§ The House having resolved itself into a committee,
§ Sir H. Hardinge
said, he rose for the purpose of moving the Ordnance Estimates, and, in doing so, he did not think it necessary for him to go into any lengthened explanation. The voluminous report of the Finance Committee was a sufficient explanation of the delay that had occurred; seeing that it was considered desirable to have that report on the table, in which the Ordnance department was examined, previous to bringing forward the Estimates. The expenditure of the Ordnance for the year 1828 amounted to 1,785,196l.; from which was to be deducted credits given to the public to the amount of 220,000l., making the total 1,565,196l. Now, this amount shewed a reduction of 82,776l., as compared with the preceding year. The decrease arose from a saving in the repairs of English, Irish, and foreign barracks of 82,889l. To this was to be added 29,890l. on account of military stores, making a total of 112,779l. However, this diminution, as far as the repairs of barracks were concerned, was no actual saving, but only a postponement of the expense of repairs till the next year. With respect to the saving in the military store branch, of 29,890l., that would be in a great degree permanent, for it related to the article of iron bedsteads. The effective charge of the Ordnance branch for 1828, exclusive of sea service, was 841,771l. In 1815, the last year of the war, it amounted to 3,835,425l. So that in this department, a reduction had been effected of nearly three millions. It should also be remarked, that in this department the expenditure of 1828 was 201,000l. less than in 1820; and a million sterling had been saved in the last nine years, in the Ordnance branch alone. But if we took into account the departments consolidated with the Ordnance, the diminution would appear still greater; for in 1820, the expenditure was 2,220,149l.; in 1828, 1,785,096l.; making a reduction of 1616 434,951l. As a measure of economy, then, the consolidation that had taken place in this department, was proved to be effectual.—The Ordnance department was the great dépôt of military stores. The expense of this department depended upon the wants of other departments; and an increased expense had taken place, by reason of the extension of our colonies, our fleets, and armies. Of all departments, the Ordnance was that which was of the slowest growth; and if once impaired or put down, it would be the most difficult to reorganise. The average expense of the last five years had been 1,940,000l.— 2,000,000l. of old stores, savings, rents, &c, were credited to the public since 1817, in diminution of the votes. With respect to the military part of the Ordnance, in his opinion it had been reduced as low as it could. The proportion of artillery in the field, to the number of the army, was less in the British than in any continental service; it had one gun to every five hundred men—the French, one to every three hundred—and so with respect to the troops of Germany. In time of war, we had one artillery-man to every nine soldiers of the line; and in peace the number had been reduced, till the proportion was one to every fourteen of the line. In the Civil Departments transferred to the Ordnance, the reduction amounted to one hundred and seventy-four clerks, and the salary saved thereby to 47,000l. With regard to the stations kept up by the Ordnance, the number did not exceed by more than two or three, those kept up in 1792. This was exclusively of Ireland and the colonies; the stations in which were, at that time, under separate heads of expenditure. He next came to the Artillery Superannuations. The non-effective of the artillery was at the highest in 1820, when the expense amounted to 333,584l.; which, in 1828, was 306,483l., making a reduction of about 30,000l. The superannuations had now reached their maximum; the number of pensioners, in 1820, was nine thousand, nine hundred and eighty four; in 1828, eleven thousand, two hundred and sixty-nine. The deaths in the last five years were nine hundred and seventy, forming an average of one hundred and seventy four annually. The number of men pensioned from the regiments of artillery averaged one hundred and eighty; consequently, the decrease was fourteen a year. 1617 The increase arose from the number of registered men put on the pension list. In civil superannuations the Ordnance department had past its maximum. In 1822 the expenditure was 51,552l.; while the average of the last four years was only 45,000l.—He next came to the Barrack department. In the whole of England and Ireland, the accommodation for troops in time of war was for two hundred and sixty-one thousand men: in peace it was only necessary to accommodate eighty-nine thousand. By the reduction that had taken place in the Irish Barrack department, 38,000l. a year was saved. He now approached a part of the subject which he contemplated with considerable apprehension. He alluded to some of the recommendations of the Finance Committee, with respect to certain reductions in the Ordnance department. He was one of the last who would set up his individual opinion in opposition to what had been recommended by a committee of that House; but he could not help thinking that the committee had been a little too severe on the Ordnance department. The Finance Committee had stated, that the Board of Ordnance had performed their duty with zeal and spirit, and they bore testimony to the great exertions which had been made by the duke of Wellington. Whilst the recommendation of the committee would be assented to by government as far as the reduction of the salary of the clerk of the Ordnance and the Surveyor-general, there was another point to which assent could not be given. He alluded to the office of Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance. The government had assented to reduce the salary of the Surveyor-general from 1,837l. to 1,500l. per annum immediately, and to 1,200l. per annum after a certain period. They assented to the reduction of the salary of the principal Store-keeper, the Secretary to the Master-general from 1,500l. to 1,200l. a year. He must beg leave to say, that the clerk of the Ordnance, in time of war, received 2,376l. For the last three years the fees had amounted to 663l., and the salary to 856l., amounting to 1,609l. per annum. If a mean term was taken between war and peace, the total receipts by this officer were 1,945l. Government had, in 1824, reduced that officer's salary and emoluments to 1,800l., and it was now proposed to reduce the salary to 1,200l. a year. This officer was obliged to have a seat in that House, and bore the 1618 responsibility of his department in parliament. The duties were very serious, and very troublesome, as he well knew by experience. He was satisfied that the officers of the Ordnance department would cheerfully submit to the pecuniary sacrifices recommended by the committee; but he thought it very severe to praise the department for its zeal and spirit, and then recommend a reduction of salaries by one-third of their amount.