That a sum not exceeding £200,638,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 1983, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Defence, including certain services administered by that Office; for the pay and expenses of the Defence Forces; and for payment of certain grants-in-aid.
The Defence Estimate for the year ending 31 December 1983 is for a net sum of £200,638,000 of which £160,481,000, or 80 per cent, provides for pay and allowances. An additional sum of £1,898,000 will be provided from the Vote for remuneration to cover the cost of the arrears of the final phase of the Agreement on Pay in the Public Service. The Estimate is based on an average strength of 1,519 officers, 104 cadets and 12,800 other ranks, a total of 14,423 in the Permanent Defence Forces.
The net out-turn for 1982 came to £208,651,000, which includes £7,084,000 charged to the Vote for remuneration. The gross provision in the Estimate, at £222,438,000, represents an increase of 2 per cent on the 1982 out-turn and includes £61,957,000 for non-pay items. Allowing for increased appropriations-in-aid, offset to some extent by increased provision for pay and allowances, the net provision of £200,638,000 for 1983 is 4 per cent less than the 1982 out-turn figure of £208,651,000.
The gross Estimate of £222.438 million includes in round terms an Army provision of £172 million, a Naval Service provision of £25 million and an Air Corps provision of £15 million. The provision for Civil Defence is £1.365 million.
Deputies will be aware of the demands made on officers and men of the Defence Forces. While the primary role of the Defence Forces is to defend the State against external aggression their main preoccupation during the past 12 months has continued to be with internal security matters. The Garda Síochána have primary responsibility for such matters and the involvement of the Defence Forces in this field derives from their role of rendering aid to the civil power. The deployment of Army personnel and resources in this capacity in Border areas continues to be necessary and the current security situation makes it necessary for the Army to participate in a wide variety of difficult and dangerous activities. Some details of these activities in 1982 are as follows:
—Over 21,000 military parties were supplied in Border areas for checkpoint duties and over 17,000 joint Garda/Army checkpoints were set up;
—more than 11,000 patrols were sent out into the road network along the Border;
—escorts for explosives and blasting operations were provided on over 1,200 occasions;
—about 150 requests for bomb disposal teams were handled.
In addition certain vital non-military installations are protected either by permanent military guards or by military patrols. The Army also provide guards and escorts for civilian prisoners and movement of cash and help in searches for arms, ammunition and explosives. These duties place a heavy burden on the Defence Forces and also on the Garda Síochána. I would like to pay tribute to all members of the Defence Forces, and to the Garda Síochána, for the excellent manner in which they have carried out their allotted tasks.
As Deputies will be aware, military custody of civilian prisoners has come to an end. The few civilian prisoners remaining in the Military Detention Barracks in the Curragh were transferred to civil prisons last month. This will, I am sure, be welcomed by Deputies on all sides of the House.
Aside from the normal security duties, assistance to the community at large is provided in a variety of ways. For example, during 1982 76 search and rescue missions were undertaken by Air Corps aircraft and a total of 180 air ambulance missions were flown conveying seriously ill patients to hospital. Procedures are established whereby local authorities and health boards may call on the Defence Forces in situations involving major accidents, blizzards, fire, flooding, spillage of dangerous substances, and so on. Work on a review and up-dating of these procedures is currently proceeding.
Assistance has also been given on occasions to maintain essential supplies and services during industrial disputes involving public transport, refuse collection, fire fighting, petrol and oil deliveries, water and sewerage. All of these activities make very heavy and continuous demands on the manpower and resources of the Defence Forces. On the occasion of the annual debate on the Defence Estimate it is I suggest only right that we should acknowledge and pay tribute to the splendid manner in which the Defence Forces discharge the many duties they are called upon to undertake. They do so unobtrusively and effectively and whenever required to cope with a particular situation they respond quickly and competently. It is clear that the Defence Forces are held in high esteem and deservedly so on their performance.
The pay and conditions of service generally of members of the Defence Forces continue to be maintained at a high standard. The Government are concerned to ensure that the remuneration of the Defence Force keeps step with that of other sectors of the Public Service. The pay of a recruit is now £100.98 a week, rising after about 14 weeks' basic training to £117.47. On advancement to Private 3 Star gross pay rises to £121.22 while, after three years' service, the gross pay of a Private is over £132. The second instalment of arrears due under the third phase of the Agreement on Pay in the Public Sector has been paid to other ranks personnel. This instalment will be paid to officers in their "end of June" pay cheques.
