HL Deb 07 February 1842 vol 60 cc95-7
The Duke of Wellington

wished to represent to the noble lord, who had given a notice for to-day connected with the late fraudulent transaction in Exchequer-bills, the expediency of postponing it. The notice had been given on Friday prior to the usual hour for commencing business, or he should then have requested the noble Lord to defer it until certain papers relating to the recent enquiry into the subject already on the Table were printed, and in the hands of Members. Another ground for that course was, that their Lordships should wait to see what was done upon the same question in another place, to which it might be said more properly to belong. He hoped, therefore, that the noble Lord would consent to fix his projected motion for a future day.

Lord Monteagle

said, that a misappre- hension had gone abroad as to the day for which he had fixed his motion. He had named the 17th, and not the 7th of February, and if on the 17th it should be thought expedient to postpone it, he should be quite ready to yield to the wishes of the House, and to pay that respect to the recommendation of the noble Duke which of course it would always deserve. He had felt a particular necessity and urgency fur giving a notice on the subject on the earliest possible day after the meeting of Parliament, even before the report to which the noble Duke had alluded was in his hands, or in those of any other peer. He should be prepared at the proper time to show that independently of any inquiry by commissioners, considering the peculiarly parliamentary responsibility of the office he had the honour to hold, a case might possibly be made out for a parliamentary investigation also. Viewing the subject in that light, the noble Duke would be aware that it behoved him to give his notice without the slightest knowledge of, or reference to, the report of the commissioners. Had he waited until that report had been made, it might have been said that he wished to appeal to the House against the opinion and recommendation of the commissioners. He felt every confidence that the commission, very properly issued by her Majesty's Government at the earliest moment, had conducted its inquiry in a manner most satisfactory to the public; therefore the last object in his mind was to take any step that could imply suspicion, or derogate in any way from the responsibility of the commissioners. If he were allowed to say one word more it would be that, after having during a long period been engaged on the part of the public in arduous and painful duties, which he trusted he had performed to the satisfaction of the Members of Government themselves—after having been repeatedly the object of attack and vituperation—very immaterial as affecting himself, but which might be very material as affecting the public securities—he had thought it right not to enter into any personal controversy on personal matters, but to take the earliest opportunity, after Parliament had met, to claim, and to entreat of their Lordships, to whom, in common with the other House of Parliament, he was responsible, to enter upon the most rigorous and searching investigation, in order to ascertain whether what had occurred, had, in any way, originated with him in the discharge of the duties of his office. In the exercise of the power vested in their Lordships, and in the other House of Parliament, this was an inquiry which Parliament might with great propriety institute. He had deemed it right to say thus much in justification of his notice in order to remove the misapprehension of the noble Duke, either that it was meant to imply want of confidence in the proceedings of Government, or in those to whom the investigation of the subject had by the Government been delegated. Before he sat down he might be allowed to add one word more, and he only added it because it concerned the value of the public securities. It had been said, in some of the newspapers of Saturday, that the present Assistant-Comptroller of the Exchequer, Mr. Perceval, held his office merely by the appointment of Mr. Eden, the late Assistant-Comptroller. If that statement were true, not one of the Exchequer Bills signed by Mr. Perceval would he worth the paper on which it was written. It was not only not true, but the very reverse was the fact; the resignation of Mr. Eden took place before Mr. Perceval was appointed, and that appointment of Mr. Perceval was not on the nomination of Mr. Eden, but in due course, under a Treasury warrant, signed by three Lords of the Treasury. In the course of this evening or to-morrow, he (Lord Monteagle) wished to move for copies of the appointments of Mr. Eden and Mr. Perceval, in order to set the matter right with the public. He also was anxious to have upon the Table, what there could be no objection to produce, the correspondence between the Lords of the Treasury and the Comptroller-General, and the instructions given as to the mode in which the inquiry should be conducted, so that the whole transaction should be completely before the House. He fixed his motion at present for the 17th of February, assuring the noble Duke at the same time that if any reason then existed for deferring it, he should be most ready to comply with the suggestion.