§ Sir Henry Parnell
said:—Mr. Speaker; In rising to move the order of the day for proceeding with the adjourned debate upon the Resolutions which I have laid before the House, concerning the Retrenchment of the public Expenditure [see p. 1429], I do not feel that it is necessary for me to make any observations upon the general question of the finances of the country; I shall confine what little I have to say, to explain, very shortly, the motives which have induced me to consider it a matter of public duty, not to suffer the session to close without calling the attention of the House to those parts of our public expenditure which bought immediately to be reduced. It has appeared to me, that a constant effort has been made by his majesty's ministers to establish an impression, that no important reduction could be made in our present scale of office establishments. The committee of finance, who have been the mere organ of government, in their first report of this session, in estimating what savings may be made in the expenditure of 1820, though they enumerate several items, do not say one word concerning the expenses for collecting the revenues, or any of the civil departments. The chancellor of the exchequer, when he opened his resolutions to the House, and went into a calculation to show how we might, in time, have a sinking fund of eight millions, took no credit for any retrenchment to be made in the expense for managing the public income and expenditure; and the noble lord, in his various financial statements, has been equally silent upon this subject. This omission to notice the possibility of reducing the expenses of the public de- 1552 partments, justifies the inference, that ministers have no intention to propose any such reduction, and makes it the duty of me, and of all other members, who feel convinced that a great saving may be effected by reforming the whole office system of the country, to call upon the House to take the subject under their consideration. It is not now, at this period of the session, a fit opportunity of discussing all the details which belonged to this important question, and which are pointed out in the resolutions; but I cannot help noticing one part of them, because it shows, in so clear a manner, in what way a considerable diminution of expense might be brought about. For instance, the collecting of the public revenues costs the country 7 per cent, namely, 4,200,000l. on 60 millions of revenue. Now, if it was possible to introduce such changes in the present plan, as to have this revenue collected, as every one must admit it might be, at an expense of five per cent, the whole charge would be 3 millions, and 1,200,000l. would be saved to the public. Other parts of the resolutions might easily be referred to, for the purpose of showing how more savings might be effected; but it is not my object now to discuss them. By bringing them, before the session closes, under the notice of the House, I hope they will be well examined during the recess, and that the House will feel it right to enter upon the discussion of them early in the next session. This is all that I have had in view in submitting them to the House, necessarily in a very imperfect manner, from having no opportunity of obtaining that official information which is absolutely necessary in order to be quite correct in making out statements of figures, showing the annual establishments of the several offices. For, although the reports of committees give a considerable quantity of information, there are so many ways of stating the same thing, and so many contingent items to be attended to, that it is quite impossible to know whether or not one is correct, unless there is a recent return, on the table of the House, from the office in question, of the actual expenses which belong to it.—I beg the House to observe, that, numerous as the resolutions are which I have found it necessary to draw up, many heads of the public expenditure are wholly omitted; namely, various payments out of the consolidated funds, all the miscellaneous ser- 1553 vices, and the whole of that part of the public expense which relates to the defence of the country, on account of the number of men which compose our army, our ships and seamen, and the ordnance military service. I am very well aware, that many gentlemen treat the notion of of any important retrenchment as altogether visionary, and attribute to those who urge it more zeal than skill in matters of finance. I am ready to admit to them, that little or nothing can be done, if we look at the question in the way that it has hitherto been treated. I do not think that much can be saved by dismissing a few clerks, or without some new principles are acted upon. The government must be deprived of the patronage it now possesses of appointing nearly all the officers in the different revenue departments; and great innovations must be made in the established forms of all the public offices concerned in the receipt or expenditure of the public money. Unless the House will consent to make such changes in old systems, as the new state of the financial difficulties absolutely require, as well as the modern improvements in conducting matters connected with money transactions, plausible reasons will be given in abundance to show, how very perfect all things always have been, and now are, and we shall pay just what we now pay for the management of the public money.—I am aware that this attempt to bring under the notice of the House the salaries and expenses belonging to each public office, will be held forth as a very unwarrantable interference, and that I shall be assailed by a very numerous body of persons who are interested in the continuation of the present rate of our expenses; but I feel so sure of being able, at the proper time, to support every thing I have advanced in these resolutions, by the best authorities, that I shall bear very patiently whatever attacks are made upon me, and seek to do myself justice in the next session; when I certainly shall renew this discussion.
