small portion of his old friends the reformers had given up currency reform and were concentrating their attention on fiscal reform. He did not want to prophesy, but he had very little doubt that five years hence the inexorable logic of facts would compel them to smile 447 just as much over their speeches on fiscal reform as they did now over their speeches on bi-metallism.
He was very glad that Lord Curzon was able to return to India. He had over and over again in this House given his opinion and estimate of the valuable work his Lordship had done in India, and he sincerely trusted that the continuation of his labours would not be beyond the capacity of his physique, for he never saved himself if he believed any public duty was to be performed. They might look forward certainly to a financial and economic future of India with confidence. The great mass of the community in India were very poor, but there were indications in many directions of slow and gradual industrial improvement. There always would be difficulties associated with our rule in India, but those difficulties were not inherent in the system which we took over, but largely the result of our own creation. He thought we ought to take warning from what had occurred in the past. Speaking the other day at a public meeting, Lord Curzon, while paying a tribute to the extraordinary eloquence and ability of three great men—Edmund Burke, Lord Macaulay, and Mr. Bright—all of whom had spoken or written much about India, observed that that which, to a large extent, vitiated their utterances about India was that they did not understand the country. Unpalatable as that statement might have been, he believed that, to a large extent, it was true. Here were three remarkable men, the product of their successive generations, who represented the utilitarian school of their day. They were brought up and belonged to a certain section of English society whose ethics, standards, aims, and motives, admirable in themselves, had little or nothing to do with the aims and instincts of the Hindoo or Mohammedan peoples of India. They believed that reason, logic, and arithmetic were to regulate the move-and ments of men and regenerate the condition of mankind, and they thought that sentiment and tradition and race feeling would all be dominated by the common sense arguments of utilitarian progress. Whatever was good in this country, it 448 seemed to them, must necessarily be good in India. We had legislated in the past on that principle. The test we had imposed on men holding positions in that country was the last kind of test that would ever occur to a Hindu or a Mohammedan. We were desirous of improving India intellectually, and instead of beginning from the foundation and building up a good system of primary and technical education, we commenced by erecting great colleges, and making the attainment of English degrees as cheap in India as possible, with the result of turning out numbers of young graduates who had no means of livelihood except Government appointments, and those who did not get Government appointments spent a good deal of their time in attacking the Government. It was greatly to the credit of Lord Curzon that he had contrived to deal with matters relating to the condition of the people with the skill and judgment which he had shown.
The great danger to the future of India, he believed, was the rapid adoption of European methods. There was one body connected with the Indian Government who were always very cautious and very circumspect, and that was the Council of the Secretary of State for India. It was composed of men who were the very pick of the Indian Civil Service, who had spent the whole of their lives in that country, and, as far as a European could, had mastered the instincts and aspirations of its people. On the other hand, the Viceroy's Council was to a considerable extent composed of Englishmen who, up to the date of their appointment, had never been in India. Between these two bodies there were sometimes differences of opinion, and these divergencies, and the delay which they necessarily entailed, were very beneficial to India. Clumsy as apparently was the two - headed system of Indian government, on the whole it worked well. To have built up an autocratic Government at the other end of the world upon an Act of Parliament of a self-governing people was a very difficult task. Sufficient power had to be given to the Government there; sufficient control retained by the Parliament here. He believed that task had 449 been successfully accomplished. He believed that the machine worked well, and his right hon. friend in his clear and lucid speech had shown that its products were good.
§ * SIR MANCHERJEE BHOWNAGGREE
Since the last financial statement of the Secretary of State for India was laid before this House, there has been a change in the personnel of that office. A Minister to whose lot it had fallen to expound the Indian Budget no less than thirteen times to Parliament, and who had been a prominent figure for that number of years in the administrative machinery of our Indian Empire, has since then severed his connect on with her affairs. I can recall no other instance of a Minister of the Crown whose official association with India had extended over so long a period, or whose services to that country had been rendered through such eventful times as those of the noble Lord the Member for the Ealing Division of Middlesex. It is but natural that some of the acts performed during that long tenure should evoke severe criticism and differences of opinion, and the noble, Lord had, it must be admitted, his full share of both. Perhaps he had even to bear the brunt of disparagement and aspersion for certain acts which went forth in his name, but to which, if the truth were known, he would be found to have offered resistance that had to give place to the major judgment of his colleagues. However that may be, I believe there is not one among hon. Members here or among those who are acquainted with his work who would deny that on the performance of his high duties he brought to bear a rare singleness of purpose, unabated zeal and industry, sincere sympathy with the interests confided to his care, and, in the latter years of his career, a matured experience and intimate knowledge of most of the intricate problems of Indian administration. He was truly a veteran Secretary of State.
The task that devolves on his successor in the performance of those duties is not an easy one. But the right hon. Gentleman who has succeeded to the position vacated by the noble Lord is not new to the responsibilities of high 450 office; his acquaintance with important departments of the State is both wide and varied, and the statement he has just submitted to the House happily proves that he has made himself familiar with the affairs placed under his administration. It is his good fortune to be able to give an account of the revenues and expenditure of India during a period of prosperity when she has been comparatively free from famine, the Budget for which shows a large surplus on the right side. The previous five years Budgets had also resulted in like surpluses in a varying degree, and the most remarkable feature of last year's finance is that so large a surplus has been secured after a remission in taxes was effected to the extent of about £1,200,000. This is, doubtless, very gratifying, hut, on the other hand, when we consider that India, on the whole, is a poor country, and the incidence of taxation on her people, especially on the agricultural and labouring classes, is heavier than they can bear, the first duty of the Administration, in case of having such surpluses at its command, is to effect further reductions in the burdens that fall on them directly.
A sensible reduction in the demand for land revenue, especially in those provinces where it presses more severely on the exhausted resources both of the cultivators and the soil, would not only afford direct relief, but possibly recoup itself by drawing more land into cultivation. The next and perhaps more pressing obligation for relief in taxation is with respect to the duty on salt. The small reduction made last year was received throughout the country with feelings of gratitude, not so much on account of the actual remission as for the prospect it held out that, once Government admitted the pressure of its burden on the poorest of the country, they would be persuaded to make further reductions. I regret that that anticipation has not been realised. I account for it on two suppositions. One is that the Government are apprehensive that if they reduced the tax appreciably they would rind it difficult, if not impossible, to increase it again should it be found necessary to do so. The second is, that that is the only tax which reaches certain classes of the people who are otherwise immune from 451 all public burdens. With regard to the first, let me hope that the sources of revenue at the disposal of Government in ordinary years are copious enough to raise the necessary revenue, but in the next place, it is not unreasonable to expect that, by making a further remission when the state of the finances allow of it, as it does at present, the people will be taught not to grudge a temporary increase should circumstances in future make it indispensable. As regards the second assumption, I would point out that the very poorest classes, who feel the weight of this tax to be almost intolerable, are in a condition of existence which can be likened to that of those who seek Poor Law relief in this country. By their toil and thrifty ways of living they contribute to the wealth of agricultural and trading interests, so that, after all, if not in coin, certainly in kind, they contribute to those sources from which the public revenue is derived, and I think they should not be subjected to any further exaction by the State, except under the most imperious necessity. On these grounds, I beg to invite my right hon. friend to prevail upon the Government of India to remit the salt tax further in future years, and I shall be glad to see it reach the vanishing point.
