HC Deb 06 May 1908 vol 188 cc339-80
*MR. W. JOHNSON (Warwickshire, Nuneaton)

in moving "That this House, having regard to its Resolution Unanimously adopted on 30th May, 1906, that the Indo-Chinese opium trade in morally indefensible, welcomes the action of His Majesty's Government diminishing the sale of opium for export, and thus responding to the action of the Chinese Government in their arrangement for the suppression of the Consumption of the drug in that empire; and this House also urges His Majesty's Government to take steps to bring to a speedy close the system of licensing opium dens now prevailing in some of our Crown Colonies, more particularly Hong-Kong, the straits Settlements, and Ceylon," said that he was in great sympathy with the movement for the total suppression of the vice of opium-smoking which everywhere produced such evil results. He would leave to others more able than himself to give details; he would confine himself to stating the position briefly, the effect of the vice and its evils, what was being done, what should be done, and he hoped to do that courteously but with candour. It was agreed that both nationally and internationally this question was one that should be dealt with and put an end to. It was a question between money and righteousness, and in the end no one who believed in righteousness could doubt which would prevail. All the great authorities on this question—Sir J. Jordan, British Minister at Pekin, Sir Robert Hart, etc.—were agreed that the evil must be put an end to; and they had behind them the great body of public opinion, archbishops, bishops, leaders of the churches—in fact, the whole of the country, to judge from the number of, letters and telegrams he had received. He believed that every Minister of the day and every ex-Minister was in favour of an end being put to the traffic in opium. It was true that there were difficulties in the way; but the Government should face those difficulties and they would be overcome. They must put the righteousness of the cause before money. He would give a few illustrations of the evils of opium smoking and of the opium traffic. The author of "From Pekin to Sikkin," speaking of the town of Ning-hsia, said— Opium has largely killed this city, all of whose inhabitants indulge in this drug, and when once this awful vice has thoroughly mastered a Chinaman, he sells all he has—his land, his wife and children, the roof, doors and windows of his house, in summer nearly all his clothing, and dies of cold in winter, stripped and naked in the street That was a terrible thing to record. In the White Paper, China No. 1, 1908, it was said that— The opium smoker wastes time and neglects his work, ruins his health and improverishes his family, and the poverty and weakness which for the past few decades have been daily increasing among us are undoubtedly attributable to this cause. It is mental and physical ruin to those who indulge in the habit. On the last occasion when this question was discussed, on 3rd May, 1906, the Resolution was unanimously accepted. Since then, much to the credit of the Indian Government, much had been done, but many people thought much more would have to be done. The Foreign Office had done some little, the Colonial Office next to nothing, while China had been moving in her own behalf to put an end to the traffic. Foreign Governments had made progress in the matter. All acknowledged the evil, but the pace was too slow. They wanted them to get along faster. They were asked to exercise patience, but those who knew most about the degrading traffic had already been too patient. What they wanted was to see the end of it, and that was the least that would satisfy them. They believed that the end should come as far as the British Empire was concerned. His hon. friend the Member for one of the divisions of Yorkshire, stated lately that Chinna wanted freedom from opium. Lord Morley of Blackburn, then Mr. John Morley, who was still Secretary for India, stated on 30th May, 1906, that "he hoped it was so; if so, the thing was done." Lord Morley added: "Does China want it? That is the question." Further he used these words— He would say that if China wanted seriously and in good faith to restrict the consumption of this drug in China, the British Government would not close the door.…It was no secret that China had been considering for the last two years or more whether some plan could not be devised of dealing with the importation of opium into the country other than that which prevailed. They (the British Government) would see whether they could in some way meet the views of the Chinese Government…The Government of India and His Majesty's Government would say they would agree to it, even though it might cost us some sacrifice. They asked the British Government to make the sacrifice, and they would have the British people behind them; but let them make it at once. Was China sincere? If they looked at the White Paper, China No. 1, 1908, they would see that China made an offer to put an end to the traffic in ten years—that was from 1908 to 1917—but it had been thought that if the Indian Government would accept it, China would put an end to it in three years. The North China Herald for 26th July, 1907, said— Not a few influential Chinese would gladly see the ten years of the Imperial Edict reduced to three years. The White Paper further said— If an official merely keeps up appearances and, while outwardly obeying, secretly disregards these commands, he is denounced by name for punishment. Here was an instance of how it was done— In Foo-Chow, a city which has a population of 650,000, one of the first great cities to deal with this opium question. The date fixed was 12th May. Several days before, a thousand traders met in one of their temples, drafted a remonstrance and subscribed a sum of money to defend their interests. They met in vain. The man who presented the petition was locked up. The resistance collapsed; 3,000 shops trading in opium were closed.


No compensation?


No compensation whatever. One man held out, trusting to his influence with the officials; he was at once lodged in gaol, and his property confiscated. Two or three others were marched through the streets in chains. A week after not a single opium-den existed in the city. That was what the supporters of the Resolution wanted. That was what the people of this country wanted, and what His Majesty's Government wanted, but there was a good deal of difficulty about it. It was stated that the first six months following the issue of the anti-opium regulations expired on Friday, when the last of the opium-dens in Pekin was closed. Who could doubt the sincerity of the Chinese authority after that, and it only remained for the Government to he as sincere. Still, they were grateful to the Government of India for what they had done, but they hoped they would accelerate the pace. He turned to the Foreign Office Papers, and he found it stated that in Shanghai in the native quarter, on 22nd June last, all the opium-dens, about 700 in number, were closed. At the same time in the British and American: concessions quarter the municipal council declined to do more than to discontinue the grant of fresh licences, and it was not until 20th March this year at the annual meeting this council were induced to propose to close one-fourth of the dens on 31st July this year, and the other three-quarters within two years. And yet they doubted the sincerity of the Chinese! In Shanghai the Chinese would have total closing more than a year before the British and American part of the city took action, and then instead of closing at once they proposed a gradual closing, extending over two years. The Chinese would, in fact, close their opium-dens in Shanghai three years before the British, and he thought that proved that the Chinese were more sincere than ourselves. Still dealing with the Foreign Office he found in the White Paper that on 17th October, 1906, America proposed joint investigation to be undertaken by the United States, Great Britain, France, Netherlands, Germany, China and Japan, to come to a decision as to whether the consequences of the opium traffic and opium habit were not such that civilised Powers should do what they could to put a stop to them. The next thing they heard was on 27th November, 1907, thirteen months later, when the Indian Secretary asked for more precise information and time and place of meeting. That was what they complained of. Surely thirteen months was an unnecessary delay on the part of the Foreign Office. Still, they knew the time it took for these things to go through the red tape of officialism, and perhaps that might be the explanation. Our self-governing Colonies had refused to allow the opium traffic in their territory. Then he came to our Crown Colonies, where the question of the opium trade seemed to be rather neglected. In Hong Kong nothing had been done: in the Strait Settlements a Committee of Inquiry had been appointed; and in Ceylon they awaited the publication of the Report of the Ceylon Committee presented to the Governor some months ago. While that was the state of things in the Crown Colonies the Americans had closed all the opium-dens in the Philippine Islands, and hundreds of the wretched victims of the opium traffic were leaving the Philippines and arriving in Hong Kong and the Strait Settlements to swell the number of undesirables in that quarter. The Colonial Office would, he hoped, make haste and keep pace with America, as he thought that this was a matter in which we should lead. While they were grateful for what had been done, it was asked that prompt steps should be taken by the India, Colonial, and Foreign Offices, not merely to reduce the opium traffic, admirable as that might be, but to put an end to it. This was urged by every consideration of humanity. Let Great Britain wait for no one but lead the way. It was admitted that the traffic was horrible in its consequences. Therefore, let them put an end to it. It debased the mind, degraded the character, and ruined the health. It was not only a stigma and a disgrace, but a real moral danger to the British Empire. He begged to move.

