HC Deb 29 October 1908 vol 195 cc501-2

I beg to ask the Lord Advocate, whether he is aware that the institution of a civil action by J. and P. Coats, Limited, in the question of the Barcelona contract for coal would mean a large disbursement of money in payment of Edinburgh solicitors' and counsel's fees in pursuit of a possible £20 damages; whether it is the duty of the Crown Agent in Scotland to prosecute in cases where the defrauded himself would prosecute in England; and, if so, will he advise the Crown Agent to reconsider his decision.

I beg also to ask the Lord Advocate, with reference to the export of coal to Barcelona in January last by J. and P. Coats, Limited, of Paisley, whether the procurator fiscal into whose hands the case was first put was on the point of instituting proceedings when he was interfered with by the Crown Agent in Edinburgh; and whether the action of the Crown Agent followed in point of time, considerable influence being exercised by the coal trade, by shipowners, and by wealthy merchants generally.


I again refer the hon Gentleman to the answer given by me on this subject on 19th October to a question put by the hon. Member for East St. Pancras. Not the slightest blame attaches to the Crown Agent or others. The ultimate decision was come to by me after careful and personal consideration. The responsibility for it is mine and it is not in accordance with practice to enter by way of answer to a Question into the grounds of the decision. As to the astounding and unfounded suggestion at the close of the second Question the hon. Member must judge of his responsibility.


Having regard to the condition of the export coal trade, will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider his decision?


A discussion could take place on the Vote for my salary. Oil such an occasion it would give me great pleasure to deal with these statements, which are not my statements, and to defend the action of the Crown agent.


Does not the discretion which rests in the Crown agent give rise to wirepulling?


I must ask the hon. Member again to consider his responsibility in putting these questions which are quite unfounded.