§ On the order of the day for going into a committee of supply.
§ Sir Joseph Yorke
begged to call their attention to a subject which could not be deemed irrelevant. In a case where so great a service as that of the navy was concerned, he did think it right to notice to the House the late appointment of John Clarke Searle, esq., to be a Rear-Admiral of the White. It would appear to have been formerly the custom that when a gentleman, having risen in the naval service of his country to the rank of a flag-officer, chose to fill an office in the civil department of the state, he thereby abandoned the next step in his promotion. Now, there was something curious in the way in which this gentleman had passed his flag. Nothwithstanding that he had for some time filled a civil situation, he had been considered entitled to the reward which was extended to gallant officers by promotion; and not only so, but to receive it accompanied with one of the highest marks of favour which the service could bestow. But the most painful part of the story was, that just prior to this appointment, J. C. Searle, esq., had experienced a certain share of displeasure from the board of Admiralty. In fact, it had been made known to them, that a certain share of delinquency existed in the subordinate departments of the Victualling-office, and shortly afterwards an intimation was received by capt. Searle, that he should quit the chair which be then filled. To any honourable mind, conscious of its own integrity, and still more to an individual who had filled this chair for the space of 14 years—who had received, as a reward for past services, not only his own salary attached to that situation, but a pension besides, during the continuance of the war, and whose amiable lady, for amiable he had no doubt she was, had also had settled upon her a pension of 300l. a year, such an intimation must have been, beyond measure, painful. How surprised must such a man have been, at finding himself suddenly hurled from his 1191 situation, by a bolt of imperial displeasure. He did not question the competency of the royal prerogative to direct this or any other dismission; but he was very sure of this, that whatever might have been the ' misconduct of the subordinate officers in the Victualling-department, Mr. Searle was a man of that character and honour, that he could not have been guilty of any part of it. But why was it, that a board, over which it was so proper that a naval person should preside, must have a civil officer in a brown coat and steel buttons? Why did they not take some naval officer with a naval uniform on his back? The appointment of the present chairman of the Victualling-board did seem to him to be the grossest job he had ever heard of. The present chairman (Mr. Stapylton) was first of all paymaster of the marines, then he was made a commissioner of the navy, and now he was chairman of the Victualling-board; and, at this very moment, at that board, he had under him a competent naval officer, with a salary of 200l. only per annum. He trusted he had now said enough to interest the House in this case. Either the dismissal of J. C. Searle, esq. as chairman, and his subsequent naval appointment were two of the most extraordinary things in the world, or the Admiralty thought the Victualling-board no better than a set of dolts and nincompoops; and in that view, wishing to provide for some one else, had removed the late chairman, and been afterwards obliged to provide for him.
§ Sir G. Cockburn
rose to do justice to the gallant admiral who had been named, and to prove that his hon. friend was misleading the House on subjects with which he ought to have been better acquainted. After a minute enquiry into the state of the Victualling department, he (Sir G. C.) and those associated with him in the inquiry, had found that there was not that arrangement and supervision, nor that check on the clerks, which they considered to be necessary, and thence they came to the conclusion, that it was not desirable that the late chairman should remain at the head of the Victualling-board. But it was proper at the same time to state, that nothing had transpired that at all detracted from the honour and probity of captain Searle. When, therefore, it was thought necessary to remove him from the Victualling-board, it was thought right to do it in such a way as should neither be injurious to his feelings or to 1192 his reputation. It was usual, when a flag ship was to be given, to allow an officer of a certain rank his choice, to receive that, or to retain any civil situation which he might hold. This choice had been given to captain Searle, and he had preferred retaining his civil situation. When it became necessary, for the convenience of the public, to remove him from that situation, it was thought right to put hint where he would have been had his choice been different. This was determined on, from an anxiety to prove to the world that the late enquiry, if it had demonstrated captain Searle's unfitness to preside over the Victualling-board, had proved nothing against his general character.
§ Mr. Ellice
said, he had had the honour to know captain Searle for many years, and knew that nothing dishonourable could be imputed to him. He had presided during the greater part of the late war at the Victualling-board, when fleets were to be provisioned to all parts of the world, and no complaint had been made against him. But the active duties of war were very different from the duties of peace, and he who might well perform the former might be incompetent to the minute arrangements of the latter. Such was the case of the gallant admiral, and for this reason only had the late change taken place. He had called on him when he heard of the circumstance, and instead of the thunderbolt which the hon. officer had talked about, the note which removed him was couched in the kindest terms, and while it intimated that it was expedient that he should retire, thanked hint for his meritorious services. He was glad that he had had an opportunity of speaking to the character of admiral Searle and to the manner in which he had been removed.
