« PreviousContinue »
sions as the present, were of infinite service: When many os the abuses of public offices were mentioned on the first introduction of this Bill, the Chancellor of the Exchequer hnd said, that he never before had heard of them; such discussions as the present would serve to bring them to view, and the clause should have his support because it went to correct and check them.
The Secretary at War moved that the Act relative to the restraints laid on clerks in public offices in franking be read; which being done, a conversation of considerable length took place, in which Mr. Yorke, Mr. Dent, Mr. Rose, Mr. Martin, Mr. Buxton, Mr. W. Smith, Mr. Grey, Mr. Thornton, Mr. Ilussey, and Mr. Robinson took part; after which Mr. Pcrter agreed to withdraw the clause, understanding that. Mr. Dent was to make a motion upon the subject immediately.
The clauses being all agreed to, the Bill was ordered to be read a third time on Friday, if then engrossed.
ABUSE OF FKAVKING IN Pl'RLIC OFFICE?.
Mr. Dent then rose to move for a Committee of Inquiry into the abuses of the privilege of franking in the public offices. He stated, that the produce of the Post Office was about 627,000!. a year, and after deducting all charges, the net produce amounted to 390,0001. He then proceeded to enumerate some of the abuses of clerks in office, and to shew how that affected the revenue of the Post Office. By means of these abuses various pamphlets were carried all over the kingdom free of postage, among others Mr. Lackington's thick and bulky catalogue of books. Nay more, even hares and haunches of venison had been conveyed in this manner. These facts lie did not wish to rest upon his assertion -, Mr. Dent said he was ready to prove them at the bar oPthat House, whenever he should be called upon to do so. Such abuses, he maintained, ought to be done away as well and as speedily as possible. He concluded with moving, "That a Committee be appointed to inquire into the several frauds and abuses, in relation to the sending or receiving letters free of postage, by clerks in public offices entitled to frank letters; that they do examine the fame, and state their opinion thereupon to she House."
Air. Long thought that this inquiry was unnecessary, and that if it was gone into, it would not remedy the evil. He had heard of abuses in many of the offices; he had inquired, and found that many existed, but he found also that these abuses hnd been greatly exaggerated. With regard to haunches of venison, he apprehended that the Hon. Gentleman misconceived conceived the matter. If any thing of that sort had been carried from the Post-office, the Public was not defrauded by it, although he had no doubt of the fact being as the Hon. Gen^ tleman related, for he had heard of a turtle being sent in the fame way. But the fact was this; by the contract of the Postoffice, on mail-coaches, these things were carried as parcels under the fame right as that by which passengers were carried by the mail $ and therefore this was no fraud upon the revenue. With regard to this Committee being unnecessary, he must observe, that already many regulations had been adopted in these offices, and many others were about to be adopted, and would be carried into effect as speedily as possible. Another reason why he should vote against going into this Committee was, because he was convinced, that from the manner the accounts were kept of these franks, there could not be proof of the abuse brought before the Committee. Taking the whole of the matter together, he saw no good that would result from the proposed inquiry; and therefore he thought it would be better to leave the matter to the operation of the regulations which have been, and others that are about to be adopted. If after a fair trial they should be found ineffectual, then some other remedy might be proposed.
Mr. Courtenay said, it appeared to him that the chief reaj son for bringing this motion forward, was its being denied that any abuse existed jn these offices- Now that these abuses were admitted to exist, and that it was said they were to be corrected, he, on that account, was rather inclined to agree with Gentlemen on the other side; and therefore he hoped the fense of the House would not be taken on the motion.'
Mr. Bauvirie said, he should fuppoTt the motion, pn the ground~fhat the Hon. Gentleman who made it, had pledged himself to prove the abuses which he stated: Abuses which, to a certain extent, indeed seemed now to be acknowledged. Ministers ought to be obliged to the House for stimulating them forward in this business, for they seemed to want a stimulus.
Air. Wilmit thought it was net necessary to go into abuses, which were acknowledged to exist, because the question ought only to be on the mode of adopting a remedy; one remedy was now trying—if that failed, another might be tried hereafter.
Captain Berkley did not pretend to know any thing of any of the offices, except the Ordnance; he maintained, however, there was no abuse as to franking in that o(Rce; if there was, he should be excessively obliged to the Hon. Gentleman for stating it to him.
Vol. III. D Mr.
Mr. Dent admitted that he knew of no abuses in the Ordnance, but in others there were abuses to an enormous extent, and particularly in the Customs.
Mr. W. Smith wished the motion to be withdrawn, because he thought the notoriety of the abuses alluded to, superseded the necessity of inquiring into their existence. The best thing that could be done, was to apply a remedy as soon as possible; besides, there might be some difficulty in proving the abuses, although they were notorious, because, when the House came to examine evidence, they must subject themselves to certain formal rules; and many Gentlemen who had already furnished this information privately to Members, could not be called upon to give their testimony in public, without a breach of faith. ,
Mr. I. H. Browne was of the fame opinion.
Mr. Porter was for going into a Committee.
The House divided,
For the motion ^—-Againjl it 41.
