HC Deb 05 July 1822 vol 7 cc1514-21

The House having resolved itself into a committee of supply,

Mr. Arbuthnot

said, that in consequence of what had passed in the committee last session, every effort had been made to render the estimates of the army extraordinaries more perspicuous and detailed. He hoped the committee would allow that he had redeemed the pledge which he gave on that occasion. Formerly, the practice was merely to state the amount of the bills drawn from the colonies; but the committee would now find an abstract of the particulars. The vote to which parliament had agreed last year was 1,050,000l.; but then considerable balances were in the bands of the commissaries, which balances were at present much diminished. The sum which, he should propose this year for the army; extraordinaries was 700,000l. It was necessary, however, to observe that formerly there was, included in the army extraordinaries a sum of 200,000l. to the East India Company, which was after-wards repaid by the Company to government. In consequence, however, of recent arrangements, it would henceforward be unnecessary for the public to make any advance of this nature, which was for clothing, and other expenses of the army in the East Indies. He concluded by moving, "That 700,000l. be granted for defraying the extraordinary expenses of the army (with the exception of the forces employed in Ireland), for the year 1822."

Mr. Hume

said, that though considerable improvement had taken place in the manner of making out these estimates, still he thought that the separate estimates for the colonies ought to be distinctly shown and explained. Where was there an account of the real revenues of these colonies? The revenue of Ceylon was 378,812l. which, if the exchange were not affected by a depreciated currency, would amount to 865,000l. In the Mauritius there was a revenue of 164,441l. Why were not these receipts regularly explained and accounted for, before the people of England were called upon to pay grants for the particular services of these colonies? The revenue of Malta was 180,333l. of the Cape,116,000l. which, without including 40,000l. or 50,000l. for Trinidad, made a total colonial revenue of 767,704l. a year—a sum that would exceed a million were it not for the depre- ciated currency. These revenues ought not to be at the disposal of the king and council, and the local governments, without parliamentary inquiry, and being rendered item by item applicable to the colonial expenditure. There was a system of expense kept up in these colonies which was unjust and unnecessary. For instance, there were colonial agents, one of whom (for Ceylon) was the commissioner for Woods and Forests at a salary of 1,200l. a year, for doing what could as well be done, without any additional expense, by the colonial commissariat and paymaster establishments. Other colonial agents, equally unnecessary, had 600l. a year at home. The agent for the Ionian islands had 500l. He should propose the reduction of these sums from the grant. There was also 2,557l. a year for 8 inspectors of militia in the Ionian islands, although the islanders Were all disarmed. The same appeared at the Cape of Good Hopes and in that colony he could not help contrasting the amount of the estimate deemed sufficient in the year 1816, when we obtained possession of it. Lieut. general Craig, who was then governor, received 1,116l. as his full payment; the present governor received 10,000l. be sides large staff appointments, amounting in all to about 25,000l. The secretary for the colony had 3,500l. a year. The whole scale of these salaries was most exorbitant, and especially that of the auditor of accounts. The aggregate charge for civil appointments at the Cape was 18,000l. a year. Of this sum, 9,000l. or 10,000l. might be saved to the country. The yearly revenue of the Mauritius was not less than 164,441l. Yet this country was called on to pay a very considerable sum on account of it. With such a revenue, the island ought not to be such a burthen to us. Yet how could it be wondered at, when such men as Mr. Hook might be allowed to get into the debt of government 10, or 12,000l. How could it be wondered at, when such men were allowed to enter upon office without giving any security. The public had lost millions by the neglect of government in appointing to offices. For the same paltry island there was a paymaster-general at 1,600l. a year, a deputy-paymaster-general at 500l. a year and several other officers with salaries equally disproportionate. He certainly did understand that ministers meant to send out a commission with powers to in quite into these various establishments; and he would allow that this circumstance showed a disposition on their part to put them on a more economical footing. Had government sent out such a commission a few years ago, the army extraordinaries for the ensuing year would be less than the present amount by 300,000l. The only way for the House to proceed would be to reduce the vote by 100,000l. The same observations would apply to Jamaica. The collector of that island was lately dead; and this office was now to be given to a young man totally unconnected with the public service; instead of being conferred on some, individual who was now receiving a salary for the performance of the duties of the collector. With respect to Gibraltar, it was scandalous that a man should be sent out with an enormous salary, as governor, to a place which experience had shown could be held by the representative of the governor. On the lamented death of the duke of Kent, whose continued residence in this country afforded a sufficient proof that the appointment of a governor of Gibraltar was by no means a necessary one, ministers were so eager, that they did not wait a single week before they gave the appointment to the earl of Chatham. The expenditure in other respects at Gibraltar, was enormous. Besides the governor, deputy-governor, &c., there was a civil secretary with a salary of 1,200l. Then there was a judge advocate, with a salary of 1,000l. It was difficult to conceive, what could be the duties of such an officer in the garrison.—The hon. gentleman proceeded to point out a variety of unnecessary expenses incurred in Sierra Leone, Gambia, Heligoland, Nova Scotia, &c. The colonies cost this country on the whole above 2,500,000l. This sum certainly did not all come under the head of extraordinaries; but it was the same thing to the country, as it was defrayed among the ordinary charges. He contended that one-half of the staff kept up, in the colonies was unnecessary; and as to the commissariat department, at least one-half of it consisted of perfect sinecures. If he should have a seat in that House next session, he would certainly oppose the classing of any permanent expenditure under the head of Army Extraordinaries. Among the most objectionable items of expense, he could not help noticing a charge of 900l. for managing a Dutch loan. This was an expense which certainly ought to be de- frayed by the parties instead of falling upon the people of this country. With regard to colonial agents, he held them to be altogether a needless charge, and should therefore take the sense of the House on the propriety of continuing it. His amendment would also include the abolition of the offices of the inspectors of the Ionian militia. Another vote in the papers was 3,000l. for colonel Petre's establishment, which seemed quite useless. Each regiment had its separate riding-school; why then maintain a general school for the whole of the cavalry regiments? The colonial revenues ought to be brought distinctly before parliament; nearly a million was expended upon private establishments, which were kept out of the view of the public: this expenditure was, besides, under the sole control of the secretary of state. Availing ourselves of the revenues of the colonies, an expense of 500,000l. might be saved. In this department there was scarcely an item in which a saving of nearly half might not be effected. He was determined to take the sense of the House upon the two items he had before mentioned. The expense of colonial agency was 3,400l. per annum. From this charge the public did not receive the slightest benefit. The other item on which he should call for a division was 2,577l., the pay of eight inspecting officers of the militia of the Ionian islands, making in the whole a deduction of 5,977l. from the original vote of 700,000l. The hon. gentleman concluded with moving an amendment, reducing the vote required to 694,023l.

