HC Deb 20 December 1912 vol 45 cc1921-36

2.0 P.M.

Sir J. D. REES

The question I wish to raise is not one of policy, but has reference to the opium traffic in connection with India and China. The question is whether the British India Government or the British Government are not bound to carry out plain business and honourable pledges. I may say, by way of recital, that it was settled first of all that the opium trade in India and China should be extinguished in ten years by annual reductions, and that subsequently, in May, 1911, the extinguishing of the trade should be accelerated by the British Government, which—with its usual complacence with the funds of other people—undertook the earlier extinction of the trade upon its being proved that there was a contemporary reduction in China. When the revolution took place in China the new Government in that country proved itself absolutely unable to carry out the pledge to extinguish the opium trade in China. Every opium-producing province in China was immediately aflame with the poppy. The Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs the other day, when I put a question to him, took the point that it was a question of time; but it is not a matter of any doubt that a very large opium crop was har-Tested throughout China in the spring and summer of last year. The Chinese Government are either unwilling or unable to extinguish the growth of the poppy in China, and in spite of all reports that are made in regard to this traffic, and of humanitarian considerations, the Chinese are proceeding with the planting of the poppy. As I said, the whole poppy producing provinces are now aflame with it, and the Chinese Government, in face of the express stipulations prevent the sale of the opium imported from India to Shanghai, and is most improperly growing opium to supply the wants of its own people.

The net result of this policy is that the people in the Far East are driven to take cocaine and morphia, which are far more noxious drugs, supplied to them by Europeans, instead of indulging, very often to a regrettable excess I admit, in opium. Another result is that while the Indian taxpayer is being deprived of the revenue which is annually received from opium, nobody is any better off, and trade is merely transferred from British to other hands. That is so usual a result of humanitarian diplomacy, agitation and legislation, that it would not in itself call for any particular notice except that it has this result, that at the present moment the growers of opium, to the extent of nearly £10,000,000 sterling—a very considerable matter—are not only pursuing a lawful trade, but, under express stipulations with Great Britain, have exported this amount of opium from India to Shanghai. They are being kept out of their rights, and while opium is being bottled up in Shanghai, the Chinese are growing and using, and always will grow and use, opium, and to think that you will cut off that vast population from the use of it is really a large order. I am not dealing with the humanitarian or altruistic attitude in this matter, but I submit that certain arrangements have been made which are not being carried out, yet we, the British, with our usual folly, carry out an agreement in order to please certain interests, powerful interests I dare say, to our own detriment, and with immediate wrong to the British India merchant—an arrangement at which the Chinese are snapping their fingers. It appears to me to be a fair statement of the case, that either the export of opium to China should be suppressed of that the British Government should brine to bear the necessary pressure upon the Government of China to carry out their pledges.

I have frequently addressed to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs questions on the subject, and I realise the difficulties under which he labours, and he has as a strong supporter in myself, I may say, as in any Member on the opposite side of the House, and a great deal stronger than a large number of those who sit behind him. At the same time, I wish to say, without taking up the Civis Romanus sum attitude so familiar long ago to the Foreign Office, that the British nation is based on trade, and you must take effective steps to see that British merchants are not placed at a disadvantage by treaties made for humanitarian or other reasons, and that they have perfect justice done to them. The Government of India have received a large sum of money in the extra prices lately realised. I submit that the hon. Gentleman and his Friends are not entitled to set that off in any way as money of the British taxpayer. If it is believed that the Indian revenue can do without this money, I would point out that it is extremely easy to be generous at the expense of other people; and I, as an old Indian official, would remind those who take that view that it would be as difficult as dangerous to attempt to increase the number of sources of revenue in India, in accelerating the extinction of the opium trade, and omitting to alleviate the hardships which occur incidentally, as in the case of the stocks at Shanghai. Though hon. Members opposite condemn the opium traffic, I would point out that opium rightly used is an extremely beneficial drug, and is a necessary medicine, used to a very great extent for very proper purposes all over India and the East, and it has never had proper recognition in this House, because of the prejudiced manner in which it is always treated.

The Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs told me in August that His Majesty's Ministers had made repeated protests against the restrictions imposed on the trade in Indian opium, and further steps would be taken if necessary. When necessary, if not now? The House is now about to rise for Christmas, and the position is not better but absolutely worse. I realise the Foreign Secretary's difficulty, but, in common justice, some action ought to be taken. On another occasion he told me repeated assurances were received from China as regards the restriction of smoking and so on, and which I am afraid I do not seriously regard, and that China meant to carry out their policy and restrict the cultivation. On another occasion, also, I was informed that this particular point was under consideration, but nothing is done. I want to know what the Foreign Office are prepared to do. I wish to quote a word or two from the Finance Minister in India, Sir Guy Fleetwood Wilson, well known to be not only an able financier, but a man set against cant and hypocrisy, or anything covering up the real motives under any specious or high-sounding names. I find that that gentleman said in his own Council:— We cannot consent, under the guise of reform, that revenue shall be transferred from India to China without in any way benefiting China. I thoroughly agree with that if we were benefiting the people of China, but I say let those who ask it pay for it out of their own pockets, and do not take it out of the coolie, who is too poor to have a pocket and has only a rag around him, and cannot afford to pay any more taxes. I do protest against the assumption, the easy assumption, which the hon. Gentleman opposite me makes, that it is quite easy to settle this matter in the Indian revenues. It is not easy, but it is extremely difficult, and I refer to the words of Sir Fleetwood Wilson. I think a solution of the difficulty, which would be fair and reasonable, would be, if the Foreign Office would bring pressure to bear on the Chinese Government, to get them to take over those stocks in China, which have accumulated owing to their failure to carry out their engagements. Had China not prevented the sale, those would not have been sold, and our countrymen would have been out of pocket. Therefore I submit it would be quite a proper thing for China to take them over. The only difficulty is that China cannot afford to do so, but neither can our countrymen afford to be out of pocket. However difficult and unpalatable it may be, I do urge that the Foreign Office ought to take some steps to do justice to our people. China under the revised Regulations of 1911 cannot refuse the right to sell opium and to trade in it under existing circumstances. It is true that a predecessor of Sir Fleetwood Wilson's professed in the Council there to think that this matter could easily be arranged, but subsequent experience has proved that he was wrong, and there can be no doubt that Sir Fleetwood Wilson is correct in what he said. The Government of China, as I think the Foreign Secretary himself and hon. Gentlemen opposite will admit, at present is notoriously either unable or unwilling, and if we are to be satisfied with the answer that further steps are going to be taken, this matter will go on from day to day and from month to month, and from year to year, and our innocent fellow countrymen will probably be ruined.

