HL Deb 22 June 1825 vol 13 c1271
The Marquis of Hastings

rose to move the second reading of the bill he had introduced to explain the clause of the act of the 13th of Geo. 3rd, relating to interest payable in the East-Indies. He observed, that as the learned judges were now present, as well as several noble lords who were not in their places when he introduced the bill, he should recapitulate the arguments which he had addressed to the House on that occasion. His bill was intended to define the true scope and meaning of the limitation of interest contained in the clause. The opinion which the law officers of the Crown had given was now before their lordships, and they would find, that that opinion was contrary to the understood meaning of the clause in India, and to the practice which had always been followed there. The bill he introduced, therefore, declared in express terms, that the clause in the 13th Geo. 3rd did not extend to persons within the territories of an independent sovereign. The law officers of the Crown, whose opinions were asked on this clause, had been under the necessity of extracting some meaning or other from it; but they had fallen into an error in conceiving that it extended beyond the British dominions in India. If they had looked into former statutes, they would have found that, in the greater part of those statutes, the words "East-Indies" were exclusively applied to the possessions of the East-India company. The noble marquis then reiterated what he had before stated respecting the practice of the Indian government, and repeated his argument, that offences committed in an independent state could not be prosecuted in any of the three presidencies, since the courts of those presidencies did not even take cognizance of offences committed within the jurisdiction of each other. In the paper on the table, their lordships would find a reference to the 37th of the late king; but that act threw no light on the clause in question; and it would, indeed, have been very extraordinary if twenty years had been suffered to elapse without this clause being understood. The clause was framed to meet a substantive evil. It was supposed that public functionaries lent money to native princes at exorbitant interest, and the object was, to prohibit such persons from engaging in pecuniary transactions of that kind. The noble marquis said, he would move the second reading, and then put a question to the learned judges, whether the bill he had introduced did truly set forth the intent and meaning of the clause in the 13th of Geo. 3rd.

The bill was read a second time, and the judges withdrew.