HC Deb 13 April 1821 vol 5 cc208-15

The House having resolved itself into a committee of supply, and parliament moved, "That 14,474l. 15s. 5d. be granted for defraying the charge of the allowance to the Com- mander in chief and his personal staff, his secretaries, their assistants and clerks, &c. for the year 1821."

Mr. Hume

said, he rose to move a reduction of 2000l. and would state the grounds. In 1807, the allowance to the commander-in-chief was nine guineas a day; but in 1815, it was raised to l6guineas a day. He thought it would be proper to reduce it to what it was in 1807, which would make a reduction of somewhat more than 2000l. That sum, however, he would have reduced on the whole department, leaving it to the head of the department to apportion the allowances provided for by the remaining 12,000l. There was a military secretary, who had 2,000l. He did not intend to meddle with the principle of increasing allowances with the increase of duties, but would state the facts. In 1803, the salary was but 900l.; it was increased when the important duties which general Gordon had to perform made some augmentation necessary; but it was never intended that such increase should be permanent. Then there was another secretary, and an assistant secretary, one of 600l. the other at 365l. He thought that the 600l. might be saved to the country. He then proceeded to observe upon the increase which had taken place in the allowance to the other officers of the department, and which, he contended, ought to be diminished. In 1807, the first clerk had 300l. now it was double; the established clerks had 190l. 160l. and 120l. each; now they had 450l. The minor clerks were 80. and SOL now they had 200l. each. If the reduction brought the establishment down to what it was in 1807, it would not be too great a reduction. The establishment then altogether, along with its contigencies, was about 12,000l. now it was increased to 14,474l. He knew it was the opinion of some who wished for reduction, that it should not fall on the commander-in-chief. He did not wish to fix it upon any one; but would leave the head of the department, as he before stated, to apportion the reduction among the officers as he saw proper. He thought also, that a chaplain to the commander-in-chief was unnecessary, as there were four chaplains to the forces, besides several others who could perform the service. He concluded by moving as an amendment, that the sum proposed should be reduced by 2,000l.

Lord Palmerston

said, that in the refer- ence which the lion, member made to the establishment of 1807, acccording to which he proposed to reduce the present one, he did not understand whether the hon. member intended that the pay of the commander-in-chief should be reduced or not; but whether he did mean that or not, there was no good ground laid for his amendment. The duties of the commander-in-chief were not paid higher than their importance required. Was it of little moment that the commander-in-chief had to dispose of the patronage of the whole army [Cheers from the Opposition]? He said this advisedly. The more high and delicate patronage was, the greater the responsibility of the office, and the more necessary that the salary should be an adequate one. Supposing there was a possibility of abuse, and he said this only in the abstract, the salary ought to be such as to give an additional security against such an abuse, by removing the chances of temptation. Then, as to the civil part of the establishment; the hon. member had not given any sufficient ground for reducing it. The expense of that branch in 1807, including two secretaries, was 7,560l. and now it was only 7,666l., making only and increase of 106l. There was therefore no ground for a reduction of 2,000l. He then proceeded to show, that the military secretary was not too highly paid, on account of the numerous and laborious duties which he had to perform. Those duties occupied him eight hours a day, sometimes including Sundays. The military secretary had interviews with officers to the number of 50 and 60 a day, who had statements to make; and he had likewise to conduct the correspondence. The assistant secretary had also very laborious duties to perform; he had to manage the details of correspondence, on which the military secretary decided; 600l. a year was not too much for this service. As to the chaplain, it was an appointment belonging to the chaplain-general, and the salary was fixed by the act of 1817. He repeated, that there was no room for reduction, as there was only 100l. difference between the allowances for the civil department of 1807 and the present time.

Mr. Bernal

contended, that the country had a right to look for some reductions in the sixth year of peace. He objected to the practice of making an augmentation once allowed perpetual. The argument against reduction upon this ground would be equally strong in the twelth year of peace as at present; so that the country was not to expect any diminution of those war establishments, whatever, might be the duration of tranquillity.

Lord Palmerston

said, that the argument of the hon. member was not correct. The charge for this establishment was not of a fixed nature, but varied according to circumstances. The estimates were always made out with a view to the necessity of the current year.