§ The question being put upon the first Resolution,
said, he did not mean to impute to the hon. baronet any intention to misrepresent, but after he had stated that he had taken the greatest pains in giving every possible accuracy to his resolutions, he had been much surprised to find how very inaccurate they were. 1554 Every body had seen these resolutions; they had been inserted in every newspaper, and from the opportunities of information enjoyed by the hon. baronet, it was pretty widely believed that the facts stated by him were so accurate as to bid defiance to contradiction. The hon. baronet had given comparative statements of the rate of collection in the customs and in the excise, from which he would infer, that the collection of the one was extremely ill, and of the other extremely well managed; and that the customs and other branches of the revenue should be put under the same management as the excise. This appeared to him to be a very unfounded assumption. If, indeed, the sum to be collected was the same, and to be raised on the same principles, then, but not otherwise, could any such inference be warranted by a comparison of the percentage. The hon. baronet, in mentioning the sum which was expended in the charge of management of the customs, had not adverted to the fact, that under that head were included many items of expense which had nothing to do with collection; for instance, the expenses connected with the navigation laws, the quarantine Jaws, and the warehousing system. The great object of this last-mentioned system was, the encouragement of trade; and to this end many articles which finally paid nothing to the custom duties, were admitted to be warehoused, and entailed a considerable expense on the customs department, to prevent their being smuggled into consumption.—The hon. baronet had compared the expense previously to 1810, with that at the present time; but he had omitted to state, that at that time the abolition of fees took place, which necessarily increased the rate of the expense to the public. The hon. baronet too, had stated from the report of commissioners in 1786, in proof of the intricacy which attended the collection of the customs, that 12 operations were made necessary before a cargo could be discharged. But since that time the course of business had been much improved, and a much smaller number of operations was necessary. He had also quoted the report of the committee of 1797, that a consolidation of the customs would be attended with advantages; but he had not stated, that since that time there had been four or five consolidations, one of which had been introduced in the present year. The hon. 1555 baronet had also asserted in his resolutions, that the establishment of auditors of public accounts had not been attended with advantage, in consequence of the power which the Treasury had always exercised with regard to articles of allowance or surcharge. On this point he completely differed from the right hon. baronet; for if this power had been vested in the auditors themselves, was it likely that it would be exercised with so much caution as by the commissioners of the Treasury, who were in the House at all times to answer for themselves, and whose nets necessarily became objects of scrutiny? As to the establishment of the Pay-office, with which he (Mr. Long) was connected, it was stated in the resolutions to have increased from 20,729l. to 30,506l. In the war it was found necessary for the transaction of the business, that several deputy pay-masters should be appointed. Their retired allowances amounted to 5,300l. a year. The extra clerks who were now engaged in expediting accounts to the auditors, but whoso salaries would be at an end with the business which they had to do, produced an expense of 8,000l. odd, leaving only 3,000l. of excess on the establishment since 1796, which the difference of circumstances would fully account for. At that time the number of persons receiving half pay was 3,000; they had now increased to 9,000. They were then paid twice a year, and Only at the office; they were now paid four times a year, and wherever they chose to receive it: the case was the same with widows pensions. He should be sorry to be supposed to assert that no saving could be made in the collection of the revenue. He was one of a commission appointed to examine into that subject, and he was inclined to think, that some saving could be effected. But the House had already passed a resolution which pledged his majesty's ministers to economy, and which they would feel binding on them.
