rose to bring forward his promised motion for the production of certain documents relative to the department of Barracks, with a view to institute an enquiry into. certain gross abuses in that department, through the wasteful expenditure of the public money. He said it was now 4 years since he had ventured to obtrude himself upon the attention of the house, by some observations, and a motion, on the very subject which it was now his purpose to offer to their consideration; namely, the scandalous abuses then existing in the Barrack department; and he, on that occasion, warned the house of the enormity of those abuses, upon which he had not the good fortune of being able to institute, at that time, any enquiry; but which now were palpably proved to have existed to the full extent which he then asserted, by the Report of the Military Commissioners. now in his hand, and which for some weeks had lain, most unaccountably, unnoticed upon their table; and he now ventured to say, that had his advice been then taken, many millions of the public money would have been saved, and tie occasion would have existed for laying such a report before parliament. It was now some years since the house had. been in the habit of voting large sums of money for the erection of Barracks in various parts of the kingdom.; but those votes had, of late years, increased to an enormous extent. Last year it was 2,300,000l. and for the present year it was 1,700,000l Haying upon a former occasion, attempted in vain to induce the house to go into some investigation, finding his former opinions justified by the report now before the house, and desirous once more to bring, forward the subject to the notice of parliament, it was natural for him to look a little into the cause why this expenditure had so increased, and the more so after he had heard the plea. of necessity which the ministers had set up as a reason for the heavy taxes they had recently imposed 238 upon the people, He felt it incumbent upon him, now that the reins of government had passed into the hands of other ministers, who, he sincerely trusted, would offer no impediment to fair enquiry, to ascertain, if possible, what became of those enormous stuns so voted. At present it was his intention to Move for the production of certain papers relative to the Barrack department, for the purpose of investigating sonic very recent transactions. Without entering into any detail on the subject in the present instance, he should proceed to name the papers for which he intended to move. They were short, and their production would neither be trouble-some nor expensive; the first of which, and lie would now move for it, was "a list of the several barns rented by government and used as Barracks, in the division of Sandown Bay, in the Isle of Wight; specifying the time when first taken, and also the weekly or annual rent thereon paid; respectively, from the time of their being so taken up, to the 25th Dec. 1805, inclusive."—Mr. Martin seconded the motion.
§ Lord Henry Petty
said, that if the hon. gent. had done him the honour to make the slightest communication to him of his wishes or intentions upon the subject, he believed he should have been able to have satisfied the hon. gent. that his motion for papers and the purpose He had avowed, were rendered unnecessary, by another arrangement which had already taken place. As the hon. gent. had not thought proper so to do, he would beg leave to say now, that although he saw no objection whatever to the production of the papers named in the hon. Gent's motion, yet, at the same time, as the house had already appointed Commissioners, for the very purpose of the investigation avowed by the hon member as his object, and had delegated to them its authority to enquire, with the utmost minuteness, concerning every expenditure in the Barrack, as well as other military departments; which commissioners were proceeding with all the expedition in their power, consistently with the nature of the subjects referred to their examination; he would put it to the good sense of the hon. gent. whether it would not he much more orderly and consistent with the regular proceedings of parliament, first, to await the report of those commissioners, or to communicate to them any information that could aid or accelerate their enquiry, before he proceeded to call 239 upon the house to institute another enquiry to proceed at the same time, and upon the very same subject. He would submit the hon. gent. whether it was a propel whether it was a discreet procedure, while a parliamentary commission was occupied, in this very enquiry, to supersede the authority delegated to them, without any al lodged ground of imputation upon their proceedings, and to move for another enquiry upon the same topic. If, indeed, when they should make their report, the hon. member should find any just cause to complain of their negligence, or partiality, a unnecessary delay, it would be competent to him to call upon the house for the enquiry now proposed; but until such an occasion should occur, he hardly conk conceive the house would be disposed to comply with the hon. gent.'s wishes for such an enquiry.
