§ Order for Committee read.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Mr. BRODRICK, Surrey,) Guildford
I beg to move "that the House do go into Committee on the East India Revenue Accounts." I find myself fortunate this afternoon not merely in the nature of the statement I have to make to the House, but in the time of year at which the opportunity is afforded me. This year is an exception to the custom which has usually obtained of deferring the debate to the close of the session, and I hope this is a precedent that will be followed on future occasions 1230 by myself, should it be my good fortune to hold office, or by some hon. Gentleman opposite. Discussion at this earlier period is more likely to lead to useful criticism and efficient administration. The story I have to unfold shows that the revenue for 1904–5 was the largest ever gathered. The Estimates are known to the House. The figures for 1903–4 showed a surplus of £2,996,400 and last year showed a surplus of £3,485,500, the Estimates of August last having been exceeded. Although the whole of the surplus cannot be anticipated for future years, special causes having intervened as regards railway receipts and the opium duty to make the surplus an exceptional one, still the general state of progress and prosperity in the country is indicated by the figures. It is not merely the figures themselves that will most appeal to the House. If 1231 the man who takes a comparatively scant or perfunctory interest in the finances and administration of India were asked what were the points upon which, during the last year, his mind had been chiefly fixed by his conversation with others and his reading in newspapers, they would be found to be not the points indicating the exceptional prosperity of the country, but the number of drawbacks from which India has suffered in the past year. There has been a great, and what I fear is a growing, visitation of the plague; scarcity has occurred in certain districts owing to the partial failure of the monsoons, and owing to frost of a very severe character in Northern India during February and March, causing reductions in land revenue; and in April there was the exceptional and wholly unexpected visitation of earthquake which involved some call on the finances of the country.
Perhaps in passing I may be allowed to say a few words on the visitation of the plague. I know there are Members of this House who have some degree of anxiety as to the amount of care and trouble taken by the Government of India with regard to this matter. I grant at once that if it were possible to apply in India all the remedies which science suggests and good government can afford we might largely decrease the present exceptional and unfortunate mortality. If we had been able to apply to the whole general public of India all those measures which we are able to take with regard to the special bodies of the Indian population who are under our control, for instance, the Indian Army and the prisoners confined in the gaols—if we had been able on all occasions to secure that infected clothing should be at once burnt, that infected buildings should be properly dealt with, that persons travelling from infected stations should be at once segregated, and that all those remedies which have been effectual in much smaller are is should be, applied, I do not doubt that this great mortality might have been to a large extent arrested. Any man in this House who is acquainted with the habits and feelings of the people of India knows that such measures as these could not be 1232 universally adopted without an excessive stoppage of all the ordinary operations of trade and travelling, and of the usual avocations of individuals in the State, and that their adoption would excite the utmost suspicion and possibly even active resistance if they were applied without the consent and in opposition to the wishes of the people. It is a lamentable fact that we have not yet been able to educate our Indian fellow-subjects to an appreciation of the dangers which they incur by concealment, and also by the neglect of precautions with regard to the outbreak of this disease.
I think the statistics with regard to the native troops may be said to be wonderfully good. We have to record the loss of more than a million of human beings throughout India from the ravages of plague. But among over 140,000 native troops we have only to report 115 deaths. That is an infinitesimal fraction. That shows, I think, that a special degree of credit is due to the energy and forethought of those who preside over the sanitary arrangements of the native troops. The House will be better able to appreciate these figures when they read in the Sanitary Commissioner's Report that out of a total of 184 military stations, fifty-seven were situated in or near towns or districts in which plague occurred among the general population, and in these fifty-seven stations only twenty-four had cases among the Sepoys. Having regard to the way in which the Sepoys mix with the general population, that fact reflects great credit on the medical authorities. In the gaols, of course, our path is much easier. The cases discovered in the gaols numbered only thirty-four, of which twenty-three proved fatal, although of the 245 gaols 159 were situated in infected districts. I can assure the House that there has been no indifference on the part of the Government of India or of the local Governments in regard to this important matter, and there has been no neglect. Every reasonable precaution has been pressed upon the people, and we have sent out in the last few months a special Commission to endeavour by systematic scientific research to establish, if they can, further means for the prevention of this 1233 disease. I fear it must be confessed that this is one of the cases in which, with the wonderful development of surgery in medical science, there are still departments of medicine in which there are countries, not altogether unexplored, but still to be conquered. I believe we have still much to learn in regard to the sources of this disease. We shall avail ourselves to the utmost of what we may learn from this Commission, who will have at their disposal the whole of the sanitary corps and appliances of the country.
Then, from the anticipated receipts of last year for land revenue we had to relinquish £618,000 to meet the failure of the monsoon in Gujerat and certain districts of Madras, and from the present year we have to deduct on account of the frost in Northern India, in March, 42½ lakhs of rupees already remitted, and 7½ lakhs suspended, pending the decision as to how far the harvest has been affected. These remissions have been, and will be, promptly given. With regard to the earthquake fortunately the damage done, although the extent of it was most alarming, has not been such as to cast an immense charge on the revenues of India. But there have been very heavy losses to individuals; and I have been in communication with the Government of India and have impressed upon them the necessity of endeavouring, in a matter in which no human control and no prevention is possible, to give liberally to these who have chiefly suffered by the loss of their houses or by personal injure. With regard to the Gurkha regiments, who especially suffered, the Commander-in-Chief has recommended, and the Government of India support, the grant of free passages to England to officers' families or widows who have been obliged to proceed home, a grant of 60,000 rupees to assist in rebuilding the mess houses and private houses, a grant to the band fund, for mess furniture, to the regimental institutions, and other offices, and injury pensions or gratuities to injured officers on the ordinary scale. We propose to exercise our powers under the Royal Warrant in as liberal a manner as possible in order to relieve these 1234 officers and men as far as we can of the misfortune they have encountered.
Having mentioned these drawbacks. I am brought back to the fact that the revenue collected last year was, none the less, the largest ever gathered in India. Trade showed the largest returns, and the expenditure by the poorer classes was on the most satisfactory scale. We are forced to ask ourselves—is this prosperity temporary? Is it simply a flash in the pan? Are we asking this House to deal with an assured surplus, or are we distributing funds which form a fortuitous windfall? I think the best answers to these questions are to be found in the accounts I am not one of those who are inclined to place too highly the stability of Indian finance. I remember always that we are dealing in the mass with a very poor population, and that the sources of Indian financial prosperity have fluctuated in the post. But I venture to ask the House of Commons to believe that the sources of prosperity have been placed, and are being placed, on a more stable basis, the foundation of which we now believe is, thanks to good government for many years past, one from which we may hope for assured returns. We cannot bring all India to such a condition that she may be altogether exempt from these great calamities which overtake her from time to time. By the expenditure of money we may set up irrigation colonies in one part of India, but natural difficulties prevent our establishing similar colonies in another part, say in the Deccan or Bombay. But what we can do is to bring the prosperity of one part of India to the needs of the other.
Now, Sir, the statistics of trade during this last year are remarkable. In 1902–3 the total trade of India was £143,476,000. In 1903–4 it advanced to £164,000,000. In 1904–5 it advanced again to £174,748,000. That is a steady advance following years of advance. I believe it is largely to be accounted for by the improved condition of agriculture, by the improved arrangements for manufacture, and, above all, by the great extension of railways. Of the £143,000,000 of trade in 1902–3, £62,000,000 was trade directly with Great Britain. Of the trade of last year 1235 (£174,748,000), £77,000,000 was directly to and from Great Britain. That is not an inconsiderable item in the trade of Great Britain, and it is a great increase in two years. And if we compare those figures, as some people from different points of view are now occupied in comparing the trade of the Colonies with the trade of India, I could point out that the exports from the United Kingdom to India in 1902, which were £33,500,000, were equal to the exports to Canada, the British Colonies in North America, and to Australia, and last year the exports to India, which had grown to £40,000,000, equalled the whole of the exports from this country to Australia, to Canada, and to Cape Colony combined. I trust I shall carry every Member of this House with me when I say that the trade of India with the United Kingdom tends continually to increase, and that the stake of the United Kingdom in the trade of India and the stake of India in the trade of the United Kingdom are such that we are entitled to claim for India the first place after the United Kingdom on all the discussions that may take place as regards trade within the Empire.
What are the several sources of India's prosperity? I alluded a few moments ago to the question of railways. In 1905 we had 27,749 miles of railway, of which 623 miles were opened in 1904–5. We had 3,139 miles under construction. Our passengers, who in 1902 numbered 196,000,000, rose in 1903 to 210,000,000 and in 1904 to 229,000,000—an enormous and progressive increase. The tonnage of merchandise, which was 45,500,000 in 1902, rose to 47,500,000 in 1903, and to nearly 54,500,000 in 1904. These figures alone show what has been often put before this House by my predecessor, that there is no expenditure of money which so much adds to the wealth of the Government, while also adding to the material prosperity of the people, as this expenditure on railways in India at the present time. There is another evidence of the continuous prosperity of the year that I ought to mention. It is the absorption of precious metals, the imports of which in 1902 exceeded the exports by £10,500,000, in 1903 by just over £15,500,000, and in 1904 1236 by just under £15,500,000. This shows a demand among private individuals, notably among the poorer classes, for the precious metals. The Savings Banks showed a balance of £7,500,000 in 1900, of £9,000,000 in 1903, and in 1905 of £10,700,000. All this evidence tends in the same direction and shows that the Government of India are within their rights in treating the present prosperity as the result of ascertainable causes, and not due merely to fortuitous windfalls.
The two questions which I would ask the House to consider to-day are (1) whether we are right in the application of the surplus which we have realised, and (2) whether the measures which we are taking outside that surplus for the maintenance and enhancement of the prosperity of India are sufficient and prudent. The surplus with which we have to deal has enabled us to make a further reduction of taxation. It is not a mere statement of profit and loss, but we hope we are making what may be a permanent reduction, or at all events what is a permanent insurance, in this respect. We have not reached our limits in reducing taxation, and the more we can reduce the salt tax the more we know that if, by misfortune or a series of bad years, it becomes necessary at any time to increase taxation, we have something on which, without unduly pressing on those concerned, we may lay our lands for an increased revenue. The salt tax was 2 rupees per maund from 1882 to 1888 and 2½ rupees from 1888 to 1893. It was reduced by my noble friend to 2 rupees in 1903, and we have reduced it this year to 1½ rupees. A great many questions have been raised as to whether this reduction of a tax which is a tax on a necessary of life really reaches the poorer classes. That is a difficult thing to say, but perhaps the best proof is that the consumption of salt has increased. Whether that increased consumption is entirely due to those who had not this necessary of life before being now able to obtain it I cannot say, but I suppose the reduction of the tax means, to a certain extent, that there is a little more freedom in the use of the article. But we have made the experiment; the tax 1237 has been reduced 40 per cent. in two years, and I hope we shall have the support of the House in doing so.