§ Sir I. Coffin
thought there was not a better man than captain Searle in the service, or one who had more ably per formed the duties of his station.
§ Mr. Croker
begged to state, that the first inducement to put the gentleman, now at the head of the Victualling-board in the situation which he filled, grew out of the great ability with which he had filled inferior offices. He had been chosen because no other man of his rank stood so high in the estimation of his superiors: He had also been preferred in an economical point of view. Two commissioners from the navy board, of which he was one were to be provided for. By the course 1193 which had been taken, their services had been transferred to the Victualling-board, and thus a saving of 1,400l. per annum was effected, while the business of that board was performed in a better manner.
§ Sir J. Yorke
had never meant to impute any delinquency to captain Searle. He only thought the board had been too hasty in removing him, and that having broken his head in the first instance, the new appointment was given him by way of a plaister.
§ The House having resolved itself into a committee, sir John Osborne moved, "That 64,899l. 18s. 6d. be granted for defraying the salaries and contingent expenses of the Navy office, for the year 1822."
§ Mr. Hume
said, that in 1792 the expense of this department was only 11,788l. There were then seven commissioners of the navy; now there were eight. The reduction in this vote, as compared with what it was in the last war, was only 10,000l. He thought it might be much reduced. Surely it was too much that, in 1822, this department should cost 64,000l., when in 1792 it was not 12,000l. Even in 1796 the estimate for the Navy-office was only 45,000l. In this department a reduction might fairly be made to the extent of 20,000l. He hoped ministers were not prepared to say that this was the final peace establishment of the navy.
§ Mr. Croker
said, that the hon. member would find, on inspection, that no less than three commissioners of the Navy at the board, and two at the ports, had been reduced since last year. The reports on naval revision had recommended that the business of the various departments should be divided between three separate committees, and those three committees now consisted of only two members each. If any one of them could at a future time, be properly merged in either of the others, he pledged himself that it should be done. It was true, that the saving by the reduction of clerks was in a degree counterbalanced by the superannuation allowances; but it was not denied that those allowances ought to be given, and they had been calculated, not according to the provisions of an existing act, but of a prospective bill that was about to be introduced into parliament. This was a proof of the economical spirit with which the arrangement had been concluded. Last year there were in the Admiralty-office, Pay-office, Navy-office and 1194 Victualling-office, 317 clerks; at present, there were only 263 clerks. It was not easy to calculate the expences of them, as their salaries depended much on length of service; but, supposing that the average was ten years, the charge last year was 108,000l., and this year only 74,000l. The whole saving did not come home to the public, because a modicum was given to those dismissed as superannuation allowances; but if by accident vacancies occurred, those vacancies would be supplied from the individuals to whom those allowances were given. The elevation of persons from the lower to the higher offices by routine had formerly created some difficulty and much expense; in this respect a beneficial change had been effected. In the article of clerks he was persuaded that there was little hope for further reduction.
Sir B. Martin
was persuaded, that less than two members could not get through the business before each committee, and contended that the whole reduction in the navy estimates was 989,000l. as compared with last year. He hoped that this would be borne in mind while the other side was quibbling about trifles.
denied that any of his hon. friends had been guilty of quibbling. But for the exertions of the hon. member for Aberdeen, and a few others, one tenth of the savings now proposed would not have been made.
§ Mr. Hume
said, that in 1792 the offices connected with the navy cost only 58,000l. and last year exceeded 185,000l. The reduction this year was 33,000l., so that the charge upon the public was still 152,000l. The Victualling-office, in 1792, cost 36,000l., and the present estimate was no less than 96,000l. Comparing the whole charge for the navy, it was last year 2,484,000l., and this year 2,453,000l. so that the actual reduction in what he might call the live establishment was only 31,000l., under the head of "ship building," 400,000l. had been saved in one item: under the head of "improvements in the dock yards," the reduction was from 424,000l. to 154,000l., but for neither of these diminutions was any credit due to government. He highly approved of the mode of filling up vacancies from superannuated officers, and he hoped ministers would be as good as their word. If they were, he would give them full credit for the whole practical result—more credit than for any thing else they 1195 had done with regard to the navy estimates. He did not concur in the excellence of the new scheme of promotion. It would not be governed by merit in the individual, but by parliamentary and private influence. He thought promotion by seniority preferable, and referred to the artillery, engineers, and marines, where the advance of officers was so regulated, and where the best officers were to be found.
