HC Deb 17 February 1834 vol 21 cc424-51

On the question that the Speaker leave the Chair, to go into a Committee of Supply,

Mr. Cobbett

rose, and said, it was only last Session that they were assured particularly, and he might say solemnly, that accounts of every item should be furnished before they were called upon to grant the supplies, and yet they had hardly time to look at the estimates before they were called upon for their votes. The present estimates occupied forty-five folio pages, and contained upwards of 1,100 items; and he therefore considered that it was the bounden duty of every Member to look at every one of them before he voted the money. The right hon. Baronet (Sir James Graham) called upon the Members of the House to vote about 4,000,000l., and yet, perhaps, not a tenth part of them had read the contents of the estimates by which they were to vote it, and perhaps not three-fourths of the Members had been able to open them, and look at what they contained. Unless he had in this instance done something on the Sabbath, he could not have read through all the items, and he should think himself guilty of a great crime if he voted away the money of the people, without proper time to look at all of them. There was another reason why he objected to the estimates being brought forward at this period; it was well known that a motion was to be made for the repeal of the Malt-tax, and he trusted that the landowners would show, that they understood their own interest, by insisting upon the repeal of that tax; but how could the House call upon Ministers to take off the Malt-tax, if they voted establishments which could not be supported without the produce of that tax? The old-fashioned mode of doing business was to consider the grievances of the country before voting the supplies; now, however, the practice was reversed,—the supplies were granted first, and the grievances of the people talked of afterwards. The first great grievance of the country was the Malt-tax, the next grievance was the Hop-duty, and the third the Soap-tax. These taxes altogether amounted to about 6,000,000l. or 7,000,000l.; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer told them that he had a surplus of only 1,800,000l. The noble Lord said, that he could not spare the taxes, and it was the duty of the House to tell the right hon. Baronet, that they could not spare the money which he wanted for the estimates. What could such an enormous naval establishment be required for? Not for war, certainly, because we had the word "peace" everlastingly on our lips.

Sir James Graham

said, that, from the manner in which the hon. Member had treated the question, he hardly knew whether he was serious or not. He would appeal to any Member of the House of more experience than the hon. Member, whether he ever recollected the estimates laid upon the Table within so short a period after the commencement of the Session. Last year he had gone very extensively into an explanation of the Navy estimates, and the estimates of the present year did not differ from those of the last year, except that they had been simplified. The first vote related to the number of men proposed to be maintained for the navy, and the hon. member for Oldham must have come to a conclusion upon that point. It was impossible to introduce the Mutiny Act until the number of men for the army and navy had been voted; under those circumstances, therefore, he hoped that the hon. Member would make no objection to the Speaker leaving the Chair.

The House went into a Committee of Supply.

