HC Deb 06 October 1841 vol 59 cc1146-51
Mr. F. T. Baring

, as he might not have another opportunity, wished now to advert to a statement, which he perceived through those channels of information to which all had access, had been made in another place, bearing upon his own conduct while he had the honour to hold that office now filled by the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge. The statement to which he alluded had been made on an authority entitled to respect, not only from himself, but from every one, and he should he glad to hear the view taken of the subject by the right hon. Gentleman. It was said, that besides the deficiency of 2,500.000l. for the present year, which he had stated to the House while the budget was under discussion, there was a large additional deficiency, of which he had neglected to take any notice. He was not in the habit of making statements, either privately or publicly, by which he was not willing to abide. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had likewise brought forward a budget, and the right hon. Gentleman had followed the statements which he had found it his duty to make, and had adopted his figures without making the slightest allusion to any deficiency beyond what he had stated. He did not like to use harsh language, but he must say, if he had deceived the public by making false statements of the sums required for the public service, he was utterly unworthy of the confidence which the House had placed in him, and of the situation which the goodness of her Majesty had confided to him. He should be glad, therefore, to learn from the right hon. Gentleman opposite whether this large deficiency existed, as they were given to understand? Fie wished also to know if the right hon. Gentleman had found that the sums, the figures of which the right hon. Gentleman had adopted from his budget, with the exception of a few minor items, left out of calculation on account of communications to be made by the Governor-general of Canada, were not fixed at the fair and proper amount necessary for the service of the year? The right hon. Gentleman was bound to have stated to the country the fact, if it were not so. He had fully entered his protest against the course which had been pursued by the Government; but had there been any such large deficiency concealed by the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Gentleman must have well known of these inaccuracies, whatever they v/ere, yet had not once alluded to any such circumstances. Now, he used no harsh language— he well knew how improper it was; he perfectly well knew also how utterly insignificant he was in comparison with the illustrious individual to whom he was referring; his only anxiety was to defend himself, and without using a single expression inconsistent with the high respect he had for the distinguished authority on which the statement he alluded to had been made. He did think he had a right to call upon the right hon. Gentleman for an explanation. He would further state this, that as to the estimates for the succeeding years (though it was well known how difficult such estimates must necessarily be), which he had stated at 50,000,000l., with the exception of one item, as to China, which it was clear had only been in the nature of a vote on account, seeing how very probable it was that circumstances might arise creating a necessity for a larger expense than was estimated— taking into consideration treaties effected by his noble Friend, which it was fair, in his opinion, to presume would afford opportunities for further reduction of expenses — he did think, upon the whole, that, so far as the calculation could have been made at the period of his quitting office, he had not been far out In estimating the permanent expenditure at 50,000,000l. He thought the House would agree with him, at all events, that he could have hardly done less than bring the statement t he had mentioned before them in the manner he had done.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, it was one of the inconveniences of adverting to statements made elsewhere that the House could never be very accurately informed of the precise words alluded to, and it was a still greater inconvenience that, as in the present case, the person of whom the explanation was asked had often no opportunity of conferring with the individual whose language was referred to. For, as he had told the right hon. Gentleman, he had not even seen the printed statement to which he had adverted, until it had been shown to him by the right hon. Gentleman that evening; and, having since been waiting in the expectation of the matter being mentioned, he had not been able to see the distinguished individual referred to. But on leading the statement he confessed that he had put upon it a different interpretation from that which had been imagined by the right hon. Gentleman. He had not understood the statement to be of a. deficiency over and above the estimate for this year, which the right hon. Gentleman had stated at 2,500,000l.; and if the right hon. Gentleman would look more closely at it, he would see that even in the reported statement the individual making it had brought it forward as a reason for not, at the present period, being impelled to a full development of financial schemes, as to the manner in which the wants of the country were hereafter to be met; because (stating reasons against such precipitation) that individual had seen, in addition to the existing deficiency of 2,500,000l., difficulties enough to grapple with. There were other great expenses connected with the colonies (that he had peculiarly noticed), which it would be necessary shortly to provide for. Now, if the right hon. Gentleman had been in the House when the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government made a reply to the noble Lord opposite on a recent occasion, he would have heard stated those very facts, connected with additional expenditure to be apprehended, to which it must be evident that the expression in the reported statement referred. The right hon. Gentleman would have heard that there was a prospect of greater expenditure in several colonies and in China, for which provision would have to be made; and the argument founded upon those statements was natural enough, that to provide for such apprehended additions to our expenditure full time for consideration ought to be allowed the Government. This was as it appeared to him (Mr. Goulburn), the real sense of the statement, not that the right hon. Gentleman had concealed any deficiency of which he was aware at the time he made his estimate, but that before anything like a permanent arrangement could be made upon financial matters, not only the existing deficiency must be supplied, but those expenses provided for which must be anticipated from various quarters of the globe. This was all the explanation he could give— the bonâ fide sense which he attached to the statement referred to — and a sense in which he did not think even the right hon. Gentleman would be able to dispute it.