—With regard to the continuance of the office of Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance, his majesty's government differed from the Finance Committee, and felt it essential that that office should be retained. The Finance Committee say—"The commissioners of Military Inquiry entered into considerable details relative to the duties of this office, and made the following observations upon it:—'From the information given to us respecting the actual performance of any distinct duties by the Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance, we incline to the belief, that this appointment was not essential to the constitution of the department, especially if it were to be understood, that the attention of the Master-general should not be withdrawn from the duties of his office by other appointments.' The committee concur in this opinion; and, adverting to the fact, that the Lieutenant-general has been absent from England at different times, they are of opinion that, during peace, the office of Lieutenant-general may be dispensed with, and the salary of it saved to the public." Now, he thought he should be able to shew, that the military commissioners had been mistaken in giving that opinion in 1811. If they looked to the evidence given by lord Chatham, they would find that that noble lord expressed his surprise, that any man could for a moment question the utility of the office of Lieutenant-general. Lord Moira did not go the same length; but he delivered a strong opinion upon the subject. In the thirteenth report of the military commission, it was stated that the Board of Ordnance should form one general commission, of which the Lieutenant-general was to be the head; and that as the four junior members of the Board would have no employment, the patronage of the office was to be enjoyed by all in rotation. In the Finance Report, they would find a different statement. "The committee are of opinion, that where there is collective responsibility, each individual is disposed 1619 to consider himself as in a great degree relieved from personal responsibility; but that where there is individual responsibility, no such feeling can exist; responsibility is then brought home to each individual, and is a constant motive to render him faithful in the discharge of his public duty." Now, he would leave it to the impartial consideration of the committee to consider whether the opinion delivered by the Finance Committee, relative to the Board of Ordnance, was not at variance with that given by the military commission? The duke of Wellington was decidedly of opinion, that the office of Lieutenant-general was necessary to the Ordnance service. The second question put to his grace was—"Do you consider the continuance of the Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance as essential to the well-being of the service?—Yes, I do. The Lieutenant-general has some very important duties to perform. I do not mean to say that the Master-general cannot perform them—for he does sometimes perform those duties. In my time, the Lieutenant-general was absent sometimes, and at other times I was absent myself. When he was absent I performed his duties. He has some duties to perform which are very important, and it is essential to the well-being of the service that he should perform them." Now, after this statement, it was hardly necessary that he should take up much of the time of the House upon this part of the subject. He had himself been twice examined before the Finance Committee, and he there stated opinions similar to those delivered by the duke of Wellington. He stated the fact, that when lord Beresford was absent for three or four months, he (sir H. H.) performed the duties of Lieutenant-general, and very laborious he found them. It should be remembered, too, that lord Mulgrave held the office in 1814, a period of peace; and it was permitted by the Finance Committees of 1817, 1818, and 1819; all of which were periods of profound peace. From this it was natural to infer, that it was considered for the benefit of the service to continue the office. So far back as 1751, the duties of the office were laid down on the same principle that they were at present. He might be told, that the absence of the present Lieutenant-general was the best evidence that that office could and ought to be dispensed with. If such were the feeling entertained by the committee, then the more 1620 respectful course towards the duke of Wellington and himself, would have been not to have examined them at all. Lord Beresford had, it was true, been absent for three months, while holding the office; but, so sensible was he of the great inconvenience caused to the service by his absence, that he resigned it, and sir G. Murray was appointed to succeed him. —The other reductions recommended by the Finance Committee had been made, and were to commence from the 1st of July. He assured the committee that government were most anxious to make every reduction that could be made, consistently with the public service; and to make it appear that they were actuated by that intention, he ought also to mention, that the salary of that office was reduced from 1,500l. to 1,200l. a year; and that, while the Finance Committee were still silting reductions had been made to the amount of 9,000l. He would now move, "That 24,935l. be granted to defray the salaries of the Master-general, the Lieutenant-general, and the other officers and clerks of the Ordnance; 25,981l. having already been granted on account of the present year."
