HC Deb 02 July 1832 vol 13 cc1247-57

The House resolved itself into Committee of Supply,

Mr. Kennedy

brought forward the Ordnance Estimates, in which, he was happy to announce, that considerable reductions had been effected. The reductions would be much less apparent on this occasion than they would be next year, owing to the arrears which had to be cleared off before the new system of accounts could come into full operation. But, when those arrears should have been cleared off, and the new system was in full operation, not only would there be a diminution of the number of clerks, but the business would be much more efficiently managed than hitherto. In the Irish department also, there would be an equal reduction, to one-half the clerks employed, with increased efficiency. The hon. Gentleman moved, that 77,639l. be granted for the salaries of the superior officers in the Ordnance-office, in Pall Mall, and Dublin.

Mr. Hume

, placing all but implicit confidence in the economical intentions of Ministers, and making due allowance for their being fettered in carrying those intentions into effect, by the great pressure of the important business in which they had been engaged since their accession to office—had not opposed any of the Estimates for the naval and military service which had been submitted to them, and therefore would not offer any opposition to the present. He confidently trusted, that the promised retrenchments in all branches of the public service would be effected; at all events, he relied on the energies and integrity of a reformed Parliament for insuring those retrenchments, and every other public benefit.

Colonel Davies

said, that for the public to be a gainer, the number of commissions ought to be reduced. The Estimates had gone off very quietly, but on a future occasion there must be a severe scrutiny.

Sir Henry Hardinge

had only heard the conclusion of the hon. Member's statement, and, therefore, of that only could he speak. The hon. Member spoke of an improvement in keeping the accounts. He much doubted whether any improvement had been effected. On a future occasion he should move for papers to try the question. He was not disposed to differ from the prevailing feeling in the Committee, and to go into the Estimates. He must remark, however, that the Committee was a very thin one, and presented a very different appearance to preceding ones. It had been the fashion to attack the Ordnance department, under previous Administrations, with allowing or practising abuses; now, he wished to call on the hon. Member to state to the Committee whether he had detected any abuses, and what?

Mr. Kennedy

said, that if a reduction in the expenditure was to be considered a remedying of abuses, there had been such a thing effected. He thought that there had been more clerks than necessary. He also considered that the alteration in the mode of keeping the accounts was an improvement; for a much less number of clerks would be necessary under the new system than was under the old. In the Irish department there had been a reduction of one-half in point of expense. He knew not whether the answer would be satisfactory to the hon. and gallant Member, but he had endeavoured to answer his question.

Sir Henry Hardinge

said, that if a diminution of expenditure was a proof of a remedying of abuse, then indeed the hon. Member might be correct. But the expense of the army was much greater now than before the present Administration, and there had, therefore, been an augmentation of abuse under the present Government. With respect to the boasted reduction in Ireland, the fact was, that he himself (Sir H. Hardinge) had, while in office, laid the plans for the reduction effected by the present Government. Then the hon. Member spoke of arrears. What did he mean? He must tell the hon. Member, that in 1828 there was no arrear. When the late Administration left office there was no arrear. If the hon. Member called that arrear which was created by a change of system, then there might be arrears.

Mr. Kennedy

said, that the arrears were occasioned by a change of system. He contended that the new system was a highly improved one.

Sir Henry Hardinge

denied, upon the statement of the hon. Member, that the present Board was entitled to any credit. As to the mode of keeping the accounts, that mode had been recommended by the Finance Committee.

Lord Althorp

said, that if the reduction of expenditure in the Ordnance department was less than was expected, it arose from the circumstance that the army itself had been increased, and that the Board of Ordnance had always been held up as the most perfectly-managed department in the Government.

Mr. Hume

thought, that the system of keeping accounts in the Ordnance department was, even now, much more complicated than it need be.

Mr. Hunt

Hoped, that in the next Parliament they would not be content, as late Governments had been, with striking off a few miserable clerks, and calling it reduction, but would effect reduction in the highly-paid Colonels of regiments and Staff Officers, many of whom were most needlessly kept up.

Resolution agreed to.

The following votes also agreed to:—

The sum of 9,199l. for the Ordnance Department at Woolwich:

The sum of 15,139l. for the Civil Establishment of the Officers of the Ordnance on station at home.