§ Mr. Croker
said, the salary of the office which he now held, had been 800l., and the fees 5,000l. It had been supposed worth 12,000l. in 1792. The salary had been definite, but the fees enormous. Now, the fees were more equitably distributed among all the classes in the office. The hon. member for Aberdeen had stated, that there had been no adequate reduction iń the clerks of the Admiralty, since 1793. But what was the fact? In 1813, the number of clerks was 55; in 1811, 52; in 1815, 43; in 1816, 29; in 1817, 29; in 1819, 28; in 1820, 27; in 1821, 26; in 1822, 24. The fact was, that the clerks had been, since 1813, reduced from 550 to 262. The resolution was agreed to. On the resolution, "That 34,817l. 10s. be granted for the expence of the Victualling Office,"
§ Sir G. Cockburn
said, that the accounts had never been minutely inspected, while one clerk checked the accounts of another. The arrangement was now newmodelled, and it had been found necessary to charge the commissioners with a more minute inspection of the accounts; and therefore, the reduction which had been contemplated, had not taken place. After a short conversation, the committee divided; for the amendment 30. Against it 66. The original resolution was then agreed to.
|List of the Minority.
|Blake, sir F.
|Hutchinson, hon. C. H.
|Bennet, hon. G.
|Legh-Keck, G. A.
|Crespigny, sir W. De
|Monck, J. B.
|Griffith, J. W.
|Gurney, R. H.
|Rice, T. S.
|Robinson, sir G.
§ On the resolution, "That 25,269l. 6s. 2d. be granted for the salaries of the officers and contingent expences of Deptford yard, for the year 1822,"
called for an explanation of the difference which appeared between the sums voted for the navy in the years 1817, 1818, 1819, and the sums actually expended. In those years, the sum actually expended, had, taking all the items, exceeded the sum voted, by more than a million sterling. He did not mean from that to infer, that there had been any thing improper in the management, but it was a proof of the confused state in which the accounts were kept. Another thing was, the expence of superintending the naval dock-yard and arsenals. If the number of clerks was reduced, he could not see why the number of those overseers might not be reduced also. Of these overseers there was a numerous class, called sub-measurers, who received 180l. a year, for taking charge of companies of about 25 artificers each; and, as if this superintendance was not enough, the work done by the artificers had again to be measured by measurers. Now, he could see no use for these two classes of persons, who were just, in fact, one set of clerks paid for being a check upon another. While this establishment of overseers had been kept up, both in numbers and in salaries, the number of artificers had not only been diminished, but their wages had been reduced from 2l. 5s. to 1l. 2s. 6d. The men complained not only of this, but that they were not paid according to any fixed rate, some of them being occupied in pulling to pieces old useless timbers, by which they earned only about 15s. a week. Another division, with which there was room for finding fault, was, the scale of superannuations. Was it just, that a civil officer who had a salary of 200l. a year, should retire with full three-fourths of that salary, while the artificers, who were at least as useful, worked far harder, and earned only about 60l. a year, should have no more allowance than 20l.? Was it fair that they who had salaries out of which they might be expected to save something, should retire upon three-fourths of their salaries, while 1197 they who could barely live upon their incomes were allowed only one-third? There was one other matter to which he wished to call the attention of the committee, and that was, the putting of circular sterns to the ships—an operation which occasioned considerable expence, while it diminished the capacity of the ship for carrying guns. The circular stern, he understood, cost four times as much as the square stern, while there were differences of opinion as to which was the best. There was one other case which required explanation: a clerk, who had a salary of 250l. at Chatham dockyard, had been brought up to the Navy-office, and employed on the accounts at 10s. per day. He had been so three years ago, and he had not yet returned to Chatham, although he had been in the receipt of his salary there all the while. There could not be a more striking instance of inconsiderate expenditure.
§ Sir G. Cockburn
would assure the hon. member, that the points to which he had called the attention of the committee, had already come under the notice of the commissioners; and one of the chief objects of their last survey had been, how they were to reduce the overseers. That principle had been recognized, and would be acted on without delay. With regard to the circular sterns, they had been decided on, in consequence of their superior strength. The first vessel that had been so fitted, had been sent round Cape Horn, where she had been found to resist the sea much better than the square sterned vessels.
Sir B. Martin
said, that with respect to the clerk who had been taken from the dock-yard to assist in the Navy Pay-office, there was not a more active or meritorious officer in the service. He was, however, to be returned to the dockyard. He had not heard any of the complaints on the part of the artisans, to which the hon. member had alluded. On the contrary, he had had letters of thanks from the men, for the manner in which they had been treated; for, though they did not now earn as much as formerly, yet they were all kept up; and if the reduction were carried on with respect to them, not fewer than 24,000 men, would be exposed to starvation. As to the difference in the estimates, he was not now prepared with those accounts to explain them, but he was satisfied they could be satisfactorily explained.