In addition special allowances are payable to officers and men who perform duties of a security nature. The current rates of allowance for service in the Border area are £15.40 per week for officers and £13.30 per week for men. Personnel involved in security duties such as duties in aid of the civil power and guard duties on vital installations are paid an allowance at the rate of £6.50 for any such duties undertaken on weekdays and at the rate of £13 for duties undertaken on a Sunday or Army holiday. The overseas allowances payable to personnel on service with the United Nations were quite generous when first granted but have been eroded by inflation. I would like to see them and indeed all allowances revised but the present financial climate is distinctly unhelpful. This matter will, however, be kept under review.
The current strength of the Permanent Defence Force at 14,000 officers and men is considered the minimum adequate for the tasks in hand. Early last year, after the strength of the Permanent Defence Force had reached its highest level since the demobilisation in 1946, general recruitment was suspended. This step was due mainly to the necessity to maintain strict financial controls because of the need to curb public expenditure. The question of resuming limited recruitment to replace normal wastage has been kept under review in the interval and I am pleased to say that it is proposed in the near future to recruit 330 personnel to make up this wastage within the numerical limit of 12,800. In addition 100 apprentices and 46 cadets will be enlisted later in the year. It is intended that the recruits will be allocated to units in the Eastern and Curragh Commands where the operational strength of certain units has fallen seriously.
There are about 2,000 civilians employed with the Defence Forces. They are generally employed by my Department to do work for the Forces for a lot of which it would either be inappropriate or uneconomic to employ soldiers who are trained for specific military duties.
This year as part of the Government's programme for achieving reductions in the level of public expenditure, it has been necessary to reduce annual training by seven days for members of the Reserve of Officers (First Line), the Reserve of Men (First Line), An Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil and An Slua Muirí. Notwithstanding the reduced period of annual training I have decided that the gratuity payable to qualified members of the Reserve Defence Force who complete the maximum permissible period in 1983 will be at the full rates and not at the reduced rates which would normally apply in respect of attendance for training for the shorter period.
As announced by my Department some time ago, it has been necessary to suspend recruitment to An Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil and An Slua Muirí. The strength of both these elements, however, remains at a high level. At the end of last December the strength of the FCA was 20,800 and of An Slua Muirí was 425. These measures in relation to the Reserve Forces were forced upon the Government because of the urgent requirement to reduce public expenditure this year. The fact that it was necessary to do those things should not cloud in any way the value of the Reserve Defence Force as a whole or its potential — as the largest component of the Defence Forces — in regard to the defence of the country. It would be my wish that normal training and recruitment should be resumed immediately resources permit and the position in that regard is being kept under constant review.
Deputies will be aware that the Permanent Defence Force is making a significant contribution in the cause of international peace by way of participation in a number of United Nations peace-keeping missions. This participation commenced 25 years ago in June 1958 when Ireland first sent officers to act as observers in Lebanon. Since that time thousands of Irish personnel have seen service in the cause of peace in many parts of the world. We have at present an Irish contingent of about 750 all ranks serving with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. This force is commanded by an Irish Officer, Lieutenant-General William Callaghan. We have also an Irish contingent of eight personnel serving in staff appointments with the United Nations Force in Cyprus and 21 Irish officers serving as observers with the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation in the Middle East.
During the course of a recent visit to Lebanon, I was able to gain a substantial appreciation of the significant contribution that the Irish contingent is making in the cause of peace in that country. I am very impressed by the selfless and conscientious efforts of our troops on these missions. They have a heavy incidence of duty and have to work in terrain that is difficult and in circumstances which can at times be hazardous. We must all be mindful that a number of Irish personnel have paid the supreme sacrifice in the cause of peace in the Middle East. Others have suffered injury, indignity and hardship. Their consolation is the high esteem in which they are held by the local population who see them as friends and benevolent protectors and who are worried that an altered mandate might see a withdrawal. I have recently received a letter from the community leaders in the Irish Battalion area asking that the Government use their influence to ensure a continuance of United Nations presence.
I am proud to say that the contribution of these troops to United Nations peace-keeping efforts is well recognised internationally and was highly praised by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Perez de Cuellar, in the course of his recent visit to Ireland. Our officers and men are a credit to the Defence Forces and to Ireland.
It is incumbent on us to support in every possible way the efforts of the Secretary-General towards finding the basis for a settlement in the Middle East which would lead to a lasting peace. We must continue to hope that it will not be long before these efforts find some fruitful response.