rose and said: If, sir, my eyes did not convince me to the contrary, I should have conceived that it was the ghost of the late minister I have just heard, What the noble lord has just said is, word for word, the objection made by the minister four years ago, to a motion which I then made for enquiry upon the same subject, and I have brought down with me the Parliamentary Debates to prove the fact. But, notwithstanding the disappointment I feel at such an answer coming from the noble lord, as one of his majesty's present ministers, I shall persist, aye, inexorably persist, with the leave of the house, in my determination of having this business sifted to the very bottom. It cannot interfere with the military commission. But, am I to be told, that the house of commons has, in any case, abandoned its inquisitorial authority, and delegated it to any board of commissioners, so as to preclude itself from investigation upon any similar subject it may think necessary? The military commissioners have now been sitting almost a year, and what have they produced? Why, only one report; and this report, notwithstanding the enormous, corrupt, and profligate waste of the public money which it has exposed, has now lain nearly six weeks upon your table; and I take shame to myself as a member of this house, that it has laid there so long unnoticed. As a member of parliament, I have a right to enquire, though a commission is sitting. Do not tell me, sir, that a commission of enquiry is sitting! Am I to be told, that the house of commons, apprised as it is of 240 such an enormous profusion of the public money, is to delegate its privilege of enquiry to any commissioners of Barracks, or commissioners of accounts, or commissioners of any sort, military or civil; and then wait a year or two until those commissioners shall think proper to report their opinions? I can admit of no such argument. What do I sit in this house for, but as a guardian of the public purse? What is the duty of the house of commons, but to watch over and controul the public expenditure? Am I then, as a member of parliament, to be denied the right of calling for papers, to inform myself, arid the house, upon the subject of public expenditure, in order to institute enquiry, if necessary? I never will listen to such an argument, as that parliament is bound to wait; year after year, the slow progress of a board of commission, before it can proceed to the prompt steps necessary on the discovery of any prominent or enormous instance of profusion or peculation. What appears by this report? Why, that 184 unsettled accounts were then before the commissioners, not yet entered upon. Let not this house be told, then, that this subject is already before commissioners of enquiry, who may sit year after year, before the result of their enquiries are known; while the house is, in the mean time, called upon to vote, year .after year, new and enormous supplies, without enquiring how the past has been expended. The house without the grossest dereliction of its duty; cannot any longer persevere in such a mode of proceeding. How long, I would ask the noble lord, has this account of the Barrack department been bandied about from one office to another for investigation, without effect? First, it was sent to the treasury; from thence it was referred to the auditor of public accounts; then it was sent to the secretary at war; and, at last, the system blew itself up, and corruption and venality have wrought their own reform. But the fact not to be denied, is, as I stated four years ago, that the expenditure in the Barrack department has grown to an enormous amount. Why, I ask, has not parliament done its duty and prevented the progress in time? The purpose I have in view, is to examine the old accounts, in order to prevent similar profusion from occurring in future. I wish also to procure the protection and justice of parliament for many of those person. who have had the misfortune to give credit 241 to a considerable amount to the Barrack department, whose accounts now remain ten years unsettled, and whose families may be driven to ruin and beggary while they are waiting the tardy investigation of the military commissioners. I do not mean to charge any individual with a criminal misapplication of the public money: I am only desirous to do justice, and to ascertain where the fault lies; and I believe the Barrack-master-general will turn out to be a very ill-used man, in the delay of settling his accounts.
§ Lord H. Petty
appealed to the house, whether government could be said to have lost any time in proceeding on the suggestions of the Report of the Military Commissioners. He had himself made a distinct statement to the house on the subject of that report. He did not deny the right of a member of parliament to interfere with the enquiry delegated to the commissioners. He only appealed to the hon. gent's discretion; an appeal of which, after what he had just heard, he should be inclined to doubt the success.
recommended to the hon. gent. to substitute the word "buildings" instead of "barns," and to make the motion general.
thanked the hon. gent., but would defer that till another day. The question was then put upon the first motion and agreed to. The hon. gent. then moved, for a "copy of a letter to the late secretary at war, dated 29th Dec. 1805, from the then Barrack-master of Sandown bay division, inclosing proposals on, the part of Mr. James Day of Brading, for the building of a Barrack at Brading"
§ Mr. Perceval
wished the hon. gent. would explain to the house what. was the object of his motion, and the nature of the letter.
observed, that he was prepared to give an answer, but he thought he was entitled to the papers, Upon the grounds he bad already stated. He ob served, that there seemed a disposition to resist him in every step he advanced upon the subject, instead of thanking him for his endeavours to expose to the house a system of delinquency in the public expenditure. His object in moving for this paper, the contents of which he already knew, was to produce what the learned gent. would call legal evidence.
§ The Speaker
having looked at the written Copy of the motion, wished to know whe- 242 ther the letter alluded to, was a letter to or from the secretary at war.
§ The Speaker.
The hon. member having in his verbal motion spoken of the letter which is the subject of it, as being a letter from the secretary at war, and the written motion being for a letter to the secretary at war, the object of my question is to know which the hon. gent. meant.