I think myself that the Under-Secretary of State for India should himself be here to-day and not his representative at the War Office. The affairs of India are of sufficient importance to require the presence of the Under-Secretary on the Treasury Bench, whenever matters like this are brought before the House. It is no answer to say he is usefully occupied in visiting India. He may be, but he would be more usefully occupied here, and I make my protest again against his absence on an occasion like this, and against the fact that there is no one here, and indeed no one in this country except the Secretary of State, who is in another place, to answer a matter like this when it is brought forward. Although there is no Indian Minister present I believe that the representative from the War Office of the India Office is coming later, and I cannot refrain from referring to another matter which I hope will be reported to him. I had occasion on several occasions in this House to raise objections, which indeed were strongly backed in India, to the appointment to the Public Services Commission of the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald). I am aware that no Commission is complete in this country without that hon. Member and that he must be a member of every Commission, but I wish to say, whatever may be behind that induces the Government to take that view, it has no validity with people in India, and they think you might search the whole House of Commons before you could find any one Member in any one quarter who had taken pains to make himself thoroughly unfit for that office like the hon. Member for Leicester. As he is absent, I do not propose to refer at any greater length to that, but I want to deal with statements of a body in India called the Indian Civil Servants' Association. This Commission has gone out to renew, reconstitute, and reform the existing public services. The Indian Civil Servants' Association met quite recently, and I received this document by the last post from India from the members of the association, and I will give it to the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs. At a meeting of that association the members present, while— disclaiming any idea of arrogating to themselves the right to dictate to the Government as to the composition of the Public Services Commission, desired to enter a respectful but an emphatic protest against the inclusion in the Commission of Mr. Ramsay Macdonald, on the ground that he has already disclosed bias against the serviees. I heartily agree that the hon. Gentleman has no knowledge of India and its services, and has displayed a bias against the latter and ignorance concerning the former which disqualify him for such an appointment. They feel that the bias Mr. Macdonald has shown prevents him from approaching many of the subjects which must come before the Commission— I would mend that by saying "all"— with that open mind and absence of prejudice which alone can command the confidence of the Services. The composition of this Commission has given great dissatisfaction in India. A Commission dealt with a similar subject before, to not one of whom anywhere in the Indian Empire could any objection be taken. Serious objection is taken to this Commission, which seems to have a political, rather than an administrative complexion. These members of the Indian Civil Servants' Association continue:— The members present also feel that in view of the great difference in the problems of administration that arise in Northern and in Southern India the absence from the Commission of any member of the service representing any of the Northern Provinces, Bombay or Bengal, must impair the value of the conclusions of the Commission. They do not consider that this defect will be removed by the co-option of members who are not empowered to sign the lteport or to append their views thereto. I wish to associate myself with what is recorded in this Paper, and I would like the representative of the India Office to refer to the matter when he comes in. I understand that another Indian question is to be raised by the hon. Member for Somerset (Mr. King). I do not intend to enter into the merits, but there has been an important development of the question of the building of the new capital. I am not talking of the policy, but of how that capital should be built. I must refer to the question, as I was chairman of the meeting at which a paper was read on the subject by Sir Bradford Leslie. This very eminent engineer, architect, and sanitarian, whose works speak for him all over India, and whose capacity is equalled only by his modesty, has made certain proposals on this subject, in which he has co-ordinated all the requirements of the situation from the administrative, sanitary, and economic points of view. I want the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, through his colleague the Under-Secretary of State for War and all the circumlocution that this involves, gradually to approach the India Office and urge the Secretary of State not to take into account the opinions of individuals who too often are led away by their own views and by what they have read on a particular subject—I am not now referring to the hon. Member for Somerset—but to take into account the lecture of Sir Bradford Leslie, delivered before a very large and distinguished company of gentlemen peculiarly well qualified to express opinions upon this subject, every one of whom thoroughly agree that it would be no satisfactory disposal of the matter to say that it is an impracticable scheme, but that Anglo-Indian and Indian public opinion will expect the Secretary of State to give the suggestions of this eminent engineer that full and careful consideration which they so thoroughly deserve. In so doing he will be repaid by the gratitude which will be evinced for such action by all those who are interested—of whom I indeed am one—in making this new capital, which I wish had never to be made, as good a capital as possible for the people of India, at as cheap a rate for the Indian taxpayer as it can possibly be accomplished.


I congratulate the hon. Member opposite (Sir J. D. Rees) on his acquisition of knowledge. It has taken him a good while to find out the facts, but I am glad that he acknowledges that the revenue argument from the Indian point of view is absolutely gone. I am interested to observe also that the hon. Member deprecates raising the general question of the opium policy. I should think that he knows the weakness of it, for this House has twice unanimously affirmed that the traffic is morally indefensible. The hon. Member said that the new Government in China was either unable or unwilling to carry out its undertaking—he did not care a pin which it was.

Sir J. D. REES

I did not say that I did not care. I said that it was immaterial to my argument, but I should prefer that they were virtuous.