The overall effectiveness and efficiency of the Permanent Defence Force can only be maintained by a high level of training and education for all Army personnel. All personnel undergo constant training within their own corps or service and jointly with units of other corps or services. In addition, so that the level of knowledge and expertise may be kept in line with modern developments in other armies, and to provide for the efficient maintenance and operation of the many sophisticated equipments in use in the Defence Forces, it is the practice to assign a number of personnel to courses of training in foreign military establishments. It is anticipated that such courses will be undertaken in Britain, Holland and France during 1983.
A scheme exists whereby personnel are registered with AnCO as apprentices in various trades such as fitter, motor mechanic, sheet metal worker, bricklayer, plasterer and painter/decorator. These personnel attend either fulltime off-the-job training courses, day-release courses, or block release courses.
During 1982 a total of 91 officers attended full-time courses at third level educational institutions. The practice of assigning officers to such courses will be continued in 1983.
Competitions for the award of cadetships in the Army, Air Corps and Executive Branch of the Naval Service were conducted in 1982 and some 60 cadetships were awarded. These cadets commenced training in November 1982.
Arrangements have been made to train Executive Branch cadets of the Naval Service in Ireland in future. Their training will be undertaken initially at the Cadet School in the Curragh but mainly at the naval base and on board Naval Service vessels. A number of instructors are provided by Cork Regional Technical College on a part-time basis. Ten officers have been commissioned to date under a cadet scheme which was introduced in 1978 for the purpose of providing the Naval Service with qualified marine engineer officers. Four of these officers completed a course of training abroad late last year. It is expected that they will be qualified marine engineer officers by 1986. The remaining six officers will undergo a course of training abroad later this year and they will complete their training on return to this country. In addition, under the scheme five engineering cadets are currently undergoing training in Cork Regional Technical College and these will be commissioned this year.
Further competitions for the award of cadetships in the Army, the Air Corps and Naval Service will be held this year.
The competitions for 28 Army, eight Air Corps and four Naval Service Executive Branch cadetships will be advertised shortly. The number of Army cadetships to be awarded in 1983 is lower than the norm for recent years. Because of this and the necessity, in times of scarce resources, to concentrate on building-up the operational strength of the Defence Forces, the competition will, regretfully, have to be confined to male applicants.
A separate competition will be held this year for the award of six cadetships in the Equitation School and will take place at the same time as the other competitions. The purpose of the competition, which is a new one, is to effect an improvement in the number of satisfactory riders available to the Equitation School. It is a special scheme and its principal features are:
(i) the competition includes a riding test and applicants are expected to have some experience of, and have competed in, equestrian events;
(ii) the educational requirements are not as high as normally required for Army cadetships;
(iii) those successful will undergo a one-year course at the Cadet School; following which
(iv) they will be commissioned as Second-Lieutenants for a three year period;
(v) if suitable and willing, they may be appointed to commissioned rank without limitation as to time on completion of the three years as officers;
(vi) they will be paid a special gratuity on completion of their three years commissioned service.
This competition will be open to male and female applicants.
Twenty-four non-commisioned officers were commissioned in October 1982 after completing a potential officers' course.
The non-pay provisions for this year are just under £62 million gross. These provisions have been set at the levels necessary to maintain Defence Force capabilities and to meet commitments already entered into.
Contracts for five twin-engined helicopters were signed last December with the French aircraft manufacturer, Aerospatiale. The model ordered is a Dauphin 2, which will accommodate up to ten persons, including the crew. The aircraft has a fast cruise speed of over 150 knots and an endurance of about 4½ hours. The helicopters will have a rescue hoist and radar equipment capable of detecting small craft in rough seas. The helicopters will also have an electronic flight instrument system and will be able to fly at night and in conditions of reduced visibility.
Two of the helicopters are due for delivery at the end of 1984. These two helicopters will be used in conjunction with the new patrol vessel for the Naval Service. That vessel, which is at present under construction at Verolme Cork Dockyard will be fitted with a deck and hangar suitable for the operation of a helicopter. The EEC will be contributing to the cost of the vessel and the helicopters.
The other three helicopters are being acquired to replace three Alouette helicopters also manufactured by Aerospatiale which are now 20 years old and which have given sterling service over the years. One is due for delivery in 1985 and the other two in 1986. The replacement helicopters are intended mainly for search and rescue, air ambulance and transport missions. No payments in respect of the contracts for these helicopters fall due in 1983.