§ Mr. Paull
said, he was confident that if his hon. friend had not felt himself perfectly acquainted with the business he had undertaken and the objects of the motion he had offered, he would not have moved them. His hon. friend had moved for papers upon a subject of grave and serious importance, no less than a gross and corrupt profusion of the public money, to which it was at all times the duty of that house to attend; and he thought his hon. friend had experienced a levity of treatment ill comporting with the gravity of the house, or the respect due to one of its members.
§ Lord H Petty
was not aware that there was any ground for the charge of levity, when the house had discovered every disposition to grant the information required. He trusted the house would act always with becoming gravity, and .that when the papers granted for its information were produced, it would not countenance any proceeding upon them derogatory to the commission it had appointed.
did not think it decent or becoming to charge the house with levity. He was surprised that the hon. gent. who made the motion should refuse to explain to the house what was the object of it. He was entirely of opinion with the noble lord, as to the impropriety of instituting an enquiry in that house at the same time that parliamentary commissioners were employed in the investigation elsewhere, who had power to call for papers and to examine witnesses on oath.
Mr. W. Smith
was convinced the hon. mover had too much pleasantry and good humour to feel hurt, if a smile was excited in the house by the uncertainty he had evinced on his own motion, as to whether the letter for which he moved, was to or from the secretary at war. He thought it more regular for the commission to go on and do its functions, and afterwards for the 243 hon. gen. to come forward with his motion, if he should then deem it necessary.
explained, that the motion was written in the sense in which he wished to have it put, but the hand-writing not being the most legible, he had inadvertently read one word for the other.
§ Mr. Hiley Addington
still pressed for an answer. Could the house, he asked, enter into the enquiry when there was a parliamentary commission actually sitting?
thought he had made out a strong case for enquiry. If the letter he had moved for had been attended to, there would have been an absolute saving of 100l. per cent. To the public.
§ Mr. Calcraft
thought there never was a case on which a motion for the previous question could so properly be put. Unless suspicions were entertained of the commissioners, he did not see how the house could proceed farther. It had delegated its authority for the present to those commissioners, and till there was some ground to suppose, that they were not doing what was right, he thought it would be improper to interfere with their proceedings, an should therefore move the previous question.
could not agree with the hou. Gent. That enquiry in that house should stop, because enquiry happened to be going on else where. He did not think that parliament, by delegating its power to a commission, did thereby preclude itself from adverting to the subject if it thought proper.
was sorry that the hon. gent. Had not been in the house to move the previous question upon his first motion. By moving for the previous question, the house would put itself in the situation of having ordered on paper, which was of no use, unless explained by those which there was now a disposition to refuse. To say, continued the hon. gent., that a commissioner is equal to a member of parliament, is ridiculous. Are there not men in this house as good as any commissioners can be? All I ask for is two or three short letters which a clerk can copy out in half an hour. Give me but these, and I will take upon me to prove that there has been a corrupt and profligate profusion in a branch of our expenditure, which has cost the country 10 or 12 millions, and I pledge my character as a member of parliament to do it. What am I to think, sir, when the treasury bench start up and move the previous question on such an occasion? I am resolved to take 244 the sense of the house day after day, till I see that there is no intention to keep the public accounts private. And this at a time, sir, when the people of England are loaded with new and intolerable burthens, and when every man is called on to shed the last drop of his blood, and to deliver up the last guinea from his bureau for the defence of the country! Surely, upon cool reflection, the hon. gen. (Mr. Calcraft) will withdraw his motion!
§ Mr. Calcraft
said, that nobody was more fond of enquiry than he was, and it was because an enquiry was actually going on, that he thought it proper to move the previous question. He advised the hon. gent. To give his papers to the commissioners, who might make a report upon them. Had he been in the house when the first question was put, he should certainly have moved the previous question upon it.
