Mr. TOWYN JONES
I beg to move, "That this House again places on record its conviction that the Indo-Chinese opium trade is morally indefensible; and, in view of the position of the Chinese Government, which, while engaged in suppressing the profitable production of opium by its own citizens, is obliged to admit opium from India, this House calls upon His Majesty's Government to release China from her treaty obligation to admit the Indian drug, and urges that she should be set free to prohibit the importation of the stocks of Opium now accumulated at the treaty ports and Hong Kong."
I crave the indulgence of the House upon rising for the first time to address it. Cardinal Manning once confessed that he had never felt more embarrassed in his life than when he had to address the College of Cardinals in Rome in a speech not in his own mother tongue. I am profoundly conscious that to me it is one thing to speak at a gathering of my own countrymen in the venacular, but quite another thing to address the British House of Commons in a langauge not my own, and which I have but seldom used save in private. As a Welsh Nationalist I feel that Providence, through circumstances over which I have no control, has given me the opportunity of speaking here for the first time, not upon a question exclusively Welsh, but on a great and grave moral question—a question that transcends the boundaries of all the nationalities, and all the political parties that are assembled in this House, but which is at the same time in perfect accord with the most cherished traditions, the deepest convictions and the best ideals of Welsh nationalism. The burning words of Dr. Griffith John, Principal Hopkyn Rees, the Rev. Timothy Richard, of China, Dr. Roberts, of Cassia, and Mr. 2151 Henry Richard and other great spiritual and social leaders, have set the hearts of my countrymen ablaze with the desire to see the end of this Indo-Chinese Opium Traffic—the greatest curse of China, and the greatest disgrace of Britain.
For seventy years China, under treaties imposed by Britain, was obliged to allow her teeming millions of people to be exposed to the dangers of a trade in a drug that makes the strongest of men bankrupt in body, mind, and soul. In 1893, by a majority, this House for the first time declared the traffic to be "morally indefensible." In 1906 and 1908 it repeated that declaration by a unanimous vote. At the end of 1907, under the rule of Lord Morley at the India Office, a new agreement was made with China, under which we undertook that India should diminish by one-tenth every year, beginning in 1908, the quantity of opium sold for export to China, thus bringing the traffic to a close by the end of 1916. China had to diminish her production of opium according to the same ratio. In 1907, Sir John Jordan, the British Minister at Pekin, estimated that six-sevenths of the opium consumed in China was her own production, the remaining one-seventh coming from India. At the same time the Indian Government computed that, on the average of ten years, 51,000 chests out of a total Indian annual production of 67,000 chests went to China. This new arrangement sent a thrill of joy throughout China, and the Chinese Government, supported by all classes of the Chinese people, entered upon a noble crusade against the great enemy of the land. Their Herculean efforts in putting down this traffic, against tremendous odds, commanded the admiration of the world. By the middle of 1910, China had reduced by 70 per cent. to 80 per cent. her former production of opium, whereas India by that time had only diminished her former quantity of opium exported to China by 30 per cent. So great was the success that attended the strenuous exertions of China to stop this traffic that the price of the drug increased fourfold. One result was that the Indian revenue, computed to produce £11,250,000 in three years, has really produced over £20,000,000 in five years and a quarter. Another result was the unwillingness of the Chinese farmers to give up the cultivation of the poppy after it had become so enormously profitable. They naturally argued, and argue still, that their Government should 2152 not punish them for growing what the foreigners were allowed to send in.
China now became intensely conscious of the fact that she would have a much better chance of ridding her people of opium if the period for terminating the trade were shortened. Consequently the Chinese Government, supported by the anti-opium societies in this country, made an earnest appeal to the British Government to release China from her treaty obligations. Responding to this request His Majesty's Government, in the summer of 1911, made a fresh agreement with the Chinese Government, which not only recognised the large measure of success already attained by China in putting an end to the production and consumption of opium, but also definitely promised our assistance to China in completing the task. China's action in the suppression of opium was now greatly hampered by a clause contained in that agreement, which compels China to allow the wholesale trade in opium to continue unhindered till her complete success in eradicating the poppy cultivation, as well as by the revolution, which was taken advantage of by the farmers in some districts for the planting of the profitable opium poppy. It is often said that China has violated the Opium Agreement of 1911. By Article 7 of that agreement, China undertook tocause to be withdrawn all restrictions placed by the provincial authorities on the wholesale trade in Indian opium,and agreed that—no such restriction shall be again imposed so long as the additional Article of the Chifu Agreement remains in force.The same Article further provided that:The foregoing stipulation shall not derogate in any manner from the force of the laws already published or hereafter to be published by the Chinese Government to suppress the smoking of opium, and to regulate the retail trade in the drug in general.The Chinese Government protests that it has scrupulously refrained from any direct interference with the wholesale trade in Indian opium, and it is doubtful whether there is any reliable evidence to the contrary. But it has availed itself of its right, recognised by the agreement "to regulate the retail trade in the drug" to such good effect that the wholesale trade has practically been brought to an end, for it is obvious that if the retail trade can be confined to that for the supply of registered opium smokers, the wholesale trade must thereupon cease. The opium merchants of Shanghai and Hong Kong thinking that China could not carry out her opium policy, 2153 have accumulated large stocks of opium valued at some ten or twelve millions sterling, and on which British and other banks have advanced between four and five millions sterling. Finding that the stocks were practically unsaleable the bankers and merchants have put a strong pressure upon the Governments connected with this nefarious traffic, either to compel China to take over these stocks, or bear their loss. The Revolution in China has transformed the world's oldest Empire into its newest Republic, and considerations connected with the Chinese Republic in its infancy, such as those of recognition and loan, may account for the fresh stream of opium traffic that has been flowing during the last few weeks into China from Shanghai and Hong Kong.
That, I understand, is the position of things to-day regarding the Indo-Chinese opium trade; and as a solution of the problem I submit this Resolution to the House by which the Government are called upon to promise that the Chinese be at once formally and finally released from all further obligation to admit Indian opium — and that, first and foremost, on account of the iniquity of the trade. It is an absolutely wicked traffic. What is morally indefensible must be politically wrong. However much it was necessary in former Debates in this House to call high officials and missionaries and medical men as witnesses against the degrading and brutalising effects of the opium drug, such is not the case to-day. The reports of the Shanghai Conference and the International Congress at The Hague have convinced the whole civilised world that the sooner the trade in opium is stopped the better, save for medicinal purposes. Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippine Islands, and latterly France, have had to make strict laws against the consumption of opium. It has destroyed a greater number of the Chinese people than war, famine, and pestilence together, and when China is alive to the fact that the opium trade is her greatest curse, surely it is a disgrace to Britain to enforce upon China a traffic that is condemned by the intelligence and the conscience of the world! In Britain we label opium as poison, and what is poison in Britain cannot be food in China. As far as its effects are concerned, they are disease, debauchery, destruction, and death everywhere, irrespective of colour and creed, country and clime. Again, the Chinese people should be released 2154 from the treaty obligations, because they are compulsory. If China had been so debased as to want our opium, that would not justify Britain to carry on a trade which has ruined millions of the Chinese people in health, intellect, and soul. But the fact that the British Government are enforcing this immoral trade against the will and conscience of China by unrighteous treaties, consequent upon most unjust wars, adds unmeasurably to our guilt and shame. Moreover, it impedes the progress of China's reform, which Britain has promised to help forward. China has awakened as a giant after centuries of slumber, and her efforts toward reformation is to-day the wonder of the world, and doubtless the strongest of Western Governments would fail in the moral courage that she has displayed in attacking the enemy within the gate with such determination and success. The Chinese Republic has tabulated the opium smoker in her electoral laws with the bankrupt, the lunatic, and the felon, and has promulgated the strictest measures, which she has also drastically enforced, for the extermination of the national vice by means of fines, imprisonment, canque, and capital punishment.
Further, it is our duty to release China from her treaty obligations in order to free our Christian civilisation from the reproach that rests upon it in that country. There is the reproach of revenue versus morality. Heathen China has ever waged her battles against the opium trade on moral grounds. Christian Britain has invariably emphasised revenue as its reason for keeping up the traffic, irrespective of its iniquity. Then there is the reproach of offering salvation with the one hand and destruction with the other. There is no affinity between light and darkness, between life and death, between the works of God and the works of the devil. I cannot read of the legalisation by these treaties of opium and Christianity in China, without remembering a story that Mr. Spurgeon used to relate of a tramp that insisted upon a certain minister that he should help him, were it only for the blessings he had received under his ministry, for, added he, "When I came first to hear you I cared neither for God nor the devil, but I am glad to be able to tell you that by means of your good ministrations I have come to love them both." The Opium Traffic is the greatest hindrance to the spread of Christianity in that great 2155 country. Archdeacon Moule said years ago at Lambeth Palace, that he was told hundreds of times while preaching to the Chinese to keep his Christ as long as Britain cursed China with her opium. Before sitting down, I should like to say that the Indo-Chinese Opium Traffic has been a tremendous loss to Britain from the beginning. Retribution follows in the track of an illicit trade. The opium trade in China has cost us, even in money, immensely more than we have gained by it. But what about the loss in intellect and soul? The opium trade is a stupendous sin, and Britain with its good name and fame, strength and glory, cannot violate the laws of righteousness with impunity. Mr. Gladstone wrote in his diary that he was afraid of the judgment of God upon Britain for its injustice to China. There is a God who sits on the throne of the world and causes victory to settle on the banners of right and justice. The Opium Traffic has failed to destroy the Chinese nation. God is working mightily in China. The other day the Chinese Republic appealed to the Christian communities of the world to pray for the Government and the nation in the present great crisis. The Christian churches of Britain responded to the call. Is the Government going to be the only obstacle? God forbid that this should be so. I thank the House for extending its indulgence to me. I beg to move.