There are many topics of engrossing interest in the financial statement which I should like to notice, but I regret the time at our disposal will not permit of it, especially as I have to deal principally with the Amendment which stands in my name. It is a pity that the arrangements in vogue for the discussion of this Budget in Parliament do not allow of justice being done even to the most important items of the affairs of this great portion of the British dominions, as they have to be discussed at a time when all life and interest are gone out of the House. I think an earlier day in the session would to a certain extent remove this complaint and permit of a larger number of hon. Members taking an interest in the debate. That circumstance itself would be regarded with great satisfaction in India, for the people there like to feel that the control of Parliament over the affairs of their country is real and not merely nominal or theoretical I trust we shall see some improvement in this direction next 452 year; for the present, I shall try to confine my remarks to two subjects out of the many suggested by the Statement issued as a Blue-Look in June last. I am gratified to see that the Government of India has in earnest begun some activity towards the development of industrial and technical education. The House will recollect my bringing under its notice this great need of India repeatedly in previous years, and can well understand the satisfaction I feel at the realisation of some of my wishes in that connection. The subject has received comprehensive treatment at the capable hands of Lord Curzon, who has wisely invited the cooperation of local administrations in carrying out the project of which he has laid the foundation, and it will now depend on the provincial authorities to prosecute the scheme, adapting it to local ways, means, and requirements. I would suggest to the Government of India to require their subordinate administrations to send in a quarterly report of their proceedings with respect to this department of public instruction, for the subject is a wide one and difficult to pursue, and unless the official interest in it is sustained there is risk of failure. One part of the new scheme which to my mind is fraught with much promise for the future is the provision made by the Government of India to send students from India to Europe and America to pursue a course of technical instruction. This reminds me that my right hon. friend, through the proper department in his Office, can do much to ensure the success of this experiment. He can help the students to get admission into factories and workships which otherwise might be barred against them, and organise such supervision as would ensure their diligently pursuing the instruction they are sent to acquire.
I am afraid the importance of securing for India the benefit of such training has not been fully realised here. It was with the object of bespeaking the Secretary of State's interest in this respect that a few days ago I asked him certain questions about the Imperial Institute, and I regret to say the replies given were far from satisfactory. I suggested that arrangements might be made for the training of a few post-graduate students 453 of Indian Universities in the chemical laboratory of the Institute, so that the work done at this distance for India might be, in course of time, performed on the spot. India not only contributed £114,000 through the Government to the Institute, but, together with other donations, no less a sum than £150,000 is the aggregate of the Indian donations to it, besides defraying the cost of large art collections and trade products. She is still making an annual grant to it, and now that the Institute is taken over by the Imperial Government, on the Secretary of State lies the responsibility of seeing that India's interest in the Institute is properly cared for. I happen to have seen a great deal of the working of that establishment from the first, and I have a strong impression that a pare of the sum I have mentioned, I think about £40,000, was appropriated to the Endowment Fund, and I claim that the interest of it ought to be spent for the direct benefit of India. It must be deducted from the annual grant now paid from Indian taxes to maintain the Indian section of the Institute, and that, as a small return for the large contributions made to it by India, its laboratory should afford instruction to a few capable students. If the Imperial Institute were given over altogether to the London University, I believe its authorities would gladly accept such a proposal. The reply of my right hon. friend to my question suggesting this course was that he was not aware that graduates of Indian Universities desired to be trained i i the laboratories, and that he did not it necessary to move in the matter. I regard this as an unsatisfactory reply, manifesting that the Department under him. to which this subject was referred, is unaware of the interest aroused in India in technical and scientific instruction, and the desire that prevails among the educated classes to avail themselves of any means by which it can be obtained. I am afraid that Department will have to acquaint itself better with the wants and wishes of the Government and the people of India, and rouse itself to greater activity if it desires to respond to and sympathetically support the laudable endeavours of Lord Curzon to supply the crying need of practical technical instruction there. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman 454 knows that his predecessor took a very deep interest in this question, and I trust I am not over confident in expressing the hope that he also will regard it as closely associated with the future industrial prosperity of India and deserving of all the encouragement that he personally, as well as through the machinery of his Office, can give it. We have ample evidence every day of the conspicuous efforts made by Governments of the most progressive countries to foster among their people a desire for efficient industrial and scientific training, and to provide them as far as possible with the means of attaining it. It has now come to be recognised as a paramount State concern to direct the energies of the people in that channel. If this be so with regard to countries where large industries, carried on with the aid of all the most recent scientific knowledge and appliances, abound, how much more obligatory is it on the administrators of a country like India, many of whose old industries have disappeared under the invasion of foreign manufacturing nations, and whose people have consequently largely lost their occupations in craftsmanship, to guide them in the path of such pursuits?
I wish to associate myself with the high eulogium passed on Lord Curzon by the previous speakers. He has well deserved the compliment by the valuable services he has rendered to that country, and one feature of his recent utterances which has struck me very forcibly is the acknowledgment of the value he attaches to the friendship of those sovereign chiefs in India, whose loyalty and allegiance are as bulwarks to the edifice of the Empire. These chiefs, assured as they have always been, and feeling confirmed now beyond all question in the independence of their authority within their own territories, cannot fail to appreciate the Viceroy's sentiments towards them and his solicitude to maintain the independence of their position.
Now, I pass to the Motion which stands in my name. It is in these words, "That, in the opinion of this House, a substantial proportion of the expenses of the armed Mission to Tibet should be defrayed by the British Exchequer, as its objects both politically and commercially have been 455 closely connected with and its results will have a beneficial effect upon Imperial interests and British trade." The event which has most attracted public attention in the course of the year to which the Budget of the right hon. Gentleman refers is the expedition to Tibet. We cannot conceal from ourselves the fact that there has been a sharp difference of opinion in this House as to the necessity and justification of that undertaking. Happily, however, the triumphant result of the expedition secured by the entry of the Mission into Lhasa on the 3rd August, and the consequent termination of armed aggression on our part and resistance on the part of the Tibetans, now in sight, render it unnecessary to enter upon a fresh discussion of the causes which compelled the undertaking. But without dwelling on that controversial topic, it is permissible to congratulate both England and India upon the speedy and successful termination of this Mission, in the prosecution of which the valour of British and Indian troops has won fresh laurels.
India has had the misfortune to remain for long years past under fear of aggression by a great Power. I believe in the reality of that apprehension. But whether that fear be solid or illusory, the fact remains that, in consequence of it, India has had for years past to bear the weight of large military burdens, and an exhaustion of its resources and energies which is beyond computation. And even those who consider that this apprehended danger is a mere vague assumption of a school of alarmists, cannot deny that every mile curtailed between the sphere of influence of that great Power and our frontier enhances the prospect or at least the fear of aggression. If the zone between these two borders was really neutral and the intermediate States powerful enough to maintain their neutrality, then it might well be contended that our Mission to Tibet was unjustifiable. But we have had ample evidence that while the Tibetan Government was cavalierly treating us with un-Oriental incivility and refusing to have any intercourse with the representative of a Power to which it was bound by commercial obligations and allegiance, it was holding constant communications with that other Power, sending delegations and embassies 456 hundreds of miles away to its capital, and seeking its protectorate. If the outcome of this procedure had been no more than the establishment of a mere Consulate or commercial representation of that Power at Tibet, it would in a very short time have created interests and a basis of influence affording constant occasions of difference with the British Government. In short, the one great Power whose ambitious plans of progress in the direction of spheres of British influence have been recently exposed beyond all doubt, which indeed have been scarcely concealed on its own part, would have been brought within easy striking distance. And even if we dismissed from our minds the imminence of an open rupture, the situation thus created would have necessitated increased military preparations in view of the possibility of such a contingency, augmenting the already intolerable burden of defensive expenditure not only on that poor country but on Great Britain. Besides this, there has to be taken into account the moral effect upon the frontier tribes, as well as upon other Oriental peoples with whom we have Imperial relations, of the preponderance of influence established by a competing Power in a region so near to our own frontier, the Government of which had disregarded its obligations to us and treated us with studied and persistent discourtesy.
