Page images

MR. R. T. REID: He says that in one instance before the Commission a man had satisfied the President of the Commission, an Englishman, that he did not dare to give open and full testimony, because he was afraid of the Government-and that is the statement of a man who does not speak generally without facts. It will be denied, probably; and I am sure, if it is, it will be because the Government are satisfied that it is untrue. But are we to have no other method than such a Commission as that to investigate these charges? There are a series of instances of charges made and suggestions offered as to corruption and unfair treatment on the part of Government officials towards witnesses giving evidence before this Commission, and this House is absolutely powerless in the matter. On the 9th of September, at the end of a long and exhausting Session, with, perhaps, only 15 or 16 Gentlemen in the House with sufficient energy left to watch the proceedings, the House is absolutely powerless to do anything, and will be powerless so long as we confine the discussion of Indian questions to financial matters as we have done in the past. It has been pointed out in the evidence given in 1871, 1872, 1873, and 1874, that a great many cases of unfair treatment financially between the English Government and the Indian Government have occurred. It is a matter in which the Indian Government is incapable of coping with the English Government. The Indian Government are unable to cope with this Government unless they are supported by the opinion of this House. We have a duty imposed on us by the State, and it is supposed by a great many parties that the finances of India are brought before this House and considered; but the debates on this subject are reduced to a farce. The discussion begins at about a quarter past or half-past 6 o'clock, and ends in four or five hours, and we are expected in that time to have settled the affairs of 200,000,000 of our fellow-subjects, and to have sanctioned an outlay of between £70,000,000 and £80,000,000. That is a state of things in which, it seems to me, it would be far better for us to abdicate our duties than to go on discharging them in a way which is a mere mockery. None of us can do what is really our duty in the matter, because

of this House for the purpose of transacting duties in connection with India which appertain to this House. I endeavoured during the Parliament of 1880, more than once, to get either a Standing Committee or some other form of Committee appointed, in order to enable this House faithfully to discharge the duties which it owes to the people of India. The Government of India is absolutely uncontrolled by Native opinion, except so far as that opinion can reach the consciences of the governing class. And who controls it here? Why, it is controlled by the Secretary of State for India and the Under Secretary for India-it is controlled by the Secretary of State, with the assistance of the Council. But what is the Council-how is it constituted? It is a Council consisting of gentlemen who have spent no more than half their lives in that country, and who represent stale Anglo-Indian opinion--the opinion of 25 years ago. No one knows anything about their deliberations, as they all take place in secret. They are a secret, irresponsible Council, composed, I have no doubt, of men of great ability, and of men who have shown great capacity in India, but who represent Anglo-Indian opinion-and nothing but Anglo-Indian opinion. These gentlemen should be under the control of the Government of this country, and their operations should be subject to the fresh air of this House, and should be under the influence of public opinion and public discussion here. The influence of men who have to answer to their constituents for the course they have adopted is not brought to bear on the Government of India at all; and that is one thing, in my opinion, most necessary. How do we stand as to India? The hon. Member for Northampton has brought a variety of charges and accusations against the officials of the Indian Government. He says that Messrs. Streeter have had an unfair advantage in the matter of the Ruby Mines; that was contradicted by the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary. Be it so. The hon. Member also says that the teak forests have not been well-administered. Very well. He says that a great many charges have been disposed of by a Commission sitting at Calcutta.

SIR JOHN GORST: Sitting all over India.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

we can merely draw attention to two or three points with an eye to the clock watching the time as it passes. I do entreat the Government to listen to the appeals addressed to them on this matter. I entreat them to say whether it would not be possible to appoint a Standing Committee. I am not particular as to the form of the Committee, let it be a Special Committee, a Select Committee, or any other form of Committee which would give the people of India the idea that somebody in this House is looking after their interests, and that their interests are considered of the utmost importance, and are attracting, as I believe they are, a great deal more sympathy outside this House than they are inside it. Let us show the people of India that their interests are really weighed and valued, and appreciated by the House of Commons, and that the House of Commons will not leave them to be dealt with absolutely by an irresponsible despotism.