Mr. EDMUND HARVEY
I am sure the House will join with me in expressing unanimous congratulation to my hon. Friend on his admirable maiden speech. We can all feel, having heard his eloquence in English, that those who are fortunate enough to understand his native tongue will regard it as a privilege to hear him in that. I think my hon. Friend traced with great power and fervour the moral objection to the present Opium Trade. I would ask the House to examine in detail the Resolution he has moved, and to see whether we cannot accept it unanimously. In the first place, we are asked to put on record again an expression of opinion that this House has already solemnly made three times, namely, that the Indo-Chinese Opium Traffic is morally indefensible. It is no pleasant task for any citizen of this country to look into the past records and history on which our present traffic is based. They are pages which we must read with shame and indignation, and it 2156 may well be that to-day not a few will say, "That is all ancient history. We all agree in the shame of it. Let us leave it on one side." But although it may be ancient history for us, it is not ancient history for China, which still suffers from the wrong. Although it may be convenient for us to forget that dishonourable past, we have to remember that we have no right to forget until we are prepared to redress. In 1891, 1906, and 1908 the House has affirmed its conviction upon this point. Unfortunately, history has shown that what is morally indefensible may be, and has been, defended by diplomacy. What is morally indefensible may seem to be politically profitable. I understand that the Government do not in any case oppose this part of the Resolution. It is only the practical consequences that are to be drawn from the Resolution which may cause difference, but I hope when the House faces those consequences in the strength of their conviction, they and the Government will be prepared to take the necessary step.
We only ask that China in future should be treated on the basis on which we would treat any other country. We remember that in the case of our ally, Japan, the first treaty that was framed was framed at a moment when we were engaged in negotiating a treaty with China after a terrible war. When Lord Elgin was negotiating that treaty, in which we legalised the Opium Trade, he at the same time successfuly negotiated a treaty with Japan in which the importation of opium was entirely prohibited. As we look back, we surely must feel that that differentiation cannot be defended. Our ally, living under very similar conditions to those of the Chinese, prohibits the smoking of opium even in private under most grave penalties. A man who is convicted of smoking opium in his own home is liable in Japan to a penalty of three years' imprisonment with hard labour. A man who sells cooked opium in Japan is liable to a penalty of seven years' imprisonment with hard labour. That shows the point of view which a civilised Eastern people take in dealing with this great evil. We must surely be prepared to leave China to deal as firmly and as strenuously with that evil herself. The second point in the Resolution deals with the Convention of 1911, and what it means to China. My hon. Friend has explained that Convention. It marked a real step forward in the relations of this country as to the Opium Traffic, for which 2157 all of us in this House are profoundly grateful; but, although it did mark a step forward, we feel that it was not enough. We cannot stop there. In that Convention liberty was given to China to restrict the retail sale of opium, and to take steps for suppressing opium smoking, while at the same time the wholesale import from India was guaranteed. So long as that contradiction exists, we must feel that there is always a danger of indirect pressure, diplomatic and otherwise, upon China not to be too severe in dealing with the retail trade or with the individual smoker; China cannot be really, whatever she may be in name, free to deal with that evil while these provisions remain. I think that cannot be better shown than by reference to the painful incident of sending a British gunboat to Nganking. That was sent in consequence of the burning of opium, which was the property of a native Chinese. Imagine what we should feel in England if a French gunboat was sent up the Thames, say to Oxford, to deal with some severe local measures that had been taken in regard to absinthe. The mere mention of such a possibility shows how grievously this must have offended against the self-respect of the Chinese.
The third part of the Resolution asks us to release China. It may be said, why should we take the step? If China really wishes this, why does not China make the move? I think we should be ashamed to use an argument of that kind after the discreditable years in our history when we used every artifice and every form of force to compel China to do what she did not wash to do. It may be said that we have not any evidence that China wishes this. A little while ago we listened to the appeal which Dr. Sun Yat Sen addressed to the British people to free his country from this curse. To-day the secretary of the Chinese President, General Yung, is on his way to Great Britain, sent officially for the purpose of doing his utmost to persuade the British people to take a further step in stopping this traffic. We have, therefore, every evidence that the best opinion in China is keenly desirous of this change, and while the Chinese Republic has not yet been recognised, can we wonder that it has not officially approached the Government on this question, while our Government is still making difficulties about the official recognition of the new Government? Then we must remember that a new situation has arisen. That is provided for in the Convention 2158 of 1911 itself. In Article 9, which we cannot examine too carefully, it says:—Should it appear from subsequent experience desirable at any time during the unexpired period of seven years to modify this agreement or any part of it, it may be revised by mutual consent of the two high contracting parties.It was obviously foreseen when making the Agreement that it might be desirable to revise it. We ask the Government now to take advantage of that provision and to take a fresh step with a generosity which would redound to the credit of this country; not to wait for China to come on her knees begging for this present, but to say, "We wish to do it for your good." I shall not go into details of other evidence, though I could do so if there were time. I have here the files of the "Central China Post," which gives most important evidence from an inquiry conducted in the different provinces of China into the actual state of affairs in China to-day with regard to the suppression of the trade. I will only quote one report, if I may. It is from the province of Szechuan, which, it has been stated, would serve as a test of the earnestness of China in dealing with this trade. The report is dated 1st December. It says:—Before the Revolution the poppy was completely suppressed in my district. This year a few plots might be found in out-of-the-way country districts and away from the main roads. Even during this revolutionary year the officials were most active in suppressing the growth of the poppy. Growers have been executed and their lands confiscated. Regarding opium dens, a large number were opened when the revolutionary troubles were at their height. The officials have now been busy for several months in closing these dens and punishing the keepers. The officials appear to be perfectly sincere in this.That is only one out of a very large number of reports. I might further instance the report of Mr. Broomhall, who has just returned after an eleven months' journey of over 7,000 miles. It goes into great details of the different districts, and, while it does allow that there are cases here and there of a breach of the law, it makes it quite clear that throughout those great districts there is an earnest, systematic attempt to get rid of this curse. Now I come to the last point of the Resolution, the difficulty of the stocks in the ports. That, I think, will probably be felt by the House to be the most difficult point we have to deal with. We have to remember that the value of these stocks has been artificially raised, and raised to an enormous extent, partly on account of our action and partly on account of the action of the Chinese Government. The one-seventh of the opium of China which came from India has been reduced by half. The 2159 remaining six-sevenths has been reduced, it is calculated, by something like three-fourths. In consequence of that the value of these stocks has appreciated enormously. Moreover, for more than a year, the Chinese Government has entirely suppressed the importation of opium from Persia and from Turkey. That, again, has increased the value of the stocks held at Shanghai and the treaty ports.
It is surely very hard that the Chinese Government, having put up the price of this opium which is in bond by their own action, should now be compelled to pay double for their own work! Two suggestions have been made as to how this can be dealt with with perfect justice. No one wishes to inflict unnecessary loss on any merchant, whatsoever his nationality may be. One suggestion has been made by a great friend of the anti-opium cause, that part, at least, of the indemnity which is due to this country for the suppression of the Boxer troubles should be allocated to compensation. This debt has been forgiven freely by the American Government in return for certain educational advantages which the Chinese Government are offering instead. The other suggestion is simply to allow this stock to be used in those markets of the world which are at present open to opium without any restrictions of this kind. Unfortunately, for some time yet there will probably be a large market for opium in Siam and in the Dutch East Indies, and so long as those countries do not take effective measures to prevent the habit of opium smoking or eating there cannot be the same objection to this stock being used there as otherwise would exist. It has been calculated that it might all be used in those markets, if the merchants were prepared to wait, not without loss of the profit that those merchants have hoped to get, but without material or serious loss, and if there is to be a loss, is it better that it should be a loss to the purses of a few or of the lives of a great number? That is really the choice.
The figures put forward have been very contradictory. I believe that the merchants claimed the stock at one time as worth over £10,000,000. Others put it at £4,000,000. Others put it lower. I should not like myself to say what the actual value is, but I 2160 should imagine that it is less than £4,000,000. I have no right to give an authoritative opinion on that point. I see that the hon. Member for East Nottingham is prepared to move an Amendment to this Resolution. He will no doubt do it with his customary ability, which is worthy of a better cause, but I see that in his Amendment he says that we "must decline to vary such agreement." That agreement itself makes provision for variation, and therefore on that point he will feel that the Amendment which he is proposing would be unsuitable; and he also points out that no variation should be made without safeguarding the Indian taxpayer. My hon. Friend has shown most powerfully that the Indian revenue is already provided for. I believe that the Budget now balances without making any allowance for the Indo-Chinese Opium Trade. They have made more profit in these few years than they hoped to make in the whole period, and, as we know, the Indian cultivators would in many cases prefer to cultivate other crops. Now the question of the British and Indian merchants remains. While I do not wish any one of them to suffer loss we must remember that their trade was in its essence a speculative trade. The Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs has said himself in this House that it is a highly speculative business, and people who engage in a highly speculative business must be prepared to run a risk. Finally, I would beg the House to remember that this is indeed a unique opportunity. We have now the opportunity, all too rare, to do an act of national generosity in which all parties can unite. There are occasions that come to this House when, without distinction of parties, we can feel that this House is the organ and the instrument of the best will of the whole community when it is expressing the general will of all good citizens, all good men and women, without distinction of creed or party. I believe that such an occasion has come to-night. We may really to-night, in agreeing to this Resolution, do something which will express the very best sense of the whole community, and we may do an act of tardy justice which will bring its own reward in the future. I beg to second.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. KESWICK
I have listened with great care to the remarks that have fallen from the Mover of this Resolution, and also from the other hon. Member who has spoken on the opposite side of the 2161 House, and I have been astounded at the attitude which they took up towards this question of opium. I have not, as in the case of the hon. Members to whom I have referred, carefully prepared any speech, and I have not notes before me to which I can refer, and which might possibly give figures to prove either their case or mine, because figures with regard to this question of opium can be manipulated in either direction. I can only address the House with a knowledge of nineteen years' residence in China, where I have seen opium growing, opium smoking, and the various results of the smoking of opium. If you believe all that has been said in this House to-night, you would imagine that the smoking of opium was necessarily a most horrible evil. It is no more an evil than the taking of a glass of beer or a glass of wine. I have seen people smoking opium, and I have seen the results. I have seen people drinking beer, I have seen people drinking whisky, and I have seen the results of that—in the Far East, be it remembered! I can assure all Members of this House that the abuse of alcohol is far greater than the abuse of opium. Another thing which I should like to bring before you is that the cost of smoking opium is a hundredfold greater than the cost of the alcoholic poison, if you wish to call it so. The hon. Member who spoke last referred to the increased cost of opium. He said that the price was going up all the time. From his point of view that should affect opium growing in China. On the other side, it should merely show him that the ordinary man in the street in China cannot smoke opium, he can only get the very smallest modicum, which will bring him some small relief in the course of his work. You have heard of opium dens. Why they should be called "dens," I cannot imagine, because they are not worse, as I know from personal experience and from looking at them, than the ordinary house in which the Chinaman lives. But they are called dens, and in this House a den is supposed to be an evil place, a belief which is due to the fact that hon. Members have not had an opportunity of seeing the actual conditions. But this question of opium is an ethical question, and in dealing with it you find persons just as cranky as those who deal with the teetotal question. The whole discussion goes round and round and round among just a few enthusiasts, and there is no direct way out of the diffi- 2162 culty. I am not to-night prepared to discuss the ethics of opium or the ethics of alcohol, but I wish to bring to the notice of the House that we are asked to adopt a Resolution which shall relieve the Government of China, whatever that may be.