I was greatly struck with a portion of the speech delivered at the Viceroy's Council on the 30th March last by one of its most distinguished and intelligent members, the Aga Khan, in which he made a descriptive allusion to the aspirations of that Power. Coming on the authority of one who has exceptional means of information on a subject of this kind, I can only feel all the more confirmed in my estimate of the situation. It is unnecessary, however, for the purpose of arguing the Motion which stands in my name, to dwell at any greater length on the various considerations which in my opinion justify tie despatch of the armed Mission to Tibet, and I have thought it right to indicate my own views briefly in order to make it plain that I do not base that Motion on the ground that it was unnecessary or uncalled for. I am anxious to guard 457 against the debate on that Motion, or the reply which will be made to it on behalf of His Majesty's Government, drifting into, and being confused with, the side issue as to whether the expedition was justifiable or not, and to confine it to the main consideration as to whether a substantial proportion of the cost of the armed Mission should or should not be defrayed by the British Exchequer. The merits of the undertaking themselves have nothing whatever to do with the real issue comprised in my Amendment. That issue is, who is to bear the expense of it, or, to Use a phrase in popular vogue, who is to pay the piper?
In order to arrive at a just and equitable decision on that issue, we have to consider two main points; first, whether politically the Mission had any connection with, and bearing upon. the prestige of the British Government as an Imperial Power, and secondly, whether both in its object and its results the interests of British, as distinguished from purely Indian, trade and commerce are intended to be sub-served. My right hon. friend the Secretary of State for India has already contended that "the Tibetan question is essentially an Indian interest," that is, the Imperial Government has no concern with it politically, except so far as the safeguarding of the Indian frontier is involved, and that commercially, any benefit that was sought to be secured by its despatch would only be confined to Indian trade and commerce. I dispute both these propositions. The only ground on which my right hon. friend's contention can be maintained appears to me to be that the way to Tibet from the British side lies through India; but when you come to consider the true inwardness of the undertaking, it is not difficult to see that whit we have aimed at is that in that region another great Power should not obtain an influence preponderating over ours. In other regions far beyond the confines of India, in Persia, in China, and in Turkey, we have had over and over again to contend against its attempts to establish similar preponderance, and the only difference I see between those cases and that of Tibet is that the road to Tibet is from India and negotiations have been conducted by or through the Indian Government. But 458 surely that does not of itself make the operations against Tibet a matter of purely Indian interest. Wheresoever the Power in question or any other Power seeks to invade the sphere of established British influence, any undertaking to repel such an attempt is an Imperial obligation and not merely the concern of the local authority within or near whose geographical limits the attempt is made. The issue of the conflict involves the prestige of the Imperial Government of the British Empire as a whole, and not of any subordinate authority. Suppose for a moment that India was not a dependency of the Crown, and that we had the same treaty arrangements with Tibet as at present, and that another Power had attempted to create there better interests and influence than we possessed, and instigated the Tibetan Government to treat us with contempt, should we not have been compelled, as we are now, to repel such interference? I shall admit that in its origin our intercourse with Tibet was due to the possession of India as a part of the British dominions; I will not deny that owing to her geographical situation, British influence in Tibet is of great strategical importance to India; but that influence, with the prestige and commercial advantages which it creates, is of significant value to Great Britain as an Imperial worldwide Power, and it is but fair that her Exchequer should not grudge bearing a substantial proportion of the cost of maintaining that influence.
Regarded from the point of view of the commercial privileges which it was the purpose of the Mission to maintain and which in the result it will doubtless secure, I have to present to the House an even stronger case. Almost every other page of the Blue-book on Tibet negatives the contention of my right hon. friend that "the Tibetan question is essentially an Indian interest," and proves unmistakably that it is a British interest. The return of statistics relating to trade from the date of signing the Convention of 1890 up to 1902–3 shows a progressive development in the volume and value of exports for the most part, and invariably of imports, from and in to Tibet. Starting with a total of Rs. 7,77,128, in 1890–1, the exports amounted in 1902–3 to Rs. 19,90,229, and the imports 459 progressed during the same period from Rs. 4,01,74 to Rs. 11,52,672. Of the articles imported into Tibet in the last year, 1902–3, the main items are given under the headings: Cotton piece-goods Rs. 52,100 Indian, Rs. 316,400 non-Indian; that is, the Indian goods were less than one-sixth in value to five-sixths of British and other manufactures. Other imports, in round figures, were: dyeing materials Rs. 30,500, metals Rs. 96,400, silk Rs. 62,000, woollen piece-goods Rs. 1,28,000, other articles Rs. 1,83,800. These values in the aggregate amount to over Rs. 5,00,000. Very few of these articles are produced in India, so that crediting one-fifth of the value to India, we get a rough total of Rs. 8,16,000 of non-Indian to a total of Rs. 3,36,000 worth of Indian goods; that is, India sends to Tibet about one-fourth, and Greet Britain and other countries three-fourths of their goods. In exports from Tibet by far the largest item is raw wool, and the next is borax. These two, together with miscellaneous articles such as musk and goats' hair, which may be classed as raw, amount to upwards of 16 lakhs of rupees, out of an aggregate of Rs. 19,90,000, and as India manufactures very little, she derives scarcely any benefit from these articles. Thus, both in imports and exports, the actual trade of British India with Tibet may in round figures be taken to he about one-fourth. Nor are these figures unknown to the Indian Administration. In fact their officers have been at special pains to recognise this, and are greatly concerned at the discovery that in the class of non-Indian goods, the competition of Continental as against British manufactures has been severe. In 1896 this was pointed out to the Government of India by the local officers, who sent them specimens of the German, French, Dutch, and Belgian goods imported into Tibet, and remarked—Considering the pains that have been taken to open this market, it is a matter of regret that English manufacturers should have obtained so small a share in the consequent advantages.In a letter from the Government of Bengal to the Government of India, dated 20th February, 1899, the former state—After all, the piece-goods which are the main article of import are European, whether 460 the agency at the market is European or native.No one can regret more than I do the fact incidentally brought out in these extracts that at the Tibetan. as in most of the other markets within British influence or jurisdiction, the competition of Continental manufacturers and merchants is detrimental to British interests. But that is a subject apart from the argument. which I refer to these figures and official statements to prove that the question of commercial relations with Tibet is not essentially or mainly an Indian interest. It is a matter of Imperial concern, and three-fourths of the solid benefit of trade with Tibet does not even touch India. It is not the fault of India if the whole or greater part of that three-fourths does not enrich Great Britain. It is in your hands to correct that fiscal defect, but even when you have corrected it, it will no more reach the pocket of the Indian trader than it does now.
