HC Deb 23 January 1807 vol 8 cc529-35

On the motion of Mr. T. Grenville, the. house went into a committee of supply upon the Navy Estimates for the current year.

Mr. T. Grenville

rose, in pursuance of his motion, to move for a vote of 10,000 seamen, in addition to the 120,000 already granted. In moving a resolution to that effect, he felt it necessary to make some observation in reference to a charge of sup–posed neglect that had come from the other side of the house, upon the ground of the necessity of this additional supply not having been foreseen, when the late grant was made, for that nothing possibly could have occurred since the late de–mand was complied with to justify a sub–sequent demand for an additional vote of seamen. It would be found, however, upon examination, that his conduct had been, in this instance, strictly regular, and was to be justified upon the usual grounds of proceeding; the accounts ending the 30th of Sept. took in the estimates but for three-fourths of the year, and it was not for him to decide competently until furnished with the remaining quarterly account, ending the 31st Dec. In time of war the levies for each succeeding month are re–gulated by the report of the past month's recruiting, which however in such a crisis is never to be checked beyond a certain limit. It was a great satisfaction to him to state to the committee, that it appeared by this last quarter's estimates, that the number of British seamen exceeded 126,000 men, and that this considerable increase had taken place within the last five months. It might appear a question, why, if the numbers had exceeded by more than 6000 the ordinary supply, there should now be a further demand for an, additional 10,000. When gentlemen came to consider the variety of increased expenditure in the department relative to the marines, they might be led to think this difficulty sufficiently obviated. And here he would take occasion freely to state his sentiments upon a subject that had not been as yet, in his opinion, satisfactorily propounded. He alluded to the present mode of submitting to the house the naval supplies, and contended that, according to that mod, it was impossible that the members could be put in possession of all the information that was indispensably ne–cessary to their forming a right judgment upon the estimates required; the mode of proceeding hitherto adopted seemed to be grounded upon a scale of arithmetical rea–soning, which could not be brought to apply; at present the allowance for the 120,000 voted was at the rate of 7l. per man; before the session of 1797, it was but 4l. per man; and until the allowance was increased, the naval debt was progressively increasing to a most inconvenient dispro–portion. As he thought that gentlemen should be possessed of the most minute details, he took this opportunity of acquainting the committee that he had in contemplation so to arrange the statement of the naval estimate in future, (should he have the honour of again submitting the, estimates to any future committee) as to render them clear and intelligible to every gentleman who might be anxious to ex–amine them minutely; he was at the same time aware that there were estimates of a nature that made it impossible to give such in detail—as, for instance, all those arising from the unforeseen damages, los- ses, and accidents, to which the sea service was so peculiarly liable. Gentlemen must see that in cases of such uncertainty, there could be no room for calculation, even of a general kind, much less of an exact detail of the minute expences. He felt confident in saying, that where it was admissible, the plan in contemplation would be found to be eminently qualified for removing all the many difficulties that had hitherto precluded gentlemen the ne–cessary information, and he spoke with more confidence in its praise, because the labour had not been his own. To give gentlemen a clearer idea of the advantages expected to result from the proposed plan of statement, he should trouble them with an enumeration of the distinct heads under which the different articles of de–tail should be arranged. The first should be a reference to wages to officers; 2d, seamen; 3d, marines; 4th, and 5th, pilo–tage and wages; 6th, wear and tear, which would be found to be a most im–portant and comprehensive head of expence; 7th, pensions; 8th, salaries to the admiralties, &c.; 9th, workmen in yards, &c.; 10th, rebuilding ships in merchants' yards by contract; 11th, hired armed ships; 12th, the most difficult branch of all others to detail, purchase of stores to replenish his majesty's magazines, an article in itself requiring no less a sum than 3,600,000l.; the 13th head he should entitle bills of exchange; 14th, incidental expences; and 15th and last, the victualling board. Under the above 15 heads, it was proposed that every minutia of charge should be fully detailed, each classed under its respective article, so that any gentleman anxious for minute examination, would hay only to turn to the index, that would refer him at the instant to the point upon which he wished for information. As a proof of the necessity of such an arrangement, he would beg leave to mention one instance that of the navy estimates, including charge of 600,000l. for the victualling bills for the army in garrisons abroad. This surely was going beyond the navy department, and consequently introducing much confusion in the public accounts. The last estimate he had to submit to the committee, was six months' salary due to the commissioners of naval revision. This commission would have expired in December last, but as the gentlemen composing it had applied to him for further time, specifying that it would be of importance, that an abrupt stop to their labours hi–therto should not now defeat the result of them; to such an application the hon. member said, that he thought it his duty to concede, though at the same time he must say, much as he individually respec–ted the talents and experience of the gen–tlemen composing this commission, still he thought the commission inconvenient in its operation, and not the most infallible in some of its suggestions. While the same person was at the head of the admiralty, and this commission, no such incon–venience was to be dreaded. He could not approve of the report, that considered general establishments of pay, as connec–ted with the pay of all officers whatever, or that recommended increase of pay to the officers in the dock-yards. The right hon. gent. then concluded with moving his first resolution—"That it is the opinion of this committee that 10,000 additional seamen be raised for the service of the year 1807, including 2,400 royal marines."

