§ MR. WALPOLE
appealed to Colonel Boldero, who had given notice of his intention to move that the Report of the Committee on Contracts (Public Departments) should be taken into consideration, not to press that Motion in the absence of the gallant General the Secretary of State for War.
§ COLONEL BOLDERO
said, he declined to accede to the suggestion, and proceeded to say that the Committee had been saved from the necessity of pursuing the inquiry into the clothing of the army by an intimation from the Secretary for War that it had been found that the present system was not working well, and that it was about to be altered; and referring to the defalcation of Mr. Elliot, the storekeeper at Weedon, the inquiry into the state of which establishment had only been commenced within the last three weeks, the hon. and gallant Member stated that at a meeting of the Committee on Tuesday last, at which fourteen Members were present, it was unanimously resolved that the Chairman should be authorized to move for the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the state of affairs there. This 1800 Resolution was adopted in consequence of the startling disclosures which had been made to the Committee,—among other things, that the books were two years in arrear, which had led them to believe that there was something in the back-ground which ought to be inquired into.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to appoint a Royal Commission, to inquire into the system upon which the Books and Stock have been respectively kept at Weedon, as well as the general mode in which the business of the establishment of Weedon has been conducted, the result of such mode of conducting the business, and the state of the Books and Stock of Stores.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
thought the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member was rather premature. The evidence taken before the Committee was not on the table; no notice had been given of the Motion for the appointment of a Commission, and the House, therefore, was not in a condition to deal with a case of so much importance. Moreover, the Secretary for War was unavoidably absent, and it was important that he should be present when the Motion was disposed of. Under these circumstances he would suggest that the Motion should be withdrawn.
§ MR. JACKSON
said, that in the whole of his business experience he never had brought before him such a course of neglect, extravagance, and waste of public money as that which had been proved to the satisfaction of the Committee on Contracts. If any private firm had acted in that way they would speedily have been in the Gazette. The state of things at Weedon, which might be taken as a type of all the Government establishments, was most disgraceful. An important officer had recently levanted, leaving defalcations to a considerable amount, and the Committee had been told that one large contractor had lent him £5,000. It had been proved that the books were two years in arrear, and that they had not been posted for the last nine months. The Secretary for War had shown every disposition to allow the affairs of Weedon to be thoroughly investigated, and if the Government would consent, after the evidence had been placed in the hands of Members, to the appointment of a Royal Commission, the hon. and gallant Chairman of the Committee would probably not object to postpone his Motion. He stated, in conclusion, that the country had lost £200,000 per annum 1801 in consequence of the change in the mode of clothing the army, while the soldier had not been benefited in the slightest degree.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
could assure the hon. Member that the case of Weedon would receive from the Government not only an earnest but an instant attention. The present, however, was not a moment for going into that case, and he therefore moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ VISCOUNT DUNCAN
, as a member of the Committee, declared that the statements of the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Jackson) were much exaggerated, and hoped hon. Members would wait until they had perused the evidence before making up their minds.
§ SIR CHARLES NAPIER
maintained that the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme had not overstated the effect of the evidence taken before the Committee. Such extravagance and wasteful expenditure of public money he had never heard of in his life.
§ Debate adjourned till Thursday, 17th June.
§ House adjourned at a quarter after One o'clock.