HC Deb 10 December 1906 vol 166 c1533

To ask the Secretary of State for India if he can state why the Government of India, in 1901, fixed the standard number of Bengal chests of opium for export at 48,000; and whether, looking to the fact that in 1905–6 the number of chests sold was 37,695, in 1896–7 39,000, in 1897–8 39,000, in 1898–9 39,450, and in 1899–1900 41,700, he can see his way to directing that the number of chests sold in future years should be reduced to at least the level of the sales of ten years ago.

(Answered by Mr. Secretary Morley.) The standard number of Bengal chests of opium for export was fixed in 1901 at 48,000 chests because it was considered that the area of cultivation as it then stood would ordinarily produce that quantity of "provision" opium. Up to 1901 the higher standard of 54,000 chests had been nominally in force, but owing to the deficient yield of successive seasons and the necessity for replenishing the reserve stock it had been necessary to restrict the sales much below this standard between the years 1895 and 1900. By 1901 the reserve had been brought up to a sufficient amount, and it became possible to sell the whole annual production, subject to the limit of 48,000 chests. It would be premature to make any statement of future policy at the present stage of the Chinese programme of opium reform.