HC Deb 14 July 1859 vol 154 cc1220-3

said, he had given a notice on Monday night that he should move the postponement of any Vote which would have the effect of giving a Parliamentary affirmation to the contract which had been entered into on the 26th of April with regard to the transmission of mails from Dovor. By some accident the Notice which he had given did not appear upon the paper; but he wished to ask his noble Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty whether, considering that the question of the Dovor contract had already been made the subject of discussion in that House, and bearing in mind the fact that it was included in the scope of the reference to the Select Committee—which, he might observe, he could have wished had been composed of persons who would be more disposed to go independently into the matter;—remembering, moreover, that in consequence of a paragraph in the Dovor election petition, the whole question of this contract would have to be examined into upon oath—he put it to his noble Friend whether he did not think that a discussion with reference to the fulfilment of such contract would be premature. He trusted therefore that no such Vote would be proposed to-night, nor indeed at all at present. In the event of its being understood that no such Vote would be gone into, he was quite satisfied to let the matter rest for the present; but it would otherwise be his duty to enter into a full statement of what appeared to him to be the merits and demerits of that contract.


expressed a hope that the Navy Estimates might in future be introduced in a more intelligible form. In Votes 8, 9, and 10, involving an expenditure of £3,247,000, the items were lumped together in large sums which made it impossible to know how the money was really expended, and which were made ridiculous by the introduction, at intervals, of precise expenditure on such an insignificant object as a mud-punt. The country would have no objection to pay whatever amount was requisite for the maintenance of an efficient fleet—but it expected that intelligible accounts should be given of the outlay—as there was an impression abroad that the money was not properly, or at least not judiciously, applied.


in reference to the Question of the hon. Member for Richmond (Mr. Rich) begged to state on the part of the late Administration, that it was a matter of indifference whether the consideration of the Dover contract was entered into then or at a later period. His Friend the late Secretary to the Admiralty was prevented, he was sorry to say by indisposition, from attending; but the hon. Member for Tewkesbury (Mr. Lygon), in whose department this matter lay, and the late Under Secretary to the Treasury, who were both congnizant of the details of the question, were in their places, and were prepared to give the fullest explanation either to the House or, if so desired, to the Members of the Select Committee. He had no doubt they would be able to establish that this contract had been entered into purely with a regard to the advantage of the public, and in accordance with the practice which had always hitherto been observed.


said, it was the intention of the Government to move the packet Vote, and it would then be open to any hon. Gentleman to move that the whole of that Vote, or any portion of it, should be struck out. He must say he thought that would be the proper course; and he thought it would be better that the right hon. Gentleman should reserve any observations with that object till the House was in Committee. In reply to the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Henry Willoughby) he might state that Vote No. 9, which had been alluded to, referred merely to the wages of artificers abroad, as to which he did not think there would be any question. With reference to the others he would say that it was the earnest desire of the present Board of Admiralty to give every information in their power, and in particular to go very narrowly into the question of shipbuilding. He thought he had already given an earnest of his intention in that respect by laying before the House a statement of the tonnage built in each year. The hon. Baronet would see that this had enabled him to enter more largely into this expenditure than he had yet been able to do; and he should be very glad, if the present Government remained in office till next year, that something could be done to render the Estimates even more distinct than they were at present. It was the wish of the Board of Admiralty to make everything as full and intelligible as possible.


, said, he had the himself more than once pressed upon noble Lord the propriety of postponing that part of the packet Vote which related to the contract at Dovor. There had been a Committee appointed to consider the whole question of postal contracts, including that recently made at Dovor. He would not say whether there were any grounds for the rumours that were afloat, but there certainly was an idea prevalent that the contract required looking into. He would urge upon his noble Friend that the House should not be called upon, by voting money, to give a sanction to that contract before the Committee recently appointed had reported.


said, that as the contract had been signed, he thought there would be a legal claim upon the Government. However, as it seemed to be the wish of the House that this portion of the Vote should be omitted, they would offer no opposition to the postponement.


remarked, that certain words were introduced into the contract signed on the 6th of April for Dovor, as had been done also in the case of Galway, providing that the contractors should be paid out of money to be voted by Parliament; thus, in fact, rendering the contract subject to ratification by the House.


wished again to warn the House of the danger into which they were likely to fall. Upon the other side of the Atlantic there was a Congress, and also a place called a "Lobby," and all transactions concluded in the Congress were first decided in the "Lobby." If they introduced into that House the principle of canvassing every act of the Government, not merely as to their responsibility, but deciding upon the actual contracts themselves, they would soon bring in a "Lobby," here, and all the chicanery and corruption that now distinguished the "Lobby" of Congress. Even upon the present occasion he was told that the objections to the particular contracts were by persons who expected to derive a benefit if those contracts were broken; that there were hon. Gentlemen in that House who were directors of the company which was calling upon the House to dispute those contracts.


explained, in reference to the statement of the hon. Member for Tewkesbury (Mr. Lygon), that the stipulation that the contracts should be paid out of money voted by Parliament was not new. Why, from what fund could they be paid, except money voted by Parliament? The words said to be a new introduction, and to involve a new principle of Parliamentary revision, had been in use, at all events, since 1854, and were mere surplusage, because the contracts could not be paid out of money unless it was money voted by Parliament. He did not object to the use of the words, but they should not be set up as proof of extraordinary vigilance. If the words had been "subject to the approval of Parliament" the case would have Been very different.

Motion agreed to.