HC Deb 01 May 1856 vol 141 cc1799-800

asked, whether the attention of Her Majesty's Government had been called to the refusal of the Spanish Government to refund to the firm of Messrs. Clementson (Newcastle-on-Tyne) the amount of the excess of duties levied at Tarragona, in October last, upon a cargo of iron shipped by them to that port; and whether, after the repeated remonstrances that had been addressed by Lord Howden to the Spanish Government upon the subject, Her Majesty's Government were prepared to take steps to insure the payment of the money, and to protect British merchants in future from the extortions of the Custom-house authorities of the Spanish ports?


The matter to which the question of the hon. Gentleman relates has occupied for a considerable time the earnest attention, both of Her Majesty's Government at home and of Her Majesty's Minister at Madrid. It is needless to enter into the merits of the case, because the justice of the claim was, after full investigation, entirely admitted by the Spanish Government, and a promise was made that the amount over-exacted should be repaid. I am sorry to say that up to the present moment that promise has not been fulfilled. Various excuses, of different kinds, have been made; but my noble Friend at the head of the Foreign department saw yesterday, or the day before, the Spanish Minister at this Court, and he promised that immediate payment should be made. With regard to the general question, I am sorry to say that it is well known that the Spanish Government is not, of all Governments, the most ready to acknowledge and satisfy pecuniary claims; and though the present Government ought, from well-known facts, to be ready—not to show favour to British claims, but to do justice to them—for we never asked for more than justice—yet I regret to say that they have not shown that promptitude to afford satisfaction to the just claims of British subjects which might have been expected from any Government, more especially from that which now rules the affairs of Spain. I can assure the hon. Member that no exertions will be omitted on the part of Her Majesty's Government, either with respect to this case or to any other in which subjects of Her Majesty have similar claims to urge.