That a sum not exceeding £3,021,640 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending the 31st day of March, 1949, for the Defence Forces (including certain Grants-in-Aid) under the Defence Forces (Temporary Provisions) Acts, and for certain administrative expenses in connection therewith; for certain expenses under the Offences Against the State Acts, 1939 and 1940 (No. 13 of 1939 and No. 2 of 1940) and the Air-Raid Precautions Acts, 1939 and 1946 (No. 21 of 1939 and No. 28 of 1946); for expenses in connection with the issue of Medals, etc.; for expenses of the Bureau of Military History; and for a Grant-in-Aid of the Irish Red Cross Society (No. 32 of 1938).
In moving this Vote, I think that, at the very earliest point, it is necessary to explain to the Dáil that that sum is the balance of the amount contained in the Book of Estimates. The Book of Estimates contained a figure for the proposed Army expenditure for this year of some £4,600,000. I do not propose to spend that amount of money. The Estimates have been gone through very thoroughly and exhaustively, and have been revised, and I propose to reduce that sum by a figure of approximately three-quarters of a million pounds—by £744,282. For the benefit of Deputies, I propose to read out after each sub-head in the Estimate the amount of reduction proposed or decided on, and I have circulated some sheets with the figures on them for the convenience of Deputies.
Under sub-head A—Pay of Members of the Defence Forces—the reduction proposed is £71,522; under sub-head C —Pay of Civilians—£50,000; under sub-head D—Chaplains—£876; under sub-head E—Medical Corps—£2,000; under sub-head F—Medicines—£946; under sub-head H—Transport of Troops—£3,000; under sub-head J— Transport generally—£38,000; under sub-head K—Allowances in lieu— £68,015; under sub-head L—Petrol, Oil, etc.—£3,400; under sub-head M— Clothing and Equipment—£11,260; under sub-head N—Animals—£3,000; under sub-head O—General Stores— £35,993; under sub-head P—Warlike Stores—£63,641; under sub-head P (2) —Navy—£44,620; under sub-head Q— Engineers' Stores—£7,750; under sub-head R—Fuel, Light, etc.—£16,513; under sub-head S—Barrack Works and Maintenance—£6,680; under sub-head S (2)—Construction Corps—£23,518; under sub-head V—Barrack Services— £13,000; under sub-head W—Insurance, £4,494; under sub-head Y— Minister's Office, £17,110; under sub-head Y (2)—the Reserve—£200,228; under sub-head Y (3)—Second Line Reserve—£3,226—making a total saving of £744,282.
To put that more briefly, for the assistance of Deputies who may not have the Book of Estimates with them, those savings, amounting to £744,282, fall under six headings. Under the heading of Allowances and Maintenance of the Permanent Forces, there is a saving of £186,316; under the heading Pay Allowances, Maintenance Grants to Reserve and Construction, the saving will be £226,972; under the heading, Pay and Allowances of Civilians, the saving is £67,110; under the heading of Warlike Stores the saving is £94,141; under the heading of Ordinary Stores the saving is £167,945, and under the heading of Incidentals the saving is £1,800, making a total of £744,282.
It would have suited me as Minister in charge of the Defence Forces not to have taken this Estimate so very early in the year, but in the interests of the members of the Defence Forces and of the general stability of those forces, I have found that my hand has been forced to a very considerable and entirely undesirable extent by the prevalence of rumours—of a vastly disturbing kind of rumour—appearing in a number of English papers, rumours circulating through some Irish papers. The Department of Defence in peace time is not an organisation controlled by any secret society. Any information that it is in the public interest to give will always be, and is always, freely given to the public by that Department. Many responsible newspapers circulating in this country on hearing the rumours that were going round, communicated with the Minister or with the Department in order to find out to what extent, if any, there was any truth in them, and they were told without any evasion exactly what the position was, what decisions have been taken and what things were under consideration. Others did not behave with the same degree of responsibility and rumours circulated and were taken up by one and carried to another with the result that there was a serious wave of uneasiness, anxiety and unrest in very, very many units of the Defence Forces in this country. I think that most Deputies would agree with me that in normal times, but particularly in abnormal times, it is very far from being in the national interest to create anything in the way of uneasiness or unrest in the minds of members of the Defence Forces. We must remember that the Army, the Navy or the Air Force, as the case may be, is the career of those officers, N.C.O.s and men, that to a great extent their wives and families are dependent on the successful career of the husband or father and that these rumours create a degree of undesirable uneasiness and anxiety in very, very many homes up and down the country. It was because of that that I have asked permission to take the Army Estimate at this early date.
