HL Deb 18 February 1808 vol 10 cc641-2
Lord Grenville

alluding to the expressions contained in the Orders in Council, which stated amongst the reasons for issuing them, that the French Decree had been executed with increased rigour, said, that it was important the house should be in possession of the information on which this assertion was founded, particularly as a contrary statement was contained in the Note of the American plenipotentiaries, which was on the table, and as a contrary inference was to be deduced from those circumstances which were publicly known. He did not wish that any secret should be revealed, which it would be dangerous to disclose; but, merely that the substance of such information should be laid on the table, and which might be disclosed without any danger. He therefore moved for Copies or Extracts of all information received by government, previous to the 11th of Nov. 1807, shewing that the French government had begun to execute its Decree with increased rigour.

Lord Hawkesbury

said, it must be obvious, that it was scarcely possible there could be any information upon this subject received from any accredited person, or in any official shape. The information received by ministers, had satisfied them with respect to the increased rigour exercised by the French government; but it might be attended with serious inconvenience and danger to many persons, if information received through the medium of commercial houses, or various other sources, was to be laid on the table of that house. It was besides, he contended, a matter of notoriety from the answers of M. Regnier, which were mentioned in all the newspapers two or three days after the 18th day of Oct. that the French Decree was then executed with increased rigour.

Earl Grey

was surprised to hear the noble secretary of state contend, that it must be obvious it was scarcely possible to have any accredited information upon this subject. He, on the contrary, thought, that it was precisely that subject on which if there was any neutral minister remaining, or any British minister at a neutral court, it was likely to receive information from accredited persons. He had never understood, that the increased rigour of the French government was a matter of notoriety previous to issuing the Orders in Council. He could not conceive, that there could be any danger in laying the substance of the information received by ministers upon the table.

The Duke of Montrose

opposed the motion, and observed, that it would prevent persons from giving information to government, if an example was given of laying information so obtained upon the table of the house.

Lord Erskine

contended, that the objection of danger did not apply in this case, all that was desired being the date and substance of the information received. The term, increased rigour, implied that there had been not only a rigour, but afterwards an additional rigour, and he thought the house ought to be in possession of the substance of the information which had authorised the use of this term.

The Lord Chancellor

contended, that communicating the date and substance, would in many instances as effectually betray the source from which such information was derived, as if the names of the parties had been given, and might be productive of great danger to individuals, and prevent government from in future receiving important information.—The house then divided—

Contents 27 Proxies 20—47
Non Contents 23 15—38
Majority for ld. Grenville's motion-9.
List of the Majority.
Gloucester, Ellenborough,
Norfolk, Lauderdale,
Somerset, Selkirk.
Bedford, Proxies
Essex, Bute,
Carlisle, Hereford,
Albemarle, Thanet,
Jersey, Bulkeley,
Spencer, Lucan,
Cholmondeley, Ossory,
Cowper, Carnarvon,
St. Vincent, Shaftesbury,
Grey, Blandford,
Sidmouth, Rosslyn,
St. John, Guilford,
Darnley, Buckinghamshire,
King, Stawell,
Somers, Mendip,
Holland, Braybrooke,
Grenville, Derby,
Auckland, Carysfort,
Erskine, Fife,
Moira, Southampton,
Hutchinson, Foley.