HC Deb 16 March 1832 vol 11 cc330-40
Sir Jas. Graham

said, that having very recently had occasion to state to the House an outline of the Navy Estimates, he should not then feel it necessary to detain the Committee for inure than a very short time. In the outset, however, he begged to remind the Committee, that it was to the effective portion of the service alone, he was about to apply his observations. The sum which had been voted previously for that service was 4,278,000l., which himself and his colleagues had diligently applied themselves to reduce; accordingly, in almost every item in the Estimates he was about to move there was a reduction, as compared to the Estimates of former years. Upon the whole there was a reduction of about 983,000l., as compared with the Estimates of 1831. He would not occupy the time of the Committee by going through the whole of the various items upon which a reduction had been effected, but content himself with alluding to the most important. In the number of men to be employed there was a material reduction: the number of seamen was reduced 4,000, and that of marines 7,000. The next important item was timber and materials; and the third was provisions. Those were the three leading branches of the service in which reductions had been effected; but as he had before stated, upon every item, with the exception of three, some saving was made. Upon those excepted items there was an increase, which he should be happy to explain when they came particularly before the Committee. The whole amount of the reductions was about twenty-two per cent upon the effective branches of the naval service. He, therefore, begged leave to move" that 27,000 men, including 9,000 marines, be employed for the thirteen calendar months next following March, 1832."

