HC Deb 03 April 1805 vol 4 cc186-90
Mr. Williams ,

secretary to the commissioners of naval enquiry, presented a Copy of a Letter from lord viscount Melville to the commissioners of naval enquiry, dated the 28th of March, 1805, and of the answer thereto by the commissioners.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

moved, "that these papers do lie upon the table to be perused by the members of the house;" and he said he should immediately afterwards move that they be printed.

Mr. Francis

wished to know whether a motion could not be made to print them immediately, so that there should be no delay in making them known to members.

The Speaker

observed that the motion, that these papers do lie upon the table to be perused by the members of the house, must be disposed of before any thing else could regularly be done.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said they could be printed without difficulty by tomorrow.

Mr. Alderman Combe ,

by way of giving to the house the contents immediately, moved an amendment, instead of laying them on the table, "that these papers be now read."

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

had no objection, and therefore consented to withdraw his motion for the present to make way for that of the worthy alderman. They were accordingly read by the clerk at the table, and are as follows:

Copy of a Letter from Lord Melville to the Commissioners of Naval Enquiry, dated the 28th of March 1805.

Gentlemen; having read your Tenth Report, and observing particularly the following paragraph in the 141st page— "However the apprehension of disclosing delicate and confidential transactions of government might operate with lord Melville in withholding information re- specting advances to other departments, we do not perceive how that apprehension can at all account for his refusing to state, whether he derived any profit or advantage from the use or employment of money issued for the services of the navy. If his lordship had received into his hands such monies, as were advanced by him to other departments, and had replaced them as they were repaid, he could not have derived any profit or advantage from such transactions, however repugnant they might be to the provisions of the legislature, for the safe custody of public money." I think it necessary to state the following observations, in order to place in their just view the grounds on which I declined answering your question, and which you appear not to have accurately understood. When you first called upon me for information, I stated to you that I had no materials on which I could frame such an account as you required me at that time to prepare; and, in a communication with Mr. Trotter, before my examination on the 5th of Nov. last, I learned, for the first time, that in the accounts he had kept respecting my private concerns, he had so blended his own private monies with what he had in his hands of public money, that it was impossible for him to ascertain with precision whether the advances he had occasion to make to me in the course of his running private account with me, were made from the one or from the other aggregate sums which constituted his balance with Messrs. Coutts. This circumstance, which I understood Mr. Trotter had distinctly communicated to you, made it impossible for me to return any other answer than I did to the general question which you put to me—'Whether Mr. Trotter had applied any of the money issued for carrying on the current service of the Navy, for my benefit or advantage?' and to this circumstance I uniformly referred in my answer to other questions respecting the manner in which Mr. Trotter applied the money in his hands.—When you put the question to me, "Whether I did direct or authorise Mr. Trotter to lay out or apply, or cause to be laid out or applied, any of the money issued for carrying on the current service of the Navy, to my benefit or advantage?" my answer was, to the best of my recollection I never did, That answer I now repeat. Had you proceeded to inquire whether I had ever any understanding expressed or implied with Mr. Trotter respecting any participation of advantage derived from the custody of the public money, or whether I at any time knowingly derived any advantages to myself from any advances of public money, I should have no hesitation in declaring, as I now declare, that there never was any such understanding, nor any thing like it, between Mr. Trotter and myself; that I never knowingly derived any such advantages; and whatever emolument accrued to Mr. Trotter in the conduct of the pecuniary concerns of the office was, so far as I am informed, exclusively his own.—With respect to any advances winch Mr. Trotter might make on my private account, I considered myself as debtor to him alone, and as standing with regard to him in no other predicament than I should have done with any other man of business, Who might be in occasional advance to me in the general management of my concerns entrusted to him. It is impossible for me to ascertain, from any documents or vouchers in my hands, or now existing, what the extent of those advances might have been at any particular period. The accounts which you have inserted in your Report, I never saw till I saw them in the Report itself. They are no accounts of mine, nor am I party to them. They contain a variety of sums issued nominally to me, which never came into my hands, and they give no credit for various sums received by Mr. Trotter on my private account from my salary as treasurer of the Navy, and other sources of income, of which he was in the receipt, nor do they take any notice of the security of which he was in possession, for the re-payment of any balance at any time due to him from private funds.—With respect to the sums of naval money advanced to me, and applied to other services, I do not feel it necessary to make any additional observations, except to declare, that all those sums were returned to the funds from which they were taken, having in no instance been withdrawn from it for any purpose of private emolument or advantage.—Before I conclude, I wish to correct an inaccuracy which I observe in one part of the evidence in Appendix No. 7, page 192. The question is put to me, "Did you derive any profit or advantage from the use or employment of money issued for carrying on the current service of the Navy, between the 19th of Aug. 1802, and 30th of April, 1803; or between the 1st of Feb. 1784, and 31st of Dec. 1785, during which periods you held the office of Treasurer of the Navy?" Which question I there answer by a reference to the answer given to a similar question put to me before. This answer is inaccurate, in so far as it contains a reference to Mr. Trotter's mode of blending his funds in his private account with Messrs. Coutts. Mr. Trotter was not paymaster till the year 1786. The circumstances, therefore, relative to Mr. Trotter's account, which precluded my returning an answer to your former questions, do not apply to the periods specified in that mentioned, and I can, therefore, have no difficulty in declaring, that during those periods I did not derive any advantage from the use or employment of public money issued for carrying on the service of the Navy. Having stated these facts, it is almost unnecessary to add, that I am at any time ready to verify them upon my oath. I have the honour to be, gentlemen, &c. (Signed) MELVILLE.

Answer of the Commissioners of Naval Enquiry to the above Letter, dated Office of Naval Enquiry, Great George-street, April 2, 1805.

My Lord—We have received your lordship's letter of the 28th of last month, by which you intimate that we appear not to have accurately understood the grounds on which you declined answering our questions, and submit to us some observations in order to place those grounds in their just view; and also express a wish, before you conclude, to correct an inaccuracy in one part of your evidence, and a readiness to verify by your oath the facts stated in that letter.—If it be the object of this communication, that we should again require your lordship's attendance, for the purpose of being examined, touching these matters, and that we should make a supplemental Report upon the result of that examination, and such other examinations as we might thereupon judge necessary, there can be no disinclination on our parts (as far as we are concerned in the proceeding) to meeting your lordship's wishes: But it appears to us that the Inquiry, which is the subject of the Tenth Report, has attained that period when it would not become us to adopt such a measure merely upon the suggestion of any of the parties to whose conduct that Report relates. We were occupied several months in investigating the mode of conducting the business of the office of Treasurer of the Navy. Those who were examined by us had the fullest opporunity of stating and explaining all things which related to the management of that department, or to the share which they respectively had in it; and of correctig, at any time, during, the progress of the Inquiry, any mistakes which might inadvertently have been made. Our opinion and observations upon the irregularities and abuses which we discovered were formed and drawn up with the utmost care and deliberation; and they are now submitted to the three branches of the legislature, as the act, by which we are appointed, requires. If it could be made to appear upon a representation to them that any thing has been omitted on our part, that any misunderstanding or error had occurred, and that a further inquiry is adviseable, upon these, or any other grounds, it would be for them to direct such farther inquiry, and to decide by whom, and in what manner, it should be prosecuted; but, in the present circumstances, it appears to us that we cannot with propriety resume it. We have the honour to be, my lord, &c.&c. (Signed) Ch. M. Pole, Ewan Law, John Ford, H. Nicholls, W. Mackworth Praed.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

then moved, that these papers do lie upon the table for the use of the members of this house, and also that they be printed. Ordered.—Adjourned.