HL Deb 06 March 1860 vol 157 cc12-5

LORD MONTEAGLE moved an humble Address to Her Majesty for Copies of the Statement founded on detailed Reports from the several Presidencies and Districts in India, and exhibiting the moral and material Progress of India, directed to be annually prepared and laid before Parliament under 21 & 22 Vict., c. 106, s. 53; also, all Correspondence between the Government of India and the Home Government relating thereto; And also Copies of any Correspondence between the Secretary of State for India and the Government of India on the subject of the Introduction of a Government Bank and Paper Currency in India. The noble Lord said, that Parliament usually contented itself with the belief that when it had directed a certain thing to be done, compliance with its directions was sure to follow. With regard to India, at least, that was not always the case. When in 1858 the question of the government and administration of the East India Company's territories was before Parliament, it was found that extremely important provisions in the law, with reference to a three-fold selection of candidates and with reference to private patronage in the civil service, had never been put into practice—they had been allowed to remain a dead letter. So also with regard to a provision in the Act of Parliament requiring the Company to apply certain sums annually to the purposes of education. In consequence of these and other neglects he (Lord Monteagle) called the attention of the House to the subject, and proposed that, as in the Colonial Department, a blue-book relative to the administration of these matters in India should be annually laid before the House. It was then argued that the matter had better be left in the hands of the Government; he did so; and nothing had been done in the matter. In 1858 he brought the matter before Lord Stanley, the Secretary for India, and a clause was introduced ordering that annual accounts should be furnished, accompanied by statements prepared from detailed reports from each Presidency, exhibiting the moral and material progress of India. The accounts only had been given, but no detailed statement; and the accounts which ought to have been published in May last were not yet forthcoming. It was, however, added in a note to the accounts "that the statement exhibiting the moral and material progress of India had not yet been received from the Government of India." The Home Government was made aware of this in 1859, and he presumed there must be some correspondence on the question. With reference to the last part of his Motion, he learned through the public papers that there was a measure of enormous importance under discussion in India—a measure which if rightly described assumed that the Government of India were about to establish themselves in the position of bankers, issuing promissory notes payable on demand. Now, he did not say that this was an improper measure, but he could hardly imagine the case of any country, either abroad or at home, in connection with which a more important or critical question could arise for the consideration of the House than that of any Government assuming the position of a banker, and dealing in financial, pecuniary, and commercial affairs; but if that Government were a despotic Government, and if there were any case of exigency—and they knew the exigency under which the Government of India had been compelled to exist—if so easy and tempting a remedy as that of issuing a little more paper money to relieve itself from a pressing difficulty presented itself, he feared it might be too often induced to relieve itself in this way from its difficulty. It was a question calculated to create alarm and apprehension. We ought to know something of this matter, and how the matter was viewed by the mercantile communities of Calcutta and Bombay, and if such a scheme was really to be taken into the hands of Government, what were its recommendations and the plea for proposing it. It was altogether a question that called for the utmost consideration and the greatest possible care.


must be excused following the noble Lord into a defence of the East India Company against the accusations he had brought against them, seeing that they were now dead and buried. These complaints, whether well or ill-founded, had nothing to do with the form of Government, although the noble Lord bad insinuated that the same thing might arise under the new form of Government. With regard to the papers, for which the noble Lord had moved, the statistical returns had not been received at the India House. No very voluminous correspondence had taken place on the subject; but he believed that the Indian Government had been asked to produce the statement, and whenever it was produced it would be laid before Parliament. The clause in the Act was certainly vaguely worded when it referred to the "moral and material progress of the country." That was a very general topic, and he did not think that returns pursuant to such an order would have enlightened his noble Friend on the question of currency. With regard to the issue of bank notes said to be in contemplation, his right hon. Friend the Secretary for India had received a copy of a Minute issued by Mr. Wilson. He (the Duke of Argyll) believed that the construction put upon a part of that document in England was a mistaken one; but it was the wish of his right hon. Friend not to produce the Minute until he was also able to produce his own Despatch in answer to it. As soon as his right hon. Friend's reply was sent out there would be no objection to lay both before Parliament.


hoped that nobody would be sanguine enough to expect ever to see the return now asked for. In India they would not understand what was wanted; or, if they did, there would be no one to employ for the purpose. Perhaps a Report might in time be forthcoming; it would be very voluminous, and probably not worth having. He would suggest that the only practical way to obtain the voluminous mass of information would be by schedule and Act of Parliament.


thought that if things existed in India as described by the noble Earl, it argued a degree of incapacity for the new Government of India that might have been supposed to belong only to the old. It was no more impossible to make these reports upon India than it was to make these reports in connection with other colonies. All the Colonies of Great Britain, from Heligoland upwards furnished similar returns to those now asked for, showing their moral and material progress, and if they could not be procured respecting India it would be owing to the virtual re-creation of the effete and absurd Board of Directors, chosen out of almost the same body, and serving as a screen for negligence. The Colonial Minister had no difficulty in getting these reports, and he did not see why there should be any difficulty in this case. He trusted the question of paper currency was one that would be fully discussed.


It is no use sending out the order when there is no one to obey it.


said, if it were impossible to make out the return the officials ought to report to that effect, and prove it; but it was not proper that the servants of the Government should have the power of saying whether they would obey the orders of Parliament or not.


then withdrew that portion of his Motion relating to a Government Bank and Paper Currency.

Motion, as amended, agreed to.

House adjourned at a quarter-past Seven o'clock, till To-morrow, Half past Ten o'Clock.