Sir George Clerk

said, if the items in which the alleged reductions were made were examined, it would be ascertained that the savings could only be considered at the best but temporary, and got up for effect. Of those reductions no less a sum than 562,000l. was made in the Store and Provision Departments, which must be ultimately replaced. The right hon. Baronet, too, had compared the Estimate of the present year with that for the last, and such a comparison made the reductions appear far greater than they really were, for it was well known that the Estimate of last year exhibited a considerable increase as compared with the Estimate of 1830. The total actual expenditure of 1830 had been ascertained to amount to 5,309,000l., while the Estimate for 1831 was 5,870,000l., exhibiting an increase upon 1830 of 561,000l. Then the right hon. Baronet had calculated the expenditure as for the new financial year, it would have been right and fair to calculate it for the actual year 1832, if a correct statement was to be laid before the House, of the naval Estimates. Following the old plan, he had ascertained, that during the quarter already nearly expired, there would be an expenditure of 1,423,000l., and that, added to the Estimates for the other three quarters, would give a total of 5,104,000. Therefore, the estimated expenditure for 1832 would be only lower than the actual expenditure for 1830 by 205,000l., and that difference in the naval charge was apparent rather than real, and easily to be accounted for. It was occasioned, not by reduction, but by transfer. The Coast Guard on the coasts of Kent and Sussex had been transferred from the Admiralty to the Customs, and the charge upon account of it in 1830 amounted to upwards of 200,000l. Looking at these facts, he must say, that, although he was quite ready to give the present Government credit for a sincere desire to effect retrenchment? he could not understand how the right hon. Baronet made out his asserted reductions, deducting the increase in the non-effective service of 22,000l., to be 961,000l. He was aware that many curtailments had been made in the civil establishments; but he could not, from anything before Parliament, see how the projected arrangements respecting the Victualling and Navy Boards would cause a saving of 49,000l., as had been stated by the right hon. Baronet. Certainly the right hon. Baronet read to the House a statement of the offices which were to be abolished, and which, he believed, amounted to that sum; but that statement had never been laid regularly upon the Table of the House, although a copy of it, or something very closely resembling it, had appeared, he supposed from authority, in the public prints. He repeated, that he desired to have that list regularly before the House; for he found that many offices which were abolished in 1831 were restored in the present Estimates. The Marine Pay Office was said to be abolished, but he found that the Estimates on account of it still amounted to 1,300l. Much credit had been taken for the abolition of the office of Paymaster of the Marines. True, that office had been abolished, but another was created, called Inspector General of Marines, with precisely the same salary, and held by the same gentleman. Again, in the dock-yards there was a great reduction made in 1831, but he found very many of the offices restored in the present Estimates. In as far as the documents before the House illustrated the subject, he should say that the whole of the reductions in the various departments, excepting the Stores and Victualling, would not exceed 24,000l. or 26,000l. That being the case, he hoped the right hon. Baronet would lay before the House the statement which made the reductions amount to 49,000l. With respect to the particular vote before the Committee, he would only say, he was glad that the prospect of affairs appeared to justify the Ministers in reducing the effective Navy to the extent of 5,000 men. He hoped the view taken would prove accurate. He now begged to call the attention of the Committee to the transfer of the Coast Blockade from the Admiralty to the Customs which had been effected under the auspices of the present Government; he for one regretted this change, because it took from the Admiralty a valuable corps of reserve, which had been found extremely useful on various occasions, and the revenue would not be so well protected by the new arrangements. Nor was it a saving—he meant looking at the expense per man. In 1830 there were 2,700 persons employed for the protection of the revenue by the Admiralty, and the expense was 180,000l. At present there were about 1,.500 men employed for the same purpose by the Customs, 1,200 on shore and the rest in cruisers, and the total expense was 97,148l. But the expense was not the only point to be considered. How was the revenue protected? How would the Chancellor of the Exchequer answer that question? No one could doubt there had been a great increase in smuggling. The public prints daily gave proof of that being the fact; and they also gave proofs—for instance, a statement of that day—that the Coast Guard was so inefficient as to be actually overpowered by the smugglers. From the opening of the Medway round to Chichester there was but one opinion, and that was, that smuggling had increased to a frightful extent. Indeed so numerous and daring had the smugglers become, that the property in the neighbourhood of the coast was infested and injured by them. It might be said, that the amount of seizures had not varied much, but that was no criterion of the extent of smuggling, for the same means were not now used to effect seizures which had been used in 1830. The Government, however, had furnished a strong proof of the strength and courage of the smugglers and the inadequacy of the Coast Guard employed to put them down, for it had sent a large party of Dragoons, and a body of the Rifle Brigade, to assist in that duty. It had been said, that putting down smuggling was a bad school for sailors, but surely it was even worse for soldiers. The right hon. Baronet had said, that the expense of the present Coast Guard was 97,000l., but he thought that must be erroneous. There were ninety-nine naval officers employed, and those officers were set down at 73l. each. That could not be correct. A Lieutenant in the Navy used to be allowed 73l. a-year in addition to his half-pay when employed in the coast blockade service, but since 1828 no naval officer had been allowed to receive any half-pay while he held any other situation in his Majesty's service. He considered that a Lieutenant employed in the coast blockade service could not receive less than 160l. a-year, for no officer would undertake so troublesome a duty unless he obtained some actual addition to the amount of his half-pay, so that in one item alone there must be an error of 10,000l. If that sum was not considered as part of the expense of the Coast Guard it must be looked for in the half-pay list. He bad next to complain of the returns which had been made from the Treasurer of the Navy. They were full of errors; indeed he had never before seen returns so faulty. They were signed for the right hon. C. P. Thomson, by C. Aylmer. On the union of the offices of Vice-President of the Board of Trade, and the Treasurer of the Navy in the person of the right hon. Gentleman opposite he had expressed his opinion of the impossibility of the right hon. Gentleman being able to devote a suitable portion of his time to the duties of the latter. The returns of which he now complained, and which proceeded from the department of the Treasurer of the Navy, fully justified his anticipation. The first return was respecting the naval officers on half-pay who held civil offices, and it was as inaccurate as it could be. The return contained names which had no business there at all, and omitted names which it ought to contain, and the information which it had given respecting others was inaccurate. The names of Captain Anson, Sir George Cockburn, and others who sat on that side of the House were inserted, although they had retired from office and, therefore received no civil salary, and the names of Captain Elliott, the Secretary of the Admiralty omitted, and the word "unknown" attached to the name of Sir Thomas Hardy as to his civil emoluments, although he was one of the Lords of the Admiralty. Others were in the same situation. He did not point out the errors and absurdities of the return, for the purpose of throwing blame upon the individual, but to expose the badness of the system. There ought to be a responsible Treasurer of the Navy. He solicited attention to that point, for it afforded a valuable lesson as to what might be expected from the proposed abolition of the Navy and Victualling Boards. The hon. Baronet said, he had alluded to the returns respecting the total expense incurred upon account of the coast blockade. They, however, were very inaccurate, and altogether unsatisfactory. Experience had only confirmed the opinion he had before expressed upon the transfer of the guard for the protection of the revenue from the Admiralty to the Customs. Under the new plan the cost was greater per man, and the service less efficiently performed. When they came to the detail of the other items he should offer some remarks respecting this.

