HC Deb 09 March 1830 vol 23 cc12-24
Mr. Fysche Palmer

then rose;

Sir Henry Hardinge

said, he hoped the hon. Member would allow the Report of the Committee of Supply to be brought up.

Mr. Fysche Palmer

had no objection, on the understanding that he should be allowed to move afterwards.

On the question that the Report of the Committee of Supply be brought up,

Mr. Robert Gordon

said, that in bringing forward the Resolution with which he intended to conclude, he meant to convey no imputation whatever upon the great and illustrious men who had served their country, either in the Army or the Navy; all he wished was, to establish a principle, he hoped a correct principle, upon which the half-pay of military officers might in future be regulated. It had been customary to introduce into the Appropriation Act a clause regulating the half-pay and allowances of the military. Early in the reign of the late King, it was made a rule that no officer on half-pay should hold a civil office without giving up his half-pay or retired allowance. This practice was continued from the year 1761 to the year 1820, when it was, for the first time, departed from, and by a new regulation, officers on half-pay were allowed to retain their civil employments, if any they had, and their half-pay at the same time. The Finance Committee recommended a recurrence to the ancient usage, and from that time to this, the regulation he spoke of remained on the old footing. Thus the House would see that the deviation from the ancient practice was to be found in the change of 1820, and the recommendation of the Committee went to a restoration of the old practice. He thought, that when the House came to look at the facts, it would agree with him, that the same regulations ought to apply to full as to half pay, and that neither should be retained by the holder of a civil office. He did not object to a military man holding a civil office; but when he did hold a civil employment he ought not to enjoy a greater benefit than a civilian holding a similar situation. Why should he possess greater benefits than the civil servants of the state? For example, if any person holding a Parliamentary pension obtain a civil employment, the practice up to this time has been, that he make his election between the one and the other. If he accepted the one, the other immediately abated. A military officer, however, on full pay, accepting a civil situation, did not relinquish thereupon the full pay, but the holder of half-pay lost it instantly. In that there was anything but fairness. There was a remarkable case then before them, the Secretary at War enjoyed no half-pay for his military service, but his right hon. friend beside him enjoyed his full pay, though he held along with that full pay the situation of Secretary to the Colonies. The Secretary-at-War, then, and the Secretary to the Colonies, though both of them officers of distinguished merit, stood in situations altogether different. He was aware he might be told that the regiments which colonels held were their own property, and that they ought not to be deprived of those on account of any civil office which they might subsequently take. To that he had to say, that he did not propose to take away from those colonels the regiments they might hold, but merely suspend the military emoluments which they held while the civil emoluments were accruing. Here he might, in passing, observe, that the mode of paying colonels, of regiments at present in use was one of which he entirely disapproved. In the report of Mr. Abbot on the Army Estimates this practice was judiciously mentioned, and he conceived very properly condemned. It might also be objected to the view which he was taking of this question, that those who were on half and those who were on full pay, did not stand upon the same footing, and ought not to be treated alike; but he thought the rule as to civil offices ought to be precisely the same. He believed that there were some instances, even where half-pay did not stand in the way of holding civil offices; thus a Navy Lord might hold his half-pay as an Admiral, and his full pay as a General of Marines, and his situation at the Board besides. He found it utterly impossible to discover any reason why full pay should not stand exactly on the same footing as the half-pay. It might be, that he thought the present regulations somewhat too strict; but whatever might be thought of them, there could be no doubt that fair play demanded that no difference should be made between one class of retired military officers and another. He hoped he had been in nowise discourteous in his remarks, and he begged particularly to guard himself against being thought to convey the slightest offence towards any of the gallant officers in that House, or in the service. Most of all, he was desirous of guarding himself against being supposed to mean aught disrespectful to an illustrious General, who held his military and civil incomes without the one being at all allowed to interfere with the other. He should be the last in the world to endeavour to deprive those illustrious and gallant individuals of the reward of their services; they had the highest claims upon the justice and upon the liberality of their country. With respect to a great number of those now upon the half-pay list, he must be allowed to say, that nothing could be more melancholy than the condition in which they were placed. They were, for the most part, men of birth and education, who had served their country for years; some of them had lost their limbs and their health in that service, or had spent their property in endeavouring to attain that rank in the army which they had attained, and which left them now without the means of maintaining their station in society. Struggling against difficulties such as these, they still could have no just ground of complaint if the small amount of their stipend arose from the real necessities of the country; but when they saw other military men, not more deserving than themselves, in possession of civil offices and full pay, with such things before their eyes, it would be no matter of surprise that they should be discontented. Fair and equal justice ought to be granted them, and in the distribution of emoluments no difference should be made between the weak and the powerful. He hoped, too, that in meeting his Resolution, no nice distinctions would be set up between officers holding elevated rank, or subordinate rank. He then moved as an Amendment to the Motion for receiving the Report of the Committee of Supply, the following Resolution:—"That it is the opinion of this House, that, as certain regulations arc in force by which Half-pay officers of the Navy, Army, Ordnance, or Marines, are prevented from receiving the whole or part of their Half-pay during the period they may enjoy the emoluments of any Civil office, it is expedient and just that the same regulations shall extend to all Officers of the Army, Navy, Ordnance, or Marines, in the receipt of Full pay or of profit from Naval or Military allowance, or from emoluments from Naval or Military appointments."