Sir James Graham

, in moving the Navy Estimates, said, he might, perhaps, be permitted to congratulate the House on the prospect afforded by the financial year upon which the country was about to enter. The hon. Member (Mr. Cobbett) had adverted to the supposed indifference of Ministers to the voice of the people on the subject of taxation; but he (Sir J. Graham) would venture to direct the attention of the House to what had been already done in the way of reduction, and not only to the point how extensive that reduction had been, but how effectual. On a former occasion he had brought under the notice of the House the condition of the country, as regarded finance, when the present Ministers came into office. At that period the annual expenditure of the country had been brought, by a just economy, and by the great and honest efforts of the Executive Government, to fifty millions. Of those fifty millions, at least thirty-five millions consisted of items over which the Executive Government had no controul. First, the interest of the National Debt amounted to twenty-five millions, and the other ten millions were made up of half-pay to the army and navy, civil list, and fixed allowances to retired civil servants. Therefore, there remained only fifteen millions to which the strenuous exertions of the Government, in the way of economy, could be applied. In the year preceding the retirement of the Duke of Wellington, the Ministers had reduced taxes to the extent of 3,200,000l., that having been rendered possible by a co-equal reduction of expenditure. Since the present Ministers had been in office, or during the last three years, the reductions made by them had been to about the same amount as those effected by the Duke of Wellington in the years 1829 and 1830, that was to say, about 3,000,000l. The annual expenditure, when they came into power was, as he had said, fifteen millions, and they had now reduced it to twelve millions. Since the year 1830, Ministers had repealed taxes to the extent of 3,200,000l., and this, added to the 3,300,000, repealed by the Duke of Wellington, made together no less than 6,500,000l., which had been mainly accomplished by a simultaneous diminution of the expenditure of the country. It would be wise, in that deliberative assembly, to reflect, that this great advantage had been the result of gradual and temperate reforms. They could only be temperate by being gradual—only effectual by being systematic; and, unless they were systematic, they could not be permanent: if not permanent, they could not possess that principle which was of vital importance—progressive decrease, while the efficiency of the public service was maintained; and without that, economic reform would be a curse rather than a blessing. The present Ministers had proceeded on that principle, and, notwithstanding the reduction of twenty per cent in the last three years, he and his colleagues had the satisfaction of informing the House, that in the estimates this year to be presented to its notice, a still further saving would be made, as his noble friend (Lord Althorp) had announced on Friday, of half a million. In these new reductions his department had borne its share, though he certainly should not pride himself on that, if they were undertaken with reckless haste, regardless of the best interests of the empire. That was not his principle; and it would be remembered, that, in 1831, an opinion had been formed by Ministers, that a certain additional outlay was necessary—first, to increase the quantity of a staple commodity, absolutely necessary to be kept in store; and secondly, to supply deficiencies in steam machines, and in furnishing steam vessels of war; and then he had not hesitated, to come down to the House to require an increase in the naval department, even upon the estimates of the Duke of Wellington's administration. The House, in its liberal confidence, did not refuse the vote which he then proposed, on the assurance that nothing but a sense of public necessity would have induced Government to adopt this course, and that hereafter they would omit no exertions to introduce all the economy into the department, which they conscientiously believed consistent with the naval power and greatness of the empire. He now called upon the Committee to acknowledge that the pledge had been redeemed—the promise fulfilled; for, since 1831, the reductions, in the Navy Estimates alone, had been no less than one million. In addition to that saving, he had, on the present occasion, the honour of proposing an Estimate containing reductions to the amount of 180,000l., as compared to the Estimates of last year. The reductions on the various Estimates, on an outlay of six millions, would be found, in three years, not less than 1,200,000l. The items to which economy had been applied were principally in the labour employed in the naval dockyards. The expensive and complicated system of task-work had been abolished, and payment of daily wages had been substituted. The number of labourers, shipwrights, and others, had been decreased to 6,000—the numbers fixed by the predecessors of the present Ministers as a fit complement for a peace establishment. In making these changes, he had proceeded gradually, because to proceed gradually was to proceed safely and he had been able to make an extended step towards a degree of reduction that, till now, would not have been deemed prudent. The wages in the dock-yards had therefore been lowered to 90,000l., out of an expediture of about 400,000l., making a reduction of very nearly 25 per cent. Another saving had been made in the victualling department. Hitherto, in order to meet the probable or possible advance in the price of provisions, a wide margin, as it was called, of ten per cent, had been allowed; but as the cost of provisions had, of late years, been much more steady and considerably reduced, it had been determined to leave only a margin of five per cent instead of ten per cent. In this way, together with the low price of all kinds of provisions, particularly corn, 42,000l. would be saved. The House would hear of another saving with satisfaction; and here he was bound, in justice, to say, that it had been effected by following up a principle laid down by the predecessors of the present Government—he alluded to the reduction of half pay. It had been laid down as a rule by the Admiralty before he was in office, that only one promotion should be made for every three vacancies; and a strict adherence to this plan had produced a saving on half-pay, since the present Administration took office, of 65,000l. a year, and, of that, between 24,000l. and 25,000l. would be saved in the present year. Other small items raised, the total diminution to 181,000l. in addition to the large reductions in former years, which made a total saving, since 1831, of 1,200,000l. He would then proceed to the point more immediately under consideration. The subject of the first vote he should propose, was the number of men for the service of the present year. First, he would observe, that though he had suggested a diminution of 500 men, he had made an addition of 1,000 boys. He had done so advisedly, and in consequence of the suggestions and discussions of last Session, when the attention of the Admiralty was called to the fact, that it was of great importance to induce boys to go to sea for the first time in the King's service. Boys so entering acquired a decided attachment to that service; and it was one of the means of supplying the navy with men without having recourse to forcible impressment. The men would be 17,500, and boys 1,000; but the cost for wages would not be more than for 18,000 men, though the expense of rations would be as for 18,500, for the same provisions were allowed to a boy as a man. On the question as to the number of men, he felt he was addressing a deliberative assembly, upon which motives of prudence would not fail to operate. This he would say, that the confidence hitherto reposed in Ministers, and the naval force placed at their disposal, had enabled them to contribute to the maintenance of the peace of Europe. The present position of the country, with relation to other powers, it was thought, did not justify any diminution in the present year, and he hoped the House would not compel Ministers to discuss the reasons which induced them to propose so large a number of men. With every desire to economise, they were satisfied that a smaller amount of force would not be consistent with the interests of the country, or with the station it held as the first naval power of the world. If he might be allowed to add anything, it would be to entreat the House cordially and at once to vote the number of men required. Unanimity on such a subject would add greatly to the moral effect of the vote, and would be equivalent to a considerable addition of numerical strength. The right hon. Baronet concluded by moving—" That 27,500 men be employed for the sea service for the year 1831, including 9,000 marines and 1,000 boys."