The Government of India also found it possible this year to concede the abolition of the famine cesses which have been levied in the United Provinces, the Punjab, and the Central Provinces since 1878, amounting to £151,000 a year. They have given grants for primary education (which will meet the views of those Members who last year pressed, and pressed very fairly, upon the notice of the House the necessity for increased primary education throughout India), amounting to £350,000, for the increasing of staffs, and the building and setting up of new schools. I do not for a moment contend that this is more than an instalment of the work which is required to be done, but it is a considerable step in advance. We propose to spend on agricultural development, on demonstration farms, and on other agricultural scientific purposes £214,000. The Government of India have given the Local Governments and district local boards for civil works, roads, sanitation, and other services which could not possibly be undertaken out of local revenue, £758,000. There is an increased charge for the police of £405,000. Those Members who have read the Report of the Police Commission will consider that we were well warranted in having reconsidered the whole position of the police. There have been differences of opinion as to whether the Police Commission have given sufficient weight to diversity of rates of pay and diversity of conditions in different provinces; but, after the most careful review, we cannot doubt that, if we are to have what we are determined to have, an efficient and uncorrupt police, we are bound to give a certain rise in pay and improved inspection, and we believe the action now proposed will not only be to the advantage of the Government, but will come home to the individual in every district. We shall have to ask for a further addition next year, but I am sure the House will support the Government of India in the courageous manner in which they have dealt with this question.
These different items amount in all to £3,120,000. I have dwelt upon them 1238 not only because they are necessary to the statement I am putting before the House, but because I desire to make it perfectly clear that these charges, which are charges either for remission of taxation or for civil improvements, have come before us pari passu, and with equal weight, with another charge which we find it necessary to impose for the farther development of our military forces in India. It is my duty this afternoon to ask the House of Commons to increase the charge for military services by something like £2,440,000. Between 1900–01, when the net charge for military services was a little over £15,000,000, and 1905–6, when it has reached a little over £20,500,000, we have made undoubtedly very considerable extra-demands on the finances of India. I believe those finances can bear them. But, a part from that, those of us who listened to the Prime Minister's speech the other day will be aware that the division of responsibility between India and this country is now a recognised division proceeding on lines that, at all events, we can understand. The main reason for which the military forces of this country are now organised is the defence of India. It has been laid down by His Majesty's Government that, while India will continue to reserve the 75,000 British troops and the 140,000 native troops, or thereabouts, which she holds at disposal at the present time in a case of emergency, it is her duty to provide those troops with transport, with all supplies, and with all the material of war necessary to keep them in the field for a year without fresh supplies from home. I believe that to be an absolutely sound provision, and one for which we have a right to ask the continued and constant support of Parliament. On the other hand, the Prime Minister recognised the necessity and responsibility of this country, in case of an attack coming upon us from the only land frontier from which we can suppose a foreign attack, to provide the necessary troops, rather over 120,000 men, to supplement the Indian Army according as the necessities require. It may be said that for India to spend £20,500,000 on army preparations out of a revenue of £82,000,000 is a large strain, while Great Britain is spending only £29,800,000 out of a revenue of £144,000,000. But it must 1239 be remembered that the Indian charge contains the whole charge, while the British charge is entirely apart from the Navy expenditure of £33,400,000, of which India contributes only an infinitesimal fraction, and from the charges for military and naval works, which bring up the whole expenditure of Great Britain to £71,000,000 out of a revenue of £144,000,000. Roughly speaking, we may say that, although an absolute comparison would be an impossibility, India is spending one-fourth, while Great Britain is spending one-half, of her revenue on military preparations. I am prepared to maintain the importance of India's carrying out to the full her share of the bargain which has been laid down, on condition that Great Britain is ready to adhere to her share of it.
The sum we ask for this year is increased by £2,400,000 for Lord Kitchener's reorganisation scheme, and makes up the whole total of £20,500,000. That reorganisation will give us the following advantages—the formation of nine divisions in peace and war, in place of the four divisons previously existing, and an increase of the field army from 80,000 to 140,000 men; it makes provision for mobilisation, equipment, transport, and stores; it provides, out of the £10,000,000, which is the total to which we have provisionally agreed, for the complete re-equipment of the Indian Army with field artillery. I am glad to say that the orders we gave in November, 1903, for the field artillery, which were the first orders accepted, are now beginning to bear fruit. The scheme also provides for the re-grouping of the troops so as to bring them nearer to the North-West Frontier. Further, it provides—and I ask for the special attention of the House to this particular—for the maintenance in India of manufacturing establishments which will make India self-supporting in all the necessaries of war. We opened this year a gun-carriage factory at Jubbulpore; also next year we hope to open a gun factory at Cossipore; a rifle factory at Ishapore, and at Cawnpore a manufactory for horse-shoes as well as harness and saddlery, which are necessary, and which we believe we can provide not merely with equal efficiency, but at a less cost than by exportation from this 1240 country. It does not need any speech from me to make it clear that it is absolutely necessary in the early stages of a war for India to be self-supporting. This expenditure is large, but the need is pressing; and although for some years we shall be making a larger demand—still not, I hope in excess of that of this year—than that which has hitherto been made for military purposes, I hope it will be remembered that we do so at a time when the general revenue of India is higher than it has ever been, and when the salt tax is lower than it has ever been since the Mutiny.
I should like for one moment to pay a tribute to the great work set on foot by Lord Kitchener since he went to India two and a half years ago. I have had a good many Questions to answer as to certain difficulties which have arisen in the Army administration of India during the past and the present years, but I have not been in a position up till now to make a statement or lay Papers on this subject. The despatch which we received from the Government of India in the middle of April met with most careful attention from His Majesty's Government, and our reply only reached India at the beginning of this week. Had it been possible I should have desired to lay this despatch on the Table before this debate, but I hope that it will be distributed before the close of this week. In these circumstances, however, the House will wish me to give a brief summary of the points which are referred to in detail in the despatch. Let me begin by saying that no difficulties that have arisen have arisen in consequence of any obstruction to Lord Kitchener's schemes for the reorganisation of the Army by the Military Department, between whom and the Commander-in-Chief's Department there has been some friction. The officers who, under Major-General Sir E. Elles, administer the Military Department have heartily and patriotically seconded Lord Kitchener's schemes in their main principles. But, having had in view the general situation in India, His Majesty's Government have not been able to conceal from themselves that the position of the Commander-in-Chief has become an anomalous one, and that he does his 1241 work under anomalous conditions. The Government of India—the Governor-General in Council—must necessarily be supreme over the Commander-in-Chief as over every person and every department of the Government. But that supremacy in the past, and very recently, has been carried out by means of placing in charge of the Military Department an officer with inferior rank to the Commander-in-Chief, an officer who, though of high standing, is yet necessarily a man with an inferior military position. Every proposal made by the Commander-in-Chief, whether it concerns a technical military point, on which he ought to be the chief, and, as we think, the only adviser of the Government, or whether it concerns a financial or political question, has equally to come under the review of his subordinate in Army matters, the Military Member of the Council. We hold that it is absolutely necessary for the Commander-in Chief and his Department to be under the check of the supreme Government in all matters political and financial; but in regard to technical military questions—whether an army corps shall have twenty-five batteries or twenty, whether a brigade shall consist of six regiments or four—in regard to these questions the advice tendered to the Government of India should be a matter for the Commander-in-Chief alone and not for his military subordinate in charge of the Military Department. But up till now every such proposal made by the Commander-in-Chief has been reviewed by the Department of the Military Member, who first submits the question to the final Court of Appeal in India, the Governor-General in Council, then debates it in Council on a par with his colleague the Commander-in-Chief, and ultimately conveys to his colleague the decision of the Government of which they are both members. That seems to be an anomalous position of affairs, and it is rendered more so by the fact that there is an official, well known to some hon. Members, the Secretary to the Governor of India, in the Military Department, who is also a general officer and also subordinate to the Commander-in-Chief, but who is available for consultation by the Viceroy, and, apart from the Commander-in- 1242 Chief, can tender his advice on technical subjects. So there are two subordinate officers between the Viceroy and the Commander-in-Chief, both conversant with technical subjects and both advising upon them. I think the House will see that that system could only be worked by the aid of very great tact and forbearance on the part of all concerned.
Lord Kitchener's solution of the difficulty was that he should take over all the work of the Military Department, order all the stores, make all the contracts, control the manufacturing departments, and carry out both the services which up to the present have taxed the whole time of men like General Brackenbury and Sir E. Elles. The Government of India, on the other hand, held that no man, however able, could take upon himself such a charge. They also held that the tendency of such a change would be to set up a military autocracy in the person of the Commander-in-Chief, which would militate against the power of the Government of India to exercise the control which they should exercise in all matters. His Majesty's Government have come to this decision. They cannot doubt that the present system has led to friction and delay, would not tend to the effective mobilisation of the Army, and does not sufficiently provide against dual control and overlapping of functions in Army matters. They think it necessary to free the Commander-in-Chief from delays which have been vexatious in regard to the preparation of some of his military measures; and they think also that his mind should be set free for the consideration of questions of military intelligence and mobilisation, without having to undertake the daily routine of the ordering of stores, controlling the manufacturing departments, and such work, which, even though some what military in its character, can hardly call for high military qualities. They propose to make a clear division of duties and to establish two departments in place of the present organisation, an Army Department under the Commander-in-Chief and a Military Supply Department presided over by the Military Member of the Council, which will not be regarded as a military department in 1243 the sense in which the present department is so regarded. The Commander-in-Chief will be directly responsible to the Governor-General in Council for the command, the staff, the discipline, training, and distribution of the Army, the Intelligence Department, mobilisation, schemes of offence and defence, peace manœuvres, preparations (excluding the supply of material) for war, and the conduct of war. The functions of the Military Supply Department will be limited to the responsibility for the control of Army contracts, purchase of stores, ordnance, and remounts, the management of military works, the clothing and manufacturing departments, the Indian Medical Service, and the Indian Marine. The recent development of the manufacturing departments, to which I alluded a few moments ago, the Viceroy informs us, will ultimately lead to the employment of from 15,000 to 20,000 artisans, and their control will give sufficient scope for the ability and the energy of the officer in charge. Such a rearrangement will leave the whole of the combatant service under the Commander-in-Chief. It is extremely desirable that the Commander-in-Chief's Department should be specially equipped to enable it to give more time to questions dealing with mobilisation, to which too small an amount of the energy of our Army has been devoted to in the past; and we propose, therefore, to give to Lord Kitchener, in view of his increased duties, a Chief of the Staff, who will undertake the responsibility for those further duties.
§ MAJOR EVANS GORDON (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)
Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Supply Department will be presided over by a civilian or a military officer?