Sir James Graham

said, that if the hon. Baronet would give notice of any motion, he should be ready to defend himself, but it certainly was something of a novelty in that House to hear an Opposition Member bringing a charge of too great economy against a Minister of the Crown. As to the Paymaster of the Marines, he did not deny that in his place existed an Inspector of Marines; but there was this difference between them—that the one was a military officer and the other a civil officer; and, therefore, he contended that he had a full right to take credit for having reduced one civil office in the Paymastership of the Marines. In consequence of the alteration in the Coast service, referred to by the hon. Baronet, he had been enabled to keep a large number of men on board the guard-ship. The consequence of this was, that he had been able to keep two three-deckers, and three two-deckers fully manned; and two of these ships were now in the Tagus, protecting the property of British subjects. Instead of the Navy, therefore, having been injured by the change, it had promoted the efficiency and availableness of that great branch of the national service. He had the authority of the Commissioners of the Customs for saying, that smuggling had not increased by the new arrangements as to the Coast-guard. With respect to the Return alluded to by the hon. Baronet, he could say that there was no Treasurer of the Navy who had ever done so much, or paid such severe attention to the duties of his office, as the present Treasurer of the Navy. His right hon. friend attended to these duties in person, and not by deputy; and he was sure the more his right hon. friend's conduct was examined, the more praiseworthy it would be found. Since 1829, in consequence of a regulation then made, all the officers employed on the coast service had not been able to take the usual affidavit; and had not, therefore, received their half-pay The officers appointed before that period received their half-pay.

Mr. Poulett Thomson

hoped the Committee would not, on the faith of the few trivial errors which had been shown to exist in the Returns alluded to by the hon. Baronet opposite, agree in the sweeping condemnation which that hon. Baronet had passed upon his conduct. He was ready to admit that the name of Sir George Cockburn had been inserted into these Returns by mistake; but the name and salary of Captain Elliot would be found in a subsequent page. With regard to Sir Thomas Hardy, when the Return was made out, his affidavit relating to his half-pay and civil allowances had not been received; but admitting those errors he contended that the accounts were otherwise correct.

Sir George Clerk

said, he thought the right hon. Baronet had admitted when he acknowledged that he had created a military office with the same salary as that of a civil office which he claimed to have abolished, that some subterfuge had been had recourse to in making up the pretended amount of reductions, and, he believed, there were other cases of the same nature. The master bricklayer at Woolwich was said to have been reduced, but another officer had been appointed under another name. So at Chatham, the master rigger and master painter were said to be reduced, although in fact they had virtually been replaced. He believed that the new offices created would cost 4,000l. a-year, and that sum must, therefore, be deducted from the 49,000l. which the right hon. Baronet claimed to have saved.

Sir James Graham

said, the master rigger and the master painter were really reduced, because they were no longer salaried officers. He allowed, however, that they were retained as superior workmen, but a considerable saving had thereby been effected.

Mr. Hume

concurred in the opinion expressed by the hon. Baronet, that the Return was most imperfect, and that it might be improved. There ought to be no such Returns as "unknown," for a correct account ought to be required from every person previous to the paper being laid on the Table. But he wholly objected to the principle of mixing up half-pay with civil salaries, as that practice afforded facilities for making false Returns. He had no objection to half-pay officers being employed in civil situations, but then he wished the remuneration due for the services should be paid out of one fund. He concurred in the reductions made by the right hon. Baronet, but he thought that they might have been carried a great deal further, and that it was possible to bring the charges down to the standard of 1792. The sums which had been expended since the year 1816, on the building of ships, was nearly thirty millions, and he would undertake to build the whole navy for six millions. Whilst a new species of force was growing up, he considered every farthing that was expended on the building line-of-battle ships on the old principle, as so much money thrown away. He knew it was unpleasant to discharge persons from employment, but individual interests must give way to that of the public, and that feeling must be overcome by men in office. It would be better to keep up a small establishment of well-paid and well-employed artizans, than have such a numerous body as 7,000 men in the public dockyards, who were only half employed and very ill paid. The consequence of having so many half-employed workmen was, in some instances, that ships had been torn to pieces in order to be repaired again. Then the expense of taking care of the stores was equal to the amount they cost. Again, on the subject of superannuations, the Government made much too liberal use of its power in that respect; for while he was on the Finance Committee, he recollected seeing one person examined—he alluded to Mr. Thompson, the Accountant General of the Navy, who was superannuated, but who was no more fit to be superannuated than he himself was; and he did not suppose that any body would turn him out of the House for not being an efficient man. He contended, on the whole, that, notwithstanding the reductions which the First Lord of the Admiralty had already made in these Estimates, greater reductions might still be made in them, in the instances to which he had referred, as well as in the pay-office, which he thought might be abolished altogether. He called the particular attention of the noble Lord opposite to the charge for superannuations: if something were not done to reduce it, he should be compelled to bring on the motion for a revision of the Act, of which he had already given notice.