§ Lord Palmerston
wished to make a few observations on the resolutions before the House, and also on a subject in some manner connected therewith—he meant the arrangements as to half-pay, which the ministers had pledged themselves to make. It had been his intention to have introduced into the Appropriation act a clause to omit the oath which officers receiving half-pay were now required to take; and it was his fault that he had not informed himself of the stage 1556 of the bill at which that 'clause could have been introduced. He had thought that it could be more conveniently, introduced on the third reading. As this could not be done, he had lost the opportunity of introducing the alteration this session. But as the government had been pledged on the subject, he was authorized to state, that an arrangement would be made which would answer the same purpose as the clause which he should have introduced. The clause in the Appropriation act applied to half-pay, and not to military allowances. By this arrangement on the part of the Treasury, a military allowance would be granted to all those officers who were deprived of their half-pay by the present act. As to the resolutions, he acquitted the hon. baronet of any intention to misrepresent facts, but he had never seen a set of resolutions so full of erroneous statements. It was no excuse that the hon. baronet had not access to official documents. He might have moved for those papers which would make him acquainted with the subject; but he had not made the best use of those papers which he had had access to. The hon. baronet had stated that the salaries in the commander in chief's office amounted in 1793 to only 813l. exclusive of any salary to the commander in chief. But the fact was, that at that time there was no commander in chief. Lord Amherst was general on the staff, and had no command but on the home station. But even in this establishment the hon. baronet had omitted a sum of 1,232l. voted for contingencies. The secretary to lord Amherst had at that time only 10s. a day; but he had a place in the War office worth 8 or 900l. a year, which scarcely required his attendance. When he retired from this office of 10s. a day, he had an allowance of 1l. a day; a proof that his pay formed a small part of his compensation. This mistake, however, was trifling, compared with that respecting the War office, in which the hon. baronet had omitted the sum of 49,000l. viz. 4,974l. for contingencies, 1,143l. for foreign corps, and 42,731l. the amount of fees paid at the office, of which 37,578l. were then actually paid by the public, and 5,163l. were paid by individuals, and then appropriated by official persons, but now applied to the public service. The whole expense of the office in 1796, was, with this addition, 57,400l. being 2,400l. more than the sum voted in the present year. 1557 The hon. baronet had spoken of the expense of 18,000l. incurred in the examination of the arrears of accounts, but he might have seen by the finance reports, that sums varying from year to year, but never less than 90,000l. had been recovered by means of these examinations. The hon. baronet too spoke of the consolidation of the offices of paymaster of the army, treasurer of the navy, and treasurer of the ordnance, into a bank for military expenditure, and of the consolidation of the civil part of the office of commander in chief (it was difficult to say what part that was), of the office of secretary of war and comptroller of army accounts, as likely to diminish the charges of these establishments. This purpose would be more completely answered if the offices were abolished altogether; but if the hon. baronet thought that this change would effect a saving in the expense of the different services, he was much mistaken, as ten times the sum which was now expended on those establishments would be lost by the confusion which would be created.
§ Mr. Calcraft
expressed his obligations to the hon. baronet for bringing forward his resolutions, and trusted that he would not be deterred from future inquiries by the criticisms which every man who talked of economy was exposed to from the bench opposite. The main resolutions had not been grappled with by the right hon. gentleman, that the revenue was collected at the enormous expense of 5,500,000l. Had he shown that it was collected at less? This was the key to the popularity and consequence of the present administration! So long as they had these 5,500,000l. to distribute, so long would they hear from those who received it, of their popularity. Something like a concession had been dropped by the right hon. gentleman, that some saving might be effected; a pretty good proof, that by rougher hands an important retrenchment was practicable. But, occupied with the correction of some trifling details, the gentlemen on the other side had given the go-by to this important question of the collection of the revenue. The right hon. gentleman indeed had said, have you not a resolution in favour of economy? It was true, they had—but what had they besides? Extravagant establishments and new taxes! He expected nothing from this paper kite of the chancellor of the exchequer; which was only to keep the 1558 people gazing while his new tax-gatherers were emptying their pockets.