On the question that a sum of 27,375l. be granted for the salaries of the Civil Establishment of the Officers of Ordnance in Ireland and abroad,

Mr. Hume

asked, whether there were not some reductions to be effected in these establishments? He had understood that there was a promise to that effect. As to the establishment at Enfield, he was informed that they were engaged in making knives and forks. He did not think that that was a part of the duty of a branch of the Ordnance establishment.

Sir Henry Hardinge

said, that the hon. member for London, with true Aldermanic taste, had given the hint for this question about knives and forks. He begged to say, that the Enfield establishment had been a check upon contractors, and had operated to secure considerable savings to the public.

Mr. Alderman Wood

said, it was true he had suggested the question; but, instead of being a joke, it was a fact. He understood that the establishment at Enfield was so employed. At all events, he was sure that it was employed very expensively, and very uselessly for the public. It had not been a check on contracts, for Ordnance stores could always be furnished cheaper by contract than they were furnished by these establishments.

Colonel Maberly

said, that it was not now a question whether this establishment ought to be formed, but whether, being in existence, it would or not be a loss to the public to put it down. He was of opinion, that, to put it down now, would occasion a great loss to the public, and he believed that, as it now worked, it did effect a saving for the public.

Mr. Hunt

hoped, that in the next Parliament such an argument would not be listened to. What! was an establishment to be kept up merely because it was found to be in existence?

Sir Henry Hardinge

said, that it was necessary to keep up the establishment for other reasons besides that given by the gallant Colonel opposite. The manufacturers at Birmingham would not make a rifle on military principles, unless they received special orders to do so, and then they charged higher prices than these arms could be manufactured for at Enfield. This bad been the case on more than one occasion, and he was, therefore, justified in saying, that the establishment at Enfield had been a check upon the contractors, and was a saving to the public.

Mr. Kennedy

stated, that the old materials which had accumulated at the Tower, and other public stores, and which, but for this establishment, would be utterly useless, were now worked up there, and made available for service.

Mr. Hume

believed, that the establishment cost more money than it was worth. There was another establishment, too, he wished to notice. There was a powder establishment near Hyde Park, which he thought was a nuisance, and ought to be removed. It required twelve men to attend to it, and watch it, and he thought that it was not safe after all, and ought to be removed.

Sir Henry Hardinge

observed, that the gunpowder establishments were absolutely necessary to be kept up, for the powder made by contract was not that which ought to be given either to the army or navy, to be used in action.

Resolution agreed to, as were the following Resolutions:—

37,735l. for Barrack Masters' salaries belonging to the Ordnance Department in Great Britain, Ireland, and the Colonies:

5,088l. for the salaries of the Master Gunners in Garrisons and Batteries in Great Britain and Ireland:

81,535l. for the corps of Royal Engineers, Royal Sappers and Miners, and the Establishment for the instruction of the Sappers and Miners in Great Britain, Ireland, and the Colonies:

278,264l. for the expenses of the Royal Regiments of Artillery for Great Britain, Ireland, and the Colonies:

36,105l. for the Royal Horse Artillery:

1,226l. for the Directors-general of Artillery, and for the Field Train Dépôt:

9,894l. for the Medical Establishment of the Military Department of the Ordnance in Great Britain, Ireland, &c.

800l. for Officers, Masters, &c., of the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, after deducting the sum of 3,036l. received for the instruction of the pupils:

34,029l. for the superintendence of the Ordnance Works in Great Britain, Ireland, and the Colonies.

26,654l. for the Ordnance works and repairs, for the Storekeepers and others, after certain deductions.

On this question being proposed,

Mr. Hume

said, that the Colonial Expenditure ought to be separated from the rest, in order that the House might know what the colonies cost.

Lord Althorp

was understood to admit, that it might be important to separate the accounts; but that at present it could not be done without the greatest difficulty.

Vote agreed to; as also 27,389l. for defraying the superintendence of the building and repair of Barracks in Great Britain, Ireland, and the Colonies—

On the question that 108,130l. be granted to his Majesty to defray the charge for the building and repair of Barracks in Great Britain, Ireland, and the Colonies, after deducting the sum of 41,000l. for the rents of canteens, &c.

