HC Deb 17 July 1833 vol 19 cc793-7

On the question that the House resolve itself into a Committee on the East-India Company's Charter,

Mr. Warburton

took the opportunity of asking the noble Lord (Lord Althorp), in case it should appear that the Lords of the Privy Council have recommended to his Majesty to leave the whole question of the distribution of the Deccan Prize Money to the Lords of the Treasury, and that his Majesty has confirmed that recommendation, whether the noble Lord was prepared to state, on the part of the Lords of the Treasury, that they would, before the final distribution, give the parties an opportunity of having their case reheard, in the manner contemplated by Parliament? The greatest irregularity and injustice, in his opinion, had taken place with respect to the distribution of the Deccan booty; but he should not enter into the details unless the answer of the noble Lord should render it necessary.

Lord Althorp

remarked, that the hon. Member appeared to assume what was the decision of the Privy Council; but he (Lord Althorp) did not believe, that that decision was yet known. The hon. Member had then asked what his decision would be in case a certain decision had been come to by the Privy Council. He could not pretend to say, what his decision would be about what was not yet officially before him, for he did not happen to have been present at the Privy Council. He should, however, be the vainest of men if he thought that his decision could be of any weight after that of a Privy Council at which the Lord Chancellor, the Master of the Rolls, and the Vice-Chancellor had assisted. It was quite impossible for him to pledge himself with regard to the course which he should pursue.

Mr. Warburton

said, that in fact the parties in question had not obtained a hearing, for the Lords of the Privy Council had decided that the distribution rested with the Lords of the Treasury. He had also to complain of various irregularities and improprieties, during the progress of the proceedings on this subject, on the part of the trustees of the Deccan prize money, the Duke of Wellington and Mr. Arbuthnot, as well as on the part of the Lords of the Treasury, particularly with reference to the fact that the minute of the Lords of the Treasury of 1825–6 was made upon a supposititious letter from the trustees to the Secretary of the Treasury, and also with respect to the alleged refusal of those parties to afford to the claimants the necessary materials for the collection of evidence in support of their claims; he should, therefore, move as an Amendment, for the production of a letter from the trustees to the Secretary of the Treasury, dated the 14th of September, 1825, for a letter dated the 22nd of, June, 1826, and for the Treasury minute made upon one of those letters.

Lord Granville Somerset

complained that charges of corruption of so serious a nature against the above individuals should have been made by his hon. friend, without it being possible for them, unless by a mere accident, such as happened to himself, who was one of the Judges of this question at the time alluded to, and was by chance present in the House, to be prepared to make the necessary reply to those charges. He could say, that so far as his knowledge of the purity of motives and the desire to do what was just on the part of the individuals complained of went, he was in a situation to give a complete denial to those charges. It could only be their infirmity of judgment and not their dishonesty, which could have caused an appeal from their decision. He was most anxious for a full investigation of the question in dispute, and his hon. friend should have brought forward his Motion in a more tangible shape.

Mr. Spring Rice

rose to explain as to the charges made by his hon. friend (Mr. Warburton) against the Treasury Board of the time in question. Information of every kind was given to all claimants on one side, until the matter came by a Motion before this House, when it was considered best, that all the documents which had been supplied by the one side should be given to the other. With respect to the specific letters alluded to by his hon. friend, the fact was, that the one he had mentioned as being that in place of which the supposititious letter was put for ward was not known of by the Treasury until it came in a printed form before the Privy Council, and whether or not there really were two letters would be seen when the matters came before the House. He thought it very doubtful whether there would be found to be any second letter in place of which the alleged supposititious one was stated to have been put forward; and although he was most anxious for a full investigation, yet he trusted there would be no more unnecessary delay, when it would be recollected that petitions were daily being presented against it.

Colonel Evans

hoped, that as the claimants themselves were daily dying, the House would not postpone the payment by involving them in another year of litigation.

Mr. Harvey

said, that the money was on the point of distribution when the case was referred to the Lords of the Privy Council. If it were determined that they had no jurisdiction, and that the ease must be referred back to the Lords of the Treasury, the question was, whether the subject came before the Lords of the Treasury in the state in which it formerly stood, and as if there had been no reference to the Lords of the Privy Council. If that were so, then, unless the parties were again to be heard before the Lords of the Treasury, there would be nothing to do but to carry into effect the former intention of distribution. Now, it appeared to him, that what the hon. member for Bridport wished to know was, whether, in the event of the question standing as it did before the reference to the Lords of the Privy Council, the parties were to have a hearing before the money was distributed.

Mr. Baring

protested against the imputations of corruption which had been thrown out by the hon. member for Bridport against persons who were, however, far too high in character to be affected by them. It was an imputation also on the Lords of the Treasury, to suppose that there was any reason to believe that they would proceed to the distribution of the money without hearing the parties who were interested. He (Mr. Baring) confessed, that of all the Courts in the country, that before which he should be most sorry for any question in which he was interested to come, was the House of Commons; influenced in its decisions, as it continually was, by loose declamation and personal canvass. He had seen more injustice perpetrated by that House than proably by all the other tribunals in the country. If he had a bad case, he should be very anxious to bring it before the House of Commons; if a good one, it was the last place into which he should wish to introduce it.

Mr. W. Brougham

said, that all that his hon. friend, the member for Bridport, wished was, that in the event of the case coming again before the Lords of the Treasury they would hold their hands until they had heard the parties interested. He (Mr. W. Brougham) had seen so much of the case, that he was greatly alarmed at the idea of the distribution of the money without hearing the parties. He hoped his noble friend would be induced to say, that he would do his best to prevent the distribution until the parties has been heard. That would not amount to a pledge on the part of his noble friend to procure them a hearing.

Lord Althorp

must persevere in declining to give any pledge upon a subject, on the law or merits of which he was at present ignorant.

Mr. Warburton

, in explanation, denied having attributed corrupt motives, but only irregularities to the parties adverted to by the hon. member for Essex.

Motion agreed to.