HC Deb 20 March 1843 vol 67 cc1143-5

House in committee on the Coast of Africa Bill.

Mr. Hume

protested against the Government proceeding hastily to form an establishment on the western coast of Africa. Before this was done some plan ought to be laid before the House.

Lord Stanley

said, the object of the bill was to carry out the recommendations of the committee of last year, by the establishment of competent tribunals for adjudication in the cases of seizures under the slave-trade treaties. It was, however, not the intention of the Government to take more for the establishment than had been voted in the estimate.

Mr. Hume

suggested, that it would be a great improvement in the management of colonial affairs if the colonial expenditure was brought annually before the House. In short, he thought there ought annually to be a colonial budget, an Indian budget, and a Treasury budget. At present it was impossible to ascertain what the vast colonial possessions of Great Britain cost this country.

Lord Stanley

remarked, that it would be practically impossible to submit to Parliament any budget with reference to the colonies. For some colonies, for instance, he, as colonial Minister, might be called upon, if the proposition of the hon. Member for Montrose held good, to state its financial position this year as applicable to the years 1844 or 1845. That was a difficulty he would not undertake to meet.

Mr. W. S. O'Brien

thought the noble Lord at the head of the Colonial Department would do well to exact from the governors of the colonies an annual report of the state and management of the finances of each, in order to lay the same in a blue book every year before the House. With regard to the bill now under consideration, it gave unlimited power to the Government, while at the same time it was impossible to see what was the nature of the settlement to be raised. He hoped the noble Lord would not object to the insertion of a clause limiting the operation of the bill.

Lord Stanley

had no objection to adopt a limitation, but thought the bill had better stand in its present form. With regard to the production of blue books of governors' reports, as suggested, he could only say the plan, if carried out, would load the Table with a mass of matter which, while useless, would involve a vast expence in printing. Again, a colonial financial statement in that House would be calculated to excite a jealousy in those colonies which already had Legislatures of their own, inasmuch as they might object to the revision by the House of Commons of the financial proceedings of their own representatives.

Mr. Tufnell

concurred with the noble Lord in the opinion, that the production of the whole of the blue books would be useless, but there were many financial returns—from Ceylon, for instance—from the colonies, which he thought ought to be laid before Parliament.

Mr. Ewart

agreed in thinking the self-governing colonies ought to be left to themselves with reference to the management of their financial matters; but with respect to those of the colonies which had not Legislatures of their own, he contended their financial arrangements ought to come under the review of Parliament. With regard to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Limerick, he thought no term of years ought to be adopted; but that Parliament should retain the option to recall the powers conferred under this bill at any time they pleased.

Lord Stanley

The Government would be quite content to leave the authorities under the bill as tenants at will.

Bill went through committee.