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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 13 Mar 1951

Vol. 124 No. 11

Committee on Finance. - Vote 56—Defence.

I move:—

That a supplementary sum not ex ceeding £252,623 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending 31st March, 1951, 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).

The main reasons necessitating the introduction of this Suppementary Estimate for the Defence Vote are the purchase of reserve stores and the expansion of the regular administrative and training personnel attached to the F.C.A.

The stores which we are purchasing for the purpose of creating reserve stocks in case of an emergency consist of drugs, dressings, spare parts for mechanical transport, petrol and oils, clothing, fuel and maintenance stores for the Naval Service. The total cost of these reserve stores is approximately £337,500.

The second reason for the Estimate is the expansion of the training and administrative cadres of regular personel attached to the F.C.A. This cadre has practically been trebled and now consists of about 138 officers and 444 other ranks, and the extra cost in allowances for the present financial year will be approximately £5,000. There has also been introduced during the past year a system of gratuities or bounties for members of the F.C.A. attending for 14 days' annual training. These gratuities are £6 for privates, £8 for N.C.O.s, £10 for officers and £15 for officers commanding units. This has cost to date about £38,000, but as the expenditure has been met by savings on the relevant sub-head, it is not reflected in the present Estimate.

In accordance with the usual rules governing Supplementary Estimates of this kind, advantage has been taken of the occasion of its introduction to provide for excesses of any relative magnitude on other sub-heads of the Vote. Thus, there is an excess of £5,000 under sub-head A (1) owing to delay in the presentation of accounts, an excess of £1,000 under sub-head X in respect of advertisements, and of £3,500 under sub-head X (2) owing to increased charges for hospital treatment in respect of soldiers' dependents. Moreover under sub-head J is included a sum of £9,800 for vehicles which were not delivered during the year 1949-50 and for which provision was made in that year.

This Supplementary can, therefore, be briefly summarised as follows:—



Cost of reserve stores



Cost of extra personnel attached to the F.C.A.



Cost of excesses in other sub-heads




This excess is, however, offset by savings on other sub-heads of the Vote to the extent of £109,177. These savings are due almost exclusively to warlike stores ordered but, despite every effort, not delivered during the financial year and, therefore, the net amount asked for is thus reduced to £252,623.

It is obvious that this sum of upwards of £250,000 is due in the main to the rising cost of the various articles mentioned in the sub-heads. It is a pity that of this very large sum practically nothing is earmarked for the purpose of making the Defence Forces more effective from the points of view expressed from time to time on these benches.

I presume that sub-head F dealing with medicines and instruments is a purely Army item and that it has no relation to civil defence requirements. On this side of the House we have spoken of the necessity of providing these requirements.

Sub-head G is caused to a very great extent by the upward trend in the cost of living. The additional sum in this sub-head is required for subsistence allowances of extra officers and other ranks appointed for duty with the F.C.A. I would like the Minister to tell us in his reply if that branch of the Defence Forces has expanded to such a degree that extra officers and men are required. It is of some importance that we should know that.

The other sub-heads, J, L, M, and P (2) appear to me to deal mainly with what might be described as stockpiling and in that I think the Minister is correct. I would even suggest that he would deal more vigorously still with that question.

I would also like the Minister to deal with sub-head X which covers the additional sum required for advertisements for recruiting. I think that the Minister's predecessor stated in the House that he regretted that that particular campaign was a failure. He had to admit that the result did not justify the means but this sum of £1,000 would appear to me to be a miserly amount with which to endeavour to secure recruits. These recruits I understand were required to augment the Reserve, not for the Regular Forces. That is something which could have been made very attractive but £1,000 would not go very far to meet the high cost of advertising. I would ask the Minister now that he is starting off as Minister for Defence to re-examine that particular situation and see if sub-head X could not be added to, perhaps from some other sub-heads.

I regret to have heard the Minister state—I can understand the difficulties —that most of these savings come from the Vote for Warlike Stores. It is regrettable that that is so. I can understand the difficulties that confront the Minister in attempting to secure these stores. I hope, nevertheless, he will continue his activities in trying to add to what we have at the present time.

In conclusion, I would be glad if the Minister would let us know the actual position in regard to the recent campaign to secure recruits—has it been brought to a conclusion and is no further effort being made to secure them, either for the Reserve or for the Regular Army?

I think the House should take this opportunity of welcoming General MacEoin in his new rôle as Minister for Defence. I think the House will also say that if the same success attends his administration of the Department of Defence as it did the Department of Justice, many improvements which are vital in the Defence Forces may be brought about during his period of office. Naturally, the debate on this particular Estimate is limited.

Limited to the items therein.

That, unfortunately, makes it difficult to put forward some suggestions and recommendations which might properly be made to a new Minister.

I will move the main Estimate as soon as possible.

So long as we have the opportunity on the main Estimate of dealing with it, there is very little purpose to be served by endeavouring to speak on this particular and very limited Estimate. Deputy Traynor has said that perhaps the main expenses covered by this are due to a rise in the cost of living and in the cost of materials, and to that extent the additional Estimate—although it is a substantial sum—does not provide for that improvement in the Defence Forces that we should wish to see.

Deputy Traynor mentioned this sum for advertisements. Of course, there is only one advertisement that is of any effective purpose as far as an army is concerned, and that is the advertisement that brings the young men into the Army. What brings them in is attractive conditions and good pay. The best way the Minister could spend any sum available for advertisements is by increasing the pay of the soldiers, the N.C.O.s and the young officers. No amount of money spent on newspaper publicity or on propaganda in the cinemas, or even by ceremonial parades or band tours, will attract the young boy, but one thing will attract him—good pay and good conditions of service.

Which section does that come under?

The section dealing with advertisements.

Obviously not.

I am trying to show the Minister how he can save.

The Deputy is trying to get out certain things that are not under advertisements.

You cannot do much on £1,000.

I know £1,000 would not go far, but if it were saved on that particular sub-head and if the idea I have—which I am sure is the Minister's own idea—were put into practice, then there would be no necessity to have any provision for expenditure on advertisements.

This term "stockpiling" always causes me some concern. It is an American term, and whether it is a good one or not we have seen it used for quite a while. What can we really stockpile? Perhaps we could stockpile ammunition. I do not know if we could. Stockpiling suggests the provision of enormous quantities of a particular material in a place where you can protect it. That presents obvious difficulties, and I do not want to see any stockpiling of that kind. What I would like to see is the provision of ammunition, the things with which soldiers fight; and I think that the right place to have a considerable quantity of these stocks is not in dumps but actually in the homes of the people. I should like to see the F.C.A. develop in such a way that every young man in the country would be in it, that he would be fully armed and equipped, that he would have his own reserve supply of ammunition, and that the area would be so organised that mobile units could be brought into operation locally almost by the sound of a whistle. That is the form of development that should take place and it is the form in which this stockpiling that is referred to can be brought about.

The Minister has stated that he will bring in his main Estimate very soon, that it will be one of the first Estimates to be brought before the House. That will give the House a good opportunity to discuss this whole problem of defence in the world conditions of to-day. We can then discuss whether we want a bigger or a smaller Regular Army, the type of Regular Army that we want, and whether our planning should be for peace or for war or for neutrality. I take it that these vital and serious problems are not relevant to the discussion on this Estimate and, having the promise from the Minister that we shall have that opportunity very soon, all I can say in regard to this Supplementary Estimate is that, for the reasons advanced by the Minister, it must have the approval of the House.

