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quences. Now, it was his wish to invest the naval commissioners with a discretion of the same nature as that possessed by the judges-that they should have the power of compelling reluctant witnesses to answer
nary that the right hon. gent. should selecters of those commissioners from any apthe very time he was moving for leave to prehension that that power was likely to bring in a bill to prolong the existence of be abused; for against such an apprehenthe naval commission, in order to cast a sion the discreet and moderate manner in slur upon the conduct of that commis- which they had heretofore acted must afsion. Such a reflection from any man in ford sufficient security. According to the the house would excite surprise, but from act, as it now stands, every person had, it the right hon. gent. on such an occasion seems, a right to decline to answer any too, it must be peculiarly surprising. Not question which he chose to think might only that he was quite sure it was de- tend to criminate himself. This afforded cidedly opposite to the general opinion such a latitude as was calculated comof that house, and the universally received pletely to defeat al! enquiry, and he would sentiment of the country, that those com- appeal to the learned gent. on the other missioners were in any part of their con- side (the attorney general), whether any duct deserving of censure. So far from it, man would be permitted in a court of law that there could be no doubt that the pu- to decline answering a question merely blic feeling was warmly in their favour, upon his own conception that the answer too much so indeed to afford any thing might tend to criminate him. The praclike a gracious reception to the right hon. tice, on the contrary, was, he apprehended, gent.'s remarks. Those commissioners, that if a man declined, upon such an alin his judgment, and he believed there legation, to give an answer, the court was were very few who really differed from him, competent to say, that it did not appear had discharged their duty with peculiar likely the answer would produce such an moderation and justice. If the right hon. effect, and that therefore the witness must gent. thought that they had in any in-answer. If, however, the answer should stance deviated from that duty, or made tend to criminate the witness, the common an improper exercise of the power intrust-law would protect him against the conseed to them, it was incumbent on him to have stated it, and not to have dealt in loose insinuation. Persuaded of the merits of this commission, and that where the results of its enquiry were in any case imperfect, that imperfection did not proceed from any want of diligence or capacity on their part, but from a deficiency in the powers with which they were invested, he should move an amendment, the object of which would be to remove that deficiency. The first point upon which he The Chancellor of the Exchequer observed would propose to extend the power of the upon the allusions which the hon. gent. commissioners, would be to compel pub-had made to what he thought proper to lic officers to furnish them with accounts call a slur thrown out by him upon the or documents in such form as they might conduct of the naval commissioners. Surely think proper to specify. Thus, no trea- the hon. gent. could not suppose that besurer of the navy, or other public officer, cause he felt it his duty to bring forward or deputy, would be permitted to thwart this motion, that he was therefore divested or delay the proceedings of this meritori-of the liberty of speech, or that he was to ous commission. The next amendment be held out to the odium of that house or he would submit would go to repeal or the country, because he had thought pronew-model the 5th clause, which appear- per to animadvert upon the conduct of the ed to have been so improperly made use naval commissioners. He certainly did of to prevent the full disclosure of pub- think that those commissioners had in cerlic delinquency, and to protect delinquents. tain, instances executed their powers in a These effects, which were notorious, and very unbecoming manner. But still he which occasioned general regret, must im- was ready to say that their services were press the mind of every man who was really productive of public utility, and in conse anxious for the success of this enquiry, quence of that opinion he brought forward with a strong conviction of the necessity the motion before the house. With regard for this amendment. No objection could to the new provisions recommended by be made to a further extension of the pow-the hon. gent., he did not conceive that
that suchwitnesses should be protected by this act, not against the answer, but against the consequences of such answer. With this view the hon. gent. moved an amendment to the motion-that the word "amend" should be inserted after the word continued.