I venture to think that I have shown conclusively that the proportion for which Indian interests can be made liable for the cost of the armed Mission sent to Tibet to compel the fulfilment of its commercial obligations to us is about one-fourth, and that. as regards three-fourths, the burden should in justice and equity be borne by the British Exchequer. Politically too, I think I may with confidence appeal to hen. Members to regard the expedition as undertaken in vindication of the prestige of Great Britain as an Imperial Power, intended to thwart the ambitious designs and aggressive plans of another Power constantly seeking to checkmate British influence and compete against British interests in all parts of the globe. I gladly admit that India should bear her share in the task of maintaining that prestige. She has in the past cheerfully performed that patriotic duty. She is anxious to do so in the future. Her princes have in many cases laid their whole resources at your disposal against the foes of the British Empire, her soldiers have fought Britain's battles, her people have acclaimed British victories. You have conferred on her many benefits, and the blessings of peace and security. But I regret to say, and although it is unpleasant to say it, I feel 461 I should not be thinking and acting Imperially if I refrained from frankly telling you, that in the adjustment of your financial relations with her you have been parsimonious. In spite of Budgets showing fat surpluses she is, you must remember, a poor country, and her people cannot fail to feel aggrieved at having to bear any pecuniary burden which is not strictly justifiable. I conscientiously believe that it is unfair to throw the whole charge of the Tibet expedition on her, that the British Exchequer should relieve her of a substantial portion of it, and that by such an act of justice and fair play you will inspire in her people a grateful sense of your regard for their interests which they will repay with a deeper devotion to the British Crown. I beg to move.
To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, and add the words, 'in the opinion of this House, a substantial proportion of the expenses of the armed Mission to Tibet should be defrayed by the British Exchequer, as its objects both politically and commercially have been closely connected with and its results will have a beneficial effect upon Imperial interests and British trade.'"—(Sir Mancherjee Bhownaggree.)
§ Question proposed. "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
MR. HERBERT ROBERTS (Denbighshire, W.)
said although he was unable to support the expedition into Tibet, there was an Imperial interest involved in it; and, therefore, the British Exchequer was bound to bear some part of the cost. He could not support the expedition, because he thought it would lead to considerable danger to this country. Undoubtedly the expedition had a direct connection with the military expenditure of India. He wished to emphasise the necessity for the further remission of taxation in India, especially in connection with the salt tax. As regarded the returns from Excise in India, he regarded with considerable alarm the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that he expected a considerable increase, of revenue from that source. He desired to recognise in the fullest way the sincere desire of the Government of India to grapple with the question of the Excise; 462 and he believed that they were anxious' as far as they could, to check the consumption of alcoholic liquor. The proposition he would lay down in regard to the Amendment was that while they were obliged to have an Army for the purpose of preserving internal order in India. they were not entitled to ask the Indian taxpayer to pay for expeditions outside the country. Section 54 of the Act of 1858 had a direct bearing on this matter. The section was drawn by Mr. Gladstone himself; and was to the effect that no Indian revenue should be employed for operations beyond the frontier without the consent of Parliament. That established the fact that the Indian revenue could not be utilised for the purpose mentioned, without the consent of Parliament; and it further recognised that when expeditions were carried on beyond the Indian frontier, other interests than those peculiar to India were created. It appeared to hint that the action of the Government in connection with the expedition had violated the spirit of that section. If the expedition were to be regarded as a precedent, it would only be necessary, in future, to call any expedition a Commercial Mission, and then when it had advanced a certain distance to telegraph for reinforcements. That added materially to their claim that, at all events, part of the expense of the expedition should be borne Imperially.
In twenty years there had been an increase of over 70 per cent. in the expenditure charged to Indian finances. This was a question which had been frequently referred to. When the Afghan War occurred, the late Lord Salisbury said that it was undoubtedly part of a great Imperial question; and Lord Curzon, more than once, had pointed out that India was the pivot of the Empire. As regarded the expedition, Lord Lansdowne sent a despatch in February, 1908, to the British Ambassador at St. Petersburg, pointing out that any display on the part of Russia in Tibet would have a disturbing effect on the people of India. Lord Curzon in his despatch in 1903 said that the Government of India were of opinion that the only way to counteract the danger to British interests in Tibet was to carry out the expedition; and, therefore, it was plain that it was British interests that 463 were involved. There were other circumstances connected with the expedition which added to the claim that some portion of the expense should be British expenditure. The expedition was described as of a commercial character. Resolutions were sent from this country pointing out the necessity of developing trade between Tibet and India. In his opinion, at present at all events, trade considerations were trifling; and he thought it was an unfortunate development that chambers of commerce, in this country, should endeavour to induce the Government of India to act in this manner for their own advantage. He also wished to refer to the fact that the Government of India underestimated the strength of the enemy. Lord Curzon in his despatch stated that the military force of the Tibetans was beneath contempt. It was a pity that such a phrase should have been used. Another circumstance he wished to mention was the miscalculation as to the cost of the expenditure. The estimated cost was £183,000 for four months; but already the cost exceeded half a million; and it would probably be as much more before the expedition ended. Finally, it was laid down by the Government of India that the expedition would only advance to a certain point, and that there would be no permanent occupation. He could not better sum up the ease than by quoting from a Memorandum of the Indian Government which stated that "the policy which dictated the expedition was an Imperial policy."
§ MR. WYLIE (Dumbartonshire)
said his opinion was that the people of India had derived very great benefit from intercourse with the British people and through the protection afforded them in every shape and form, especially in connection with the enormous expense incurred during the South African War. The results of the conflict were as much in the interests of India as in the interests of this country, because if South Africa had been lost to us the Indian Empire would have been lost to us also. Under these circumstances he held that it was incumbent upon the Government of India to pay all the charges that had been incurred in the Tibetan War, which would not only tend to strengthen the 464 frontiers of India, but would be of great advantage to the internal condition of the country.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said the hon. Member who had moved this Amendment gave his reasons for the affirmation contained in the Amendment that the Imperial Government should pay a substantial portion of the expenditure of the Mission to Tibet, and with those reasons he was in, clined to agree, and should have agreed with, had it not been for the reason which the hon. Member put in the Resolution itself. He did not believe that the results of the expedition would have a beneficial effect on Imperial interests and Imperial trade. He believed the contrary would be the case. He believed the expedition to Tibet was, to use an expression of Talley-rand, more than a crime It was a blunder. It was calculated to render more difficult what he believed to be a most important object; namely, our coming, to a general agreement with Russia upon the interests of the two countries in various parts of the world. It was a difficult matter to arrive at such an arrangement, but it was a thing this country should try to attain, and he believed it was not impossible if an English and a Russian statesman met together, laid their cards, so to speak, on the table, and settled once and for all what the interests of each country were. This expedition to Tibet, however, was calculated to prevent such an arrangement being made. The hon. Member opposite, with great force, passed a high eulogium on Lord Curzon, and tried to force his views upon the House, but they were immediately repudiated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean. Lord Curzon had made great improvements in India, and his attitude towards the natives had been a very proper one, but Lord Curzon was a military and strategically-minded man and nothing less. It was to him that this Tibet expedition was due; it was his intention to take into India an unconquered border for political purposes. The Tibet expedition was due to him; the way it was carried out was due to the pressure he exercised on the Government: the pressure put upon the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ealing, who only consented to it under strict conditions, which it was now 465 almost impossible could be carried out. The original ground for the expedition was purely commercial. The military commanders did not tell us as much as the newspaper correspondents did. Their intelligent anticipation was that it had now become impossible for the expedition to return to India this year. The military difficulties seemed to him very great indeed. Could his right hon. friend tell the House that he was convinced that the expedition could return to India before the winter? He believed that we might expect at least another year's occupation. The Government were placed in a dilemma and he believed they would be led into some system of annexation, or at any rate into the establishment of a Resident. A little consideration showed how serious was the situation. Assurances had been given to Parliament, to China, and, he believed, to Russia, and, if these assurances were to be violated to the extent of occupation for a year, the situation became serious, by no means creditable to this country, and so far from it having a beneficial effect on Imperial interests, it was altogether harmful to them.