Mr. Johnstone

thought the right hon. gent. certainly satisfactory in the clear and comprehensive view he took of his propo–sed improvement in the way of presenting the navy estimates for the future to that house. He, however, did not think the gentleman equally satisfactory in explain–ing why this additional grant of seamen had not been moved for when the 120,000 men were voted. He could not reconcile it to his mind that it was satisfactory to hear that the first lord of the admiralty did not know upon the 30th of September the number of seamen in the service. He was, however, glad to hear this promise of detail, and hoped it would be extended to articles of expenditure, as well as of sup–ply; he hoped that the estimates might be printed, and did not see why (if the measures suggested by the commission of revi–sion were censurable) the right hon. gent. acceded to them the indulgence of six mouths' grace.

Mr. Rose maintained that there was nothing either new or difficult in the way of making up the estimates as proposed by the right hon. member. He had it within his knowledge that it might be effected with in a few days labour.

Mr. Perceval

thought it no ground for not continuing the commission of review, to say that its suggestions were not appro–ved of by his majesty's ministers, because nothing was more possible than that that commission might suggest measures as wise as his majesty's ministers could do.

Lord H. Petty

said, that the commission of revision had never been recommended by the commissioners of naval enquiry. He thought, however, his right hon. friend right in not putting an abrupt close to the proceedings of the commission, particular–ly as it had been stated that the said pro–ceedings would be brought to their desired issue within six months. With respect to what had fallen from a right hon. gent. opposite (Mr. Rose), as to the facility of stating the accounts in the form proposed, he begged leave to ask why the gentleman himself had not before adopted a method so easy and so desireable?

Admiral Markham

said, that when he applied upon a former occasion for the ac–counts of repairs done in ship-merchants' yards, the answer he received from gentlemen then in power was, that it was a thing impossible to be effected.

Mr. Perceval

denied that he had said that the commissioners of review had been recommended by the naval enquiry commissioners.

Mr. Rose ,

to prove the justice of his al–legations, was willing to lay before the house a minute statement of all the char–ges for the last 8 or 10 years he was in office.

Mr. T. Grenvilte

asked, if it was fair or consistent, in the same instant, to censure him for laying the accounts before the committee in the usual way, and when he pro–posed a fuller and more satisfactory way of doing the same, to charge him with neglect, because he had not sooner made the discovery. As to granting a longer existence to the commissioners, he did not feel that it involved him in dilemma: the commissioners required time to wind up their labour, and he should have thought it a waste of all the former time and expence, if they were not continued the six months longer.

Mr. Rose read at the table a detailed ac–count of the items of charge for foreign and home stores &c. from the 12th of March, 1798; and contended from it, that he had already done that which was now to be called a new discovery.