§ Sir T. B. Martin
entered into a statement to show, that the enormous apparent increase in the Dock yard establishments, was to be attributed, not to a real increase in the expense of the civil establishments of the navy, but to changes in the mode of paying the officers. The changes consisted in an increase of salaries in commutation for fees, perquisites and gratuities, and in bringing into the estimates many individuals who were before paid on the Dock-yard books, and consequently remunerated out of the sums voted in the gross for the building and repair of ships. The offices of measurers and timber masters had been created during the period comprised in the resolutions. These and all the other changes had been adopted, in consequence of the recommendation of the commissioners of naval inquiry and revision, and for the sake of economy. The increase of the establishments was apparent, but the good which had been done was hidden in the reports which had recommended these changes. If the hon. baronet had read the fifty folio volumes which contained them, he would not have proposed one of these resolutions [a laugh]. The hon. member then read three resolutions, which he said he should move if the original resolutions were not rejected. They comprised a statement of the facts which he had mentioned, and concluded by an observation, that comparisons of the establishments at different times, unaccompanied by these explanations, were calculated to mislead the public mind.
did not conceive that the resolutions had been fairly met. In 1796, the expenses of the office of secretary at war, with 19 clerks, amounted to 16,070l. In 1806, there were 112 clerks employed in this office, and the expense was 29,970l. In 1819, there were 147 clerks employed, and the whole expenses of the office amounted to 47,937l. It should be recollected, that this increased expense had arisen in a time of profound peace. This of itself was sufficient to show the needless increase of expenditure with which the country was burthened. As to the commissioners of accounts, he must observe, that though appointed a considerable lime back, they were not any further advanced than they were two or three years ago. It was time that the situation of the country should be seriously looked to. We had at present a stand- 1559 ing army which cost the country 10,000,000l. a year; we had a national debt of upwards of 800,000,000l. If this was not sufficient to alarm the public mind, he could not tell what was. It was said that we had an effective sinking fund to the amount of 5,000,000l. For his part, he was of opinion that a sinking fund of 20,000,000l. would not be more than sufficient to relieve the country of its difficulties. He would support the resolutions of his hon. friend, and he thought the House and the country were indebted to him for having brought them forward.
§ Mr. F. Douglas
begged to offer a few words on the counter statements which had been made to the resolutions. The House should recollect, that those resolutions had been drawn up without that official information which it was in the power of ministers only to give. But notwithstanding this, the hon. members opposite were unable to contradict the statements contained in them. It did not follow, that because the hon. baronet had made one or two trifling miscalculations, his statements were to be considered as altogether erroneous. That hon. member was entitled to the approbation of the country, from the manner in which he had brought forward those resolutions.
was convinced that unless reductions to a very considerable amount were speedily made in all the estimates and public expenditure great embarrassments were to be expected. The country was convinced that considerable reductions might be effected and had a right to expect that the exertions of government for the attainment of this object, should be proportioned to the distresses. No man could have read the finance reports of the last and the present year, or have examined with attention estimates, to the amount of several millions laid on the table a few months ago, without being convinced of the practicability of effecting very considerable reductions. He had, early in the session, attempted to draw the attention of the House to a strict investigation of such papers. From the extravagantly expensive system, long pursued by the British government, several disbursements sanctioned by time appeared necessary to the ministers of the day, whoever they might be; but which, he had no doubt, could be greatly diminished. He had many days since moved for returns relating to the Audit office at Lisbon, an establishment which might 1560 have been necessary at the period of its formation in 1S13, but he more than doubted of its utility at the present moment. He had