Colonel Davies,

though he agreed that the commander-in-chief was not overpaid, considered it absurd that the present reduced number of clerks in the office should receive an equally large amount of salary as when they were eight more in number. He had the strongest objection to the continuance of the chaplaincy, which might very well be dispensed with.

Mr. Sykes

said, there was always an ingenious excuse offered for any increase of public expense. The noble lord had argued, that large patronage justified large salary; but if this were correct, the commander-in-chief ought to have had three times his present salary during the war. He confessed that he looked at the situation of the country with dismay; especially as he saw no disposition on the part of the House to economize. The salaries had been raised on account of the unfavourable change in the currency, and as that currency had now arrived at a more favourable state, those salaries ought to be proportionably reduced.

General Gascoyne

bore testimony to the severe duties of the military secretary to the commander-in-chief. The present holder of that important office had been there so early as the year 1793; and surely the same principle of remuneration which prevailed in every other public office, might reasonably be applied to the office of the commander-in-chief. When the duke of York was first appointed commander-in-chief, his salary and allowances were lower, than at present, because his own rank was then lower. When the duke of Wellington was made field-marshal he had insisted upon his full pay for the situation as well as for his rank.

Lord Palmerston

said, that so far from the duke of Wellington having insisted upon his full pay for his situation and his rank, that arrangement was made without my previous communication with his grace.

Mr. Alderman Wood

said, that if the 2,000l. proposed to be reduced were left to be a scramble, perhaps the reduction would fall upon those who could least afford to become the objects of its operation. He would rather that it should be effected on the salaries and emoluments of those noble persons who were better qualified to sustain such a reduction.

Lord Milton

could not consent to give the same salaries now as in former years. The situation of the country was much altered from what it had been, when those salaries were granted. It behoved parliament to look into the different statutes by which increased allowances had been made to the royal family, the salaries of the judges, and so on; and into all the other acts passed at a time when the state of the currency and the rise of prices made such previsions necessary. He called upon the landed gentlemen not to lose sight of this important duty. They could not collect their rents; the farmer could not dispose of his produce; and almost every class had to deplore the same overwhelming depreciation. He saw no reason why persons in public offices, and annuitants upon the public, should be alone exempted from any decrease of means or fluctuation of property.

Mr. Goulburn

said, that such an argument, if it were good for any thing, was equally applicable to the stockholder and public annuitant—a doctrine which was too absurd to require refutation.

Mr. Abercromby

suggested the expediency of a review, by government, of the situation of all the clerks of all the public departments, with a view of making every possible reduction.

Mr. Monck

contended, that the time had arrived when every possible reduction ought to be effected.

Sir H. Parnell

observed, that when in 1804 Mr. Pitt proposed an increase of salaries to various public officers, it was on the ground of the depreciation of the currency. That depreciation no longer existing, the salaries ought to be reduced to their original amount.

Mr. Alderman Wood

said, that the highest offices ought to sacrifice a part of their salaries, and then they might fairly call upon the subordinates to do the same.

Mr. Hume

expressed his concurrence in what had fallen from the worthy alderman. The commander-in-chief should begin the reduction, and not the minor clerks.

The committee divided on Mr. Hume's amendment, that 2,000l. be deducted from the salary of the commander-in-chief: Ayes 23; Noes 94.

List of the Minority.
Beaumont, T. W. Milton, lord
Bennet, hon. G. H. Monck, J. B.
Benyon, B. Nugent, lord
Bernal, R. Ord, W.
Carter, J. Parnell, sir H.
Denman, T. Pryse, P.
Gordon, R. Ricardo, D.
Grattan, J. Sykes, D.
Guise, sir W. Wood, ald.
Harbord, hon. E. Wyvill, M.
Hurst, R. TELLER.
Johnson, col. Hume, J.

The committee again divided on an amendment, to reduce the vote to 2,474l. 15s. 5d. Ayes 27; Noes 90. A third division took place, on an amendment to reduce the vote to 13,474l. 15s. 5d. Ayes 40; Noes 125. The original resolution was then agreed to. Lord Palmerston then moved, "That 650l. be granted for the allowance to the deputy judge advocate in North Britain."