Mr. Wason

objected to the item in this estimate for building the barracks in the Birdcage-walk, in St. James's Park. The plan was expensive, and objectionable in every respect, and he had received statements which showed that, if the barracks were built, such would be the difficulties of draining and improving the neighbourhood, that land which might be made worth between 3l. and 4l. a square foot, would be worth scarcely anything at all. The sale of the ground would give the public 500,000l., whilst by building barracks on it the public would lose 250,000l. At present, that neighbourhood was rendered unwholesome in the extreme, and dangerous to the public health, from the want of drainage. Whole streets and lanes had their foundations seven feet below the high-water mark of the river, and their cellars were sometimes fifteen feet below the level of high-water mark. Owing to this, and to the bad state of the sewers, the neighbourhood was extremely unwholesome, and the country ought to know the extremely bad situation in which they had placed the metropolitan palace of the Sovereign. If the barracks were erected in the place in which it was pro- Posed to erect them, it would be absolutely impossible to effect any improvement in the drainage of that part of Westminster under a sum of 200,000l.

Mr. Kennedy

maintained, that after the most careful inquiries having been made by the heads of departments, it had been determined, that the proposed site was the only place in which the barracks could be built. It was impossible to drain that part of Westminster without expending sums of money very much larger than the public could grant for many years, and, in the meantime the barracks would be of no disadvantage to the neighbourhood. It was proposed that the barracks should run one hundred and fifty-feet from the Birdcage-walk, and have an enclosed area before them. The site of the foundation of the barracks would be drained, and he could not see that they would interfere with the future drainage of other places in the neighbourhood.

Mr. Hunt

objected to building more barracks at all, for a reformed Parliament would never suffer any Administration to keep up so large a standing army as that which was now annually voted.

Mr. Hume

thought the building of more barracks was a very unwarrantable proceeding on the part of Ministers. There were already 183 barracks in England, and 119 in Ireland, making in all, 302. It was not surprising, therefore, that the House was every year called upon to vote such enormous sums for keeping up the barracks of the United Kingdom. An expenditure of 273,000l. was annually connected with this service, on account of extraordinary disbursements alone, whilst the ordinary estimates amounted to 37,000 odd hundred pounds. He conceived that, under the circumstances of a deficient revenue the Government ought to postpone the erection of these barracks until a future year, and he did not see what necessity there was to keep so many troops in London.

Mr. Kennedy

acknowledged, that barracks had been very much multiplied throughout the kingdom, but unfortunately many of them were placed in situations in which they could not be wanted. It was indisputable, that in London there was not a sufficient accommodation for the existing establishment of the four battalions of Foot Guards that were kept on duty in the metropolis. He had himself inspected the barracks at Knightsbridge, and he found that seven or eight of the men were pent up in small rooms, not seven feet high, yet these very inconvenient and unwholesome barracks cost the country 1,000l. a-year for rent, and 500l. a-year for repairs. The lease expired in 1836, and, though the barracks were calculated for an accommodation of 404 men, the numbers, owing to their inconvenience, were obliged to be reduced to 259. Of the 1,726 men of the Foot Guards kept in London (exclusive of the Tower), the barracks afforded accommodation for only 754 men, so that 972 were in want of barracks. The country was annually put to the expense of 1,000l. for the accommodation of men in London who could not be lodged in barracks; and it would be found that a saving of 2,150l. a-year would eventually be effected by the erection of barracks in the Birdcage-walk, as the lease of the Knightsbridge barracks would so soon expire.

Mr. Hume

by no means thought the statement of the hon. Member conclusive. It was not at all necessary to keep so many men actually in London, when there were barracks all round the metropolis. The country had been put to the shameful expense of erecting and maintaining barracks, in England alone, sufficient for the accommodation of 80,000 troops, and, although there were only 50,000 to occupy them, the House was now called upon by Ministers to erect more buildings. He thought the vote a most gratuitous waste of public money.

Lord Althorp

defended the plan proposed, and said, that the health of the soldier required it. The accommodation in London for the soldier had not been so good as the hon. Member appeared to believe, and it was well known that the loss of life was greater amongst regiments quartered in the metropolis than in others quartered elsewhere. The hon. member for Ipswich had spoken of a plan for improving that part of Westminster, and he seemed to think it might be accomplished for so small a sum as 100,000l. He had had a conversation with the hon. Gentleman, a few days back, upon the subject; since which he had employed a Surveyor to make an inquiry, who now estimated the expense at a million of money. This would be a sufficient reason for Government to pause before they engaged in an undertaking so expensive, and so little productive of public benefit.