seen a calculation by which the expenditure of that establishment since 1813 exceeded 250,000l. To this heavy and useless expense he had called the attention of the chancellor of the exchequer several weeks ago, the hon. member for Aberdeen (Mr. Hume) had also moved for returns of the expenses, naval, military and others at St. Helena, which, however, had not as yet been produced. In the absence, then, of such documents, gentlemen who thought economy necessary, and who felt it to be their bounden duty to goad ministers on to topics so painful to them, could not always be correct in their calculations. He had himself seen statements which rated the annual expenditure as connected with St. Helena at upwards of 500,000l. Out of this sum, a very small proportion, varying from 20, to 30,000l. per annum seemed to have been allotted for a certain period to Longwood, but the same publications stated, that subsequent arrangements of an indelicate and extraordinary nature had been made to curtail even that allowance to this establishment, the expenditure of which, it was there reported, was attempted to be limited even to 8,000l. per annum. He did not wish to dwell on subjects likely to create angry discussion. Having recently read the publications alluded to, he should have considered himself guilty of a culpable abandonment of public duty, had he suffered parliament to separate without calling the attention of ministers, the House, and the public to this question. He had not been a party to the act of parliament which recognised the late emperor of France as a prisoner of state: of the policy of such a measure he had no hesitation in declaring his most unqualified disapprobation; a policy which in his opinion had fixed an eternal stain on the character of the country. But he would not now stop to discuss the policy or ascertain the motives which in a time of universal and profound peace could justify Great Britain in consenting to become the gaoler of any individual, however elevated in rank, as in the present instance, or, however humble to answer the views and affect the purposes of other states, Haifa million annually expended at St. Helena for the security and protection of Great Britain! Impossible: it was for 1561 other objects, and with other motives, which ministers could not and dared not avow, but which the historian could not fail to detect, and record. Would the release of Napoleon involve Europe once more in all the calamities of war? No man acquainted with the state of things would assert this. But he asked, was the empire to be dishonoured in order to guard against a possible calamity affecting not in the least our own interests, and very questionably those of other nations, some of them too our natural enemies? He was not prepared so to purchase security by disgrace; but even as to France; there was no danger to be apprehended, for although in that kingdom, as elsewhere, are to be found many traces of a great and improving genius, whose good deeds will live after him when the recollection of his errors, mistakes, and imputed crimes shall, it is to be hoped, have perished with the individual, even there, as long as the king and the constituted authorities shall continue to extend and confirm the liberties of the empire, and are honest and serious in perfecting the constitution and securing to that great people, that to which they have entitled themselves by their talents, and their labours,—equality of rights, internal tranquillity, and the enjoyment of every domestic blessing; and as long as the polity of the government, in unison with the unanimous determination of all classes and ranks of the inhabitants, shall sustain her prominent rank among the nations of Europe, that rank which she is resolved to retain, and for which she is in every respect qualified, so long would the appearance of their former emperor, even in the heart of that country for which he has achieved so much, and where a continued peace is now so desirable, be attended with no danger whatever to the present order of things. But the policy of this imprisonment was not that to which he wished principally to direct the attention of the chancellor of the exchequer, whom he believed deserving of the character of humanity and moral worth, which he enjoyed in the public esteem; and he (Mr. H). was particularly anxious to point his attention to the publications in question, which proclaimed to the world a system of vexatious indelicate treatment, a littleness of conduct, a persecuting spirit towards Napoleon and his faithful adherents, which no man could peruse without indignation and disgust, without a mixed sensa- 1562 tion of applause for, and admiration of the fidelity and heroic attachment of those whose only ambition seemed now to be permitted to share in