Sir Henry Hardinge

admitted the perfect fairness of the statement made by the hon. Member who had just sat down. Nothing could be fairer or more courteous than his observations, and he congratulated the gentlemen on half-pay on their possessing so able an advocate. With respect, in the first place, to the alterations made in the year 1820, and the change by the Finance Committee, he at the time, as now, pronounced that change to be exceedingly ill-judged. It was neither economical nor politic. There were many places of small emolument, which ought, nevertheless, to be filled by respectable persons; by persons who offered a long life of integrity, and possessed a commission as a guarantee to their employers; but such men, he believed, could no where be found, unless among officers on half-pay, and they would not accept such offices unless they were allowed to retain their half-pay. As an illustration of the effect which the refusal to allow half-pay to be retained by officers accepting other appointments, he would instance the case of a captain appointed to the situation of barrack-master. The pay of a barrack-master was 7s. 6d., the half pay of a captain 7s. If a captain accepted a barrack-mastership, he lost his half-pay—the two together were but 14s. 6d. If he resigned the one for the other, he undertook heavy and laborious duties, considerable responsibility, the expense and inconvenience of a residence abroad—all for 6d. a day. Upon those grounds, and he thought them sufficient, he disapproved of the change, and he thought it productive of the most evident injustice. He thought that full pay, or retired allowances granted for military services ought to be retained, and certainly thought the same rule ought to apply to half-pay; but the House would be surprised to learn how few officers on full pay had also civil appointments. In the service there were under the rank of major-general, 5,260 officers on full pay, and of that number there were only three in the civil service whom he could discover. There was one in a colonial situation—there was a Captain Turner, as secretary to the Governor of Bermuda; but he had no staff-pay as Aide-de-camp. The third was in the 7th regiment, stationed at Botany Bay, where he held the situation of Clerk to the Council, for which he received 100l. a-year. He was perfectly ready to discuss the question, as the hon. Member had proposed to discuss it, as a matter of ancient usage; but he thought that, upon examination, it would be found that the ancient usage was rather against the hon. Member than against the views which he took of the question. Now let them take the case of colonels of regiments—they always retained the emoluments of their regiments, notwithstanding any civil situation to which they might be appointed—that had always been the practice; and he would contend that it was a practice which ought to be continued. To go back to the case of the Duke of Marl-borough, which was going back far enough—and the case of the Duke of Marl-borough was one which he trusted even the hon. Member for Montrose would acknowledge as an authority of some weight—that distinguished individual held the first regiment of Guards, the office of Master-General of the Ordnance, and of Constable of the Tower. The Duke of Wellington held the same offices, and under the same circumstances; and to that, he expected, no one would be found to enter a valid objection. As to what the hon. Member had said respecting his right hon. friend near him, and himself, he saw nothing invidious in the comparison. His own services were far inferior to those of his right hon. friend. In due time, if he lived, he might expect to attain the same rank in the army as his right hon. friend; but until they should stand upon the same footing professionally, he declared himself quite content with the advantages he then possessed. His right hon. friend had a regiment; the income of a regiment generally averaged about 1,000l. a-year. Previous to the appointment of his right hon. friend to the situation he at present held, he was Governor of Edinburgh Castle. That he resigned; and he then held the office of Governor of Fort George, which produced 470l.; so that the whole of his reward for a life of military service, was about 1,500l. a-year. To