Then I misunderstood the hon. Member. There is a great principle at the bottom of this matter. If the Government were unwilling and able they would be to blame. But, so far from it being a fact that China is now aflame with poppy growing in every province, it is absolutely contrary to the fact. The hon. Member opposite cannot be omniscient on every topic. Some of us specialise. I specialise in this matter, and I have in my hand newspaper cuttings showing that in October and November of this year poppy production as well as smoking was being rigorously suppressed.

Sir J. D. REES

I shall have much pleasure in producing an equal number of extracts on the other side.


I wish the hon. Gentleman had produced his corroboration when he made his statement, as it is extremely wide of the truth. I state without hesitation that there is being produced in China to-day not 50 per cent, of the opium that there was five or six years ago. I believe that that is very much understated, my own conviction being that not 30 per cent, of the amount is being produced. Since the arrangement was made in 1907 between our Government as representing India and the Government of China that there should be a pari passu reduction for the next nine years, and that the sending of opium to China should entirely cease after 1916, we have performed our part of the bargain, and every year less opium has been sold to China than before. But China herself, not being able to carry out under the late Government what might be called half-measures, reduced the growth of the poppy to the extent of 70 per cent, or 80 per cent., at a great loss of revenue and against the grain of the people who wanted to make money out of it; so that two years ago, before the revohraon, China was growing only 20 per cent, or 30 per cent, of the amount she had produced before. Are we, then, to be told to-day that it is a matter of no importance, in considering the right or wrong of this matter—because it is a matter of right or wrong—whether it is China's ability or her good will? I cannot share the hon. Member's indifference, or apparent indifference, whether it is China's power or China's will that is lacking. The Republican Government in China is only just getting into the saddle. Our Government and everybody else have recognised the difficulty of China's enforcing in her more remote provinces the stoppage of opium poppy growing at a time when it paid the grower so much. I have a few newspaper extracts from missionaries in different parts of China, whose evidence is taken by Sir John Jordan in Pekin and by our Consuls all over China, as some of the best and most reliable they can get of what is going on all over China in regard to this and every other subject. Here is a sentence from a letter from a Scandinavian missionary at Kweihwacheng, in Shansi. He says— After the revolution the new mandarins did not come early enough to keep the farmers from sowing opium and so a great deal of poppy was planted. But as soon as the mandarins reached here it was almost all destroyed and the farmers greatly punished. We do believe next year no one will dare to plant opium. Here is a rather different story. I will read all the evidence I have. This is from a China Inland missionary at Kiemping, Anhwei, who says that the situation with regard to opium planting is very little altered so far as I can hear. A fews seem to be growing a little for their own use, and a very few with the idea of selling it. That is not so strong. Here is another from the China' Inland missionary at Nanchowling, in the province of Hunan:— Re opium growing. There is none grown in the hundred miles between here and Changteh, nor to east, north, and west, of this town, as far as our district extends. Here is another from the province of Kiangsi: — Here, in our Hsien district, is no opium crop planting. Our neighbour, Hsien district, Lotan, as I have heard from natives, has still poppy plants. They have never stopped planting. From the province of Chekiang the letter says:— The growth of opium was forbidden by the Manchu Dynasty after the Opium Agreement, and its growth was greatly reduced. Since the devolution the new Government has been more determined than ever to prevent cultivation, so that now the growth of the drug in the district is almost impossible. … The gentry of the different districts have been made to sign an agreement whereby the responsibility of opium planting is put on their shoulders. They have to see that none is planted. If any dare to disobey their orders, soldiers will be sent to enforce the law, and anyone daring to plant is liable to be shot. … Opium smoking is strictly forbidden, and anyone found out is thrown into prison and fined, or sent to sweep the streets. There is no respect to rank, and a few days ago a M.A. was caught smoking and is now in prison. Here is yet another testimony from the province of Anhwei:— The poppy has not been recultivated. There is a large amount of evidence to show, as one would have expected, that the Republican (reformed) Government in China is far more earnest in this matter than was the old Government. The head of the Government, the President, is a great force. I do not say that he is acting altogether from altruistic motives. He is acting from the point of view of making his country strong, and he was the great instigator of the anti-opium law. All the native newspapers in the country are against the traffic; possibly the only paper in favour of it is an English newspaper. The hon. Member who has just sat down has told us that the Indian taxpayer is losing, that China is growing her opium, and that the Chinese themselves are snapping their fingers. I will tell the hon. Member how the Chinese are snapping their fingers. It is not a month since the Government of the Province of Hunan cut off the heads of five of its subjects for producing that very article which the hon. Member wants us to keep on sending there. No wonder that the people in China are not able to understand why their own Government compels them to admit this article into their country and at the same time prevents their own citizens producing it. We have heard a good deal—and much is said in favour of the policy, but I am only using this by way of illustration—a great deal has been said in this and other countries—and many intelligent people believe it and are quite convinced that it is good national policy—to help the home producer by putting a duty on the article which conies into this country produced by the foreign producer so as to give a bias in favour of the home producer, even if it costs the home consumer a little more. That looks an unanswerable argument. Then I wonder what the Chinese think of the action of their own Government? What are the Chinese doing? Their Government are not encouraging the growth of opium; they are doing all they can to put it down. I say that without fear of contradiction.

