Mr. Johnstone said, he should not consider himself as faithfully discharging his duty to the country, if he voted the very large sums contained in the Estimates of Army Services for 1807, without knowing the various items of which those sums were composed. He might be told, that there were very few instances in which the Army Estimates had been printed, for the purpose of allowing this particular investigation; but at the present time, when so large a 454 part of the estimates was occupied by the extraordinaries of the army, this appeared to him to be peculiarly necessary. What had happened on the subject of the ordnance estimates, sufficiently proved the expediency of giving all possible publicity to these subjects before the house disbursed such large sums; it was incumbent on them carefully and closely to examine the detail. He should therefore move, that the estimates of the army, presented by the secretary at war, on the 14th inst. be printed.—Mr. Biddulph seconded the motion.
The Secretary at War hoped that the hon. gent. would content himself with the precedent of last year, which was to print the abstract of the estimates. It would be impossible that the whole of the estimates could be printed before the time fixed for their discussion. The abstract afforded a reference to the estimates, by which any gentleman might be enabled to satisfy himself on ambiguous points. Without any grounds, therefore, for such a proceeding, he trusted the house would not go to so much useless trouble and expence. But he had another and a more serious objection to the motion, which was, the danger of laying any thing on the table of the house by which the enemy might obtain information of the destination of our troops. If the estimates were printed, the certain consequence would be, that they would get into the newspapers, and the enemy would thus become acquainted with the distribution of our whole military force.
§ Mr. Calcraft
could not possibly listen in silence to the attack again made by the hon. gent. on the Board of Ordnance, otherwise he should not have risen on the present occasion: for, two years ago, he had himself moved that the Army Estimates should be printed. Not being aware of any difference in the circumstances of that period and the present, he should feel it his duty to support the hon. gent.'s motion. With regard to what the hon. gent. had again said, in implication of the board of ordnance, the state of the case was precisely this, a large equipment of stores and ordnance was sent for from the island of Ceylon. It was particularly demanded by the commanding officer, that English gunpowder should be sent out, because, as be stated, the powder in the island was so bad, that not only an immediate supply was necessary, but also a future annual supply. He had on a former occasion told the hon. 455 gent. that it was not intended by the board to send an annual supply: but in an immediate supply could the hon. gent. see nothing but a question of money? When ordnance was sent to a distant possession, would it have been expedient, by withholding ammunition, to risk the lives and honour of his majesty's troops, and the security of that possession, for a small and temporary saving? The order for the powder must first have been sent to the continent of India, and the powder have been thence transmitted to Ceylon; and who could have insured its arrival at the time of the arrival of the ordnance? Therefore, although he allowed that powder was dearer in this country than in India, yet he defended the policy of sending it in this instance, and maintained that the board of ordnance stood completely exculpated, and were undeserving of the severe censure which the hon. gent. had thought proper to pass upon them. In future, assuredly, the powder for Ceylon would be procured from India. As to the question before the house, no inconvenience had arisen from the printing of the army estimates two years ago; none was likely to arise in the present instance, and he should therefore vote for their being printed.
Mr. S. Bourne ,
in answer to the first objection made to the motion by the right hon. secretary, namely, that the estimates were extremely voluminous, declared, that that was the very circumstance which induced the hon. gent. who had just sat down, two years ago to move for their being printed; it not being possible for each member to have recourse to the sole copy, which was on the table of the house. As to dangerous disclosures, the Abstract, which on that evening had been ordered to be printed, would convey to the enemy all the information that they could possibly obtain from the estimates, for that abstract stated the amount of our military force in different parts of the world. He could not help thinking, that the change in the side of the house on which some hon. gentlemen sat, had made a wonderful difference in their sentiments on the policy of producing and printing papers. As no mischievous effects had resulted from the printing of the estimates, he should certainly support the motion.
thought the motion was only an indirect attempt to put off the debate on the Army Estimates; for it must 456 be evident to every member of the house, that it was impossible those estimates could be printed by Wednesday. He regretted that the hon. gent. did not come forward manfully, and declare that to be his object. For his part, he had no other objection to the motion, than that it would postpone the discussion of that subject.
was sure that there could be no disposition in the hon. mover to put off the debate on the army estimates. He was persuaded that they might be printed, and delivered to the members by Monday.
