Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

commencement of hostilities, of a threatening armament? It was decided in favour of the ministry, but by a majority considerably less than their usual numbers. Lord Milton's motion was defeated by 169 to 114.

MOTION RESPECTING THE LORDS OF THE ADMIRALTY.

On February 25th Sir Matthew W. Ridley rose to move an address to the Prince Regent, requesting him to remove such of the lords commissioners of the Admiralty as could be spared without detriment to the public service. After some observations respecting the former conduct of government, when they were prodigal in their promises of economy, and as prodigal in their waste of the public money, he said that he did not expect much from the measure he now proposed, but it would be laying the foundation of a system of reduction by which the undue influence of the ministers might be abridged. He then went through a cursory view of the formation and progress of the navy-board; and having attempted to shew that the present number of six lords of the Admiralty was much beyond the wants of the office now that the number of seamen was reduced from 140,000 to 19,000, he concluded with the following motion: "That an humble address be presented to his royal highness the Prince Regent, to represent to his royal highness, that his Majesty's faithful Commons, relying upon the gracious disposition of his royal highness to make every reduction in our establishments which the safety of the empire and sound policy allow, humbly pray, that his Royal Highness

would be graciously pleased to give directions, that the lords commissioners of the Admiralty may be reduced to such a number as the exigencies of the public service may actually require."

This motion being evidently, as the hon. baronet acknowledged, a trial of strength between the parties, it was argued chiefly upon that ground; the ministers and their friends strongly resisting any further attempts to limit the power of the crown; whilst it was still considered as abundantly too high in the nation at large, by the advocates for independence The previous question being put, the House divided, when a majority appeared for the ministers of 208 to 152.

MOTION ON THE PUBLIC INCOME AND EXPENDITURE.

Lord Castlereagh, on February 7th, began his motion by causing the clerk of the House of Commons to read such part of the speech of the Prince Regent as was particularly addressed to that House, and which referred to the distress consequent upon the war, and his own confident expectation that at no distant period the native energy of the country would enable it te surmount its difficulties

The time, said Lord C. was now come, when the House ought to consider what would be a proper pernianent system for a peace establishment; and he trusted that gentlemen would bring to the subject that combination of firmness and wisdom which they so eminently exhibited in the course of that arduous contest in which Great Britain had been so long involved. The House would go along with him when he laid down

as

as an incontrovertible maxim, that the number of the government

no country, especially one so much involved in debt, could consider its prosperity in time of peace established on a firm foundation, unless its expenditure was reduced not only to the level, but below the level, of its revenue.

It was not his intention to go minutely through the several heads of expenditure in the different branches of our establishments for the present year; but he was desirous to state, that in order to prevent the House from being fettered by the votes which it might be necessary to call for, they would not be required to furnish sums for more than some months, so that the public service might be carried on in the mean time. To this circumstance, after some general observations, his lordship now proceeded.

He first requested the attention of the House to the subject of the army expenditure. The number of the land forces during the last year, (excluding those in France and India, which were otherwise provided for) was 99,000 men, namely 53,000 for the home service, and 46,000 for the foreign establishment. This was to be reduced in the present year by 18,000; that at home by 5000, and that in the colonies, &c. by 13,000 and thus the comparison between the two years would stand from 99,000 to 81,016. The total number for which a vote had been taken in the former year was 150,000 men; and the total number for this year would be proposed at only 123,000. The reason for this was, that by the convention with France the number of

troops in India to be reduced from 20,000 to 17,000. In the estimates there would appear a sum of 220,000l. to be provided for on account of regiments which had not yet returned from abroad, but were on their way home, and in a course of reduction. The whole of the army estimates, with certain contingent expenses, and that of the militia, would amount to 7,050,000l.; to which the commissariat in Great Britain will add 500,000l. The barrack establishment

has been reduced from 178,000 to 70 or 80,000. The army extraordinaries for this year will be 1,300,000l. Total charge for the army 9,230,000l. For the navy, the House had last year voted 33,000 men, of which, as 10,000 were in the progress of reduction, it was understood that only 23,000 would be the permanent establishment for the present year. But upon further consideration, it has been determined that a larger reduction was practicable, and 19,000 men have been proposed as the vote of the present year. The reduction of the wear and tear, ship-building, and other expenses, would, of course, be very considerable. On the whole, the aggregate of charges, comprehending all the various branches of the public service, will stand thus: Army...

Commissariat and
Barracks
Extraordinaries
Ordinance...
Navy.
Miscellaneous.

£ 7,050,000

880,000

1,300,000

1,246,000

6,397,000

1,500,000

our troops there was to be reduced Gross total of charge 18,373,000

from 30,000 men to 25,000; and

This was the sum which his Majesty's ministers would propose to the House for the service of the present year; but it would be unfair to themselves not to desire them to distinguish between those items which might be more durable, from those which, although voted for the present year, would in all probability not again recur. For the army, for example, the sum of 220,000l. was for the purpose of defraying the expense of regiments all which were actually in a progress of reduction. The extraordinaries, as well as could be anticipated, would be reduced by 300,000l. and the ordinance by 50,000l. In the navy, he had stated, that 500,0001. of the sum proposed to be voted was for the liquidation of a transport debt. These several items added together would amount to 1,070,000l. which would diminish the future charge of the year to the same value.

There was another view of the subject which he was desirous that the House should take-that between charges which were for services that had been performed, and charges for services still to be performed. He had already stated that the army estimates contained a sum of 2,551,000l. for services that had actually been performed. If charges of the same kind were separated from the navy estimates, they would amount to 1,271,000l. Those in the ordnance service were 223,000l.; and the three services put together would amount to 4,045,000l. When the House was therefore occupied in contemplating the great existing charge of the army and navy, compared with those of former

times, he begged that they would always separate the charges which were wholly unconnected with the service of the present year.