Some people think it is a Republic; they are entirely wrong. Some people may think that it is an Empire; that is equally wrong. What the Government of China to-day is I do not say definitely, but I do venture to express the hope that Yuan-Shih-Kai will prove the strong man who will bring the people of China out of the morass in which they find themselves. The methods by which he will do so are methods which will not commend themselves to this House. They are methods which obtain in Oriental countries. And when you deal with an Oriental country you must put yourselves on that plane. You cannot endeavour to come to the right conclusion as to what an Oriental will de if you start from the plane which is parallel to the plane of this House. That is quite impossible. If you deal with an Oriental country you have to start from the Oriental point of view. As I have already said, I have had nineteen years in China, and it was only when I had gone half way through that time, that I began to see that I was not able to judge from what actual point the Oriental started to think. Therefore I would urge all hon. Members before they endeavour to make up their minds with regard to this question to realise that in dealing with Oriental countries they cannot start from the ordinary home basis. The question of opium, the ethics of it, I wish to set aside; but what I wish to point out to the House most particularly, is that we have made a bargain with the Government of China, whatever it may be, and a bargain whereby we forego many advantages in order to assist China to regenerate herself, if I may adopt the phraseology of those who are in favour of the abolition of opium smoking. But in any case it is a contract and it is a bargain. The Chinese Government has to do its part, and we have to do our part. We are perfectly prepared to do ours, and we are doing it, and the Chinese Government, such as it is, is not doing its part. So long as that exists, I deprecate any Resolution urging a loosening of the bond on China. This is a time, especially when the Government of China is undergoing transformation, when we should take great care that the interests of His Majesty's 2163 subjects and the traders out there should not suffer. Those who know the Chinese know perfectly well that if you give them half an inch they will take two ells. It is for those considerations I have ventured to address the House this evening.
§ Sir J. D. REES
I beg to move, as an Amendment, to leave out from the words "That this House," and to add instead thereof the words,
"in view of the arrangement entered into between the British and Chinese Governments for the extinction of the Opium Traffic between China and India, declines to vary such agreement or to precipitate the immediate cessation of such traffic without due provision made for safeguarding the interests of the Indian taxpayer and of British and British-Indian merchants who have entered into engagements, in the faith that the British Government will redeem its pledges or pay due compensation at the expense of the British taxpayer."
It is really like a refreshing breeze in an arid desert to hear the speech which the hon. Gentleman has just addressed to the House, not that I wish to speak otherwise than with great respect of the hon. Member who preceded him (Mr. Towyn Jones), whose speech was a mixture of humour and eloquence, which I am sure was equally acceptable to the House, and on which I respectfully congratulate him. He and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds (Mr. T. E. Harvey) spoke as if the only opium in Chinese traffic is Indian opium. I wonder whether they know that Indian opium has only been one-sixth of the opium smoked in China, and that China can, and does, and is, now growing opium on all sides.
§ Sir J. D. REES
There is a great deal of assertion on both sides, and Members opposite are asking the House to believe that China has abandoned what it has been doing for a thousand years, but I ask hon. Members to believe me that they are still doing it, and it is perfectly well known that they are doing so. I am as anxious to put a stop to the abuse of opium as any hon. Gentleman, and in my small way as an official I have always used my small influence to that end. I was a party to the Resolution which was passed in this House, and which was the basis probably of the arrangement which was made. That was the Resolution moved by the hon. Member 2164 for the Radcliffe Division (Mr. T. Taylor). The Secretary of State for India himself on that occasion pointed out that what the House is asked to do is to put a stop to the control and supply of opium which can be, and is, limited, in favour of the uncontrolled supply of opium which can be, and will be, unlimited. The difference between us and the Gentlemen who are moving this Resolution is that we want to get the thing done, whereas they want to put forward some ethical Resolution. We are anxious to get it done, but we do not believe that this will do it. The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Towyn Jones) spoke very fairly and very moderately, and in a most reasonable manner to-day, but I think I can see the hon. Member addressing an excited audience in Wales, and saying that on the occasion of his maiden speech in this House he was privileged to wield the sword of the Lord, and that he smote hip and thigh the men of Belial who dared to excuse or extenuate the manufacture of opium, that drowsy syrup of the East and thrice damnable drug of the vegetable kingdom.
§ Sir J. D. REES
Never; but I know the way they do talk to them, and I know a Whip has been sent round with a stock sample Resolution. I submit, though I regard their motives with the utmost respect, that it is better to deal with the actual facts in treating with this matter, as the hon. Member behind me did. There is nothing inherently wicked in the poppy; it is no worse than the vine; Solomon sung its praises; and remember St. Paul said, "Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake." Wheat can be made into whisky as well as into bread. Rice can be made into puddings for the young and innocent, and it is also made into ardent spirits for the old, and not guilty, but gouty. Hemp may be used for packing boxes and for hanging criminals. There is a good and a bad use for everything. All the gifts of the good God have their useful and beneficial purposes, and certainly opium is no exception. It is one of the most beautiful crops to see growing, and in some of its legitimate, moderate uses it is one of the most beneficial of vegetable products. I notice that on this occasion there is in the anti-opium resolutions which have reached me a saving clause as to the 2165 medicinal use of opium. One would really think, to hear hon. Members speak, that there had never been an Opium Commission which made one of the very best reports ever made by a Royal Commission. It was absolutely unanimous, with one exception, whom my hon. Friend would call crank, an expression I will not dare to apply to any hon. Member of this House. What did that Commission report; since it is very material to the Resolution before the House? It said that total prohibition was not necessary or demanded by the people, or desired by any but a few, and that it was impossible to carry it out without unfair interference with the native States.
Mr. EDMUND HARVEY
Is not that in reference to India and opium eating and not to China and opium smoking?
§ Sir J. D. REES
It is very much the same thing in both countries. It is quite true that opium is eaten in India and smoked in China. But the report was on the character of this drug, and I am now taking the ethical side which is so prominent in this Resolution. That Commission also said that the finances of India were not in a condition to stand the change. The hon. Member for Leeds, in his speech this evening, said that the finances of India were now in such a condition that they could easily drop this revenue. The hon. Member speaks without consideration of the fact that the finances of India are good after two or three good years, and that they become bad after two or three bad years. Thus at any moment you may see the Finance Minister in urgent need of money. The Commission also reported that there was no evidence of extensive moral physical degradation by its use, and that it was extensively used for non-medical and quasi-medical purposes, and that its abuse was condemned by public opinion in India as it is in China too. They also say that smoking is very little practised in India. I heard hon. Members say that the people of India would gladly sacrifice the revenue. It is impossible for them or for anybody to tell what the people of India think in the matter, but if they were able to vote on it you may be certain they would not vote for losing any revenue. Why should they? When we talk upon the ethical side, we say it is so wrong that we must not in any way be concerned with it. Do hon. Members reflect that in a report made by Mr. Knox, the Secretary of State 2166 in America, the other day, he said that probably tons of hypnotic drugs were being consumed in America, and that the people were "rapidly becoming hopelessly addicted to the habitual use of narcotics." I asked the President of the Board of Trade the other day a question, and he informed me that the annual importation of opium into this country was 555,000 lbs., and that the average of imports for the last five years was 272,000 lbs. This, like other countries, is not exempt from the use of drugs. This country is by no means exempt from the use of opium and its derivatives.
Then take the evidence, which surely is material upon this ethical point, of Sir William Roberts, a member of the Opium Commission, a most eminent medical man, who said that laudanum is a household remedy, not only in India, but in England. India is malarious from end to end, and the consumption of opium bears a close relation to the ravages of malaria or freedom from them. In Bombay, Bengal, the Punjab, and the North-West Provinces, 70 per cent. of the whole of the deaths are due to malaria, and in the other provinces the figure is only slightly less. I remember that when hon. Members here were always girding at the plague in India, and saying that the Government ought to stop it, the mortality from the plague was absolutely trifling compared with the mortality from fevers in India. I believe that India knows that opium is a specific for malaria, and I dare say my hon. Friend would say that that is the case with regard to China. Sir Wm. Roberts also said opium is regarded as "a general panacea for health troubles—fever, malaria, and so on." There is a consensus of opinion that it is a valuable mitigator of and prophylactic against Indian diseases, and cannot be replaced by any known remedy. I submit that it is perfectly clear that this subject must not be approached from the ethical platform from which hon. Members opposite approach it. They must really mitigate their transports in this respect if they are going to deal effectually and fairly with the problem. China in 1885, when the arrangements made under the treaty of 1858 were under consideration, was practically master of the situation. As soon as China made representations that she wished to be exempt from the importation of Indian opium the Governments of Great Britain and of India immediately met her half way, and an arrangement was made very much to the financial detriment of British India, which 2167 arrangement is now proceeding, and in a very short time will produce the extinction of this traffic. There is no case under existing circumstances, when everything that hon. Gentlemen wish is being done, for accelerating the process to the great detriment of those who are at present engaged in a lawful trade.
