Under the 1833 emancipation act Parliament voted a sum of up to £20 million towards compensating the Persons at present entitled to the services of the Slaves to be manumitted and set free by virtue of this Act for the loss of such services (section XXIV). In other words slave owners and their representatives received compensation for the loss of their lawful property, and not the former enslaved people.

This money was granted to appease the very powerful West India lobby of planters, merchants and businessmen, many of whom were Members of Parliament and Lords. For example, William Ewart Gladstone's father, John Gladstone had been an MP, and owned plantations in Jamaica and Guyana.