Mr. Hume

said, that, with respect to the appeal which had been made by the right hon. Baronet, if he would look back, he would find that no Minister ever asked for a vote of money, that he did not make the same sort of appeal. He, however, would ask whether such an appeal could be valid, when it was insinuated, that the Minister proposing an estimate was not to be called upon for his reasons in detail? Why was not this necessary to be done? If the matter were to be decided by the Committee of the whole House, were no reasons to be given by the right hon. Baronet for the manner in which he had framed his estimates? Just because the right hon. Baronet said, he thought it right, or that he and his colleagues thought it right, was the House to have no reasons given for the course which had been taken? If so, where was the use of the deliberative assembly of which the right hon. Baronet had spoken? He was not exactly in a position to state objections which he took; but he would state, as the right hon. Gentleman, in the commencement of his address, had touched upon the general expenditure of the country, that he should have been happy to have met him. But he would observe, that he thought, before the House came to any decision upon a single point connected with these estimates, they ought to consider what was the situation and the weight of taxation of the country now, and to compare the present period with that of former years. When the right hon. Baronet praised the administration of the Duke of Wellington, and, indeed, all preceding administrations, he seemed to forget that, from the years 1817 to 1822, the number of seamen and marines employed was under 20,000 In the year 1817, they amounted to 19,000, and, between that period and 1822, they were 20,830 Now he, and he believed the House generally, felt most grateful to those who had effected reductions, and he had always said that the former Ministers were more honest and more to be depended on than the House itself then were; but was it, therefore, to be inferred that the country was now placed at the disposal of the right hon. Baronet and his colleagues? Now, he begged to enter his dissent against the course pursued by the right hon. Baronet, because they were a deliberative body; and it was surely nothing to tell them what had been the highest expense incurred in the preceding years? The right hon. Baronet had not given them a single reason for what he proposed, but, in effect, said to them, that they must bow to the opinions of himself and his colleagues. He had assigned no reason why they were to have 7,000 men more this year than during the first six or seven years after the peace, when Lord Castlereagh—who certainly was not an economical Minister—proposed the establishment of 1817, and proposed it only as one which would be temporary, but one which was necessary as respected the then existing state of Europe. But what was our situation, that, instead of 17,000 it should be increased to 22,000, and now to 27,500 men? What were the circumstances of Europe to justify this, whilst the people were to be taxed for keeping up an increase of men with all their attendant expense? No reason was given. On a former occasion, when 1,000 men extra was asked for, we had a war in India. Then, again, they had a call for men for the West Indies—then for South America. At that time, the elements of revolution were abroad, and it behoved us, as the general Quixote, to keep up a large force. But even at that period, the Minister of the day condescended to say why so large an establishment should be kept up. The right hon. Baronet had not given any reason why we should not go back to the establishment of 1792. The hon. Baronet, the gallant Admiral now commanding in the West Indies, Sir George Cockburn, had stated, that the Government ought to go back to the estimates of 1792, and that the establishments in the West Indies might be reduced. Then, with regard to the dock-yard arrangements, they were even now much beyond the wants of the nation. The tonnage of the navy now amounted to 325,000 tons; and he thought it doubtful whether, when built, so many ships could be required under the present system of naval warfare. If they were wanted, they might be built in six years. Instead of what the right hon. Baronet might have done, he was entitled to ask why he kept 5,000 or 6,000 men more than were required at the time of the peace? How were the Government to reduce taxation if these establishments were maintained on their present scale? But when he said thus much, he was quite prepared to say, that the navy should be a strong establishment, though he felt it might be reduced to 20,000 men, the number kept up under a Tory Government, when the hon. Gentlemen opposite, then sitting on his (the Opposition) side, argued for larger reductions. Now, surely, when the number of men were increased to 5,000 or 6,000 men above the mark, the Government were bound to explain why such a large establishment was to be continued. He begged to enter his most decided protest against the extravagant estimates, which had that evening been laid before the House. He had no wish to deprive Ministers of that credit which he admitted to be justly due to them, for the reductions they had made; but he must repeat the expression of his dissent from the doctrine laid down by the right hon. Baronet, when he said, that the present estimates had been prepared with every possible regard for economy. Ministers had done great injustice to many meritorious men in the service by the improper promotions they had made. The number of Captains made since 1816 was 324, of whom only 150 had seen actual service. This was a breach of faith with the old officers—with those who shared in the fatigues, and encountered the perils of the service. It was also a breach of faith with the public; for every promotion since the peace was imposing an additional burthen on the country, and was a violation of the pledge which had been given of economy. He cared not whether the parties were Whigs or Tories; both seemed served alike. The right hon. Baronet (Sir James Graham) took care of his Tory friends, as the Tories in their time had done of the Whigs. In this respect, there was no difference between them. Out of 5,000 officers in the navy, there were no fewer than 4,000 on half-pay. If any man would take the trouble to look at the list of promotions since the peace, aye, or since the right hon. Baronet had been called to preside over the Naval Department, he would see how many aristocratic names were there, and how few of those who had been promoted from a regard to real merit alone. The right hon. Baronet had taken credit to himself and the Government, to which they were not entitled. They made a merit of not having created the present immense naval establishment: if it were too great, why had they not reduced it? With regard to the promotions in the service, was it not humiliating to see so many deserving and meritorious men passed by, while aristocratic youngsters were pushed forward to promotion? This had given great offence to many meritorious men, who had been long in the service. Why did not the present Government improve on their predecessors in office, in regard to promotion, especially when they were so much in the habit, when in Opposition, of complaining of the manner in which the Tories had distributed their patronage. He wished he saw any disposition on the part of Ministers to carry on the Government with that regard to economy, which they had professed out of office. The noble Lord, (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had said, on a former occasion, that Ministers wished to carry on the Government of the country without patronage. He would ask the House whether or not they had hitherto done so? They had not. They had carried on the Government as much as ever by means of patron- age, notwithstanding the declaration of the noble Lord that it was to be carried on without.

Lord Althorp

I never said so.

Mr. Hume

It was curious, certainly, if not only he (Mr. Hume), but all the country, were mistaken in supposing that the noble Lord had made such a declaration.* He understood the noble Lord distinctly to declare, that the Government should be carried on without patronage. The Ministers had not fulfilled their promises of economy. He would ask the right hon. Baronet why, when the country was suffering so much from the pressure of taxation, there should be 27,000 men in the navy, when the number was only from 19,000 to 22,000, from the year 1817 to that of 1822? He conceived that the present Estimates were substantially the same as last year. Any alterations which had occurred, were to be accounted for from the changes which necessarily took place in the service. The question was not, what were the Estimates last year, but what was requisite for the service of the country? He would ask the right hon. Baronet to state a single reason why one additional man should be given to the navy now? When the charge for the navy was increased in time of war, the cause was an increase in the price of provisions. Prices had fallen very greatly since the peace, and the charges of the navy ought to be proportionably reduced. He saw no reason why the Naval Estimates should not be brought down to those which served from 1817 to 1823, which were six of the most perilous years in the history of this country. He would move, that the navy should be reduced to the extent of 2,000 men, so as to make it equal to what it was in 1823. They would even then be 5,000 above the number in 1817, a year in which the elements of contention were to be found everywhere—when both hemispheres were in complete turmoil. Although he conceived the marines were the most neglected of any portion of the navy, yet he thought the present number was not necessary, and they might be reduced, at least, 2,000 men. He should conclude by moving, that, instead of 27,500 seamen, as at * The passage the hon. Member was understood to allude to is this, "Thank God! the time at which this country could be governed by patronge is past."—See Hansard, third series, vol. 1, p. 1071. present, the number for the ensuing year should be 25,000, thereby making a reduction of 2,500.