Mr. Baring

said, he was quite satisfied with the explanation, which, as he understood it was, that the statement referred only to expenses anticipated— not incurred — but which were necessary to be taken into the calculations incident to a general financial arrangement. Now, although, as was well known, he differed from the right hon. Gentleman opposite as to the conclusion to be deduced, he should not have deemed it necessary, had he understood the statement in that sense, to have come up to the House (at considerableinconvenience) for the purpose of asking explanation.

Sir R. Peel

said, unfortunately there had been a discussion upon that very subject in that House when the right hon. Gentleman was not present; and although he had not had the opportunity of examining the precise terms of the reported statement, he thought it would not be doubted that his noble Friend (it was idle to affect ignorance of who was intended) had the same impression in making that statement as he (Sir R. Peel) had given expression to in the discussion of which he was speaking. In the observations which he had then made in the presence of the noble Lord lately at the head of the Colonial Department, he had not at all impeached the accuracy of the right hon. Gentleman's estimates for the present year; on the contrary, his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had adopted those estimates, and had said, that though there had been circumstances which might have accounted for any errors, yet upon the whole, he believed the calculations of the right hon. Gentleman opposite as to the probable deficit, might be assumed to be correct. When he (Sir R. Peel) had spoken on the former occasion he had reason to apprehend considerable expenses not falling within the estimate of what was lobe provided for in the present year— not at all impugning the accuracy of the right hon. Gentleman's calculations, yet considerable expenses which must be calculated in attempting an estimate for future years. He had particularly referred to the state of New South Wales, quoting a despatch (to which certainly, the right hon. Gentleman had not referred, nor had opportunity of referring) showing that engagements had been entered into by the governor entailing an expense of 900,000l., which must be borne either by the colonial or imperial Government, (and of which no estimate had hitherto been made) the probable extent of the liabilities to be foreseen by this country being accounted at not less than 500,000l. on this head. To New Zealand he had also referred and the liabilities incurred there for bills actually drawn. Then he had mentioned (though some ridicule had been cast upon it) the expense of the establishment which it appeared had been contemplated on the small island in Canton river; such were some of the expenses (amounting, as they could not but do, to considerable sums) to which he was persuaded his noble Friend in the upper House had referred, rather than to any inaccuracy on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. Now, in this sense, he must say, that he believed no doubt could be entertained of the truth of this statement, and that it must not be assumed that the expenditure of the present year was necessarily the measure of that of future years; and that the expenses connected with the colonies— as they must be provided for somehow (though he trusted they would be borne by the colonies)— should not be left out of view in calculating our future engagements.

Viscount Palmerston

said, when the statement alluded to had been pointed out to him, his impression had been certainly the same with that expressed by his right hon. Friend; however, an explanation had been made, which, coupled with the correct representation given by the right hon. Baronet of the discussion the Other night, was satisfactory. As this was the last opportunity he might have he would avail himself of it, not to renew former discussions— the Government had taken their time as to the prorogation and the postponing of all announcements of intention as to important measures; he would not attempt to revive those discussions, but he did hope the Government would feel that the questions he alluded to were of such a nature that they must be prepared to come to a decision upon them; and that it was not to be supposed that "the chapter of accidents" would lead to such a change of circumstances as to dispense with the necessity for coming to such a decision; and, above all, he begged of them, to bear in mind that no circumstances could reasonably be apprehended "which could dispense with the obligation on the part of the Government to prove and to declare to Parliament their determination on that great question— the Corn-laws, and on our whole commercial policy. He would entreat them to consider this, persuaded as he was that the public would never be contented with the proposition to Parliament of some petty change in the "pivot," or some slight alteration of the "sliding scale;" and that even supposing the existing distress to subside, the country would not be satisfied with any measure short of one which would substantially, bonâ fide, permit the introduction of foreign corn at a moderate fixed duty.

Sir R. Peel

said, he would not enter into the discussion (which the noble Lord while professing to deprecate, seemed disposed to invite) regarding the Corn-laws, or our commercial policy; as to these questions, the determination which he had frequently stated was unshaken, and it was not to be expected that on the eve of a prorogation be should deviate from his resolution of abstinence from premature disclosures. And as to what the noble Lord had kindly dropped in the way of advice, he could assure the noble Lord that the result of his experience of former Governments was, that he entertained a very deep dislike and distrust of any dependence on the "chapter of accidents."

House adjourned.