I do not think that it would be right to take up time in giving the House any more of the results of the most careful and informing inquiries of the Opium Commission. It is enough to say that they blow into the air the whole case of the hon. Member for the Radcliffe Division (Mr. Theodore Taylor), at any rate. This perhaps will be a matter of some little surprise to hon. Members who take for granted, as if they came down from Heaven, those Resolutions which are kindly prepared and posted to them. The insurance societies in India ask for no extra premium from opium eaters. Nor I believe do they in China. Mr. Monro, an Indian Civil servant, who retired in order to take up the work of a missionary, said that he had never found the use of opium an obstacle to missionary work. Surely the case as to the utter and universal degradation of everybody who uses this drug is grossly overdrawn. A great deal of the case must be allowed, but it is intensely weakened instead of strengthened by the appalling exaggeration of which it is habitually the subject. Let me come to Lord Morley, of whose statesmanlike gifts I am a great admirer. He it was who dealt with the question on that night in 1906 when, in an absoluetly empty House, not one-tenth of the number now here being then present, the Resolution was passed which had rather momentous results. Lord Morley said, as I said just now in another connection, that India controlled and limited the production of the drug, and that in that sense the connection in respect of opium between India and China was all in favour of the case which hon. Gentlemen opposite want to destroy, because the Indian traffic was subject to the most rigorous limitation; whereas if it was abandoned, and if the cheaper deleterious class of opium grown in China was used, the floodgates would be opened, and any amount subject to no control would be available for the people of China. He said that the arrangements which existed between India and China even before the Resolution was passed, were the next best 2168 to absolute restriction. Would anybody have thought that that was the case from what has been said by hon. Members opposite?
Lord Morley also said that the financial argument was very potent. I should think it is. The Indian people are people whom it is almost impossible to tax more than they are taxed at present. They are not taxed much, but they are very poor and cannot afford to pay more. Lord Morley, although he really allowed all the salient facts of the case, was not prepared to act upon the conclusions to which he ought to have come from the premisses which he allowed. But he threw over the doctors handsomely, they having stated that there was a most beneficial medicinal use of opium. He said that he would lay no great stress on the opinion of the doctors; he would take the evidence of nations. I do not know how that is done. It would take a longer time than the Marconi Committee. He asked what was the good of comparing opium and alcohol. On the contrary, it is an exceedingly apt comparison, except that probably the abuse of alcohol in this country is far greater than the abuse of opium in China. He said that he would not stop this traffic at once; the financial effects would be too serious. Let me remind hon. Gentlemen who are backing this Resolution, who, if they do not belong to Free Churches, are being supported by them, that Lord Ripon, who would be the Viceroy of their choice, was strongly opposed to this proposed course. He said that it would be most unjust to put a sudden end to the Opium Traffic in India. Another eminent Nonconformist, Lord Wolverhampton, who dealt with the matter in this House, said that what the prohibitionists wished to impose on India was impossible, even if desirable, and that the evidence was overwhelming that it was no more desirable than possible. He pointed out that opium was grown in the native States, and that their right to grow what they pleased could not be interfered with, except under a threat, and possibly by the actual levying of war. He said that to do what was desired would lead not only to a great loss of revenue, but to the addition of 10,000 men to the Indian Army.
§ Sir J. D. REES
I was quoting from the Life of Lord Wolverhampton by his 2169 daughter, in which she quotes her father, I have no doubt, with filial piety and correctness.
§ Sir J. D. REES
I am sorry I have not got that. If the traffic is so wicked that it has to be put an end to now, that it cannot wait until 1917, when it will die a natural death, why is not England going to pay? The hon. Member for the Radcliffe Division has written a pamphlet on the subject, but he will not consider anything about payment. He says, "Abolish the Opium Traffic at once; cease the export to China, and supply cotton instead." When the question of Indian Import Duties and Countervailing Excise was to the front, did the hon. Member take a different line from the other Lancashire Members? I expect not. When you come to touch the pocket it has a wonderful effect upon one's attitude in regard to these matters. I must confess that I am amazed that, out of the fullness of their ethical abundance, hon. Gentlemen can propose to take the substance out of the mouth of the poor Indian coolie, instead of proposing to pay for what is so great a luxury, namely, the indulgence of one's finer feelings. Lord Morley went on to say that in this kind of action lurks a very great danger. He said that it made him wonder whether a Parliamentary democracy could govern wisely and beneficially, unless it was most careful, so vast and complex a dependency, "that they must be careful not to allow their righteous sentiment—if righteous it were"—I rather agree with Lord Morley in this—"to do wrong to Indians. We had no right to place burdens which, if they had representation, their interests, habits, and customs would predispose them not to accept. If China wanted freedom the thing was done." China and her people did say that they wanted freedom, and the thing was done; and an arrangement was made, which is proceeding, and which will lead to the extinction of this traffic. That Resolution was passed in an empty House, to the satisfaction of hon. Gentlemen opposite, which led to the present position of affairs. We have had various authorities quoted to-night upon China. One was the present President of China, Yuan-Shih-Kai. I suppose hon. Members opposite will allow that Dr. Arthur Smith is one of the greatest living authorities on China. I 2170 suppose it was with his consent, or, no doubt it would speedily have been repudiated, that what I will give is representative of the sense of his opinion:—The present movement in China"—that is for total abolition—can hardly be moral, because if so there would be endeavours made to mitigate the other equally crying evils in China. Many sober Chinese are ashamed of this vice and wish to see their country free from it.I agree. The writer goes on:—But one is constrained to point out that jealousy of the foreign right to import and sell the foreign product does more than anything else to maintain the opium agitation and to stimulate perseverance with the suppressive measures. Few seriously acquainted with the subject are confident that the denunciation of the Agreement of 1911 and the immediate stoppage of the foreign trade would accelerate the eradication of the evil. Rather they fear that the elimination of the foreign product would result in a decline of interest in the general policy of suppression and only lead to a prolonged use of the native article.From such sources of information as I have, and from the actual course of events, I dare say the abolitionists are earnest in the matter, but there are provinces in the South which are practically independent of Pekin, and even if Pekin is anxious to suppress the traffic, I think the Southern provinces are not, and that at any rate the results are not such as we have a right to expect under this agreement. Dr. Arthur Smith sent a signed article to a leading journal in China in which he asked the pertinent question, "Is China able to suppress opium?" and expressing a doubt as to whether she could do so. I will give some reports by missionaries taken from a local newspaper which devotes much space to the discussion of the question. Fifty or sixty replies were received by this newspaper as to the cultivation, trade, and smoking of opium in their neighbourhood.In Yingchaufu this year a tremendous sowing is going on.[HON. MEMBERS: "Date."] This must be either in December, 1912, or January, 1913.In Ninghai: Quite five times more opium was planted than in earlier years, and this year the gentry reaped a fine harvest. … The head of the City Anti-opium Bureau smokes, so does his wife and daughter; the picture cannot be painted black enough.In Haaikingfu: Opium was sown, grown and harvested, and shops everywhere opened for its sale, and it flourishes unhindered.In Liangchaufu: Opium growing has largely increased from about 40 to 70 per cent.In Anshunfu: Everywhere the people are sowing opium and are laughing at the proclamation prohibiting the planting of the poppy.There are other provinces similarly which I will not refer to.
§ Sir J. D. REES
I am quoting from an article in the "Times" of 28th January, 1913. I shall be very happy to hand it over to the hon. Member. The hon. Member for Radcliffe in his little pamphlet refers, with the utmost complacency, to the whipping, imprisoning, and slicing to death of persons not more guilty of any offence than Driver Knox was. I wish to speak with the utmost respect of Driver Knox, before whom Parliaments tremble and magistrates bow their heads.
§ Sir J. D. REES
These people were not either; so we are agreed. And they are treating them in this barbarous manner! It is said that the Southern provinces are in earnest, and that opium is being suppressed all round, but that is absolutely impossible of belief by anybody who cares to look into the matter and into the records—such as there are—upon the subject. Just a word or two on the very important question of the stocks in Shanghai. Replying to a question, the Under-Secretary of State felt extremely comfortable about the losses to the merchants, who, in pursuance of a legitimate trade, had exported to treaty ports £10,000,000 worth of opium. I do not know that there is any need to doubt the total value, for the price per chest at the auction in Calcutta could be verified. The injustice of depriving these merchants of their sale would be equally great, whether it was £4,000,000 or £10,000,000. In this connection it must be remembered that British merchants bought this opium at an enormous price and sent it to China on the faith of a pledge by the British Government that during the years the Agreement was expiring, or the trade was expiring, there should be free, unhampered sale for a certain limited amount of opium. There is really no case whatever for denying them justice—out of the pockets of hon. Members for Lancashire and others who will not wait. The Under-Secretary said, in his answer to me:Oh they must take their loss because they indulged in a speculative trade.I should be very sorry to say who are the best judges as to whether it is a speculative trade or an investment; but I will say this: it will be a bad day when it is to be regarded as a speculation to trust the good faith of the British Government.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Mr. Montagu)
Is the hon. Member quoting an answer I gave?
