HC Deb 02 March 1818 vol 37 cc701-10

The House having resolved itself into a Committee of Supply to which the Army Estimates were referred,

Lord Palmerston

rose, he said, to propose to the committee, the Army Estimates for the year. The detail of those estimates was so dry, that the House must, he presumed, feel desirous to have it brought within the shortest possible compass. With that desire he was quite wiling to comply, and he was glad to think that it was not necessary for him to enter at any length into the subject, in consequence of the Appendix to the Seventh Report* of the Finance Committee, which fully explained all that related to the details of the military expenditure. He should therefore confine himself to that which he hoped would be satisfactory to the House, namely, a statement of the reduction of expense under this head of the public service. The reduction in the

*Extract from the Seventh Report of the Finance Committee, Appendix p. 42.
STATEMENT showing the DIFFERENCE between the AMOUNT of the ESTIMATES of the ORDINARY SERVICES of the ARMY, as voted for 1817, and the AMOUNT of the same ESTIMATES for 1818.
Estimates for 1817. Estimates for 1818. More in 1818. Less in 1818.
£. s. d. £. s. d. £. s. d. £. s. d.
Land Forces (exclusive of France and India) 3,351,377 0 8 3,277,374 10 8 74,002 10 0
Staff (exclusive of France and India) 146,815 12 0 150,569 14 5 3,754 2 5
Public Departments 163,103 13 10 146,546 11 5 16,557 2 5
Medicines, &c 26,446 3 1 37,711 10 10 11,265 7 9
Volunteer Corps 106,665 9 7 123,541 9 9 16,876 0 2
Recruiting Troops, and Companies of Regiments in India 17,824 1 5 21,275 11 4 3,451 9 11
Royal Military college 28,155 4 9 25,514 16 9 2,640 8 0
Pay of General Officers 179,044 18 4 176,935 12 9 2,109 5 7
Garrisions 34,078 9 5 33,39S 19 5 679 10 0
Full Pay of Retired Officers 132,536 1 2 132,809 9 9 273 8 7
Half Pay and Military Allowances 679,550 4 11 682,763 15 10 3,213 10 11
Foreign Half Pay 133,462 0 0 136,385 0 0 2.923 0 0
Chelsea and Kilmainham Hospitals 1,009,529 12 6 1,111,154 9 7 101,624 17 1
Royal Military Asylum 34,415 5 5 32,851 0 3 1,564 5 2
Widows Pensions 98.984 9 0 98,874 11 2 109 17 10
Compassionate List, Bounty War-rants, and Pensions for Wounds 163,502 3 7 161,806 3 7 1,696 0 0
Reduced Adjutants of Local Militia 19,500 0 0 20,805 0 0 1,305 0 0
Superannuation Allowances 25,566 19 11 34,372 2 10 8,805 2 11
Exchequer Fees 35,000 0 0 35,000 0 0
Corps to be reduced 296,761 0 0 54,600 0 0 242,161 0 0
6,682,318 9 1 6,494,290 10 4 153,491 19 9 341,519 19 0
Deduct 6,494,290 10 4 153,491 19 9
Diminution of charge in 1818 188,027 19 3 188,027 19 3

expense of the army, comparing the present with the last year, would, he was happy to say amount to 188,027l. 19s. 3d. while the total reduction of charge in all the departments connected with our military establishment was no less than 418,000l. Upon the score of numbers the diminution of the army in the present year, compared with the last, would at home amount to 1,995 effective men; while throughout the empire, including that in France, it would exceed 20,000, so that he would take the total reduction in round numbers at 22,000 men. In point of fact, however, it was right to state that the reduction of our force in Ireland was not so great as it appeared, for as it was impossible to equalize the effective force of regiments with nominal strength, the force in that country within the last year did not amount to the number actually voted. The amount of the land forces for the present year the noble lord stated at 25,000 for England, Guernsey and Jersey; 20,000 for Ireland; 33,000 for our old and new colonies; 17,360 for the territories of the East India company, ex-