§ * MR. BRODRICK
I think the House will expect me to say a few words in reply before the Amendment is disposed of, and I know that several hon. Members desire to speak on the general question. My hon. friend was quite entitled to submit his Motion, and in doing so the moderation with which he always speaks has been conspicuous. I am equally anxious to defend the Indian Exchequer, but we must take firm ground on a matter of this kind; and the only firm ground we can find is in the Report of the Welby Commission, where it is distinctly laid down what should be regarded as Indian, as distinct from Imperial, interests. Do not let it be supposed that what is Indian interest pea se may not also be imperial interest; of course every interest is in a sense Imperial, but, when you come to divide Imperial from Colonial and Indian charges, you must have regard to whether it does arise from Imperial policy or not. Now, the Welby Commission has laid down that expeditions for the protection of the frontier are matters of Indian interest, and I think my hon. friend in the use he made of his 466 argument showed that this Tibetan Mission is an Indian matter. When my hon. friend uses the expression, "Who is to pay the piper?" I should reply, "He who called the tune." Although His Majesty's Government do not derogate one atom from their responsibility for any expedition of the kind, anybody could see from the course of preceding events that, while the Indian Government were anxious that action should be taken, His Majesty's Government were reluctant at first to undertake that Mission, though they did in the last resort, when the intolerable consequences of not taking such action became apparent.
Two questions of a serious character have been brought before the House by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton and the hon. Member for King's Lynn. The right hon. Gentleman has pointed out that we are now about to separate. and there will be no opportunity of renewing the debate, and lie is anxious now that the Mission has reached Lhasa to know whether the principles laid down on 6th November, 1903, still represent the policy of His Majesty's Government or whether circumstances have forced them to deviate from the course which was then laid down. Well. I can associate myself with and I reiterate entirely the language used by the Prime Minister in April, and I do not think it is necessary to add to the assurance then given. The policy expressed in November was equally our policy in April and is equally our policy now. The reasons that forced us to advance into Tibet were strong enough to make us feel that we had no alternative, and equally we feel that now, though the time taken has proved to be longer and the force needed larger than we expected. But when I am asked as to our future course, and whether we are not being dragged downhill and are likely to have to break the pledges we gave, then I would say that I see nothing in what has occurred to justify the apprehension my hon. friend has expressed. He has mentioned some instances in which foreign Powers, and one in which the British Government, have somewhat changed from pledges originally given when undertaking occupations. I think it would be unreasonable for him to expect, and it would be certainly unwise for me to give, at this 467 moment, a pledge as to when the expedition will return to India. I can only say this, we have reached Lhasa with the full intention of vacating it as soon as arrangements are made, and we shall not stay a day beyond that period, and not a day beyond that our military judges deem it wise to stay.
THE MASTER OF EMBANK (Edinburgh, Midlothian)
asked if there was an intention to exact an indemnity from the Tibetans.
§ * MR. BRODRICK
That is a difficult question to go into. There must be an indemnity of some description for various acts that have occurred, but on the question of terms we must ask Parliament to trust us. I have laid down the position, we are not there to begin a permanent occupation, we are not there to establish a protectorate, we do not propose to place a Resident there. These are the three main items of our policy. We are determined to make the British name respected, to make proper arrangements with our neighbours, and to protect our frontier.
§ MR. MALCOLM (Suffolk, Stowmarket)
asked, would the expedition not return until a treaty had been signed and reparation exacted.
§ * MR. BRODRICK
I cannot add to what I have said. I have said the expedition will not remain in Lhasa a day after a settlement has been come to. It will not remain in Lhasa except during the period our military judges consider safety requires. Further than that I must ask to be excused from going at this moment. In conclusion I would say we adhere to our pledges, not exacted from us in this House, but dictated by the policy we believe it is proper for this country to maintain. We have fully explained this to the Russian Government, and have obtained assurances in return satisfactory to the Cabinet, and we sincerely trust we shall make an arrangement with Tibet which will preclude further interference on our part and put an end to the difficulties that have arisen.
§ Question put, and negatived.468
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
said he had two Questions to ask, and the first was whether the Indian Government had made any protest against the use of the Peace Preservation Ordinance to prevent the immigration of British Indian subjects into the Transvaal. In the Indian Blue-book recently published it was stated that there had been a large saving because the Ameer of Afghanistan had not drawn the whole of his subsidy. He wished to know whether the Ameer had drawn any portion of his subsidy or whether he had refused the whole. He complained of the official optimism which marked the statements of those who had been connected with the administration of India. The permanent existence of immense mortality from plague caused some doubt as to the perfection of the system of local government. The police system was marked by such disgraceful scandals that until it was reformed they could not rest and be thankful. Under that system, according to official admissions, there were wrongful convictions procured by false evidence and even by evidence obtained by torture. The policeman was the only representative of Government ever seen by millions of the Indian people, and the House ought to know when the Report of the Police Commission would be published and the decision of the Government with regard to its recommendations made known. They could not rest satisfied with the salt tax at two rupees per maund, and he hoped they might speedily see a portion of the surplus set aside for the further remission of the duty. He would not detain the House by reading the speeches made on the subject by the native members and indeed some of the European members of the Viceroy's Council, but he would point out that five of the most weighty members of the Council pleaded strongly with the Government that a portion of the surplus should be set aside for the further remission of the salt duty. Their knowledge of the poverty of the people enabled them to show how cruel and oppressive the tax was.
The only other point he would touch upon was what should be the general position of India in the great debates 469 likely in the near future to arise with regard to the relations which various parts of the Empire should have one to another. Suggestions had been made for another Colonial Conference. Those who thought the drawing together of the Empire should be Imperial believed that in the past a great mistake had been made in making these conferences British and Colonial only, and desired to press upon the Government that India should, next to the United Kingdom, play a predominant part in any future conference of the kind. India's position in the Empire, her contributions to Imperial purposes, and the dimensions of her trade, entitled her to special consideration. According to the last returns our Indian imports and exports averaged about £36,000,000 sterling, and our trade with India was mare than three times our trade with Canada, and almost three times that with Australia. Without entering on the fiscal controversy, all he pleaded for was that India should be really consulted and should really know what was being done in her name. Finally, he desired to recommend the adoption of the suggestion of the Welby Commission that some Vote should be placed on the Estimates which would enable Indian questions to be raised in Supply in the course of the Parliamentary session, and so to avoid the scandal of Indian questions being invariably relegated to the last effective day of the session.