Mr. Wilmot

contended, that the reduction proposed had nothing to do with the vote of 700,000l. for army extraordinaries. In the outset he would say, that the value of our colonies was not to be calculated merely by commercial considerations—by the precise sum they cost or produced—they were connected with the power and glory of Great Britain. At all events, if they were looked at in the narrow view of the hon. gentleman, the revenues they produced should be balanced against the expenditure they occasioned. The hon. gentleman had not adverted to the undeniable fact, that Canada, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, &c., yielded receipts to the amount of 287,000l., which ought of course, to be placed on the credit side of the account. With respect to colonial agents, their duties were of considerable importance, and their services could not be dispensed with. The colonies did not wish for the reduction of them, although they paid the expense. Though the militia of the Ionian Islands had not been actually embodied, it had been mustered and if these inspectors were removed, other persons must be called upon to perform their functions. Besides, as English residents, they produced the most beneficial results. It they were not in the islands, the government of them would be a task of much greater difficulty. The question was, whether the people of the islands would be satisfied without the services of these inspectors? No colonial agent was yet appointed for New South Wales, but it was in contemplation to send one out. It was also the intention of government to send out commissioners to Ceylon and the Mauritius, to ascertain the propriety of diminishing the salaries of public officers there. As to extending the British constitution to the islands upon which it had not yet been bestowed, few persons would agree, that, in the present state of society there, such an extension would be of advantage. The hon. gentleman seemed to wish to make many sweeping reductions, and to put all offices, as it were, up to a Dutch auction. Such a proceeding; reminded him of an observation which had been overheard during the late Stockport riots, where a person had said, that "when things came about, he knew a man who would perform the duties of chancellor of the exchequer for half-a guinea a week." The remarks of the hon. gentleman on Sierra Leone were altogether inapplicable. The expense of that settlement was borne by the people for the sake of religion and humanity; and ought not to be made a subject of mere pecuniary calculation. On the subject of securities, he could assure the House that no officer was now appointed to any place of trust in the colonies without them. The military situation of Canada, and its contiguity to the United States, rendered it necessary that a force should be kept up; there at present; but he had little doubt that, if her resources were brought into full operation, she would be able to defend herself against America. Trinidad, like some other colonies, was not in a situation to receive the benefit of the British constitution; but he admitted, that where improvements were rational and practicable, they ought to be adopted.

