HC Deb 29 July 1842 vol 65 cc855-61

On the question that 272,921l. be granted for the army, navy, and ordnance services for China and India,

Sir E. Colebrooke

inquired what part of this expense belonged to India? it seemed to him to relate only to China.

Sir H. Hardinge,

n answer to an hon., Members said, that six regiments had been sent out to India to replace the regiments that had been sent thence to China. This had been done at the request of the East- India Company, who would bear the whole of the expense. These six regiments had been replaced by other regiments raised in England since. The extra expenses which appeared in the vote were chiefly for China.

In answer to Mr. M. Philips,

Sir H. Hardinge

said, that every regiment in the service was supplied with new arms and accoutrements every twelve years; whether the East-India Company would bear the expense of the arms and accoutrements of the six regiments that had been sent out, would depend upon whether they were near the time for their receiving new arms and accoutrements or not.

Sir C. Napier

should like to see some explanation of the large promotion that had been made in the navy since the 1st of January of this year. He had by him a long list of a number of mates who had been many years in the service, and though he did not at all quarrel with the fifty-nine mates who had been made lieutenants, he did not see why some of that list had not been promoted, as they ought to have been. Some of the mates in that list had passed their examinations as long ago as 1820, others in 1827, and so on down to 1835. He should recommend that the Governs:. meat should come forward boldly and manfully and make out two lists, one of efficient and the other of inefficient officers, and rigidly abide by that arrangement.' They ought to take care when vacancies took place that they should be filled up on a rule, that one vacancy should always be given for long services, and the other to favour interest and influence. He said they should be given in this proportion, because, though of course he would much prefer that all vacancies should be given to merit, yet, in the present state of this country and under a representative Government, the First Lord of the Admiralty would always find it impossible to resist his political Friends. He did not blame the Admiralty for this; as human nature was constituted it could not be avoided at present; but he thought the plan of supplying vacancies which he had proposed would be beneficial to the service, advantageous to the navy, and good for the country. In general, he must say that hitherto the present Government had carried on things in the navy very fairly. He said this without reference to any but public considerations; the Government had nothing to give that he wanted, and he must say that he believed there was a disposition to inquire fully into the condition of the navy during the ensuing recess. He hoped and trusted, and he was almost perfectly certain, that the Government, now they had got a full exchequer, meant to set things to rights in the navy. Mr. Perceval used to say, " Give me a full exchequer and a good navy and 1 defy the world." That was his sentiment; and he hoped it would be borne in mind, for if, something was not done in the navy he believed the country would be in imminent danger in case of a war.

Sir G. Cockburn

said, the handsome terms in which the gallant commodore had spoken of the Government would render it necessary for him to say but a few words. The gallant Commodore had found fault with the promotions that had been made this year; but if he looked into the subject he would find that nobody of the younger class of officers had been promoted except for gallant deeds. Among the promotions were some officers who had been six or seven years off the coast of Africa, and who came home, the only officers that were left, the rest having all died. The Admiralty having considered that these were peculiar circumstances, and that they should be justified in promoting officers so situated. They had been anxious to make a large promotion of mates, and they laid down a line which had the effect of excluding all those who had passed only six years, and then they took those who had been most at sea. Many of the young officers who had been promoted, were those who had served in China. He could assure the hon. Gentleman that the utmost attention was paid at the Admiralty to the claims of persons, whether for length of service, or for service afloat, and he did believe that if he were required, he could give a satisfactory reason for every promotion that had taken place.

Mr. Hume

said, great as was the zeal of the hon. and gallant Officer on behalf of the navy, he, at least, showed that he was not an efficient guardian of the public purse. Out of 4,000 officers who were on the navy list, not more than 800 were really employed. He had moved for returns by which he would be able to show that in many cases mere boys had been passed over the heads of 3,000 officers of old standing, when they had not served three months over and above the six years. The great evil of our system with regard to promotion in the navy was that we allowed interest to supersede services. The navy was little more than a mere pension list for the aristocracy. He did not mean to say that there was one officer in 500 but was desirous to do his duty to his country; but there were too many of them, and the system of promotion was bad. I low many had they seen promoted who were mere boys of 10 or 12, scarcely able to walk, but who were now actually taking a lead in the service. He did enter his protest against the wholesale system of promotion recommended by the hon. and gallant Gentleman. However just such a system might be to individuals it was unjust to the public, and in that view he opposed it. Why should the Admiralty have an unlimited power of promotion? Why not limit the number of officers as in the army?

Sir C. Napier

said, there the officers were, and they must be provided for. He did not see how the country could get rid of them, unless, indeed, a little prussic acid were administered. The hon. Gentleman who had just spoken knew nothing at all of what he was talking about. If, instead of moving for all those nonsensical returns, the hon. Member would assist him to get the Government to make out a list of efficient and non-efficient officers, and to give a pledge that they would not increase the number beyond the wants of the service, he would be of much more use.