there were grounds for their adoption. | of his hon. friend, gentlemen would consiThey were at all events of such a nature der that the adoption of it would not go to as to require much deliberation, and there bind the house to any subsidiary amendfore he should oppose their introduction ments that might be hereafter submitted. into the original frame of the bill. If, He merely proposed that as an amendment however, they should appear upon future was obviously necessary in this act, that consideration to be necessary, it would be the original title of the bill should correcompetent to the hon. gent. to propose spond with the desired object. If the amendthem in a future stage, when there would ments recommended by his hon. friend be a better opportunity for discussing them, were calculated to entrench on the great than on the present occasion; namely, in and fundamental principles of common law, the shape of a motion for an instruction he would not, from any degree of regard or to the committee to receive such clause. gratitude to the commissioners of naval Into the merits of these amendments he enquiry, and no man respected them more would for the present decline to enter at than he did, be induced to assent to their any length. But as to the last point re-adoption. He wished not that any man specting the 5th clause of the act as it stood, should be bound to criminate himself; but, he would say, that it would appear to him in any act which had for its object to coma breach of common equity, and a most pel public officers to account for their condangerous innovation upon the old conduct of the public money, he was very unstitutional practice, to oblige a man to willing that a clause should exist, calculacriminate himself. It was such a proposited to shelter any public officer from rention as he trusted the house would feel to dering such account, if he chose to decline be at least deserving of too much serious it. At least, any officer who should avail consideration, at once to give a sort of himself of such a clause, and thus explicitopinion by the adoption of the honourable ly declare an apprehension of the discovery gentleman's motion that such an amend- of his guilt, ought not to be allowed, for ment was necessary. one moment afterwards, to retain his office. The case was different with respect to private individuals. But, when the public thought proper to appoint a commission to enquire into the conduct of its stewards or agents, was it 'to be borne that any one of such servants should refuse to answer the questions of such a commission; but, still more, was it tolerable that after such refusal he should remain in office? If a public officer were innocent, why should he wish to be silent, and, if he were guilty, why should the legislature protect hun in his silence? He did not mean of course that any officer should be forced to furnish grounds of prosecution against himself, but that, if he persisted in that conduct which clearly implied a consciousness of delinquency, he should be dismissed from office. Gentlemen often appeared to forget the
Mr. For entirely concurred with his hon, friend in thinking the insinuation thrown out against the naval commissioners by the right hon. gent. who had just sat down, a most extraordinary circumstance indeed, particularly when the time at which the right hon. gent. expressed his disapprobation was taken into view. If the ground of this disapprobation was of a serious and important nature, it was highly inconsistent in him to bring forward the motion before the house. For if the commissioners were deserving of such censure, how could the right hon. gent. reconcile it with a just sense of public duty, to propose the continuance of their power? But if, on the contrary, the grounds of the right hon. gent.'s disapprobation were of a trifling or comparatively unimportant nature, how strange was the opportunity chosen for de-nature of these commissions. They were claring it! There was something peculiarly remarkable in the conduct of the right hon. gent. respecting this commission. At such a time, what could he mean by alluding to trivial errors—
Just hint a fault and hesitate dislike, Anxious t wound, and yet afraid to strike. Those two lines appeared to be quite appropriate to express the disposition of the right hon. gent., they seemed to be made for him. With respect to the proposition
in fact, to be considered as the representatives of the public, examining the conduct of public servants. If a master were to appoint any person to enquire into the affairs of his family, and a servant were to refuse to answer such questions as might be put to him, from a fear of criminating himself, would such a servant be permitted to retain his place? Certainly not. Why, then, should a treasurer of the navy, or his clerk, or any other public servant,
however high, be allowed to remain in of-proper stage for going into detail or disfice after refusing to answer to the agent of cussion upon the nature of such ainendtheir master for the manner in which they ments as might be necessary, yet he agreed had managed his concerns, particularly with his hon. friend, that some amendwhen their refusal betrayed a sense of ments for the purpose of enlarging the guilt? Whether public officers should be powers of the board of naval enquiry were compellable to answer such commissions necessary, from the einbarrassing impedior not, it ought, surely, in common sense ments those commissioners had already exand equity, be understood that a refusal to perienced in the course of their proceedanswer should be immediately followed by ings. The right hon. gent.'s leading obdismissal. If that were understood, then jections were directed against the suggesthe refusal of the 5th clause would not be tions of his hon, friend (Mr. Whitbread), so essentially necessary, although still a for enabling the board to enforce answers provision to meet such a case as that of to sucu interrogatories as they should deem Mark Sprott would be called for. That necessary, from the witnesses brought beperson declined to answer, on the ground fore them, without having the objects of that he was not, being no public officer, their enquiry defeated by pretences that compellable to answer questions under the those persons were not bound to answer act. So he was advised by the lawyers interrogatories, tending to their own criwhom he consulted. Perhaps those law-mination. His hon. friend never meant, yers were right, but whether or not, it he was confident, to expose any man to was proper to extend and explain the powers of the commissioners so as to leave no room for doubt or cavil, and to enable them fully to execute the purpose of their appointment. The hon. member repeated, that it was desirable to be understood that such a commission as that under consideration was not to be viewed by public officers as a hostile court of enquiry, but as a representative of the public, to which they are as much obliged to account, as any servants are to the enquiry of their masters.