They are not perhaps doing all they might to prevent their dealers buying this article, but they have certainly done all they can to prevent their own producers from producing the home article. What is the state of things in China? Let us put ourselves in the Chinaman's skin. What does this look like to him? Here he has his own Government cutting off the heads of their own people for producing an article. That is the way the home producer is protected! The business of damning the home consumer is preserved as a close monopoly for the foreign producer. Can we wonder that there has arisen a strong feeling in China? The American Anti-Opium Commission, in their Report in 1904, said there was a Chinese race, but no Chinese nation. There is a Chinese nation being born. Everybody who knows anything of the circumstances knows that this great Chinese nation, and the great power behind it, will have to be reckoned with some day. Are we treating it fairly or not? As the right hon. Gentleman rightly says, they have large stocks in Shanghai and also stocks in Hong Kong. The greater portion of the stocks are in Shanghai) which is an open port. The drug has been sent there by Indo-Chinese speculators to be sold to the Chinese.

I will admit that the Chinese Government seems to be lax in enforcing admission of opium upon its people. The hon. Member says that some of his fellow countrymen who carry on this business are going to be ruined. Telegrams I saw in the newspaper about a week ago from Bombay set forth the fact, that there was this large stock of opium in Shanghai, and that there were two alternatives. I am very glad alternatives were mentioned. They were to compel the Chinese Government to take the opium or to suspend for a time the sales of opium in India. The Indian Government should stop granting licences to grow any more of the poppy, and I would suggest that no more sales should take place for some months or so. It may be said that the Indian Government would lose. That method would help the Government out of a difficulty, and also those who have been referred to as our innocent fellow countrymen, who are carrying on this trade of selling to China this article. That would save any question of compensation. In a telegram in the "Times" last Tuesday from its Peking correspondent there is the assertion made that we must make the Chinese take the ten millions worth of opium, or we may have to pay a fine, or that the Indian Government may claim a fine, of ten millions; as ff this opium were not worth anything apart from the Chinese market. There is a very large market still continuing, I regret to say, outside China for the production of the opium of India. We have only a small stock at present in Calcutta. If we stopped the sale for a while these gentlemen would get off their stocks by degrees, and there would be no claim upon the Government for compensation. Why? Because the agreement, which the hon. Gentleman has alluded to just now, of eighteen months ago made with China, had, as one of its conditions, that if China had been able to stop the production and consumption of the native article by the end of last year we should not have been able to send them a single ounce. I am very glad to be able to quote a very high authority for what no doubt will not happen. We shall not make war upon China. In this House twenty-one years ago a Conservative Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Sir James Fergusson, used these words in an opium debate:— If the Chinese Government think proper to raise the duty to a prohibitive extent or shut out the article altogether, this country would not expend £1 in powder or shot, or lose the life of a soldier in an attempt to force the opium upon the Chinese. Things have moved forward since then. No one would believe that our Government are going to make an opium war upon China. What is the alternative? The alternative, it seems to me, is graciously (or we may have to yield the point ungraciously) to say to China, although you are under this obligation, and we have a treaty right binding you to receive this opium which is the curse of your people, we will forego that right and will not attempt to make you take this opium. Our relations of late with China have been a little bit strained, but as I happen to know the opinions of some of China's leading statesmen, I know they believe in this country to-day, but they cannot understand why we should weaken the hands of their Government by adding to their difficulties in extirpating this thing. A great act of reparation is due from this country as a whole. We have been forcing this thing upon them all these years. We have done a great wrong. True, there is a bond, but it is of the same type as the bond Shylock held. It is a bond in name and not in justice. It is a wicked bargain, not made by us to-day, and we are not obliged to enforce it. If we want to help China in its struggle to be free, if we really care for our own good name abroad, and for our moral influence amongst the nations of the world, we should at once say, as I hope the Government will, if they do believe that the Chinese are endeavouring to free themselves, that the least we can do is to take our share in freeing her from this hateful bondage.