however anxious not to withhold from the house any means of obtaining information which were unattended by unnecessary expence and inconvenient delay, would never be deterred by any taunts that might be thrown out by gentlemen opposite, on what they conceived to be a change of sentiments produced by a change of situation, from doing that which he felt it to be his duty to do. It was true that the estimates had been printed two years ago, but new military plans were then in discussion. Had the estimates been printed last year? No; the fair inference then was, that experiencing the expence and inconvenience of printing such a voluminous mass of papers, the house had thought proper to confine its order to the printing of the abstract. He denied the possibility of printing papers containing so many figures by Monday; nor could he see the probability of their being produced in time to be useful in the discussion of Wednesday, a discussion which it would be extremely inconvenient to postpone.
§ Mr. Perceval,
adverting to the determination expressed by the noble lord, not to be deterred from any line of conduct which he might think proper to adopt, was happy to observe the reforming Virtue which induced the noble lord to abide by other principles than those by which till lately he had been actuated. This was information which the country must be glad to receive. When the noble lord was in opposition, he supported the motion made by the hon. gent. near him, (Mr. Calcraft) for printing the army estimates. Here then was a precedent established of their own. What was the precedent against the motion? Did it arise on the side of the house on which he (Mr. Perceval) sat? No. Last year an hon. general, no longer a member, (Gen. Tarleton) had pressed for the printing of the estimates. The noble lord seemed to think, that when new mili 457 tary measures were instituted, it was wise to print the estimates. What was the case last year? Were not new military measures adopted? Yet the noble lord resisted the proposition for printing. If it could be made out, that any communications to the enemy would follow, no man would be desirous of pressing such a proposition. But this did not seem to him to be possible. The only remaining objection was the probability that these papers, on account of the number of figures contained in them, could not be printed and delivered to the members by Monday or Tuesday. Admitting this, was it to be maintained that the postponement of the discussion of the army estimates, from Wednesday to Friday, would be of such extreme injury that every other object which tended to produce that postponement must be abandoned? A noble lord had insinuated that delay was the object of the hon. mover, and had said, that it would have been more manly in him at once to have declared that object. What! a delay for two days! Had it extended to a fortnight or three weeks, a desire might have been supposed to exist to obtain the influence on the discussion which the presence of additional members might possibly occasion. But as it was, he could not suppose that the noble lord was serious in his remark.
Lord Howick ,
alluding to the congratulation of the learned gent. on what he termed a change in his principles, explained his former statement on that subject. What he had said was, that because he had formerly supported motions under certain circumstances, he would not be deterred by any taunts that might be thrown out against him from opposing similar motions under different circumstances. He challenged the learned gent. to point out an instance in which he had abandoned a single principle of his political life. In the session before last, a military arrangement of great importance was in agitation, which rendered the printing of the estimates necessary, but in the last session this was not the case. In the year before the last, a sufficient time had been given for the printing of the estimates, before the discussion. Last year the printing was not moved for till the estimates had been voted.
§ Mr. Perceval
explained, that he had not said the noble lord had abandoned his principles, but had abandoned his former line of conduct.
supported the motion. If large expensive establishments were necessary, he observed, and if in such cases objections were made to motions which went to enable the house more easily to examine into the public expenditure, a precedent would be formed, which would render it impossible for the members of that house to do their duty by their constituents. The facility, therefore, which would be afforded to them in doing their duty, would more than counterbalance any expence that might be incurred by printing these papers. The expence of printing such papers might well be saved, by economy in many other respects. For instance, if the powder sent to Ceylon from this country had been purchased at Madras, we should have had a saving, which would have gone far beyond any expence that could be incurred by printing the estimates now before the house. He saw no good ground of objection to the motion.
thought it incumbent on him to say a few words, as he had seconded this motion. He considered economy in the public expenditure, of so much importance, that he would have been the last man to have given his countenance to any thing that would be attended with expence, had he not been satisfied that this was one of those cases where the saving of a few pounds might lead to the loss of many thousands. It was absolutely necessary that every facility should be allowed to gentlemen in enquiring into the public expenditure. This, at the present moment, was the most important of duties. He himself also wished to say something on the subject of these estimates, but it was utterly impossible for him to make himself completely master of them, unless he was allowed to take the papers home with him. But this he could not do unless they were printed, for in their present state they must lie on the table till they came to be discussed. He could not do his duty with satisfaction to himself therefore, unless the papers were printed, by which means he could have a copy home with him. This was the reason why he had seconded the motion. As to the question of the powder sent to Ceylon, he thought the board of Ordnance could not possibly have refused under such a requisition. But he hoped that in future the supply would be sent from India. If the board chose to enquire into the matter, they would get information in London that the Indian powder was not only not 459 worse than ours, but that it was even better.