§ Sir H. Parnell
said, that since it was intended to sustain the office of Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance, he should move as an amendment, that the salary be reduced from the proposed l,200l. to 600l, a year. With respect to the arguments of the right hon. gentleman, not a few of them went to destroy his own position. If the evidence of the right hon. gentleman and of the duke of Wellington was entitled, as no doubt it was, to such peculiar consideration, so much the stronger must that case have been, which had compelled the committee to take a course in opposition to it. The recommendation that the office of Lieutenant-general should be dispensed with, had been given after mature consideration, and one of the fullest divisions which had taken place in the committee. There could be no doubt of the purpose for which the office had originally been instituted; namely, to be a sort of double to the office of Master-general; the holder of it to perform the duties of master, when it was not convenient for that officer to be in the way. Or perhaps it had been intended, that the Master-general should be a high state officer, and that the duty should be performed by the Lieutenant-general, as 1621 his deputy. Lord Cornwallis, for example, had been Lord-lieutenant of Ireland while he held the office of Master-general, and the duty was executed entirely by the Lieutenant. Then, certainly, if there was a necessity for having some person occasionally to do the duty of the Master-general in his absence, the expense of such assistance ought to be borne out of the general fund granted for the Ordnance service. With respect to the Ordnance department the services which it had rendered to the country had been fully borne witness to by the Finance Committee, and the committee had also taken honourable notice of the reductions which had been effected previous to its report; yet still he thought that the service of that department was carried on at too expensive a rate. He should move as an amendment, "That the grant be reduced to 24,335l."
§ Sir E. Owen
said, it had been assumed, that the Master-general was president of the Board. This was not the case. The Lieutenant-general presided, and was the organ of communication between the Board and the Master-general. In his opinion, it was impossible to dispense with the office of Lieutenant-general, without detriment to the public service.
§ General Gascoyne
said, that the amendment of the hon. baronet seemed to him to amount to this—that the Lieutenant-general might be got rid of, by appointing another general officer in his room. The hon. baronet, however, appeared to forget, that, by the rules of the army, no officer could undertake any of the duties to which he had alluded, without regularly receiving a staff appointment. He contended, that the office was useful, as a mark of distinction for past services, as well as an object of remuneration. It was on this principle that it had been held by Marl-borough, Argyle, Granby, and Wellington. Out of the whole staff appointments, the office in question was the most unfortunate selection the committee could have made. Why not reduce the staff in Ireland, where Lieutenants-general commanded only one thousand or two thousand men, whereas the Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance commanded nine thousand.
said, he could not bring himself to sanction the continuance of the office, even upon the high military authority that had been brought forward in its support. How did it happen that the 1622 Master-general and the Lieutenant-general were never employed together at the same time? What did this prove, but that the Master-general had, in the Lieutenant-general, a deputy to act for him upon all occasions. The Finance Committee thought that the present system of the Board of Ordnance worked well, and, therefore, they did not propose any alteration in it; but they did not think that a link between that Board and the Master-general, by means of the office of Lieutenant-general, was at all necessary.