I was as sorry as anyone else that the hon. Member was not able to raise the subject of Persia. I thought and hoped he would have been able to raise it, and I thought and hoped that hon. Members on this side of the House would take a different view of the matter from him, and would continue to discuss it, and I am bound to confess I had hoped to have an opportunity of replying in a prepared speech, and in an interesting speech, if not in a good speech, whereas I have not prepared a speech at all on the subject actually raised. Permission being barred on the question of Persia, I want to refer, before coming to such a statement as I can make about the present position in China, to one statement only in the speech of my hon. Friend who has just spoken. He suggested that the feeling of the enlightened section of the Chinese people is strongly and bitterly against us because we still try to send into China large quantities of Indian opium. I rejoice with him at the growth and development of that enlightened public opinion, but I am bound to say that if such feeling exists, I feel certain that they will understand the true position in regard to it. Surely the outstanding fact is not properly stated if you say that we are sending in large quantities of opium unless you add—and this is the leading feature of the position—that our sending in opium at all, if opium is to be stamped out in China, must come to an end automatically in 1917, and that it can be brought to an end automatically at any time before that if the Chinese Government promises to see that it is not being cultivated in their own country. I feel sure that educated Chinese opinion does understand the position in that way and realises that we have made a very definite step, and have a definite treaty under which the large importations of opium into China in a short period of years will cease, and I think that that ought to be kept in mind as one of the leading aspects in the matter.

In order to understand the present position one has to bear in mind the actual course of events. Time is the essence of this matter. No doubt last winter there was a very considerable amount of opium grown in different provinces of China, including some provinces where it was stamped out before that date. Without doubt a considerable opium crop was gathered in the summer of this year, but that can be reasonably considered as having been due to the chaotic conditions the country was in at the time owing to the revolution. Where it was not chaotic there was great unsettlement and disturbance, as to who the authorities were and what the policy would be which must inevitably follow upon the revolution. And, apart from the chaos, I believe it is true to say that the authorities of the revolution at one time were so much in need of money to see their revolution through that they selected officials, whom they put in charge of the different provinces, with a view to the amount of ready money they could provide for the revolutionary business rather than from the point of view of their future efficiency as governors, and, therefore, for some months after the revolution came to an end governors were settled in some districts, who would never have been chosen if the Government were perfectly free to choose men for those posts, without regard to the contributions toward the revolution, which they were able to make at a time when money was so much needed. Therefore, in theory, we were bound to give the new Government time, first of all, to establish order out of chaos; and secondly, in cases where they are changing their officials, time enough for the selected officials of the new authority to get into power and make their weight felt. It surely would have been utterly unfair for us looking simply at the letter of the bond, to say opium growing is increasing in China, and that that absolves us of the obligations of the Treaty which we were thereupon going to tear up. We were surely bound not to do that, and to give the new authority a reasonable time to get into the saddle and not to regard as conditions justifying us in tearing up the Treaty the fact that, in the absence of the control, which we were bound to expect during the revolution, large importations of opium had inevitably taken place.