§ * SIR J. FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)
said that having had some practical experience of administration in India, he could hardly admit that any district having a population of 2,000,000 would be administered by one European only.
§ * SIR J. FERGUSSON
said that a district with a population of even only 1,000,000 would have at least ten European collectors, three or four European assistants, Judges, police superintendent and assistant superintendent, forest and Customs officers. No doubt, however, the Europeans were few and their responsibilities immense, 470 but they brought out the Lest qualities of our race. They had also an admirable native Civil Service. As to the salt duty, while he was aware how vitally important it was to get cheap salt, he thought hon. Members were too apt to forget how salt had been cheapened to the people by improved means of communication. When he was Governor of Bombay he realised how greatly the development of railways and roads had reduced the cost of exporting produce and of bringing salt to the consumer. It would, he observed, be one of the greatest blessings if Lord Curzon. before he left India, was able to add to the many great things he had done by a reform of the character of the police.
§ * MR. JOSEPH WALTON (Yorkshire, W.R., Barnsley)
congratulated the Secretary for India on the most able and lucid statement he had given to the House—a statement which bore evidence of the strenuous manner in which the right hon. Gentleman must have devoted himself to getting the necessary knowledge to fit him for the duties of the high position which he had occupied for but a few months. He regretted exceedingly that there were only nineteen out of 670 Members of the House of Commons present to hear that statement and he earnestly pressed upon the right hon. Gentleman to take into consideration the desirability of arranging to take the Indian debate a month or six weeks earlier in the Parliamentary session. We were all proud of that great India dependency, in connection with which we had taken upon our shoulders the responsibility of ruling and guiding the destinies of 300 millions of people. We were, in fact, the trustees of the interests of this vast mass of people, and the responsibility was one we ought not to shirk in any way. It was a matter for rejoicing that to-day they were not face to face with famine expenditure in India and that the money which in past years had had to go to famine relief was now being expended on productive railway construction and irrigation works. He would like to know, however, whether the money thus spent was being added to capital account.
The question of military expenditure had been referred to. The Secretary for India had informed them that in the current 471 year there would be an increased expenditure of £1,700,000, and that in addition a further sum of £666,000 was to be devoted to rendering possible the more rapid mobilisation of the Indian Army. Then there was the expenditure on Tibet to he faced. Adding these items together there was an increase of no less than £3,000,000 in Army expenditure. That was a very serious matter, having regard to the poverty of the great mass of the Indian people. It was reported by the Welby Commission that this country was overcharging India to the extent of £257,000 early. Surely as this system of overcharging had been going on for generations it was only just that there should be some restitution. They ought to be just in dealing with these questions and they might well have made a contribution this year out of Imperial funds toward the cost of the Tibetan expedition. There was a precedent for that action. seeing that an Imperial grant of £5,000,000 was made towards the cost of the Afghan War. As trustees of the people of India we ought to be very careful not to extract from the poverty-stricken millions of that country more than they ought to be asked to pay towards the military defence of the Empire.
There was no doubt that India was making substantial progress in a material sense. Look at her development in matters of railway extension and of irrigation work. He was delighted to know that there were 27,000 miles of railway open for traffic, as compared with 17,060 ten years ago, and that 3,000 more miles were scheduled for construction. He understood that £9,000,000 was included in this Budget for purposes of railway construction, and experts informed them that twice 27,000 miles must be built before India could be considered to be adequately supplied with railways. In looking at their financial position did the Government bear in mind that the lines already constructed, included military and famine railways which were never expected to be a commercial success, generally were prosperous, and that their capitalised value on a 4 per cent. basis was £262,000,000 as against the £228,000,000 actually expended on capital account. He 472 would like to suggest that some steps should be taken to promote the development of feeder lines in conjunction with the main railway systems. These feeder linse might not pay in themselves but they would bring increased traffic to the main lines and enable them to pay more profit than they now did. Next he came to the question of irrigation works. These were still more satisfactory productive public undertakings. There were 44,000,000 acres of irrigated land in India at the present time, and he was convinced as the result of long travels through that country that there was no reason why this quantity of irrigated land should not be doubled. According to the latest return the capital outlay upon irrigation works was £24,637,441 and the return upon this was over ½ per cent. If those works were capitalised at twenty-five years purchase upon a 4 per cent. basis they would be worth £47,000,000. As one who took a very deep interest in India and who was proud to have that great country as a dependency of the British Crown; and believing as he did that the administration of that country was excellent and satisfactory, and that they had working there in the interests of India and the Empire a magnificent body of public servants, he desired that they should have every opportunity of making their services more productive than ever they had been in the past. They had every reason to go forward. The debt of India, unlike that of this country, was More than covered by revenue producing assets. Was there any other country in the world besides India that could show £20,000,000 a year as net receipts from land and forest revenues? If this revenue from land and forests were capitalised at twenty-five years purchase this property would be worth £500,000,000 sterling. Therefore, he did not think that anyone needed to hesitate about investing in railways and irrigation works in India, for the British public could not have a sounder investment, and he hoped that the progress of India would not be checked by any difficulties in obtaining the necessary loans.
The hon Member opposite had put down a rather curious Amendment to 473 the effect that the duties on manufactured articles from the United Kingdom to India should be abolished. Apparently the hon. Member had overlooked the tremendous tax which was placed upon Indian tea, tobacco, and unrefined sugar. At the present time they not only taxed Indian teas 100 per cent., but they placed upon Indian tobacco the same duty as was placed upon the more valuable article from America. He thought that was a great injustice to India. It was satisfactory to him to note that the seaborne trade of India was progressing, for in actual merchandise he noticed that there had been an increase of £21,000,000 as compared with the preceding year. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham appeared to forget that this great dependency of India formed part of the British Empire. Three-quarters of the trade of India was done with foreign countries. The exports of Indian merchandise for 1893–4 were £100,000,000, but only £27,000,000 of that was done with the United Kingdom, £73,000,000 going to other counties. But whereas we sent in return some £36,500,000 worth of merchandise to India other countries only sent £20,000,000. That was to say, that whilst this country took £7,500,000 less than we sent to India, other countries took from India three-and-a-half times as much as they sent to India. The Government of India had published some very interesting figures for 1902–3, showing that the imports from the United Kingdom and other British possessions amounted to about £39,750,000 whilst the exports to the United Kingdom and other British possessions amounted to £32,000,000, or about £7,500,000 less. Those figures showed that the exports of India to the United Kingdom amounted to £21,000,000, whilst those to other British possessions were £11,000,000, and to other foreign countries £51,000,000. These figures disclosed the very interesting fact that, one-half of the whole foreign trade of India was admitted duty free into the consuming markets, and very largely duty free into the foreign markets. He was very glad to hear that due consideration would be given to India in 474 regard to any important question dealt with in this country which might affect the fiscal arrangements of India. The right hon. Gentleman who put down an Amendment to the Address upon this subject could not have considered the matter very closely, and that was perhaps why he had made no reference to the question to-day. At the present time India only put a very nominal import duty upon our goods purely for revenue purposes. China and India were not protectionist countries, and therefore with a population of 700,000,000 people in those two countries they had practically free markets for British manufactured goods.