§ Lord H. Petty
said, he felt himself justified in supporting the previous question moved by his hon. friend, specifically on the grounds that the hon. gen. had not satisfied the house as to the nature of the papers for which he had moved. In supporting the previous question, however, he desired expressly to disclaim any wish of precluding enquiry, or any denial of the undoubted right of every member of that house to move for any papers he might think necessary. But the question of right was on thing, and the expediency of exercising that right in all cases quite another: there might be many rights unquestionable in the possession of many men, but there were many cases in which it might be wise and expedient to dispense with the exercise of them. The present he conceived to be one of those cases: but by opposing the hon. member's wishes on this occasion, he by no means meant to preclude him from the fullest information he should feel it necessary to demand upon this subject at a future day, when those commissioners should have finished their enquiry which, under the authority they possessed of examining evidence upon oath, they were more competent to accomplish than any enquiry that could be carried on by that house.
said, he thought it his duty to stand up in defence of a gent. Who, he was convinced, was desirous of doing good to the public, and show ought to be supported in his honest endeavours to do his duty, and was of opinion he had made out his case.
asserted, that there would have been a saving of 100 per cent. on the transaction, if the letter he moved for. had, been attended to. Surely, sir, said the hon. gent., this case is clear enough! My, motion seems to cut upon both parties, the goers-out and the' comers-in. The previous question is a thing that I hold cheap. Jo my motion four years ago respecting the 19l. 10s. business, when I wanted to see the bill-book, I was met with the previous question. The motion on the. 10th report was also attempted to be clone away by the previous question; that famous report which has excited the .attention of all Europe, nay, I might say of all the world. My motion then did good, and this will also do good; for ever since that time, government acceptances have been regularly paid.—He then moved, for a copy of proposals transmitted by the Barrack-master of the Sandown division to the secretary at war, on the part of Mr., James Day, of Brading, for the building of a Barrack at Brading.
thought it would have been much the better Way, if the hon. gent. had stated to the commissioners what had come to his knowledge about this business.
Mr. S. Bourne
agreed With the last speaker, and observed, that those commissioners had greater powers in this respect than the house itself, as they could examine upon oath.
§ Mr. Calcraft
said, that as all the objects .could be obtained by the commissioners, he should move the previous question on this motion also.
said, as the hon. gent had stated that 100 per cent might be saved, he thought that a sufficient ground. He wished to know what security we had that the public would not continue to pay this sum till the commissioners had reported upon it.
§ Mr. Huskisson,
as the hon., gent had stated that the granting a few papers would enable him to prove such gross abuses, thought it would not be right to wait till the commissioners might have leisure to enquire in to the business.
§ Lord H. Petty
said, that as the hon. gent. had now assigned some reason for his motion, he should consent, with the leave of of his hon. friend (Mr. Calcrat), that 246 the previous question should be withdrawn.
then confessed, that the shameful waste of money he complained of was not only in building the. Barracks, but in the rent of the barns, which might have been got for a quarter of the money.
§ Sir J. Newport
said, this was quite a different thing: the motion was about building Barracks, while the meaning of the hon. gent. was about renting barns. He thought the hon. member should state what object he had in view, as the house could never get through their business, if every individual member might move for whatever papers lie pleased, without assigning any reason, and if the house were to consider themselves always bound to grant papers when moved for.
Mr. W. Smith
suggested to the hon. mover, that be had better withdraw his motions for the present, and bring them forward in a more distinct form on an early day, suppose on Monday.
refused, and said he should be content if his motion were put upon the journals, as it would then be upon record that he, at least, had done his duty.
begged the hon. gent would give the house sonic explanation, why he wished for these papers? He might understand his own motions, but certainly he had not succeeded in making him understand them.
said, he had already explained himself sufficiently; he would not. submit to be examined and questioned as if he were a witness at the bar: as a member of parliament, he thought it beneath his dignity to wait upon any set of commissioners, .standing in a. hall, going up one staircase and. down. another in pursuit of them.
§ Lord H. Petty
thought, that if the hon. gent.'s sense of the dignity of a member parliament would not allow him to answer a question put to him in. that house, or to explain why he brought forward motions, the house would probably think it was agreeable to their dignity, as members of parliament, not to give any countenance to such, motions. He should therefore again move the previous question.
Mr. W. Smith
took notice of what fell from the hon. mover, "that he only wished to have his motions on the journals." 247 This certainly was not a sufficient reason for the house agreeing to them. He thought the best way would be at once to move the previous question upon the motions—The previous question was then agreed to upon this question.
then moved for a "copy of the answer (if any) that was given, or communicated to Mr. James Day, in consequence of his making proposals to the secretary at war, for the building of a Barrack at Brading in the Isle of Wight; and, if no answer was given, information to that effect." Also, "a list of the several barns rented by government and used as Barracks in the division of Sandown Bay, in the Isle of Wight, specifying the rent now weekly or annually paid for each barn, and also specifying the precise time when any alteration (if any) in the rent of the said barns took place." Upon these the previous question was also put and carried.