HC Deb 05 March 1867 vol 185 cc1338-9

said, he would beg to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, If eight of the crew of the Tornado are still kept close prisoners by the Spanish authorities; and, seeing that it is admitted in a despatch to Sir John Crampton, dated Foreign Office, February 8, 1867, that all the crew of this ship have been "arbitrarily detained, on one pretext or another, for many months," and that "they have been subjected to hardships as unnecessary as they were cruel," whether it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to take any steps to obtain redress for these unfortunate and ill-used British subjects?


I regret, Sir, to say it is true that eight of the crew of the Tornado are still detained by the Spanish authorities. I cannot say that they are detained as close prisoners, because the captain, and one other person, whom I believe to be an officer, have been allowed to go about on their parole. But, perhaps, a better idea of the present state of the case will be obtained if the House will allow me to read a telegram which I received yesterday from Sir John Crampton, in answer to one which I sent making inquiries on the matter. The telegram is as follows:— The present state of the case of the Tornado is this, there are two appeals pending against the Prize Court at Cadiz, on the ground of its being illegally constituted and incompetent to take cognizance of the case. Until this question is decided, the Prize Court takes no steps to continue the proceedings, nor the Spanish Government any to maintain or enforce the sentence which they do not consider to be definitive. The detention of part of the crew is grounded on the requirements of the captors for their evidence as witnesses, either in case the Prize Court is declared competent, and the proceedings already held by it carried to their termination, or else in case the Prize Court is declared incompetent, and the affair is entered upon de novo, and treated administratively, or tried by another tribunal. As to the question of indemnity, that is a matter which cannot well be disposed of until the course finally taken by the Spanish authorities with respect to the prisoners shall be known. I shall, however, be ready in a very short time to lay the papers upon the subject on the table.