HC Deb 16 March 1818 vol 37 cc1102-9

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

Sir George Warrender

, in rising to move the Navy Estimates, observed, that the observations which it was necessary for him to offer, might be compressed within a very narrow space. The committee were aware that the navy estimates had, of late years, been laid before the House in so simple a shape, that a detailed explanation of them was no longer called for. For the last twenty years they had been printed in such a manner that every item could be taken into consideration; and in the last two years the subject had been so ably treated by the committees of finance, that he did not know that he could do his duty better than by referring the House to their reports, for the fullest and clearest information. The committee must know, that during the war the expense of the civil department of the navy-had considerably increased, and much of this must remain a permanent charge, as arrangements had been made for. bringing the whole of the work that was formerly done in the merchants' yards, into the King's yards. This was a measure which had long been considered to be exceedingly desirable, not merely as one productive of economy, but as a measure calculated to furnish better ships than were produced in the old way.—Another large branch in the expenditure of the navy, which had been referred to in the eighth report of the committee of finance, was that connected with the public works in the naval yards. These would be found detailed in the report, together with a statement by that able engineer, Mr. Rennie, which would render it unnecessary for him to take up the time of the committee on the subject. The committee were aware, from the nature of all works carried on immediately near the sea, that it was most desirable to complete them as soon as possible. Besides, the materials and labour in a time of peace were so much cheaper, that though a large sum might, in one or two years, have been expended, it would in the end be productive of considerable diminution in the expense. That consideration had contributed to produce the increase in the amount in this branch of the present estimates, to which be had before alluded. Every practicable reduction had been attended to. The works at Sheerness and Chatham had done away the expenditure to a much larger amount in the establishments on the river.—There remained one point on which he wished to offer a few-observations. In the course of the present session some observations had escaped gentlemen, which seemed to indicate an opinion, that that important branch of British power, the navy, had been neglected by the government. Though this had appeared to be the opinion of some honourable members, from what bad incidentally escaped them when other matters were in debate, he could not believe that such an idea was seriously entertained. The navy was felt by government to be the bulwark of the nation—the great source of its glory—and every thing had been attended to that promised to give it strength and efficiency.—Pensions had been given of late years, not merely to disabled seamen, but to those who might one day be called upon to serve their country again. There were at present no less than 35,000 pensioners belonging to Greenwich Hospital, a great number of whom were able to serve again if there should be found occasion to call upon them. The arrangements which had been made were such, that an expedition could now be fitted out sooner than at any former period. He might be allowed to remind the House how rapidly, in one recent instance, an expedition had been got ready for sea. The expedition with which it was prepared was as unexampled as was its efficiency when complete. To this the distinguished officer who commanded it (lord Exmouth) had borne his testimony, and the brilliant manner in which the service on which it was 6ent had been accomplished, was well calculated to remove every doubt. Looking at these things—at what was done for—and what had so lately been done by the navy, it must be seen that the fear that the navy had not been properly attended to—had not been kept in a proper state of efficiency, was vain. A state of peace did not afford those opportunities for brilliant enterprize and daring achievement which necessarily grew out of a state of war; but there were undertakings, even in times of peace, in which the courage, skill, and persevering spirit of enterprise which distinguished the British sailor, might be most usefully displayed. An expedition, the object of which was very important to the world, was now about to leave our shores. It had ever been the boast of this country, that in war it defended the weak against the strong, and in peace it had always been foremost to make those arduous exertions to extend the limits of geographical knowledge which her great naval means afforded her peculiar opportunities of attempting with success. At present, in various parts of the world, active and intelligent officers were making surveys of coasts hitherto unexplored, or but very imperfectly known. The expedition now about to be dispatched to the arctic regions would attempt to solve a problem most interesting to maritime science. To services of this sort, he trusted British sailors would long be directed; but if circumstances should again plunge us in a war, that powerful arm of defence, our navy, would again be put forth with a degree of strength and rapidity that had never been equalled in the history of the country. Notwithstanding the fears of some gentlemen, it would be seen, that there never was a period when this country, in the event of a war breaking out, could so effectually diśplay, in all parts of the world, the elastic power of its naval arm. The hon. baronet concluded with moving, "That a sum not exceeding 2,480,680l. 17s. 3d. be granted to his majesty, for defraying the ordinary establishment of the navy for the year 1818."