Mr. Wason

said, that the noble Lord's estimate of 1,000,000l. was ridiculous and extravagant, and he had better name the Surveyor who had reported any thing so preposterous. He (Mr. Wason) was perfectly willing to bear all the expenses of opening a communication between Tothillstreet and Buckingham Palace, with a view to the drainage, and the speculation he calculated would put 80,000l. into his pocket. All he asked of the noble Lord was, to grant him a bill to enable the owners of property in that direction to dispose of it, and he would undertake the improvement on his own account. The hon. Member read several extracts from Reports to the Board of Health, in order to show the excessively unhealthy situation of Buckingham Palace, and of the locality of the proposed barracks. He concluded by moving an Amendment, that the vote be reduced by 10,000l.

The Committee divided on the Amendment:—Ayes 22; Noes 48; Majority 26.

List of the AYES.
Benett, John Paget, Thomas
Blamire, William Pendarvis, E. W. W
Blackney, Walter Strutt, Edward
Bodkin, John Thicknesse, Ralph
Ellis, Wynn Torrens, Col. Robert
Hoskins, Kedgwin Venables, Ald. Wm.
Hume, Joseph Vincent, Sir F. Bart.
Hunt, Henry Williams, Sir J. H. Bt.
James, William Wood, John
Lambert, James Wood, Ald. Matthew
Lefevre, Charles TELLER
Marshall, William Wason, W. Rigby

Resolution agreed to, as was also a Resolution granting 59,480l. to defray the charge of Barrack-masters' expenditure in England and Ireland.

On the question that a sum of 115,570l. be granted for the Ordnance Civil and Military contingencies,

Mr. Jephson

wished to ask, what would be the cost of the survey, and when it would be completed. He believed, that the amount would be much above 300,000l. the original estimate.

Sir Henry Hardinge

wished to know upon what data that calculation was founded? No blame could, in this instance, be attributed to the Board of Ordnance, either under the present or the late Government.

Mr. Hume

objected to the vote, because one-fifth of the survey was not completed, although a sum of several hundred thousand pounds had been al- ready expended more than the original estimate. If alterations had been made, it would be necessary to know upon what authority they were so made.

Mr. Kennedy

said, that in consequence of extending the objects of the survey, an additional expense would be incurred, but no unnecessary expense would take place, or, in fact, would be permitted. No doubt, one-fifth of the map was not completed, but much more than one-fifth of the work of survey was finished; indeed, he could say, that the one-half of it was already performed.

Mr. Hume

asked, why had any deviation from the original plan been made, and upon what authority?

Mr. Croker

said, that a Committee of this House had recommended, that the Ordnance survey should be extended to the civil boundaries of counties and town-lands. So much in answer to the question of the hon. Member (Mr. Hume). If the Irish survey were executed as the English had been, the expenditure would be wisely made. A false economy should not be resorted to on an occasion like the present, when science and useful information of an unequalled character would be afforded to the country.

Mr. Dawson

said, that with a view to justice, in every sense of the word, with a view to the county assessments, this survey had become a matter of absolute necessity. If it were desirable to improve the condition of Ireland—and few men could doubt it—he was satisfied this survey was highly desirable; nay, it was more, it was absolutely necessary in the present state of Ireland. He hoped the Government would persevere, notwithstanding the opposition of the hon. member for Middlesex.

Mr. Davies Gilbert

said, he only rose to bear his testimony to the great merits of the engineers who were employed in the survey of Ireland. Their proceedings were a credit to science and the empire.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that this survey was highly essential to the interests of every county in Ireland; indeed, a survey like the present would not only be a guard as between proprietor and proprietor, but as to county assessments in general.

Mr. Stanley

said, that the survey in Ireland was necessary; and, as such, he felt bound to support the proposed vote.

Mr. Blackney

gave the vote his cordial concurrence, although he must say, that great injury resulted to the public from the cess imposed by Grand Juries in Ireland.

Mr. Croker

said, that the charge was one upon the empire at large, for the benefit of the people of Ireland. And he could take it upon himself to say, that as far as the science of the survey went, no mistake could take place upon the part of the officers, although it might take place upon the boundaries, which could often be only ascertained upon imperfect evidence.

Mr. Kennedy

said, they were now within the original estimate, and, if any further estimate were necessary, it would be laid before the House.

Vote agreed to, as were the following:—58,976l. for stores in the Office of Ordnance to the year 1832:

3,633l. for expenses in the Ordnance Office:

1,265l. for Incidental Expenses in the Office:

293,231l. for allowances of Half-pay and pensions of military corps.

28,246l. for allowances and compensations for Officers in Ordnance and Widows' Pensions.

House resumed, and the Report brought up.