HC Deb 30 May 1809 vol 14 cc800-2
Mr. Wardle

rose to bring forward his promised motion upon this subject. The supply of the army with proper medicine and medical aid was, he was observed, a matter of so much importance, that he could not conceive it possible to raise a doubt, as to the propriety of making it the subject of parliamentary investigation, where any ground for complaint appeared. That such ground existed was manifest from the Report upon the table. For in this Report it was stated, that out of 20,000 men employed in expeditions to the West Indies, no less than 13,000 were the victims of disease; one-third owed their death to the ignorance of their medical men. But this was not the only ground of complaint which he meant to refer to the consideration of the house. The charge for medicine was enormously dear. He instanced the article of bark, which was charged at no less than 100 per cent. beyond the prime cost; upon this article alone he observed that the sum of 15,000l. was laid out. To prove this exorbitant charge he was ready to produce the most satisfactory evidence at the bar both documentary and oral. As a principal witness to substantiate his statements, the hon. gent. mentioned the name of Dr. Chisholm.—With the two facts he had stated, he did not think the motion which he was about to submit could be consistently opposed with a view to the necessary inquiry. He understood, indeed, that no opposition would be attempted, and therefore, without further preface, he moved, "That a Return of the whole of the Medical Department should be laid before the house, namely, the physicians, surgeons, inspectors and deputy inspectors, apothecaries, &c. distinguishing the period of the appointment of each, the situation from which removed to such appointment, together with the length of service."

The Secretary at War

would not object to the motion, but could not help expressing a wish that the subject had been rather referred for inquiry to the board of officers, which being constituted by parliament, had the power of obtaining the fullest and most satisfactory information applicable to a case of this nature.

Mr. Rose

was surprized at the unqualified assertion, that upon the article of bark alone, the sum of 15,000l. had been lost to the country (No, no, no! from the Opposition Bench). Having had occasion to inquire into the subject of the medical supply to the army, he was enabled to state, that the medicine for that department was furnished at a rate of seven or eight per cent. less than that of the navy. If, however, there was any real ground for complaint, he thought it would be better to refer the case to the Commission of Military Inquiry, which having the power to administer oaths, was competent more satisfactorily to investigate the business than any committee of that house, which had no such power.

Mr. Wardle

repeated his assertion with respect to the charge for bark, correcting, however, the misconception of the right hon. gent.; as he only staled 15,000l. as the amount of the supply. With regard to the Commission alluded to, he would frankly state that he had no faith in Commissions of that nature, and therefore he wished to bring this business before the house. And as to that, Commission he had no hesitation in saying, that it would not do its duty if it did not produce to the country a saving of 100,000l. a year in the department to which his motion referred.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

would not hesitate to state, that if the hon. gent. was in possession of information that 100,000l. a year could be saved to the country, and if it was his object, as no doubt it was, to conduce to the public benefit, it was his duty to furnish such information to the Commission alluded to. That Commission, it was to be remembered, had the power of administering oaths, and was therefore best enabled to act upon the hon. gents information. It therefore struck him as desirable that the case should be referred, in the first instance, to the Commission, and should the result of its inquiry not prove satisfactory, the hon. gent. would not be precluded from again bringing it before that house.

After a few words from Mr. Whitbread, Mr. Rose, Mr. Wardle, and general Walpole, the motion was agreed to.

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