Sir M. W. Ridley

observed, that if he had any objections generally to the vote proposed, they had been done away by the eighth report of the committee of finance. He did not mean to oppose the vote proposed in any of its items, but that which referred to the puisne lords of the Admiralty, and in that he thought some alteration was absolutely necessary. With this view he should move, as an amendment, that the proposed grant should be reduced in the sum of 2,000l. which was now applied as the salaries of two of the lords of the Admiralty, who could in his firm opinion be dispensed with without any detriment to the public service. He hoped the committee would recollect, that when he, on a former occasion,* made a motion for the reduction of two out of the six lords of the Admiralty, it was urged as an objection, that these places were necessary, as they gave an opportunity to ministers to assist their friends, and also, that they were necessary as affording a fit school for the education of young statesmen. This was in effect the defence then set up for the continuance of places which were wholly unnecessary, and if he had not heard such arguments gravely stated in their favour, he should not have felt it his duty to be so strong in his opposition to them. It was said on that occasion, that if these situations were abolished, the Crown would be deprived of a portion of its fair patronage. With respect to that ground, he conceived, that no place which was in itself useless ought to be kept up, merely to strengthen the patronage of the Crown, which was already so great. But with respect to the second ground, that of educating young statesmen, he thought the committee would agree with him, that those young statesman ought to pay for their own education. The sum, it was true, was only 2,000l. but in that small amount, the principle was the great object. What the peculiar course of knowledge was in which the minds of these young statesmen were trained, he was not informed enough correctly to describe. He was willing, however, to admit that the committee had that night witnessed the progress of improvement in the hon. baronet [a laugh], Why a nursery should be established at the Admiralty for young statesmen, he was at a loss to guess. He had been favoured with the sight of a work which had been not long ago published by a gentleman connected with the Admiralty-board (Mr. Croker) which, perhaps, was to form part of the plan of education. It was intituled, "Stories for Young Children;" and he had no doubt was intended for the improvement of some of these sucking statesmen. [Hear! and a laugh.] He could not however but express his disapprobation of the work being put into such inexperienced hands; for in one part of it a great deal was said in favour of Charles 1st, and of his being an excellent man and a good king. He did not think such doctrine was likely to improve' the * See Vol. 35, p. 654. constitutional education of the young lords of the Admiralty. But this was not the only literary production which emanated from the Admiralty-board, for there were several, no doubt, very valuable articles which appeared in the Quarterly Review, originating from the same source, and all for the instruction and improvement of the young statesmen. He trusted the committee would go with him in his view of such situations as those he now mentioned. He was inclined to hope for a strong support to his amendment, in consequence of the result of the motion which was made by his noble friend (lord Althorp) a few evenings back, on the subject of the leather tax. He trusted, that the hon. members on the other side-of the House, who had voted on that occasion for the motion of his noble friend, would not now leave the chancellor of the exchequer in the lurch, but that as they had voted for the removal of a portion of the taxes, they would not leave the burden of providing for unnecessary places upon him. The hon. baronet concluded by moving, as an amendment, "That a sum not exceeding 2,478,680l. 17s. 3d. be granted for defraying the ordinary establishments of the Navy for the year 1818."

Lord Castlereagh

did not rise for the purpose of arguing the question which had before been decided, upon the propriety of keeping up the present number of lords of the Admiralty. On the occasion which had been referred to, the question had been fully looked at in every point of view. The board was now as it had existed for more than a century past, and fewer commissioners, when it was considered that some were wanted at the out ports, it did not appear to him would be sufficient. AH the suggestions of the committee of finance had been attended to. The hon. baronet had very pleasantly stated so much of the argument that had been used in the former debate on the Admiralty lords, as served his purpose. He had done it with so much fancy, that feeling he could not follow in the same vein, he would abstain altogether from the attempt.

Mr. Bankes

said, he could so far con firm the statement of his noble friend as to state that the committee of finance had great reason to be satisfied with the economy introduced into various departments, and with the attention paid to all the suggestions they bad thought it their duty to throw out. He had read that morning a minute respecting the ordnance department, formerly the most expensive, which had afforded him great satisfaction, and he trusted it would be equally satisfactory to the House when it came before them.