*MR. THEODORE TAYLOR (Lancashire, Radcliffe.)

in seconding the Resolution said that opium was not a subject that had had a great many innings. Only once in nearly thirteen years before that night had they had a discussion on the topic. There was Sir Joseph Pease's Motion in 1895 to discuss the Report of the Royal Commission, and there was a discussion about two years ago when the House unanimously affirmed that the Indo-Chinese opium trade was morally indefensible. Much had happened in two years, but not enough. He thought one might say, however, that more had happened in the last two years than in the preceding eleven years, and he was not sure that the Resolution passed two years ago had not had something to do with quickening the pace of opium reform throughout the world, although they knew that there were already the beginnings of a reform movement in China, and opinion was ripening, not only in China, but in other countries. The present Motion welcomed the action of the Government in diminishing the sale of opium for export, and thus responding to the action of the Chinese Government in their arrangements for the suppression of the consumption of the drug in that empire. He laid stress on the word "suppression," and in seconding the Motion he desired to lay down in the most explicit manner possible the proposition that nothing less than complete suppression of the consumption of opium in the British Empire would satisfy those who had studied the question. When he said suppression he did not include the medical use of the drug. There was a question he would like to ask the Secretary for Foreign Affairs. So far as he could make out from the correspondence, the ten years during which they had tentatively and hypothetically agreed to assist the Chinese Government in suppressing the consumption of the drug by diminishing the sale at Calcutta, commenced, he presumed, with 1908.


said that was so.


said that although it had taken two years to do that it was not entirely the fault of the Government, and he thanked them for having made the tentative three years agreement which was, at all events, definite. It looked a long time, ten years in which to continue a traffic which the House had declared to be morally indefensible, and he must say that if he did not know a good deal about the difficulties, both in India and in China, of this question, he would be more impatient with the Government than he was. He had lately visited China practically for the purpose of studying this question. He enjoyed considerable advantages, having communications with the British Minister and Consuls, with merchants and missionaries. He made it his business to study the question on the spot, and he had come to the conclusion that the movement there was not a mere farce. All the best elements in China were resolved to put an end to the traffic. It was not merely an edict of the Government, but the reform had in it all the elements of a great national movement. Scenes of enthusiasm such as had been alluded to by his hon. friend, he could recite, if necessary, by the score. Only that day he had had put in his hand a newspaper from Fuchan of last month describing the sixth of a great series of public bonfires of opium pipes and utensils amid great public rejoicing in the City of Fuchan. He really believed that China was changing in many ways. He was in Peking and he saw the ruins of their Examination Hall of 10,000 cells, in which students used to sit for examination for Government situations. Since the Boxer trouble this hall had been in ruins. That was an emblem of the state of things in China. The old system of Civil Service examination was in ruins. The country was changing. It had been often said that China never would change. The books that he used to read years ago were entitled the "Break-up of China," "China in Decay," and "China in Convulsion." The titles of books to-day must be "China in Evolution," and "China in Reformation." Chinese educational methods were changing. She had now 200 newspapers, everyone of them an anti-opium journal. Although there were few railways, yet railways were very popular. There was a modern spirit of inquiry and of progress. Above all, there was a real resolve on the part of the people that they would be strong. He remembered reading in the Report of the American Philippines Commission made four years ago (an important document) these words— In China there seemed to be neither a public opinion which could control nor a national life which welded and consolidated the people. There is no Chinese nation. There is merely a Chinese race. Already those words were absolutely out of date. There was to-day a Chinese nation, as well as a Chinese race, pulsating with new national life. China was determined to be strong and was therefore against the opium traffic. Although he was prepared to justify our Government in their somewhat tardy action of spreading the extinction of this traffic over ten years he believed that if from to-day they did not send any more opium to China, China on her Own account would endeavour to put down this traffic. He was not sure that she would not regulate it and try to make a revenue out of it, but he did not think she would. Opium farming lessened the food supply, ruined individuals, ruined families, and was ruining the nation. If anyone wished to buy curios they were told to go to families who had been ruined by opium smoking. It ruined the country. The greatest reason of all why China was against opium was not a moral reason—it was self-interest. She desired to make herself strong and realising that as an opium-smoking nation she was weak, in her desire to have a strong Army she knew she ought not to have opium. The one Viceroy who had created a strong Army would not allow opium-smoking, and had cut off a few heads of those found illicitly smoking. Not only in China itself, but in the Straits Settlements, South Africa, Vancouver and Australia the national and anti-opium feeling was growing among the Chinese. In New South Wales they had asked Parliament to put down the opium traffic. In Vancouver the Chinese presented a petition only last month asking the Government to put an end to opium smoking there. In South Africa only last month in co-operation with the best of the Chinese a memorial was presented to the Transvaal Colonial Secretary by Europeans there asking for the repeal of the smoking regulations of the Colony of the Transvaal. Three years ago opium-smoking was forbidden in the Transvaal, but because the Chinese in the mines desired to have it the Government decreed that a man should have 2 lbs. a month if he could find a doctor to certify that he might have it. That gave an opportunity for five men living in one house to have 10 lbs. a month, and opened the door to a great deal of illicit smoking. He regretted to say that among the regular smokers were thirty white men, six white women, and many people of colour. No wonder the people desired to stop the traffic. With regard to Shanghai it was very unpleasant for Members of that House to speak critically of their fellow-countrymen residing abroad, and he wished to be quite just to the municipality of Shanghai, but the Chinese failed to appreciate the difference between British citizens living at home, and those living in Shanghai. In Shanghai there were three towns, viz., the old town now, without an opium-den in it, the French Settlement, and the International Settlement with about sixteen different Consulates, which no doubt made it a little difficult for our Foreign Office to deal with. In the old town under Chinese rule 700 dens were closed last June, and although no compensation was given, the native Governor smoothed things over as well as he could by sending those employed in them back into the country who had come there from, and opening industrial institutions for others who had been employed in the dens. The municipality of the foreign settlement through its chairman expressed "its sincere sympathy" with the efforts of the Chinese to put down the traffic, but did not live up to those sentiments, and only at last from the pressure of our own Government had they given notice to close one-quarter of the opium-dens in the Settlement, and proposed then to "watch with care and deep interest the next move on the part of the Chinese." He protested against such a course. It was not fair to the Chinese. The municipality said their policy was totally to suppress the dens in two years, but when an Amendment was moved that they should be closed by the end of 1909 they refused to accept it. In point of fact, they had not yet committed themselves to close more than a quarter of the dens in the foreign settlement. He thought they could have gone much further without any damage to British interests and with great assistance to the Chinese themselves in their endeavour to put an end to the traffic. In Hong Kong nothing had been attempted, nothing done. In the autumn of 1906, within a few months of the Resolution in that House condemning the traffic as "morally indefensible," the Christian missionaries and ministers there drew up a Memorial to the Governor asking the Government "to check and not to encourage the traffic" and condemned the farming system. They said "the farmer must get his money back, and therefore push the use of opium to its farthest extent." Nothing was done. The Government revenue from consumption of opium in Hong Kong had I rapidly increased. In 1857 it was 14,776 dollars. In 1897 it was 286,000 dollars. In the three years, 1898–1900 the average was 367,222 dollars, for 1901–3,729,000; and for 1904–6, 2,008,000. That showed an average of over 30 dollars per man per year which the Government got from it, and allowing 25 per cent. for the farmers profits and expenses it brought it up to 40 dollars per head, which was an enormous sum for the Chinese coolie to pay out of his small wages. In his opinion that was most unsatisfactory. The opium-farming system was bad everywhere, and it was bad in Singapore. He would give the figures. In 1867 the Straits Settlements came under the Colonial Office. There was then no revenue from opium. In 1897 the revenue from opium was 1,800,000 dollars. Then he would take the figures in periods of three years. In 1898–1900 the average annual revenue was 2,318,000 dollars. In 1901–1903 it was 3,732,000 dollars. In 1904–1906 it was 5,595,000 dollars, or over half a million stifling. There was a very strong anti-opium movement in Singapore as in other parts of the world where the Chinese were. He heartily welcomed the new Under-Secretary in whom he had so much confidence, believing that he would look after the public interest as well as the interests of the natives and our Colonies. He believed that the hon. Gentleman would fulfil the great trust reposed in him, and would regard the Government as trustees of these people. He might express his gratitude to the Colonial Office for one small mercy, a very small one. He wished to ask the hon. Gentleman when he expected that the Strait's Opium Commission's Report would be issued. Some of them went to the Colonial Office last year and urged that something should be done in the Straits Settlements and Hong Kong. When he got to the Straits Settlements last December, he was glad to find that the Opium Commission was already at work, and he believed that they concluded their sittings in January or February of this year. He thought, therefore, that they ought to have that Report very soon, because if they did not have it soon, there would be the Estimates framed for another year on the old basis, and they should not have the opportunity of having the improvement which they wanted. The Japanese knew their own interest, because they were sternly penalising the use of opium in the interests of their own subjects. When he was there last October it was very interesting to him to find that the Japanese Government were strictly carrying out the anti-opium laws, which prescribed three years imprisonment with or without hard labour if a man smoked opium; five years imprisonment with or without hard labour if a man sold a pipe to smoke opium; and seven years imprisonment with or without hard labour if a man sold opium to smoke. While there he had seen paragraphs in Japanese newspapers recording punishments inflicted on men who were imprisoned for a year or two years—what for? For smoking opium in their own homes, so sternly were the Japanese putting the evil down. He regretted greatly, however, to see that the temptation to make revenue was affecting them. Gold was the real Yellow Peril. The Yellow peril to us and to all those countries where the people smoked opium was the temptation to make revenue. He regretted very much to say that our Oriental ally, while sternly suppressing the opium traffic among her own subjects and in her own country, in Formosa was allowing opium-smoking to spring up, and also in Korea. But we really could not blame her. How could we have the impudence to reproach Japan for allowing opium-smoking in Formosa and in Korea, while we were carrying on the same thing in our Crown Colonies? How could we find it in our hearts and consciences to blame her so long as we in our own corner of China, Hong Kong, were raising millions of dollars from this opium traffic? It was no use giving any more evidence that opium-smoking was bad, because he supposed that they were all agreed about it. The Chinese were issuing one edict after another, and those edicts were being largely carried out. It was, he thought, the second edict which said that in China 30 or 40 per cent of the people smoked opium. What did that mean? It meant that 150,000,000 people were smoking opium in China. China was going to be one of the great Powers of the world. When he was there he was deeply impressed by her natural resources, and by the physical and moral possibilities of the people of China. He believed that some day or other China would achieve her purpose and become one of the great Powers of the world, and she would not forget then how we treated her when she was weak. If the newspapers had given us the truth, our Government had just made an agreement with Siam for the abolition of our extra territorial jurisdiction there.


