HL Deb 13 May 1895 vol 33 cc998-1000

said, that the Government and the country were to be congratulated on the majority against the Motion of Sir Henry James, or what the Lord President last week had almost called the cotton intrigue. He would have quite called it a cotton intrigue if the mistaken selfishness of Manchester had succeeded in gaining the support of a selfish disregard of the interests of our own Indian fellow-subjects. It must be remembered, however, that if the Manchester men received a portion of support from the Conservative side, that the Leader of the Opposition was in that same seclusion from which the Lord President had just emerged. It would have been a great misfortune if the Government had been defeated when it was in the right, instead of upon one of the Bill drafted by the last of the Plantagenets upon fiscal principles which might possibly have been current in Plantagenet times. The Secretary of State for India deserved great praise and credit for the firmness and skill which he had shown during the Cotton Duties Debate. In this country we were aware of the difficulties that he had had to meet and to overcome, but in India these difficulties were less felt; and not only the natives of India, but also the English officials of the Government of India, felt that they had been overruled by the Secretary of State by the substitution of 20 for 24 counts in respact of the Cotton Excise. He hoped that any discussion which might take place, or if there should be none, the answer of the noble Lord the Under Secretary for India would facilitate in another year the restoration of the figure advocated by the Indian Government, or even the abandonment of the new Excise Duties. If the presence of excisemen was odious to brewers and farmers who brewed in England, how much more so must they be odious in the cotton mills of Bombay? He doubted whether the cost of collection would have much net revenue from the Excise Duties, and on this account he had put the question on the Notice Paper as to the net revenue expected from this source. He also asked the noble Lord the Under Secretary for India if 5 per cent. Import Duty on yarn and 5 per cent. Excise Duty on cloth woven from that yarn did not make 10 per cent., and therefore 5 per cent, protective duty in favour of Manchester goods? If the noble Lord were to say that none of the Bombay mills would use the yarns upon which 5 per cent. Import Duty was levied, would not that be protection to Manchester cottons by compelling the Bombay mills to use the coarser yarns. He had said that the selfishness of Manchester was mistaken; and he would remind the House that Mr. Cobden, when urging the repeal of the Corn Laws, had said that the English corn-growers would have the natural protection of 10s. a quarter freight on wheat. Mr. Cobden, of course, could not foresee ocean steamers and nominal freights, sometimes indeed, wheat coming over in ballast. Now Manchester cotton goods had this natural protection in India—coal costs more at Bombay than in Manchester, machinery costs more, and requires skilled English hands to fix and repair it and Bombay mills, to do the same amount of work, have to employ about a third more hands than would be required in Lancashire, where the operatives are stronger. He had much compunction in putting this question to the noble Lord the Under Secretary for India on account of the conflict it might arouse between his duty to his Office and his sympathy for Bombay.


thought he could easily allay the fears of the noble Lord, who need feel no compunction, for the answer he had to give was a very simple one. By the Indian Act of December 1894 the Excise Duty was only imposed on yarns manufactured in Indian mills provided they were of counts above Number 20. There was no Excise Duty on woven cloth in India, and therefore there could be no protection or fiscal advantage in favour of Manchester goods as compared with Indian goods. The estimate for the yield of the Excise Duty given by the Government of India for the current year was Rx.75,000.


had also given notice of the following question:— To ask Her Majesty's Government if, in consideration of the protection given to cotton goods, they will take a similar step on behalf of the silk industry, by placing duties on foreign silk stuffs imported into England it He said it would be to the convenience of the House and the right rev. Bench that he should postpone this question until Friday next.