punish him by taking that away, merely because he undertook to serve the state in some other way, was anything but fair and equal justice. When General Fitzpatrick held the office of Secretary-at-War, he had long been inefficient as a military officer, He was given a regiment, and enjoyed the full pay, with all the emoluments of the office. There was another case—that of the Lieutenant Governor of the Tower, and the Surveyor General of the Ordnance, who had each 1,200l. a-year. Were either of those officers to give up their regiments they would just receive 200l. a-year for their services. What motive, then, could they have for accepting office? Let the House only look at the grounds upon which the hon. Member pressed his Motion. He said, that they dealt harshly with the half-pay officers, and he called upon them to deal as harshly with those upon full pay; for wherein lay the difference?—the officer who received full pay had earned it as well and was as justly entitled to it as the officer on half-pay. The hon. Member was inclined to propose, that when a general officer received a civil appointment, he should immediately resign his regiment; but the income of that regiment was given chiefly on account of the great responsibility which the colonel of a regiment necessarily undertook. A colonel was often bound to pay large sums to Government on account of the various persons connected with the regiment, who might happen to become defaulters. Recently he had to call upon the colonel of one regiment for a sum of l,500l.; upon the colonel of another, for 1,800l.; and upon the colonel of another, for 2,000l., though the last-mentioned sum was afterwards reduced to 1,400l. Colonels of regiments were answerable for agents for clothing, and for a variety of other matters, for which they could not be made responsible if their incomes were withdrawn or suspended. Within the present year, ten general officers had been appointed to regiments, and he had institued an inquiry into their length of service and their ages, and he had struck an average—he found that the average period of service was thirty-nine years, and their average age fifty-five years. The 130 regiments in the service afforded the only prizes in the profession to 13,000 officers on full and half pay belonging to it. Would the House be disposed to withdraw those prizes? He hoped, that with those facts before them, Members would see the necessity rather of rejecting than of adopting the Resolution of the hon. Gentleman, in case he should deem it right to press that Motion to a division, which, he hoped, would not prove the case.

Mr. C. Wood

supported the Motion, and said, that he heard nothing to invalidate his hon. friend's statements. The gallant officer had shown, that half-pay officers were harshly treated; but he had not given any reason why officers on whole pay should be suffered to have the emoluments both of civil and military employments. In his opinion, the pay of an officer ought to abate when he took a civil office.

Sir Francis Burdett

said a few words against the Motion. He was sorry that he could not agree with his hon. friend; for he was not aware of any reason why officers who had passed a long life in the service of their country, should be excluded from accepting office in the civil departments of the country; and he thought, that when they did, it would be very hard to deprive them of their military pay and emoluments. He saw no reason for depriving any class of officers of that half-pay which they had so hardly earned. As he understood the Motion, it would go to deprive some officers of their half-pay, which was quite contrary to the general principles which, he thought, ought to be acted on. He was quite aware of the necessity of encouraging the Ministers to practise that economy which was now required by the country, but he could not consent to urge that economy at the expense of individuals.

Mr. C. Fergusson

observed, that there were many situations with small salaries which could not be properly filled except by half-pay officers, and he thought it was hard to deprive them of the power of holding such offices. If the subject were likely to be taken into consideration by his Majesty's Government, he would recommend his hon. friend to withdraw his Motion.