There is no agreement as yet. The matter is still under consideration.


At all events it seemed that such a thing might be possible in the near future, and Japan with our assistance had already secured it. Could we put our extra territorial jurisdiction in China to a worse use than protecting this wretched traffic which the Chinese were trying to suppress? And could we take any course more damaging to our moral claim to the continuance of that jurisdiction? Was it to our interest that we should be poisoning the people of China and ruining them, for that was what it really meant? Was it to our interest that we should be making revenue out of their ruin? Was it to our interest that we should hinder the young men in China who were trying to effect reforms in that country, by providing opium dens for her people who came over the line into Hong- Kong, knowing that in nearly all the great cities of China the opium-dens were shut up? Was it to our interest that the Chinese people when they came to the Straits Settlements should find open there the opium den that was closed in China? We ought, as His Majesty's Government had already said in the correspondence, to take the lead in this matter and not follow; and he was seconding this Motion, not because he wanted to criticise harshly His Majesty's Government, but, because he felt that public opinion at least, would justify them in taking very strong measures as quickly as possible. Not only should they help China to get rid of the opium curse in her own country, but they should banish it for ever from the whole territory of the British Empire.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House, having regard to its Resolution unanimously adopted on 30th May, 1906, that the Indo-Chinese opium trade is morally indefensible, welcomes the act ion of His Majesty's Government in diminishing he sale of opium for export, and thus responding to the action of the Chinese Government in their arrangements for the suppression of the consumption of the drug in that Empire; and this House also urges His Majesty's Government to take steps to bring to a speedy close the system of licensing opium-dens now prevailing in some of our Crown Colonies, more particularly Hong Kong, the Straits Settlements, and Ceylon."—(Mr. W. Johnson.)