Mr. T. Grenville

was astonished at the suspicion which seemed to be entertained by the gentlemen on the other side, that because he wished to have the accounts of the navy laid before parliament in a more detailed and intelligible shape than they had hitherto been, he therefore meant any reflection upon those who had preceded him in office. He could assure gentlemen that he had no intention whetever to act with any such hostility. The right hon. gentleman who had just sat down had sta–ted, that such accounts as he desired for the information of parliament, were made out in the offices for several years back, and had gone out of the house to produce a paper to shew that; but all that he could say to that was, that he could never find such accounts in any of the offices. The old and ordinary mode of making out the accounts was all that he could discover, and that he wished to amend. And surely that wish which it appeared was in direct consonance with that which the right hon. gent. alleged to have been the practice, in a way that did not officially appear, could not be deemed any reproach either upon himself or his predecessors, by whom the right hon. gent. ascertained that wish was entertained and acted upon.

Mr. Rose

disclaimed the suspicions imputed to him. The right hon. gent. was not among those whom he supposed capable of censuring the conduct of his right hon. friend. All he meant to say with respect to the accounts referred to, was this, that his late right hon. friend had been in the habit, for several years, of obtaining similar accounts from the office of the comptroller of the navy.

Mr. Vansittart

declared that he had never seen such an account in the treasury, and maintained that such an account as that alluded to by his right hon. friend, was continually necessary, in order to enable ministers to make out correct esti–mates, and also to render to parliament a correct account of the public expenditure.

Sir J. Newport

took occasion to complain of the conduct of public officers in not leaving in their offices any official documents which might be communicated to them. He was sorry to say that this conduct was particularly remarkable in the office which he had the honour to occupy, as upon his accession to it he did not find a single paper relative to previous official proceedings, at least on this side of the channel. Papers which contained, any official information, and which were communicated for public purposes, ought, as appeared to him, to be in no case removed from the proper offices, as they belonged not to the persons who might occupy any particular office, but to the public.

Mr. Rose

stated, that the paper he had was his own property, as it was a case for which he himself paid, and that the original ought to be in the treasury.

Mr. Ruthven

asked where the original was, in what office, and what denomination?

Mr. Rose

did not know what particular place, as he was not keeper of the papers. The motion for the grant of 10,000 men was agreed to, as were the following mo–tions: 240,500l. for wages for ditto, for 13 months; 247,000l. for victualling, &c.; 390,000l. for wear and tear of ships; 32,500l. for ordnance; 1,135,434l. for the ordinaries of the navy; 2,134,903l. for building ships in merchants' yards, and other extra expences; 1,500,000l. for the hire of transports; 300,000l. for sick and wounded seamen; 500,000l. for prisoners of war.

Mr. Vansittart

moved the following sums for miscellaneous service: 6,853l. for the superintendance of aliens; 12,000l. for defraying the expences of the public office in Bow Street; 51,350l. for con–victs at home; 15,000l. for contingencies in the offices of the three secretaries of state; 12,000l. for messengers for the secretaries' offices, &c.; 175,000l. for foreign and secret service money; 20,000l. for law charges; 3,000l. for the expence of prosecuting those concerned in the forgery of coin, &c.; 11,600l. for sheriffs of counties to defray the extra expence incur–red in the conviction of felons, &c.; 140,199l. for the relief of French, Dutch, and Corsican emigrants, and also of American loyalists; 1,432l. 13s. 6d. to pay the balance advanced for ditto in 1806; 1,336l. for the relief of poor dissenting ministers, and French refugees; 1,828l. for the use of a certain class of ministers; 1,934l. for stationery, &c. to the court a exchequer, &c.; 5,210l. for the salaries and other expences of certain offices con–nected with both houses of parliament, 39,760l. to defray the expence of certain improvements that have been made, am are still to be made in the buildings of both houses of parliament; 11,800l, to make good the vote of last session for defraying the expence of certain additions to the houses of parliament, and also to that of the speaker; 4,993l. for paying the expence of military roads in North Britain.—The several motions were agreed to, the house resumed, and the report was ordered to be brought up on Monday.