Strangers were then excluded for a considerable time, during which we understood that the Sunday Bill was brought on a:id disposed of in the following manner:
On motion, for going into- a Committee on the Bill, the question was put, " That the Speaker do now leave the chair." The House divided,
For the motion 37—Againjl it 50.
"That this Bill' be committed on Friday se'nnight." An amendment was moved, That instead of " Friday se'nnight," the words " This day six months'' be substituted. The House divided,
For the amendment 44—Againjl it 43.
So that there is an end of that Bill for this Session at least.
The Bill for providing for Subalterns in the Militia in time of War, passed the Committee, after a few words between Genera/ Tarlcton, General Smith, and the Secretary at War. Report ordered to be received the next day.
The Lottery Bill was ordered to be read a third time the next day, if then engrossed.
Mr. Mcimvnring asked the Secretary at War, at what time lie should be ready to bring forward his plan of relief to the innkeepers, whose petition lay on the table, complaining of hardships in consequence of billeting soldiers upon them.
The Secretary at War admitted they laboured under grievous hr.rdstiips, and said they had born them with patience; he said lie hoped to be ready, with a plan for their relief in a few days.
Mr. Mainwaring said he was. satisfied.
The Bill for allowing 2,500,000!. to his Majesty for extraordinary services of the year, was ordered to be read a third time on Monday, if then engrossed.
Leave was given to bring in a Bill to regulate the (hipping employed in carrying slaves from the coast of Africa in British vessels.
The Militia Pay and Clothing Bill was passed. The Dead Body Bill was ordered to be read a second time on Friday next.—Adjourned.
HOUSE OF LORDS.
THANKS TO VICE-ADMIRAL HOTHAM, &c.
'Earl Spencer rose, in pursuance of the notice which he gave the preceding day, to move the thanks of the House to Admiral Hotham sot the victory which he obtained over the French fieet in the Mediterranean. The Noble Earl observed, that the victory for which he proposed to move their Lordships to vote their thanks, was the effect of the skili and bravery of the gallant Admiral whom he had named, and also owing to the courage of those who were under him in command. Such victories, he thought, should always be acknowledged and rewarded with the highest honour their Lordships could bestow. He should have thought it unnecessary to s.ty any thing on the subject more than barely to move the thanks of the House, had he not the preceding day understood that one Noble Lord intended to make some observations upon the grounds of- the motion, and the proof of the fact, that a victory had been obtained. He was induced, however, to think that that Noble Lord would not oppose the motion; with which he intended to conclude; the importance of the victory he alluded to being undeniable; If any thing remained imperfect in the account of that event, it arose put of the modesty with which the gallant Admiral had transmitted it, and os the dissident terms in which he had conveyed the information of a victory that had been so much owing to his own merit. The Noble Earl, if he wished to have any further information en that head, might, if he chose, have recourse to the Gazette, where he would be fully satisfied as to the sict. Ey this victory the naval superiority of Great Britain had been maintained; and for such serrices he was confident their Lordships were ready to bestow their praise, and the Public to acknowledge their obligation. lie concluded with moving, "That the thanks of this House
D a be be given to Vice-Admiral Hotham, for his meritoriou s services in the command of his Majesty's fleet lately stationed in the Mediterranean."
His Lordship observed, that if his motion should be carried* as he had no doubt it would, he should follow it up with other motions of thanks to Vice-Admiral Goodall, Sir Hyde Parker, and all the officers, together with acknowledgment and approbation of the services of the men on board the fleet, &c. The question of thanks to Admiral Hotham being put, The Earl osLaudtrdalt said, the Noble Earl who had made this motion had conjectured rightsy, when he expected that he should make some observations on this subject, although he should not oppose the motion in particular. He objected, however, to the practice of voting thanks indiscriminately for all victories. Sure he was, the service was not much honoured by placing on the fame footing of merit, the victory of the first of June, and the taking of Bastia! He was of opinion, that a great difference ought to be made between a splendid victory and a trivial advantage; but ministers had of late confounded them, by coming forward to move thanks indiscriminately to Lord Hood and Lord Howe. This practice, however, had been confined a good deal to our naval operations; for, with the single exception of Sir Chades Grey, ministers had, by the wisdom of their plans, contrived to keep our military force Clear from any chance of receiving the thanks of that House for the exertion of its commanders. With regard to any diffidence that might be felt on this occasion, he owned he had not any, as far as regarded Admiral Hotham •, his diffidence arose from the London Gazette, to which authority the Noble Earl had beers pleased to refer him. He perceived in the account of this very victory^ in actual engagement with Admiral Hotham, the very ships (named the Censeur and Ca Ira) which were stated by the fame authority, the London Gazette, to be destroyed by Lord Hood at Toulon, and others had been burnt down to the water's edge, and so disabled as to be totally unfit for service. He wished to know with what propriety their Lordships could rely on the last account of the victory of Admiral Hotham, when they found the account of the affair of Toulon so fallacious. By this mode of proceeding their Lordships were to thank two Admirals for destroying the fame force—that was a double vote of thanks for one and the fame act. And possibly, hereafter, ministers would come forward to thank some other English Admiral for destroying these very ships a third lime. Upon these considerations he thought their Lordships should institute an inquiry, before they voted thanks in future. He admitted that the London Gazette had former