§ Mr. Calcraft
observed, that an hon. gent. (Mr. Montague) seemed to suppose that it was always to be the system to send out powder to Ceylon from this country, when he (Mr. C.) had expressly stated that it was intended in future to send it from India.
stated that that very possibly might have been a system, had it not been for the discussions that had arisen upon the subject.
observed, that when gentlemen proposed a delay of two or three days, they did not seem to understand the course of the treasury. A million of money would be due on Friday next, and it was necessary to have the vote passed before that time.
said, that if any information injurious to the country could be conveyed to the enemy by printing these papers, he would have opposed the motion. But the printing of the Ordnance Estimates had led him to believe, that no danger of this sort could reasonably be apprehended from printing the Army Estimates. The printing of the Ordnance Estimates had been advantageous, in as much as it had led to an investigation, the result of which, in his opinion, had done great honour to the Ordnance Board. When he said so, he begged it to be understood, that he had no particular connection with any member of it. The ground on which he would vote for printing these Estimates was, that it was impossible for every member to read them at the table before Wednesday, even supposing that they had begun from the time of presenting them. No man could contend that the house could be fully informed as to the contents of the papers, unless they were printed. But it was presumed that all who came to this house to give their votes, were in full possession of the nature and merits of the case. Whether or not they could be printed, so as to afford sufficient time for the house to be prepared to discuss them on Wednesday he could not say, but he was satisfied that the attempt ought to be made.
Sir R. Williams
thought, that when the secretary at war had declared, that to print these estimates would be to convey dangerous information to the enemy, it was the duty of every independent member to resist the motion.
said, he had moved for the printing of the Abstract rather than for 460 the whole of the papers, from the feeling and information with which his former official habits possessed him. The Abstract conveyed the complete substance of the Estimates, but treated less of the detail. The only information which the papers could convey to the enemy, was the quantity of our military force, as divided into three heads, Guards and Garrisons; Forces in the Plantations; and Forces in India. The abstract stated the gross force; the Estimates, the regiments of which that force was composed. The statement therefore, of the right hon. secretary, that the estimates would convey more dangerous information to the enemy than the abstract, was unfounded.
The Secretary at War denied having positively asserted that great danger would result from the information which the printing of the Estimates would convey to the enemy. He had spoken doubtfully. In every discussion in that house there was some danger, for every discussion made a disclosure to the enemy in a certain degree. The question always was, how could the house execute its duty consistently with the object of concealing from the enemy what it was desirable to conceal from them? The estimates, by being more minute in the detail than the abstract, must necessarily convey to the enemy more information.
§ Mr. Johnstone
would not have trespassed further on the time of the house, had it not been with a view to do justice to himself in repelling the insinuations of a noble lord, who had hinted that he said one thing while he meant another. His object was not to occasion delay, but to examine minutely those papers. He would have no objection to grant some money on account, if it was wanted immediately, as had been said by the secretary of the treasury. But his object was, from a careful examination of the contents of the papers, to see whether there was not room for reform in the expenditure. The first argument of the secretary at war was futile, and his second was not better. What was his objection? Why, that these papers would convey information to the enemy. Of what could they convey information? Delay was not his object. He was anxious to see how far the numerous pledges economy which the gentlemen on the other side had made such a bluster about while in opposition, had been redeemed. Their conduct might not perhaps come to be discussed on the 461 present occasion. But other opportunities would occur, when it would appear that they had not attended to that economy about which they had formerly talked so much, but that they had granted new and extravagant salaries to themselves—(hear! hear!) On the principal points in these papers there could not in the present circumstances be much saving. But a great deal of saving might be made in many contingent particulars. It was to the extraordinaries of the army that he wished to turn his attention in a particular manner. On that point he wanted to be fully informed, and that was the reason why he desired the whole of these papers to be printed.