Sir George Cockburn

said, he would first notice a remark made by the hon. Member who had just sat down, relating to the salaries of half-pay officers employed in the civil service being paid out of one fund. He had no objection to that plan, provided they were paid the full amount due for their exertions, but the public received a considerable benefit from the present arrangements, far beyond any frauds that might be occasionally committed, because the public obtained the services of such persons at a cheaper rate, in consequence of their being on the half-pay list, for it must be remembered their half-pay must be paid to them if they were wholly unemployed by the public. Now, with regard to the question before the House, he, when a member of Government, had always maintained that the Administration were the best judges of the number of men required for the defence and protection of the country; and, now that he was in the Opposition, he saw no ground to change his opinion; but there might be differences of opinion as to the description of force to be employed. In this view of the case he objected to some of the reductions proposed by the right hon. Baronet, more particularly as referred to that force with the value of which he was so well acquainted—namely, the Marines. A Marine was the snore valuable, because he was of a class which could not be created at pleasure. He had witnessed the inconvenience resulting from employing soldiers on board our ships, who for months were uselessly lying about the ship sick and unfit for service. He thought this force as capable of doing garrison duty, or colonial duty, as the army itself. The Marines should be sent to Gibraltar, Bermuda, and other Marine stations, where they would afford relief to the military, but would be ready for service in case of a war requiring the equipment of a fleet. The best way, in his opinion, to effect these economical objects would be, to reduce a proportionate number of the military, retaining the full complement of Marines, which ought never to be less than 10,000 men. With respect to another alteration that had been made, he must contend that the coast blockade was of great service in providing experienced sailors for his Majesty's ships, when it was necessary that they should be instantly manned to meet any sudden emergency. As to their value in that respect he could quote the testimony of several eminent naval officers to prove that the coast blockade men were found efficient sailors at once, and that they could hit a target better even than the men of the Marine Artillery. Nor could he believe that the naval interests of the country could be protected by five guard- ships instead of twelve. No Government could say with safety that the state of Europe was so perfectly secure or pacific that the force now to be kept on foot would be sufficient, in cases of emergency to place our Navy in that efficient state of equipment which our condition as a nation demanded.

Sir Henry Hardinge

said, that he conceived the present discussion owed its origin in a great degree to the Returns which he himself had moved for in October last, when he took an opportunity of complaining that the officers on the half-pay of the Army were not permitted to hold civil offices of emolument also—a boon which had been extended to officers of the Navy also in the receipt of half-pay. He appealed to the House whether the case of the army had not been materially altered, and he was of opinion it was an important point for the House, in the year 1832, not to legislate differently with respect to the army to the course pursued by Parliament in 1820, when the services of the army were fresh on the minds and memories of the country and of Parliament, and he hoped the same boon would be extended to the officers of the one service as was proposed for those of the other. It appeared, from the Customs and the Coastguard Returns, that since the year 1828 no less than ninety-nine naval officers had been appointed to civil situations without losing their half-pay, and yet an officer of the army could not hold the one without the surrender of the other. He would not then trespass upon the attention of the House, as it was his intention to bring the matter before Parliament on the occasion of the Army Estimates, or on the Appropriation Act.

Sir James Graham

said, that the appointments to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman had alluded, and of which he had complained, were made previous to the Order of Council, dated the 1st of January, 1829, and it should be borne in mind that the army half-pay was regulated by the Appropriation Act, while the half-pay of the Navy was regulated by Order of Council. Of course as long as those laws were in existence he was bound by them, but as the hon. Baronet had expressed his intention to bring the matter before the House, he should reserve what he had to a y until that occasion.

Sir John Hobhouse

said, that allusion having been made to the service with which he had the honour to be connected, he felt himself bound to state, that, notwithstanding his having been a long or short time in office, he never would desert the interests of the army, or those of the public—interests which he was sure would not be found to be at variance.

Sir George Murray

could never give his consent to the proposal of the hon. and gallant Admiral, for substituting Marines for the regular forces for garrison duty, as he considered nothing could be more injurious to the service. He was quite prepared to vote the force which Government demanded, on a conviction that it was necessary for the protection of the country.

Captain Yorke

objected to the very extensive reduction of the Marines recommended by the right hon. Baronet. From his own experience of their effectiveness in preserving the discipline of ships of war, he was certain they were the last class of his Majesty's forces that ought to be put on a reduced establishment. With regard to the Victualling Department he hoped whatever reductions were to be made that the utmost care would be taken to provide an ample supply of good provisions for the use of the fleet, for nothing would so quickly generate dissatisfaction among the seamen as any neglect on that head. It was stated that the present Admiralty had five line-of-battle-ships ready for service, but the former Administration had twelve, which could have been prepared at a very short notice, and he was of opinion that the efficiency of the men was better kept up by employment on the coast blockade service than by lying idle in full manned ships of war either in Portsmouth harbour or elsewhere.

Vote agreed to.

As was a vote of 851,175l. for wages for 27,000 men for the thirteen lunar months ending the 31st of March, 1833, at 2l. 7s. per man per month.

The House resumed, and Report brought up.