He held that our greatest justification for ruling India was to be found in the fact that we had sought no preferential trade relations for ourselves at the expense of India, and that we had left the great population of India free to buy in the best and cheapest markets in the world, irrespective of whether they were British or not. There was no need to tinker with the fiscal system of India when India was progressing well. There were now 5,000,000 spindles engaged in the manufacture of cotton, giving employ went to 174,000 workmen. We must look forward to India consuming increased quantities of raw cotton. The jute mills in 1903 employed 113,000 workmen. The tea trade had developed, so that 150,000,000 lbs. of tea were exported, and the industry employed 600,000 people. The coal production in India had gone up between 1892 and 1902 from 2,000,000 to 7,000,000 tons. That increase in the production had been stimulated by the shilling duty which had been placed on coal exported from this country. They must recognise that there were millions of poverty-stricken natives in India earning at the present I time not more than 2d. per day, and he would like to have some statement from the Secretary of State as to what action if any, the Government had taken in order to secure that any extra labour that was required in South Africa should be drawn from India instead of from China. He would be told that Indian coolies could not work in the mines, but he had been down many a coal mine and gold mine in India which were successfully worked by Indian coolie labour. 475 He was aware that the Indian Government was anxious to protect the just rights of our Indian fellow-subjects, but he would like to know whether any strong effort had been made to obtain from India that kind of labour which they were told was required in South Africa.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton had spoken of the way in which the accounts were presented to the House. If a further change could be made in the form of presenting the accounts, he would suggest that it should be in the direction of instituting an annual Budget of reproductive public works expenditure and revenue wholly distinct from the ordinary administrative accounts of the year. Personally, he entirely sympathised with the appointment of a new member of Council representing a department of commerce and industry. He welcomed that just as much as he would welcome the appointment of a Minister of Commerce in this country with Cabinet rank. He saw that no less a sum than £283,000 was included in the Budget for the Amir's subsidy and arrears. Without referring in detail to our great interests in Persia, he would say that our relations with the Government of that country had a great bearing on the question of the expenditure for the defence of the north-western frontier of India. If an unfriendly Power were established on the Persian Gulf we should have to largely increase our defensive forces in India. He was bound to say, judging from all the information he had been able to get, that British interests had been more vigorously upheld in Persia in the last two years than was previously the case. He had every reason to believe that His Majesty's Government did recognise the great importance of maintaining the status quo on the Persian gulf.
§ MR. LONSDALE (Armagh, Mid.)
said Indian affairs received too little consideration at the hands of the House. We were in a position of responsibility with respect to the administration of the great dependency of India, and he thought the burden rested lightly on our shoulders. Once a year, at the fag end of the session, this House passed in review the finances of India, and made some effort to grasp what was going on, but 476 for the rest of the session, he was afraid, the affairs of India did not concern them much. It might be said that that was a reproach against the House, but it was not for the Government to cast a stone at the House for its neglect of the affairs of India. The Government had permitted one of the members of the Indian Council to be engaged upon duties which had not the smallest connection with the office which his special training and experience qualified him to fill, and, he believed, to fill with distinction. Sir Antony MacDonnell was appointed to the Indian Council in 1902, and the same year he was lent to the Irish Executive in order that he might fill the post of Under-Secretary for Ireland. He still remained a member of the Indian Council, although that body had for two years been deprived of his assistance in the work of the Department. This fact naturally gave rise to the question—Had the work of the Indian Council suffered by the withdrawal of Sir Antony MacDonnell? If it had, then the Government were to blame for permitting the alienation of a distinguished official from his proper functions. He gathered from the Secretary for India that Sir Antony had been missed from the Indian Council. He said that his colleagues would welcome him back to their midst with great cordiality. He had no doubt that his absence must have caused considerable strain upon the other members of the Council. Including Sir Antony, there were twelve members of the Council, and with one member absent only eleven were left to do the work. He understood the labours of this important body were very arduous. They had the oversight and control of the revenues of India, and he believed it might be said that no grant or appropriation of any part of such revenues could be made without the concurrence of a majority of votes at a meeting of the Council. It was necessary for the Council to hold frequent meetings in order to cope with the important duties they had to perform, and no less than five members must be present in order that any business might be transacted. Surely, therefore, it must be clear that the withdrawal of one member for an indefinite period must seriously interfere with the work of the Indian Council. The Secretary for India, who was 477 responsible to the House for the work of his Department, should see that this board of advisers was maintained in an efficient state. If it were contended that Sir Antony's absence from the India Office occasioned no inconvenience, it must be clear that the Indian Council was over-manned and that the number of that body might be reduced with advantage to the public revenue. He had no personal acquaintance with Sir Antony. He believed he was a distinguished public servant, and he thought it was a matter for great regret that his services were not being utilised in the office which he was fitted by expert knowledge and special training to fill satisfactorily. He hoped the Secretary for India would be able to inform the House that Sir Antony would shortly return to his proper sphere in the India Office. He had no doubt that India would gain immensely by the recall, and he did not think Ireland would be the loser.
§ * MR. BRODRICK
said he was very much touched by the desire the hon. Gentleman had shown that the India Office should have the full benefit of Sir Antony MacDonnell's services. The hon. Member did not appear, however, to be entirely guided in his wishes by consideration of the interests of India. To take a member of the India Council from his duties was a rarity, and the absence of a member of the Council after a certain time would certainly be felt. He would be only too glad when Sir Antony returned to his Indian duties. He would welcome him back on the grounds of his past experience and the knowledge he brought to bear upon ordinary matters. The Secretary for Ireland had made it clear that he had the fullest possible confidence in Sir Antony, and that he could not at present fix the date for his return. It was clear that an official could not be in two places at once, and he would be very glad when Sir A. MacDonnell could be released.
§ MR. GORDON (Londonderry, S.)
Supposing a member of the Indian Council does not attend for twelve months, what happens?
§ * MR. BRODRICK
said that Parliament was most anxious to give thorough independence to that body. The members had a statutory right under the Act of 1861 to remain for ten years. The attendance was left to the good feeling of the members.
§ MR. SEYMOUR ORMSBY - GORE (Lincolnshire. Gainsborough)
Would it not interfere with Sir Antony's pension at the expiration of his term of office?
§ * MR. BRODRICK
. There is no question of his Civil Service pension. His Indian pension is secured to him.
