HC Deb 28 March 1831 vol 3 cc1122-8
Mr. S. Rice

moved, that a sum, not exceeding 80,000l. should be granted to his Majesty, to defray the Civil Contingencies for 1831.

Mr. Hume

allowed the vote was considerably diminished, but he hoped and trusted it would be yet made much less. He considered several of the items extravagant and objectionable. Under the head of diplomatic journeys he found 490l. charged for a journey made by Lord Burghersh. Now, he knew of no journey the noble Lord had made, excepting that to England and back to Italy. He wished accordingly to move for an account to know what that journey was. He likewise objected to a charge of 1,373l. made by Mr. Vaughan, our Ambassador in America—a sum nearly equal to the whole allowance of the American Ambassadors. He also saw an extremely objectionable charge of 1,500l. made for installing the King of Wirtemberg, the Duke of Saxe Weimar, and Sir Edward Codrington, Knights of certain Orders. Now, he would be glad to know why the Commons of England should be called on to pay for the installation of these noble Persons? He would therefore move to know to whom this money was paid, and for what? The next item to which he objected, was 1,200l. for the contingent expenses of Lottery Offices, which had ceased to exist for four years. The next item to which he took exception was 3,600l. to Mr. Babbage, for his counting machine, two giants having been already made to that gentleman. He also disap- proved of 500l. for a mail-boat to the Bahamas: this charge ought, in his opinion, to have been brought under the head of Post-office expenses, or expenses for the Colonial Department. He saw there was 346l. paid to make out the Commission for the Ecclesiastical Courts. This appeared to him a gross abuse. Was the charge for fees, or writing? Why such a sum. should be expended for such a purpose he could not see. The Great Seal was put to the Commission, but the Chancellor was paid 7,000l. a year for that amongst other duties, and he saw no reason why the country should be asked to pay over again in fees of this kind. He should also move for an account of this expenditure. He likewise found that 575l. was charged for making out the appointment of a Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of India. He thought they should pay the expenses of the Commission. Why should they not pay the fees like Officers in the Navy and Army? He also objected to the 92l. charged to defray the expenses of the India Board Office, and to the 1,279l. paid to the Solicitor to the Commissioners for Charities; also to the 6,812l. paid to Lecesne, Escoffery, and Gonville, on account of their deportation from Jamaica. Looking to the Irish Estimates, he thought it highly unreasonable that 318l. should be paid to the Clerk of the Hanaper Office, as fines consequent upon the election of an Irish Peer to succeed Lord Head fort. A sum of 1,300l. for three Inspectors of Police, as allowance for travelling expenses for a year, was excessive. He next saw an item of 1,451l. for valuations in the city of Dublin. Surely an expense of this kind ought to be paid by local taxation, and not be thrown upon the country at large. He likewise protested against the Archbishop of Dublin receiving 276l., as Chancellor of the Order of St. Patrick, on the delivery of the Collars to the Marquises of Drogheda and Waterford. The Archbishop of Canterbury formerly stood in the same way, but he was now obliged to content himself with the honour, as he thought, on his side, the Archbishop of Dublin ought to do. He also objected to the grant of 2,010l. for pensions on his late Majesty's bounty, for 1829 and 1830; and as to the charge for clothing and standards for the three regiments of Life Guards, &c. (which he had omitted to mention before), he considered it should have appeared in the Army Estimates. He also, small us was the sum, objected to the charge of 78l. for ringers at Christ Church, St. Patrick's, and St. Wereburgh's Church, on the occasion of his late Majesty's death. Adverting to the expense of Commissions, he observed, that Commissions for various purposes had cost the country 1,200,000l. since 1800, and he doubted much whether their labours had been productive of a saving of half that sum.

Mr. Rice

observed, the particulars to which his hon. friend adverted were contained in the estimate of last year. The course pursued, however, by the late Government, was not open to objection, because the surplus which had accrued through their economy had enabled those now in office to reduce the vote. He was happy to be able to inform his hon. friend, in reply to his observations, that an arrangement was made, by which all charges under the head of diplomatic journeys, were for the future to be discontinued. In fairness be was bound to add, this was the act of the late Government. Extraordinary diplomatic expenses, too, were henceforth to be paid out of the fund for diplomatic expenses, without increasing that fund, and thus removed from the head of Civil Contingencies. In the head of outfits, also, a reduction had been made of from 9,975l. to 4,875l. by the establishment of a new scale. But the most important vote to which the hon. Member alluded was that to Lecesne and Escoffery, and he was sorry to say, that he had yet 11,000l. to move for, to complete the compensation to those persons. The papers, however, connected with the affair, would soon be in the hon. Member's possession, and he would then see that the sum was by no means too great, and that the case was one in which no Government could have acted differently from the late Administration. These persons had suffered great hardship undeservedly, by their removal under the order of the Duke of Manchester, and it was at first considered that the noble Duke should be required to pay this himself; but as he had acted on the opinion of his legal advisers, it was deemed right that he should not be so called on. This was the reason why he had to move for the sum for them. People were fond of instituting Commissions of inquiry, but they were often expensive. A sum of 800,000l. had been paid within these last ten years for such Commissions, but most of these had now come to a close. As to the vote to Mr. Babbage, it was one which the country would rejoice to pay. It was for a machine by which the most abstruse calculations could be worked with unerring certainty; mathematical, nautical, and other Tables could be constructed by it with ease and perfect accuracy; indeed, his hon. friend ought not to object to it, for it was probable that he himself would here-after be saved much trouble by it, and that some of his calculations on the Estimates might be made by mechanical means. The sum voted was for the purchase of the whole machine, which was to be applied to the public service. As to the expenses of the Life Guards, they being household troops, the expenditure could not be well brought within the regular Army Estimates. The expenses of the Solicitor for Charities were for proceedings under that Commission, and much of those expenses had been already recovered. The expense of conferring the Order of the Garter on foreign Sovereigns could not be avoided, while such orders continued in existence. With respect to the police of Ireland, some arrangement might be made by which the expense might be borne between the different counties and the country at large. As to the fees of the Clerk of the Crown and Hanaper, and other matters connected with this branch of the Estimates, the fullest account that could be procured should be laid before the House.