Sir James Graham

hoped the Committee would concur with him in thinking, that he should not discharge his duty, if he did not make some reply to the speech of the hon. member for Middlesex. The hon. Member was certainly a hard taskmaster. Notwithstanding the reduction of 3,300,000l. since 1830, it would appear that not one of the reductions had met with his intentional approbation. In one thing the hon. Member had paid the Government a compliment, though, probably, it was meant as a censure; he had said that Ministers applied their patronage without any distinction of party. The hon. Gentleman having thus acquitted him of prostituting the influence of which the office he held gave him command, he should proceed to notice the charge which had been brought against him of undue partiality towards the aristocracy. In his opinion, and he was sure the House would agree with him in the sentiment, the true interests of the navy would be best promoted by an amalgamation of all classes; and that, of course, made the question of leaning towards one class or the other, a question of proportion and degree, and he had no difficulty in affirming, that the course of his official conduct would show, that, in adjusting that proportion, he had been governed by those rules which were universally acknowledged as the safe guides for persons filling his situation, and that he had never departed from them, unless in a single instance, the justification of which he could readily bring forward, whenever his doing so might be necessary. The hon. member for Middlesex had said, that a great portion of the present navy might be dispensed with, for that 300,000 tons of shipping, he would undertake to say, might be built in six years; but what would the hon. Member say, when a quantity of shipping to that amount might be required in six days? The naval ascendancy of England might be ruined before one-half of the quantity could be brought into existence. What was the plan of the hon. Member opposite? He would allow all the ships which they had to go to decay, for no better reason than that they might at six years' notice revive their then defunct navy: that was one part of his plan. What was the other? Why, he would stop all promotion. On the subject of promotion, perhaps the House would do him the favour to recollect that the average ages of the first 100 Captains was above 60 years. In a service where the remuneration was so utterly inadequate, he did hope that the House would see the reasonableness of giving the officers the only recompense for which they could hope—namely, promotion. Besides that, he professed him self not very well able to understand how the efficiency of the navy was to be maintained, if the command of it, in the hour of danger, was to be intrusted to men of broken constitutions and shattered nerves. Though thus defending the system of promotion, on which the service had hitherto been conducted, he should still maintain that every possible plan of economy had been carried into full operation; and, in proof of that, he would call the attention of the House to the fact, that, in 1830, the number of Post-Captains was 853, and between that and 1834, they were reduced to 783, the difference being 70. A similar reduction from 915 to 867 had taken place amongst the Commanders, leaving a difference of 48: and the Lieutenants had been reduced from 3,583 to 3,160; the difference was 423. And what was the saving which the great sacrifices the hon. Gentleman proposed would effect?—merely 6,500l. on a sum of 800,000l. He must be allowed to say, that, neither in that nor in any other branch of the public expenditure, had the present Government laid themselves open to any charge of lavish expenditure, and, in proof of that, he referred to those items given in his opening statement, in which, since their accession to office, they had effected savings.

Mr. George F. Young

regretted, that the hon. member for Middlesex had thought it necessary to raise his voice in opposition to the vote under consideration, especially after the very justifiable appeal made by the hon. Baronet in its favour. The hon. Gentleman, however, had altogether failed in offering any good reason why the vote should be refused; and he, although at all times anxious to effect just and proper reductions in the public expenditure, was determined not to treat great political questions, involving the honour and independence of Great Britain, in a spirit of misplaced niggardly economy. It was his intention, to give his vote to the Motion of the right hon. Baronet.

Mr. Cutlar Fergusson

thought the hon. member for Middlesex, when he proposed a decrease in the naval force of Great Britain, ought to feel quite confident, that the political state of Europe was so permanently settled that there was no reason to apprehend any occasion on which that force might be called into requisition. If such was the opinion of the hon. Member, he (Mr. Cutlar Fergusson) altogether differed from him. If ever there was a time when the navy of the country ought to be kept in an effective condition, that time, in his opinion, was the present. He would readily give his support to the vote then called for; and he would have been ready to vote for a larger force, but for an assurance given by Ministers, that whenever it might be necessary—and it might be so soon—to support the honour and character of the country, as well as the independence of Europe, even by an appeal to its naval force, that they would be ready to send it forth in all its might. When that time came, his concurrence to such a measure should not be wanting. So far from thinking the force of the navy ought just then to be diminished, he saw fair grounds for increasing it; though he would not name the quarter where a large increase of our ships might be necessary to maintain the national honour. On the Army Estimates, reduction might be practicable, but certainly it was not so in those of the navy. Before concluding, he could not avoid expressing his disappointment, that no proposal had been made for rewarding the highly meritorious services of an individual who, by his intrepidity and zeal, had so well entitled himself to the approbation of his country men—he meant Captain Ross. If for no other reasons than the sufferings he had endured, he was entitled to some reward; but when it appeared, as it would shortly appear, by the production of his papers, that he had rendered considerable service by his discoveries, he thought the English nation would be acting very inconsistently with that character for liberality they had so justly acquired, if they did not make him some return for the perils he had encountered.—It was his intention, however, on an early day, to move that a grant of a sum of money be made to Captain Ross as a reward for the meritorious services he had rendered to his country, and he sincerely hoped, on that occasion, to meet with the support of the House.

Captain Yorke

would be most happy to second the Motion just announced, as he quite agreed that the important services rendered by Captain Ross entitled him to some mark of public approbation. It was his pleasant duty, on the present occasion, to compliment the right hon. Baronet upon the Estimate he had brought forward. It was one of the very best statements which had appeared for a considerable length of time, and he had no hesitation in according it his entire support. The right hon. Baronet seemed anxious to keep up the efficiency of the navy to the best of his ability, and at the same time to save, or rather to shave—wherever he could, and he certainly had succeeded in accomplishing both objects. It appeared the expenditure was to be diminished by a sum of 180,000l., of which 91,000l. was to proceed from the reduction of the number of artificers in the dockyards. This saving he could not approve, as it would, at one blow, deprive a large number of deserving individuals of all means of support. There was a vote he perceived among the Estimates, for enlarging the arsenals at Woolwich, to enable the Government to build vessels in that dockyard on a larger scale than any of those at present in use. He did not object to the experiment being made; but he wished to warn the right hon. Baronet against trying the experiment on too extensive a scale, for he was confident that ships of the proposed size could never be rendered available in a line of battle. In tacking and wearing, they would be found very difficult of management, and in those respects, infinitely inferior to the line-of-battle ships at present in use. To frigates of a larger class he did not object, but he was confident the large line-of-battle ships would prove totally useless. There was, he perceived, to be a reduction in the expenses of transporting troops. Now, he wished to know if the right hon. Baronet expected to effect that reduction by transporting troops in the winter, instead of the summer months. If so, he begged to say, that there would be no economy, and considerable inconvenience, in the alteration. Transports certainly could be hired at a cheaper rate in the winter than in the summer months, but then there was the chance of their being detained considerably longer on the voyage during the winter months. It was only the other day an instance of the impolicy of transporting troops during the winter months occurred. The 7th regiment had been detained for two months by adverse winds, at Portsmouth, and, owing to the crowded state of the vessel, a fever had broken out, which had been attended with most fatal consequences. He, therefore, repeated there would be no economy in confining the transporting of troops to the winter months, even though the hire of ships cost less at that period of the year than during the summer. He certainly felt satisfaction at finding there was no intention to diminish the present naval force; and he must repeat, that it was his intention to give the vote before the Committee his support. He felt bound to say, that, speaking generally of the administration of the right hon. Baronet, it did him great credit. He had economised as far as was in his power, but at the same time he had not sacrificed the efficiency of the service over which he presided to any seeking after temporary popularity. The House and the country, anxious to preserve peace, might rest assured the best course that could be adopted was, to maintain an effective naval force; and if the right hon. Baronet continued his exertions to keep that force in its present condition, he would do more for the honour and independence of his country, as well as for the general peace of Europe, than the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Department would be able to effect with all his diplomacy, backed by all his protocols.