observed, that he now understood, from the hon. gent. that he wished not for delay, but that all he wanted was to be fully informed on this subject, in order to see whether ministers had acted up to those principles of economy which they had formerly professed, and whether they had shewn an inclination to redeem their pledges to the public. If that was the ground on which the hon. gent. rested his motion, he would be inclined to withdraw his opposition. He was anxious that all the measures of the administration should be carefully and minutely examined and canvassed. The hon. gent. had said that they had wasted the public money, and granted new and exorbitant salaries to themselves. He wished that their conduct should be sifted to the bottom, and hoped that since these charges had been preferred, they would be speedily brought forward, that the house and the country might have an opportunity of judging of their validity. Now, if it should be understood that the discussion of the Army Estimates should not be delayed, though the papers should not be printed in time, he had no objection to withdraw his opposition with this reservation. The noble lord on the other side had said that the abstract would answer his purpose. If more was wanted, it was unfortunate that the motion had not been made sooner. The hon. gent. had given no notice of it, and he was not prepared to say how far the danger of communicating information to the enemy might be increased by printing the whole of the papers. If, therefore, the hon. gent. would postpone his motion till to-morrow, an opportunity would be afforded of comparing the papers. [The secretary at war here mentioned to him, that the only difference was in the greater particularity of the de 462 tails]. His hon. friend had informed him, that there was no material difference, and therefore he would agree to the motion, it being understood that there should be no delay of the discussion; for to that he could not consent.
§ Mr. Johnstone
observed, that he would not oppose the vote of such a sum as might be immediately wanted, and this he conceived would remove all inconvenience.
§ Mr. Perceval
said, that every one would allow that it was necessary to see these papers in the mean time, in order to be enabled to enter upon a discussion with respect to the contents. But if the vote should be passed on Wednesday, it must be done without any one having an opportunity of examining the papers in the mean time, supposing they should now be sent to the printer, and could not be finished before the proposed time of discussion. But what would do away all these difficulties would be to vote a considerable sum on Wednesday on account, if the papers should not be printed before that time.
asked why the motion had not been made sooner, and why they now took occasion to press it at this late period? Full time had been given for any such motion, much more than, to his knowledge, had been given in some former years. The only ground on which he could agree to the motion was, that it might afford an opportunity of sifting the conduct of ministers, and of bringing the charges against them to a discussion, if the hon. gentlemen should find any reason to prefer them. He could not consent to delay the vote.
§ Mr. Whitbread
observed, that it was his intention at first to have supported the motion, for he was satisfied that these papers could convey no material information to the enemy. But he congratulated the house and the country on the great change which had taken place in the conduct of the learned gent. opposite (Mr. Perceval), who was so ready with his charges of changing against others. The house and the country must be peculiarly happy to find; that he who formerly objected to all information on these points, was now suddenly become so zealous an advocate for information. The learned gent. certainly wished for delay. Now, if the papers were to be printed with a view to the ulterior purpose of the hon. mover, he would certainly not object to the motion. But he would vote against printing them, unless it was 463 fully understood that there was to be no delay of the vote.
thought that the best course would be for the hon. gent. to withdraw his motion for the present, and leave the papers on the table till the vote was passed; after which he might have the papers printed, with a view to the ulterior object for which he wanted them.
§ Mr. Johnstone
wished to know from the Speaker, how far it was reasonable to suppose that the papers might be printed before Wednesday.
The Speaker observed, that where there were a great many figures, it was impossible even for those most conversant with the business to calculate exactly.
§ Lord H. Petty
observed, that the same reason, the multitude of figures, which rendered it difficult to print these papers in a short time, also rendered it difficult to examine them minutely. It would be better to have the papers on the table in the mean time. He therefore suggested, whether the object of the hon. gent. (for he was anxious that the minutest enquiries should take place into all the branches of the public expenditure), would not be answered by leaving the papers in the mean time, and moving to have them printed afterwards?
§ Mr. Johnstone
then stated, that he was ready to consent to what had been proposed, but he begged leave at the same time to state, that it was perfectly in order and consistent with the duty of any member, to propose such a motion as the present one, which he should now, for the reasons stated, withdraw for the present.—The motion was accordingly withdrawn.