It may be a convenience to the House if I reply at once to the able speeches made by my two hon. friends behind me on the colonial aspect of the question, partly because the Colonial Office has been told to-night that it is the principal offender, and also because I understand that my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs will reply on the whole question at a later period of the evening. I confess it is with some anxiety that I address the House for the first time from this box. My right hon. friend Mr. Churchill had such rare gifts of lucid exposition and eloquent phrase which I cannot hope to follow, and I see before me the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, whose knowledge of colonial matters always makes us listen to him with respect even when we differ from him most. But my task is easier to-night than it might have been, because, as I hope it may be the case in an increasing degree in all colonial matters, this is no matter of party politics. Both parties are committed to the view that we must do what we can to abate what is a real evil. If it be supposed by anybody that there is any section of the House opposed to what one may call the anti-opium view, I will only recall that, while many hon. Members on this side have taken a strenuous part in bringing this matter before the House, I think it may truly be said that the right hon. Gentleman who sits opposite, the Member for the Honiton Division of Devonshire, for many years has been the protagonist in this cause. May I say at once that the Government are prepared to accept this Motion, and they are prepared to accept it because they consider the time has come to take a decisive step forward in this matter? That being our position, the issue is slightly altered. Instead of having to defend ourselves from a charge of laxity, we must defend ourselves for the action we propose to take. I would only refer to the speech of my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for India, Lord Morley, who near a year ago said— Whatever our attempts give us, or fail to give us, do not let us fall behind Japan or China, both of whom have taken decisive steps in this matter. Mr. Churchill on behalf of the Colonial Office said— We can only say that Lord Elgin will still watch every opportunity that may occur to bring the regulations of our Colonies and dependencies still more in harmony with what is the overwhelming opinion of this House and more in harmony with what is our plain duty as a great civilising power. The Government are bound to act by their previous declarations, and the time is now ripe for them to act. If one word more can be said in justification of the action we propose to take I would recall striking facts about China and Japan. Those two far Eastern Powers know all about opium. Japan has prohibited opium with such stringent laws that I venture to quote two of them. Article 159 lays down that— Any manufacturing or having for sale or growing opium in any form shall be punished with penal servitude not exceeding seven years. Further, Article 162 lays down that— Any person eating or smoking opium shall be punished with penal servitude not exceeding three years. That is discouraging the use of opium with a vengeance. If Japan has found it necessary to make and enforce such a law, I think it is a conclusive proof that opium smoking and eating is in the long run well-nigh fatal to the well-being of the race. Therefore, it becomes our duty to take such steps as may be possible not only to give an example to China and to give China assistance in the task she has set herself, but also—and this is the point on which the Colonial Office has been, rightly to some extent, censured—to save our own fellow-subjects from the evils of a drug which may have such dire results. In justification of the action we propose to take we have evidence from all sources in the Colonial Office, notably from Sir Henry McCallum, the Governor of Ceylon, showing that whatever the evil results to the Chinese people may be of opium-smoking, experience shows that the evil results on the brown races other than Chinese are far greater. Now may I come to the definite points raised in this Motion, which, as I say the Government are willing and glad to accept? There are three places mentioned in it—the Straits Settlements and the Federated Malay States, which I take together, Hong Kong and Ceylon. In the Straits Settlements and Federated Malay States I am unable to give so definite a reply as in the other two cases, and for the reason that has been referred to, that a Commission has been appointed and is at work. It has nearly concluded its labours, and we expect a Report early in the autumn. I agree that it should be expedited, and everything that can be done will be done at home and abroad to expedite it. On that Report we propose to take action. Of course, my hon. friend may say that we have proposed to take action very often, and very little indeed has followed, but I shall be able to show from the action which will be taken in the case of Ceylon, where a similar Commission has been sitting, that we have every reason to believe definite action will follow. Of course, it is difficult to act rapidly in the Federated Malay States and in the Straits Settlements, for there one-half of the revenue is derived from this monopoly. My hon. friend the Member for Nuneaton, in his able opening speech, urged us to reflect that morals were of more importance than money. Of course, I agree with him. But when it is our own morals and other people's money, that makes a difference; and although I fully agree with him that in this matter we must see that what is an evil thing is ultimately eradicated, he will, I hope, agree with me that we cannot do it all at once. So that although we have not yet got this Report, although I am able to state we will take action, he will, I trust, not be disappointed if it is not sudden action, in view of the difficulty of rearranging revenue, which to the extent of about a half—a deplorable fact, but no less a fact—has been raised in the Straits Settlements from this source. Fortunately, in the Federated Malay States the case is not quite so difficult. There, indeed, the amount raised is from one-fifth to one-ninth of the total revenue. There eye hope the process may, if possible, be a little quicker; but in any case I can promise that action shall be taken, and action which shall lead with certainty in the direction of the ultimate extinction of the abuse of opium. What I wish to emphasise is that hitherto we have, as has been rightly stated, made no progress. There has been a road open to us to march along—a road towards the ending of this system. To-night we definitely decide to take that road. Now I come to the other two cases, where I am glad to say I am able to give a more specific reply. In the matter of Hong Kong, the Secretary of State has decided to abolish all opium-dens. I have here a telegram which was despatched yesterday by the Government to the Governor of Hong Kong— His Majesty's Government have decided that steps must be taken to close opium-dens in Hong Kong, as they recognise that it is essential in dealing with the opium question in Hong Kong that we must act up to the standard set by the Chinese Government. That is decisive action. Of course, there will be difficulties there also owing to the revenue derived, not from the opium-dens,—that is a very small matter—but from the opium as a whole and also from vested interests. But they will be dealt with. That telegram stands, and my hon. friend can rest assured that in the matter of Hong Kong the Government will not recede from the expression of that part of the telegram, that as well as abolishing the opium-dens as soon as may be, they realise that they must act up to the standard set by China in this matter. Finally, I come to Ceylon, where, again, I am able to give a more precise answer. There also, as in the case of the Straits Settlements and the Federated Malay States, a Commission has been sitting, but in this case the Commission has concluded its labours, and we have the Report. I was asked by my hon. friend whether I would lay the Report. I understand that it will be laid. The persons appointed were the principal medical officer, Dr. Perry, and three unofficial members of the Legislative Council. This Commission was requested to inquire into the whole matter of opium in Ceylon and their recommendations are drastic. They recommend that the present system of licensing opium-houses be abandoned; that all opium-shops be closed on the expiration of existing licences; that the importation, distribution, and sale of the crude drug be made a Government monopoly; that for every opium-shop closed the nearest Government dispensary be made available for the distribution of the drug to all habitual users of the same who may come forward to register their names for a certain quantity periodically to be given out, to be paid for in cash, and suitable remuneration to be given to the dispensers for the extra work; that the use of the drug except for medical purposes should be entirely prohibited after a definite period; and that a system of careful inspection be introduced by the appointment of special officers for the purpose. On that, the Governor has written a most interesting despatch. He points out that except the last member all the others were known to hold more or less strong views on this opium question on the side advocated by my hon. friend, adverse to the free consumption of opium, and he therefore points out that it rendered the Committee's Report more or less a foregone conclusion. He points out that there is not much justification for the grave alarm which old and experienced practitioners hold, but, on the other hand—and this is what I particularly wish to put before the House in justification of the strong action we now propose to take—"it is generally admitted"—these are his words, and I have read the previous sentence to show that he is quite unprejudiced and impartial— It is generally admitted by those who have personal and extended experience of opium consumption among native races that while the vast majority of Chinese can consume opium constantly without any very marked ill effects and without indulging to excess, the opium habit almost invariably leads to overindulgence and to physical and moral injury if the consumer belongs to one of the brown races. These are our fellow-subjects, therefore it is a necessity that action should be taken. On this Report, which I have read, I am glad to say the Governor makes these recommendations to the Secretary of State. He says in effect— Subject to the Secretary of State's approval I propose to accept all the recommendations and to put them in force except the fifth. The fifth recommendation, which is prohibition after a definite time, he is not prepared to express an opinion upon at the present moment, and in that I need hardly say I think most reasonable men would agree with him, seeing that the other five will govern so much of the decision which will be taken as to the time. After experience of the proposed system, advice front medical authorities as to how the other five have worked, will be obtained, and then it will be considered. Even that is not rejected. It is left over for consideration. But the whole of the remaining five recommendations are recommended to the Secretary of State for acceptance, and the Secretary of State is telegraphing to the Governor that he accepts his proposals. This means an end of all opium-dens and opium-shops, as we know them, in Ceylon. This means that in Ceylon a beginning has been made of putting an end altogether to the whole system. The Report of the Commission, the Report of the Governor himself is a conclusive proof that we cannot allow in Ceylon this traffic to go on, and from what I have been able to tell the House they will see that in Hong Kong the same state of things obtains, and from the pledge I have been able to give the House, they will understand that in the Straits Settlements, and in the Federated Malay States, there also action of this decisive kind will be taken by His Majesty's Government. I need only say, in conclusion, I trust I have given all the information to the House that I was capable of giving on the matter. I think in this step forward the Government are fully justified, and in taking the steps they have done, they will not only free our own fellow-subjects from what is a great peril, but they will be able to co-operate by their example with hundreds of millions of people in China in their stupendous task, the regeneration of the people.

MR. LYTTELTON (St. George's,) Hanover Square

I understand it will be to the general convenience of the House that the very few observations I have to make should be made now. I understand there are still some other Members who desire to express their opinion on the Indian portions of this case, with which the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs will deal. Will the House permit me, in the first place, to express my most sincere congratulations to the Under-Secretary on occupying the distinguished place that he does? I can assure him and the House that, though we have had many controversies in the past, he is one of those of whom I can say most sincerely in Carlyle's words— We walked westward arming copiously, except in opinion not differing. That has a peculiar applicability to the hon. Gentleman in the minds of my friends who sit on this side of the House. The difficulty of the position which he occupies, and of which he is already fully aware, is that in this enormous Empire of ours there are numerous differences of opinion upon a number of points, and the real difficulty of the opium question in the past has been that we have entertained strong opinions in this country with regard to the opium traffic which were totally different from the opinions which were held by those in numerous parts of the Empire, and the difficulty was greater when earnest men proposed reform in these matters, because it was we who desired, at the expense of others, to put our own ideas in force against theirs. The Under-Secretary very fittingly said that when it is a case of our morals and other people's money that makes all the difference. The hon. Member who seconded the Motion, and seconded it in a way that we all heard with great pleasure, because he is moderate and accurate in his views, furnished to the House evidence of a conclusive character that the Chinese themselves are quite genuine in the desire to exterminate this particular form of vice. As the Chinese Government are exercising a right influence in this matter—and from what the hon. Member has told us they have already brought about a considerable reform even in the last few years—it seems to me obviously impossible that we, who pride ourselves—I do not know whether we do so rightly—on a greater civilisation than the Chinese, can fall behind the Chinese Government in what they now desire. There is scarcely anything further to be said, because the Under-Secretary has assured the House that all opium-dens are to be abolished. A decree against these places has gone forth in Hong-Kong, and the Under Secretary has promised that in Ceylon there will be a move made in that direction. Therefore, I do not feel disposed, and I do not think it reasonable, to press the Government further in regard to these two Colonies. Everything that is reasonable is, I think, being done by the Government both in Ceylon and Hong-Kong. Neither would it, I think, be otherwise than premature, seeing the attitude they have taken up in regard to these two Colonies, and the evidence we now possess, that we should unduly press them, for in a few weeks, or perhaps in a few days, they will have the information in the Report of the Commission on Singapore. I do not propose to detain the House further, but I congratulate the Government and the Under-Secretary on having taken steps which seem to me to be entirely reasonable in the circumstances.

