HC Deb 06 March 1822 vol 6 cc978-83

On the orders, of the day for going into a committee of supply to consider further of the Army Estimates, Mr. Hume and Mr. Bernal objected to going into a committee at that late hour. The House divided. Ayes 116. Noes 28. On the motion, that. the Speaker do now leave the chair, the House divided. Ayes 118. Noes 21. The House having resolved itself into the said committee, lord Palmerston moved, "That 70,756l. 7s. 11d. be granted for regimental contingencies."

Mr. Hume

said, he had no wish to throw any impediments in the way of the public business, but it did appear to him, that, after the House had been occupied seven hours upon a most interesting debate, it could not bestow that attention to the proposed vote which it demanded. The first item was 37,000l. for marching allowances, and for other purposes. This item was not in the estimates last year, and he trusted, therefore, that the noble lord would state why he had introduced it on the present occasion. There was an item of 6,000l. for supplying the table at St. James's, of the life and foot guards. Now, to no other regiment in the army out the guards (except those stationed in Ireland) was any allowance made for mess, beyond the general grant. Up to 1793, no charge was made in the estimates for the support of any table for the guards. The practice previously to that time had been this: a table was kept by the senior officer of the guards on duty for the time being. The officer was remunerated for this by receiving money from those men who were permitted to go out to work for a certain number of days; the payment they received for which was called outlyers' money. He was willing to admit that such a system as this was injurious to the service, and that it ought to be abolished. But he objected to the practice which had been substituted. It appeared that the number of officers on guard, when the king was in town, was five; when he was not in town, the number was reduced to three. These officers, however, instead of dining together by themselves, were in the habit of making up a party of about 16, and these supernumeraries were not officers belonging to the guards or any other regiment, but only Messrs. A, B, and C, to whom the officers on duty gave a treat at the public expense. In order that the country gentlemen might perceive the purposes to which the produce of their wheat and barley was applied, he would read a bill of fare for the supply of the table of the officers of the guards. This important document he had drawn from the 8th report of the commissioners of military inquiry. A breakfast was provided at two different periods, consisting of coffee, tea, cold meats, muffins, rolls, bread, &c. A dinner was provided for 16, (that number was now reduced to 13, being about eight more than there was any necessity for), consisting of the best fish, and every thing else that the London market could supply; there were two regular courses, and in the second course were four dishes of roasted. There was a regular dessert of 13 dishes of confectionary, fruits, olives, &c. But the feasting did not stop there. The gallant officers were supplied with madeira, port, and claret without limitation. This was a merry way of carrying on the war. Perhaps the gallant general (Gascoyne), who had attempted to ridicule his exertions on a former occasion, had spent a considerable part of his campaigning in a similar manner. A regular supper followed. And it was to support such a system of waste and extravagance, that the committee was now called on to vote 6,000l. Such a scene of profusion must set a bad example to the rest of the army. At all events, it the officers of the guards chose to be extravagant, let it not be done at the public expense. An hon. friend near him proposed to reduce the vote by 4,000l.; but he thought it was better to let the guards down gradually, and he would therefore content himself with proposing that the vote should be reduced only one half in amount. The hon. member next objected to the item of 4,800l. for the support of the board of general officers appointed to decide upon claims arising in time of war. During the war it was possible that the payment which the board received was not too much; but now, when the board met only once a week, that item ought to be reduced to 2,500l. Another item was 8,515l. for allowances to field officers and captains in the guards, in lieu of emoluments formerly derived from outlyers. The officers who had entered the guards upon the understanding that they were to receive certain emoluments from outlyers, were entitled when that system was abolished, to receive some equivalent: but all ground for the grant of the equivalent was taken away, when those persons who had entered the regiment in the expectation of receiving emoluments, ceased to belong to it, or were advanced to majorities. He would appeal to the hon. member for Corfe-castle, who had so clearly defined the principle of remuneration, and he would abide by his decision, whether this practice was fair. Another objectional item was 3,000l. for printing the acts of parliament and the annual army list. The army list was, he believed, printed under the superintendance of a clerk in the noble lord's office. The profits derived from the sale of the work were considerable, and he should be glad to know whether their amount was credited to the public: 3,000l. was an enormous sum to pay fur printing. He was convinced that any bookseller (Mr. Egerton, for instance) would thankfully publish the army list without receiving any payment from government. If he did not propose to reduce the item now, for fear of deranging the plans of the noble lord, he trusted the noble lord would spare him the trouble of doing so next year, by abandoning the item altogether. The navy list had formerly been a source of great profit to a family of the name of Steel, until government withdrew its patronage from that quarter, and placed a sort of official stamp upon the list published by Mr. Murray. If the navy list could be published by a private book-seller, he could see no reason why the army list should not also be published in the same way. Another very curious item was 2,000l. for law expenses. He was at a loss to imagine what law expenses were necessary to be defrayed, when they had a judge-advocate connected with the army at a salary of 5,000l. There could be very little occasion for resorting to law in the army, when it was seen that ministers could, with the stroke of a pen, dismiss officers without any trial. There was a small item, 50l. for the inspection of great coats. There existed two inspectors of the clothing of the army generally; and he could not see why a man who inspected common coats should not also be able to examine great coats. Immediately following this item, was another of 60l. for an inspector of regimental colours. He was not aware that sir G. Nayler, by whom that office was held, was particularly qualified to judge of the qualities of silks. If, indeed, it were a question of heraldry, no man could be a more competent judge. The next item to which he had an objection was that of 550l. for rent of chaplain-general's office. He had before objected to the continuation of this office. It was one created for a particular purpose in 1792, and he did not think there existed any necessity for it. He now came to an item for the riding establishment at Pimlico. When it was considered, that during the whole of the last war the cavalry had so much distinguished themselves on the continent, and that their riding was never objected to, he did not see what necessity there existed for supporting this school at an expense of 1,450l. Out of the sum of 70,000l. for contingencies, leaving out 35,000l. with which he would not interfere, he thought 15,600l. might be saved; but he had not yet gone through half of the list [Cries of "adjourn."] As he did not wish to proceed against the opinion of the House, he would move, that the chairman do report progress, and ask leave to sit again.