Major de Valera

There are just a couple of questions which I should like to ask the Minister at this stage, and we can discuss these matters in some greater detail on the main Estimate when it comes. Now, as to sub-head F—additional sum required for the purchase of reserve stocks of drugs, dressings, etc.—I wonder would the Minister be able to tell us whether these are actually reserve stocks or whether it is a question of building up to our normal requirements the existing stocks? I can make that clearer in this way. Is it a question that the ordinary stocks were below the ordinary reserve we carry, that we had to add to them and that the cost is up? As to sub-head G additional sum required for subsistance allowance—that is understandable, and I shall have an opportunity later to-night of dealing with that matter in another way. I take it that the sum is merely the additional sum involved because of the revised rates. As to sub-head J—Mechanical Transport—I should like to ask the Minister to give us frankly the information we ask for. The form of this is "mainly for payment for vehicles ordered but not delivered during 1949-50, and partly for the purchase of reserve stocks." Can the Minister give us any rough indication as to what proportion is for the purchase of vehicles and what proportion is for the purchase of reserve stocks. As to the additional sum required for the purchase of reserve stocks of petrol and oils, the same question as I asked under sub-head F would be appropriate there.

Under sub-head M—Clothing and Equipment—I would be glad to hear from the Minister if it is true, as this seems to indicate, that actually he is providing against the difficulties in the woollen market at the moment and securing additional stocks of cloth for uniforms. If that is so, I should like him to be explicit about it. Again, this word "mainly" appears in sub-head P (2)—Naval Service—"mainly for the purchase of reserve stocks of stores and equipment." What is the other purpose for which it is required? Perhaps the Minister will be in a position to tell us that. Now, again, under sub-head R—fuel, light and water in kind and fuel oils—a similar question arises. How far is that money to be apportioned to a genuine reserve of stocks and how far is it to be apportioned to cover the increased costs of normal purchases? These are questions the answers to which would help us very much, especially when we come to the main Estimate, of which Deputy Cowan spoke. The question of the recruiting campaign can turn up later.

There is one final question which I should like to ask the Minister. I do not want to pin the Minister accurately to the word he used, but he said that the saving on other sub-heads was mainly on stores ordered. I should like him to say, if he has the information available, whether stores to that amount were actually ordered or is it that a certain sum was provided in the original Estimate and his predecessor could not go even as far as ordering? These are the only matters which arise on this Estimate, but I think the Minister would help us if he could separate the matters in the way I have asked him. In brief, it boils down to this: how much is the Supplementary Estimate conditioned by what my colleague, Deputy Traynor, called the increase in the cost of living; how much is it conditioned by increased costs; and how much does it represent the real laying in of reserve stocks over and above the normal stocks carried in regard to the articles specified on the back of the Estimate?

It is quite clear that most of the increase in regard to stores is for reserve stock so far as we can get it and have been able to get it. Most of it is in that direction, as I said in my opening speech. Then the subsistence allowance is costing a greater sum for the F.C.A. and so on. I think that the amount that would be due to the increased cost of living is not as much as you might expect.

Major de Valera

Could the Minister say how much, for instance, in the case of coal?

Unfortunately, I am not able to say that. I shall have to deal with that on some other occasion. The F.C.A. is expanding. It is a force which should be developed to the greatest possible extent. Anything that I can do as Minister to expand that force I will certainly do. That has been the object of my predecessors in this Government and in the last Government. There is no doubt that they tried to build up that force. As everybody knows, it is not easy to keep a rural force in being for a very long time, but there are various methods by which that can be achieved. The recruiting has not been as successful as we would like it to be, but the effort will be continued. The additional £1,000 required for advertisements for recruiting is to make good the shortage of the sum already voted. It is not a question of spending only £1,000 upon advertising for recruits. I do not know that there is anything I can usefully add, except to say that, as far as I can possibly do it, a revision will take place of the recruiting and I shall try to make the force as strong as possible. In regard to the stockpiling of ammunition, it should be possible to do something throughout the country. At the same time it is very hard to expect the N.C.O.s and men in the F.C.A. to carry a lot of it. But, seeing what was done in other countries during the recent war in regard to stockpiling, I think greater use can be made of the local stores and the homes of the men for reserves. I am grateful to Deputies for the manner in which they have received this first effort of mine in this Department and, as I stated, I will ask the Government to give me an opportunity of bringing the main Estimate forward as soon as possible.

Vote put and agreed to.