The right hon. Gentleman opposite asked whether the Government had made any protest against the Peace Preservation Act being applied in the Transvaal. He regretted that there should have been any feeling in the Transvaal against the introduction of Indian subjects. He was prepared to do everything in his power on their behalf. The matter had been brought before the Colonial Secretary. Notwithstanding that, it was absolutely necessary, in his opinion, that the rights and privileges of Indian subjects recognised by statute should be secured to them in the Transvaal, and throughout South Africa, yet in regard to the introduction of more Indians, in view of the strongly pronounced local feeling, the Government had felt unable—although they wished to see a change in that local feeling—to insist on the further introduction of Indians, except under the same regulations as obtained in Cape Colony and Natal. Among a population which had not representative government, they could not enforce measures which colonies possessing representative government were not willing to adopt. As regarded police reform, he could only say that months ago he brought before the Government of India the necessity of getting replies from the local governments at the earliest possible date, and he trusted Lord Curzon would be able to take up that matter as soon as he returned to India. A Question had also been asked which he was afraid he could not enter into at any length on the last day of the session—the position of India with regard to fiscal policy. An admirable despatch of the Government of India had been laid before the House 479 and so far as he was concerned he felt that, although Indian interests had been very little mentioned in this controversy, India must be looked upon as women were looked upon in the old days—those who were least talked about were considered to be most virtuous. It was perfectly obvious that any settlement which concerned the Empire could not be considered or entered into without the interests of India being, he would not say predominantly, as he thought the right hon. Gentleman said—
§ * MR. BRODRICK
said that at all events India, as the greatest consumer of British goods in the Empire, must come very high in their consideration. He agreed with the desire expressed that the Indian Budget statement should be made earlier. He hoped that next year he might be able to induce his right hon. friend to give a somewhat earlier date. He felt that this was a subject which ought not to be put off to so late a period of the session, but he thought he might congratulate the House on the extremely effective discussion they had had that day—full of suggestion, interest, and appreciation. He was grateful to hon. Members for their kind references to himself, and he was still more glad to hear the references that had been made on both sides of the House to the magnificent work done by Lord Curzon in India, and the satisfaction that had been expressed at his return to that country for another term of office. He thought the country had been very fortunate in having a man like Lord Ampthill to perform his duties during his absence in this country.
§ * MR. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)
said he congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on the information he had been able to furnish to the House. He understood that the right hon. Gentleman stated that an understanding had been arrived at with Russia and China with reference to the advance to Lhasa, and that there was no intention of occupying Tibet or appointing a Resident. That was very satisfactory. The occupation of the 480 country would require a very large force in a most inhospitable climate.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
This matter has been already dealt with in the Amendment which has been diposed of by the House.
§ * MR. WEIR
said that the Budget should not be brought forward on the last day but one of the session. He was glad that the right hon. Gentleman intended to make an effort to introduce the Budget in future at an earlier period of the session. The right hon. Gentleman painted the condition of India in a roseate hue, and said that although there was poverty there was no destitution, but no one could be in any part of India for many hours without realising that there was the greatest poverty and destitution. The right lion. Gentleman stated that the natives had simple tastes. They had need to have for they had no money to indulge them. The right hon. Gentleman said that the people should not be burdened. He agreed with him; he wanted them liberated from their-burdens and he urged the right hon. Gentleman to lift some of the burdens under which they struggled. He knew of no burden more oppressive to the people of India than the salt tax, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues on the Council of India and Lord Curzon, who he was sure had the welfare of the people of India at heart, would see their way to still further reduce and eventually abolish this tax. India never had a harder worker than Lord Curzon. Whether the Viceroy was always right in what he did was a matter of opinion, he certainly had introduced some measures of late which would not redound to his credit. But he (Mr. Weir) was glad Lord Curzon was going to have another term of office in India because he would be able to complete some of the works he had begun, such as those dealing with the police and the 481 railways. Lord Curzon did not sit in his armchair in Government House in Calcutta content with the reports sent to him by the permanent officials. When he went about the country he kept his ears and eyes open and inquired into matters for himself. For instance, he noticed the disgraceful overcrowding on the railways and had an inquiry made into it with the result that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State had stated that a board of management of railways was to be appointed. He trusted that competent railway managers would be found to do the work. The appointment of such a board would liberate the department in Calcutta which now had charge of railway work, and he trusted that the board would do the work efficiently. He regretted that there had been no decrease in the opium revenue. It was a shame that this country should have pushed forward the sale of that article as they had done, and he hoped that the anticipated decrease would go on until the revenue from opium was wiped out altogether. The right hon. Gentleman had said he was in a sea of doubt as to what to do with regard to the salt tax. The best course to adopt would be to abolish it altogether. He might not be able to abolish it at once but he could decrease the tax by degrees until it disappeared. If salt could be obtained at a reasonable price it would be used in many industries, especially the curing of fish. He hoped the Government would see their way to do this.
The hon. Member then went on to speak of the wretched mud huts in which the vast majority of the native soldiers were housed, and the almost impossible rents exacted from the Agriculturists. He pointed out that 1,253 persons were in the year 1901–2 sent to prison in default of the payment of rent, their wives and families being left to starve meanwhile. That was not, he submitted, in accordance with British rule, and nothing of the kind would be allowed in this country. Why then should it be permitted in India? He sincerely trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would look into this matter and see if it were not possible to put an end to the practice of imprisoning these poor unfortunate people because they were unable to pay their rents. Let 482 them lock up swindlers by all means, but let them at the same time be a little merciful to those who through sickness or other misfortune were unable to pay their rents. He doubted whether the rents were fair, and certainly the people had not the means to pay them. The whole circumstances of the case ought to be considered and the rents revised and reduced where necessary, so that there should not be this wholesale system of evictions, under which nearly a million families were turned out of their holdings in one presidency alone in the course of a few years. India was so vast that there was not the same grip of affairs as in Eng, land. Lord Curzon was very energetic, but, after all, one man could do only a certain amount of work. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to what happened in India 100 years ago, but what was the use of going back so far? On the hill on which he was born, witches were burnt 100 years ago.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
intimated that the hon. Member's remarks were somewhat remote from the question before the House.
§ MR. WEIR
disclaimed any desire to weary the House. Inasmuch as money invested in irrigation works was said to yield a return of 7 per cent. he thought a larger sum might well be set aside for irrigation purposes. Irrigation was the greatest boon that could be conferred upon the people of India; it was the equivalent of showers of gold to them. As to the police system, it was simply shocking. For years the police been discredited. He was glad to hear that money, including £25,000 for a University, was being set aside for educational purposes. More attention ought to be given to technical education, as there was room in India for a vast extension of industries. The young people were crying out for technical knowledge to enable them to strike out on profitable lines for themselves instead of being tied down to agricultural pursuits and two-and-a-half acre plots. Many natives of India had been educated at Oxford and Cambridge and were brilliant men, but by the arrangements which had been made they had been shut 483 out of Government employment in favour of Europeans. [Cries of "Divide."] There was another matter he wished to refer to. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would adopt some means of letting the people of India know that the petitions they sent over to this country were simply pigeonholed or thrown into the waste paper basket. He hoped the Secretary for India would go out to that country himself, because everybody who visited India was more and more impressed with the greatness of our Indian Empire and with the great need of doing something, especially for these 200,000,000 of people who were engaged in agriculture and who did not get more than one meal per day. [Cries of "Divide, divide"] The conditions of the lives of these people were terrible. In conclusion he wished to express his satisfaction that Lord Curzon was again going out to India, and he trusted that he would proceed with the good work he had been doing, and be spared health and strength to carry out the policy he had been pursuing in India.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ [Mr. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith) in the Chair.]
§ Resolved, That it appears from the Accounts presented to Parliament that in 1902–3 the Revenue of India amounted to £77,434,915, the Expenditure charged against Revenue to £74,365,366, and the Capital Expenditure not charged to Revenue to £5,128,192.—(Mr. Secretary Brodrick.)
§ Resolution to be reported.