elusive of recruiting troops and companies; and 20,126 for our contingent in France. Without going through any very minute details, the land forces might be stated at a reduction of 74,000l. The staff was considerably increased; the sum he believed, was about 3,754l. Considerable alterations would be found to have taken place in the estimates connected with the West Indies. There was a diminution of 16,557l. in the item of public departments. In the office of the commander in chief, a diminution had taken place of 1,300l.; and in the war-office a diminution of 6,436l.; but this year a smaller sum was required, on account of the cessation of some of their expenses. In the other offices there would be found small articles of variation, all of which he should not enumerate. A most important change was the muster-master-general's office having been abolished, and the duties transferred to other offices. The reduction by that was 2,918l. The whole of the reductions in the offices, &c. made upwards of 16,550l. There was an increase in the item of medicines of 11,265l. On that he might observe, that there was not an increase in the supply of medicines; but this year there had been bought and paid for a considerable quantity more than was necessary for the service of the year. In the item of volunteer corps there would be found an increase of 16,876l. There was also an addition made to the East India troops for recruiting &c, of 3,451l. The Royal Military College establishment was diminished by 2,640l. There would be a difference in the estimates of this and next year on this point in the sum of 750l. In the pay of general officers there was a diminution of 2,109l. Upon the half pay and military allowances, there was an increase of 3,213l., and in the foreign half pay of 2,923l. In the hospitals of Chelsea and Kilmainham, including in and out pensioners, there was required a sum of 101,624l. more than last year; but there might be alterations made in the course of the year by casualties and accidents which could not be exactly calculated upon. And it ought to be recollected, that there was to be deducted the sum of 35,314l. The casualties, pensions, &c for the last four years had been on an average upwards of 180,000l. annually. There was reason, however, to expect that in the present year the sum required would not be so great. In the Military Asylum there had been made a diminution of 1,561l.; and in the items of widow's pensions, there was a diminution of 109l. In the compassionate list, there would be perceived a reduction of 1,696l.; and in the item of reduced adjutants of local militia, an increase of 1,305l. In the expenses of the troops in France, there was a reduction in the sum total of 175,183l. In the West Indies there was a small increase arising from the circumstance that two of the regiments that went out had only remained part of the year. There would be found, upon the whole a saving in the total charge of troops, &c., inl818,ofthesum of 188,027l. 19s. 3d., and the whole charge, including the troops in France, India, &c, would be found to be less by 418,000l., and the whole number of men in the estimate, when compared with the estimate of last year, was less by upwards of 21,000. The noble lord concluded by moving his first Resolution, viz. "That a number of land forces, not exceeding 113,640 men (including the forces stationed in France) and also 4,200 men proposed to be disbanded in 1818, but exclusive of the men belonging to the regiments now employed in the territorial possessions of the East India company, or ordered from thence to Great Britain, commissioned and noncommissioned officers included, be maintained for the service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, from 25th December 1817 to 24th December 1818."

Mr. Calcraft

expressed his conviction, that a still greater diminution should take place in our military establishment, than what the noble lord had stated. He could not, for instance, see the necessity of 25,936 men for the peace establishment of Great Britain, and 20,058 for that of Ireland. With regard to the numbers voted for the old and new stations, he did not feel himself competent to pronounce any decided opinion, although the amount of force for the former was so much more than in any former peace. But with respect to Great Britain and Ireland, he could not imagine the grounds upon which ministers could think such an establishment necessary; while there were 20,000 of our troops in France, he could not see why a smaller number than 25,936 would not be enough to vote for the present peace establishment of Great Britain. Was there any thing in the internal condition of England, which called for a larger peace establishment than we had in 1792, and that, which amounted only to 15,000 men, was the largest peace establishment this country had ever previously known? Surely it was not requisite to keep up an establishment of 25,936 men, in order to preserve the peace of England. He should not oppose such an establishment if he could conceive it necessary for the safety of the state. From the state of the House with so few members in attendance, he would not then press any proposition; but he should certainly feel it his duty to do so upon a future occasion. Having asked for some information as to the grounds upon which such an extraordinary peace establishment was deemed necessary for England, he would also take leave to inquire of the secretary of the Irish government, what were the circumstances which called for 20,000 men in Ireland, which was in fact, little less than double the usual peace establishment in that country; for, from his own knowledge, Ireland, although by no means in a state of prosperity, was thoroughly tranquil. That tranquillity was, indeed, preserved throughout the last winter, while the people were suffering the most severe privations under the pressure of unexampled distress, and the most afflicting disease. What, then, could justify the expense of such extraordinary establishments, especially in the present state of our finances? He would not then enter into the discussion of all the topics which were naturally connected with this subject, but upon the bringing up there port he would move for a farther reduction of the proposed establishment to the extent of 8 or 9,000 men.

Sir M. W. Ridley

expressed his surprise, that it should be proposed to continue the Royal Waggon Train, for what occasion could there be for such an establishment during peace. There was also a considerable expense in the recruiting department, amounting in the whole to 17,000l. which made the expense equal to the bounties. In the estimates he perceived a grant of pensions to the Military Colleges of 740l. per annum. In so new an institution, such a grant should be an object of great suspicion. There was also a grant of 2,075l. to a retired barrack-master, which required some explanation.