§ MR. BRODRICK
That is a question which on each occasion of the appointment will be settled by those responsible. There is nothing in the department which prevents it form being president over by a civilian; but it is a department in which military knowledge, of course, will be a considerable advantage, and though it may not necessarily be presided over by an officer whose talents are specially in the direction of military 1244 service in the field, it should be presided over by an officer of high standing and long experience. But we attach special importance to this point, whoever holds the appointment, that if the Commander-in-Chief is a British officer and not an Indian officer, the officer in charge of the Military Supply Department must be an Indian officer or a Civil servant of considerable Indian experience. I hope my hon. friend would admit the desirability of that. Out of the three officers immediately under the Commander-in-Chief, we provide, when the Commander-in-Chief has no Indian experience, that two must necessarily be chosen from the Indian Army. These decisions have been communicated to the Government of India by His Majesty's Government and will be brought into operation before October 1st next. I trust they will meet with acceptance by those who in the past have doubted whether the present system was adapted to the needs of India.
§ MR. BRODRICK
No legislation will be necessary.
I hope I may complete my review of the details of expenditure which we propose out of the surplus in hand with a reference to the provisions by which we propose, as far as we can, to make more permanent in India the present prosperity. The state of agriculture in India, if not primitive, is capable of an immense amount of development. Those who know that until recently there was no Agricultural Department in India will be glad to hear that the staff in three years has been increased from six to twenty; and that in the Civil Veterinary Department we contemplate the addition, as trained men become available, of about 600 native veterinary assistants in charge of local cattle dispensaries, and of about sixty veterinary inspectors to supervise them.
With regard to establishing demonstration farms in various districts, although it may be some time before we can make them effective in all 1245 districts, we hope that their work is already appreciated. We have a great advance to show in cotton. This year, in addition to experiments in progress under Government management, we have expended £3,000 on a special experiment undertaken in conjunction with the British Cotton Growing Association, the Association finding an equal sum towards the cost. We hope to improve the indigenous types by proceeding on lines directed by modern science; but it is to be remembered that cultivators do not find for the best types of cotton the best market in India, The acreage under cotton last year was 19,000,000, an increase of 1,000,000 acres over the acreage of the previous year. Although we may not be able to compete with some of the Colonies in the supply of cotton for this country, we may perform an important function and the Government of India are doing their best to that end. In regard to other matters of development, I must refer to the extraordinary development of tea plantations in India. In the period of 1870 to 1875, India exported an average of 17,000,000lb. of tea per annum. In the period 1880 to 1885 the average was 55,000,000lb.; in the period 1890 to 1895 the average was 119,000,0001b.; and in the period 1900 to 1905 the average was 183,000,000lb. That immense development has enabled India, with Ceylon, to capture the whole of the British Market; and in little more than twenty years to reduce the use of China tea from 102,000,0001b. to 13,000,000lb. There is surely no more striking example in the whole history of commercial activity of what may be done by energy and enterprise.
The Government of India have also taken up and put on a solid basis the irrigation schemes of the future. The work of a Commission, admirably done, has provided for the future and has laid down what number of productive works and what number of protective works must be undertaken in India. They propose that £30,000,000 shall be spent in twenty years on these works, divided as follows:—£10,000,000 on productive works, £14,000,000 on protective works, and £6,000,000 on intermediate works. I make no apology for the fact that the amount to be spent on 1246 protective works is larger. The profit on productive works is 8 per cent.; and, having regard to their advantage to the public, it is right that we should in those parts of India that are less favourably situated carry out operations which save so much suffering.
With regard to the railway policy of India, what has been said by many others in this place, and what has been felt by many who speak with far greater authority and experience of the development of our railway policy in India, is that the time has come for us to take a definite step forward. We have this year formed a Railway Board, which has had much greater powers delegated to it by the Government. The board consists of experts—Mr. Upcott, long connected with the Railway Department in India; Mr. Wood, late of the Hull and Barnsley Railway; and Mr. Wynne, who has been connected with the Indian Public Works Department and with the Bengal-Nagpur Railway. India is, with the exception perhaps of China, the only country unprovided with an adequate system of railways, while having none of the difficulties of a new country—the need to wait for population and to create trade. It is not necessary to provide for a long period in which dividends must be paid out of capital while waiting for the ultimate return. You are stopped only by this one fact: that you cannot borrow sufficiently in the London market, or that it may not be wise to pledge to an outside creditor too large a proportion of the revenues of India. The 27,000 miles of railway that we have now in operation in India represent a capital expenditure of £235,000,000, on the whole of which interest is paid at 4.8 per cent, out of actual not revenue when all working expenses have been met. I can imagine that railway shareholders in England will envy such a condition of things. I believe that there is no better security in the world. I was struck by the remarks of Sir Edward Law, who in an admirable address recently was able to show not merely that these railways are paying their way, and that the whole debt guaranteed by the Government of India actually yields a surplus on its present returns, but that the whole assets of the Government of 1247 India more than equal their liabilities; that the debt of India is more than covered by its assets in public works; and that the interest is more than provided by the returns of those public works from year to year. That has occurred for the first time in the last two years. No country in the world can boast of a similar position, and it is my hope that this great development may inspire us to continue this work at a much greater rate than in the past. I believe that the condition of Indian finance has only to be appreciated to make it far easier to borrow the necessary money. I should like to double the present rate of railway construction. I believe that by doing so we shall not only add grist, to the mill of the Government, but confer incalculable advantage on the individual.
In carrying out this change we have endeavoured to take a further step forward this year not only in the establishment of the Railway Board and the Agricultural Department, but also in the establishment of a special Department of Commerce and Industry. The Indian Government, like the Government of all new countries, began by having to employ all-round men. In past ages in the Western hemisphere every man had to practise more than one trade. The soldier was also a sailor, the clergy were also lawyers, the barber was a surgeon, and the trader retailed wares of every description. It is not realised how much responsibility falls on one single man in India even in the present day. Sir William Hunter has described what the district officer has to do. He has to collect the revenue from land and other sources; he is a criminal Judge; he performs locally the whole work done in this country by the Home Department. He looks after the police, the gaols, education, the municipalities, the roads, sanitation, the dispensaries, and local taxation. To perform all these functions he has to be a lawyer, an accountant, a financier, a ready writer, and he must have no mean knowledge of agriculture, political economy, and engineering. No one will deny that there is room for specialisation here now that the Government has so far advanced. When we set up a new department it is not in order to find fresh employment, but to relieve the overworked men where 1248 specialised work is required. India, as I have shown, has made great progress in the past. We stand on the, threshold of many developments, and we have been enabled to use the powers of government entrusted to us as a nation so as to avoid great calamities. The time has come when we should endeavour to bring that prosperity nearer home to each individual. We have a secure Government, an uncorrupt Administration. We can bring the advantages of the capital of the West to co-operate with the cheap labour of the East; and I hope that we shall be able to show in the next few years, by building on that foundation, that we are doing something even more substantial than in the past for the welfare, not of one, but of many, among, the varied communities in India that are committed to our charge.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair (for Committee on East India Revenue Accounts)."
§ SIR HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
said he desired to make a few remarks on general questions before the House proceeded to discuss the various Amendments. Many questions of interest wore involved in the statement which had just been delivered by the right hon. Gentleman; and it was in the interest of the House and of India that there should be a general debate. He wished to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the facts of his statement. They were of a satisfactory character; and he did not think that the right hon. Gentleman in any way coloured his statement. It was fair and just, and satisfactory to the House, and would be also satisfactory to the country. He did not mean that he agreed with all the right hon. Gentleman had said; and he should claim the right to discuss some questions of general administration and also some of the right hon. Gentleman's specific statements. As regarded the financial position, which showed a large surplus for the last three years, and a Budget which contemplated a moderate but considerable surplus, it was very encouraging. The accounts also were improved to a great extent, but he 1249 suggested that the items should be in pounds sterling. In the statement which had been presented, the figures were in pounds sterling up to page 7; but after that in rupees. He would suggest that pounds sterling should be maintained throughout the accounts; and that if it were necessary to include rupees they should be put in tens of rupees. He would further urge that the figures in the statement presented to Parliament should be the actual figures not the gross figures, in order that the House might know what was the net burden of the taxation of India, and what was the net expenditure. He gathered that the net revenue last year was £49,688,600, and that the expenditure for the present year was £47,900,000. But the gross expenditure was £88,000,000 or £90,000,000, which included the cost of the railways and other items.
In dealing with the surplus the right hon. Gentleman proposed remissions of taxation, involving a sacrifice of revenue and improvements in administration. The House had only one opinion regarding the reduction of the salt tax; but he thought it might have been reduced; year previously. He did not consider however, that the reduction had yet reached its proper limit. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the consumption of mustard; but that would not apply to India. Mustard was not a necessary of life, salt was. He thought it was clear that the reduction last year had reached a lower class. What better test could there be than that of consumption? Consumption was larger when the taxation was lower. As regarded police, they could not expect any very stringent reform without additional expenditure.
With reference to railways, the right hon. Gentleman referred to the enormously increased revenue from railways, and the increase in the number of passengers and in the tonnage of goods carried. His hon. friend, one of the Members for the West Riding of Yorkshire, twelve years age delivered a speech in the House which received attention at the time and which influenced policy. His hon. friend then called attention to the desirablity of increasing railways in India, in the interests not only of India 1250 but of this country; and he urged the Government to adopt his policy and secure the satisfactory results which would follow. The policy adopted had been slow, cautious, and conservative; and he had no doubt it was still cautious and conservative. Bat now they had turned the corner. The railway net revenue during the last six years had increased from £600,000 to between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000; and he agreed with the Secretary of State that the time had arrived to embark on a larger expenditure for railway construction purposes. This was a matter which had better been done boldly and not in a parsimonious and penny wise fashion, always, of course, on the assumption that the railways were placed where they would be commercially successful.
He should like to refer to another matter; he referred to currency. The demand for rupees for trade purposes had enormously increased; and the system appeared to be working very satisfactorily. The Currency Committee recommended that no profit should be made on the coinage of silver. The noble Lord the Member for Ealing at once adopted the recommendation that no increase to the revenue of India in this respect should be permitted. It was put into a separate fund at compound interest in order to provide a permanent gold reserve. Now the whole of that, reserve fund at the end of this year would be £8,478,000. That sum was invested in this country in Government securities. It was an available reserve in case of a crisis. So far from India being depleted by the course adopted, therefore, there was a gold reserve to the amount of £8,000,000, which was a most satisfactory result of the course adopted.
