HC Deb 05 July 1836 vol 34 cc1267-8
Sir Robert Peel

wished to put a question to the noble Lord opposite respecting a document which appeared yesterday, and was repeated to-day, in the news papers. It was an order, bearing the signature of the officer in command of the British auxiliary force in Spain. It had some external marks of authenticity, but the internal evidence seemed to prove that it was a fabrication. This general order professed to state that, as the auxiliary legion was acting with the British naval force belonging to his Majesty, on that account all British subjects found in the service of Don Carlos would be treated as rebels punishable with death, and would be dealt with according to law. He presumed that such a document could not be authentic; but as it was in general circulation, and as the noble Lord was possibly in possession of information enabling him to pronounce it genuine or spurious, per haps he would think it important to do so, and would be glad of the earliest opportunity of adverting to it.

Viscount Palmerston

The right hon. Baronet must be aware that the question related to the acts of an officer not in the British service, nor under the orders of the British Government, for whose acts the British Government could not be responsible, and regarding which they could have no official cognizance. He had seen the order referred to by the right hon. Baronet, and if he were asked as an individual, and not as a Minister of the Crown, in which capacity he had no information to give, he felt bound to say that he believed an order to the effect stated had been issued. He had been asked the question, and he had answered it, and it was unnecessary perhaps for him to add, that any order issued by a general in the Spanish service could not be considered an interpretation of the laws of Great Britain.

Lord Mahon

wished to put one very plain question to the noble Lord. Was Great Britain at peace or at war? That was a very plain question, and he thought it must be a very tortuous policy not to give a plain answer to it.

The Speaker reminded the noble Lord that in putting a question he had no right to enter into an argument.

Viscount Palmerston

the noble Lord, in putting his plain question, need not have gone into any argument on tortuous policy. He had asked whether Great Britain was at peace or war? His answer was, that Great Britain had signed a treaty with Spain, under which she was bound to give to the Queen of Spain the co-operation of a naval force, if necessary, and the British Government was executing fully and efficiently the tenor of the obligation.

An Hon. Member begged to know for what purpose a detachment of sappers and miners had been embarked on the river Thames? If they were destined for Spain, perhaps the noble Lord would point out the clause of the treaty which justified such a proceeding.

Lord Palmerston

answered, that Lord John Hay had represented that such a force was necessary, in order to secure his anchorage, and to throw up works for the protection of his Majesty's ships, an undertaking he had not been able to complete with the men under his command. An officer and a certain number of sappers and miners had therefore been directed to proceed to Spain to act under the orders of Lord John Hay, in order to assist him in his necessary operations.