§ Sir J. D. REES
Yes. The Under-Secretary said that the merchants must have known that the trade was a highly speculative one. I say that that indicates that the Government are in an unpleasant position in respect to this. These men have exported their opium on the faith of an existing Agreement between the two countries, and are to be defrauded. I have in my hands a letter signed by a great many opium merchants in India, who say—and I thoroughly agree with them—The suggestions that the difficulties of the opium merchants are of their own creation, and were not the result of any violation of treaty obligations on the part of China cannot be allowed to pass unchallenged.I should think not. Referring to the efforts of the reformers, these gentlemen say:—They are defeated by the widespread desire to smoke by the numberless merchants who wish to trade in opium, legitimately or illegitimately, by the agriculturists who make profit out of the growing of it, by innumerable smugglers who go between the growers and the consumers. The truth is that the reformers are trying to oust the foreign product which can easily be controlled, while they cannot extinguish the native trade because of the demand for the drug.The merchants regard the reply of the Under-Secretary to me in October with well founded dissatisfaction. Take the case of Chekiang. They say that in the early part of last year the Chinese authorities did not even pretend that opium cultivation was stopped in that province, and they say solemn treaties can be violated with impunity provided only that you show that your house is not in order. That refers to the plea made that the Chinese Government should be excused on the ground that there was a state of anarchy and confusion in China on account of the establishment of the Republic, if it is a republic. They say:—We have to point out that we were prepared to accept the risks incidental to the business, including that of the closing of the provinces in which it could be proved that indigenous cultivation had been totally stopped. What we did not bargain for was the attitude of the British Government. Trade flourishes only when those engaged in it have some assurance that equality of rights and opportunities will be secured to them. It was the positive conviction that the British Government was capable of enforcing the terms of the agreement with China that led opium merchants to continue to trade.I will not trouble the House with any more quotations. The Motion urges that the British Government will redeem its pledges, and prohibit the importation of stocks of opium. I say if the British Government do not compensate the 2173 merchants they will be behaving worse than the proprietors of any bucket shop in the country, and will have reason to be ashamed of themselves, and I hope we shall hear something more satisfactory than the answers I got when I put a question on this subject. I have said as much as I wish to say upon the ethics of the case, but I submit that the statement that the Chinese Government is engaged in suppressing the trade of its own citizens is open to the utmost suspicion, and that it is not proved, though I allow it is alleged, to the advantage of the Chinese Government. I say that it is not becoming in any Government or in any person, to say to one of the parties to an agreement, "We will believe you, and therefore we will carry out our engagements to the detriment of our own nationals and subjects." Such a course will bring the British Government into the utmost disgrace in India, and for these reasons. Great as is my sympathy, and anxious as I am to prevent the use of opium, willing as I am to see the traffic brought to an end, I say it would be a self-righteous and not a righteous proceeding, and it would be a fraudulent thing to lightly accept the assurances of China and, acting upon it, to hurriedly accelerate the termination of an agreement which has yet one or two years to run, during which time proper arrangements can be made, and the British Government, which has taken special power to inquire from time to time what is going on in China, will be able to find out whether the suppression in China goes on pari passu with the reduction rigorously exacted of the annual exports from India to China.
§ Mr. LESLIE SCOTT
I rise to support the Amendment, or most of the Amendment, that has been moved. There is one sentence in it which I should like to see modified. In discussing this question I approach it from the point of view of the man who deprecates the practice of opium smoking, who believes that great evil is involved in the practice; but I also approach it from the point of view of a man who does not wish, while eradicating one evil, to commit a gross and serious injustice. The real question before the House, as it seems to me, as raised in the issue between the Resolution and the Amendment, is this: Both the Mover of the Resolution and the Mover of the Amendment are at one in this proposition, that they want to bring to an end the traffic in opium, out of which the Government of India is to-day making enormous 2174 profits. We all agree in that. We do not like to see any portion of the British Empire living upon a trade which in itself may do great harm. But the difference between us is this: Under the treaty which is now in existence there is necessarily and automatically a reduction year by year of 5,100 cases, until in the year 1917 the export from India of opium to China comes to an end. That is four years from now.
The Motion proposes, as I understand it—and unless it means that it means nothing—that the exports from India should be stopped here, and now either by direct instruction from the British Government to the Indian Government, or by releasing China from her obligations under the Treaty to take that quantity—a diminishing quantity of opium—down to 1917. Let us consider that position. During the last three years, as we all know, the Indian Government has made very great profits. Every Member of this House must be familiar with the fact that the Indian Government is the grower, producer, and seller of opium. It is a monopoly carried on by the Government. Out of the Bengal opium, on the prices realised last year, the Indian Government were making a net clear profit of 3,500, rupees per case, and in addition to that, taking the prices which had ruled previously at 1,500 rupees, the profit they were making before out of the 1,500 rupees that is, 3,500 rupees plus this considerable sum. With regard to the opium sold in Bombay, they made in the same way about 3,500 rupees profit. They charged a pass duty of 1,200 rupees and a permit price of 2,300. The permit price was this. In order to export opium the Indian Government demanded that the exporters should pay through them for a permit, and not only have the Indian Government sold their leave to export, but leave to export was put up to auction and sold, and the average price realised was 2,300 rupees, with the result, as we know, that the Indian Government estimated in the last two years for four million odd of revenue from opium, and they got one and a half to two and a half millions in addition to their estimate. At the present day there are in all the ports of China very large stocks of certificated opium from India, and I will ask the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to put the House in possession of such information as our Government possesses as to the exact quantities of these stocks at the present time.
2175 I believe that in January the figures were 27,500 cases. There is no question that on these figures the value was about £8,000,000. I observe that the right hon. Gentleman assents. I do not want to trouble with detail. The Government can give the most recent information. The whole of the money that is represented by that opium is in the pockets of the Government of India. The risk of anything that might happen to that opium is not on the shoulders of the Government of India. It is on the shoulders of the traders who, at the invitation of the Government of India, and in view of the treaty upon the basis of which all the sales have been expressly made, bought the opium, and upon the shoulders of the banks who financed the purchases. In making these remarks, I know I am authorised to say that the sympathy of the banks who are engaged in these large financial transactions—the banks are well known to Members, and I need not refer to them; the Eastern Banks—is with the traders in this matter. If what is proposed by the Resolution is done, what will be the result? Let us assume that this House passes this Resolution, and that to-morrow the Government acts upon it and says it will have nothing more to do with this treaty with China; then the £8,000,000 worth of stock lying in the treaty ports will be sacrificed for the greater part of its value, the loss will fall upon the individual trader or upon the banks concerned in order that this House may express its view upon a moral question. We have a familiar definition of philanthropy which says that A pities B, and thinks that C might do something for him. That is what the House is invited to ask the Government to do. I submit that if we take the view that the trade is to be brought to an end, we must only put our views into practice if we can, at the same time, avoid robbing individuals in that process. This trade may be meritorious, or it may not, but the fact is that it has been carried on upon the invitation of the Government of India, and with the sanction of the Government of England. It is by reason of the way the Government have failed to force upon China the performance of its obligations under the Treaty of 1911 that these immense stocks have accumulated, and that a grave financial crisis is looming in the immediate future. I suggest that the only thing the Government can do is to arrange with the Government of India, 2176 which has made these enormous profits, to negotiate with the Government of China, which the Movers of the Resolution say is anxious to bring to an end the trade in opium, for the purpose of taking off the market these vast stocks and relieving the financial and commercial strain which exists at the present time, and which, at any moment, may cause a very grave financial crisis in the East. I put that forward as a practical suggestion to the Government, and I invite the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs to express to the House the views of the Government as to the, practical steps which they propose to take with the view to meeting the present contingency, and to carry out the general lines of the treaty obligations of 1911, so that we may see that treaty work itself off and bring to an end by degrees, without injustice, that traffic which most of us, I believe, in this House are anxious to see brought to an end.
§ Mr. THEODORE C. TAYLOR
I am sure it will interest the House to know what are the sentiments of the constituents of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. I congratulate him very much upon the tone of his speech, which has been such a remarkable contrast with the tone of previous speakers who spoke in favour of the Amendment. I think it is very much to the credit of the great city of Liverpool that it prepared a petition which I presented to the House of Commons on this subject a few months ago. It would be out of order to read it, but I will give the purport of it. It says that there are numbers of dealers in opium in Liverpool and elsewhere. There are Chinese opium shops even in Liverpool. Speaking of the effect of opium, they refer to the degradation, distress, and suffering which are caused not only in the city of Liverpool, but throughout the United Kingdom, by persons who make improper use of opium, and they ask this House to follow the example of China, Australia, and the United States, and to pass legislation restricting the use of opium. So much for opium at home. I am sure the House will not expect me to spend much time in replying to the hon. Member for Nottingham (Sir J. D. Rees). His speech was entirely out of date. In order to convince the House of Commons and the British public and the whole world that the whole world was wrong in its judgment against opium he quoted the out-of-date Commission Report of 1895, which should have been an inquiry into opium 2177 smoking in China, but became an inquiry into opium eating in India. I am ready to confess that the hon. Gentleman knows all about India.
§ Mr. TAYLOR
I will give him credit for special information about every place except China. He wishes the House to believe that opium smoking is quite a mild thing.