MR. HANBURY (Preston): I do not wish to enter into the general policy of this Budget, or into the details of the many subjects which have been referred to this evening. I only want to say that I am quite sure that amongst the Conservative constituencies, just as much as amongst the constituencies of hon. Gentlemen opposite, there is a very strong feeling indeed that this Indian Budget ought to be discussed a great deal earlier than it is in the Session. I do not think it is any answer to the complaint to reply, as the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State (Sir John Gorst) did in a portion of his remarks, that preceding Governments have been nearly as bad as the present Government in this respect. Surely we ought now to have reached the time when the argument that two blacks make one white can no longer be available. I do hope that on both sides of the House considerable pressure will be put on Governments to force them to bring on the Indian Budget at a reasonable time in the Session. The special subject on which I wish to say a few words is the one alluded to by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) before Mr. Speaker left the Chair, and which has been touched on by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dumfries who has just sat down (Mr. R. T. Reid),

and that is the question of the Ruby Mines and the concession to Messrs. Streeter. My own opinion on the matter differs somewhat from that of the hon. Member for Northampton. I am rather afraid that in consequence of the pressure he was able to put upon the Government by certain Questions he asked in this House, we are probably about to see something very like a breach of public faith in this matter. I do not think that the facts of the case have been put correctly either in the Blue Book or by the hon. Member. The Blue Book does not give anything like the whole of the case; and I think that an impression must have been created by some of the Questions of the hon. Member for Northampton that something like a job had been perpetrated. That, I confess, was the motive which tempted me first to look into the matter; and I am bound to say that, after giving the subject very careful investigation, I am inclined to think that the grievance, if anything, is rather the other way. At any rate, the matter has led to a very serious difference of opinion-judging from the statements in the Blue Books -between the Viceroy of India and the Secretary of State at home; and so far as I can read the Blue Book I am bound to say that I believe the Viceroy not only seems to have better information as to what has been going on, and as to the actual facts of the case, but, being on the spot, he is much more able to form an opinion than the Secretary of State, who is so far removed from India. There can be no doubt whatever that a concession was granted by the Viceroy of India in April, 1886, after free and open competition. That fact, I think, cannot be denied for one single moment; but that concession was granted subject to a certain condition, and subject to an inquiry which was to be made on the spot both as to Native rights and as to the mode of working the mines; but in all other respects, as to the term of years and so on, the matter was left to be settled later on the spot between the Viceroy on the one hand and the contractors on the other. Now, the language of the Viceroy was very clear indeed upon this point, because, writing on the 10th of June, 1886, he says

time was made by Patton on behalf of Streeters, "The highest offer of lease within given and intention is to accept offer if certain details

[blocks in formation]

Therefore, as far as the Viceroy was concerned, undoubtedly Messrs. Streeter sent in the highest tender within the given time, and the only question was in regard to the concession as to the Native rights and as to the working of the mines. Now, how far were those conditions afterwards agreed upon? Well, both parties went to the mines, and the whole question of Native rights was thoroughly gone into on the spot, and the rules and regulations for working the mines were provisionally agreed upon and signed by the representatives of both parties at Mandalay, and were subsequently ratified and accepted by the Indian Government on or about the 23rd of May of this year. There is no doubt that the Indian Council passed these rules and regulations, so that that matter is disposed of. As to the Native rights, there can be no question that the matter was gone into very fully at the mines themselves, because a Proclamation was actually posted up there by the authority of the Indian Government, which was as follows:

"The working of the rubies and the trade in rubies near the mines will be a Government monopoly, as they were in the times of the Burmese Kings, and the lease of this monopoly has been granted by the Government to a great firm of wealthy English merchants, who will use great endeavours to promote the extraction of rubies by the employment of many labourers and other means. These merchants will make arrangements with the diggers of rubies such as may be conducive to the advantage of both parties. Following ancient customs they will either purchase the rubies that may be raised, or sanction their removal on payment of dues fixed by the Government, and no rubies may be otherwise removed under penalty. The British Government have been pleased to remit arrears

of revenue for the year 1247 B.E. Future assessments of revenue will be made with a strict regard for justice, reason, and moderation. Officials, headmen who are well disposed, and render proper and fitting assistance in the management of affairs, will be confirmed in their appointments, and will receive appropriate remuneration to their merits."

