HC Deb 15 April 1812 vol 22 cc371-4
Sir J. Newport

rose, pursuant to notice, to move for an instruction to the Committee of Public Expenditure, to enquire into the balance due to the public in consequence of certain public defalcations. He admitted that, with respect to some of those defaulters, a great part, if not the whole of the money, had been recovered; but it was as certain, that with respect to many others, but a Very small part had been recovered, and in some, that the whole had been irrecoverably lost. He thought that the public had a right to be put in possession of an accurate detail of what was lost, and what recovered, in each of those instances; they had, in short, a right to know the actual state of those accounts: it was but justice to the individuals, who had so far lessened the culpability of their conduct by paying up the whole of the deficiency, that the public should know that such individuals had made the best amends within their power; it was necessary too, that the public should know, what progress had been made, or was making, in the recovery of the sums due, and what was the amount of those sums which were concluded to be irrecoverably lost to the public. These were matters which he thought it became the duty of that House at any time to investigate, more especially in so advanced a period of the life of the present parliament. In the case of general Delancey, the balance due in March, 1806, amounted to 97,000l. though in the December of 1804, he had been called upon to make up his accounts. With respect to Mr. Steele, he was glad to learn, that the public were not likely to be a sufferer, but still it was desirable that the public should have authentic evidence of that circumstance. With respect to the case of Boyd, Benfield and Co. he understood that the claims upon the interest of the 100,000l. advanced to them were still in a course of legal proceeding. With respect to Mr. Hunt, the defalcation amounted to 93,000l. he thought it expedient that the public should know how much of that large sum had been as yet recovered, or was considered as irrecoverable. He wished also to know, whether that person's pension was still continued to him, or whether it had been finally withdrawn? The case of the Dutch commissioners, of Mr. Villiers of the Marine Pay Office, and of Mr. Charles Barnes, called for investigation, as to each of those particulars. Mr. Chinnery's defalcation, he understood, had exceeded 80,000l. and that legal advice having been taken by the bail of Mr. Chinnery, they were considered as exonerated, because there had not been due diligence used on the part of Mr. Chinnery's superiors in office, on the first suspicion upon their parts of the defalcation. The next case had not yet been before the House, it was taken from the 12th Report of the Board of Works of Ireland, and it appeared, that between the years 1796 and 1802, when the office of Treasurer to the Board of Trade was abolished, the sum of 1,835,000l. had gone into the hands of the Treasurer, and was to that day unaccounted for. The noble lord had been frequently called on to make out his accounts, but the answer uniformly was, that the accounts were in a state of preparation. This was one of the many cases that shewed the necessity of the motion with which he should now conclude. The right hon. baronet then moved," That it be an instruction to the Committee appointed to examine and consider what regulations and checks have been established in order to controul the several branches of the public expenditure in Great Britain and Ireland, and how far the same have been effectual; and what further measures can be adopted for reducing any part of the said expenditure, or diminishing the amount of salaries and emoluments, without detriment to the public service;—That they do examine into the present state of account of the several balances of money which have been reported on, or have since appeared to the said Committee to be due and owing to the public, or which have been stated in any report laid before this House by the commissioners of military or naval enquiry, or by the parliamentary commissioners of enquiry, or the commissioners of imprest accounts in Ireland, to be so due and owing; and that they do, with all convenient speed, lay before the House an abstract account there of, and of their opinions thereupon, specifying particularly the amount of the several balances originally appearing due, the sums which have been received there out, with the date of such receipts; whether any and which of the remaining balances may be considered as entirely irrecoverable, and also the progress of any measures taken towards such recovery, or the adjustment of such balances; and whether any and which of the persons, who have been deficient in their payments, continue to enjoy any place or office of trust or profit or pension under the crown."

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

conceived, that the powers of the Committee were already sufficient for those purposes; if not, he had no objection to the present motion. It was another question whether the Committee ought to apply itself immediately to this object, so as to supersede all other business. As to the pension of Mr. Hunt, it, had been all along withdrawn effectually, though not formally till last year.

Mr. Bankes

said, that the Committee had the power, and if he had thought it expedient that the state of the balance should be known before the end of the session, he would, as chairman of that Committee, have undertaken the labour: as it was, he was ready to begin the business immediately, though, perhaps, it might be better not to embrace that mass of subjects to which their attention was now directed.

Mr. Long

took that opportunity of explaining a circumstance which had occurred upon a former night, and which his absence had precluded him from then adverting to. An hon. baronet (Sir F. Burdett) had stated, that though the principal had been paid back to the public by Mr. Steele, the interest was lost. He there fore begged leave to state, that not only the whole of the principal had been paid up, but also every shilling of the interest.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

suggested the propriety of omitting that part of the motion instructing the Committee, and retaining merely that part of it that empowered them—thereby leaving the Committee to its own discretion.

Sir J. Newport

repeated his reasons for wishing that, before the session closed, the public might be put in full possession of the most accurate details that could be made out respecting these defalcations.

The motion, as originally worded, was then put and carried.