§ Sir George Clerk
said, that the whole objection to the office turned upon the single point, that the Master-general and the Lieutenant-general were not found acting together at the same time. Now, what was the fact?—Why, that ever since the duke of Wellington was appointed to the head of the department, not only was he unremitting in his own attention, but, under his direction, the Lieutenant-general was sedulously employed during the whole time, except for the short period when lord Beresford happened to be away.—When lord Beresford found that he could not return within the term of three months, he resigned; and the duties of the office were then discharged by his gallant friend near him. All questions respecting disputed points abroad must necessarily be laid before the Lieutenant-general. If the several circumstances of minute detail were to be brought under the consideration of the Master-general, it would be impossible he could attend to them all. The greatest inconvenience would arise if the office were done away with.
said, that he, in common with the other members of the Finance Committee, found that very strong prejudices with regard to this establishment existed among military men. All, therefore, that the committee could do, was to deal with those prejudices, or prepossessions, for the best interests of the country. In recommending the abolition of this particular office, the committee acted with the strictest impartiality; and, upon the same principle, he should not hesitate to recommend the abolition of the office of Master-general, if he thought the public interest required it.
Sir J. Sebright
said, he did not think himself justified in voting for the abolition of the office. If the artillery was once 1623 suffered to fall into decay, it would take years to restore it. It was at present in a high state of perfection, and had excited the admiration of the continent. He called upon those who knew no more of the subject than himself, not to disturb that which was now so effective.
joined in all the praise which had been uttered on the artillery service. He considered, however, the deputy totally unnecessary, if the principal did his duty, and should, therefore, vote for the amendment.
supported the utility of the office, and said that it was impossible for the senior officers of the artillery to discharge its duties, from their advanced age, they being- seldom less than seventy,-when they reached the rank of general officers.
Mr. Wilmot Horton
referred to the evidence given by the duke of Wellington before the Committee of Finance, and said that, upon this evidence, he was entitled to say this office ought to be retained. It was no argument against the office, that the Lieutenant-general was allowed to absent himself and to do the duty by a deputy. He was sorry to vote against the recommendation of the Finance Committee; but he felt it right to support this office.
said, he thought in the Committee up strairs, and still thought, that this office might be got rid of. The discussion he had heard that night had confirmed him in his opinion. The artillery department was now said to be in an excellent condition, and it was urged as a reason for retaining this office; but he begged to remind hon. members, that, when the department was in quite an opposite state from the present, this same office of Lieutenant-general existed.— The hest evidence of its uselessness was the continual absence of the person who filled it. That fact was worth volumes of opinions of official persons, however respectable they might be. He should support the amendment.
§ Mr. Calcraft
said, he would not vote for the continuance of this office if he did not think its duties necessary, or if he thought the state of the finances such as could not allow of its existence. Those members of the House, who, like himself, were not members of the Finance Committee, and who were therefore ignorant of the Committee's motives for recom- 1624 mending the abolition of the office, should decide on the evidence given in the report. On this ground he appealed to the House whether they could doubt the necessity of upholding the office in question. Was there any authority against the continuance of the office? It was said that lord Moira declared, if the Master-general were present, the office of Lieutenant-general would be unnecessary; but against that there was the authority of lord Chatham. True, the Commissioners of Military Inquiry had thought it might be dispensed with; but, at the same time, they recommended an arrangement, and a board, over which the Lieutenant-general should be placed. The duke of Wellington, some years ago, had reduced the Ordnance department to the lowest scale possible. As to the assertion, that the absence of the Lieutenant-general proved the office unnecessary, he could prove that the Master-general and Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance were more unfrequently absent from their duties than the officers of any other establishment. The absence of the Lieutenant-general was but an exception; yet hon. gentlemen sought to make it the rule. It would be absurd and mischievous to abolish a necessary office, on account of the occasional absence of an officer; but if the officer should continue absent beyond a reasonable time, the inconvenience should be remedied by appointing another to the office. As to the argument, that an officer of the line ought not to be appointed to the situation, his experience in the Ordnance Office convinced him, that, an officer of the line was more fitted to fill it than an officer of artillery. On the whole, he should take the evidence of the report, against the opinion of the Committee. He was sure there was enough of business in the Ordnance department for every officer in the establishment. There was one reduction he regretted; namely, that of the salary of clerk of the Ordnance from 2,000l. to 1,200l. He had himself proposed an increase of the salary in 1824, and had succeeded, with the unanimous consent of parliament.