Mr. Aaron Chapman

said, it was much to the credit of his Majesty's Ministers that they kept up, in an efficient manner, that strong arm of power, by which this country had been so long protected. For this they deserved the country's thanks, and he would willingly support the Motion.

Mr. Lloyd

said, that though he was anxious to enforce economy in every branch of our expenditure, yet he thought this was not a time when they ought to lessen their naval power. The hon. member for Middlesex had told them, that they were called upon to place a blind confidence in Ministers, but, with respect to the navy, they were called upon to place only a reasonable confidence in them. Every man who did not wilfully shut his eyes, must see the necessity which existed of keeping up our naval force at a period like the present, when the cause of constitutional freedom was threatened in various parts of the world. If the hon. member for Middlesex were to press his amendment, he, for one, could not support it, as he was determined to give his support to Ministers on the present occasion.

Mr. Cobbett

observed, that much had been said, on both sides of the House, on the present occasion as to the necessity of supporting an efficient navy; not, to be sure, for the purposes of war, but for the purposes of peace. He agreed with those who supported this proposition, because he thought the best way of preserving peace was by showing that we were at all times ready to go to war. Therefore he agreed with those who wished to maintain an efficient naval force, and he regretted, that the hon. member for Middlesex should have voted against it. But that was not the ground upon which he (Mr. Cobbett) wished to go. The hon. member for Middlesex was sometimes right—they were all sometimes right. For himself, he thought, that the navy did not consist of one man too many; that there were too many marines he would by-and-by endeavour to show. But it was not the number of the navy, but the cost of the navy, that was objected to. Let him state, and he trusted that hon. Members would attend to the fact, that, in 1782, we had 100,000 sailors and marines. We were then at war with France, Spain, and Holland; that war was carried on in different quarters of the world; and yet our naval expenditure, at that period, did not exceed the estimate proposed for the present year more than by a sum of 1,900,000l. But it had been said, that promises had been given last year that the Navy Estimates were to be laid before the House early in the present Session, and the right hon. Baronet challenged the House whether they had ever been produced at an earlier period than the present. No, to be sure not; he (Mr. Cobbett) believed they had never been produced earlier; but that was not what was complained of. The complaint was, that they had used to be produced so short a time before they were called upon to discuss them. The noble Lord opposite, as well as the hon. Baronet and his friends near him, had, however, promised that sufficient time should be given this year for that purpose. This, then, was his ground of complaint. There were some cheers—not so many, however, neither would they go off so lightly as on former occasions—when the right hon. Baronet mentioned the amount of reduction in the navy to be 180,000l. Now, of this sum, 40,000l. it appeared, was a God-send—it was saved because it had pleased God to send cheap corn and cheap provisions; and surely they were not to thank the right hon. Baronet, or those about him, for what had fallen from the skies. Then there was 91,000l. saved by a reduction of artificers and others, so that here they had at once 130,000l. out of 180,000l.—one portion given by Providence, and the other at the expense of the poor artificers. Let them for a moment contrast this with what had been received by the rich in one year. They received more than 800,000l. of the public money. If hon. Members would look into the book, and a useful little book it was, they would find that the half-pay to officers and marines amounted to 847,360l. Now, the whole sum paid to artificers was 300,000l. and some odd hundred pounds; yet, while from the 1800,000l. belonging to the officers, only 24,000l. was taken—while the rich body were treated with such tenderness, let the House mark the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman tossed the poor artificers out of his way,—a class of persons too, be it remembered, who had little or no chance of procuring bread elsewhere. Mind, he did not hold that the men should be retained if the public service did not require them; but he wished to point out, that from the 300 and some odd thousand pounds, the right hon. Baronet felt no scruple in cutting off 91,000l. while, out of the half-pay of officers and marines, amounting to 847,360l., he could scarcely find it in his heart to deduct the sum of 24,498l. He found no fault with the present strength of the navy, or the proposed number of men, neither would he object to its being now in as efficient a state as it was during the last peace. For the last ten or twelve years this Government had taken every insult from other Powers, without once crying out, "fight," or "war." He had no objection to an efficient navy; it was, on the contrary, that which he had always supported; but yet he should like to know why the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) now asked for more than four millions of money, while, during the last peace the navy estimate was little more than half that sum? He should also like to know upon what principle it was, that the first hundred Captains on the list were to be selected for service rather than the last hundred, who were younger, and one would, therefore, suppose more efficient for the service? Why any new promotions while so many efficient and active officers were placed upon half-pay? He believed that the Government was willing to reduce expenditure, but they could not do so unless the House were at their back; and, holding this opinion, he implored the House to save the Government from their persecutors. He recollected very well when the right hon. Baronet brought forward a motion relative to the incomes paid to sinecure Privy Councillors, and the over-paid Consuls of this country to foreign States—he well recollected when the right hon. Baronet contrasted the extravagance of our then Government with the economy of the American Government—he well recollected that that motion was made in a radical, if not in a Jacobinical sort of way; and what would be now desirable to know was, whether the right hon. Baronet was then sincere. Did the right hon. Baronet seek a good practical object in his motion, or did he introduce it from factious—nay, almost seditious motives? The right hon. Baronet was now pleased to disparage what he called the niggardly economy of the hon. member for Middlesex; but, in all that he heard fall from the right hon. Baronet, there was nothing to justify his calling for a vote of above four millions of money, except his bale assertion.