§ Mr. Hume
said, that in many departments of the dock-yards, the saving had been really nothing. The charge in the present year was 202,000l.; last year it had been 210,000l.: while in 1792, the whole charge had been but 25,000l. A master carpenter, who in 1792 had been paid 200l. a year, now received 650l. The pay of the master shipwrights had risen in an equal degree. A storekeeper, standing in 1792 at 200l. a year, now took 600l. One clerk after thirty years' service in Portsmouth yard had retired upon an allowance of 300l. a year. Why, a post-captain did not get so much. A master artisan retired upon 190l. a year. A lieutenant in the navy took less. A clerk of the check at Chatham had been superannuated upon 450l. a year; another from Portsmouth upon a like allowance; and a blacksmith from Deptford at 195l. Such allowances were excessive, and ought to be reformed.
§ Sir G. Clerk
said, that the subject would certainly come within the scope of the chancellor of the exchequer's bill. The board of Admiralty was prepared to act up fully to the recommendations of the committee of finance, and to place the whole of the dock-yards upon a more economical, and, he trusted, not a less efficient footing.
§ On the resolution, "That 9,540l. 18s. 5d. be granted for the salaries and contingent expenses of the out-ports for 1822,"
§ Sir G. Cockburn
said, that he was not, in fact, an officer of the navy, but a store keeper, who got the title of a naval officer from his employment. He was useful in Harwich for supplying with stores the cruizers for the north sea.
§ Sir J. Yorke
believed there was more in this appointment than met the eye. With Sheerness so near, there was no necessity for the delivery of stores at Harwich. Perhaps the appointment could be explained better by the fact that Harwich had the honor of returning; as one of its representatives, a chancellor of the exchequer.
§ Mr. Hume
said, he understood this officer was one of the corporation of Harwich. He agreed that there was a strong suspicion of parliamentary influence being 1199 connected with this situation. Deal, from whence the officer had been taken, sent no member to parliament. He was determined to propose a reduction from this vote. There were two officers at Leith. There was a chaplain at Pembreke, with 400l. a year; and there was a transport establishment at Cowes, which cost 368l. a year, independent of that at Portsmouth. One of these establishments he, thought quite sufficient. He should propose the reduction of the establishment at Harwich, of the officers at Leith, of the establishment at Cowes; and, he should propose a reduction of the chaplain's salary. The total of the reductions was 1,568l., and he moved an amendment, reducing the vote by this sum.
§ After a short conversation, the original resolution was agreed to, without a division. On the resolution, "That 964,000l. be granted for half-pay to naval officers,"
§ Mr. Hume
complained of the number of promotions which had taken place since the peace. At the close of the war, 1,000 midshipmen had been promoted, as it was understood, for war services, and promotion had gone on increasing ever since. Since the year 1816, upwards of 428 midshipmen, and 130 lieutenants had been promoted, and the promotion of post captains, rear admirals and vice admirals, had gone on in proportion. The total of promotions since the peace, was 797. He objected also to the principle of the promotions which took place at the late coronation. He was prepared to show, that commanders had been promoted who were low down upon the list, in preference to others higher up. This was quite unnecessary, and under the circumstances, too, of what could only be regarded as a pageant. It was impossible that talking about the present distresses of the country could produce any relief, while expenses were so needlessly increased. He knew that in these promotions there was a parliamentary influence exerted on both sides of the House, and he hoped ministers would resist it altogether. He then contrasted the number of officers on half-pay at the close of the war and. at present, and stated that the number had been increased for the sake of the patronage.
§ Sir G. Cockburn
vindicated the principle on which the promotions were conducted, and stated that at the coronation, the commanders who were employed, were 1200 selected without any regard to family influence, but solely on the ground of length of service.
§ Mr. Ellice
asked, whether the country was reduced to such a state of distress that a young man, on his return home after 15 or 16 years of arduous service abroad, was to be told it had no longer the power to remunerate him? He had heard with great pain several of his hon. friend's motions that evening. To the reductions which his hon. friend had proposed in the civil expenditure, he did not object; but he could not support the retrenchments which he wished to make in this department. The navy was already reduced much lower than sound policy warranted.
contended, that his hon. friend had not objected to a system of fair promotion, but to a system of excessive promotion that was founded on n principle of favoritism.
§ The resolution was agreed to. The chairman then reported progress and asked leave to sit again.