By this Proclamation full protection was given to Native rights, and arrangements were come to as to the mode of working the mines; and not only was that done, but, in connection with everybody else who addressed the Government on the

subject, Messrs. Streeter were always treated as having a formal and binding arrangement with the Government, which could only be upset by the refusal on the part of Messrs. Streeter to accept the Government conditions. Those conditions, however, they accepted. Messrs. Streeter accompanied the expedition to the mines. They built houses on the spot, and spent a sum of no less than £10,000 there in making preparations for working the mines. So much, then, for the arrangement so far as it went with the Viceroy of India. The Viceroy of India leaves no doubt whatever in the minds of anyone reading the despatches that as far as he was concerned there was a real, moral, and binding contract between him and the contractors for these mines. Meanwhile, what is happening at home? We are told that the influence of this House does not operate upon Indian questions, partly because we have no opportunities of discussing these subjects in this House, and therefore the Questions which are sometimes put here are perfectly unintelligible. Without any wish to do any injustice to the hon. Member for Northampton, for I believe him to be one of the most honest-minded men in the House, still I do think that some of his Questions have really tended to bring about that which is hardly fair in this matter, and what is the result? Why, that the Secretary for India, because he has not been kept fully informed of what is going on here, takes fright, and sends a despatch on November 18, in which he says that nothing on this subject ought to be decided without receiving his formal approval. Well, that was all very right and proper, and, no doubt, the sort of Despatch which the Secretary of State might very naturally send out. He also, at the same time, questioned the policy of leasing these

mines at all, and said that it probably might be found that they should be reserved in the hands of the Government. That was the 18th November, 1886; but although that was a very reasonable despatch, it had one unfortunate defect -namely, that it was sent just seven months too late, for whilst it was despatched on the 18th November, on the 18th April in the same year the Governor General had already agreed to this lease with the contractors-the Governor General having full and absolute power from the Secretary of State at home. What were the powers given to the Viceroy to deal with this matter? They are very clear. In the first place, when the question of leasing these Ruby Mines first came up, a Question was put to the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), who was then Secretary of State for India, and Lord Harris, Under Secretary of State, on the 24th of December, 1885, wrote

"I am directed by the Secretary of State for India to inform you that it is for the Government of India to decide upon your application for a mining concession in Upper Burmah, and to suggest that you should transmit it direct to the Secretary to the Government of India Foreign Department, Calcutta." Therefore the matter was transferred from the Secretary of State to the Viceroy in Council in India itself. Nothing happened for two months. When the noble Lord had been succeeded by the Earl of Kimberley, a telegram was sent by the Viceroy to Lord Kimberley on the 25th February, 1886. In that despatch the Viceroy says

“Gillander and Arbuthnot offer two lakhs of


On the 4th March, Lord Kimberley answered the Viceroy saying

"I have no objection to offer to this conces


That is the very same concession which has since been given to Messrs. Streeter, and which was to be given to Messrs. Gillander, Arbuthnot and Co. for two lakhs of rupees. That shows that there cannot be much of a job in the matter, as far as the offer of Messrs. Streeter is concerned. A fortnight after that letter the Viceroy again telegraphed him, saying

were offering three lakhs, and that Messrs. Streeter were offering four lakhs, and he said


"A telegram which practically left the matter to the decision of your Excellency." That being the case, and full powers having been given to the Viceroy to negotiate the concession of these mines, two days after receiving that telegram, this concession was granted by the Viceroy to Messrs. Streeter. They made the highest offer--namely, four lakhs of rupees-and the only thing to do was to go out to Burmah, and to settle such conditions as to the Native rights and the mode of working the mines, which, as I have said, were fully agreed upon by Messrs. Streeter on the one hand and the Government of India on the other. So, therefore, as far as the Government of India were cerned, undoubtedly they were pledged morally, and almost legally. Of course, they could not be pledged legally, because all ese matters might be subsequently upset by the Home Government. I say in a matter of this kind, where can establish a strong moral claim like that which Messrs. Streeter can establish, there ought to be some very strong consideration forthcoming to induce the Secretary of State at the last moment to upset the arrangement so agreed upon. It must be admitted that, in upsetting the arrangement, the Secretary of State did so after the Viceroy himself had gone to a very great length indeed, and had practically looked upon the matter as settled. In the first place, the Secretary of State says it is a question in his mind whether it would not be better to keep the mines in the hands of the Government, instead of leasing them at all; but, unfortunately, that matter was settled 18 months before by his Predecessor in Office. As to the question of Native rights, the Secretary of State for India, on the 4th of June, says that—



Messrs. Streeter offer three lakhs of rupees." On April 14th, he telegraphed him again to say that Messrs. Arbuthnot and Co.


