That a sum not exceeding £4,335,710 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1953, 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 gross Estimate for the Defence Vote for the financial year ending 31st March, 1953, totals £6,646,955, the net figure being £6,503,570, showing a net increase on last year's figure of £1,035,610. The gross figure is made up of the pay, allowances and maintenance of the Army and First and Second Line Reserves, costing slightly over £4,000,000. The pay and allowances of civilians with units and at headquarters is estimated to cost £775,000, while warlike and other stores will cost approximately £1,600,000, the balance including a figure of £63,000 for Civil Defence, being by way of miscellaneous and other expenses.
The Estimate has been framed on the basis of a peace establishment of 12,743 all ranks, including 1,270 officers. This figure was approved by the Government on the recommendation of the General Staff as the minimum Army strength which, with Reserves, would be necessary to enable expansion to be carried out with the least possible delay on an active-service footing. The present Estimate does not provide for the full number, but has been reached on the basis of the progress of recruiting and in the experience of the general trend of discharges of time-expired soldiers.
At this stage, I think it proper to say that if the present trend of recruitment continues it may be necessary at a later stage to review the financial provisions in the light of the actual Army strength. When the Estimate was framed it was assumed that the average strength over the year would be approximately 20 per cent. lower than the full peace establishment and a deduction has been made on this basis from the sub-heads concerned.
The pay and maintenance of the First Line Reserve is estimated to cost £83,865 making provision for 4,790 all ranks. The provision made falls short of that made in the previous year by approximately 20 per cent. The decline in the strength of the First Line Reserve is a cause of concern but an effort made last year to recruit men directly into the Reserve proved fruitless. With the increasing strength of the permanent force, it is hoped that the First Line Reserve will in due course receive a steady influx from men who have completed their engagement with the permanent force.
The provision for the Second Line Reserve (F.C.A.) covers an average strength over the year of 21,000 all ranks anticipated to cost approximately £255,000. The attendance at training of this reserve has not been as regular as might have been anticipated and provision is made for approximately 10,000 all ranks undergoing training during the year with something over 1,000 attending for special courses. The Second Line Reserve is composed of partially trained men but in case of an emergency would be an important factor in assisting the permanent force to reach an active-service footing. In this arm of the force also there has been a decrease in strength from 33,000 to 21,000 all ranks.
In addition to the military establishment set out above, the Estimate also provides for the pay and allowances of 2,100 civilians with units and at headquarters. Some 1,500 of these employees are attached to units and are composed of tradesmen, helpers, semiskilled workers, storemen and analogous grades.
Of the gross figure £1,600,000 provided in the Estimates for stores required during the year, a sum of £928,000 has been provided for warlike stores, including naval requirements. It will be appreciated that with the general world rearmament situation supplies of warlike stores are difficult to acquire. The gross provision under the sub-head amounts to £1,681,000 and while every effort will be made to acquire warlike stores up to the full value of the programme, it cannot be stated in present conditions whether it may be possible to secure within the year all the items for which a gross provision has been made in the sub-head but if these stores can be obtained they will of course be gladly accepted. Wherever such material could be found, efforts have been made to secure it. Contracts in the neighbourhood of £850,000 have been placed for suitable warlike stores of which sum £265,000 has already been advanced in accordance with the conditions of the contract. Deliveries against these orders have already begun and a steady flow of the remainder throughout the year is expected. Negotiations have also been opened for the purchase of other types of warlike stores and arrangements in this direction have now been completed by the signing of the contract. Other contracts for the purchase of small arms ammunition have been made and these are expected to bear fruition within the financial year.
General stores, as distinct from the warlike stores of the Army, will cost approximately £720,000. This sum is comprised of approximately £362,000 for cloth for uniforms, £88,000 for renewal of mechanical transport, £71,000 for aircraft renewals, and the balance on the purchase of other corps equipment and materials for maintenance and minor new works.
Under the head for civil defence, the gross estimated requirements are £263,000 approximately, but again it cannot be stated whether all the material and equipment for which provision has been made will become available, and for that reason a deduction from this sub-head has been made, leaving the net figure £63,000 approximately. In the same way as warlike stores, any material for which provision has been made will be accepted, and should the cost of this material exceed the net provision in the sub-head, the matter will be reviewed later in the year in regard to the financial circumstances existing on the Vote generally
I am glad to say that civil defence is making definite progress and, while the development may be slow, the whole is working towards a concerted plan. Broadly speaking, the scheme envisages three main stages, first, the appointment and training of civil defence officers, secondly, the appointment and training of instructors and, thirdly, the recruitment of volunteers to man the varied services which will make up civil defence. While we have completed the first stage, progress is slow on the remainder, due to the non-availability of the appropriate equipment. The School of Civil Defence opened in June, 1951. Twenty-six civil defence officers have been appointed for specified cities and towns. Five courses have been given at the school, and 146 persons, comprising civil defence officers, officers of local authorities, health and the Garda Síochána have attended. Early this year work began on the building of training ranges. It is anticipated that these will be available in July, when a course for general instructors will be held.
It will be observed that the Estimates include a sum of £20,000 by way of Grant-in-Aid to the Irish Red Cross Society. The figure shown last year of £21,000 included a grant for relief of distress in Italy following the floods, so that the net grant to the society was £1,000. In explanation of this large increase, I might say that the Irish Red Cross Society initiated a recruiting drive and a general reorganisation of the society. The establishment of units consisting of trained members who would co-operate with the Army Medical Corps in time of emergency and assist in civil defence was the primary objective aimed at by the society.
The recruiting drive met with considerable success and following the initial training which has been completed at a number of centres, the recruitment of members for the Voluntary Aid Division is now being initiated. In addition to recruitment, the society, as part of its reorganisation programme, commenced a scheme for the building up of stocks of emergency hospital supplies, uniforms and accessories as well as for the replacement of its fleet of ambulances which require renewal.
The society is not and could not be expected to be in a position to meet the exceptional expenditure incurred or contemplated on the measures and activities in question which have a direct bearing on national defence. It is estimated that for the period ending on the 31st March, 1953, the society will have expended on these matters a sum of approximately £24,500. In addition, a sum of £12,000 approximately will have been spent by the society in connection with activities directly calculated to increase the society's membership and thereby useful from the national defence viewpoint. One thousand eight hundred pounds approximately have been paid by way of Grants-in-Aid to the society towards this exceptional expenditure.
It is estimated that the society will have a deficit of over £15,000 in its accounts by the end of March, 1953, with no liquid assets available. In the circumstances and having regard to the expenditure which I have mentioned on activities relating to national defence, I am making provision of a Grant-in-Aid of £20,000 to the society in the financial year 1952-53.
Of the remaining provisions in the Estimate, one item of £37,500 for advertisements may call for comment; £37,000 of the figure has been provided to cover advertisements to aid the campaign for recruits during the year. The House will, no doubt, be glad to learn of the success of the recruiting campaign and here I should like to pay a tribute to the help and assistance which has been given by the Dublin Press and provincial papers. Since the advent of the campaign upwards of 3,000 recruits have been accepted and of these a large number are boys under 18 who have responded to the innovation call of youths of this age to enter the service of the Army of their country. This figure fills a large portion of the gap between strength and the establishment and with the continuation of the campaign throughout the year it is hoped to bring the strength up to full establishment. I am glad to say that the standard of recruits offering themselves is most satisfactory.
During the year, courses continued at the military college and the various corps schools. Selected officers were sent abroad for courses of a military and technical nature.
The general training of the Army is on a satisfactory footing and is all that might be expected of it from the resources available, while the health of the troops maintains an excellent standard. The co-ordination of the continuation of education for the younger recruits is in hands and these boys will not suffer in that regard by reason of their service in the Army.
There is little need for me to remind the House that the world situation has not eased in any respect, and while the nations of the world, big and small, are strengthening their defences either on their own initiative or in combination with other States, this country, for reasons which have been so often stressed in this House, must rely on its own resources and on its own strength. As one of the last countries in the world relying for its defences upon a voluntary army, the Government feel that this faith in its citizens is justified and are striving to build around a strong cadre of highly trained officers and men a nucleus which, with the Reserve, the F.C.A. and numerous other men, already trained or partly trained in the country, would, in a very short space of time, resolve itself into an efficient fighting machine.
For their part the Government are investigating possibilities of procuring up-to-date equipment and armaments and making arrangements by courses abroad to train key personnel in the use of modern weapons. Within the slender resources of the State, therefore, this Estimate provides for the requirements of the peace time cadre upon which the defences of the country are built. For the last couple of years it will, I think, be obvious to all clear-thinking people that the strength of the Army has been permitted to dwindle well below the danger level. This Estimate aims at providing for the requirements of the peace time Army up to a total of 12,743 all ranks, and it will be my duty for so long as I am Minister to use all my resources to endeavour to bring the Army strength to that figure, at which I hope to keep it.
What the future has in store for us it is difficult to say, but if Press and radio information is evaluated even conservatively it will be clear that there has been little if any slackening in the preparations for war and while in the end it is hoped that prudence, common sense and righteousness may prevail, this nation without alliances relying solely on justice, integrity and its own strength of purpose must maintain the minimum strength approved by the Government upon the recommendation of the Army authorities.
In presenting this Estimate to the House I do so with confidence having within the additional cost of £1,000,000 provided for additional strength, increased pay for both officers and soldiers, greater supplies of warlike stores and at the same time providing for the maintenance of an efficient Army capable of expansion to meet an emergency in the shortest possible time.