Lord Palmerston

entered into a defence of the several items to which objections had been made. With respect to the clothing, he conceived nothing like a case had been made out. As to the rich bill of fare which the hon. member had prepared for the entertainment of the House, be contended, that the 6,000l. which was thus expended, was an allowance given in lieu of some advantages which captains of the guards had been deprived of; and was one-fourth less than the sum allowed in 1793. As to the allowance for losses by officers, it was most reasonable. The noble lord next adverted to the emoluments derived to captains of companies from outlyers, which he said the captains had at all times been entitled to, and ought not to be deprived of: With respect to the per centage on the army lists, it had been given up, and the person who was employed in his office to complete the annual and monthly lists received a regular salary. The law expenses of which the hon. member spoke, were for the most part charges which had no reference to the Judge Advocate, and over which he had no control. As to the expense of inspecting great coats, it was last year only 50l., and was paid to quarter masters for the inspection of the great coats sent to the men; and looking at the benefits of such inspection, he would say that no money was better bestowed. As to the office of inspector of colours, as no regiment was without its peculiar colours, and as these always brought to mind some of their proud achievements, such distinguishing mark, if left to the caprice of commanding officers, might be soon altogether done away with. As to the expense of chaplain-general, seeing that the hon. member had proposed to make a general attack on the property of the church, he was not at all surprised at this objection. But to any one who considered that the men were not made worse soldiers, by being made moral and religious, the expense of that superintendance which went to enforce the strict discharge of their duties would not seem too great. As to the riding establishment at Pimlico, it had been heretofore so much discussed, that he would only refer to what had been already said upon it; but he could assure the House, that the proposed change of the Opthalmic hospital into a riding school would be a considerable saving of expense.

Sir H. Hardinge

defended the keeping up of the table for the guards, and contended that the junior officers of that corps were worse paid than the officers of the line, who had many allowances which the officers of the guards had not. In fact, the junior officers might be said to give their services for nothing for the money they received was not sufficient to pay for their lodgings in town.

The chairman reported progress, and asked leave to sit again.