HC Deb 29 July 1845 vol 82 cc1197-8
Mr. Milner Gibson

rose to move— That a Select Committee be appointed, to investigate the allegations contained in the Petition of Colonel Augustus Lautour, presented to this House June the 6th, 1844, and printed with the Votes June the 26th, 1844, and to report their opinion to the House. The claim was founded upon these circumstances. Certain regulations were issued by the Colonial Office in December, 1828, relative to the granting of lands at the Swan River, and containing a stipulation for reclaiming them within a period of twenty-one years. In conformity with these regulations, Colonel Lautour expended a sum of 40,000l., and sent out 200 labourers to the settlement; but a question had subsequently arisen whether these regulations were binding upon the Government. This being the ground of the doubt, subsequent regulations were issued in January, 1829, declaring that if lands were not reclaimed within ten years, they should revert absolutely to the Crown. In this state of affairs, the Crown having set up a claim to the possession of Colonel Lautour's lands at the expiration of ten years, and the claim being contested, the question was referred to the law officers of the Crown, and both the Attorney and Solicitor General gave their opinions that the regulations of 1828 were binding. Subsequently, however, the present Government referred the question to Sir Thomas Wilde, and he declared that the former opinion was delivered upon an imperfect statement and an erroneous view of the case, and stated that he had then no doubt that the regulations of 1828 were invalid, because they had not been officially promulgated. An argument, however, was raised that Colonel Lautour had put himself out of court by his own admission, in a letter addressed to Mr. Horace Twiss when Under Secretary for the Colonies, in which the petitioner assured that functionary that his capital had been invested on the faith of the original regulations, and expressed a hope that he should not be considered intrusive in "soliciting the indulgence" of twenty-one years instead of ten. Now, this might be said to be a courteous mode of insisting upon a right; and, as in all contracts between the Crown and its subjects, a generous and forbearing construction ought to be put upon the terms, he trusted that no advantage would be taken of this expression of Colonel Lautour's, even if it were an inadvertence. It appeared to him that this claim of Colonel Latour's was founded upon justice, and he hoped it would receive the indulgent consideration of the Government.

Mr. G. W. Hope

said, it was admitted on the part of Colonel Lautour, that if he was only entitled under the regulations of 1829, he had no claim whatever. Now, the publication of the regulations was essential to their validity, and there was not the slightest evidence that those of December, 1828, ever were published. Sir Thomas Wilde, in his more recent opinion, declared most decisively that there was no claim under the regulations of 1828. [Mr. Gibson: Because they had not been published.] There were other reasons also. Colonel Lautour had not complied with the conditions. Sir Thomas Wilde stated, as the hon. Member had said, that his former opinion was founded upon an imperfect statement of the case. The fact was, that Colonel Lautour had got 100,000 acres to which he had no title, and then he came forward with that as a ground why he should get 140,000 more. The hon. Gentleman then read a letter from Colonel Lautour, written at the latter end of the year 1829, and received at the Colonial Office in the January following, and which, he contended, was in itself a sufficient answer to the claim.

Mr. Milner Gibson

would not press the Motion to a division; but he trusted that he had said enough to induce Her Majesty's Government to take the subject into their consideration.

Motion withdrawn.

House adjourned at a quarter to seven o'clock.