The Earl of Suffolk, after shortly adverting to a recent communication which he had with the noble secretary of state, then in his place, observed, he should have to move their lordships with respect to the production of certain very important public accounts. He was aware that documents of this nature should not in general be produced, except adequate parliamentary or public grounds were laid for their exposition. In the present instance, he was confident the ground he should proceed on was unobjectionable in these points of view; it was no less than that of public delinquency, which, he had reason to think, he could make appear, in case the documents he should forthwith move for were granted to him; and this consideration, without going farther, he would aver, was an adequate and sufficient reason for their production. The noble earl then moved, "That an humble address be presented to his majesty, praying that he would be graciously pleased to order that there be laid before the house, an account of all monies and sums drawn from the West Indies, upon his majesty's treasury, from the 1st of Dec. 1798, to the 1st of Dec. 1802, specifying the amount of the respective drafts, the time of their being respectively drawn, and the different times of payment.
§ Lord Hawkesbury
said, he did not rise to oppose the motion, the nature of which the noble earl had communicated to him a few minutes since; but, to express his opinion generally, that documents of the kind should not be produced, unless some adequate parliamentary or public grounds were laid for such production. Such motions should not be made, as he feared, was sometimes the case, idly, or upon light grounds. For, independent of other important considerations, it should be recollected, that such proceedings induce great inconvenience, at different public offices, and sometimes so as materially to interfere with the necessary dispatch of public business. To the present motion he had no objection; nor did he mean, in any thing said, the least to call in question the general right of parliament, on sufficient grounds, to call for official information; more especially in what (and winch was peculiarly and constitutionally is province) concerned the public expenditure.
The Earl of Suffolk
acquiesced in the observations of the noble secretary of state. There was one expression which, he said, he was sorry had fallen from him, namely, a motion idly made. This by no means could apply to that which he had just submitted to the house; for, if he were not greatly mistaken, or misinformed, he could ground, upon the documents moved for, a charge of delinquency on the part of the treasury.
§ Lord Hawkesbury
explained, that it was obvious, that what he stated generally could not be intended to apply to the motion of the noble earl, inasmuch as he expressly stated he did not mean to oppose it.—The question was then put, and the address ordered accordingly.—Adjourned.