§ Mr. TAYLOR
I think I have heard him use the term, "A mild sedative." Am I correct in saying that the hon. Gentleman has endeavoured to persuade the House that it is not an important evil? Very well; has the hon. Gentleman ever heard of the finding of the International political and scientific Conference which met in Shanghai in 1909, and met again at The Hague in 1912, in which we have the testimony of the medical and scientific knowledge of the world upon this traffic as being what the legislation of Japan and other countries assumes it to be. They take it to be a very great evil justifying the most extreme measures necessary for stamping it out. I should like to give the House a specimen of the quotations which the hon. Member has given us about China. He has read a passage from the "Times" correspondent, written at the end of December and published in January. I know he would not intentionally mislead the House. Let me tell him that that is a garbled quotation published originally by the China Central Press, and sent by the "Times" correspondent, and now I make use of it to show how public opinion has been misled, and the hon. Gentleman himself is being misled upon this question of the evidence of what China is doing to suppress the opium traffic. I will read what it said:—Many of the gentry have several years' opium stored up for future gain, and several have converted money into opium to make more money. Many (most) of the Tze Chi Chi Chou (Self-Government Society) leaders smoke and sell opium. The head of the City Anti-Opium Bureau does so. So does his wife and daughter! The picture can not be painted black enough.Now I will read the part that followed which he omitted.At present we have an energetic magistrate, and the city is in a turmoil. Dens are closed, gentry imprisoned, head of Anti-Opium Bureau has fled, his daughter and wife in prison, and the officials are scouring the country to hinder the planting of opium. 2178 All this is to do away with opium. Good success to him. Secret trading in opium is heavily fined and severely punished.I could make many quotations from the same letter that appeared in the "Times" in January last, professing to represent the state of things in China. I am sorry it has been quoted, because it obliges me to say that is one of the many extracts unfavourable to China that were taken and garbled by the correspondent of the "Times," and that misled the "Times" leader writer to write an article based on that letter. The hon. Member has quoted Dr. Arthur Smith. He was also quoted in the "Times" about that time as being hostile and unfavourable to opium suppression. He has written a letter which was published, not entirely, but partly, in the "Times" in March, showing that he is certainly not to be quoted in the sense that he was quoted. What is the real difference between the Motion and the Amendment? It is to be found in the first clause of the Motion of which the hon. Member does not dispute the correctness, because he does not put in a contra to it, namely, the declaration for the fourth time (because this House will not hesitate to make it again), that this traffic is morally indefensible. He proposes to omit that. The question at issue is this: Is this traffic right or wrong? If right, there is no need to end it, but, if wrong, the sooner it is ended the better. If right, it is curious that this House should have been so misled as to have made this declaration three times before. The hon. Member said that the Resolution of seven years ago, passed not in a crowded House but in a House much smaller than it is now or has ever been to-night, but as many of us here know it was much larger—
§ Mr. TAYLOR
And so was I. We had Lord Morley and the Prime Minister on the Front Bench. Since 1906 and 1908 when this House passed this declaration unanimously that this traffic is morally indefensible and called upon the Government to put an end to it as speedily as possible, nothing has occurred to make forcing opium on China more defensible but much has happened to make it less so. If it be such an innocuous practice, why have so many countries in the world legislated against it? Why have the central Government and nearly all the provincial Governments of China made such prolonged efforts and employed such drastic means to stamp out 2179 opium smoking? If opium smoking be a harmless indulgence, how is it that all the best foreign friends of China of all classes and creeds desire to see her free from it, and, above all, how is it that among the Chinese themselves there is not a single native paper, not a single party, and not a single public man that is not bitterly opposed to it? Why should the first elected National Assembly which met before the Revolution, on the 4th October, 1910, have taken up as its first business the pressing upon its own Government still more drastic action against its own people to put down this practice? Why does the Chinese electoral law class the opium smoker along with the bankrupt, the lunatic, and the felon, as disqualified from voting, and why is it that to-day in China no man may hold any public office of any kind who is known to be an opium smoker? Surely the hon. Member might at last fall into line with the rest of the world and admit that opium smoking is a very bad thing.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. TAYLOR
That is a curious way of putting it. We all know what the abuse is and what it is not. I am not sure how far the hon. Member considers it an abuse, but all this legislation and all this penalising are directed against the entire vice of opium smoking. There are penal laws against it in Australia, in New Zealand, in the Philippines, in the United States, and even in France there is a decree of October, 1908, against it. When I was in France a couple of months ago I saw several newspaper accounts of men sent to gaol in Toulon and Brest simply for selling or smoking opium. I do not think I need quote anything more against opium smoking. I am sorry we have had an apologist for it to-night, the hon. Member who spoke this evening from his experience of nineteen years' residence in China. I called upon the hon. Gentleman with an introduction from his father when I was in Hong Kong five and a half years ago. He then said to me, "Why do you want to take the last bit of joy out of the life of the poor coolie, his opium pipe?" I forget whether he had any children, but I said to him, "If you had a son, would you like him to smoke opium?" and he said, "That is quite a different thing." 2180 That is the difference between meum and tuum. That is the difference the hon. Member for East Nottingham tried to fasten upon me when I mentioned cotton growing in India. I have for seven years advocated the growth of cotton in India instead of opium, cotton for the benefit of the world instead of opium for the curse of the world.
§ Mr. KESWICK
I certainly did say, "No," when the hon. Member asked me on the other side of the world whether I would like my son to smoke opium. I have tried it myself, and it made me very ill indeed. At the same time I may remind the hon. Gentleman that those who smoke opium in the Far East are vegetarians to a very great degree. I am a mere man, who eats meat, and I drink a glass of port wine, and I also take whisky. If he asks whether, in due course, the three sons, which I now have the honour to possess, will drink port wine, whisky, or beer, or anything of that nature, I shall be very glad to inform him that I shall look forward to their doing so with discretion.
§ Mr. TAYLOR
I am sure the House is obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I was going to say that the Mover of the Amendment condemns precipitate action. Surely when he says that he is perpetrating a grim joke, because for over seventy years, in order to make revenue for the English Government, we have forced "this horrible drug," as Lord Morley calls it, upon China to the ruin, body and soul, of millions. All that time the best men, not only of China but of Britain, have been against it. Time after time, Motion after Motion, has been moved in this House against it. Seven years since I myself moved in this House a Motion which proved a turning point in the movement. The object of this Motion is to afford the Government an opportunity to give China an immediate and final release from the treaty bondage in which we have so long held her. There has never been any argument for the Opium Traffic founded on justice. It has been cruel, oppressive, and unjust to China all along. Recently we have somewhat abated our compulsion. I give the Government full credit for that; they deserve it, and I hope my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for India will soon tell us that the Government will go over the last lap in the course. We have, I say, recently abated our compulsion. But let it be remembered that 2181 at this moment China is treaty bound in a bond which we have ourselves denounced as morally indefensible. Under the recent agreements of 1907 and 1911, we have already received more money in India than could have been calculated upon for the whole diminishing period of nine years, indeed the whole substantial argument—the money argument—had gone two years ago. The entire traffic should then have ceased. It was not ended. India has since then received about £10,000,000 extra of this blood money. We ask that the traffic should be ended from to-day. I believe there are those who think that to continue to send opium to China until she has extirpated her own production is the best way of helping her to get rid of it. Surely, at its best, that is an anomalous argument! The pari passu policy, as it is called, may have had some force in the earlier years of the 1907 arrangement, under which China reduced her production along with the reduction of our sending from India.
We know very well that in this country and many countries there are parties which honestly believe in putting duties on the articles produced by the foreigner for the benefit of the home producer, even if it costs the home consumer rather more. But let us look at this matter from the point of view of the Chinaman. What has he seen? He sees his Government confiscating his land, putting him in prison, and even cutting off his head. These things occur one after another, sometimes one on the top of another, as the penalty upon the home producer, because he interferes with a monopoly—no not a monopoly, perhaps, but because he is a competitor with a foreign producer, which happens to be India in this case. What must the Chinaman think of that? I say it is absolutely intolerable. Talk about the Ship Money of Hampden or the tea in Boston Harbour, I say these were very little things compared with the outrage inflicted upon the Chinaman in the interests of foreigners who are interested in this traffic. He sees his own Government sternly putting down the production of opium by himself, and yet allowing the foreigner to send it into the country. I do not hesitate to say, as a result of much enquiry—and I claim to have rather special knowledge in this matter—that what has been done in China—I have examined something like 200 reports within the last two or three days, showing what has been done up to April 2182 last—and I say without any hesitation that while two or three years ago, before the Revolution, the production of opium in China had been reduced by 80 per cent., the latest information that has been given to me leads me to assert that there is not 10 per cent. of the poppy now being grown that was being grown ten years ago. There was some recrudescence during the Revolution, and I will give this Government credit, or rather I will give the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs credit, for being very fair in making due allowance for its cause. But the reduction has not been made without the most drastic measures, not only before the Revolution but since, and it is only we who can reinforce those measures to put down the production and consumption of opium in China. I have in my hand a cutting from the "Pekin Daily News," an English newspaper sympathetic with the views of England. It is the best English newspaper published in Pekin, and in a leading article on 21st April it said:—There is an absolute consensus of opinion among all enlightened Chinese as to the necessity of obtaining an absolutely free hand to deal with the opium question. If the anti-opium movement is to be carried to a successful issue, China must be under no further obligation to import opium from any foreign country.We are the only foreign country that has the right to send opium into China. I maintain that, though it is a technical and treaty right, it is a moral wrong. It is quite possible to push the argument of treaty rights too far. I would, in closing, draw attention to a reasonable interpretation of the last treaty we had with China, the treaty made in 1911, under which we are at present working. Much is made of treaty obligations, but that very treaty itself requires us to render her assistance in stamping out the opium curse. In paragraphs 3 and 4 of that treaty it is an obligation on her to take Indian opium, but is it not much more our obligation to help her, and is not that a moral obligation of the highest kind? This Chinese treaty obligation to take our Indian opium is an immoral obligation. How can it be moral to compel China to take more of that which has so long been her curse and largely her ruin, and very largely our disgrace? As the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs stated in the House a few months ago, we have not undertaken to find a market or make a profit for Indian dealers in the drug.
Now we come to the practical question of what is to be done with the stock. I am not, as a business man, naturally in 2183 favour, at any time, of repudiating obligations, or allowing anybody else to do so. But I must lay stress on the moral obligation. I say we ought at once to release China from her treaty obligation in this matter. There are two ways of disposing of these stocks. Let us take them at their owners' valuation, which is, I believe, about ten millions sterling. I have very little doubt that that is a considerable exaggeration. It is no libel on business men to say that they generally fully value their own property. If it be a sum of ten millions, a highly moral and indeed a Utopian way was proposed by the Anti-Opium Society of China of dealing with it.
§ Mr. LESLIE SCOTT
If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me for interrupting him for one moment, I would like to say that my statement of value, which I sent to the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, is based on the actual prices paid—the cost to the owner, of the opium, the price to the Indian Government, and the permits and freights.
§ Mr. TAYLOR
I should prefer to take it at the higher figure. I did not know that the hon. and learned Gentleman was speaking for the owners.