Lord Althorp

felt all the inconvenience of Ministers beng placed in a situation of refusing to make allowances and grant superannuations to gentlemen; he felt, however, that the House was placed in a critical situation; and while he regretted the difficulty in which Government was placed, he must insist that it was the duty of the House to press economy on the Government. It was painful, perhaps, for Members to enforce economy when it affected individuals, but there was a necessity for them, being trustees for the public, not to allow their feelings to get the better of their duty to the public. The statement made by his hon. friend had not been answered, in the slightest degree, by the right hon. Gentleman. It seemed to him a partial system to deprive the lower ranks of officers of their half-pay if they accepted civil situations, and to allow the higher ranks to retain their full pay with official situations. Such a system ought not to be continued. The hon. Baronet and the hon. Member for Kircudbright seemed to think that the half-pay was to be continued at the same amount as it ever had been; and if that were the way in which they pressed economy on the Government, they might be sure that the Government would steadily attend to their recommendation. Being convinced of the necessity of doing everything possible to enforce economy, and limit the national expenditure, he should give his vote for the Motion of the hon. Member.

Mr. Huskisson

was disposed generally to concur in the views of the noble Lord; but considering all the circumstances of the case, he should feel more satisfaction if the Motion were not pressed to a division. He thought that the time was come when the whole system of superannuations, allowances, pensions, and half-pay must, from the circumstances of the country, become a subject of investigation. The House ought to go into such an inquiry, not with reference solely to half-pay or full pay, but with reference to every kind of salary, pension, and allowance. It would be wise and good policy to do so, and the Government ought to be encouraged to take the arduous task into its own hands. He admitted that the recompense of the half-pay was well earned, but the House must look at the difficulties under which the country was placed. If, according to the statement of his right hon. friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, of seventeen millions expended annually only eleven millions were applied to the efficient and active service of the country, while six millions were paid for superannuation allowances, pensions, and half-pay, and if this sum had been increasing since 1822, it was time to consider if the whole establishment could not be gradually diminished, instead of taking any partial view. He had listened with attention to his right hon. friend, the Secretary of War, but had not clearly understood that there was any other difference between continuing the full pay to officers holding other situations, and not continuing the half-pay, than that the one was usual, and the other not. As to the colonels of regiments, he did not look on their appointments as a remuneration for past services; these appointments involved, he believed, certain duties, and the colonels had no other remuneration. He wished to see the principle of the Act of Parliament extended to all classes of pensions and allowances. It would be well for the Government to take up this subject; but if it did not, and if no other hon. Member, more competent to the task than himself, did, he did not know that he should not call the attention of the House to the subject, before the close of the Session. Something like principle ought to be acted on throughout; and he thought that the principle of the bill introduced by the hon. Member for Dorsetshire, that on the acceptance of an office, double the value of any half-pay or allowance, the latter should be suspended; and on the acceptance of an office of less value, half the half-pay or allowance should be suspended—was the principle that ought to be adopted. If that were not done, and if the House did not take some opportunity of considering the whole subject, the six millions might be increased to a yet greater sum. He must say, that for this large expenditure the Government was not to blame; it had been forced on the Government. In times of ease and prosperity they all knew with what facility grants of money were made; and if they did not, when in difficulty, press for reduction and relief, it was not likely that any would be obtained. Looking at the whole question, he would beg his hon. friend to withdraw his Motion.

Mr. R. Gordon

, in reply, did not think the right hon. Gentleman had answered his objections; and he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last would move either for a Select Committee or a Committee of the whole House, to inquire into the subject. With an understanding that the subject would be taken up by his Majesty's Ministers, or by the right hon. Gentleman, he would consent to withdraw his amendment.