the severity of criminal proceedings, in consequence of any testimony extorted from him by the authority of the commissioners; and the law of the land would protect him in such a case. The house, certainly, in appointing the board of commissioners for the purpose of naval enquiry, did not surrender any of its own privileges; neither did he conceive the house to have warranted any individual to direct his censures against the conduct of those commissioners which it had so highly approved: and The Attorney-General opposed the amend- before the right hon. gent. proceeded to diment. If it were adopted, he would put it rect such heavy censures against that board, to the consideration of the house how the it was incumbent upon him to have pointed bill was to be framed agreeable to its title, out those parts of their conduct which unless there was a private communication called for his reprobation. He had himbetween the hon. gent. and his right hon. self given notice of an intention to move friend before the bill should be drawn up, for the thanks of that house to the comand that the objections existing in the mind missioners of naval enquiry, for that conof his right hon. friend against those duct which had already excited the uniamendments should be removed. If the versal gratitude of the country without objections prevailing against, those amend doors; and when he should have the homents, which objections he himself felt nour of bringing that motion forward in strongly, should not be done away by fu- a day or two, he should hope, if not for ture discussion, the house, if the amend- the concurrence of the right hon. gent., at ment now proposed were acceded to, might least for some explanation of those parts be placed in the dilemma of having prefixed of the conduct of the commissioners, which a title to a bill, with which the bill itself may he had taken so untimely and unqualified prove to be inconsistent. It was manifest an occasion to censure. The commissicto him that it would be much better toners of enquiry bad complained that their postpone the adoption of a title to the bill, which would imply an alteration of the existing act, until that change itself should be determined on.
Mr. Sheridan supported the amendment, and observed, that although he agreed with the right hon. gent, that this was not the
powers were defective, inasmuch as they had no power to enforce the answers to which his hon. friend alluded; and the right hon. gent. was all alarm, lest public officers should be placed in the liability of criminating their conduct, by telling the truth. It did not appear however, from
the existing state of things, that self-cri- | decided friend to enquiries of this kind, mination was much the order of the day. ever since he had the honour of a seat in But he would beg leave to ask the right parliament-[a laugh]. Gentlemen might hon. gent. if he was always so much alive laugh if they pleased, but he would boldto constitutional feelings on this point? ly look them in the face, and say, without or whether he had forgotten the bill intro-fear of refutation, that there was duced by himself into that house in 1785, amongst them one who was more disposed for the express purpose of enquiring into than he had ever been to the strictest ecoabuses which had obtained in the fees of the nomy in every branch of the public expublic offices of government, by which penditure. He well remembered the bill bill, the commissioners appointed under alluded to, and how warmly it was opposed, it were invested with such powers as com- as well by an hon. member unfortunately pletely stripped all persons brought before no more, as by the last and preceding hon. them of those rights now so warmly and members who spoke, but who were this pertinaciously contended for by the right night such strenuous advocates for oppohon. gent.? Did the right hon. gent. on site principles. It was felt on that occathat occasion plead Magna Charta in sup- sion, that it would be necessary to examine port of his arguments, when he gave the many public officers long in the habit of most decided resistance to the admission taking large sums of the public money, and of a clause moved by him (Mr. Sheridan), who would never be induced to answer infor the protection of persons aginst the ex- terrogatories, if not compelled to it. It tortion of answers tending to their own was then objected from the other side of crimination? Did the right hon. gent. for- the house, that it was unconstitutional to get that the identical Mr. Trotter, of whose force men to answers that would criminate rights he was now so jealous, was, under themselves, and expose them to prosecuthe former bill, compelled to answer in- tions, and that a particular clause was neterrogatories similar to those which he had cessary to guard against such consequences; refused answering to the commissioners of but the introduction of such a clause was naval enquiry? which circumstance is al- resisted by his right hon. friend, upon the luded to in the appendix to the tenth re-ground that the law of the land gave amport. So far, however, from agreeing with the unqualified censures thrown by the right hon. gent. upon the commissioners of naval enquiry, he thought the house was bound to them by every sentiment of the most unlimited gratitude; and when he should have the honour of calling for the expression of that gratitude, by a motion of thanks, he should frame his motion, so as either to make it impossible for the right hon. gent. to dissent from him, or compel him to shew some reasonable cause for his dissent. He agreed with the right hon. and learned gent. that there was no very great likelihood of frequent or confidential in- The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in tercourse between his hon. friend (Mr. answer to what had fallen from Mr. SheriWhitbread), and the right hon. gent. who dan, respecting his bill of 1785, said, if hon. introduced the original motion. If, how-gentlemen would take the trouble of reever, the right hon. gent. wished to have ferring to the bill itself, they would find it any suggestion as to the amendments contained no one of the obnoxious or which were deemed necessary in the bill, unconstitutional principles which the hon. as by courtesy of the house he had the no-member had thought fit to impute to it.— mination of the committee to prepare and The question was then put on Mr. Whitbring it in, perhaps he would act wisely in bread's amendment, and negatived without nominating on that committee his hon. a division; and the original motion for friend, and some of those near him. leave to bring in the bill was carried. Mr. Rose perfectly coincided with the [MILITARY COMMISSIONERS' BILL.] motives of his right hon. friend, in oppos-The Chancellor of the Exchequer rose for the ing the amendment; though he had been a purpose of moving, that leave be given to
ple protection in such cases, and rendered such a clause wholly needless.