After the gallery was cleared for a division, and just as the tellers were proceeding to count, Mr. Wilberforce entered at one of the doors, but immediately retreated. The tellers, however, having seen him, followed and brought him in; when he was asked by the chairman of the committee, whether he had heard the question put? to which be replied in the negative. The chairman then ordered the question to be read to him, which was done, and then asked him which way he voted? Mr. Wilberforce replied, for the Ayes, but took his seat among the Noes. Mr. Lyttleton then observed, that he saw a member among the Noes, who had declared he meant to vote with the Ayes; and contended that he ought not, therefore, to be told in his present situation; he meant the hon. member for Bramber.—Mr. Wilberforce admitted that he had for a moment neglected his duty; and coming into the House when the committee was on the point of dividing, without even knowing the subject of the debate, he had endeavoured to withdraw, but had been followed by the tellers, one of whom had dragged him from the place to which he had retreated, and that in his confusion he had declared he should vote with the Ayes, when he really meant to vote with the Noes, being determined to vote in the opposite side to the individual who had brought him forward against his will, in order to prevent his being treated so in future.—The chairman stated, that he conceived the hon. member was perfectly justified in changing his mind, and voting one way, after declaring his intention to vote another [Hear, hear!]—Lord Folkestone called the attention of the House to the declaration of the hon. member, that, without regard to principle or the merits of the case, he voted from the sole motive of disappointing the teller who had brought him into the House; and was proceeding to contend, that it was the duty of both the tellers to bring in any member whom they found in that situation, when he was interrupted by a call of order: and the Chairman repeated, that the hon. member had a right to retract any declaration of his intentions made in error, and he was accordingly counted among the Noes.

On the division the numbers were: For the Amendment, 58; Against it, 85; majority, 27.

List of the Minority.
Althorp, viscount Lamb, hon. W.
Baker, John Lyttelton, hon. W. H.
Bankes, Henry Lefevre, Chas. S.
Babington, Thomas Lemon, sir Wm.
Butterworth, Jos. Marryat, Joseph
Barclay, Charles Monck, sir C.
Birch, Joseph Martin, John
Barnett, James Morpeth, visct.
Burdett, sir F. Madocks, Wm. A.
Brougham, Henry Newman, R. W.
Carter, John Neville, hon. R.
Calvert, C. Newport, sir John
Calcraft, John Ord, Wm.
Curwen, J. C. Osborne, lord F.
Campbell, hon. J. Pole, sir C. M.
Duncannon, viscount Protheroe, Ed.
Douglas, hon. F. S. Pym, Francis
Fergusson, sir R. C. Romilly, sir S.
Folkestone, visct. Smith, Robt.
Finlay, Kirkman Smith, John
Gaskell, Benjamin Smyth, J. H.
Grenfell, Pascoe Sharp, Richard
Gordon, Robert Sefton, earl o.
Guise, sir Wm. Tierney, rt. hon. G.
Hamilton, lord A. Webb, Edward
Hornby, Ed. Waldegrave, hon. W.
Hughes, W. L. Warre, J. A.
Howorth, Humph. Wood, Matthew
Latouche, John, TELLER.
Latouche, Robt. Ridley, sir M. W.
Lambton, J. G.

The resolution was then agreed to. Sir G. Warrender next moved, "That 1,787, 181l., be granted for defraying the charge of what may be necessary for the building, rebuilding, and repairs of ships of war in his majestys and the merchants yards, and other extra works over and above what is proposed to be done upon the heads of wear, tear, and ordinary for the year 1818."

Sir M. W. Ridley

regretted that, notwithstanding the notice which had been taken on a former occasion, of a very meritorious class of individuals, who had served as pursers in the navy, nothing had been done for their relief. Several persons who had long held such situations, were now to be found begging in the streets, and there was one instance of a man who had been a purser of seven years standing, who was at present on board one of the ships for the reception of destitute seamen, where he was glad to be received to prevent starvation. The committee, he hoped, would take this subject into consideration, particularly as a very small sum would be sufficient for their relief. The reduction which he had had the honour of proposing as to the lords of the Admiralty, would be sufficient for that purpose.

Mr. Croker

observed, that the persons who had been named were not pursers, but clerks who had acted as such. The Admiralty-board had found it impossible to do any thing for them without opening a door to many claims which it would be impossible to comply with. Those who had been pursers were allowed half-pay, but it was impossible to give it to those persons to whom the hon. baronet had alluded, as they did not come within that class.

The resolution was then agreed to.