the sufferings of their fallen master, and of reprobation of that policy which would inflict perpetual torture upon an individual deprived now of the power to injure or to do good, and who has been well described as a "being unequalled in the annals of human exaltation, unmatched in the records of fallen greatness." Did we mean to act towards Napoleon, who had confided himself to the vaunted generosity of this much boasted nation, as if England had no character to lose? If we credit these statements, a pitiful vindictiveness seemed to have been exercised towards him unworthy of that generous feeling which was once supposed to have distinguished the British nation. Imprisonment on a desolate and isolated rock, under a burning sun and in such a climate; deprivation of all the luxuries, and not unfrequently want of the comforts and even necessaries of life; in addition, condemnation now as it would seem almost to solitary confinement, form such an accumulated mass, of human misery, as one would have imagined sufficient, without superadding indignities and slights which, however, it is some consolation to know cannot so much afflict him, as by setting at defiance every principle of national justice and national honour, they hold out to abhorrence that political expediency which has been adopted towards this dethroned and captive sovereign to the disgrace of this empire, and of the other great states of Europe. He would not enter into any detail of the outrages and cruelties alleged to be practised against him and his household; but he could not but observe upon the unheard of barbarity of removing from him, under any provocation, his medical attendant, at a moment, too, when his presence seemed absolutely necessary, after a severe attack of illness, and when Mr. O'Meara had just commenced, with his patient a course of medical treatment and as he considered at a very critical moment of the disease: and if there were wanting another instance of inhumanity, it was to be found in the forcing from him count De las Casas, who had been distinguished for his affectionate constancy, and whose continuance at Longwood was most desirable, and even necessary, to his master. If those statements were false, why were they not publicly contradicted? If true, why did 1563 not ministers immediately afford redress? If even doubtful, why not institute a strict and immediate inquiry? If it were deemed good policy still to confine this victim of adversity, in the name of religion, humanity, and justice, let him be treated with every indulgence, kindness, and tenderness, and let not the honour of the country be tarnished by marking towards him vindictive malice and ignominious treatment, much less unnecessary cruelty. Perpetual incarceration should surely satisfy the most malignant and revengeful. "The state policy and political expediency of perpetuating legitimate despotism, under the sanction of British law," would, he had thought have been abhorrent to every freeman. But if Napoleon must continue a state prisoner, no expense should be spared to furnish him with every comfort and, if possible, with every luxury, he should be placed where he should enjoy, without insult or taunt, the benefit of a salubrious climate, not confined to one proverbially bad. He was confident, notwithstanding the distresses of the country, that there was no individaal in it who would not for the mere purposes of humanity, readily contribute to this object. Even ministers had originally pledged themselves to ameliorate his condition in every way.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that instead of the expenses on the St. Helena station costing the country 500,000l., they did not cost more than one quarter of the sum. He then read a resolution of one of the committees lately agreed to by the House, and said that it called upon the executive government to do that which parliament could not itself do in the recess—he meant, to make retrenchments. So little was the executive inclined to shrink from the duty imposed upon it, that already was the work of retrenchment commenced, and the commission of inquiry issued. When he said this, he was not sanguine enough to expect that great retrenchments would be made, though he was far from wishing to discourage the House from expecting that some would be made. He could not help observing, with regard to the customs, that in former times the officers in that branch of the public service had in general been paid in fees which devolved to them; whereas at present all that came through their hands came into the public treasury, as their salaries were no longer paid by fees, but by a stipulated allowance 1564 given them by government. He concluded by moving that the debate on these resolutions be postponed until this day three months.