Sir James Graham

said, that as he was so personally alluded to, he felt it necessary to make a few, and only a few, observations. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down applied a test to his (Sir J. Graham's) sincerity in bringing forward the Motion alluded to when he sat at the other side of the House; and he would readily abide by that test. He then said, that the Consuls were overpaid, inasmuch as the charge for their services to the public was 90,000l. a-year.; but did that evil remain unredressed? [Mr. Hume: Yes.] The hon. Member must be mistaken, inasmuch as the Consular expenditure happened to be now reduced to 60,000l., instead of 90,000l. As to that part of his motion which related to sinecures and pensions to Privy Councillors, the object of his then attack was the pluralism of such sinecures and pensions; and he had also pointed out no less than five Cabinet Ministers who received salaries from sinecure offices, while they also held effective offices and corresponding salaries. And now he would just put it to the House, what was the first effective step which he had taken, in unison with his colleagues, to do away with such unmerited pensions and sinecures? The subject was referred to a Committee of this House, and the salaries of Cabinet Ministers had been reduced at least twenty per cent. Thus far, at least, he could say, that he had realised on the Ministerial side of the House the very same principles which he had advocated when sitting on the Opposition benches. He would add, that the practice of holding sinecure offices with a seat in the Cabinet did not at present prevail. [Several voices "Lord Auckland."] His noble Friend certainly held three offices—but how stood the fact? Why, that his noble friend discharged the efficient duties of these three offices, and was only in the receipt of one salary. With respect to the complaint of maintaining the proposed number of seamen, he could only say that the number was considerably greater when Sir George Cockburn brought forward the Navy Estimates in the time of the last Administration. That gallant officer was high authority upon such a subject; and yet it was matter of congratulation to the present Government that they were enabled to reduce that number without impairing the efficiency of the service. He denied, that any neglect had been shown to the poor or inferior officers in the navy, or even to the artificers in the dock-yards, for, although the number of persons formerly employed in them had been reduced, yet 10,000l. a-year was distributed amongst them upon a principle analogous to that upon which the half-pay was distributed to retired officers. In fact this arrangement was a contract made by the House of Commons to a meritorious class of individuals; and he hoped the House of Commons would never shrink from its full performance. Where unnecessary labourers were employed, it became the duty of Ministers to reduce their number, however unpleasant it might be to their private feelings.

Mr. Hume

said, he never would refuse a proper reward to a worthy man; and, in saying this, he was quite surprised that such a man as Captain Ross had not as yet received any remuneration for his arduous and highly valuable services. He (Mr. Hume) had never been an advocate for what was called "niggardly" or two-penny halfpenny economy, although such a charge had often been brought against him However, he was hardened to such charges; and, like men accustomed to being flogged, did not so much regard the punishment as others. His object always was, to prevent bad government by a reduction of the expenditure of the country. He would beg to remind the House, that this vote embraced more than they were acquainted with—it embraced Generals and Colonels of Marines, without specifically stating the names of all officers of all classes connected with the naval branch of the public service. This confusion was improper; and it would appear the more so if Gentlemen would look at the clear and perspicuous manner in which the Army Estimates were laid before the House for the present year. If all the estimates were as clear and as intelligible, much of the time of the House would be spared in their discussion. He did not see any necessity for 9,000 marines, although it might be true that the estimate brought forward by Sir G. Cockburn was higher than that of the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham.) In the estimate of Sir G. Cockburn was included 2,700 men for the coast blockade, which would now come under a different estimate, and, therefore, the right hon. Baronet should not take so much credit to himself for his proposed reduction. Why, he would ask, with such a list of Captains and Lieutenants, able and willing to discharge their duty efficiently, should any new officers have been appointed? This was an important subject upon which the House ought to be furnished with the most accurate explanation. Why include barrack expenses in this estimate? Indeed when he found the Government receiving the support of the Tories, he must, of necessity, begin to suspect they were guilty of extravagance. He would not oppose any measure the object of which was to strengthen the navy, and in so doing, he thought he was best upholding the sound policy of England. He wished the navy, properly so called, to be effective—to be able to compete with any other Power of Europe—aye, and to be paramount to it also; but he did not think that 9,000 marines were necessary to that object. He believed we had 184 sail afloat, but no more than 4,500 marines could be effectively employed on board them—the other 4,500 being employed to do the duty of soldiers at home. We should have no more men now than in 1795—for as to talk of keeping a greater number to check Russia, he thought that Russia was nothing but a bug-bear. He called upon every Member who valued the efficiency of the navy, with a due regard to economy, to vote with him, while, at the same time, he would allow every Gentleman to vote as he pleased. He had never asked any Member to vote with him, or to second any Motion which he had made—he had always taken his own way—believing that he was right.

Mr. Labouchere

said, he was friendly to all judicious economy; but, under the name of economy, many fallacies could be detected. The number of marines now called for, was necessary for the public service, inasmuch as they formed a nucleus round which (if the necessity pressed) we could easily augment our navy. Marines were not to be made or had in a day, as sailors were, in a period of necessity; and he hoped the House would not consent to the amendment of the hon. member for Middlesex.

Mr. Sinclair

was glad to find, that his hon. friend, the member for Middlesex, did not consider acquiescence in all his opinions to be an essential ingredient in parliamentary independence, and did not wish to act towards Members the Jack Cade part of being viceroy over their votes. He (Mr. S.) had never courted Ministerial favour by supporting Government when he thought them wrong; nor would he earn a spurious popularity by opposing them when he deemed them in the right. He should cordially support the original proposition. The present, as had been justly observed, was a question not of servile, but of reasonable confidence. It could not be expected, that every individual Member could be prepared, of his own knowledge, to determine what was the proper number of sailors or marines which the public exigencies required; but he was disposed, on this subject, to attach more weight to the sentiments of his right hon. friend, who had access to every source of information, than to the suggestions of his hon. friend behind him. He was happy to vote for keeping both these valuable corps in their actual state of efficiency. The present state of Europe rendered it indispensable for this country to maintain a commanding attitude, and to show that we were equally ready to extend protection or aid to an ally, and to resist that spirit of aggrandisement which was continually, manifested in certain quarters.