*THE EARL OF RONALDSHAY (Middlesex, Hornsey)

said he understood that the Amendment of which he had given notice was not in order, and lie was not altogether sorry, because in any case it would not have been moved in any spirit of hostility to the Motion. He had put it down to emphasise the fact that the object that we in this country and our Government had in view was to assist the Chinese Government in carrying through the great task they had set themselves. It was absolutely imperative that we should not endeavour to force the pace. The hon. Member who proposed the Motion seemed to think that we ought to do our best to stop the export trade in opium from India to China immediately, and thereby wipe out what he considered to be a stain from our national character. The hon. Member wished to rescue his own soul, and the souls of other members of the British race, from hell fire. If that was his object, it was a selfish one. It was not an altogether altruistic one. The hon. Member's object was not so much to assist the Chinese Government to put down the opium trade in their country as to preserve his own soul, and the souls of others of the British race, from future hell fire. His own object and, he believed, the object of the British Government, was to assist the Chinese †"That the House realising that an immediate abolition of the export of Indian opium to China would defeat the object which Parliament has in view—namely, that of assisting the Government of China to stamp out the vice of opium smoking—by stimulating the production of opium in China itself, is desirous of placing upon record its approval of the policy of His Majesty's Government of reducing the export from India pari passu with the reduction of production in China. Government and people in dealing with the trade, and he desired to state a few reasons why the immediate stoppage of exports from India to China would not assist them, but would have the reverse result. If they abolished the importation of opium into China immediately, the result would be to stimulate the production of opium in China itself. Although the British had nothing to do with the introduction of opium into China, he did not deny that British merchants, haying found a demand there did not hesitate to supply it from the fields of India. We were bound, therefore, to assist the Chinese Government in their efforts to deal with the question. He had studied the subject on the spot and had travelled into the vast provinces of the West of China which produced an enormously greater quantity of opium than the amount exported from India into the whole of that country. He had himself travelled 1,000 miles up the Yang-tse-Kiang river to Ichang where he had to pick his way through piles of cases of opium which had come down from Western China, and were being transported from the poppyfields there to the eastern provinces. He travelled another 1,000 miles to the province of Szchuen, and he found that it produced four times the amount of the total imports of opium from India into the whole of China. They must endeavour to assist the Chinese Government to stamp out this evil at its root, and that was the enormous production of opium in China itself. Powerful forces weighed in the scale in favour of increasing the native production. The Chinese Government derived a revenue of £7,000,000 sterling from taxation on native opium. Again, the officials who were relied on to stamp out the evil were in a large number of cases very largely interested pecuniarily in the continuation of the production in China. The Report in 1905 of the Philippine Commissioners stated that they had ascertained that— Certain of the high officials, who wrote the most eloquent letters condemnatory of the opium traffic and appealing to foreign nations to prevent its introduction into China, are believed to have steadily increased the areas under opium cultivation in their own domains. That was one of the great evils that they had to guard against. Another reason why the people of China were necessarily very much inclined to continue to produce opium in the same quantities at the present time was that the crop was very much more valuable than the ordinary cereals they might be able to produce if the ground were turned to other purposes. Sir Alexander Hosie, who had spent many years in China, and whose knowledge of these matters was unique, had given the following reason why the value of land under opium was greater than under wheat; An acre of wheat would give an average yield of grain to the value of £4 5s. 6d., and the same acre would produce raw dry opium to the value of £5 16s. 8d. That was to say, fifty acres producing opium would make a greater profit to the farmer than lie would make if they were used to produce only cereals by £77 18s. 4d. That, perhaps, did not sound a very vast sum to Englishmen's ears, but it should be remembered that in the interior of China the only coin which was current was a microscopic piece called "cash," some thousand of which went to a florin. While travelling last year in Szchuen, he had inquired into this matter among European missionaries, Chinese merchants, coolies, peasants, and farmers. In more instances than not he found that the peasants were simply jubilant at the idea of a cessation of the importation of Indian opium. What was the reason of their jubilation? It was not in the least because they were desirous of giving relief to what an emotional writer, Du Bose, described as— The desolate homes, the weeping mothers the fathers crying, 'O! Absolom, my son, my son,' the degraded wives, the ragged children, the starving households, the fiendish men, the wretched women, the poor suffering sons and daughters of sorrow. It was because they saw the prospect of administering to these people in the future an amount of opium one-tenth greater than they were able to do at the present time, and so increasing their profits from the crops there grown. These were the factors that weighed in the scale in favour of the production of opium in China. He did not deny that there were many cases in which the men of China were undoubtedly sincere in their endeavour to rid themselves of this horrible evil. In a town in Western China he came across one of the chief merchants of the place who was doing everything in his power to stop the evil. In Fuchou he came across -the case of a landowner who has absolutely prohibited the sowing of opium on his land in future. There was a salutary public opinion gradually springing up which undoubtedly was doing an immense amount of good in educating people, but this public opinion had great odds against it at the present tune, and if they were to carry out the policy advotated by the hon. Member for Nuneaton they would give a stimulus to the production of opium in Western China which no rules or regulations could possibly prevent. The statements in the White Paper bore out his contention that there was an immense difficulty in the way of putting down what, after all, was the root of the evil, the production of opium in China itself. The Report contained the following remark in regard to what was being done under the Edict of 1906— In the month of April the Consolidated Opium Tax Bureau, which is a branch of the head office in Hupei, and unquestionably an official institution, issued a Proclamation urging the cultivation of the poppy for the sake of revenue, which can only be looked upon as an extraordinary proceeding in face of the Decree. Here was another instance from the great Province of Kansu— More poppy is grown than ever, and in one district an official urged the people to plant for all they were worth, and to make hay (or opium) while the sun shone; in consequence, rive times as much was sown. One missionary sends a discouraging report that the high price of opium has induced people to take to drink, while another states that those in his neighbourhood are trying various medicinal herbs as a cure. He would read a quotation bearing on a point which he had suggested for the consideration of the House in relation to the difficulty of enforcing "the restriction of the cultivation of the poppy in order to remove the root of the evil." The comment which the Report made upon that was in the following terms— Although in isolated instances in other provinces the cultivation of the poppy has been reduced, yet it may be safely be said that in general no attention has been paid to this Article throughout the Empire, nor have the penalties for non-compliance with its provisions been imposed. He, therefore, desired to emphasise as strongly as he could that the best, indeed, the only, policy which it was possible for this country to pursue, if it was really and sincerely desirous of assisting the Chinese Government in its task, was the policy now being pursued by the Government of reducing the export of opium from India to China not immediately, but in the same proportion as, and pari passu with, the reduction of the production of opium in China itself. He hoped the House would be disposed to give the Government every credit for carrying out what they honestly believed, as he believed, to be the only satisfactory policy with regard to this question.

*MR. ELLIS (Nottinghamshire, Rushcliffe)

said the House had listened with interest to the speech of the noble Lord the Member for the Hornsey Division, though he seemed to have been rather impatient of the speech made by the mover of the Motion, who spoke with a cogency which had refreshed the hearts of many of them. The noble Lord seemed to think that they were moving too rapidly in this matter. He himself shared the sentiments of his hon. friend, and he thought the best way to assist China was to go on as fast as or possibly faster than, the Government had seen fit to do. It was with a sense of humiliation he heard his hon. friend the Under-Secretary for the Colonies say that we must at adopt the standard of China.