He did not know if any hon. Member had read the debate which took place in the Legislative Council of the Viceroy on their Budget day. It formed a part of the Blue-book which deserved the careful attention of Members of the House interested in India. In the Viceroy's Council there were the leaders of Indian administration and a large native representation, and in the course of the debate which took place 1251 there were two or three remarks which he thought bore somewhat on the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. The first that he had marked for notice was a remark made by a Minister with reference to the plague. The right hon. Gentleman had discussed that matter at some length, and no doubt the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Ilkeston would deal with that. But there was a distinguished member of the Council who made a few remarks which the House would be pleased to hear read. That gentleman said—The excellence of a Budget does not in my humble opinion consist in showing large surpluses, but in the manner in which they are utilised, and I am glad to say the Budget before us possesses that characteristic. My Lord, six successive years of large surpluses is an event of unique occurrence in the financial history of British India, this being the sixth year in your Lordship's rule in which a Budget showing a large surplus has again been laid before this Council. This is the more remarkable as at the commencement of your Excellency's administration the country was passing through a famine characterised as the greatest famine of the century. Under your Excellency's regime not only have the finances of India been brought to a satisfactory condition without the imposition of any fresh taxes, but a policy of giving financial relief to the people by the remission of taxation has been inaugurated—a state of things which has been quite unknown to Indian taxpayers during the two decades preceding the year 1902–3.After alluding to details that member continued—The further reduction of duty on such a necessary of life as salt will give a much needed relief to a class of people who most urgently required it.Then the largest landowner in Bengal, a member of the aristocracy of India, said—The proposals of the Government had met with universal approbation.On the other side, the Opposition side as it might be called, there was an extremely interesting speech by Mr. Gokhale. That gentleman said the statement of the Finance Minister was—Remarkable alike for its grasp of principle and its mastery of detail, and for lucidity of exposition it will rank with the best statements that have ever been presented to this Council.He then said—The salt duty was reduced to 8 annas last year and the measure of relief was received with deep gratification throughout the country. 1252 The reduction might, however, be carried still further without any inconvenience. The salt-duty question in India is essentially a poor man's question, for it is the poorer many and not the richer few who eat more salt when it is cheap and less when it is dear. The soundest policy in the matter, even financially, would therefore seem to be to raise an expanding, revenue on an expanding consumption under a diminishing scale of duties.There was considerable objection to the expenditure on military works. The right hon. Gentleman had announced as the policy of this country that the main object of the Army in India and in this country was the protection of the North-West Frontier of India. Many policies as to the Army had been laid down and the House one day would perhaps-know what the true policy of the War Office was, but the policy laid down today was clear enough. He took exception to the doctrine it contained, because there was no satisfactory proof that such a policy was necessary. We were bound, to protect India, and we had protected her, but he believed that India was less liable to an aggressive attack now than she had ever been during the last fifty years. This policy of increased Indian Army expenditure had only been brought before-the House sectionally, but it was a policy which ought to receive the most careful consideration of the country as a whole. The question was whether we were called upon to impose on the taxpayers of Great Britain and Ireland the heavy additional taxation which was now foreshadowed for military expenditure, and which had now reached a point it had never attained before. He did not wish to leave India defenceless, nor did he grudge expense for the defence of India. For in his opinion the military expenditure in India had been conducted much more carefully than the military expenditure in this country, and he much preferred the methods and administration of the War Office of India to those of the British War Office.
With regard to the question of there being two Military Members in the Viceroy's Cabinet he wondered what would be said if in this country in addition to the Secretary of State for War there was another Military Member of the Cabinet. Friction was always bound to arise when there were two strong men in the Indian Cabinet representing 1253 the Army. The right hon. Gentleman's proposal was that these two members of the Council were to remain in the Cabinet, connected with the administration of military affairs but with distinct and separate functions. One, he hoped, was to be a civilian who would have the control of the expenditure, the other the Commander-in-Chief. The theory in this country was that the Army was to be under the financial control of a civilian and not of a military officer. It was very desirable that the Indian military expenditure, as in this country, should be under civilian control. Expenditure meant the imposition of taxation, the imposition of taxation involved a iburden upon the people, and also the policy of the Government, and the view he was endeavouring to put was that there was nothing in India essentially different in principle as compared with England, where civilian control was exercised over expenditure, and the military authorities were presumably left to settle military matters. The respective positions of the Military Members in Council the Government had now condemned, and he presumed the despatches to be published would show the final view of the Government of India and Lord Kitchener upon the decision of the Government.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said there would be nothing more recent than the Government's own despatch of May 31st.
SIR HENRY FOWLEK
took it for granted that the right hon. Gentleman would let the House know as soon as possible what the view of the Indian Government was. He would have liked them to say at once and definitely that the financial head of the Supply Department should be a civilian.
With reference to military works, he did not like to say he differed from the Indian Finance Minister or the Viceroy, but he did differ from their complete repudiation of borrowing for military works of a permanent character. The Secretary of State could not object to such borrowing, as he himself was the founder of the fund raised in this country 1254 for the erection of barracks. For recurring expenditure money ought not to be borrowed, but for permanent works several members of the Council held that the expenditure would put an unnecessary burden upon the taxpayers, and that it might be spread over a limited number of years. The financial policy with reference to these new military works had not been completely explained, but he assumed the object would be to defray as much as possible out of revenue. The Indian Government would wish to do that, without precluding the possibility of executing works which could not be paid for out of revenue He could conceive works extending over a long period of years, the expenditure upon which it might be desirable to arrange upon a distinct basis, so that only £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 should be taken annually out of revenue. But perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would make, the point clear later in the debate.
The Secretary of State had referred to the wonderful progress of India during the last year or two, and to the trade existing between this country and India. On this point he would quote briefly from two speeches in the Indian Council. Mr. Cable, who, he believed, was a great financial authority, said—In the fiscal controversy now in progress at home we observe an increasing number of references to this country. But we look in vain for any practical suggestion under which India could join in the proposed new departure. On the contrary, it is becoming increasingly evident that the policy to clearly and firmly enunciated in your Excellency's de-patch of October 22nd, 1903, is the right policy for this country to adopt, viz., full liberty for India to trade with the whole world upon such terms as may suit her best, and to develop her industrial resources unfettered by engagements with other countries.Then Lord Curzon alluded to the stand which the Indian Government most properly made against the heavy charge of £750,000 imposed upon Indian revenues for increased pay in the British Army—About which we were not consulted, and with which we did not agree. We protested more successfully against the placing upon, Indian revenues of the charge for the entertainment of the Indian guests at the Coronation in London. We were also successful in resisting the suggestion that India should pay £400,000 per annum for a call upon a portion of the 1255 British garrison in South Africa. We have now finally established the principle (disputed till a few years ago) that when we lend troops from India, … every rupee of the charge from embarkation to return should be defrayed by the Imperial Government.Upon the question raised by Mr. Cable, the fiscal question, Lord Curzon said—I may name one more respect in which the Government of India have, I think, faithfully championed the interests of the general community. I allude to their attitude on the fisca, question. I observe that the hon. Mr. Cablel speaking to-day on behalf of the commercial community, has most strongly endorsed the correctness of the position which we took up in our despatch of October 22nd, 1903. A little while ago it was stated with some authority in England—that was rather too vague; it was a great authority.
§ SIR HENRY FOWLER
said he believed it was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham.…. it was stated with some authority in England that that despatch had been drawn up by us in a hurry, and that we were believed to have modified our views. There is no foundation for any such statement. We composed the despatch with full deliberation. It represented our matured opinions. We have not departed from them in any particular: and, if the Government of India were invited to enter a conference, those I am confident would be the instructions with which our delegates from this end would proceed. Our claim is not merely that India should have a voice in the settlement of the question—that none will dispute—but that in any Imperial scheme there should not he imposed upon us a system detrimental to our interests and repugnant to our strongly entertained and unanimous views.The Secretary of State had referred to the position of the trade of India, and those quotations gave the Indian view upon that point. In reference to Indian immigrants in South Africa, Lord Curzon complained very bitterly of what many thought was the unfair attitude assumed by one of the South African Governments to British-Indian natives residing in Natal. But a greater question arose, with which Lord Curzon dealt as follows—Soon after the country (South Africa) came under British administration we addressed the Secretary of State for India, and urged that the opportunity should be taken to remove the restrictions and disabilities in- 1256 spired by the Boer Government on British-Indian subjects. In the course of the correspondence which ensued, we were asked to agree to a scheme for the employment of 10,000 Indian labourers on the construction of Government, railways in the Transvaal and Orange River Colonies; and recognising that the need for Indian labour thus displayed might prove a powerful lever in our hands for securing better treatment for Indians generally in South Africa, we expressed our readiness to consider the proposal if it was likely to lead to substantial concessions in favour of Indians not under indenture. We said that the least that we could accept would be (1) that Indian languages should be included in the literary test applied to new immigrants; (2) that residence in locations should be compulsory only upon those Indians in whose case the restriction is desirable for sanitary reasons; (3) that Indian traders who had established themselves under the former Government should be granted licences permitting them to retain their present places of business; (4) that all Indians of superior class, including all respectable traders and shopkeepers, should be exempted from the Pass Law and the curfew system, and from the other restrictions imposed on the non-white population. The Transvaal authorities declined to concede these declined in full, and we have therefore refused to establish a system of emigration of indentured labourers to that Colony.It was now known for the first time, from Lord Curzon himself, what was the real state of affairs—that, as they on that side of the House had maintained, the Indian Government would not allow Indian subjects to go us coolies to Africa on the terms proposed. On the whole he congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on his statement, which financially was thoroughly sound. The ideas of the Indian Government, both in reference to income and expenditure, and improvements were on the right lines. He believed we were approaching a period of further progress and development, and he cordially agreed with the right hon. Gentleman's railway policy, which he hoped would be carried out. As to the new division of authority he hoped the matter was not finally decided, but that it would receive further consideration, and that once and for all the conflict between the military and the civil management of the Army in the Indian Council would be settled.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON (Middlesex, Ealing)
said he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton that the speech of the Secretary of State for India was so full of interest that it was desirable that they 1257 should have some general discussion upon that subject before they dealt with the Amendment, which would limit the debate within its four corners. He congratulated the Secretary of State for India upon his speech, and there was no part of his right hon. friend's speech to which he listened with greater pleasure than that in which he described the attitude he proposed to take as regarded the trade and commerce of India. His right hon. friend pointed out that Indian trade and commerce formed by far the largest part of the external trade of the Empire sent to these islands, and he rightly said that nothing should be done in connection with any fiscal proposals which did not give the fullest consideration to the interests of India. He rejoiced to note that the views of the Indian Government on the fiscal question were now identically those which they held when he was in office, and he was also glad to notice that, so far as he could judge, there was very little difference between the views of the present Secretary of State for India on the fiscal question and those of his predecessor. [OPPOSITION laughter, and an HON. MEMBER. In this House.]