"Do you consider that latter offer may be accepted ?"

The Secretary of State at once, on the 14th August, telegraphed a reply, which practically left the matter at the decision of the Viceroy. That telegram really left the matter in the hands of the Viceroy, and this was recognized by Lord Cross himself, because he says as much in his telegram of the 14th August; his words being

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

"Whatever the result of these arrangements may be we trust that your Lordship will be satis. fied that we have been careful to protect the rights and interests of the Natives."

"I am not fully satisfied that the Native | tenth of that. Therefore, if the acceptance rights have been considered in this matter." of Messrs. Streeter's offer is delayed, or Well, that, again, is certainly not the if the matter is not settled speedily, the opinion of the Viceroy of India, who Government of India will be suffering would naturally be very careful in this month by month and year by year. matter, because he, some time before, They will be losing heavily, because the supposing that this question would be rate at which the mines are now being raised by the Secretary of State, in one worked is worse than ever it has been, of his despatches, says— but as I have said the offer made by the firm of London merchants is more than twice what the mines produced in the best days of King Thebaw. Then there is another consideration which Therefore there was no other question, must have been in the mind of the hon. I should suppose, on that ground. Un- Member for Northampton, in fact I am doubtedly, the Secretary of State is sure it was, and I think that the hon. justified in re-opening the whole ques- Member was perfectly right in putting tion if a fair price has not been given the question which he did. It is a for these mines. That is the real prac- question which I myself should have tical consideration for the Secretary of put under similar circumstances-that is State. There is no doubt whatever upon to say, if I had held the view of the that point. Although the arrangement matter which the hon. Member holds. has gone so far, if the Secretary of State He suspected that there was some job has any doubt upon this point, he is, no being carried on in this matter, and it doubt, perfectly justified in withholding was that suspicion which made him exahis sanction until he is satisfied in the mine into it. I am bound to say, howmatter. Now, what are the facts as to ever, that in my view, if there is a job the question of price? The Secretary of in the matter at all it is all the other State for India, no doubt, had his mind way. If Messrs. Streeter had not interdisturbed on this point by the startling vened as they did at the last moment statement of the hon. Member for North- and insisted upon this matter being put ampton, that the lease of these mines, to open competition, the loss to the instead of being worth only four lakhs Indian Government would have been of rupees, was worth at least £400,000 considerable. The lease would have a-year. That was very startling been given without any competition statement, and if it could have been whatever for the sum of two lakhs of justified, I say at once that the Secretary rupees, which is exactly one half of the of State would have been right in re- amount obtained by competition. I say fusing his assent to the arrangement en- therefore that Messrs. Streeter rendered tered into with Messrs. Streeter. Having a great service to the Indian Governregard to the interests of this country ment when they insisted that so valuable and India itself, he would, even at the a concession as this should not be given last moment, have been justified in up- away to the first comer at an inadequate setting the arrangement; but as a price, but should be put up to the matter of fact the Indian Government highest bidders. Concessions of this inquired into the matter, and they tell kind should be put up to open competius that they scout the idea of the mines tion, and there should be no favouritism being worth anything of the sort, and whatever in regard to them. It must they look upon it as an utter delusion. be remembered that Messrs. Streeter The gentleman who named that value sent in a tender twice as high as that refuses, I understand, to make any which had been offered before. There definite proposal. It was the duty of is another reason why it was specially the Government of India to look at the necessary that there should be competipast history of these mines. Well, even tion in this matter. It was specially in the best days of King Thebaw, the necessary that this lease should not be most the mines brought in was about given to Messrs. Gillander, Arbuthnot half of what has been offered by Messrs. and Co., because it is said that the son Streeter, but the mines working in the of the right hon. Gentleman the Memway in which they are being worked at ber for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladthe present moment do not bring in one-stone) was a member of the firm of

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »