I always knew the Minister for Defence to be a bold man, but boldness is not the word for the audacity that can produce to the Dáil the document we have in our hands, and call it "Estimates." There are supposed to be twenty-five Estimates for the Army here, but in truth and in fact they are twenty-five leaps in the dark which we are invited to applaud in the dark. It would be a sad fate for the Minister for Defence if he were called upon to justify those figures before any Committee of business men, however friendly to his cause. No Board of Directors would vote away a large portion of the prospective annual revenue of the company to its most trusted manager upon the very vague and inconclusive figures of the character presented to us here. This Estimate, or series of Estimates, is the strongest possible argument for placing the official Estimates before a Committee on Estimates before they are brought for approval to this Dáil. I confess I have not been able to understand the reason why the present Ministry objects to a Committee on Estimates; the ordinary businesslike procedure which we ought to have followed in connection with every one of those Estimates. If I support the amendment now before the Dáil it is only because I think it necessary that a protest should be made, and that there may be some difficulty, according to our rules, in proposing what I should prefer, namely, that those Estimates be referred back to a Committee on Estimates before they are dealt with by this Dáil. That is the proper procedure, and I think we are entitled to some explanation when we are voting away ten and a half millions of money. The fact is that that course was not adopted. When this lusty volume of Estimates was first presented to me I glanced through it to look for the milch cows. Members are probably aware of the long-standing practice in the English Parliament, a practice which it is fair to assume that our experts in Finance would be likely to follow, of inserting here and there in the underwood of the Estimates a few milch cows—nice, fat, plump Estimates upon which you can draw on occasion if you find you have not enough money. That is the time-honoured practice across the water, and on looking through these accounts I did here and there find the horns of an occasional milch cow peeping up out of the thickets, but when I came to this Estimate, when I came to the Army Estimates, it was not the horns of an occasional milch cow I found, but a regular herd of milch cows. You can almost hear them lowing out of almost every one of the twenty-five items of the Minister for Defence. I would like the Dáil to consider the amounts of the figures presented to us. You will notice one significant fact, and that is that all the figures of those Estimates, with, I think, one exception, end in 0 0 0, as if the skilful draughtsman of these Estimates had an anticipation of what the Dáil would say when it saw them. Let us briefly glance at a few of the figures here. The Dáil will notice when it looks at Votes A and L, pay of officers, N.C.O.'s and men, and provisions and allowances in lieu, that these two items together come to nearly one-half of the total Estimate that we are asked to vote. The Dáil will notice further, if it takes the trouble to add together the other Votes, consisting of items in the nature of pay, that is, items A B C D E G and L, that you get a total of upwards of seven and a half millions out of a ten and a half million Vote for pay and other items of that kind. I want to ask the Dáil to remember this: the Minister told us the other day that the present strength of the Army was 49,000, and he told us that he expected to reduce that strength to 30,000 by Christmas. I ask the Dáil to bear that in mind, because members will be compelled to draw from those premises this conclusion, that although the Army would be very much smaller at Christmas, and that therefore the gigantic expenditure which might have been expected if the civil war had continued will be on a very much smaller scale, nevertheless the figures which we are asked to vote are quite obviously drawn up upon a war basis. I confess that I expected when this Vote was introduced that the Minister for Defence would get up and say: "Since there is a dawn of peace, since there is a prospect that the war will not continue, I refuse to ask the Dáil to vote ten and a half millions on the Army Estimate; I am going to ask the Dáil to vote what I think may be necessary for the next six months. At the end of that period we shall know how the matter stands, and I shall then come back to the Dáil and ask for whatever may be necessary, but I am confident that it will fall very far short of ten and a half millions." Instead of that these Estimates, avowedly prepared while the fight was on, are solemnly laid before us to-day, and we are solemnly asked to vote away ten and a half millions, when the Minister himself confesses that he is going to reduce the strength of the Army by forty per cent. at least between this and Christmas. Is that treating the Dáil seriously?
The manner in which the Estimates are presented makes one even less inclined to agree to the Vote of so large a sum of money. I look down the column for the coming year, and, with one exception, I find that everything is calculated in nice round thousands. Even the increases and decreases from last year are calculated in nice round thousands, and, generally speaking, the rounder the better. For instance, take item "C.""Oh, we will put on an increase of fifty thousand. In item ‘A' we will put on eight thousand, and in item ‘C' we will take off twenty thousand. And when we come to put down for the first time the Estimate for Railway Protection, Repair and Maintenance Corps, oh that is easily settled; let us put down a round million." A round million, gentlemen, at the moment when violence has ceased in the country and it is perfectly obvious that that round million is not going to be required! No wonder there is a footnote to these accounts saying it is impossible to give details. When I come down to item "Y" I confess that I find myself puzzled—"Item ‘Y,' Balances Irrecoverable." It appears that last year £10,000 represented "Balances Irrecoverable." Wiser members of the Dáil may know what "Balances Irrecoverable" are. Does it mean money lost count of? Does it mean money due by people who will not pay? I know not. Perhaps it does not matter, but that item is likewise increased to £15,000 for this year. The Minister for Defence is telling those concerned in advance that there is £15,000 that he does not expect to be able to recover at all. That in advance! Perhaps the Minister will be good enough to throw a little light upon these "Balances Irrecoverable," which, I have no doubt, are capable of a perfectly innocent explanation, but which on paper, to a person uninitiated like me, look very curious.