The statement which his right hon. friend had made was an astonishingly satisfactory one. There was not a single nation in Europe that could produce as good a financial statement or show as satisfactory a balance sheet as the one that had been placed before the House by his right hon. friend. As the right hon. Gentleman opposite had pointed out, the assets which India obtained by the investment of money in reproductive works balanced her liabilities; and he thought, therefore, his right hon. friend was perfectly right in arriving at the conclusion that, inasmuch as India was now deriving such an enormous benefit from the continuous policy of reproductive expenditure, he was fully justified in removing the limits which he had imposed on this expenditure. He would add just one word of; caution. The Return on page 20 of the Secretary of State's Memorandum I showed that, while the net result of the major irrigation works was a surplus of £985,000 for the present year, the result of the minor works was a loss of £823,000. Enthusiasts upon irrigation thought they could not spend money in India without 1258 getting a good return, but these figures clearly showed that a considerable amount of this expenditure had not been worth incurring. Therefore, he hoped his right hon. friend, if he did largely increase his railway expenditure, would be very careful that he did not include works that would not be reproductive. Subject to this one criticism, he entirely endorsed all his right hon. friend had said in connection with his proposed railway policy; and, as railway expenditure had been the main cause in enabling them to reduce taxation, he thought it might reasonably be argued that, if this expenditure were increased, it would be possible for the Government, more rapidly in the future than in the past, to reduce the taxes which were now in operation.
He heartily congratulated his right hon. friend on the courage of the Indian Government in making a further reduction of the salt tux. When that tax was reduced some three years ago, the estimated loss by that remission was calculated at nearly £1,000,000 sterling. He noticed that half that loss had been made good by increased consumption, and they might fairly conclude that, with the further reduction of 20 per cent., there would be a still further enhanced consumption. If that occurred, he agreed with his right hon. friend that, in a time of emergency, they had upon that increased consumption a ready source of gaining additional financial assistance.
There was one subject on which his right hon. friend did not say anything, though it was germane to a considerable part of his speech. He spoke, as other Ministers had spoken, about the defence of the North-West Frontier, but his right hon. friend said nothing about the renewal of the agreement with the Am,r of Afghanistan. He considered that renewal an integral part of the defence of the North-West Frontier. He had been for so many years habituated to the idea that it was within the bounds of possibility that Russia might invade India by Afghanistan that, perhaps, he was less apprehensive of that contingency occurring than were some of his late colleagues who had only recently taken to studying that 1259 question. He thought they were unduly apprehensive; but he quite agreed that our military arrangements should be made with a view to dealing with that emergency. At the same time, he did not think it was wise policy to make that idea absolutely dominate our whole Indian policy and military establishments. All who had gone thoroughly into this question had become more and more impressed with the enormous difficulty of moving any big army across Afghanistan. But our most important defence was the character of the people who lived in the centre and the East of Afghanistan. They were born fighters, they loved fighting, and they were magnificent shots. A good many of his friends had been somewhat disappointed at the terms of the renewal of the agreement with the Amir—they looked upon the old arrangement as one based on inequality. We gave a great deal more than we obtained, he quite admitted it; but at the same time he held that his right hon. friend and His Majesty's Government were perfectly right, if they found that the Amir had strong objection to any alteration of the terms, in renewing it as it stood. He had always felt that so far as the North-West Frontier of India was concerned political considerations dominated military considerations. If our political relations with the tribes were good we could, if it was necessary, move a force forward, and with their co-operation our lines of communication would be perfectly secure; but if we were on terms of friction with the tribes, and if they looked upon our proceedings with alarm and were disposed to regard us as an invader rather than a defender, then every yard we went outside our frontier increased our difficulties and dangers. If the Amir and the Afghans had a very strong objection to the introduction of railroads and telegraphs, the benefits of which we appreciated, he held that the Home Government acted wisely in continuing the arrangement, as it stood, which was made with His Highness's father. He admitted there might be difficulties, but he held it, above all, to be of prime importance that we should remain on good relations with the Afghans and the tribes on the North-West Frontier.
1260 That brought him to the military proposals which Lord Kitchener had laid before the Government, and to which they had assented. These, he understood, would result in largely increasing the effective fighting force of the Indian Army. He thought it was perhaps time that the distribution of our troops should be reconsidered. The old barracks were built in 1860, and the distribution of the troops was based on considerations arising out of the Mutiny; but that danger had passed away; and therefore he thought Lord Kitchener was justified in reconsidering the distribution of troops with a view to their being more efficiently located in case there should be any disturbance on the North-West Frontier. He only made two comments on the changes in the Indian Army. One was that he was sure his right hon. friend would remember that the fighting races of India could not be reorganised on the mathematical lines on which, perhaps, a European administrator would attempt to organise a conscript army; and the second was that he thought they ought to recollect that there were still elements of disorder in India, and that, if there was anything like simultaneous co-operation at the time of war, considerable trouble might occur in the interior. Therefore, he thought, they must not altogether disregard the garrison work which our troops would have to perform if we were engaged in a great war on our frontiers.
Perhaps the most interesting part of his right hon. friend's statement was that relating to military re-arrangements. So far as he could gather, the result of the changes was that the Military Member of Council was shorn of all his old duties, and had little connection or touch with the combatant part of the Army, and the Commander-in-Chief had absorbed a good many of the duties which the Military Member previously discharged. It seemed to him rather a patchwork arrangement, and he doubted whether it would stand the test of time. His right hon. friend had said that the position of the Commander-in-Chief in India was somewhat anomalous. He held that the position of Commander-in-Chief in time of peace under modern military conditions was an anachronism. 1261 No great military country had a Commander-in-Chief in time of peace. Every great military country had tried to separate the administrative functions from the executive functions of the Army. One of the reasons why the administration of the British Navy was far superior to that of the Army was that 200 years ago the office of Lord High Admiral was abolished, and a distinction drawn between the executive duties and the administrative duties of the Navy. For that reason he rejoiced that the position of Commander-in-Chief had been abolished here. He would like to see the post of Commander-in-Chief in India abolished also. He did not wish to get rid of Lore Kitchener. He believed the term of office of the Military Member of the Council would shortly come to an end, and he would like to see Lord Kitchener made Minister for War in India with a seat in the Council. What did we want Commander-in-Chief for? Only twice since he had been in public life had a serious war broken out on the Indian frontier. One was the Afghan War, and the other was the rising of tribes in 1897, but in neither case did the Commander-in-Chief go to the front, because there happened to be officers in the Indian Army whose experience better qualified them for that particular duty. If, however, we had a dual system during a period of stress, there was certain to be friction. He thought it essential that there should be a Military Member permanently on the Council of India, and always close to the Viceroy, and for that reason he thought they could not abolish the post of Military Member. If that member was accurately described as more or less a civilian in charge of certain civilian branches of the Army, he would practically be unable to give that advice in connection with the military part of the Army which was the sole cause of his having a scat on the Council, and, therefore, although, he dared say, the present arrangement might satisfy Lord Kitchener for a time, he earnestly hoped it was not the last word the Government would have to say on the subject. It was essential in an Army that one person should be the head, and it was also clear that the men who discharged administrative functions must be over the men who 1262 discharged executive functions. Although he could understand the motives which induced His Majesty's Government to make the, concessions they had made to Lord Kitchener, he did not think that if the change was made it would last. Something more drastic was required, and he hoped, therefore, that the proposal which was now made would not be of such a character that when they wished to reconsider it and ask for further alterations they could be met by the answer that the present changes were final.
As to the Budget he thought his right hon. friend had made an effective reply to the section of public opinion which had declared that British administration was starving India to death. He thought it was to the credit of our race that British administration had conferred such enormous benefits on races outside these islands. Since India was handed over to the Crown, British financiers had converted the old, unstable, profitless, Oriental revenue into a progressive and stable revenue. Lord Curzon had put the coping stone on the edifice, but the credit for the results which had been attained was not due to him alone, but was shared by those who had laid the foundations of Indian finance deep and true. However the credit for India's financial position might be distributed, it redounded to our reputation as a nation that we had been enabled to confer incalculable Benefits on the races entrusted to our charge.
§ MR. HALDANE (Haddingtonshire)
said the noble Lord in the concluding part of his speech had touched on an element of great importance, to the Government of India—the element of continuity. It was impossible for any Viceroy of India to take credit, as credit might be taken under any Party system when policy might be subject to violent fluctuations. Policy might fluctuate in India, but it fluctuated within very defined limits, and the reason for that was that India was a country which stood to us in a very peculiar relation. To begin with, the external political questions of India did not concern India 1263 alone, and probably they would not exist if India stood alone. They were questions which arose in relation to the fluctuations of our external policy, and, therefore, we were in a peculiar degree responsible for the finance of India, and for Indian external affairs. Then, again, no one section of the public could speak for the whole. The immense population of that country was divided into races which varied in habits and religion, and the result was that there were divergencies from the point of view of the people themselves which were not to be paralleled elsewhere. These things had had their outcome in the form of government. The Indian Budget was discussed somewhat sparingly once a year, and one of the reasons for that was that it had not been thought expedient to subject Indian affairs to the immense freedom of discussion to which other affairs were subjected in this House. While it might be a question whether more time should be devoted to the discussion of Indian affairs, it was satisfactory that the debate this year took place on an earlier day in the session than usual. The beneficial result of that change was reflected in the tone and temper of the debate. Instead of a wearied and jaded House examining these things near the close of the session, they had had a very calm discussion. In the speeches of the Secretary of State for India, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, and the noble Lord the Member for Ealing, they had reflected a good deal of the spirit in, which the Government of India was carried on.
He thought the Secretary of State for India was to be congratulated on the favourable way his statement had been received. They were all agreed with him about railways and the salt tax, but he was not sure that when they knew more than they knew now they should be so much with him about the new arrangement between the Commander-in-Chief and the Viceroy's Council. It might be that some of the cogent remarks of the noble Lord who spoke last had their point of application there. He himself owned that there was great difficulty in putting a man of Lord Kitchener's stature in the position of Commander-in-Chief in India. It might 1264 be that that inevitably gave rise to friction in a country where personalities counted for much more than they did here, and where constitutional restraints operated very much less. There was another reflection which this Budget had excited in his mind with reference to the military expenditure. It had increased to £20,000,000, and that he regarded as a very alarming figure. It was quite true that India was in a, prosperous condition. Be that as it might, it only showed the greatness of our responsibility in regard to the whole question of the government of India.
