HL Deb 05 August 1890 vol 347 cc1887-9

in rising to ask the Secretary of State for India whether the opinion of the Government of India has been asked with regard to the proposal that a system of "hallmarking" should be applied to silver articles manufactured in India, and if any despatch has been received from India on the subject, whether he has any objection to lay a copy of it upon the Table, said: My Lords, before putting the question to Her Majesty's Government of which I have given notice, I should like to congratulate the Government on having been able in this Session of Parliament to remedy the grievance that has been felt for many years in connection with this matter by persons engaged in the manufacture of silver articles in India. It is twelve years, I think, since a Committee of the House of Commons recommended that the duty on silver plate in India should be repealed. That recommendation was repeated by the Royal Commission over which my noble and learned Friend Lord Herschell presided, and nine years ago Mr. Gladstone, when he was Prime Minister, also expressed a desire that this duty should be repealed. But from untoward circumstances, it has remained until the present year, and I can assure the Government that the feeling of gratification in India will be very keen at finding that the duty has at last been repealed. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in another place, has explained that it is not the intention of the Government to abolish the system of compulsory hall- marking in this country, and he indicated that it was intended that a system of "hall-marking of silver articles" should be established in India in respect to articles exported from India to this country. The present state of the law in respect of the import of silver articles from India is, I believe, that under the Inland Revenue Act, 1884, articles of Indian plate can be imported into this country without being assayed here, and it seems to me that condition of things is perfectly satisfactory to the Indian manufacturers of silver. Although it may possibly be an advantage to establish in India a system of voluntary hallmarking, it might very seriously affect the silver trade in India if any system of compulsory hall-marking should be established in that country. It will be obvious to your Lordships that to require that an article of art manufacture made, perhaps, 1,000 miles from the place where the article would be assayed should be brought up to be assayed in a semi-manufactured state, and then sent back to the artificer to finish, would be a most cumbrous and restrictive measure with respect to the manufacture of silver in India. But, however that may be, the Chancellor of the Exchequer very properly explained in another place that the Government did not intend to take any action in this matter without communication with the Government of India, and that Her Majesty's Government are actually in communication with the Government of India on the subject. That statement was made three months ago, and what I have to ask Her Majesty's Government is, whether they have received up to the present time any answer to that communication, and if such an answer has been received, whether there is any objection to its being laid on the Table of your Lordships' House?


My Lords, the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India has requested me to reply to the noble Earl's question, and to point out that the intentions of the Government, as indicated in the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, were communicated to the Government of India, but the Government of India do not appear to be content with the arguments and statements of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The correspondence on the subject is not yet complete, but there will be no objection as soon as it is complete to lay it on the Table of the House.

House adjourned at five minutes before Eight o'clock, to Thursday next, a quarter past Ten o'clock.