Mr. Hume:

It is very easy for the gallant officer to get up and say I know no. thing about the matter, but I think that looks much more like the answer of an ignorant man, who knows nothing at all what he is talking about. He should have thought the hon. and gallant Member had had more shot in his locker. The hon. and gallant Member talks about nonsensical returns. It is very foolish to talk in that way. He says, 1 moved for nonsensical returns—what does the hon. Member mean by that? He says, I moved for foolish returns. I know the gallant officer thinks I am a fool. I am a fool. But is not the man who supports a fool a greater fool than the fool himself? Did not the hon. and gallant Member support me in four or five divisions for the purpose of getting these very same nonsensical returns? [Sir C. Napier: Just to show you were wrong.] Then the hon. Member supported him just to show he was wrong. He could tell the hon. and gallant Member that he had not properly considered what he said when he said that. The object of those returns was to show what had been the services of officers, and he defied the hon. Member, with all his experience, to get at the actual services without such returns as he had moved for. All he would add was, that the hon. and gallant Member had undoubtedly made a very foolish speech.

Captain Plumridge

said, that the promotions which had taken place had all been richly deserved, and that the Government were entitled to the thanks of the service for what they had done. They had not acted niggardly in reference to the navy as the Whigs had done, and the course they had taken had given the utmost satisfaction throughout the service. It should be borne in mind that no officer had been promoted who had not served ten years, and this was not all, for if they had not certificates of good conduct during the whole of that period they would not have been advanced in the service. The hon. Member for Montrose had always evinced great niggardliness towards the navy, but he was quite wrong in supposing that promotion was the result of patronage. He had, with one exception, obtained all his steps by service, and if the Chiltern Hundreds were granted to him to-morrow, he had no doubt if he went to the Admiralty and asked for a ship he would get it. His observations did not apply to himself individually, but to the service generally.

Mr. M. Philips

understood it was the privilege of every admiral on a station, on resigning his command, to recommend an officer for promotion. He wished to know how many such appointments, on an average of years, were usually made?

Sir G. Cockburn

said, the only restrictions attending these recommendations were, that the officer must have served under the admiral recommending, and that his conduct whilst employed must have given satisfaction to the Admiralty. It had formerly been the practice to allow admirals to make two recommendations, one of a lieutenant to be commander, and another of a mate to be lieutenant. Now, however, the admiral was only allowed to make one nomination. With respect to the main question of the hon. Gentleman, he would at once see that the promotions upon those recommendations could not be very extensive, for we had only five admirals commanding on foreign stations, and they could be only entitled to the nomination once in every three years.

Mr. Disraeli

wished to remark, before this vote was put, that as they had already assented to several votes of money for the prosecution of the war hi China, he thought it would be well if the Government would give them some means of judging as to when they might anticipate the probable termination of that war.

Sir R. Peel

said, that of this war like many other wars, it was not easy to foresee exactly how long or how short might be its duration. All he could say was, that every effort should be made to terminate the war. Indeed, they had shown their anxiety on this point by not disregarding temporary exigencies, but by asking for supplies in the hope of bringing the war to an end.

Mr. D'Israeli

observed, that it was a fact that this war was carried on on a principle utterly erroneous, because it was a war against the government of China, and not against the people. Had they made war on the nation the dispute would have been terminated long since.

Sir R. Peel

said, the only question was if, whilst they were carrying on a war against the commerce of China, they would not be also carrying on a war against the commerce of England. It certainly seemed to him to be our best course to abstain from making such a war.

Mr. M. Philips

wished to ask in what manner it was proposed to apply the 6,000,000 of dollars received for the ransom of Canton. Were they in voting these estimates in fact applying that money, or would the Government give any explanation as to how they intended to dispose of it?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, he hand already in an early part of the Session explained the application of the money alluded to. A portion of the sum —about he believed, 680,000l.—had been applied to our service in India, and the remainder had been brought home and paid into the consolidated fund, to be made available for our services in India and China.

Vote agreed to.

On the question, that the Chairman do leave the Chair,

Mr. R. Yorke

said, he wished to put a question to the Chairman on a matter of privilege. He was informed, that in the division on the South Australia vote, the vote of an hon. Gentleman who came into the House just before the division was objected to on the ground that he was not present when the question was put. This was to him a matter of considerable personal importance, for of all the Members in the House, there were few, perhaps, more regular in their attendance than himself, whilst also there were few whose names so rarely appeared in the division list. The fact was, that he never gave a vote unless he distinctly understood the question, and he should certainly like to know what the rule was as regarded Members who were not present when the question was formerly put.

Dr. Bowring

observed, that he was very similarly situated to the Member referred to by the hon. Gentleman. He had entered the House before the strangers had left the Gallery; but yet he was prevented from voting on the ground, that he had not been present when the question was put.

Mr. Greene

said, the fact was, that he had put the question before clearing the Gallery, being under the impression, that it was not intended to divide the committee upon the vote. Had he known, that the hon. Member for Montrose intended to divide, he should certainly have cleared the Gallery in the first instance, and then time would have been given Members to re-enter the House.

House resumed.

Resolutions to be reported.