The right hon. member then passed an eulogium on the Prince Regent, who had resigned to the public about a fifth of his whole receipts, namely, fifty thousand pounds; and he stated that the public servants of the crown were also anxious to offer their assistance by contributing what the property-tax, had it been continued, would have taken from them. In conclusion, he proposed the formation of a select committee to inquire into and state the income and expenditure of the united kingdom for the year ended the 5th of January, 1817; and also to consider and state the probable income and expenditure (so far as the same can now be estimated) for the years ending the 5th of January, 1818, and the 5th of January, 1819, respectively; and to report the same, together with their observations thereupon, to the House; and also to consider what further measures may be adopted for the relief of the country from any part of the said expenditure, without detriment to the public interest."

Mr. Brand said, that with respect to the first part of the noble lord's motion he had nothing at present to observe; but as to the second part, he thought that when, at such a conjuncture as the present, the House was about to inquire what reductions ought to take place in the public expenditure, placemen and persons holding sinecure-offices ought not to be on the committee. He should therefore move as an amendment,

"That

"That the select committce to be appointed, should inquire into what reductions since the year 1798 had taken | lace in the salaries I and emoluments of the different persons holding public offices, and to consider what farther measures might be instituted for farther reducing the expenditure of the country."

The Speaker having suggested to Mr. B. that it would be necessary for him first to move, by way of amendment, that the second part of the noble lord's motion should be omitted, he shaped his motion accordingly.

After a considerable number of members had given their opinions, Mr. Brand's motion was put, and was negatived by 210 to 117.

REPORT OF FINANCE COMMITTEE,

The names of the members of the committee was at length appointed, when they stood as iollows Lord Castlereagh, Mr. Bankes, Mr. Tierney, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Binning, Mr. Bootle Wilbraham, Sir John Newport, Mr. Peele, Mr. Hart Davis, Sir George Clerk, Mr. Frankland Lewis, Mr. Huskinson, Mr. Tremaine, Mr. Nicholson Calvert, Mr. Davies Gilbert, Mr. Cartright, Mr. Holford, Mr. E. Littleton, Lord Clive, Mr. Gooch, Sir T. Ackland.

On May 5th, the first report of the Finance Committee, relating to the Abolition of Sinecures, being laid before the House, Mr. Davies Gilbert rose to address the committee. He began with observing that he had uniformly considered the existence of sinecure places as a great blot and blemish n the system of this country, and

had therefore repeatedly supported the propositions brought forward by his friend the member for Corfe Castle (Mr. Bankes). The system was peculiarly liable to the charge of favouritism; and another strong objection to it was its being granted in reversion, which always appeared to him a great abuse. It might be objected, that no great savings would result to the public from the abolition of those offices. The present savings indeed could not be much, because it was necessary that good faith should be kept with those who had vested interests; but in the course of a few years a material benefit would be effected. When the committee recommended that certain offices should no longer be suffered to exist, it was necessary that they should point out some other mode by which his Majesty could reward meritorious services. With this view a system was recommended, which, under certain restrictions, would answer every purpose. He alluded to the granting of pensions for services performed, the time during which individuals had occupied their offices being one of the criteria by which the crown was to be guided in rewarding the exertions of public officers. If the committee agreed to the motion with which he should conclude, namely, "That the chairman should be directed to apply to the House for leave to bring in certain bills for carrying into effect the recommendations contained in the report," they would then have the subject introduced to them in a more detailed shape. After some further explanations, he moved "That the chairman be directed

to

to move for leave to bring in a bill to abolish the offices of the Wardens, Chief Justices, and Justices in Eyre, north and south of Trent."

His

Lord Castlereagh began by saying, that although on a former occasion he had stated his objections to the principle and object of a measure somewhat similar to the present, he was now willing to give his support to that laid before them. The power of the crown, he admitted, had increased since the war began; but on the return of peace, though they could not be restored to the state in which they were left before 1792, it had been more than proportionally reduced. The patronage of the crown was by no means excessive; for which reason he would support the present measure, because it did not bear upon the influence of the crown. lordship then went into a severe criticism upon Mr. Bankes's bill, which he charged with tending to augment the burthens of the country, and with seeming to countenance the delusion which had spread through the people, who regarded sinecures as the chief evils of the nation. Motives, however, had grown up which induced him to favour the abolition of sinecures. It was very desirable to correct the false expectations which had been cherished, and the present measure would have that effect. It would not, indeed, be a great saving; but sinecures being bad in principle, it would operate as a cure to the impression which had gone abroad.

Mr. J. P. Grant said that he could not congratulate the House or the country upon the reasons

by which the noble lord supported the measure. Its recommendations were, that it did not in the slightest degree affect the influence of the crown; that it effected no economy; but that it was adapted to the cure of the poisoned public mind. To the noble lord, therefore, he must confine his congratulations; and he was the more decidedly of his opinion, when he recollected the purposes for which the committee had been appointed. At the first part of the session the noble lord hurried forward, so that he superseded the chancellor of the exchequer ; and at length came an investigation of the difficulties and resources of the country. For three months, excepting three days, had the committee been occupied with this subject, and the result of their long and painful investigation was this report. They had been going over the ground that other committees had trod before them, and recommending paltry savings instead of executing the business before them. After a number of remarks, partly serious and partly sarcastical, respecting what had and what had not been done by the committee, Mr. G. concluded by saying, that with respect to the present motion, he certainly would not oppose it: it was to him a matter of perfect indifference, and as such he was persuaded it would be felt by the people, whose delusion, according to the noble lord, it was destined to remove.

Several other members spoke in the debate, which assumed much of personal attack. Mr. Gilbert's resolution being at length agreed to, he moved various other reso

lutions

« AnteriorContinuar »