It was a quotation.


said he was glad to hear that his hon. friend did not quite adopt it. Having given a good deal of attention to this question for many years, he thought they had made a distinct march forward that evening. He gathered from the declaration of the Under-Secretary that opium was immediately going in Ceylon and Hong Kong, and they were in sight of the same as regards the Straits Settlements. The Resolution passed in 1906 was one of the Parliamentary landmarks in the progress of the movement, but that was not the first time the House had declared that the opium trade was morally indefensible. The present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the present Secretary of State for India, the late Prime Minister, and, he believed, the present Prime Minister went into the Lobby and declared the same thing, so far back as 1891. If they had declared twice that the thing was morally indefensible, his opinion was that they could not put au end to it too soon. Then in 1906 Mr. Morley had used the emphatic words that— To any plan for the restriction of the consumption of opium, brought forward in good faith, the Government of India and His Majesty's Government would say they would agree to it, even though it might cost us some sacrifice. The Chinese welcomed that declaration, and issued an Edict, and made certain arrangements. Could any one have the slightest doubt as to the sincerity of the Government of the Chinese Empire? The noble Lord the Member for Kensington was full of doubts and fears in 1907. The noble Lord who had just sat down had treated the House to some rather belated extracts from the Report of 1904. But what was going on then was not going on in China now. There was a most interesting Report in the White Paper sent over by Sir John Jordan. The Report therein from the Consular Legation, after careful inquiry stated that although it was too early to expect any definite result, what had been hitherto obtained showed that the task that the Government had undertaken could be fulfilled. That was the opinion of no anti-opium faddist, but of our authorities in China. Again, Sir Ernest Satow, to whom he wished to pay a tribute of respect as a great diplomatist, always took a most favourable view of that Chinese aspect of the matter. That opinion was supported by Dr. Morrison, the correspondent of The Times, whose distinguished services they all acknowledged. He would not dwell now on that most remarkable proposal of the United States Government that there should be art International Conference on the subject. He hoped that his right hon. friend, the Foreign Secretary, would inform the House how that proposal stood at the present moment. His trust was that the British Government would not only second the United States but assist them in all possible ways to bring about that which there was ample evidence that a number of great Powers having interests in the Far East desired. The real fact was that this matter had got beyond argument; what was wanted was drastic action. He remembered when the financial element was the bugbear which stood very much in the way. Well, that had passed. One could not read the statement of Mr. Baker, the Financial Member of the Indian Viceroy's Council, without seeing that they need not fear now any difficulty in regard to the financial aspect of the question. The Viceroy himself had declared— There is no doubt that throughout the civilised world a feeling of disgust at the demoralising effect of the opium habit in excess. It is a feeling in which we cannot but share, we could not with any self-respect refuge to assist China on the ground of loss of revenue to India. He remembered the late Lord Salisbury when he was at the India Office saying that responsibility did not lie with the Government of India, but with the Cabinet. He ventured to say that the House of Commons would do what it could in the matter. He welcomed the attitude taken on the part of the Government in their last utterance as disclosed on 29th July last year and in the White Paper; but he would like to see the pace quickened, and if there was any proposal from China for shortening the period when the prohibition should come into force he thought they ought to welcome it. After all the question was a moral one. He was glad to take note that there was no opposition or thought of it from any quarter of the House, and the late Colonial Secretary had concurred in and congratulated the Government on the success of their efforts. He was quite sure that in the steps which the Government were taking they would have the overwhelming, if not the unanimous support of the House of Commons, and the earnest admiration, heart-felt sympathy, and support of the moral conscience of the people of this country.

MR. MEYSEY THOMPSON (Staffordshire, Handsworth)

said that they had been told that the Government was not going half-fast enough in this matter. He was afraid he should find himself in the unusual position of defending the present Government, but he wished to point out the great difficulties in the way of carrying out what the mover and the seconder of the Resolution proposed. The mover of the Resolution said that he wanted absolutely to prohibit the use of opium throughout the British Empire, except for medical purposes. He (Mr. Meysey Thomson) had just returned from India, and he knew the difficulties therein the way of suppressing the opium traffic. It was quite a different thing to suppress smoking opium in dens, and to prevent the eating of opium by large sections of the Indian people. They were all agreed as to the desirability of bringing the opium traffic to an end as soon as possible without doing any harm, and at any rate of putting down the opium-dens. But a large number of the people in India used opium without incurring any harm to health. Many people in India, and in this they were supported by the opinion of medical men, used opium as a valuable febrifuge. Inquiry would show that opium was most used in districts where people suffered most from fever, and if that practice was put down suddenly, a large volume of opinion would be opposed to it. There was another aspect of the question. If they tried suddenly to break the natives from the use of Opium they would induce them to take alcohol, or other drugs. He had been in one city in India where he had witnessed dreadful sights from the use of some of these substances. Cocaine did more harm than opium, and the use of hemp drove men mad. They were told that they need not discuss the financial question, but should help China to stop the use of opium which was doing so much harm. If China honestly determined to restrict the use of opium with a strong hand, and showed her bona fides, like Japan, we should give her all the help in our power. But, by taking too rapid a stride, a reaction would be caused, and greater evils would be created than now existed. He congratulated the Government on the strong action they had taken, and he hoped they would not allow themselves to be forced by well-meaning but impractical people to go faster than they thought it wise to go.

*SIR H. COTTON (Nottingham, E.)

said he did not propose to occupy the attention of the House for more than five minutes, but there was one point connected with the cultivation of opium in India which he desired to bring to the notice of the Under-Secretary for India and the House. The argument had not been pressed that evening, but he remembered that the Secretary for India two years ago did refer to it. The right hon. Gentleman then said what a serious matter it would he to the cultivators of opium if we abruptly interfered with that cultivation, and he asked how we could compensate them. The fact was that the opium cultivators had frequently, continually, year by year, protested to the authorities against this cultivation. They asked for freedom of cultivation, and to be allowed to cultivate as they liked, because they knew that it would be more profitable to raise other crops than opium which they produced under contract with the Government. There was a very large area of land under cultivation in Opium in India—some 600,000 acres or more. In consideration of the cultivation of opium, the cultivators received from the Government a sum of money somewhat exceeding a million pounds or a million and a quarter per annum. Did anyone suppose that if they were allowed freedom of choice in this large area, which it must be remembered, consisted of the very best land in the villages, their efforts would not yield a far larger profit to them than a little over a million pounds. 600,000 acres under food crops or sugar cane would yield far more than a million and a quarter. Therefore, when the argument was put forward that, in the interests of cultivators in India they must he very careful not to reduce the area of cultivation, he wished to point out that it would really be to the gain of these cultivators, and not in any way to their detriment, to reduce the area of cultivation to any extent. There was one other point he wished to mention, and that was a purely Government point. It was that as the exports of opium from India to China and elsewhere were reduced, as they were being reduced, he was glad to say, so to some extent at least the value of those exports increased. Diminishing exports were always followed by an increase in the market price at auction sales at Calcutta, and that in itself made a considerable difference to the Indian revenue, and pro tanto compensated the Government for the smaller quantity of opium exported.

SIR JOHN KENNAWAY (Devonshire, Honiton)

said he only,desired to add his expression of the very great satisfaction with which he learned of the remarkable progress which this question had made, and of the remarkable steps taken by the Government which they were able to announce, and which had been received with such great satisfaction by the House. He had been in close connection this last day or two with one who had devoted a life of nearly fifty years to service in China, Archdeacon Mollie, and some words he had used had struck him very much. The Archdeacon stated that as it were by an electric flash, England and China had, within the last two years, awakened almost simultaneously to the disgrace and danger of the continuation of this opium traffic. The evidence was strong that the Chinese were in earnest in the matter, but that they had a very gigantic task before them, as was shown so ably by his hon. friend who had spoken of his recent experiences. It seemed to him very clear that the Chinese were in earnest in this matter, and he agreed with his right hon. friend the ex-Colonial Secretary that England must not lag behind China, and other nations, and he welcomed most cordially the policy of the Government on this subject.

