HC Deb 20 August 1860 vol 160 cc1579-82

said, he rose to call the attention of the House for a few moments to the enormous sums which had been voted away in the present year for the public service. In February, in his financial statement, the Chancellor of the Exchequer estimated the expenditure for the year at £70,000,000; which he (Mr. Lindsay) and many others considered excessive. Large as that sum was, it had since been increased by £3,300,000 for the China expedition, £2,000,000 for fortifications (which was stated to be an instalment of an outlay of £9,000,000, but which he (Mr. Lindsay) believed to be more likely £20,000,000.) and another £1,000,000 for Exchequer bonds; making in all an expenditure of about £76,400,000. That large expenditure might not be felt severely at the moment; but if there should come a bad harvest, and scarcity of employment, there would be great discontent throughout the manufacturing districts. That was a dangerous prospect, and we might have more difficulties to apprehend from the unhappy condition of our own people than from the violence of any external enemy. He therefore hoped the Government would not lose sight of the importance of economy, and would endeavour to curtail the public expenditure, notwithstanding that those large sums had been actually voted. A considerable portion of the increased naval and military expenditure had been created, as was alleged, by the state of affairs across the Channel, and especially from the addition which France had made of late years to her naval power. But upon the authority of a pamphlet recently published under the sanction of the Emperor of the French, what was the actual state of affairs? On the 1st of July, 1860, Great Britain had afloat (including block-ships) 63 steam line of-battle ships, while France at that time—and, indeed, a month later—had but 35. Of steam frigates, England had 41 and France 38; and of smaller vessels, including transports, England had 388 and France only 195. The totals were that England had at the present moment afloat 492 screw vessels, and France 268. If those figures were correct he did not think there need be much fear of France attempting to cope with us on the waters. From the fear that had been exhibited, however, it would appear as though the present race of Englishmen had reversed the creed of their forefathers, and, instead of reckoning one British ship as worth two French ships, they considered one French vessel equal to two English. Was there never to be a limit to the building of those huge ships of war? Not only were our numbers superior afloat, but we had a larger number on the stocks than France had. With regard to the fortifications, he considered it would have been very much more satisfactory if the Committee appointed to inquire into the matter had been composed of others besides officers in the army. Suppose Sir Robert Peel had nominated a Committee of gentlemen immediately connected with agricultural pursuits to consider the operation of the corn laws, was it probable that the result of their labours would have been satisfactory to the public? His hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Westminster (Sir De Lacy Evans) had correctly said of him (Mr. Lindsay) that he was no authority upon a question of fortifications; but he thought if a few men of business had been on the Fortification Commission they would have looked at the question with less contracted views. What had the House been doing during the present Session but spending money? Why was not the Bankruptcy Bill, in which he and other commercial men took an interest, passed? The Reform Bill also, and many other measures of great public importance had been dropped—nothing beyond the measures connected with the Budget and the Commercial Treaty had been passed. He admitted that the Commercial Treaty was likely to produce great results to this country. He differed from the public opinions which had been expressed with regard to it; the more he saw and heard of that treaty, the more convinced he was that it would increase the commerce between this country and France. But while with one hand we were extending the intercourse between this country and France, and thus promoting harmony and goodwill between the two nations, we were with the other hand spending millions, which would do much to nullify the effects of the Commercial Treaty. He, perhaps, had less reason to complain than other Members of the little that had been done this Session, for the measures which he brought forward the House had been good enough to pass; but the Government, he was sorry to say, had taken no step to carry them into effect. The House unanimously resolved that it was desirable that this country should enter into a maritime treaty with France, but he did not find that one single step had been taken to obtain that maritime treaty. The House thought proper to agree to a Commission with regard to harbours of refuge for saving a large amount of life and property. No step whatever had been taken by the Government to carry into effect the Rosolution of the House. The least the Government ought to have done, if they did not intend to act upon the Resolution of the House, was to have brought forward a Motion to rescind that Resolution. The Attorney General had described this as a singular Session; but he (Mr. Lindsay) would call it a most unsatisfactory Session indeed. Long as the Members whom the country had sent to that House had been kept there, no measure of progress, with the exception of the Commercial Treaty, had been agreed to; whilst, on the other hand, there bad been a large expenditure of the public money. He warned the Government that the lavish expenditure into which they had led the country would greatly weaken their influence.


said, he could not admit that a Session had been misspent in which such important financial measures had been passed, and he believed be spoke the sentiments of his constituents when he said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was entitled to the gratitude of the country for the efforts he made to secure the sanction of the House to the Commercial Treaty. He believed that we had in the French Emperor a friend, who was anxious to conciliate our good wishes. The Commercial Treaty had removed a barrier which the prejudices and hostilities of centuries had raised up between England and France, and the two peoples might now unite in commercial intercourse, and that intercourse would have a beneficial effect upon the other nations of the world. He deplored, however, the enormous military expenditure to which the House had as- sented. The fortifications which were about to be constructed would create not friendship, but feelings of hostility between ourselves and the French. The expenditure for fortifications was a false policy.