HC Deb 26 February 1864 vol 173 cc1231-5

said, he rose to move "for a Return of the names of the Flag Officers to whom the Kertch Grant has been distributed, with the proportions in which they share." It would be in the recollection of hon. Members, that in two previous Sessions of Parliament, application had been made in vain for the payment of prize money which had been due for nine years to the captors of Kerteh and Yenikale, and that eventually the Government consented, in lieu of that money, to give those captors a sum of £85,000, which amount was granted by the House of Commons. The Queen's Warrant was quite explicit. It said that the sum of £85,925 was to be distributed in lieu of prize—not as prize—to the officers and men comprising the conjoint expedition of the naval and land forces, three-fourths to go to the naval and one-fourth to the land forces. It was true it said that the distribution was to be made "according to the rules of our naval service." [Lord CLARENCE PAGET: Hear, hear!] But the two cases were very different. In the distribution of prize the rule was that a certain portion of the prize money should be set aside as what was called "the flag share." But that was not the case in the distribution of money granted in lieu of prize. There were present at the capture of Kerteh one general officer—Sir George Brown—and two admirals—Lord Lyons and Sir Houston Stewart—and if it were possible that any officer not present was entitled to a share it was Lord Raglan, the Commander-in-Chief, who had instigated the expedition. And yet the General's share of the one-fourth which had been apportioned by Her Majesty's Warrant for distribution among the army was given, not to Lord Raglan, but to Sir George Brown. But a dispute arose as to the distribution of the flag share, and for a case of that kind provision had been made, for it had been laid down in the Queen's Warrant, that any doubts which might arise as to the distribution of the naval prize should be determined by Her Majesty's Commissioners, including the Lord High Admiral, or by such persons as they might think fit. Had the whole sum of £150,000 been shared as prize money, not only the Commander-in-Chief but Lord Lyons and the other admirals in the Mediterranean—Admiral Boxer, Sir Frederick Grey, and Sir Montagu Stop-ford—would have been entitled to a share. But it seemed to him impolitic that three officers holding high positions in the navy should step in to claim a portion of the sum which had been granted by that House to the captors of Kertch, and to the captors alone, upon the recommendation of the Crown, and to which, he contended, others had a right. Claims were put in on the part of the heirs of Admiral Boxer, who was at Balaclava, on the part of Sir Frederick Grey, who was at Constantinople, and Sir Montagu Stop-ford, who was at Malta; and Sir Frederick Grey, as a Lord of the Admiralty, in this way became a judge in his own case, though probably he abstained from attending the Board at which the decision was given. The House made a grant for the capture of St. Jean d'Acre, which was taken by a joint expedition of land and sea forces. Sir John Louis was an admiral in the Mediterranean, and had commanded the fleet shortly before the arrival of Admiral Sir Robert Stopford, before the commencement of hostilities, but had subsequently proceeded to Malta. No part of the grant of the House, however, was paid to him, but to Sir Robert Stopford, who commanded at Aere, and no claim was set up by Sir John Louis. That was a case which was an exact precedent, except that there was no declaration of war at that time, and that precedent was entirely against the rule of the Admiralty to which he now took exception. On two former occasions it was decided, when similar grants were made in conjoint expeditions, that it was only those who were present at the capture that were entitled to a share as captors. When Lord Duncan was in command of the fleet in the North Sea, he projected a small expedition to the coast of Holland, but he was not held entitled to what might have been his share because it was a conjoint expedition. In the case of "Lord Nelson v. Tucker," a similar judgment was given in the Court of Queen's Bench. He thought it probable that the noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty would not object to the production of the papers, and then, if it seemed necessary, he (Sir John Hay) could afterwards found a Motion upon them. He hoped his noble Friend would call the attention of the Admiralty to the necessity of having some higher decision on the subject than that of a branch of Somerset House. He begged to move for the Return.


said, he was not aware that the gallant Officer was going so much into detail on a Motion for a Return of the names of certain officers, and lie was not, therefore, prepared to go fully into the argument. But with regard to Sir Frederick Grey, as one of those to whom the gallant Officer's objection applied, he could assure him that the decision was come to by the Duke of Somerset after full consideration, and without any leaning towards one flag more than another. The only object of the Duke of Somerset was to do justice and to decide according to the rules of the service. The only distinction between this case and that to which the gallant Officer had alluded was, that there was a proclamation of war at the beginning of the Russian war, and that provision was made in it for a certain distribution of prize money, so that it might be shared according to the rules of the service. They had that proclamation, therefore, as a guide. That House voted the money, but it was to be distributed according to the Queen's Warrant. In that document it was distinctly stated, that the money was to be distributed "according to the rules of our naval service, and in accordance with our proclamation of March 29, 1854." He (Lord Clarence Paget) could not see how the Duke of Somerset could have decided in any other way. The matter was not one upon which a legal opinion was required. It was quite true that not only some admirals, but he believed Lord Lyons himself, wished the matter should be referred to legal authority, and it was referred by the Admiralty to their legal adviser, the Solicitor of the Admiralty, although that branch of the department which constantly dealt with matters of prize had no doubt that the money should be distributed according to the Warrant and the Queen's proclamation at the commencement of the war. The case of the Acre grant was made as a testimony to the gallantry of the men engaged. [Sir JOHN HAY: In lieu of stores captured.] He believed that was the case, but we were not then at war, and that made a material distinction. Much as he agreed that in all these expeditions those who were engaged should receive the benefit of grants made, still there were certain usages in the navy from which if they were to depart and merely take a sentimental view of these matters, to suit the circumstances of the moment, they might get into great difficulty. As to the Motion, he had no objection to its being agreed to.


said, he had no wish whatever in the matter, except that justice should be done. He must express his opinion that the noble Lord had not answered the points raised by his hon. and gallant Friend. The decision of the Admiralty, as to the distribution of the prize money, had been disputed. He might state, that his hon. and gallant Friend had submitted to him the opinion of a very eminent lawyer upon the question. He had read that opinion very carefully, and it appeared to him that he had arrived at that decision on very strong grounds. He had also read the Queen's Warrant; and it seemed to him that the merits of the question really turned on how far, when the army and navy acted together, the naval forces in that case were taken out of the usual prize laws of the navy. [Sir JOHN HAY: Hear, hear!] Secondly, it turned upon the terms of the Queen's Warrant. He had no doubt that, upon the face of the Queen's Warrant, the final decision in case of dispute rested with the Board of Admiralty; but he was sure that the noble Lord would not deny that the Board of Admiralty, having that responsibility thrown upon them, were bound to arrive at their decision justly and righteously. He would rather like to know more fully what were the grounds upon which the Board of Admiralty had acted. He feared, from what the noble Lord had said, that the Admiralty had referred the question to what was called "the branch" (a term better understood within the Admiralty than out of doors), one of the numerous departments of the Board, and that the branch had referred it to their solicitor. He thought that in a matter of this sort, where the rights and interests of very eminent officers were concerned, and the real merits of the case were disputed, the Board of Admiralty ought not to have been contented with a reference merely to the "branch" or their solicitor, but should have taken the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown. In his view of the matter they would have acted with much greater prudence and justice, and he thought they were bound to take that course.

Motion agreed to.

Return ordered, Of the names of the Flag Officers to whom the Kertch Grant has been distributed, with the proportions in which they share." — (Sir John Hay.)