If the Deputies throw their minds back over the types of rumours that have been circulating within the past two months they will find that there was scarcely a unit in the Army that was not to be completely wiped out and liquidated because of the new Government taking up its position on these benches—the Army School of Equitation, the Construction Corps, the Navy, the body compiling the history of the period, et cetera, et cetera. As I said, anybody who made the inquiry got an answer and a truthful answer. There is not, and there never was any intention of disturbing the position of any officer, or any non-commissioned officer or of any single member of the Defence Force through the change of Government or through a change of policy. Everybody from the Chief of Staff down to the youngest recruit on the uniformed side of the Army and everybody from the secretary down to the youngest clerk on the civilian side occupies exactly the same position to-day as he did before the change of Government. I think that was a wise decision because if people trained in the services cannot be trusted, then nobody can be trusted and I am prepared to trust everybody, whether in uniform or out of uniform who has given service within those forces or that Department to my predecessor.
I know that the proposed reductions will be criticised on the grounds that this is not the time to reduce the strength of the Army, that there are war clouds still in Europe and that we should maintain our fighting efficiency at the very highest pitch. I can understand that point of view, but I am also entitled to adopt the attitude that we can suffer from an overdose of jitters or war nerves. There are too many people, in this country and elsewhere, that read, as it were, a shower into every shadow, a cloudburst into every cloud. Modern war has become a matter of total war. If a small island country such as ours is to make ample provision in advance for a possible war in the near or distant future, we must bear in mind that the military front is only one front in modern war. The other fronts are the economic front and the supply front. Industrial and agricultural production in advance of war are just as important as men and armaments. The wisest course, if we are to have anything in the nature of an outbreak that may in time involve or affect this country, is to have in the interval the maximum degree of production. We have to remember that every man knocking sparks out of a barrack square is one less man in production and a thousand extra men marching and counter-marching in any barrack square in this or any other country is the productivity of a thousand men lost to the people.
There is another aspect of the matter. Military outlook has become, and must become, an outlook ranging far and beyond the four walls of every barrack. Every Chief of Staff in every threatened country is as anxious about the health of the people in that country as he is about the number of soldiers that he counts any morning in the barrack square. Anti-tuberculosis campaigns elsewhere, school medical inspection elsewhere—how did they originate? Did they originate with the health authorities, either in Europe or Britain? The whole scheme of anti-tuberculosis and the whole scheme of school medical inspection emanated from the general staffs of countries that were perturbed by the low standard of the people going into their army and the high percentage of those who had to be rejected on medical grounds.
When we apply that standard to our own people, we have a higher percentage, unfortunately, of medically unfit for Army life than most other countries. We have a people more extensively ravaged by tuberculosis than most and we have appalling housing conditions. We have such a scale of social services that barely keep the people above the destitution level. In the light of that set of circumstances we have a demand on the cover page of this Book of Estimates for £16,000,000 more than was asked for this time last year.
If we are to tackle the problems that really matter militarily, we have to get a sound health foundation. If anything like that sum is to be found, we must, as far as possible, save money in one direction so as to spend it in another. We must spend every £ collected from the people in the spirit of people determined to get 20/- worth of value for every £ spent and to ensure that every £ spent is spent in an essential direction, that it is necessary to spend that £ and that it is spent in a businesslike manner, after sound and thorough investigation of all the circumstances demanding its expenditure.