§ Mr. TAYLOR
Then I will say, with a knowledge of the owners' position. That is what I meant, and no more than that. Let us take it at £8,000,000. We have been told to-day that the remainder of the Boxer Indemnity is £7,400,000. That is not very far from £8,000,000. I do not know how much there is to pay out of that, but I suppose there will be a fair sum left. I think, although I know the Under-Secretary will not agree with me, if there is to be a general subscription, that India might make a little contribution, because she has got something extra in high prices. The profits have been 300 per cent. or 400 per cent. in excess lately, although not, of course, formerly. If there were to be a general subscription I should be willing and no doubt a great number of my hon. Friends would be willing and a great many wealthy men I know in the country would be quite willing, to subscribe in order to 2184 wipe out the disgrace, and leave a better taste in China's mouth than she has had so far. If it is the only chance of making reparation to China, I should be very glad, if it were possible, by general subscription to buy up the whole of the stuff and burn it. There is another way out. There are continuing markets for this opium. If we were going to force markets anywhere else I would not be in favour of it for one moment. But there are Tonking, Siam, Java, Sumatra. I purposely omit our own Colonies. If money could not be raised on philanthropic lines to put an end to this thing for ever and burn up the stuff, would it not be quite right to say to these dealers. "We in India will stop producing further opium until you have sold the stock off." The way to keep up prices is to stop supplies. Reading between the lines of the discussion on the Indian Budget, India is now making a quite sufficient revenue without sending opium to China. I believe that if this course were adopted no harm would be done, and nobody would suffer at all, for these gentlemen would get their money back without any altruistic subscription being raised. One thing I do press upon the Government, and press upon them very strongly; that whatever they do or we do, they should now, once for all, finally, freely and fully release China henceforth—not one year from now, but henceforth from this moment—from an obligation into which we forced her by war and a bondage which has been hateful to us as a civilised and, I hope, to some extent a Christian nation. It is for the Government to find a way out of the difficulty, but it is for this so-called Christian people, through this House of Commons, to insist that we will no more be responsible for this wickedness.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
It falls to my lot, in the unavoidable absence of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, to explain to the House the policy of His Majesty's Government and the Government of India on the subject of this Resolution. May I say how much I personally welcome the fortunes of the ballot which have given us an opportunity of discussing this question to-night, not only because I think that the discussion itself will be of considerable value, but also because it will relieve the always inadequate Debate on the Indian Budget of one of the topics which looms so largely in its discussion. May I, in all humility, congratulate the hon. Member whose maiden 2185 speech on this subject delighted and charmed the House. I cannot plead for the indulgence of the House on the same ground that he did, but I can plead for its indulgence on the ground that whereas he says he wants to stop this traffic at once, and says it very forcibly, and whereas the hon. Member opposite also wants to stop the traffic but wants to do nothing to stop it, I am in the unfortunate position of wanting to stop it as much as either of them, but I have to translate my intentions into the action which it is possible for the Government to take. Anyone listening to most of the discussion which has taken place on these benches would be pardoned for thinking, if not familiar with the history of the subject, that the House of Commons were once again reiterating its detestation of this trade while still there was in office on this bench a Government deaf to all entreaty, which refused to take any steps to translate the reiterated opinion of the House of Commons, a Government which had done nothing to lessen the evil which the House of Commons was trying to abolish. The hon. Member (Mr. Theodore Taylor) was the first to mention any tribute to the Government for What had occurred during the last seven years, and in defence of the Government I should like to preface what I am going to say with a short history of what has occurred since 1906.
The Indo-Chinese Opium Traffic existed, I believe, in a flourishing condition at the commencement of the sixteenth century, 200 years before Clive conquered Bengal, and it has been going on ever since. It is not one of those questions which are hallowed by antiquity or which get veneration from the mere lapse of time. Indeed, I do not believe any Member of the House, to whatever school of thought he belongs, to whatever party he owes allegiance, can read the history of that Opium Traffic throughout that time without serious misgiving as to whether we have not fallen far short of our Imperial ideals upon several occasions. We must find our satisfaction in the fact that there has always been in this House a small but growing number of men who have never faltered in their determination to urge the cessation of this traffic upon the House of Commons of recent years—men like Sir Joseph Pease, Mr. Samuel Smith, Sir Mark Stewart, coming to our own times, the late Mr. Henry Wilson, and now the mantle has fallen on the hon. Member 2186 (Mr. Theodore Taylor). I think the House ought to say that the ultimate extinction of this trade ought to be placed first and foremost to the credit of the people who have laboured so many years in this cause. When this Government came into office in 1906 the Opium Traffic with China was flourishing, legalised, thriving, unfettered. No end was in sight, and if anybody had then predicted that, in a short period of years, an Indian Finance Minister would have viewed without excessive emotion or even panic the total loss of the revenue derived from the Indo-Chinese Opium Traffic, he would have been regarded as a wrong-headed visionary and enthusiast. Rut the whole complexion of the situation was changed when it was demonstrated beyond doubt that there were in China a large number of men who, united with those who abhorred the trade in this country, were determined to put a stop to it, and when it was found that the Government of China, acting on behalf of the Chinese people, were anxious to rid themselves of the terrible curse, I would like the House, with due deference to some of the remarks that fell from the hon. Member for East Nottingham (Sir J. D. Rees), to accept as indisputable that despite temporary checks in the stopping of opium growth in China, despite the fact that reports of diminution or cessation of the cultivation of the poppy may sometimes be followed by reports of the recrudescence of cultivation, despite the fact that in a population so large, varied, and conservative as the population of China there are and must be a considerable number of persons attached to old habits and customs who are proving an obstacle to the desire of the Chinese Government, nevertheless there cannot be the slightest doubt of the earnestness, sincerity, steadfastness, and courage of the Chinese Government and the Chinese people as a whole in ridding themselves of opium. All the evidence points to that conclusion, and when we know the proverbial difficulty of getting rid of a bad habit, when we realise how widespread is the opium habit in China, when we realise the extent of the country and the size of the population, I venture to say, without fear of contradiction, that the history of the world shows few actions in its bravery and thoroughness comparable to the efforts that are now being made by the Chinese people to rid themselves of the drug which is sapping their manhood and destroying their chance of development.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I am referring to the reports of Consuls, the Ambassadors in China, missionaries in China, and all the evidence, official and unofficial, which it has been possible for me to collect. I say, with all sense of responsibility on this question, that there is no room for cynicism or scepticism, and no work for the scoffer or sneerer. China has shown to the world an example of moral courage which is rare in the annals of the human race. That is the China with which Lord Morley and Lord Minto had to deal when considering the question. I was obliged to remind some of my hon. Friends on this side of the House that unless it had been for this desire on the part of China, any self-sacrifice on the part of India would have been useless if it had merely meant the establishment of a Chinese monopoly. We should have lost our revenue, and we would not have benefited the people of China by one hair's breadth. When considering what course was most useful, and most likely to help China herself, we had to remember that China had an almost overwhelmingly difficult task to accomplish—not only to get rid of opium growth in China, but to get rid of or deal with the desire of some of the Chinese people to smoke opium either grown in China or imported from outside. If, therefore, we had suddenly ceased to send in opium, China would have found her difficulties increased, because there would have been a new incentive to grow opium in China as soon as the stoppage of Indian competition had given her growers new profits. The Chinese Government had their choice. They might have said, "Stop your imports and we will stop our growth," but as I venture to suggest, because they thought that as soon as we bad stopped the imports, their difficulties with their own growers would have increased, they never suggested that we should stop the imports completely at once. What they did suggest was what is conveniently referred to as the pari passu policy, the policy of stopping imports as she stopped her own growth. Do not let us talk for a moment of forcing China to take opium. She wants to rid herself of opium and asks our co-operation. We gladly give it and this has been acknowledged over and over again by the Chinese Government, the Chinese representative at The Hague, and 2188 Chinese publicists, either preaching or writing.
As a free agent she asked us to conclude a treaty. We agreed to that treaty. She expressed herself satisfied with it as a means of assisting her to rid herself of the opium which she grew in China itself. And so in 1907 the Indian Government, acting of course through His Majesty's Government, determined to give to China the assistance which she asked, and agreed to extinguish the Indian Opium Trade with China in ten years, on condition that China would extinguish her growth of opium. Since then the extinction of the poppy has gone on at such a rate and so successfully that the Chinese were not satisfied with the assistance given by the 1907 treaty and in 1911 suggested a modification of that treaty. But even in 1911 the Chinese Government never for one moment suggested the abandonment of that pari passu policy. What they wanted was to quicken that policy, not abandon it, because they thought that the complete cessation of the importation of Indian opium would have increased their difficulties. So we modified the treaty of 1907, and adopted the plan, which I need not describe to the House at this late hour, of certificating the opium which was to go into China, and we agreed to abandon our treaty rights of importing opium into China indiscriminately, and to stop the importation into any ports which might be proved to be free from opium, so that any province of the Chinese empire could rid itself at once of Indian opium if it could prove that it had no opium of its own. The three Manchurian provinces and Szechuan, by far the largest of the poppy growing provinces of China, and Shansi were closed at the end of August, 1911. Two more provinces, Chihli and Kwangsi, were closed in January, 1913, and His Majesty's Government have also agreed that three others—Hunan, Anhui, and Shantung—should be subject to a joint investigation, with a view to their closure if the result is satisfactory.