Mr. Warburton

spoke in terms of the highest praise of the invention of Mr. Babbage, which, he said, would, when completed, not only do all that had been promised, but much more. It would calculate all known formulae. The sum required for its completion, including the house in which it stood, would be 12,000l.; and the money thus expended would soon repay itself by the saving it would effect in the sums now paid for the construction of single Tables. The machine would be completed in three years, and would be well worthy of the sum expended on it.

Mr. Lennard

objected to the sums paid to five of the principal servants of our Ambassador in France. He did not wish to underrate the services of that noble person, but he thought that, considering the salary paid to the Ambassador, this allowance to the servants was quite unnecessary. He objected, too, to the payment made to the servants of that Ambassador on account of family mourning. He wished also to call the attention of the House to the great number of Ambassadors and Ministers maintained by this country in the petty States of the German Empire, and he must express a wish that their number might be diminished. He admitted, however, that the reductions which the present Ministry had effected were sufficiently extensive to induce him to postpone for the present a motion of which he had given notice.

Lord Palmerston

remarked, that the hon. Member, when he made the observation respectingthe salary of our Ambassador in France, was not, perhaps, aware that it had suffered a reduction of 2,000l. It had formerly been 12,000l. per annum, but his noble predecessor had reduced it 1,000l. a year, and he proposed to effect a further reduction to a similar amount. As to the number of our Ambassadors in Germany, he believed that when the time came he should be able to prove that they were by no means too numerous. Great reductions had taken place among them. In 1827, the salaries paid to these Ambassadors, and their expenses, amounted to 62,000l.; in 1828, to 64,000l.; in 1829 to 59,000l.—the average of which was 61,000l.; but in the course of the last year the sum was reduced to 40,000l. He believed he should be able to bring down the amount by a further reduction of 14,000l. He trusted, therefore, that this branch of expenditure would not be considered extravagant.

Mr. Goulburn

said, that the hon. member for Maldon ought to have given the credit of the reductions, which had induced him to postpone his motion, to the late, and n it to the present, Ministers; and all the reductions now effected had been contemplated, and indeed begun, by the late Ministry. With respect to contingencies in the diplomatic expenses, he observed, that when the late Ministry took office, they amounted to 240,000l.; but they were now reduced to 80,000l., or exactly one-third. He did not think the item could be reduced much farther.

Mr. O'Connell

objected to several items in these Estimates, which, he contended, savoured strongly of the nature of jobs; some of which were for the erection of fountains intended to supply with water the poor, who could not afford to pay water-rates. In some instances, these were erected to please individual proprietors of the neighbourhood, though at the public expense, in places where the gentry only resided. In one instance, though the Chief Justice, Lord Downes, endeavoured to open a costly fountain in Merrion-square, he was obliged to desist from attempting to secure to the poor that supply of water which they were entitled to, because it was said that, at the time of the grant, it was expressly stipulated by Lord Blaquiere, who solicited its erection on his property, that the fountain (strange to say, though, perhaps, a perfectly consistent Irish stipulation) should never furnish one drop of water, lest the poorer class resorting to it should offend the eyes of the residents in that fashionable quarter of the city of Dublin. He did not know which to reprove most, the silliness or the corruptness of all this sort of jobbing, so frequent in the different departments of the Irish Government. He must also notice, that 2,000l. was annually given to the sufferers in the Irish rebellion, at the rate of 30l. each. He considered that a very large sum, and he could not help thinking that many persons were receiving the benefit of the grant, who had never suffered at all at the time of the rebellion. It was generally believed by the people that the money was voted to keep up an establishment of spies and informers.

Mr. Stanley

said, that until within the last three years, the vacancies in the list of those pensioners had been filled up. Since then that practice had been put a stop to, and the vote was consequently in the course of diminution.

Mr. George Dawson

hoped that Government would discontinue the useless expense of Inspectors of Gaols, who had no duty to perform; and of Inspectors of Yeomanry, whose duty could be so much better performed by a Staff Officer of the regular army in each district.

Colonel Sib thorp

hoped, too, the charge of a per centage yearly to Sir Robert Chester, as a bonus on presenting presents of great value to foreign Ministers, would be discontinued, as totally absurd, and unnecessarily expensive to the country, overburthened as it now was with unavoidable charges and expenses. He thought too that the sum charged for Exchequer fees, of which he hardly knew the meaning, was excessive.

Lord Palmerston

assured the hon. Member he would never hear of these charges again; he had made arrangements for the abolition of this ancient but unreasonable custom in our diplomacy.

Vote agreed to, and the House resumed.