§ Sir H. Parnell
spoke in reply as follows: —If, Sir, I felt myself under the necessity of seeking for an excuse for any errors in the resolutions, I could readily have found it in the assertion, that at least 100 folio volumes ought to have been carefully read by me, to prepare myself for the task of framing these resolutions. But, Sir, after all the loud and repeated assertions of the right hon. gentleman and noble lord opposite, I do not find myself in a situation, to require me to make any excuse for the incorrectness of these resolutions. On the contrary, when I consider how many statements of figures they contain, I am surprised to find that I have escaped without more of them having been shown to be inaccurate. What, Sir, is the actual result of all that has been said against them? Why, that two of them are inaccurate; one relating to the office of secretary at war, the other relating to the Pay office. But before I proceed to make some remarks upon the War office and Pay office, I must stop to notice the tone and manner which the noble lord has thought proper to assume in delivering his sentiments upon these resolutions. He has not been satisfied with observing upon the inaccuracy in the 26th resolution, which I myself corrected, but he has thought proper to infer with an appearance of great triumph over me, from the in accuracy of this resolution, that all the others were equally incorrect, and that I had proved myself incapable of the task which I had undertaken. Nothing was more easy nor is more common, than for a gentleman at the head of a very extravagant department, to get up and make assertions of this kind and, knowing how much weight a confident manner and a show of superior official information will carry with them, to attempt to impress upon the House such inferences which could not be sustained by facts, or a plain examination of the question. But the profusion and waste of public money in the public departments is too visible and notorious to allow these expedients to succeed, and though I may be exposed to the censure of the noble lord, I shall not be turned aside from my object, nor do I feel, from any thing that he has said, that I have any reason to doubt my being able to show that there exists in his office, as well as in every other office concerned in 1565 the expenditure of public money, a most extravagant scale of unnecessary and unjustifiable expense.—In respect to the error in framing the 26th resolution, I am able to say the error is not mine but that of the report of the committee of finance of 1797. In looking for the expense of the establishment of the office of secretary at war in 1796, I found the following statement. "Appendix (Q 2) establishment of the office of his majesty's secretary at war as it stood at Christmas 1796"—under which head is stated the salary of each officer—and a total of 8,256l. No note is made to lead the reader to suppose that there could possibly be any additional item, but it appears, that in official language the establishment of an office does not mean the expense which the country pays for an office, and that although an Office may be returned at 8,256l. for its establishment, it may actually cost the country 42,731l. over and above that sum by payments made in the shape of fees—in this way it is, that the actual establishment of the War office cost 51,290l. in 1796, instead of 8,256l. and that I have been led to make the mistake which appears to have been made in the 26th resolution. Another mistake has been made in stating the establishment of the Pay office at 15,354l. But here again the error originates with the report of the committee of finance of 1797. In stating the salaries of the deputy paymasters, the salary is given at 1l. 10s. per diem each, and a total sum is given which every one would read as if for 6 paymasters, in consequence of an omission to repeat the word "each." In this way it appears that the sum of 20,729l. ought to be in the resolution in place of the sum of 15,354.—The noble lord has attempted to show an inaccuracy in the 25th resolution respecting the commander in chief's office. He says that to the sum of 813l. the contingencies of the office ought to have been added to make a fair contrast in the establishment of the office in 1819—but the resolution, by dividing the present establishment into two sums, one for salaries and the other contingencies, shows the exact comparison between the amount of salaries now and in 1793. The noble lord has attributed to me, that I was ignorant of their being no commander in chief in 1793, by giving a wrong construction to the words "exclusive of any salary to the commander in chief". But he has here fallen into a great error; because I se- 1566 lected the word "any" and did not make use of the word "the" as I would have done if there had been a commander in chief. The noble lord has boasted of the sums which have been recovered for the public by that part of his office which is employed at an expense of 18,000l. per annum in examining the arrear accounts, but here, he wholly mistakes the purport of my resolutions. For what I complain of is, that there should exist any opportunity of thus recovering the public money, that the public money should be exposed to such jeopardy; and that after paying such an enormous sum annually for the noble lord's office for settling accounts, which is the whole business of the office, that the work is not done; that the accounts remain unsettled; that public accountants are allowed this opportunity of defrauding the public; and that an extra establishment is to be kept up at an expense of 18,000l. per annum to do the business which ought to have been done by the office under its regular establishment.