*MR. BENNETT (Oxfordshire, Woodstock)

said that of all the admirable speeches delivered that evening one which had afforded him especial pleasure was that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Rushcliffe Division. He wished that more speeches in that House might be animated by a similar spirit of earnestness in great moral questions. There was very little of the hyper-official mind about the right hon. Gentleman. There was, of course, no need of any fresh evidence to prove the "moral indefensibility" of the opium traffic carried on by the Indian Government. The evidence had been accumulating for generations; it was clear and irresistible. At Oxford they had a considerable number of Oriental students, and he had never met one of them who was not in deadly earnest in his detestation of the opium trade. In fact, the only cases in which apathy or open hostility towards anti-opium efforts was to be found were those of some Indian and Colonial officials and traders—men who lived as an extremely small minority of aliens amongst the millions of mankind afflicted by this curse. The opium question was, as had been remarked by more than one speaker that evening, simply one of morality. And in this connection he ventured to say that his Radicalism had received a somewhat, severe shock when he heard Lord Morley in 1906 declare that the revenue question stood in the way of the suppression of a trade admitted, by every section of that House, to be "morally indefensible." He had no desire to criticise unfairly the action of the Secretary of State for India, who in the past had supported the claims of oppressed nationalities, and championed unpopular causes; but after all, that was what Lord Morley's speech came to—India refused to lose £3,000,000 of revenue in order to suppress this abominable traffic. Let them contrast the utterances of a Chinese Emperor in 1844— Nothing will induce me to derive revenue from the vice and misery of my people. And that of a Chinese Ambassador in 1871— Let the revenue go! We care nothing about it. What we want is to stop the consumption of opium which is demoralising and impoverishing our people. In many speeches made at various times in that House, Ministerial and otherwise, and even in the Resolution that evening, was implied the extraordinary principle that our own moral responsibility in this matter depended in some way or other on the moral attitude taken up by China. Such a contention would not hold good for a moment. Our national morality was a matter for our own national conscience; it had nothing in the world to do with the ethics of the Chinese. The attitude of people who argued in that way was simply a confusion of mind far too common in modern times. If, for example, European troops in their conflicts with barbarous or semi-civilised peoples acted in a way contrary to the laws of civilised warfare, their actions were frequently justified on the ground that the higher morality when brought into contact with the inferior had necessarily to sink to the lower level. But, as a matter of fact, if it came to a question of China's morality in this matter of the opium traffic, he ventured to think that her ethical claims were at least as good as our own. China had in the past suffered most cruelly in her efforts to save her people from the curse of opium. Her cities had been bombarded, her unarmed people and badly armed troops slaughtered by thousands, and valuable portions of her territory forcibly taken from her in her unavailing efforts to keep from her shores the opium forced upon her by a, a Christian nation. At this moment, too, China was prepared to sacrifice—though a poor country—more than £7,000,000 of annual revenue in her anxiety to eradicate this great evil, i.e., more than double the £3,000,000 which had hither to blocked the path of reform in India. In the debate of 1906 reference had been made to the existence of the "official mind" in this matter. The "official mind," apparently, in this question of opium, was another name for the mental attitude of Indian officials and colonial ratepayers. Some recent illustrations of the working of the "official mind" in reference to the opium trade were afforded in the pages of the recent White Paper of last February. From that document they could see that the Indian Government demurred to the Chinese proposal, which involved the extinction of the import of opium in nine years, on the ground that this "would commit India to the complete suppression of an important trade." Further, the proposed dimunition of the export of opium from 71,800 chests to 60,000, and an annual decrease of 5,800 chests for three years, without any definite undertaking for subsequent years, was regarded by the "official mind" as a "substantial reduction" and the view of the Indian Government was that "such a standard of reduction ought to satisfy the Chinese Government for the present"—i.e., satisfy a country which had incurred untold sufferings in the past, and was now making almost incredible efforts in order to eradicate from her territory the use of this horrible drug. Again, the Indian Government declared that it was opposed to any increase in the present rate of duty imposed by China on imported opium. A country, that is, which taxed a great variety of imported commodities fir revenue purposes, denied the right of China to tax opium for, so to speak, a moral purpose. Let hon. Members contrast the duties levied on opium by the Chinese Government, with those levied on imported spirits in England. The Chinese duty on opium was 3s. 3d. in the £, the British duty on imported spirits was no less than £1 0s. 2d. for every £'s worth which entered our Customs. The revenue difficulty was, of course, a serious one in India, but was there no room for enough retrenchment in Indian military expenditure to replace the deficit caused by a surrender of this discreditable opium revenue? Notwithstanding the Japanese alliance and the Anglo-Russian Agreement, the military estimates of India had risen in ten years from £15,000,000 to £20,000,000. At any rate, this was not a question to be settled by Indian officials or the ratepayers of Hong Kong, Singapore, or Ceylon. He felt the greatest distrust of that imperialistic fetish called the "man on the spot" whose superior intelligence and experience was held to be paramount in deciding great questions of policy and morality. The decision on this question of the opium trade lay with us in England, the moral responsibility was ours. He hoped that they would hear that evening some pronouncement of a more hopeful character and, he ventured to add, an even higher moral level than some of those which on previous occasions had proceeded from that Table. We had a Government ready to take grave risks in its courageous attempt to alleviate the evils of the national curse of intemperance; and he ventured to suggest that, after all, the loss of £3,000,000 of revenue was hardly too great a sacrifice to rid themselves once for all of an imperial degradation. So clear an issue, involving as it did our national morality and credit, really admitted of no compromise.


I should like cordially to endorse the remark made by my hon. friend the seconder of this Resolution when lie gave to the House of Commons the credit for the progress which has been made in this question owing to the line it took in the debate two years ago and on other occasions in recent years. I think that he is justified in claiming for the consistent, strenuous, and repeated expression of opinion by the British House of Commons a real effect in making progress in the Opium question in China. But though I am prepared guardedly to follow the line he and other speakers have taken during the debate, I doubt if I shall satisfy the hon. gentleman who has just sat down, and I cannot agree with the criticisms he passed on the language used by my noble friend the Secretary of State for India two years ago, which, I think, are not justified. It is true that the promise made by my noble friend two years ago was guarded, but it was followed by a large measure of fulfilment; the words were careful, but performance has been up to the level of the words if the language was cautious, it was because, as everyone who has followed the public career of my noble friend will appreciate, he is exceedingly chary in raising expectations that he may think not easy of fulfilment. It is true he pointed out difficulties, and it is no good ignoring difficulties. It is part of the duty of a Minister to point out difficulties that cannot be ignored and which sooner or later, whether they are ignored or not, will have to be encountered. He has to point out the difficulties, and if he does not, no one else will do so, and the House will not have full information. My noble friend did point out the difficulties, but it is a wrong construction to place upon his speech to say that he pointed out the difficulties in order to plead them as excuses for nut doing anything at all. Clearly that was not his object.


said that that was not his intention.