Mr. Secretary Peel

protested against its being understood that his Majesty's Government was pledged to a motion of which no notice had been given, and of which he did not yet know the terms. As an earnest of the intentions of his Majes- ty's Government with respect to salaries, he would remind the House, that the Session before last, his right hon. friend, (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) introduced a bill to regulate the retiring allowances of the civil servants of the Government, according to the recommendation of the Finance Committee. He did not propose to deprive any of the servants of the Government of their retired allowances, but he proposed to deduct a per centage from all salaries to form a Superannuation Fund. But how did the House meet the views of his right hon. friend? He was unable to pass the bill. He received no support. His right hon. friend had now the subject under his consideration, and would have no objection to revive the proposition of the Session before last.

Mr. Huskisson

wished the hon. Member to understand that he had not pledged himself to move for any Committee, but only that he might possibly call the attention of the House to the subject, if no Member more competent to the task than himself should take it up. He thought the whole subject required revision, but he was of opinion that some better opportunity should be found than on that occasion, to go into the matter.

Mr. Secretary Peel

informed the House that the principle of the bill formerly introduced into the House had been applied to every person subsequently accepting office, and to all new offices. A deduction had been made from their salaries to form a fund for retiring allowances.

Lord Howick

hoped his hon. friend would not withdraw his Motion, unless he received a distinct pledge from the Government that it would go into a general inquiry. He regretted that the hon. Member for Westminster, and the hon. Member for Kircudbright should encourage the Government in its extravagance. The Government was ready enough to attend to recommendations similar to those. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer had brought in the bill alluded to, he had not marshalled all his forces to pass it; and he had withdrawn it after a very feeble opposition from the hon. Gentleman, who was then on the Opposition side of the House, and was now Paymaster of the Army. Since then, the right hon. Gentleman had done nothing on the subject. He had allowed a whole Session to pass away, and had made no effort to get over his defeat. He hoped that his hon. friend would not withdraw his Motion, unless a distinct pledge were given that an inquiry should be instituted into the Dead Weight. He would call on the right hon. Gentleman to say whether or not he would grant such an inquiry? If the right hon. Gentleman would consent, he would recommend the hon. Member to withdraw his Motion; if not, he recommended him to persevere.

Mr. Maberly

defended the Government. He was sure that it was ready to go fully into any such inquiry as that recommended. It was very seldom that he rose for such a purpose; but he was bound, in justice to the Government to declare, that he believed it was ready to go immediately into the investigation. He thought that the same principle that was applied to persons receiving half-pay ought to be applied universally, and that no person ought to be allowed to hold two offices, and receive two salaries.

Mr. Secretary Peel

could not suppose that the House would be so unjust as to require that the Ministers should pledge themselves to a Motion of which no notice had been given, and of which the terms were not known. Did the noble Lord wish to deprive officers of their half-pay? On Monday next his right hon. friend was to bring forward his view of the financial state of the country. The ordinary expenditure of the country was 11,000,000l. and the Dead Weight and Pensions amounted to 6,000,000l., and was it to be supposed that his right hon. friend would allow the 6,000,000l. to escape his attention? In the absence of his right hon. friend, he could not be expected to pledge himself to any measure similar to that required by the noble Lord.

Lord Howick

only rose to guard himself against its being supposed that he wished to touch the half-pay of officers, or to deprive any person of the emoluments he then possessed; but he wanted a pledge that there should be no increase.

Sir H. Hardinge

understood the hon. Member to accuse the Government of gross partiality, in continuing the allowances of general officers while subalterns were obliged to give up their half-pay on accepting office. But the House would remember that in 1815 it was recommended that the number of general officers should be diminished; and from 378, their number then, they had been gradually reduced to 120, by which a saving had been effected of 33,000l. This betrayed no partiality to the general officers.

On the Question being put on the original Motion,

Mr. Hume

suggested, that it would be wise in the House to withhold the grant till after the Chancellor of the Exchequer had made his financial statement.

Mr. R. Gordon

had no desire to press the Motion if the right hon. Member for Liverpool would undertake the inquiry.

Mr. Huskisson

would only pledge himself to turn his attention to the subject in the course of the Session.

Lord Howick

hoped the right hon. Gentleman would do so, as no person could accomplish the matter so well.

The Amendment, by the leave of the House, withdrawn.

