HC Deb 28 August 1833 vol 20 cc897-9
Mr. Warburton

rose to ask the question of which he had given notice, relative to the Deccan prize money. It was, whether, after the important discoveries which had taken place with regard to that fund, the Treasury would not think it fit to give the parties a regular hearing, at the Treasury itself, or to refer to the Court of Admiralty, or to a Special Commission. The facts were these—on the 22nd of June, 1825, a letter was addressed by the trustees to the Treasury, regarding the manner in which they would recommend the distribution of the money to take place, and pointing out certain facts which they thought they had discovered during their investigation. On the 14th of September following, they wrote another letter to the Treasury, stating, that on reconsidering the case, they wished to withdraw the first letter, and to substitute another of a very different nature; in fact, altogether at variance with that of the 22nd of June. When the case came to be argued before the Treasury in 1826, the substituted letter was referred to on the part of the Counsel for the Crown, but the whole of the information was withheld from the parties. The trustees were present at the argument, and were in possession of the facts stated both in the orginal and published letter. The latter document had been completely falsified, inasmuch as a most important paragraph was omitted. Other documents of a most important nature, which were in possession of the Marquess of Hastings, had been withheld from the other party, and if such irregular proceedings were allowed to go on, the whole of the judicial inquiry which had been instituted would be of no avail. He, therefore, wished to know, whether it was the intention of the Treasury to divide the money before another hearing was given to those parties who had been deprived of that information to which they were clearly entitled. If the parties were allowed to be heard, they would be enabled to point out many errors, and to adduce such reasons as he had no doubt would lead Ministers to postpone the distribution of the money. He would conclude by moving an Address to his Majesty, "that the Petitions of Generals Hislop and Smith be referred again to the Privy Council."

Colonel Evans

had very great respect for the intentions of the hon. Member, but he must protest against the adoption of the course he had advocated, for he seemed to argue the case as that of a Chancery suit and a matter of private property, without any reference whatever to the public. If the course recommended by the hon. Member should be adopted, he (Colonel Evans) would venture to say, that the distribution of the money would be delayed for ten years longer. The hon. Member had alluded to the recent and important discoveries which had been made in regard to the correspondence, but he (Colonel Evans) did not believe those discoveries were of any great importance, so far as the great body of the captors were concerned. He respected the great services of Generals Hislop and Smith; but there was a numerous class of more humble captors, who ought to be considered. If the proposition were acceded to, it would entirely defeat the objects of the public with regard to prize property. There was no reason to suppose the Government wished to act partially in this matter, but they had certainly acceded too easily to individual importunity. He would earnestly request the Treasury to decide the question without any further judicial proceedings whatever, for he was convinced that the great body of the surviving captors—for vast numbers of them were dead—would be perfectly content with whatever decision the Government might come to.

Mr. Crawford

concurred in what had fallen from the hon. and gallant Officer, and he hoped that no further delay would take place in the distribution of the money.

Lord Althorp

said, the House was aware that the papers relating to this question had been laid upon the Table, and it was his intention to apply himself to the substantial merits of the question. It was necessary, however, that, to a certain extent, he should make himself master of those papers, before he could possibly give any direct answer to the question put by the hon. Member opposite. The Privy Council, as had been stated, had referred the matter to the Treasury, which had to decide whether they should think it their duty to hear the case argued before them, or act upon the former decisions. But it was impossible for him at present to say which might be the better course, until he had time to examine the papers now before the House. Up to the present moment he had not had that opportunity. Now, however, he should have more time, and he should certainly endeavour to make himself master of the case; and he hoped that in the meanwhile, this statement being satisfactory, he might have the confidence of the House that the Treasury, whatever steps they might take, were determined to come to a fair and impartial conclusion.

Motion withdrawn.

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