I think I shall be in the recollection of the House in saying that the hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that the Secretary of State for India quoted official opinion in India and he criticised the speech as giving too much importance to official opinion. My noble friend stated the difficulties of the case that the House might be aware of them; but, as his action has shown (and the Under-Secretary for India can bear me out), there has been no intention on the part of the Secretary of State, of the India Office; or of officials, to plead difficulties as excuses for not doing anything. As a matter of fact, the policy of the Indian Government has been to convince the Chinese Government that they are in earnest in this matter by proceeding with large instalments of reductions in exports. Now, I go to one or two questions with which the Foreign Office is specially concerned. The hon. Member who introduced the subject did not, I think, quite understand the position of the Foreign Office when he criticised the action of the Shanghai municipality, nor did he give the credit deserved to the British members for the abolition of opium-dens in the purely British settlement. In the second place, it is not possible for me to control the action that may be taken by the British settlements. They have considerable freedom of action. Even the Local Government Board at home cannot dictate to municipalities like Glasgow and Birmingham, or other great towns, in the conduct of their own affairs; and my position towards British municipalities in the East is even more vague and undefined than is that of the local government towards municipalities at home. And with regard to Shanghai, the only municipality about which criticism has been passed, I would point out that Shanghai has an international settlement as well as a British settlement; and though, no doubt, there is a large British majority on the council, this is a matter to be decided, not only by the council, but also by the ratepayers, among whom are a large number of Americans and people of other nationalities. But the municipality has promised to reduce the opium-dens by a quarter within a month or so, with a view to bringing the whole to an end in two years. My hon. friend read an extract to show that this was not decided; but my information has led me to suppose that that is the definite intention. I cannot give an absolute promise about something not within my entire control; but we have already expressed our opinion as to what, for the credit of the British, the action of the municipality should be, and I will certainly do my best to ensure that what is, at all events, a tendency shall become a definite intention and be realised in two years. Though the native dens are closed as opium-dens, the Chinese are not prohibited from selling opium. Therefore, it is unfair to contrast the action of the municipality with the action taken in the native city as if the sale of opium was prohibited altogether there. I believe it is very desirable that in the international settlement the opium-dens should come to an end, and that not only should the Chinese precept but the Chinese practice be followed. There is the Chinese point of view to be borne in mind, and the Viceroy of Nanking, the great Chinese official, has expressed his gratification at the action the Shanghai municipality has taken; so that the Chinese recognise that, though their action may not have gone as far at present as could be desired, yet they have shown a desire to help the Chinese. My hon. friend who moved the Resolution asked me about the Commission which the United States has proposed, and about the delay. It is not our Commission, but the proposal of the United States. We have asked what the date and time and place of meeting are to be, and until we have a reply from the United States it is impossible to give more information on the subject. But we have not waited for the Commission as regards any action of our own. Our action will be quite independent of whether the Commission meets soot' or late. I am glad my right hon. friend behind me called attention to the moral earnestness and high tone of my hon. friend the Under-Secretary's speech, but I think he was a little unfair in the different ways in which he treated my hon. friend the Under-Secretary and myself. He advised my hon. friend to beware of the Reports of the Commission, and not to rely too much upon them, but he besought me to do all I could to assist this Commission of the United States.


That was not a Royal Commission.


With all respect to my right hon. friend who drew this distinction which I noticed at the time, I am not sure, looking back over the experience of years, that we should not hope as much from a purely British Commission of: purely British action as from an international commission or international congress. If my right hon. friend warns us not to rely too much on Royal Commissions, I should like not to limit that warning purely to British Commissions, because I think it also applies to Commissions of all kinds, and in some cases—though I hope and trust not in this—the more persons there are concerned the more indefinite the result is likely to be. With regard, however, to this Commission which the United States has proposed, we welcome the proposal, and we will do everything in our power to assist, support, and co-operate. I am exceedingly glad the United States should have so often in matters of this kind taken a leading part in trying to promote what is an international improvement, and from their position have done so effectively. The noble Lord who spoke opposite laid stress on the fact, and I think quite rightly, that it was desirable that the diminution of consumption in China should progress alongside of the diminution of the export from India. There are, no doubt, people in China who do not wish to see the consumption of opium diminished. There are people interested in growing it, and there are people there who would hope that, by the diminution of the import of opium into China, they themselves might be able to create a monopoly and make larger profits. There are people of that sort in every country. I certainly should not like to see the opium question in China turned into a branch of Chinese tariff reform. I would much rather keep it on the present level. Though I agree that we ought not to make the shortcomings of others in any way an excuse for lowering our own standard, I think, also, it is common sense in this matter that when we are diminishing the export of opium from India to China with the object of bringing it to an end altogether, we should in everything we do help the Chinese not merely to get rid of the import, but to get rid of the consumption of opium in China itself. That has been one of the considerations borne in mind by my noble friend the Secretary for India. Progress has already been made in China. In some parts, no doubt, the decree has not had the effect which the Chinese Government and everybody hoped. China is a vast country, comparatively loosely organised, and undoubtedly in China itself the decree of the Chinese Government has not yet had the effect that it ought to have had in diminishing the growth or diminishing the consumption of opium. Considering all the circumstances, what strikes me is not the small result obtained, but the amount of good result which has been obtained in China in so short a time. Let us bear in mind the difficulties of the Chinese Government. They are enormous. They are undertaking the greatest task a Government can undertake. The most difficult task, I think, anybody can undertake is to put an end to a habit. It is hard enough for an individual. The victory of a man over himself is the hardest any man can attempt; but to attempt to put an end to a national habit in ten years is an attempt which Mr. Leach, who drew up the Report in the Blue-book, is perfectly justified in saying any European Government would probably have been unwilling to undertake. One or two hon. Members have asked whether China is in earnest. The Chinese Government and the best people in China at all events are in earnest in this matter. There is a strong party of progress, and the dominant party is undoubtedly in earnest; but no doubt there is a pro-opium party as well. It is not peculiar to China that when a Government and a party of progress tries to put down an abuse, a party, and sometimes a strong party, at once arises to defend the practice and to protect to.

LORD BALCARRES) (Lancashire, Chorley

Does the right hon. Gentleman seek to make a party question of this?


I am not doing so, but if the noble Lord chooses to put a special application upon my words he is welcome to do so. Of course, there is a sacrifice, which has been pointed out, of Indian revenue. I think the Secretary of State admitted that the position he took up was that that question was one which ought to be faced if China was in earnest in putting the evil down in China itself. Whenever you raise such a question the question of confiscation arises and that becomes a matter of debate. No doubt it is the case in China that you have two parties. I do not want to press the matter any further than this. Any Government which tries to put down an abuse will have great difficulty in doing so. The question is—there being two parties in China, an anti-opium and a pro-opium party—on which side are we to be so far as our action is concerned? Of course, if you take the point that no progress has been made you can make that an excuse for doing nothing. If you are on the side of abuse, of course it is easy to pick out the unsatisfactory points in which no progress has been made and make them an excuse for doing nothing; but, if on the other hand, you wish to help China, you can point out what satisfactory progress has already been made and make that the defence and justification—and this is the position we take up—for what we may do in the future. I should like in conclusion to give the House a quotation from a Decree issued by the Chinese Government on 24th March last, which is not included in the papers before the House. It is a somewhat remarkable Decree and recognises what the British Government has done and the difficulties the Chinese Government has to face— We have already directed by Imperial Decree that regulations should be issued under which the use of opium, both foreign and native, should be totally suppressed within the period of ten years. The British Government have now agreed to effect an annual reduction in the amount of opium exported into China, and other friendly Powers are willing to assist. This enlightened policy on their part has deeply impressed us. Under the agreement with the British Government the reduction of the export is to be continued for three years, and if it is found at the expiration of that period that China has effectively decreased the consumption and production of opium the policy of reducing the export will still be carried on. To allow these three years to slip by without taking measures for the abolition of the drug would be a poor return for the benevolent policy of a friendly Power and a deep disappointment to philanthropists of all nations. Should this opportunity be lost for ever and the disease allowed to become incurable, we should feel the deepest shame in recognising that the responsibility rested with us. I think that is a remarkable statement and all entire justification for what the British Government has done and a fair statement of the actual situation. They recognise what we have done to help in the matter and their responsibility, and it rests with them to secure the effect that they desire. The hon. Member who seconded the Resolution spoke of the future of China. I agree that it is a most interesting question, not merely from this point of view. With regard to reform in China, the question is—Are we sympathising with her or do we begrudge helping her? Our desire is that the Chinese should make progress and should be able to feel that we sympathise and help them step by step on this question. I am sure my hon. friend will feel that we have done so already, and, whatever party differences. We may have on other questions—and I am sorry if anything I said seemed to introduce party feeling into this debate—I leave them entirely to other questions and ask the House of Commons to accept this Resolution and to show that on this question it is unanimous in supporting the action the Government have taken.

Resolved, "That this House, having regard to its Resolution unanimously adopted on 30th May, 1906, that the Indo-Chinese opium trade is morally indefensible, welcomes the action of His Majesty's Government in diminishing the sale of opium for export, and thus responding to the action of the Chinese Government in their arrangements for the suppression of the consumption of the drug in that Empire; and this House also urges His Majesty's Government to take steps to bring to a speedy close the system of licensing opium dens now prevailing in some of our Crown Colonies, more particularly Hong Kong, the Straits Settlements, and Ceylon."

Adjourned at two minutes after Eleven o'clock.