It was in that particular spirit that the reduction in the Army Estimates was effected and I am glad to say that the proposed reductions which I have outlined in the Dáil were the proposals of the general staff and there is not a single reduction there imposed on them by me. What was put to them by me was the general picture of the national situation and the desire and determination of the Government to effect sound economies everywhere that economies could be effected and then I asked for their proposals. Their proposals are the proposals I have read out in Dáil Eireann.
With regard to the general policy of the Army, there is no change in the general policy. There is no change in the general organisation. There is no change in the paper establishment. The only change with regard to the internal policy of the Army is the abandonment of recruiting for the Construction Corps. I think most Deputies will agree that the Army Construction Corps was not fulfilling any defence purpose. In so far as it was fulfilling any purpose, it was fulfilling a purpose that would be best described as a social service. It was a kind of organisation unsuited to the Army. The Army officers, N.C.O.s and men who had anything to do with that particular unit made a very successful hand of a very difficult job of work but it was about the most cumbersome and the most expensive way by which that problem could have been dealt with. There was no decision taken to disband the Construction Corps. The only decision taken with regard to the Construction Corps is that we will not continue to recruit into that corps and that any boy or man who wants his discharge can get it.
In the beginning the Construction Corps was taken up heartily and, I am told, was fulfilling quite a useful function. Recently, recruiting has dwindled. It is really the type of immature young boy who, perhaps, was in difficult economic circumstances or who, perhaps, was attracted by a poster and foresaw a glamorous life, that came into the unit. But recruiting had dwindled and the whole strength of the corps was dwindling and those that we had in it, to a very, very great extent, could be regarded as unwilling, discontented, semi-conscripts, people that were never meant for the rigid discipline of Army life, people completely unsuited for that kind of life—discontented, unsettled. I think most Deputies will support me in the view that it was wise to take a decision to let go any of those who wanted to go, to give them their full gratuity as if they had served their full period of office. With regard to the Construction Corps, that is the decision taken, that any of them who want to go will be allowed to go, any of them who want to pass into the permanent Army and who are up to standard will be entirely welcome there, and there will be no obstacle put to their entering the Army; but there is to be no further recruiting to that particular unit. That is one decision that could be regarded as a departure from policy.
With regard to the proposed strength of the Army, I think it is true to say that the general policy, passed down along the line from one Minister to another, with regard to our defence arrangement was to a very great extent a continuous policy. The policy generally accepted was that of a small, very highly-trained regular Army and the maximum possible number of reserves of different types outside that barrack wall—a small Army where the officers would be so highly trained that any one of them or every one of them in time of war would be capable of filling a position at least two ranks higher than the one he held, and the same would apply to N.C.O.s, and where every individual private soldier would be so highly trained that he would be capable and qualified to fill the position of an N.C.O. in a larger Army. That was, I think, a continuous policy. In addition to that, the policy was to keep the headquarters or paper establishment of bigger formations, so that, if at any time it was necessary to recruit rapidly, you had the overhead organisation and the new recruits had merely to roll in under that umbrella, as it were.
That means in practice a small Army which would appear on a mathematical basis to be top heavy in the way of officers and non-commissioned officers, because the units underneath would not in peace time be anything up to strength. These establishments are being retained. The officer number is approximately the same as estimated for in the larger Estimate; the N.C.O.s are approximately the same as that estimated for in the Book of Estimates; the number over all of all ranks is the number we have at the moment and the number we have had for the last 12 months. It is approximately 1,000 less than is provided for in the Book of Estimates, excluding the Construction Corps. If any Deputy looks at the Book of Estimates he will see at the top of the page the total establishment and then the words "Deduct for over-estimation" and you substract one-third from that for over-estimation. The peace establishment is 15,500. The number estimated is 10,570. Subtract the Construction Corps from that. The number in the bigger Estimate was 9,600; the actual strength in January and February last was 8,672.