Sir Edward Codrington

deemed it materially essential to maintain a large marine force. The finest regiments in the empire would be found of little or no use if suddenly called into the marine service. Indeed it was always necessary to maintain a greater number of marines than might appear to be required. He was not opposed to economy, but it should be economy in a just degree, and judiciously exercised. They might reduce as much as they could, but, at the same time, justice should be done in the dock-yard. If reduction were to take place, it should run fairly through the entire Pension-list, and extend to the navy only in its just and proportionate degree. Economy attempted in any other manner would be false and injudicious.

Mr. Thomas Attwood

wished to declare, looking at the recent treaty concluded between Russia and Turkey, by which the latter had become only a province of the former, and, looking to the present dubious state of affairs, that he should support the original Motion.

Mr. Gisborne

must also say, though a friend to economy, that he could not support the Amendment of the hon. member for Middlesex.

The Committee divided on the Amendment. Ayes 20; Noes 196—Majority, 176.

List of the AYES.
Blake, M. Oswald, R.
Brotherton, J. Parnell, Sir H.
Buller, C. Romilly, J.
Cobbett, W. Ruthven, Ed.
Faithful, G. Vigors, J. N.
Fielden, John Wallace, R.
Fitzsimon, Christ. Warburton, H.
Gaskell, D. Wason, R.
Jervis, J. Williams, Col.
Lister, E. TELLER.
O'Connor, F. Hume, J.

On the question, that the sum of 104,551l. should be granted to defray the charges and expenses of the Admiralty Office,

Mr. Ruthven

moved, as an Amendment, that the sum should be reduced to 102,051l. He thought the salary of the First Lord of the Admiralty might be reduced, with great advantage, from 4,500l. to 4,000l. per annum; and that, instead of having five other Lords of the Admiralty, at 1,000l. per annum each, three would be quite enough to transact the public business efficiently.

Sir James Graham

had but little objection to the proposed reduction of his own salary, but assured the hon. Member, that, under the present consolidated system, it was absolutely necessary to have Lords of the Admiralty. Each presided over his separate department, which required his daily attention; and it was not possible that a smaller number of gentlemen could perform the duties required of them.

Mr. Sanford

gave the greatest possible credit to the First Lord of the Admiralty for the judicious reductions which he had effected in the department of which he was the head; and, so far from thinking his salary ought to be reduced, he thought, if anything, it should be increased. The salary of the First Lord of the Admiralty was less by 500l. than that of any other Cabinet Minister of equal rank, whilst his duties were neither less important, nor less onerous, than those of his colleagues; and they could not forget, that those duties had been performed in a very efficient manner. With regard to the reduction of two Lords of the Admiralty, the right hon. Baronet was the best judge; and, after what had been said on that subject, he felt himself bound to negative the Amendment.

Mr. Thomas Attwood

thought the right hon. Baronet would be extremely fortunate if his salary experienced no greater reduction than 500l. By an act of the Cabinet the value of money was doubled, and, therefore, the salary should be reduced at least one-half. Aye, and it would be reduced, too, Not by the present House of Commons, for that he did not expect; but by one that was to come.

The Committee divided on the Amendment: Ayes 29; Noes 160—Majority 131.

The original Resolution was agreed to.

List of the AYES.
Attwood, T. Fielden, John
Blake, M. Fitzsimon, N.
Butler, Colonel Fitzsimon, C.
Brotherton, J. Fitzgerald, T.
Beauclerk, Major Finn, W.
Cobbett, W. Gaskell, D.
Faithfull, G. Hume, J.
Hutt, W. Parrott, J.
Jervis, J. Ruthven, E.
Lister, E. Vigors, J. N.
Nagle, Sir R. Talbot, J. H.
O'Connell, D. Wallace, R.
O'Connell, M. Walker, C. A.
O'Connell, J. TELLER.
O'Connor, F. Ruthven, E.
Oswald, R.

On the Question, that a sum not exceeding 21,720l. be granted to his Majesty for paying the Salaries of the officers of the Navy Pay Office for the year 1834–35,

Mr. Halcombe

adverted to the retirement of four clerks, on large allowances, which had taken place some time ago in the Navy Pay Office. Their places had been supplied by four young men, at the usual salary, so that a considerable additional expense had been incurred. It was a remarkable circumstance, that, at the election for Dover, and which occurred soon after, the sons of the gentlemen who had so retired were found among the most active partizans of the right hon. Gentleman opposite.

Mr. Poulett Thomson

denied that there was anything irregular in the circumstance alluded to. The clerks in question had retired, as they were entitled to do, after a long service. By the arrangements for the consolidation of offices, which had been made last year, an immediate saving had been effected for the public of 1,400l. a-year; the saving now amounted to above 2,200l. a-year. The retirement of the gentlemen in question was connected with these alterations.

Sir Thomas Freemantle

thought it strange, that new clerks should be introduced at a time when a consolidation of offices was the professed object of Government for the purposes of economy. He believed the retirement of the clerks in the right hon. Gentleman's office was by no means voluntary, although he believed the right hon. Gentleman was imposed upon by some one in his office.

Sir Robert Peel

thought it important there should be no misunderstanding on the subject of a clerk's right to superannuate after a certain period of service. The right hon. Gentleman had stated, that a clerk had an absolute right to retire. Now, he had always understood, that, after forty years, a clerk was qualified to superannuate; but there was a discretion as to admitting it on the part of the Government. If his bodily health would permit his continuing in office, he had no absolute right of retirement. The forty years' service was an indispensable qualification,—it conferred no absolute right. That was the construction of the Superannuation Act, according to his view and the admitted practice. He thought it material that there should be a proper understanding upon the subject.