He read the other day a report of a meeting which took place in St. James's Hall in the middle of last month, at which a very strong attack was made on the system of government in India, and particularly on Lord Curzon's administration. Lord Curzon was said to have Russianised India. Now it was perhaps the out come of the absence of representative Government in India that these meetings were held and that these denunciations were made; and he thought that the moral to be drawn from them was that we should be extremely tolerant, careful, and patient in the opportunities of dealing with these people. The Government of India was necessarily bureaocratic because of the mixture of its races and the great variety of political complications. It was, therefore, inevitable that there should be a large number discontented, that some of them should have grievances, and that they should come here and make strong speeches. It was equally inevitable that the Viceroy should be made the target of those attacks. Speaking for himself, and for a large number of hon. Members on that side of the House, he must say that he did not agree with those attacks on Lord Curzon. The noble Lord went out to India as a strong Party man, but he had administered India in a thoroughly non-Party spirit, and had thereby carried out the real traditions of Indian government. He was not sure that his Lordship had not reversed the policy of his predecessors in attacking and subduing the frontier tribes. He left the frontier tribes pretty much to themselves 1265 and to act as a buffer to foreign aggression. There was another thing which Lord Curzon did for which they were always grateful. He showed himself a strong man when a question arose between the action of the British Army and justice to the native population. There were two cases—one of them of very brutal murder—in which Lord Curzon allowed nothing to stand in the way of getting at the aggressors; and when he could not find the aggressors he punished those who ought to have found them. He showed that spirit which, however much complaint it might have raised in the minds of some people, would make his character stand out as one who was perfectly fearless when justice had to be administered. Then there was a third thing which Lord Curzon had done for which they were grateful to him; because not only the noble Lord, but the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State himself, did not disguise that it was Lord Curzon's very emphatic declaration that free trade was the proper policy for India. Therefore, from the Opposition side of the House, they did not take the view that was taken at the meeting to which he had referred, that Lord Curzon had altogether Russianised India, and that his policy ought to be the subject of some violent reversal.
The right hon. Gentleman did not allude to the question of higher education in India. The House knew that there had been a very strong attack on the Viceroy of India for sanctioning what was called the University policy in India. Up to 1901 there were five examining Universities in India, and the preparation for those Universities was carried out by colleges of which there were a great number with no fewer than 23,000 students; and yet their functions in many cases were little more than examining institutions. But the Ministry and Lord Curzon himself came to the conclusion that the state of higher education in India was very unsatisfactory, and they proceeded to work out a new policy which consisted not in the Government taking over the higher education, but in the Government arming the Universities with more power to control the teaching colleges. 1266 He thought that policy was altogether right and that it was working very well But Lord Curzon had been denounced up hill and down dale for adopting it. It was said that his Lordship was acting in a retrograde fashion. It was quite true that changes had been made in the governing bodies of the Universities in order to help them to do their work more efficiently, and he believed that that process had been for good. Then, again, there was the famous speech of Lord Curzon about which there was great criticism. Lord Curzon used that expression, which he himself would not have used, about the standards of morality in India. Although it might be said that some of those expressions were superfluous, there was nothing in that address which really amounted to fault on his part, or which amounted to anything more than a laudable desire to raise the tone of the morality of India as far as possible. It was rather like a rectorial address. But be that as it might, the whole educational policy in recent times in India seemed to him to have been for good.
Then there was another thing about which a great fuss was going on, namely, the proposal to partition Bengal—to take the north-eastern part off it, and to have Assam and Deccan administered by a, separate Government. He had always thought of late years that the necessity for making a change in the arrangements of the administrative government of India was becoming more and more apparent, and he should, therefore, be disposed to stand very closely to the proposed partitioning of Bengal. There were always some people disappointed—Civil servants and military men—but that showed the necessity of scrutinising the way in which the government of India was carried on. On the other hand, they must remember that the Government of India was not a Party Government. He did not wish it to go forth that there was any section in that House who were disposed to identify themselves with criticisms which he thought went far beyond what was legitimate or right. On the other hand, he did not wish it to be thought that they were otherwise than vigilant in keeping a watchful eye on things which 1267 were constantly going on in India. But when they came to the frontier policy, and to the military expenditure which that frontier policy necessitated, then he did think these were questions to which the very closest attention should be given. Although it was well that they should on this occasion have had this debate thus early, still it was not satisfactory that a single day in the session should be given up to the discussion of matters of such momentous magnitude. He hoped the time would come when the very force of public opinion would make them adopt a better way of doing things. He did feel that those who held these meetings and who complained that sufficient attention was not given to Indian affairs had a grain of truth on their side. India had not got representative government—and he did not say that the time had come when India should have representative government—but the very fact that there was no representative Government, and possibly no prospect of it, ought to make the obligation on our part all the more to see that these things were scrutinised and watched. He thought the right hon. Gentleman who had presented that day so admirable a record of successful policy would have conferred another obligation not only on the people of India, but on the people of Great Britain, if he succeeded in introducing the useful precedent of getting more time devoted to the discussion in Parliament of Indian affairs.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON (Orkney and Shetland)
said that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for India showed how India had prospered under our rule. But the question which ought to be asked by hon. Members was whether India was contented with our rule, and whether it had reason to be contented. Now, he thought there was a good deal to be said on the other side. He believed that India at the present time was not in that satisfactory condition which the right hon. Member attributed to it; and that there was a large amount of discontent in that country which did not find expression. Time was when India was the happy hunting ground of adventurers who 1268 exploited the country in their own interest. The result was the Great Mutiny. After the Mutiny we might have held the country by force and prevented the spread of western civilisation. Or we should have striven to govern the country according to Indian ideas and through Indian chiefs. But we had followed I neither course. We had opened up the country, and broken down the barriers of language and of distance. We had done everything we could to encourage the spread of education. They had I Indian Gentlemen in the House who might make or unmake Ministries, and yet they had no say whatever in the government of their own country. That was both an anomaly and an anachronism.
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)
said that one of the Gentlemen referred to had been Commissioner of a Native State.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON
said that he had nevertheless no share in the general government of his country. The Native States were in a semi-civilised condition. The Secretary of State said that a Commissioner should be a Judge, a lawyer, and have a variety of other knowledge; and in such circumstances it was impossible that a native should have any important share in the government of his country. The Secretary for State also said that they were on the eve of great changes. He sincerely trusted they were. He did not think that this country had very much to be proud of in connection with the government of India, except the material matters alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman. The chief point to which he desired to direct attention was what was called the great Charter of Liberty in the time of William IV., which was as follows—That no native of the said territories nor any natural-born subject of His Majesty resident therein, shall by reason only of his religion, place of birth, descent, colour, or any of them, be disabled from holding any place, office, or employment under the said company.If Indians had a voice in the administration of their country, and if their grievances were fairly considered, they would not have the treatment now given them meted out in Australia and South Africa. Had any protest been made against this 1269 scandalous treatment? Indians were not allowed to undertake the meanest employment; and ships were not even allowed to carry the Australian mails because they had coolies aboard, after all, His Majesty's faithful subjects. Was that in accordance with the solemn treaty entered into at the time of the Mutiny? Could anyone maintain that the position of Indians in South Africa was at all reasonable or just? Their position was far better before the war. Then they were admitted to the country; now they appeared to be absolutely shut out. Indeed, the British Government themselves instructed counsel to appear against the Indian contention in South Africa; and a British Indian, no matter what his status or qualifications might be if he were not a refugee, could not possibly enter the country. This country was solely responsible for this measure of injustice which was meted out to fellow subjects of the King; and it was the duty of hon. Members to raise their voices against such action as had been taken in Australia and South Africa, and a strong Government would have let Australian and South African millionaires have had their opinions freely and roughly.
They had heard much about the prosperity of India; but the right hon. Gentleman did not allude to one class which comprised between 80 per cent, and 90 per cent, of the population, viz., the class which depended on agriculture for a living. It would be well if they could hear more of the wants and desires of this class through the medium of, say, village communes. These people were poor to an intolerable degree. Famines were constantly arising, but not through any scarcity of corn. There was plenty of food in the country; but the people had no money with which to buy it. Very much of the poverty which existed was caused by the excessive taxation which was imposed, the burden of taxes on the land in relation to gross produce being higher than in any other country in the world. It ran, he was informed, up to something like 20 per cent., and if that statement were not true it ought to be contradicted. The Secretary of State, in reply to his hon. friend the Member for Ross-shire, stated that in Madras in 1900–1 there were 15,000 evictions, 1270 the total amount realised being 25s for each home. The people who were unable to pay the Government taxes were evicted, and thrown out to pick up a living as best they could. Few hon. Members could spend more than a month or two in India, and their knowledge was painfully limited. India was the most important portion of His Majesty's dominions, and it was in tolerable that Indians should not in some way or other be entitled to bring forward their grievances, and also whit they thought of the great fiscal change with which the Empire was threatened. They knew the opinion of the Viceroy, but it would be well to know what was the opinion of the great minds of India. He begged to move.
§ MR. SAMUEL SMITH (Flintshire)
said before proceeding to discuss this Motion he would like to congratulate the House on the excellent Budget laid before it, showing a surplus of £3,500,000 sterling for last year and almost as much for the coming one. But most of this future surplus was most wisely given back to the people by the remission of 25 percent of the salt tax, by large grants for local purposes, and primary education. He adopted as his own the languages of Mr. Gokhale of Poona, the ablest Indian member of the Viceregal Council, and a man universally respected in India. That gentleman said—There is but one feeling throughout the country—and it is a feeling of deep and unalloyed satisfaction as to the manner in which the Government of India have decided to apply about 3¾ crores to measures of remission of taxation, administrative improvement, and the general well-being of the people.For six years the Indian Exchequer had had continual surpluses amounting to over £20,000,000 sterling, and if we added the large sum accumulated as a gold reserve fund, the total came to over £30,000,000. The main cause of this was the adoption of the gold standard and the artificial raising of the rupee from 1s. 1d. to 1s. 4d., which reduced the loss by exchange enormously; but for this the rupee would have sunk to 10d., and the Government would have been almost driven into bankruptcy. But one of the greatest grievances of the agricul- 1271 tural population was that it greatly added to the burden of their debts to the money-lenders, and also to the weight of their assessment. They had to pay in rupees worth 1s. 4d. instead of rupees worth 10d. or 1s., and for this cause the universal feeling of India was that the Government was bound to give compensation to the ryots, who numbered three fourths or four-fifths of the whole population, for this grievous burden imposed upon them.
It would be unfortunate if the fulness of the Indian Exchequer misled the British people as to the condition of that vast population. Might he tell the House the impressions he derived from attending the twentieth Indian National Congress which met in Bombay last December. For three days they listened to a series of most able speeches delivered by delegates from all parts of India; the language was English, often eloquent, always moderate and respectful, and the arguments were weighty and often convincing. He could not conceive a greater tribute to English education than this great assembly of more than 1,000 delegates and 10,000 spectators as orderly and decorous as any assembly that ever met in England, There was now in India a body of intelligent opinion, upheld by a native Press, which they must deal with sympathetically if they wanted to escape great trouble in the future. He was glad to have this opportunity—perhaps the last he would have—of voicing the grievances and aspirations of the Indian people whose interests he had tried to serve since his first visit to India, forty-two years ago.