The Report of the Committee of Supply was brought up. Several items were agreed to without opposition. On the Question that the House agree to the Resolution of the Committee for granting 32,000l. for Exchequer Fees,

Mr. Hume

took the opportunity of ob-serving, that the quarantine establishments were at present expensive; and to express his hope that, if any vacancies occurred in them, or in any other offices of the State, that they would not be filled up.

Mr. Herries

believed, that his right hon. friend (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) did not need the suggestion of the hon. Member to attend to the subject he had alluded to. It had engaged the serious and careful consideration of his Majesty's Ministers. As to the Treasury, he could say that it had, to the utmost of its power, carried into execution the recommendation of the Finance Committee, with regard to salaries and superannuations. The noble Lord (Lord Howick) had done his right hon. friend injustice by accusing him of lukewarmness in regard to the bill he had brought into the House the Session before last. He knew that his right hon. friend had made the greatest exertions to get that bill through the House, but he had not been supported, with the exception of the hon. Member for Montrose, even by the Members of the Finance Committee.

Resolution agreed to.

On the Question that the House agree to the Resolution of the Committee to grant 60,612l. to his Majesty, to defray the expense of Volunteers,

Mr. Hume

expressed his surprise that this vote should be continued. If we were to have Volunteers they ought to be real Volunteers, who should pay for themselves. For his part, he thought the Government should have an opportunity to take the question into consideration, and time afforded them for carrying reductions into effect; and he would therefore move, as an Amendment, "that 30,306l. be granted for a period of six months; that is, until the 30th of June of the present year."

On the Question being put,

Mr. Portman

said, he would give the Motion his warmest support. He expressed a hope that on the eve of a Motion by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. Horton) for taking into consideration the causes of the present extent of suffering among the poorer classes, the House would not allow this last proposition, for a just and wise reduction of the Estimates, to be frittered away like the former ones. He agreed most fully with the hon. Member, that the Volunteers should perform voluntary service; and that in times like the present, unless they could be supported without such an enormous expense, the country would be better without their services. He would therefore implore hon. Members to consider the necessity for economy; and he was confident there was not a man in the House, meaning honestly and sincerely to relieve the burthens of the people, who could refuse his vote to the Amendment now proposed.

Sir H. Hardinge

did not mean again to trouble the House with any observations on this subject after the very protracted discussion, of more than two hours, which it had undergone on a former occasion. The Estimates, he repeated, were framed on as low a scale as they could be; and he put it to the courtesy of the hon. Member whether he would thus continue an opposition which so many majorities had already decided to be ill-founded.

The House then divided—For the original Resolution 104: For the Amendment 59:—Majority 45.

Original Resolutions agreed to.

List of the Minority.
Althorp, Lord Burrell, W.
Baring, Sir T. Burdett, Sir F.
Baring, A. Burrell, C.
Baring, F. Cave, O.
Baring, B. Carter, J.
Bentinck, Lord G. Carew, R.
Blake, Sir F. Dundas, hon. T.
Bright, H. Denison, J. E.
Ebrington, Lord Philips, Sir G.
Fazakerley, J. N. Philips, G. R.
Fane, J. Rice, T. S.
Fyler, T. B. Russell, Lord J.
Hoye, J. B. Robinson, G. R.
Jephson, C. D. O. Rumbold, C. E.
Lennard, C. B. Kickford, W.
Lamb, hon. J. Sandon, Lord
Lott, H. B. Smith, W.
Lester, B. Smith, V.
Labouchere, H. Sebright, Sir J.
Monck, J. B. Thomson, C. P.
Marjoribanks, S. Ward, J.
Macdonald, Sir J. Warburton, H.
Martin, J. White, Col.
Macqueen, T. P. Wood, C.
Nugent, Lord Wood, Alderma
O'Connell, D. Whitmore, W. W.
Parnell, Sir H. Wrottesley, Sir J.
Pendarvis, E. W. Wilbraham, G.
Ponsonby, hon. F. TELLERS.
Price, R. Hume, J.
Palmer, C. F. Portman, E. B.