Colonel Davies

said, that the construction of the Act for many years past had been, that, after a certain length of service, a clerk was entitled to demand his super-annuation. The proper construction of the Act might be as stated by the right hon. Baronet.

The Resolution was then agreed to.

On the question, that 119,168l. be granted for salaries of officers and naval establishments at home,

Mr. Cobbett

complained of the manner in which the several charges for advertisements were mixed up with other charges, so that neither the amount nor the paper to which paid, nor the person by whom paid, appeared in the account. Thus, in page 6, was the following entry:—" Fuel, stamps, repairs, travelling charges on the public service, advertisements, and other expenses, 11,000l." Now, why were not these different items separated? Why were advertisements put in with "other expenses?" That was not the way to make out accounts; nor was it the way that the Members of his Majesty's Government would permit accounts to be presented to them by their stewards. Who paid these advertisements? and did he not put anything else into the Newspapers with which he advertised? Could it have been expected that a Reformed Parliament would pass accounts made up in this manner? In page 10, another instance of this mode of lumping charges occurred. There the entry was,—" Postage and travelling charges on the public service, regulating yard clock, allowance to lecturer, advertisements, and other small expenses." At page 17, again, a charge for advertisements was mixed up with charges for pumping, carting of rubbish, and other small expenses." He complained that the right hon. Baronet had not given the House time to examine these estimates. He declared he had had but six hours, unless he had broken the Sabbath, to look into them. They had gained nothing in having them laid on the Table early in the Session, if they were obliged at once to pass these estimates. He hoped the right hon. Baronet would give them a little time. No; he preferred leaving it to the right hon. Baronet to postpone.

Sir James Graham

expressed his surprise, that the hon. Member, who was generally so accurate in his language, should have confounded an estimate with an Account. The two things were perfectly distinct. The papers on the Table were estimates of probable expenditure, not accounts of the past. If the hon. Member wished to have the particulars of any item of the last year, he would readily give it.

Mr. Cobbett

said, he should not object if they were not called upon to vote money. That money would go into the noble Lord's hands, but it would not remain there. Plenty of persons would come and take it out again.

Vote agreed to.

On the Motion, that a sum of 847,360l. be granted to defray the half-pay of officers in the Navy and the Royal Marines,

Mr. Cobbett

said, that he objected to this vote. It surpassed in amount the sum required to maintain the navy and army of the United States of America, and the expenses of the embassies of those States to the different countries of Europe. He did not wonder at the people of this country being poor when they were called upon to pay such a sum as this for such a purpose; but if the House granted this vote, all he could say was, that the House could not, with any face, call upon the Ministers for a reduction of taxation. They might talk about the propriety of reducing the Malt-tax, the House-tax, or any other tax; but, if this vote were granted, would such a demand be reasonable? He thought not; and, therefore, he should divide the House upon this vote, thinking, as he did, that a Committee of Inquiry should be appointed to investigate the matter before such a sum of money was granted.

Sir James Graham

did not see the least necessity for postponing the vote. The question was nothing more nor less than whether the House of Commons was prepared to perform a solemn contract, which had been entered into with the gallant officers who had fought the battles of the country? He should be ashamed to argue such a question; and he felt convinced, that such a proposition would not be entertained for a single moment by a House of Commons truly representing the people of England.

Mr. Cobbett

said, that the right hon. Baronet had not stated the question correctly. He (Mr. Cobbett) did not oppose allowing half-pay to officers who really deserved it; but he objected entirely to the principle upon which it was at present granted. He contended, that the charge for half-pay was most exorbitant, and was much more than the country ought to be called upon to pay. It was, therefore, the duty of the House of Commons to inquire into the subject; and if the Reformed Parliament refused to do so, he at once declared it was not worth that. [Here the hon. Member struck the Table with much vehemence.]

Mr. Hume

could not support the proposition of the hon. member for Oldham, at the same time, he agreed with him, that the charge for the half-pay was most extravagant. It appeared to him to be perfectly monstrous that the charge for half-pay, should, at the present moment, be nearly as much as it was in 1817. He believed that the number of captains on the half-pay list was 850, and of lieutenants about 3,000, which was nearly the number in the half-pay list in 1817. He had no wish to deprive any officers of their half-pay, but he complained that so many promotions should take place in the present situation of the country. The Government pledged themselves to bring forward some measure relative to superannuation allowances which would ultimately lead to considerable reduction; and he complained, that, although this promise was made three years ago, nothing had hitherto been done.

Sir James Graham

would be perfectly prepared, when the proper time arrived, to discuss the question of superannuation. He thought that the principle upon which superannuation allowances were made at present was erroneous, and he had intended to have brought forward some measure on the subject; but the pressure of other business had hitherto prevented him from doing so. That, however, was not the question the House was called upon to discuss at the present moment. The question was, whether a positive engagement should be broken or not, which had been entered into with a number of gallant officers who had served their country for a number of years.

Major Beauclerk

should not oppose the vote, although he was satisfied that the system of promotion in the navy, which had led to such a large charge for half-pay, was most objectionable.

Mr. Guest

could not support the proposition of the hon. member for Oldham, and he should be greatly astonished if it met with any supporters. He rejoiced, that there was a probability that the system of superannuation would be altered, for, as it was at present, it was really scandalous.

Mr. Cobbett

did not understand the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. The hon. Gentleman said, that he should be astonished if his suggestion received support, but, at the same time, be rejoiced that the right hon. Baronet, the First Lord of the Admiralty, intended to alter a system which he said was scandalous. He (Mr. Cobbett) proposed to alter this system at once, but the hon. Member was opposed to such a proposition. He (Mr. Cobbett) could only express his surprise that the hon. Gentleman should lend his support, for a single moment, to a system which he had himself designated as scandalous.

Mr. Guest

did not allude to the half-pay, but to the civil superannuation allowances, which amounted to 1,600,000l. He did not complain, that half-pay was given to those who had long and faithfully served the country.

The vote was agreed to, and the House resumed.

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