Lord Palmerston

stated, that with respect to the Royal Waggon Train, a part was stationed at Croydon, from whence detachments were sent to the army in France, a part was employed on the Military Canal, and another portion at Hilsea. There was no greater number than was required for the public service. As to the recruiting staff it consisted of inspecting field officers, who superintended the performance of the various duties of the district staffs; a paymaster, who attended to the accounts; a surgeon to inspect the recruits; and Serjeants to escort them to their respective depôts. With respect to the grant of a pension to the Military College, it arose from the warrant to a retired officer, after 15 years service pursuant to the warrant, by which the appointments in these colleges were made. An hon. gentleman had stated, that on a future occasion he would feel it his duty to move a farther reduction in the present estimates. As, however, the hon. gentleman did not then go into a statement of his reasons for the intended motion, he would abstain from any premature discussion. But he must be allowed to say, that the 26,000 men, taken in the estimates, could not be considered as wholly applicable to the home service; a portion must be applied to the relief of the foreign garrisons. These garrisons consisted of a force of 33,000 men. Nobody would pretend to say, that the regiments thus stationed should be exposed to perpetual banishment. It would be neither humane nor constitutional. Some period must, therefore, be assigned for the return home of these regiments. Ten years were considered the limit of garrison service abroad. Now, allowing that the reliefs would amount to one-tenth of the force in foreign garrisons, that amount would take away from the 26,000 men 3,000, for reliefs to be sent out. So that with these reliefs, and the defalcations arising from the non-effectives, the army for home service would not amount to more than between 18 and 19,000 men. The House would, therefore see that there was no very great excess between the force now kept up and the establishment of 1792, and that it was only such a difference as the alteration of circumstances between the two periods fully warranted.

Mr. Warre

observed, that the noble lord, in his various statements as to the necessity of our home force, seemed wholly to throw out of his contemplation our large army in France.

Mr. Peel

said, the hon. gentleman should recollect that the present estimates were only demanded for a year. The country was bound by treaty to keep up, for a time specified, an army in France. As long, therefore, as we were bound by treaty to keep up that force, it was impossible to consider it as applicable to the home service, or to make under that head an allowance for it in the estimates. An hon. gentleman had expressed something like dissatisfaction that the reduction for Ireland was not greater, and that the force considered necessary for internal tranquillity should still amount to 20,000 men. After the unanimity that had marked the greater estimate two years ago, when the force admitted to be necessary was taken at 25,000 men, he confessed that he did expect the reduction and its causes would have been received with unmixed satisfaction. It was impossible for any man to demonstrate with mathematical accuracy the amount of force which the internal tranquillity of a country, situated as Ireland was, would require. It was a matter of grave opinion, and should be taken on the responsibility of those whose paramount duty it was to preserve the internal peace. The hon. gentleman considered that half the force, viz. 10,000 men, would be sufficient. Now as far back as 1767; under lord Townshend's administration, it was resolved that the force for Ireland should be 15,000,12,000 to be always detained in the country, and 3,000 for general service. But when it became a duty to estimate the necessary amount for Ireland, it would be idle to revert to distant periods. The true standard by which a judgment should be formed of the present estimates, was the number of men that within recent periods had been employed. He admitted that it was a period of war. But since the peace of Amiens there had been no apprehension of invasion—no vulnerable point on the Irish frontier. The force maintained during those years, large as it was, was in support of the civil power. He had, therefore, to congratulate the House on the improved state of the internal circumstances of that country. In consequence of that improvement, government were enabled to make a reduction both in the regular and yeomanry force of Ireland; and measures were in operation to reduce still farther the latter description of force—The hon. member had truly observed, that during the last winter great tranquillity had prevailed in Ireland. The hon, gentleman was perfectly correct in the statement, and it was with great jus- tice and peculiar gratification he himself must say, that under the pressure of privations, perhaps unexampled, no people had ever displayed more endurance, resignation, and magnanimity, than the people of that country. A sum of 37,000l. had been advanced by the government to local subscriptions of charity. No money could be more wisely dispensed, nor could be received with greater gratitude. But whilst he spoke thus of the tranquillity of Ireland, it was nevertheless true, that some outrages had occurred. They were, perhaps, inseparable from the peculiar state of society there. Government had been applied to by the magistracy in some instances to put the insurrection act in operation. The application was refused, and the refusal was owing to the power it possessed of supporting the civil power by a military force stationed through the country. Much benefit was also to be attributed to the extension of the civil authorities in that country.