—The noble lord has spoken of the 31st resolution which recommends the consolidation of the military offices of paymaster of the array, treasurer of the navy, and treasurer of the ordnance, as one which would be wholly subversive of all proper control, and the whole established system of managing the public money. But this is merely an official opinion in favour of old rules and extravagant establishments. Because if there is one resolution more supported by sound authority than another, it is this resolution: The finance committee of 1817 in speaking of the office of treasurer of the navy say, "The duty of this department differs but little from that of an ordinary banker." The duties of the pay master of the army and of the treasurer of the ordnance, are exactly similar. These officers receive the money for the army, navy, and ordnance imprest from the Treasury, and pay it upon proper official certificates, sent to them by the navy board, the secretary at war, and the ordnance board, to those who are entitled to receive it. The only difference between these officers and ordinary banks is, that the one is conducted upon principles of antient office rules, and the other upon the common principles of merchants and bankers. As to the office of paymaster of the army, the noble lord has not so much advantage over me from official experience as he may imagine, because I had an opportunity of ascertaining, when 1567 in office myself as a lord of the Irish Treasury, the whole of the duties of this office; for in Ireland there was no paymaster, but all the business of that office was performed by the Irish Treasury-board. I have, therefore, acted as a paymaster of an army of 60,000 men, and I can say positively that the proposed consolidation might be effected without any detriment to the public service.—The right hon. gentleman (Mr. Long) has said that it was very incorrect to suppose that the customs revenues could be collected for as low a percentage as the excise revenues, and has attributed to me the intention to blame the collection of the customs, because it is so much above that of the excise, but I have not contrasted the two together with any such view. I only wish to show that the rate of collecting the customs, considering the nature of the business, is higher in proportion than it ought to be to the rate for collecting the excise, and I attribute the difference to the Treasury influence which prevails in the one, and is but little known in the other. I mean distinctly to say this, that if the appointment of all the customs officers was vested in the board, the board would be able to collect the customs revenues at a lower rate than they now do collect them. The right hon. gentleman has endeavoured to show, that I have been incorrect in saying that a variety of useless forms were required at the Custom-house, because a number of alterations have been made since the date of the report of the commissioners of accounts, but I confidently assert, that the forms which I allude to still exist, and I feel that I am borne out in this assertion by the admission of the right hon. gentleman in the latter part of his speech, that he was now occupied as a member of a commission in preparing a report to recommend the abolition of many of the existing forms. The right hon. gentleman has found fault with the resolution which states, that the arrear in the examination of the public accounts of the auditors is owing, in some degree, to the interference of the Treasury; but in this resolution I have quoted the exact words of the 5th report of the committee of 1810. It is worthy of remark, that he has wholly omitted to take notice of the most material part of this resolution, which states that notwithstanding between 50 and 60,000l. a year is paid to the commissioners for auditing the public ac- 1568 counts, that the examination of them is some years in arrear. This circumstance forms one of the most glaring proofs of the unfitness and extravagance of the existing system for managing the public finances. For although this immense sum is annually paid, the public business is not done; there is no adequate return to the public for the money which is taken out of their pockets for settling the public accounts. Every one who can get hold of the public money under the pretext of being a public accountant, is able to calculate that he can escape being detected of any abuse he may be guilty of, for many years, for want of the enforcement of the laws for finally examining and settling all public accounts.—In respect to what had been said by the comptroller of the navy, I am ready to admit that the changes which have taken place in the way of making up the estimates, does not allow of a fair comparison between the sums voted this year and in 1795 for the Dock yards; but then the hon. member has not denied the fairness of comparing the estimates for 1819 and 1813, and this comparison is quite sufficient to make out my case, which is this, that if 212,142l. was a proper sum in 1813, the 10th year of war, 225,000l. must be a very exorbitant one for the salaries and contingencies of the Dockyards at home in 18l9, the fourth year of peace.
In regard to the general effect which I wish to produce by these resolutions in impressing upon the House a just notion of the great extravagance of our official system, I feel confident of succeeding, because I am fully borne out in all I have advanced in these resolutions by the reports of committees of this House, or of commissioners of inquiry. They all censure the interference of the Treasury for the sake of patronage; the perplexed plans of keeping the public accounts; the useless and confused forms of office; and the progressive increase of salaries, incidents, allowances, super annuities, and compensations in all the public offices.
I certainly have heard nothing this evening to induce me to abandon the undertaking. I shall certainly bring forward the whole subject matter contained in the resolutions under separate heads and motions early in the ensuing session.
The farther consideration of the Resolutions was adjourned till this day three months.¶