There were two great classes into which Indian grievances may be divided— the first might be called political, the second economical. The educated classes of India, many of whom had been trained in this country, were dissatisfied at the very small share they had in the administration of their country—they held extremely few appointments in the higher grades of service. He should say that, roughly, nineteen-twentieths of all the appointments of £1,000 a year and over were held by Europeans, also the great bulk between £300 and £1,000 a year. A very few Indians entered the Im- 1272 perial service by examination in England, and those alone rose to high appointments. The provincial service intended for Indians to enter by competition was now reserved for nomination, and this caused great dissatisfaction. The Government of India was as purely bureaucratic as that of Russia, the only difference being that our officials were honest and capable, and sincerely desirous of doing their best for the people. But the time had come when the ablest and best of the Indian people should be associated with ourselves in the government of the country. Local government was slowly growing in India and was training the people in self-government; the legislative councils were most valuable means of eliciting Indian opinion, but the official members outvoted the elected, and the various Governors could overrule their decisions. Our system of administration was perhaps the only one practicable at first, but it could not go on permanently, and the time had come to overhaul it, and to give India some moderate form of representative government. He believed that most of the British residents in India knew that this must come sooner or later. Many were not averse to it if it were brought about gradually. It was the only means by which India could be kept loyal, and we were bound by all our national traditions to bring it about gradually. He was certain that if we went on the reactionary lines that had been in favour of late years we should alienate the sentiment of the people and prepare great difficulties and even dangers in future. This was not a question which could be settled in India. The bureaucracy there would not voluntarily surrender their power; officials clung to power all the world over. According to Walter Bagehot—The trained official hates the rude, untrained public he thinks they are stupid, ignorant, reckless, that they cannot tell their own interests. Bureaucracy is sure to think that its duty is to augment official power, official business or official members rather than leave free the energies of mankind, it overdoes the quantity of government as well as impairs its quality.We had one of the best bureaucracies in India which the world ever saw, yet it partook of these faults, and it was 1273 necessary that we should gradually create a more healthy form of government.
He would venture to commend to the Government some moderate reforms which might safely be conceded at once. Why should we not place three or four eminent natives of India on the London Council which advised the Secretary for India? The Indian Secretary had no means of knowing what the 300,000,000 of India desired. He was usually a statesman who had not visited India, he was surrounded by British officials and ex-officials whose interests were not identical with those of the people; and, unknown to himself, he was biassed against Indian opinion; and he ought to have the opportunity of knowing first hand what the Indian people thought. We might have escaped the two Afghan Wars and the Tibet Expedition, and perhaps even the Indian Mutiny, if the Home Government had possessed councillors like Sir Salar Jung, or Sir Madhavo Rao or Professor Gokhale. These delegates from India should be elected by the legislative councils and would be drawn from the elite of the Indian people. He would also recommend that the Governor-General should have at least one eminent Indian gentleman in his executive council, that was to say, his Cabinet where all great decisions were taken. It would be deeply appreciated by the Indian people and they deserved this mark of confidence. Lastly, he would suggest that three Member should be elected to this House by the electorate of the three Presidencies that now returned the members of the Legislative Councils of Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay. Parliament would then hear at first hand the voice of India which it could not do under existing arrangements.
The second great reform required in India was economical. Much was heard about the prosperity of India. When he visited the country forty-two years ago he was much struck by the extreme poverty of the people. He went there again last year, expecting to see a great improvement, but there appeared to be the same picture of half starved, half-clad people, the same miserable mud huts, end the same dirty villages as there were forty years ago. 1274 The agricultural population, some four-fifths of the whole, was steeped in poverty and hopelessly in debt. In the districts scourged by famine they could barely-live, even in good seasons, and in bad seasons they would starve wholesale unless fed by Government. The ground was over-cropped and exhausted, manure was used for fuel, and the yield was miserably poor. Most of the ryots paid interest, never less than 12 per cent., sometimes 36 per cent., to the moneylenders; they were virtually their serfs, and would never extricate themselves except by Government help. He believed that in many districts a composition of debts could be carried out voluntarily if the Government advanced even one-third of the amount. The money lenders knew that their advances were irrecoverable, and they would accept a moderate compensation. He believed if the Government advanced £50,000,000 it would clear from debt the greater part of the Indian peasantry, and they could borrow this for £1,500,000 per annum. They had paid off £20,000,000 of debt in the last few years, nearly all the railways in India would become Government property in fifty years, and they might undertake this immense reform even without charging the peasantry anything except interest. It would be full compensation for the cruel suffering caused by raising the rupee when the gold standard was adopted. It would also be needful to exempt from seizure for debt the homesteads and farm stocks in the future, so as to prevent a fresh pile of debts being reared; and also to start village or co-operative banks like those in Germany, Denmark, and other Continental countries. Irrigation should also be encouraged in every possible way, for water was the life of India as of Egypt, and wonderful results had been recently obtained in the Punjaub and Seinde. The Report of the Scott-Moncrieff Commission should be pressed on as fast as possible. Then a considerable remission should be made of the assessment on Bombay, Madras; and the Central Provinces, where it was much too high.
There was no need to spend so much on the Army now that Lord Kitchener had so largely increased its 1275 mobility. Russia had lost power and prestige in Asia to an enormous extent, and when the war was over, as it seemed likely to be very soon, she would need several years of peace for internal re form. The Indian Government had a rare opportunity, with a full Exchequer, first-rate credit, and assured peace, to undertake great domestic reforms. It was many years since they had had such an opportunity, and let them now use it to the full. But there was one more branch of improvement that was essential—he meant the growth of industries. Except in Bombay and a few manufacturing centres there was virtually no industrial development. The people were too poor and too ignorant of mechanical science. Capital was too scarce and the rate of interest far too high. He failed to see how India could be made prosperous without availing herself of cheap foreign capital and skill. She would have to do what the United States did in its early stages, and what the British Colonies and the South American Republics were now doing, for all these countries had been developed by foreign capital, and all were prospering. Yet the feeling of the Congress party in India was strongly opposed to it; they thought it drained away the wealth of the country; they pointed to the excess of exports over imports, which was fully £20,000,000 a year, as a proof that it impoverished the country. They failed to see that even a greater excess of exports existed in the United Stales, Australia, the Argentine, and Brazil. Yet these were the most thriving countries in the world. The, United States exported £100,000,000 more than she imported, yet she was the most prosperous country in the world. There was one point, however, where Indian sentiment must be respected or great evil would accrue. The Government must beware of giving foreign syndicates concessions similar to those of South Africa. There was vast mineral wealth in India, and it mutt be opened up, and probably it could not be done without foreign capital; but the greatest care must be taken to prevent oppression of coolie labour. All the contract labour, such as existed on the tea plantations, must be disallowed, and the State must reserve its full rights as a ground landlord. An far as possible preference should always be 1276 given to the people of India in granting concessions.
Another suggestion he would make was that technical education and industrial training must be spread all over India. The education now given produced pleaders, clerks, and journalists, but it did not produce engineers or mechanics or chemists, and this was one cause of the extreme poverty. Why was it that the late M. Tata's splendid gift of twenty-five lakhs for an institution of research was still unused? It caused much unfavourable comment in India. The last subject to which he would refer was the demand "that periodical Parliamentary inquiries into the administration be revived." These occurred every twenty years in the days of the East India Company and were most useful. In the year 1886 a similar inquiry was proposed by Lord Randolph Churchill when Secretary for India, and was included in the Speech from the Throne. Mr. Gladstone commented on it as follows—I am of opinion that Her Majesty's Government are eminently right in asking the House to appoint the Committee. I trust that it will be a carefully selected Committee and that it will be efficient in proportion to the greatness of the subject; and that it will devote itself to the subject with a zeal and diligence such as we have known in former years and former generations.It was quite impossible adequately to discuss Indian affairs in that House They were full of complexity, and very few Members of the House had a personal knowledge of India. An exhaustive Parliamentary inquiry would be invaluable. It would lead to organic changes in the Government of India which were now fully ripe, and which we dared not delay except at the risk of ultimately losing that country. He would conclude by quoting the words of one of the greatest of England's pro-Consuls, Lord Cromer, spoken before he left India, twenty years ago, when he acted as Finance Minister to Lord North brook—No one who watches the signs of the time in India with even moderate care can doub that we have entered upon a period of change. The spread of education, the increasing influence of a free Press, the substitution of legal for discretionary administration, the progress of railways and telegraphs, the easier communication with Europe and the more ready influx of European, are beginning 1277 to produce a marked effect upon the people. New ideas are springing up. New aspirations are being called forth. The power of public opinion is growing daily. Such a condition of affairs is one in which the task of Government, and especially of a despotic Government, is beset with difficulties of no light kind. To move too fast is dangerous, but to lag behind is more dangerous still. The problem is how to deal with this new-born spirit of progress, raw and superficial as in many respects it is, so as to direct it into the right course, and to derive from it all the benefits which its development is capable of ultimately conferring upon the country, and at the same time to prevent it from becoming, through blind indifference or stupid repression, a source of serious political danger. It is only what ought to be expected by every thoughtful man that, after fifty years of a free Press and thirty years of expanding education, with European ideas flowing into the country on every side, and old indigenous custom, habits, and prejudices breaking down, changes should be taking place in the thoughts, the desires and the aims of the intelligent and educated men of the country which no wise and cautious Government can afford to disregard, and to which they must gradually adapt their system of administration if they do not wish to fee it shattered by forces which they have themselves called into being, but which they have failed to guide and control.Amendment proposed—To leave out from the word 'That,' to the end of the Question, and add the words considering the great importance of Indian questions and the desire of the Indian people to lay their grievances before Parliament and to ask for improvement in the administration of their country, it is absolutely necessary, in the interests alike of India and the United Kingdom, that periodical Parliamentary inquiries into the administration of India be revived, that the salary of the Secretary of State for India be placed upon the British Estimates, and that greater opportunities be given for the Parliamentary discussion of Indian affairs."—(Mr. Cathcart Wason.)
§ Question proposed. "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MAJOR EVANS GORDON
said that as one who had, for twenty years of his life, served in India in many capacities, and who had continued to take a very deep interest in Indian affairs, he should like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for India on the admirable statement he had made to the House—both as to it manner and as to its substance. The right hon. Gentleman had shown that there was an increasing and abundant prosperity in every department of Indian affairs—a state of 1278 things which was wholly incompatible with the pictures which had been drawn as to the condition of India by hon. Gentlemen opposite who had moved and seconded the Amendment. Both these hon. Gentlemen had covered a great deal of ground, and the tendency of their remarks was that the people of India were in a starving, destitute, and ignorant condition.
§ MR. SAMUEL SMITH
I did not say that the whole of them were in that condition, but that a large part of the agricultural population were so.