Mr. Bennet

said, they had heard much of the importance of the duties entrusted to colonial agents, but no explanation had been given as to the nature of those duties. He should like to know where their office was, the number of clerks on their establishment, and the quantity of pens, ink, and paper, consumed in the performance of their official functions. When, upon a former night, an hon. gentleman (Mr. Courtenay) made his flourishing statement to the House, it appeared that the whole interests of India were under his especial protection; and so severe was his labour, that he had not even a moment to spare. How came it, then, that he could find time to manage the settlement of the Cape of Good Hope, for which he received a salary of 600l. a year? Would it not be much better to state at once, what must be known to every one, that the situation was pitched upon as the means of putting 600l. a year in the pocket of the hon. gentleman without his performing duty to the value of 6d.? Why should demands for money be made under such false pretexts? They had had the Mauritius for some years, and what use was made of that settlement? Why, it was selected as a proper place to send out a number of needy Englishmen, who received large salaries for nothing. To use the good old House of Commons' phrase, it was a famous place for jobs, and nothing else. He could name a governor who could prove to ministers the necessity of getting rid of that abuse in the Mauritius more than in any other colony. The hon. gentleman opposite knew the individual to whom he alluded. It was he who had exposed the conduct of a man of the name of Theodore Hook, who had robbed the public to the amount of 8 or 9,000l. In Canada, he found a large expense was incurred in raising fortifications. He should be glad to know what it cost the Americans to watch the British there. So little did they think about it, that they employed no watchman at all. For his own part, he wished Canada to be given up.

Mr. Goulburn

would never consent that any of his majesty's subjects should be given up in the manner pointed out by the hon. gentleman. With respect to the fortifications erecting in Canada, they were rendered necessary in consequence of the Americans having built a considerable fortification on their frontier.

Mr. Huskisson

defended the propriety of employing colonial agents. The hon. member for Aberdeen had divided the colonies into two classes; the one, in which the government was carried on by a local legislature; the other, comprising the new colonies, where the duties of government were transacted by a governor, assisted by a council. In Jamaica, and all the West India islands, the former practice prevailed. The funds were levied by the legislature and appropriated by them; but there was not one of those colonies which had not a colonial agent, with a salary, to attend to their interests.

Mr. T. Courtenay

said, he was surprised at the assertion of the hon. member for Shrewsbury, that the office of agent for the Cape, which he (Mr. C.) held, was an office that had no duty attached to it. That hon. member, in the whole course of his parliamentary life, never made a greater mistake. Precisely the same description of duties which his right hon. friend (Mr. Huskisson) had performed for Ceylon, he (Mr. C.) now performed for the settlement at the Cape. The duties connected with the agency for Ceylon were undoubtedly: more extensive than those which he had to perform, but then his salary was proportionably larger. He might appeal to h is hon. friends, whether he was not considered a bore at the public offices, because of his frequent applications on the business of the Cape of Good Hope. Besides conducting the various claims of that colony, he had to attend to its business with government, and he had likewise to look after its interests in parliament. He had received letters from the colony, which attributed much of its prosperity to his exertions. With respect to his situation at the Board of Control, he certainly had much business to do. The hon. member himself now admitted it; and he was glad he did so, because last year the hon. member declared, "that he was of no use either in that House or elsewhere." No doubt, if he (Mr. C.) got another office, the hon. member would find out that the agency of the Cape was not a sinecure, and then his exclamation would be, "Oh! how can this agent of the Cape, with so much business, perform these new duties." It was impossible for any public man's time to be so taken up that he would have no leisure left. He was obliged, by the state of his circumstances, to give up that leisure time to active and laborious duties, which he would more willingly devote to dissipation and amusement. His place at the India Board he held by the precarious tenure of his majesty's government: his place at the Cape, he hoped to retain as long as he continued to perform its duties to the satisfaction of the colonial government.

Mr. Brougham

said, that with respect to the agents, he was convinced that the right hon. gentleman and the hon. secretary were not overpaid: they were worth the money: they were in fact the friends at court of the colonies. But what they did for the colonies with his majesty's government, they did at the expense of the people of this country.

The Committee divided: For the original resolution, 82.; For the amendment, 55.