That a suns, not exceeding 20,000l., be granted to Her Majesty, to provide for the expenses on account of Prisoners of War, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1855.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, it had been reported that the Russian prisoners captured on board merchant vessels by our cruisers bad been set at liberty, on condition that they would not serve against us, and were permitted to accept service on 727 board British merchantmen. He wished to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty if that rumour was correct; and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would explain who were the prisoners who were to be put into the building which was to cost so much money to the country?
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
said, it had appeared to the Government that whilst Parliament was still sitting preparations should be made for the reception of prisoners who might be captured during the war. He had stated, when he proposed this Vote on a former evening, that in the last war there were three or four large buildings for this purpose in different parts of the country, and one in Scotland; that they had all, however, been since pulled down or converted to other uses, and that, therefore, other preparations were now necessary for the reception of prisoners of war. An opportunity had recently presented itself to the Government for purchasing a prison of considerable size at Lewes, in the county of Sussex, for this purpose; and as the price was very reasonable, he had struck a bargain with the owners, and Parliament was now asked to defray the cost. At Constantinople, also, with the consent of the Seraskier and the Admiral, preparations had been made for the reception of prisoners of war—not so much of sailors as Russian soldiers—to the extent of several hundreds. It was quite true, with reference to a considerable proportion of the commercial sailors who had been captured, that their parole had been taken, and they were offered permission to enter the British merchant service upon the condition they should sail to the south and west, but not return to the Baltic or the Black Sea. Some had accepted this offer, and already a considerable number had been liberated. No expense would be incurred in regard to these prisoners of war that could be avoided, but the Government had felt it necessary to make some provisions for their reception, and to defray the cost of their maintenance. The sum, therefore, now asked for was only 20,000l. altogether, including 5,000l. purchase money for the gaol; whereas, in the course of the last French war, he believed the cost of prisoners amounted to 1,000,000l. annually.
§ MR. OTWAY
wished to call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the risk caused to our own soldiers and sailors by the non-observance of proper regulations on board of the transport ships. He would 728 not enter into the unfortunate case of the Europa, but it was perfectly obvious, from the report of Captain Carnegie, and other documents, that the loss of that noble soldier, Colonel Moore, was to be attributed to the fact that he would not leave the troopers, and that they remained on board because there was no boat to take them away. He (Mr. Otway) had made a voyage to the antipodes himself, in one of these ships, and could state that from the day that the vessel lost sight of land till it sighted Australia the long boat was filled either with sheep, cows, provender, or lumber of one kind or another, instead of being kept ready and available for the passengers in cases of casualty. Now, he would suggest that the Government should require from every officer sent out in charge of a transport, before he was entitled to his pay, to sign a certificate to the effect that during the whole of the voyage the long boat (which would contain a great number of troops or passengers) had not been used for the stowage of cattle, provender, or any description of lumber. The officers and troops ought also to be told off in parties, each to a particular boat, to which they could have recourse in case of fire or other accidents; and, if such was done, such lamentable catastrophes as those that had occurred, especially to the Amazon and the Europa, would be prevented.
§ MR. ALCOCK
thought it was useless to pay money for a building to hold prisoners of war when we had ships in ordinary, and should vote against it if the Committee divided upon it.
§ SIR GEORGE PECHELL
also considered that large floating prisons might be got ready at very little expense for containing prisoners of war.
§ SIR GEORGE TYLER
asked if any offer had been made by Russia to exchange the officers and crew of the Tiger for prisoners captured by us?
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
said, that no official report had yet been received, or any arrangement made on the subject to which the hon. and gallant Member had referred. He had stated a few evenings ago, that there was a 74 ship at Sheerness for the reception of prisoners of war taken in the Baltic; and at Constantinople there was a hulk for the same purpose.
§ Resolution agreed to.
§ The House adjourned at half after One o'clock.