Sir J. Graham
said, the right hon. gentleman had, early in the session, declared that he would not allow himself to be bound by the Finance Committee. Even so far back as 1824, the right hon. gentleman had commenced preparations for changing his side, by voting for the increase of the 1625 salary of clerk of the Ordnance. The right hon. gentleman's sympathy with the Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance was very natural. The Paymaster of the Army was not far removed from the Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance. When the abolition of the latter was proposed, it was to be expected, that the Paymaster would tremble for his situation. "Jam proximus ardet Ucalegon." He would not charge the right hon. gentleman with inconsistency; but it was for the public to consider whether he was not open to a more grave accusation. The right hon. gentleman had shewn indiscretions, in the usual zeal of a new proselyte, and a shortness of memory also; for the right hon. gentleman had put a case hypothetically, which he ought to remember was a fact.— He had said, "if there were any persons in that House who desired to reduce the public expenditure to the lowest scale."— Surely there was no necessity for an "if." The right hon. gentleman must know, that the only bond which united gentlemen at that side of the House was the principle of effecting all possible saving in the expenditure of the public money. The hon. baronet then went on to shew, from the evidence on the report, that the office was unnecessary, and ought to be abolished.
§ Sir G. Murray
said, that the hon. member for Dorsetshire seemed to think, that the duties of the office now under consideration had not been increased by the addition of the various departments which had been transferred to it. The duties both of the Master-general and the Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance had been considerably increased by the addition of those departments; but though there had been an increase of labour to them, the change had been attended with the greatest benefit to the public service. The gallant officer proceeded to argue, that it was highly necessary that a military officer of rank and ability should preside in the board, as military questions might frequently come before it. Allusion had been made to the absence of the Master-general and Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance; but he quite agreed with the Paymaster-general, that this was the exception and not the general rule. He thought too, it would be extremely wrong-that government should be debarred from having recourse to the services of an experienced and able officer, because he happened to be connected with the Ordnance. 1626 There was no man more decidedly favourable to useful saving than he was; but he thought, at the same time, that the House should proceed upon the principle of not injuring the efficiency of the public institut ions of the country.
said, he did not consider that the causes for the reduction of this office were most imperative and peremptory; but, looking to the state of the finances of the country, he conceived, that any reduction which could be conveniently and safely made in the public service should be effected. He therefore felt bound to give his vote now, as the Finance Committee had done, for the reduction of this office; not because its reduction was called for more imperatively than that of other offices, but because it could be conveniently dispensed with, and because the duties of the department could be as well performed by one officer as by two.
§ Lord Morpeth
said, that the chief, and indeed only, argument of the gentlemen opposite seemed to be, that there was sufficient business to occupy both the Master-general and Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance; but even if their statement had not been triumphantly met, there was one stubborn fact—the fact of the repeated absence of this "indispensable" officer, which could not be got over.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
maintained, that the loss to the public service by the removal of the Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance would more than counterbalance the good which would be derived from the saving of his salary. He quoted the authority of Mr. Canning, who, on a former occasion, when the subject was under discussion, maintained the necessity of the office in question. It was said, that in the absence of the Lieutenant-general, the duties were sufficiently well discharged by the Master-general. But, if the Master-general had to perform the duties of the Lieutenant-general as well as his own, a relaxation in the discharge of both duties must sooner or later follow, and be attended with a public injury.
§ Sir M. W. Ridley
said, that this was not a question of absence or not, but whether an office which might have been necessary in time of war, was so in the time of peace? In his opinion, nothing had been shown in favour of that continuation, and he should therefore vote against it.
Mr. Secretary Peel
said, that the government had already made reductions to 1627 the amount of 9,000l. a-year. Could any thing give a stronger proof of its disposition to retrench? The Finance Committee had taken the opinions of the duke of Wellington and of his right hon. friend, and on comparing the estimates of 1820 with the estimates of 1828, they would find that a reduction of 435,000l. had taken place. Under these circumstances, he thought the government was entitled to some credit. He thought it would also appear, on the evidence of the best authorities, that the office of Lieutenant-general was necessary; though the individual holding it might be absent for a time on the business of the State.
said, he did not regard the question as one of overwhelming interest, but he thought it possessed interest sufficient to call for the serious attention of the House. It was the first occasion upon which the Finance Committee had called upon the House to say aye or no to one of its propositions. Was the House prepared to say no? Would the House of Commons be decided by authority alone, without going into the investigation of facts? It had been contended, that absence did not justify a forfeiture of the office; but was it not important evidence, that Lieutenants-general might be absent for a year or more, and was it too much to conclude from such evidence that the appointment might be dispensed with? As to the smallness of the saving, it had nothing to do with the question. Burthened as the country was at present, no sum could be too small to oppose, if it was unnecessary.
§ The Committee divided: For the Amendment 95; Against it 204; Majority 109.