Sir W. Burroughs

denied that it was the usage to keep up in Ireland a large military establishment. In the American war the people of that country had to complain of the total inadequacy of the force to meet the dangers then arising from the apprehension of an invasion. There were not 5,000 soldiers in Ireland when the volunteers were embodied. He was proud of the account the House had received that night from authority, as to the fortitude and magnanimity of its people under unequalled sufferings. It ought to afford an instructive lesson to the government. At afflictions uncontrollable by man the Irish people never murmured, but oppressions springing from ill-treatment and misrule, they ever did, and he hoped ever would, resist. With regard to the present estimates, he could not avoid expressing his surprise at their amount. In the third year of peace, to hear of a force of 90,600 men must be a source of astonishment. How was the country to support such an expenditure? Where was it to end? The revenue of the last year amounted to 51,000,000l. The expenditure was 65,000,000l. leaving a deficit of 14,000,000l. And yet, with such financial difficulties staring them in the face, the noble lord held out no hope or suggestion of future reductions beyond the reduction of 4,200 men. The expense of such an establishment as now proposed was 6,000,000l. How was it to be met? Were we to have a qualified property tax amongst all our other public burthens?—or must the faith with the public creditor be broken, by an appropriation of the sinking fund to the expenses of our establishments? Much credit had been taken for the reduction of the yeomanry in Ireland. What did that reduction amount to? Out of a yeomanry force of 44,000 men, in time of peace 3,000 were reduced. In England, out of 30,000 men, the mighty reduction of 279 men had taken place, while, when we were at peace with all the world, an addition of near 3,000 had been made to the yeomanry; he supposed to preserve the internal tranquillity of this country.

Mr. Babington

expressed a hope that the soldiers receiving pensions might be freed from certain inconveniences to which he understood they were at present exposed.

Mr. C. Long

declared his readiness to concur in any suggestions that might be proposed by the hon. member for effecting so desirable an object; but he had flattered himself that his own exertions in respect to that point, had not been altogether unavailing.

Mr. Forbes

complained that a list of the officers who received pensions for wounds had not been laid on the table; and regretted that in respect to pensions, the officers of the navy were not placed on an equal footing with the officers of the army. He feared there were many cases of abuse in the granting of pensions to the latter.

Lord Palmerston

said, it was not usual to lay on the table such a list as that alluded to by the hon. gentleman, but if the hon. gentleman thought proper to move for it, he would make no objection to its production: it would, however, take a long time to make out. He denied that there was any partiality shown to the army with respect to pensions. Pensions were granted to the officers of each service by departments wholly unconnected with one another; so that any thing like partiality was out of the question. As to any abuses in the granting of pensions to the officers of the army, he had in consequence of what had been said in that House last session, investigated the subject minutely, and he had not been able to discover a single instance of such abuse.

Mr. Forbes

observed, that he had heard of several cases of gross abuse.

Lord Palmerston

requested the hon. member to communicate those cases to him in private, and if he found that any pension had been withdrawn which ought to be continued, or that any pension was continued which ought to have been withdrawn, he would endeavour to rectify the error.

Sir F. Flood

expressed his high satisfaction at what had fallen from the noble viscount and the right hon. gentleman., with respect to the loyalty and good disposition of Ireland, and the patience with which the people of that country had endured the various hardships and privations to which they had been subjected. There was not a more sincere friend of Ireland than himself; indeed, whoever was not a friend to both countries, could not be a friend to either. He was as independent a man as any in that House, being bound to adhere to neither side of it. He never had received any thing, and he looked for nothing from any party. He would, therefore, be the last man to agree to any act of that House which he considered unjust or oppressive towards his native country. But he was bound to say, that he did not think the vote of 20,000 men for Ireland extravegant. They were dispersed over the country, and their weight was not felt. The whole people of Ireland, without any reference to religion, were loyal. Of this fact, the late war afforded abundant proof. Half our marine in the late war was composed of Irish Catholics, and a great part of our army of Irish Catholics and Protestants; and he knew of no single instance among them of desertion and disloyalty. The attachment of that country should be fostered. Ireland (exclaimed the hon. baronet) is the right arm of the empire. If you lose Ireland, what will become of you? You ought to embrace her with both arms to the end of time, as your nearest, dearest, and best of friends.

The several resolutions founded upon the Army Estimates were then put and agreed to.

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