Under the other parts of the treaty we have the right to sell for Chinese export: 16,500 chests this year, 11,481 next year, 10,200 in 1915, and 5,100 chests in 1916. And that is the end of the Indo-Chinese Opium Trade. To people in a hurry, to people who realise the terrors of the consequences of opium smoking, that may not be as quick as they would wish, but, after all, under this Agreement, the end is in sight in 1916 of a traffic over 400 2189 years old, and the end of which could not be seen seven years ago. The situation has been complicated by the accumulation of approximately 20,000 chests of opium in the treaty ports. These chests have accumulated there because, in disregard of treaty engagements, some of the provincial Governments so hampered and harassed the traffic in foreign opium by local restrictions and exactions that dealings were brought to a standstill. The problem then arose, What ought to be done with this opium? I do think I am entitled to claim in language which I feel will not appeal to my hon. Friends that the fair name of His Majesty's Government is implicated and is in jeopardy if it allows an agreement, voluntarily made for the benefit of China itself, with which China has expressed its satisfaction, to be disregarded, not only because it is prejudicial to the reputation of this country, but because it also makes future engagements more difficult if the engagements that have been made in the past have not been respected. We also have knowledge that in some of the provinces which flouted the Treaty opium, opium was being grown by farmers with impunity. Remember that the Treaty provides an easy way of closing the foreign traffic in opium in any province.
They have only to stop growing opium, and none of the opium in the treaty ports would go into that province at all. Therefore, when a province could, if it chose, get rid of this treaty port opium, and yet grew opium deliberately and with impunity itself, it was disregarding its treaty obligations. My own belief is that the accumulation of these stocks never represented a desire on the part of the Chinese Government to shirk its treaty obligations, and is merely an index of all the trouble which the central Chinese Government went to in its transition from an Empire to a Republic. And now, when better order has been established—this is the point—these stocks are no longer lying at the treaty ports, but are going into the country in the regular way, competing with the Chinese native opium. It is going into all the provinces, except the provinces which are closed, at the rate of 2,000 chests a month, so that, roughly speaking, in a little over a year the difficulty will have disappeared, and will have been entirely dispelled. I say again that if these stocks were to be sent elsewhere, as some hon. Members have suggested—and there is absolutely no evidence that 2190 the Chinese Government would wish this—it would constitute an abandonment of the pari passu policy, and would increase the difficulties of the Chinese Government themselves. If the demands of those who smoke opium in China should not be met by imports, then there would be an incentive to grow it in China itself. The Chinese Government, whilst these stocks exist, are in a position to say, "These stocks are coming in only because you grow opium in China. Stop your growth of opium and opium will cease to come in from outside." In order to assist the Chinese Government to do that, it seemed to the Government of India we might go a third step, in advance of the two steps we had already taken since 1907. It would obviously be unfair to suggest to China that she should take in those 20,000 chests and also the 16,500 chests that we have the right to send her under our treaty in the current year.
Therefore, we have in India abandoned altogether the revenue derived from the sale of opium to China from this year, and we are to-day selling no opium for China at all, and I am here to-night in as proud a position as I think any Under-Secretary of State ever occupied, to say for the first time in modern history of India, that we are selling not an ounce of poppy for China and for the Indo-Chinese opium trade at all. But that is not all. When those stocks have been absorbed—and the House will see that that will be, at the present rate of consumption, roughly speaking, in a year's time—we shall have the right by our Treaty obligations, to sell (dismissing those 16,500 chests); in accordance with the Treaty that we made in response to her demand, 26,781 chests more to China. I am glad to be able to tell the House to-night that notwithstanding this, notwithstanding the Treaty which China made with us, notwithstanding that we may get from those chests of opium roughly speaking something like eleven millions sterling revenue; notwithstanding that we have the right to go on selling to any province in China in which opium is still being grown, we are prepared to undertake to revise in accordance with Section 9 of the Treaty, and we are prepared not to sell any more opium to China not only this year, not only while the stocks are being absorbed, but never again—with the single condition that we desire to be satisfied that China, as we believe her to be to-day, is steadfast in the pursuit of her 2191 present policy and determined to get rid of her indigenous poppy. The House, I think, will agree with me that in making this pronouncement we are entitled to put in that condition in the interests of China herself, whose efforts would again be thwarted if the unconditional freedom from Indian competition was promised, but we are in the satisfactory position of saying that the traffic is dead—in India at least—and will never be renewed unless China shows by her own action that she would not actually benefit by the cessation of the import of Indian opium.
§ Mr. TAYLOR
I understood the hon. Gentleman just now to say that China had not manifested any desire to be relieved, but supposing she did manifest such a desire, is he in the position to tell us whether the Government would respond to it—I mean as to the stocks.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I am not in a position to do that. We have agreed to modify the Treaty in the way I have described, and in the face of this most generous proposition I do not think the House ought to press me to suggest that China has a right to tear up her obligations. We shall reduce our growth of poppy in India to an amount sufficient to supply the Indian and the extra-Chinese demand. I assure hon. Members opposite that there is a considerable amount of evidence, particularly in the United Provinces, that poppy growing is by no means as profitable on present terms to the Indian cultivator as the cultivation of other products. I believe that the whole force of public opinion is with us in the response which we are making to the Chinese Republic. We are able not only to respond to the request of the Chinese Republic for the united prayers of the churches of the country, but a short time afterwards, in the British House of Commons, to show our real sympathy with the Chinese desire by the action we are taking in regard to the Opium Traffic. I would ask the House to pause a moment to acknowledge the debt which we owe to the representatives, so far as there are any, of the people of India, who at a time when India is quickening and money is much needed, have, so far as we can see, with the exception of a few isolated grumbles and protests, cheerfully foregone this source of revenue.
§ Sir J. D. REES
What exactly is to be done for the owners of the opium which is held up at Shanghai?
§ Mr. MONTAGU
My suggestion is that we are going to sell no more. The opium at Shanghai and Hong Kong is going into China at the rate of 2,000 chests a month, and we anticipate that in a year, roughly speaking, it will have been completely absorbed in the ordinary way of trade. As we are to-night ending this controversy I want to pay a tribute to those who have brought the subject constantly before the House with so much patience and ardour. Above all, I want to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for the Radcliffe division upon the happy termination of his labours. I think that his name deserves to be associated with the names of others in the termination of the Indo-Chinese Opium Traffic. His satisfaction and pride to-night must be tempered by only one sad pang of regret, and that is that the great enterprise which has loomed so largely in his daily life requires no longer his energies. Might I suggest another sphere for the assiduous action of himself and his friends? At The Hague Conference last year the Chinese delegates, while expressing their gratitude to the Government for their assistance in the matter of opium, pointed out that morphia and cocaine were working serious havoc in China, and urged upon us the necessity of taking action. We are ready to ratify the agreement which was come to at The Hague Conference. We are ready to introduce the necessary legislation to prevent the harm then revealed. But there are two or three Great Powers still lagging behind, and if the hon. Member and his friends will address their attention to the morphia and the cocaine evil, and particularly to those friendly Governments who present difficulty in dealing with it as satisfactorily as we have dealt with the Opium question, he will find that the space left in his life by the disappearance of the Indo-Chinese Opium Trade may be filled admirably in this direction. In conclusion, I would appeal to my hon. Friends, in view of the definite statement that I have made, to withdraw the Resolution.
§ Sir J. D. REES
In view of the Under-Secretary's statement with regard to the opium at Shanghai, I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. GERSHOM STEWART
After the very thrilling answer that the Under-Secretary has made there is really very little use to go on with this discussion. I think, 2193 with the Under-Secretary, that the proposers of this Resolution would be well advised not to go to a Division. As to the first part of it, up to the words "morally indefensible," probably the majority of the House is in full accord. I would suggest that the two concluding paragraphs of the Resolution are open to considerable improvement, and that it is not for us to signify to China any means of evading her treaties, because she has shown too much willingness to do that before. If she wishes to be relieved of a treaty, surely she can come forward through the ordinary diplomatic channels, and not take the law into her own hands, as at present. The third part of the Resolution calls upon the Government to throw away or to ship away from China the stocks of opium there. That would he particularly hard upon the owners of that opium, and would be a breach of faith on the part of the British Government. The House should remember that those engaged in the trade are our Indian fellow subjects, who look upon this thing from a different point of view to us. After the statement of the Under-Secretary that the opium has been going off at the rate of 500 chests per week lately, we may leave the matter as it is, content also with the reflection that in dealing with opium we are not dealing with a wasting security, but that opium can stand a considerable amount of keeping, and improve in the keeping. I approve of what the Under-Secretary said as to opium substitutes. I think it would be in the highest degree deplorable that our Indian fellow subjects should find that we have stopped their trade, which they have always looked upon as a fair trade, to let in cocaine, laudanum, and morphia. It is indeed hard that the Indian trader should be condemned for what he sees no harm in, whilst probably within one or two miles of this House there are being manufactured and sent out to China without let or hindrance, drugs which do even more harm to the frame and character of the Chinese than opium. When this very question was raised by an unofficial member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council a short while ago, the Government there, acting, I presume, under instructions from home, said they could not see their way to interfere with the principles of Free Trade and cut off the supply at the source. I am not a Free Trader to that extent. I think there is one way in which the India Office should still further help the stock-holders of Indian 2194 opium. The shipments to out ports have been cut down already from 13,000 chests to 9,000 chests this year. Experienced opium dealers say that the outports do not require more than 7,700 chests, and if they cut their shipments down to the lowest possible amount to ensure local consumption in Java and other places that would prevent the smuggling of uncertificated opium, and I think to that extent the opium stock-holders in China who have paid millions and millions to the Indian Government have a claim to consideration from the Indian Government.
I should like to draw attention to something I saw in the statement of the Indian Finance Minister. He says he is devoting £460,000 of his surplus for educational purposes, and to hospitals and universities in India. You cannot make any person moral by law. You can only do so by precept, education, and example, and instead of handing any of the Boxer indemnity to the opium dealers who can well afford to do without it in view of the enormous profits they made, the Government would be well advised if they released a certain amount of this indemnity and devoted it to the assistance and the formation of a British University in Central China at Hankow as Germany and the United States are doing there in their respective spheres of influence. I merely suggest that. I ask the Government after what has been done in Hong Kong to consider whether something of the same sort might not be done at Hankow?
Mr. TOWYN JONES
I am deeply grateful to the Under-Secretary for his inspiring speech, and on account of the definite promise he has made on behalf of the Government, and in the hope that China may yet be relieved from having to take the stocks of opium, I ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.