Mr. Bankes supported the amendment, because it was obvious, from the complaints of the naval commissioners, that their powers were defective, and their enquiries, therefore, in many instances, inefficient; but this defect might not arise from any imperfection in the act itself, or in its construction by the commissioners. If, upon due investigation in the proper stage of discussing the bill, an amendment should appear necessary, he should support it.
bring in a bill appointing commissioners to examine into the public expenditure of the departments therein mentioned, and to report such observations as might enable the legislature to correct and prevent irregula-perhaps, require a distinct commission.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer `could give no positive answer. He was not sure whether the same commission would serve for both countries or not. Ireland might,
Mr. J. Fitzgerald desired to be informed, whether or not it was to be understood that a distinct commission was to superintend the military department of Ireland?
Mr. Pitt said, he had not yet made up his mind on that part of the subject.
rities at present existing in such departments, and to adopt a better mode of conducting them for the future. He said, that as he had stated on a former night the objects of his motion, it would not now be The Chancellor of the Exchequer enternecessary to explain them very minutely. tained some doubts if the same committee They would chiefly comprehend the great could undertake the management of both branches of the military administration: Great Britain and Ireland; local knowthe offices of barracks and ordnance, the ledge might, perhaps, be necessary; but on commissariat and the quarter-master-gene- this subject he had not made up his inind. ral's departments. There were several Sir John Newport pressed for a more other objects to which he wished this com- explicit answer to the question of his hon. mission to extend. By a bill passed some friend. years ago, the inspection of the public accounts was taken from the auditors of irnprest, and vested in a commission; however Mr. For, notwithstanding the plausible well that commission had fulfilled its duty, professions under which the right hon. yet, from the length of the war, and the gent. brought forward this bill, had no great increase of public business, it was im- hesitation in declaring his decided opinion, possible to avoid large arrears, an evil that any bill of this sort brought into par. which could not be avoided, unless by ap-liament, for the specious purpose of inpointing a fresh commission to assist investigating abuses in the public expendibringing up the accounts. This was one object; another was to examine into the expenditure of the public money in the West Indies, to take measures for recovering what was due, and for preventing the recurrence of abuses in future, all which was now before the board of treasury. Having thus briefly stated the outlines of his plan, the right hon. gent. expressed his readiness to listen to any suggestions that might be made to him for the purpose of rendering the operations of it more effectual. The result of such a commission must be, that the public would have the satisfaction of being assured, either that no abuses existed in these departments, or if they unfortunately did exist, that measures would be taken to correct them.
ture, by persons who were themselves the friends and colleagues of delinquents, gavė him no hopes whatever that such enquiries were serious. That such persons should be the institutors of enquiry, and the nominators of the committees by whom such enquiries were to be carried on, was à circumstance which the house must regard at least with considerable suspicion. With respect to the personal delicacy of any man, acting under such circumstances as those in which the right hon. gent. stood, that was certainly his own consideration; but if he (Mr. Fox) was the person closely connected with delinquents, he should feel himself bound, by considerations of personal delicacy, to take special care not to be the man to bring forward such an enquiry, and to name the committee for carrying it on, conscious as he must be of the sentiments such a circumstance The Chancellor of the Exchequer replied, must produce in the opinions of all thinkthat would be a subject of future discus-ing men. The motion for the bill to in
Mr. J. Fitzgerald enquired whether the operation of the bill was meant to extend to Ireland?
Mr. Ellison asked if the war-office was to be included?
The Chancellor of the Exchequer answered in the affirmative.
Sir John Newport wished to know, whether or not the commissariat of Ireland was to be subject to investigation by this commission, as well as that of Great Britain?
stitute the committee of naval enquiry, on a former occasion, was brought forward by an hon. admiral, who every man must perceive, from the course of that enquiry, and the results it had produced, was serious in his intentions for the detection of delinquents. But he begged to ask, if that bill had been introduced by lord Melville, did any man believe that the house would have had before it Reports, such as those already