HC Deb 21 March 1822 vol 6 cc1228-31

The report of the committee of supply, to which the Navy Estimates were referred, was brought up. The resolutions which provided for the Dock yards being read,

Mr. Hume

observed, that he could not suffer this particular vote to pass, without exposing to the House how the country was situated in this respect. He could not see why commissioners should be maintained at Plymouth, Portsmouth, Sheerness, Chatham, Woolwich, and Deptford, at salaries of 1,200l. a year; or why clerks should be permitted to retain their war salaries, now that they were subject to no income tax, and that then class of labouring artisans was so seriously reduced. He must protest against the continuance of a system under which the total expense of providing for the above-mentioned dock-yards was 177,319l., 13s. 9d. more than it was in the year 1818, and was only 485l. 6s. 3d. less now than it was in 1818. It had never been his intention to reduce the power of our navy. What he aimed at was, the reduction of a dead and unnecessary expenditure which oppressed the country.

The resolutions were agreed to. On the resolution respecting half-pay to naval officers.

Mr. Hume

said, he conceived there was no adequate reason for keeping up a full admiral in any of our sea-ports, and understood that the expense was two-thirds greater than that attending a rear-admiral, who would be quite sufficient for all useful purposes. It appeared to him a very bad arrangement by which a flag was kept flying at Leith, whilst we had not one in the whole empire of India. The sum of 80,000l. for coast blockade was, he understood, merged in the navy estimates, but ought, in his opinion, to be kept totally distinct, as being a charge directly incidental to the collection of the revenue. He would suggest, that the estimates should be differently framed in future, and that the corps of marines should likewise be placed on a better footing, and appear under a separate head. The seven appointments of general officers of marines might be fairly termed sinecures, and he thought it one instance of the unfair system adopted towards that corps, that they should be enjoyed by individuals who belonged to another profession, and were always engaged in a different branch of service. He must complain, that the marines were the most neglected corps in the service. The officers shared in little or none of that promotion which had been so lavishly diffused throughout the army and navy. Whether this was to be ascribed to their having in general no parliamentary interest, or to some other cause, he did not pretend to determine; but the fact was incontestible. Since the year 1814, the following were all the promotions which had taken place amongst them:—Nine second lieutenants had been made first; nine first lieutenants had been made captains; eight captains had been made majors; seven majors were appointed lieutenant-colonels, and four lieutenant-colonels were promoted to be colonels. Let the House contrast this statement with the following account of the number of officers promoted in the Navy, from 1816 to 1821, both years inclusive; and the amount of half-pay paid to those officers, up to December, 1822.

Officers Promoted. Amount of Half-pay in one year. Amount of Half-pay to December, 1822.
In 1816 142 £.16,169 for 6½ years £.105,101
1817 72 9,818 for 5½years 54,001
1818 103 12,473 for 4½ years 56,132
In 1819 167 £.49,986 for 3½ years £.174,954
1820 77 8,413 for 2½ years 21,033
1821 236 46,537 for 1½ years 69,806
Total 797 in 1 year. 143,399 making, since the Peace 481,029
Here was an expense of near half a million incurred to the country. Even at the coronation, the royal bounty was not permitted to flow in the same munificent course towards the marines as in other directions. Justice required that men, who had so eminently distinguished themselves, should receive more liberal treatment. The children of a marine officer, when receiving the benefit of the compassionate list, were allowed but 10l. each, whilst those of another officer received 30l. Where, then, was the stimulus, or how could men so situated be expected to make great exertions? After the battle of Trafalgar, in which their gallantry was so conspicuous, and when a most extensive promotion followed, but one individual of the marines was selected for that honour; and only two, after the battle of Algiers!

Sir G. Cockburn

said, it was not intended to retain port-admirals as a fixed system; but since some of the present had been so employed for 30 years, and during a war of unparalleled magnitude, he was sure the House would be of opinion, that the services of our commanders ought not to be hastily forgotten. It was at Plymouth only that a flag was flying at the main; and he could assure the House that there were at that port, and at Portsmouth, nearly 200 vessels to look after. The office of port-admiral was, indeed, very far from being a sinecure. When he (sir G. C.) last came home, he was a colonel of marines; but the king had been since graciously pleased to confer upon him the rank of a major-general in that service, an honour which he valued more than it was in his power to express. He begged leave to say that he knew the marine service well: he had had the pleasure of acting and fighting with them during 20 years of war. On very many occasions they had behaved, not only with the courage, but with the discipline of the oldest regular troops; and their conduct had called down the admiration and thanks of those military men who had witnessed it. He conjured the House to reflect upon the danger which they might create by manifesting any in- vidious distinction between the two services.

The several resolutions were agreed to.