HC Deb 02 June 1819 vol 40 cc837-40
Mr. Robert Ward

then, in pursuance of his notice, brought on the Ordnance Estimates. He commenced by giving a brief statement of the amount of the ordnance expenditure, according to the estimates for the current year. From the necessity which had arisen of making retiring provisions in a number of cases after the peace, there had been a considerable excess in the half-pay and superannuated branch, of this department of the expenditure, which amounted to about 43,000l.; but in every other branch of the department the utmost retrenchment was adopted, and the saving this year amounted to 50,000l. 2s. 9d. The reduction in point of numbers since the peace amounted to 1,824 officers and men in the Sappers and Miners corps. The number of men in this branch was, last year, 9,759; it was this year 7,939. And the board of ordnance, acting strictly up to the recommendations of the committee of finance, had reduced their expenditure from four millions and upwards to about 100,000l. The hon. member then moved, "That a sum not exceeding 386,222l. 3s. 11d. be granted to his majesty, in full, for the charge of the office of ordnance, for land service, for Great Britain, for the year 1819."

Mr. Hume

wished to ask the hon. gentleman, why the manufacture of gunpowder was so extensively continued, as it was an article that, in the event of its being required by war, could be made with great speed? One of the items under that head was 10,500l. He was also desirous to know in what manner government intended to fill up the vacancies in the staff of the ordnance? He understood that an arrangement had been made by the present master-general, to fill up every other vacancy either from the cadets at Woolwich, or from the half pay. He trusted that that arrangement would be made a general one in the army. To fill up vacancies by other means would be a double injustice. It would be an injustice to the public to saddle them with the expense of new commissions, and it would be an injustice to the brave men on half pay, who had so gallantly served their country. Many of the proposed estimates, in his opinion, required consideration. There was on the table of the House a report from a committee (the committee of finance), which was attended to by his majesty's ministers whenever it suited their purpose to attend to it, and neglected whenever it did not. In that report it was recommended that the newly acquired colonies of Ceylon, the Mauritius, the Cape of Good Hope, Malta, and the Ionian Islands, should pay the expenses of their own military establishments; and yet there were separate items for those colonies, amounting in the whole to 26,000l. On this and on every other point of public expenditure, government would do well, under the present exigency, to suspend a proposition for voting a single shilling, until the indispensable necessity for doing so should be established;.

Mr. R. Ward

observed, that with respect to the manufacture of gunpowder, it must be evident that a great and an economical alteration must have taken place, when the manufacture for the use of government was reduced from 30,000 barrels annually to 1,000. It was, however, essential to preserve the existence of a manufactory which had, beyond all doubt, carried the article it produced to such a degree of perfection, as to exceed, in point of excellence, that made in any other part of the world. Besides, the continuance of the manufacture in the reduced rate at which the work was going on, kept in employment those old servants who must otherwise be provided for by pensions. With regard to the hon. gentleman's wish to know whether or not it was intended to fill up the vacancies in the staff from the half-pay, he had only to reply, that there was no artillery staff. As to the observation respecting the newly acquired colonies, the recommendation in the report of the finance committee, to which the hon. gentleman alluded, was a consideration of great national policy, on which his majesty's government had not yet determined; until which determination, it was of course his duty to propose to parliament that they should be protected in the usual way.

The resolution was then agreed to. On a resolution for granting 10,000l. for defraying the expense of the reduction of the Ordnance Military Corps,

Mr. Hume

again adverted to the manufacture of gunpowder, and said, that unless it was made of a better quality in the royal mills than in mills belonging to private individuals, the reason assigned by the hon. gentleman for the continuance of that expense to the public was nugatory; and that at any rate the charge of 7,000l. for 1,000 barrels, appeared to be enormous. He wished to ask the hon. gentleman how it happened that the ordnance accounts for 1814 were not all delivered?

Mr. Ward

replied, that there was great difficulty in making up and procuring the accounts adverted to by the hon. gentleman, in consequence of the officers on whom that devolved being dispersed in all parts of the world. Every diligence was used by the ordnance department to procure them as speedily as possible; and in some instances, they have been under the necessity of resorting to prosecutions for-that purpose.

The resolution was then agreed to.