If one wished to find further evidence of the unsatisfactory way in which these figures are launched at us, rather at random, one has only to look at items "H" and "J,""Conveyance of Troops and Conveyance of Stores." We are told that in the previous Estimate, when there were two nice round figures for these items, "Conveyance of Troops" cost £7,000 more than it is expected to cost in the present Estimate, but that interesting information is counterbalanced by the next item, which informs us that "Conveyance of Stores" is going to cost £7,000 more in the coming year, and by some legerdemain which I cannot follow the £270,000 which are still being asked for these items are split up into £193,000 and £77,000, although the sum total of the two is exactly the same as it was on the last occasion.
I am sorry if it falls to the Minister for Defence to defend this accountancy matter, but I have no doubt his experts will be able to tell him how these curious things are arrived at. I find similar items on page 33 of the Estimates, where figures are put down to Headquarters Offices and Military Barracks and Camps. It was evidently decided that the total for these items should be the nice round sum of £200,000, but the gentleman who put these figures down did not like to put down £200,000, because that did not look enough like an Estimate, so he split it into odd figures, "Headquarters Offices £4,700, Military Barracks and Camps £195,300," and it is just a pure coincidence that if you add these two figures they come to the nice round figure of £200,000. I object to these fat round figures because they mean that we have not had serious work done upon these Estimates by the people who prepared them. Incidentally, perhaps it is a small point, but it is one which will be of importance later on, I should like some little information on the question of Insurance. I am under the impression that the Government is its own insurer in most, if not all its Departments outside the Army, and obviously it ought to be its own insurer. Is there any reason why this new item, which was not in the previous Estimates, of £37,000 for Insurance should appear here instead of treating the Army Insurance in the same way as other Governmental Insurance and letting the Government be its own insurer.
Finally, I observe that the gentleman who concocted these Estimates, in a moment of remorse, lest by any chance he should have forgotten a few thousand pounds here and there, puts down another nice round sum of £25,000, which he calls Miscellaneous Expenses, £25,000. Miscellaneous Expenses! We are told in the footnote that the Army is in a state of reorganisation, and it is not possible to give details.
I put it to the Minister, of two things— one, either these Estimates were framed upon data which the Dáil should be able to see, or, if no details can be given, then the Estimates were not framed upon data and should not be passed by the Dáil. "The Army is in a state of reorganisation, and it is not possible to give details." I have every welcome for the reorganisation, but we are here solemnly given figures to the tune of £10,500,000— figures that, it is fair to assume, were all based upon some data. Is there any reason why the Dáil should not have those data? To give a very simple example, and one of no importance—because the principle applies generally— look at the Vote for clergymen. That, by the way, is almost the only vote it has not been found necessary to increase. Is there any high reason of State why we should not know how many of these clergymen are Catholics and how many there are of other religions? Is there any reason why we should not know the pay of each clergyman? Is there any reason why we should not know the total number of clergymen—how many priests and how many parsons—in the Army? If these figures mean anything serious— and we must assume they do—every one of them must have been prepared upon data—where you are dealing with men, data concerning so many men; where you are dealing with materials, data concerning the amount of materials and so forth.
I submit that the Dáil is perfectly entitled to have these data put before it before it is asked to Vote the most important item in these Estimates—before it is asked to Vote £10,500,000 on a war basis at a moment when the war is not on. I do not think that the Minister is treating the Dáil seriously if he persists in asking that a Vote of this kind should go through upon Estimates which are not Estimates at all. I do not think the Dáil is doing its duty if it allows such Estimates to go through without obtaining the information it is entitled to. As I said earlier, the proper way for the Minister to have furnished this information was to have brought it before a Committee on Estimates in the Dáil, as is done in Parliaments which take their business seriously, as we ought to do. I ask the Dáil to remember that we are threatened with the necessity for raising a loan of some £20,000,000, and if it could be shown that this very big item of £10,500,000 is capable of reduction, in view of the changed condition of affairs, to a very much smaller sum, the £20,000,000 upon which we will have to pay interest will also be reduced to a smaller sum. Therefore, it is not fair that the Dáil should be asked to Vote more than is really wanted. Had the civil war been still on, I should not have been critical of this Estimate. I realise that it was prepared during that period. What I am objecting to is that, with all the imperfections attendant upon Estimates prepared during that period, it is now persisted in when violence has ceased and when there can be no difficulty whatever in getting together such data as are available to justify these various heads. Therefore, I very much regret that the Dáil should be asked to Vote this enormous sum upon data consisting of these very haphazard round figures, instead of being supplied with the detailed information to which, as a trustee of the people, it is clearly entitled.