Therefore, to consider the position now, what we must realise and know about is this is not that the fields of China were ablaze with opium some months ago, before the crops sold by the revolutionary party was gathered in, but what has been done during the last few weeks of October and November of this year, when the new crop would be planted, and if planting is now going on. We could regard the new Government as responsible for that, and by the result of our inquiries as to new planting that is attempted we must judge our policy in the future. In reply to the points made by the hon. Member for Nottingham, I am bound to state that the attempt to sell opium to China now must be regarded as more than the speculative business he seemed to suggest it was. We cannot possibly accept any obligation to force, opium into China to secure profitable markets for Indian opium growers. There is no obligation of that kind at all. In the first place, the Chinese are able to act under the Treaty and as soon as they can show that any or all of their provinces are clear, we are bound to stop importation into those provinces, or rather they are entitled to refuse importations. If by moral or by physical persuasion over their Own people, they can secure the cessation of opium smoking, and consequently a cessation of the demand for opium, then also there would be no sale for what is produced in India, and in either of those cases the Government could do nothing to secure to those merchants a successful market for what they want to send in. The speculative aspect of this sale must have been clear to those merchants as soon as the agreement of 1911 was entered into, and one cannot therefore regard their trade as being a trade for which the British Government is bound to secure a profitable sale.

I have only to go through present events so far as they are known to us with reference to the provisions of the Treaty as they now exist. It is no doubt true that provincial Governments have been putting all sorts of restrictions in the way of wholesale trade in opium at the ports which they control, and it is also true that under the Treaty they have no right whatever to do that. The provincial Governments according to the Treaty must not restrict the sale of opium, and I think undoubtedly they have been trying to restrict the wholesale trade in opium. It can be argued by the central Government that they have not yet had time to establish proper control over the provincial Governments in that matter, and the Government are bound to give that argument a certain amount of attention at any rate. In the next place there is the point that the provincial Governments, according to the Treaty, may not regulate the retail sale of opium, whereas the central Government may. There, again, you have questions which are likely to comedic and have come up, as to what is or what is not a legitimate regulation of the retail sale of this drug. It might be argued by the Chinese Government that the regulations included power to prohibit the retail sale altogether, but I could not say that that would be an argument which we could altogether accept because surely the word "regulate" means that the trade, regulated, will be allowed to continue. That is a matter on which we need more information and careful investigation is being made.

Thirdly, the point we have to find out most carefully and completely before we can finally settle our policy is the amount which has lately been grown during the autumn in the different provinces of China. The Treaty gives us the right to Inquire and to investigate, and directions have been given that that right shall be exercised, and we are awaiting for our Consuls and Ministers at Pekin to supply us with the facts of the case. Therefore I am not now able to make a full statement of the policy of the British Government on the question of opium or of the measures which will be taken to secure that the opium now being held up at Shanghai shall be taken by China. It all depends on the result of the inquiries now being made. If we find that as much planting is going on this autumn as last autumn, if we find that there has been a great deal of consumption of native opium, and a real and consistent obstruction to the sale of opium, not only by the provincial Governments but by the central Government, then the position will be an extremely serious-one, because it would be clear that the central Government are not carrying out their side of the Treaty. If we find there is no doubt that strong measures have been taken to suppress planting and the purchase and consumption of native opium, and if we find that the obstructive measures of the provincial authorities have been checked, then clearly we should not feel bound to secure for these merchants who have these stocks that favourable market and that right and profitable market which the hon. Member suggested we ought to secure. In any case, I can undertake to make a statement as to the facts as soon as we have had a reasonable time to carry these investigations out, and I can only add that the facts, so far as we have any indication of them, show that real endeavours are being made, and have been made, by the central Government and public opinion all over China to enormously restrict both the growth, consumption, and trade in this extremely harmful drug.