§ MAJOR EVANS GORDON
said that seeing the agricultural population of India was 80 per cent, of the total population, it was wholly impossible that these should be starving and, destitute under the conditions of prosperity which existed, and as was shown by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for India. The fact was that, without entering into details, the hon. Gentleman and those who thought with him, had taken his opinion from the statements made in what was called the Indian Congress. The value of these opinions was very much to be discounted. The hon. Gentleman opposite had just told the House that it was the opinion of that Congress that the investments of British capital in India were bleeding the country to death! He maintained that people who held such au entirely erroneous and ridiculous opinion as that must be listened to with the greatest caution when they spoke on other economic questions. Both the mover and seconder of the Amendment said that it was a grievance that Indian natives had not a larger share in the government of the country. These hon. Gentleman insisted that there should be a progressive increase in. the number of native Indians who should take a share in the government. But what had that progressive increase bean during the List twenty years? The number of natives employed in all branches of administration had steadily increased until now all the subordinate positions in every department of public life were filled by natives, while the number holding higher appointments was being steadily 1279 increased—even in the case of Judges of the High Court itself—a position higher even than that of a Lieutenant-Governor of a province. The hon. Gentlemen who moved and seconded the Amendment said, "Let us consult the wishes of the people of India," He could assure these hon. Gentlemen that in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred the dumb multitudes of India—not frothy rhetoricians of the Indian Congress— would far prefer to see Englishmen in responsible administrative positions in India rather than anyone belonging to their own faith or nationality. He believed that if a plebiscite of the Indian people were taken, fewer native Indians would be employed in administrative posts than at present. The confidence reposed by the natives of India in the English Indian Civil servants had always been high indeed; and they would rather entrust the administration of their affairs to Englishmen than to people of their own race and faith.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Flint Boroughs argued that the debt of the agricultural population should be liquidated by the Indian Government. Steps in that direction had been taken under the Deccan Ryots Act, and other efforts of that kind had been tried with more or less success; but to suggest that the Government of India should liquidate the debt of all the agricultural population of India was the wildest proposition ever made within the walls of that House. If the debts of these ryots were paid off to day, they would instantly begin to borrow on the morrow, and the position of the people would not be improved. The only position which would be improved was that of the money-lender, who was an admitted evil in the country. Money for funerals and Weddings would be certain to be borrowed. He regarded the demand in the Amendment for constant Parliamentary inquiry into the administration of India as very mischievous. To drag Indian affairs into the Party arena would be a great misfortune; and these frequent Parliamentary discussions would not lead to the better government of India in any way, or benefit the people of that country. If that were the policy of hon. Gentlemen 1280 opposite, he doubted whether they would ever find a Viceroy willing to represent them in India under such conditions. The present prosperity of India had been brought about in spite of great calamities and difficulties by a wise and statesmanlike policy of development, which had made it possible to withstand such visitations as famine and plague. He himself nursed one of the first cases of plague in India, and he could endorse what his right hon. friend had said about the superstition which prevailed. He had been through many great epidemics, and he knew the extraordinary unwillingness of the natives to take precautions. But in spite of all these terrible disasters, which would have paralysed India in former times, they found prosperity increasing and taxation decreasing. That had been arrived at by steady administration, by the extension of railways and irrigation works which had enabled the country to withstand these great shocks. He went to India in 1877, the year of the great Madras famine; the position of affairs was very different then. Millions of people were dying of starvation, not because there was no money or grain in the country, but because means of communication were so bad that food could not be conveyed to the people. India was now in a permanent position to withstand the great national calamities with which it was threatened.
The arrangements proposed with regard to the military administration he approved of; but he should view with great alarm any proposal to abolish the office of Commander-in-Chief, which had an immense personal importance in the eyes of the Native Army. He should look with very great regret to the abolition of an office which had been held by many distinguished officers. To the Native Army the Commander-in-Chief was known as the "War Lord," and his office and person were held in the highest respect. He was glad that this old controversy as regarded military administration which had lasted for many years was to be ended. The arrangement proposed by his right hon. friend appeared to him to be sound; and, in the main, wise, statesmanlike, and scientific. He was not quite sure what the position of 1281 the Adjutant-General was to be under the new arrangement; but he had no doubt Lord Kitchener would settle that. There was one point to which the Secretary of State did not refer.
The Papers which had been laid before Parliament seemed to justify the conclusion that our relations with Afghanistan were at least no worse than they had been for many years past. The British Mission under Sir Louis Dane was hospitably received at Cabul, and returned in safety. At Cabul a brief treaty was formally negotiated, and it renewed with the present Amir the political engagements which had subsisted for more than twenty years between the late Amir and the Indian Government. The gist of those engagements was that so long as the Amir shaped his foreign policy in accordance with our views, the integrity of Afghanistan against Russian aggression was guaranteed by the British Government, and a very large subsidy was paid from Indian revenues to the Afghan ruler. There appeared to have been no advance whatever beyond this position. The point which he ventured to urge upon the attention of the House was that this position, although it might not indicate in itself any change for the worse, was, nevertheless, most unreasonable, unsatisfactory, and full of dangerous possibilities.
It was a matter of common knowledge that Russia was rapidly completing her railway communications and massing large forces along the Afghan frontier in Central Asia, and that Herat lay at her mercy. We were absolutely bound as a matter both of honour and expediency to defend the Afghan frontier which we demarcated in conjunction with Russia. Yet the ruler of Afghanistan, our ally, would not make, or allow us to make, a yard of railway or even of telegraph line within his country. We had been told by high authority that it was fatal in dealing with Oriental potentates to try and force their inclination. He would be the last to dispute the general correctness of this view. But Oriental potentates had a keen eye for their own interests and their own safety, and he could not believe that it was beyond the resources of diplomacy 1282 to convince the Amir that his safety lay in allowing us at least to establish telegraphic and railway communication between Quetta and his remote exposed frontier in the Herat province. He submitted that the Indian Government should leave no plan untried of gaining these moderate concessions, or rather these moderate signs of co-operation, from our ally, and that until they had been gained our relations with Afghanistan must be regarded as dangerously unsatisfactory. It must be remembered that if it suited Russia to do so a pretext could easily be found for an advance upon, and a "temporary" occupation of Herat. Without telegraphic communication a considerable period of time would elapse before any news of what was going on in the Herat province could reach this country. A move of this kind on the part of Russia, if not probable, was perfectly possible, and if it were to take place, had the Government considered the answer that they would make to it? A railway could no doubt speedily be laid to Kandahar and the army of the Amir could be reinforced in that direction. But this would not suffice, as it would be essential to remove the shock of a collision as far from the Indian frontier as possible and to prevent the establishment of Russia in the rich Herat province. Without better means of communication than at present existed this operation would be attended with great, if not insuperable, difficulty, and he trusted that matters would not be allowed to rest where they were, and that in his own interest the attention of the Ameer would be steadily called to the dangers of the present situation. He remembered the days of the Durbar between the Amir and Lord Dufferin, when it was believed they were on the brink of war, and when the doors of the Indian Treasury were opened, and the rupees were poured out in what might be truly called a silver stream to provide for the operations preliminary to a conflict. That was an utterly wasteful procedure, and he rejoiced to think that Lord Kitchener, the Indian Government, and his right hon. friend were taking time by the forelock and making their preparations now. The –2,500,000 which it was proposed to spend this year might prove to be a great economy in the end.
MR. HERBERT ROBERTS (Denbighshire, W.)
joined in the congratulations to the Government for having given so early a day for the discussion of Indian affairs, and expressed the hope that the practice now initiated would be rigorously adhered to in coming years. The object of the Amendment he now supported was to enable the dumb millions of India, to whom the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down alluded, to make their views known in this House. The Motion emphasised what would be generally admitted on all sides, namely, the desirability of the mind of the House being better informed and the people of this country becoming more deeply interested in Indian affairs. Everybody who took an interest in the matter was amazed at the magnitude of Indian affairs. Every problem that could interest politicians and administrators was to be found in India. In regard to this matter there were two schools of thought—that of the rulers and that of the ruled. With regard to the rulers he desired to emphasise the opinion expressed by his hon. friend the Member for Flintshire in that House, namely, an admiration for the splendid past services of those who had been called upon to govern that great dependency. He himself felt that the administration of India had in many ways been an arena in which the best qualities of our race had been shown, but on the other hand there were the views of the governed, and it was of supreme importance that those views should be recognised. Western civilisation and education must in time make a difference in the relations between the governed and the governing classes, and it was the duty of every Member of that House to acquaint himself with the facts, and endeavour, as far as he could, to meet the problems which arose in the Indian situation. The Indian National Congress represented the educated native opinion of the country; as far as public opinion in India could be expressed politically it was declared by that body, and that being to it was a great mistake for any Government to take up a hostile or unsympathetic attitude towards it.
What was the peculiar function of Parliament in the government of India? 1284 He submitted that so long as India was governed, as at present, an active participation of the Imperial Parliament was essential. He remembered the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton once declaring that every Member of that House should regard himself as a Member for India. Constitutionally the Secretary of State was responsible to that House for the Government of India. That was the foundation principle of the statute upon which the Government of India was built up, but, owing to Parliamentary developments at home and to administrative changes in India, it had practically ceased to exist. With reference to the Motion before the House, the first suggestion was that there should be a periodical Parliamentary inquiry into the affairs of India. That was simply a revival of the inquiries that were held up to the time of the transference of the Government of India from the East India Company to the Secretary of State. Every one of those inquiries was followed by useful and beneficent results. The inquiry of 1817 practically established the principle of free trade in regard to the commerce of India; that of 1833 produced the declaration of the right of Indians to be eligible for every office under Government; and the inquiry of 1853 led to the abolition of patronage in the Civil Service. It might be said that a great change had come over the situation since 1858. That was obviously true. But with the growth of the power and efficiency of the Government of India it necessarily followed, especially having regard to the changed conditions of the Parliamentary machine here, that the Secretary of State was guided in the main by the opinions expressed by the Viceroy and his Council in India. The suggested inquiry was really in keeping with the trend of affairs throughout the world in the direction of the consolidation of the Empire. The underlying idea of Colonial Conferences was from time to time to bring the mind of the self-governing Colonies in touch with the mind of the mother country on important questions affecting their respective interests. Up to the present India had been left out of account in connection with these Colonial Conferences; but he submitted that if it was desirable that 1285 the self-governing Colonies should have these discussions every five years, it was much more necessary that India should every twenty years have an opportunity of making her views known by means of a Parliamentary inquiry.
The second suggestion was that the salary of the Secretary of State should be placed upon the British Estimates. He had himself moved a Resolution in that direction, and would now merely remind the House that the Indian Expenditure Commission specifically recommended that that should be done.
And, it being half-past Seven of the clock, the debate stood adjourned until this Evening's Sitting.