§ Mr. CAVE
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether, in consequence of a very serious charge made against Cadet George Archer-Shee, the Admiralty, in October, 1908, called upon his father to withdraw him from Osborne; whether, after considerable delay and litigation, the Admiralty, by their counsel, finally and unreservedly withdrew the charge in July, 1910; and whether any, and what, steps have been or will be taken by the Government to redress, so far as is now possible, the wrong done to this young man and the pain and loss caused to his family by this unfounded accusation?
§ The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. McKenna)
In the action of the father of George Archer-Shee against the Admiralty the following terms were agreed upon on 29th July, 1910, between the parties: The Solicitor-General stated in court, on behalf of the Admiralty, that he accepted the statement of George Archer-Shee that he did not write the name on the postal order, and did not cash it, and, consequently, that he was innocent of the charge. On the other hand, Sir Edward Carson, speaking on behalf of the plaintiff, agreed that the Admiralty had acted bonâ fide and under a reasonable belief in the statements that were put before them. Since these conclusions were reached the Admiralty have offered to pay the plaintiff's taxed costs in the action and of the preliminary inquiry, including the costs of those issues in the action on which he failed, as well as those on which he succeeded. The plaintiff has declined this offer, and has claimed an indemnity against all costs and a sum of 2455 £10,000 as compensation. The Admiralty have been unable to agree to pay the sums demanded.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I do not think this would be a convenient moment to open up the case in its entirety, as I should have to do in reply to the hon. Gentleman. But in the course of the Debate upon the Navy Estimates the hon. Member will have every opportunity of giving me an opportunity of explaining the reason why we thought such a payment as £10,000 was wholly beyond the mark.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I am asked by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Balfour) to give notice that when the Prime Minister returns he will ask that the salary of the First Lord may be put down on an early date, so that this case may be discussed apart from the general naval discussion.
§ Lord CHARLES BERESFORD
Have the Admiralty tendered any expression of regret or apology to Mr. Archer-Shee, or afforded him any redress or compensation on account of the unfounded and cruel charge of theft which the Admiralty have unreservedly withdrawn?
§ Mr. McKENNA
Yes, Sir. If the Noble Lord had followed the proceedings in Court he would have been aware that the Attorney-General, on behalf of the Admiralty, expressed the fullest regret. I also, on the earliest opportunity in this House, likewise expressed the fullest regret at the incident.
§ Mr. McKENNA
No, but this is public money that I am disposing of. A debate will arise upon the subject, and, personally, I should be very glad to have the guidance of the House upon the subject. But when all the facts are disclosed my own present opinion is that it will be held that it is not a case for compensation.