HC Deb 06 June 1820 vol 1 cc882-4

The resolutions of the Committee of Supply being reported,

Mr. Calcraft

said, it had been his intention to make some observations on the present amount of our military establishment, which, if necessary at all, was, in his opinion, rendered necessary by the measures of government. This, however, would lead to a discussion of greater length than was desirable on the present occasion, and he should therefore defer the consideration of that topic to a future day. If no other opportunity were afforded, he should be driven to the necessity of submitting a substantive motion on the subject. New barracks were about to be built in all parts of the kingdom where none existed at present, and such an appearance of military government was about to be exhibited as had never before been presented in any country calling itself free.

On the reading of the resolution relative to pensions,

Mr. Hume

said, that since this subject had been discussed, on the moving of the ordnance estimates, he had referred to the act, and he regretted to say, that in section second there was a clause that might admit of the construction for which the right hon. gentleman had contended. He now begged to ask whether those pensions to which he had adverted in the committee of supply, and by which a retired allowance, amounting to one-half of their former salaries, had been granted to several persons, after a service of two, three, and four years, came under that clause of the act to which he had alluded r The object of the act was, in his opinion, to prevent pensions from being granted to individuals for less than ten years service, and he protested against any deviation from that principle, as tending to impose a great expense on the country.

Mr. R. Ward

observed, that he had formerly stated the grounds on which those pensions to which the hon. gentleman objected had been granted. He had stated, that these individuals were not in the situation of persons retiring from the the service; but that their salaries had been taken from them in consequence of the reduction of their offices; and he would put it to the justice of the House, whether, when an office was abolished, they would deny the poor pittance of 45l. per annum to a clerk who had been deprived of his situation? Pie contended, that the act did not apply to persons whose services were dispensed with in consequence of the reduction of their offices, but to those who voluntarily retired, and claimed allowances for their past services. In this construction of the spirit of the act he was supported by the opinion of Mr. Harrison, a counsel of considerable eminence.

Colonel Davies

said, his impression was, that the act applied to all cases, both of superannuation and reduction.

On the resolution for the Irish ordnance being put,

Mr. Calcraft

regretted that in the first year of the administration of the noble duke, so little attention had been paid to economy in the department over which he presided.

Mr. Ward

contended, that although there was an excess of 133,000l. in the expenditure of the ordnance department,.55,000l. of that sum arose out of the absolute necessities of the service. The noble duke, therefore, was not in any degree responsible for that part of the increased expenditure.

Mr. Calcraft

disclaimed any personal motive in the comments which he had felt it his duty to make.

Sir J. Newport

deprecated the idea of attributing any member's conduct to the influence of personal motives, or of supposing that to discuss the proceedings of a public officer, implied the existence of any personal zeal against that officer. It was absurd to maintain that the former services of the duke of Wellington, or of any other public man, should shield him from the responsibility which attached to any public office which he thought proper to accept.

Mr. Hume

expressed a wish, that with a view to simplify the public accounts, which were in general scarcely intelligible at present, and to enable the House the more easily to judge where any expendi- ture could be saved, the practice of the American Congress should be adopted. According to that practice three committees were appointed at the commencement of every session, to examine the naval, the military, and the ordnance accounts, and to report thereupon; and if similar committees were appointed by that House, much good might be expected to result, as every item of expense would be more narrowly investigated. If such committee was in activity, it was impossible that several unnecessary places, which might be found to exist, notwithstanding the repeated ministerial professions of economy, would be allowed to continue. For instance was it to be tolerated that there should be in each of our colonies, a storekeeper for the navy, with one for the army, and another for the ordnance, although it was notorious that one storekeeper would be quite sufficient to do the business of the three. He therefore hoped that ministers would see the necessity of making some new arrangement on that head.

Sir, J. Newport

protested against the idea of delegating the functions of that House to any committee, or of allowing ministers to transfer to such committees their responsibility for the public accounts.

The resolutions were agreed to.