HL Deb 03 August 1875 vol 226 cc440-3

said, that in putting the Question of which he had given Notice, there were many considerations of which he might remind his noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and which might induce him not to give his sanction to any increased expenditure out of the colonial taxation for the importation of Coolies; but not to take up the time of the House, he would limit himself to entreating his noble Friend, in case any request should be made for an increased grant for the importation of Coolies, to give the same answer that he would give if a deputation of agriculturists were to wait upon him—let them suppose from Cheshire—to ask Her Majesty's Government for a grant from the Consolidated Fund to assist them to import Irish mowers and reapers for the harvest. He begged to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies, If there has been any proposal from Jamaica to increase the proportion paid by the Island Exchequer for the importation of Coolies since that proportion was fixed during the administration of the Government by Sir J. P. Grant; and he begged to move for—A Return of the number of Coolies imported in 1873 and 1874 into the colonies of Mauritius, Trinidad, Jamaica, and British Guiana; showing their total cost in each Colony, and the proportion of such cost which is defrayed from the colonial resources.


said, that so far as the Return, for which the noble Lord moved was concerned, he thought there would be no difficulty in giving it; but it would be necessary to apply to the Governors of the various Colonies, who would, no doubt, furnish the information which the noble Lord desired. The Question with which the noble Lord had prefaced his Motion was rather a difficult one to answer. It must be stated, touching cursorily upon this question, that it would be very unfair not to point out that Jamaica was placed in a different position from the other two great sugar-growing colonies of Trinidad and British Guiana. The prosperity of the sugar - making colonies depended upon the importation of labour, and in both of them the expenses of obtaining it were borne by the general revenue of the Colony, but in Jamaica no assistance was given from the public purse for this particular purpose. The difference was therefore considerable; the ground of that difference being the maintenance of labour. But whereas sugar was the staple industry or product, so to speak, of British Guiana and Trinidad, in Jamaica there were other interests on which the prosperity of the Colony more or less depended; consequently it had not been thought necessary that the State should make to the planters in Jamaica contributions of public money which had been made to those of Trinidad and British Guiana. He would not stop to discuss how far it was a sound or unsound principle, but to point out simply the difference that existed between these Colonies. When, however, it was stated there had been no change in favour of the planters he could not quite subscribe to that doctrine. Up to 1873 the total expenses of the emigration of the Coolies fell upon the planters of Jamaica, but in that year a change was made. It was proposed that one-third of the cost should be defrayed by the general revenue of the Island, but that the Home Government refused, and the planters were met in this way—that where the back passage was not claimed by the Coolies, the money was paid to them as bounty for the purpose of inducing them to settle in the Island, and it was afterwards proposed that the public purse should relieve the burden of the planter to the extent of that bounty, but not upon the ground of inducing immigrants to come. In 1874 two proposals were made. The first, which was retrospective, was agreed to; but the second was so unreasonable a proposal—that the whole of the expenses of immigration should be thrown upon the general revenue—that it was declined, and at this moment the condition of the Jamaica planters was as he had described. This was much too large a question to be discussed at the end of the Session and in such a thin House; and he would only say that he was quite sensible of the great difficulties which the West India planters had to deal with. They had not only to contend against a great dearness of labour, but also with the cheapness of sugar. The French Convention had recently come to an end; but it would, perhaps, be kept in force till March next. The season had been bad, and there had been peculiar depression in the Island, and any assistance that the Government could render must be what was reasonable under the circumstances. The immigration of the Coolie would be of great advantage to him, provided he could be properly protected, and receive a fair remuneration for his labour by allowing him to leave a country that was over-populated and pauperized for a country where he would be able to obtain labour. The question was, however, one of great difficulty. He was now in communication with his noble Friend the Secretary of State for India, and his noble Friend was in communication with the Indian Government on the matter. Whatever was possible to be done in reference to the commercial interests of the colonies it would be their duty to do. He believed also that it would be for the interest of the Coolies that a fair and reasonable solution of the question should be arrived at, Address for Return of the number of Coolies imported in 1873 and 1874 into the colonies of Mauritius, Trinidad, Jamaica, and British Guiana; showing their total cost in each colony and the proportion of such cost which is defrayed from the colonial resources.—(The Lord Stanley of Alderley.)

House adjourned at a quarter past Six o'clock, to Thursday next, a quarter before Five o'clock.