Colonel Davies

objected to this vote, on the ground that there were not above two courts-martial in the course of a year requiring the attention of such an officer.

Lord Palmerston

said, that the judge advocate had been called upon to attend six courts-martial last year.

Mr. Bennet

did not think the arduous duty of attending six courts-martial out of 3,000 men, sufficient to justify the payment of so large a sum.

Mr. O'Grady

thought, that any field officer might discharge the duty of a judge advocate.

Mr. Hume

wished to know whether if 2000 men were about to be sent to a foreign station, the noble lord would think it necessary to appoint a deputy judge advocate to attend them. If not, he did not see how he could defend the appointment for the same number in Scotland.

Lord Palmerston

said, it would be beneficial to the service in general if such appointments were made, although in pursuance of that system of economy which had been adopted in the military departments, many foreign deputy judge advocates general had been reduced.

Mr. Hutchinson

said, that ministers heretofore were put to their shifts; but now they had not a rag to cover them.

Mr. W. Dundas

contended, that the office was an ancient Scotch office.

Mr. Ellice

observed, that the reason stated by the hon. gentleman for preserving the office, was precisely the reason why he would wish to abolish it, namely, that it was an old Scotch office.

Mr. Bennet

considered the office nothing but a Scotch job.

Sir R. Fergusson

considered the office as altogether unnecessary.

After some further conversation, the committee divided: Ayes 111; Noes 74. majority 37.

On the resolution, "That 12,642l. 10s. be granted, for defraying the charge of the allowance to the Comptrollers of the accounts of the army,"

Colonel Davies

objected to the item. He said, that in 1797, when the army extraordinaries amounted to upwards of six millions, the expences of the comptrollers did not amount to more than 4,475l. In 1821, when the extraordinaries did not exceed a million, the expences of the Comptrollers amounted to three times the expence in 1797. He would move, that the sum of 8,642l. should be substituted in place of 12,642l.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, there was no parity between the duties of army comptrollers in 1797 and the present period. The nature of the duties was almost wholly changed since 1806. In point of fact, their business was increased four-fold. Besides, they were not only comptrollers but auditors.

Mr. Bernal

supported the amendment.

Mr. Bankes

thought that an inconsiderable saving ought not be put in competition with the perfect auditing of accounts.

Mr. Creevey

observed, that as on a former evening he had said he should like to see one of those clerks who had 1,400l. a year called to the bar to make good his claim to that sum, so on the present occasion he should like to see one of the comptrollers of army accounts make good his claim to 2,000l. a year: and then be should be glad to compare that claim with that of some brave officer who, having purchased his commission in the first instance, had fought his way to honour and promotion, and having at length for his service been called to the peerage, received only 2,000l. a year, as compensation for his services and to support his dignity as a peer. What comparison could be made between the services of the two individuals?

Sir R. Fergusson

could not avoid complaining of the conduct of government to general officers of a particular class. By a former regulation, an allowance was made to general officers without regiments. This allowance was now withdrawn, and thereby the public faith had been broken with those officers. At the close of the war it was determined that only a certain number of general officers should be kept up: and those who were reduced had only a claim to the half-pay of that rank which they had held in the army before their promotion as general officers. This, he conceived, was a great injustice to very many meritorious general officers, some of whom had spent 30 years in the service. Many general officers, who, before the termination of the war, and before their promotion, might have made a considerable sum by the sale of their commissions, were now living upon their half pay as majors. This he considered as not just treatment to so deserving a class of men. Major-generals were deprived of all pay, except the half-pay which they had before they had been promoted.

Mr. Huskisson

said, that if the system of the gentlemen opposite were acted upon, instead of producing regularity and uniformity it would produce the utmost confusion. He was confident that by adopting the wild theories laid down, the whole affairs of the country would be thrown into disorder.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, he wished it was in the power of the government to reward military officers to a greater extent: but nothing could be more unjust than to charge government with illiberality.

The committee divided: For the amendment 45. For the resolution, 105. After which, the chairman reported progress and asked leave to sit again.