Provision is also made for a stage payment for a new radar system for Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel. This system was ordered last year as part of a programme to modernise the aerodrome facilities at Baldonnel and is due to come into operation in 1984. It will assist landing in conditions of reduced visibility.
The provision in the Estimate for buildings which includes new works, repairs, renewals and maintenance is £5,621,000 against an out-turn last year of £5,400,000. Included in the provision is a sum of £3.5 million for new building works to improve accommodation and facilities for the Defence Forces.
Improved accommodation for the single soldier continues to receive attention. New billets with central heating have been built in recent years at the Curragh Camp, Finner Camp, Dundalk Barracks, Gormanston Camp, Renmore Barracks, Galway; Fermoy and the Naval Base, Haulbowline. At Casement Aerodrome a modern well equipped technical stores has recently been completed and work is at an advanced stage on a major extension to the apprentices' hostel. Both of these buildings will be heated from a new central boiler using natural gas. Tenders have recently been invited for major new works including a brigade headquarters and officers' mess at Gormanston Camp. Further works at Casement Aerodrome and at Gormanston Camp to meet the needs of the Air Corps are planned.
The continuing development of the Naval Service will also require additional buildings and facilities. Since the necessary space is not available on Haulbowline, it is planned to provide these buildings and facilities on Spike Island and certain works there have already commenced. Site investigations in the area between Spike Island and Haulbowline have been carried out to provide certain information required for the design of a bridge between the two locations. However, the actual work of building will have to wait the availability of the necessary resources.
Significant works completed in the last year included new cookhouses and dining halls at Kickham Barracks, Clonmel, and at Finner Camp, a new building for motor transport classes at the Apprentice School, Devoy Barracks, Naas, a new vehicle servicing area at Cathal Brugha Barracks, Dublin, and a new FCA headquarters at Portlaoise. The modernisation of the swimming pool at the Curragh Camp has also been finished and the new Army sports pavilion at the Phoenix Park will shortly be ready for use. In Collins Barracks, Dublin, billets are being converted to cubicles and central heating is being installed. Billets are also being converted to cubicles at McKee Barracks, Dublin, and are to be so converted at Custume Barracks, Athlone. Improved sanitary and ablution facilities for single soldiers are being provided at Cathal Brugha Barracks, Dublin; Casement Aerodrome; Kickham Barracks, Clonmel; and McDonagh Barracks, Curragh Camp. Amongst the other works in hand are the modernisation of men's canteens at McKee Barracks, Dublin; Custume Barracks, Athlone; and McGee Barracks, Kildare, and improvements to the men's cookhouse at Collins Barracks, Dublin.
It is customary in this context to refer to the position regarding married quarters for the Defence Forces. Over the years some 346 new married quarters have been provided at various locations but a considerable number of the old type married quarters—more than 550—still remain. It is very easy to subscribe to the proposition that these old quarters should be replaced and that this should be done with all speed. I would, however, question whether soldiers should be housed by the Department of Defence as a special group rather than be treated as citizens in the normal way and be provided with houses in the same fashion as other members of the community.
Over the years the line adopted by my Department has been that the provision of housing is primarily a matter for the local authorities and that married soldiers have an equal claim on such housing with other members of the community in the same income category. The Department's policy has been stated as being that of supplementing the efforts of local authorities where soldiers' housing needs are greatest. The system, however, under which married quarters are allocated at present leads inevitably to the problem of overholding of such quarters — a situation which arises when, on termination of military service, for example, the occupant of married quarters continues, with his family, in irregular occupation of quarters. At present some 110 married quarters are overheld — many of them for several years past. The problem is most acute at the Curragh where 60 quarters are overheld. The number in Dublin is about 30 while in Southern Command the figure is 17. There are four quarters overheld in Western Command.
Overholding is an inevitable consequence of the system under which the occupants of the quarters are expected to surrender possession within a matter of weeks of the termination of service. Through the co-operation of the local authorities much has been done over the years to alleviate the problem by the provision of local authority housing for over-holders. The overholding problem is still a substantial one, but one which I consider must be looked at in the whole context of whether the present system of providing houses specifically for soldiers should continue. I would welcome the views of the House on the matter.
The Equitation School had an extremely successful year in 1982. Army riders and horses competed in 18 international shows and won 12 first places and nine second places, 13 third places and 13 fourth places. Total prize money came to approximately £36,000. At this stage I would like to mention the achievement of Captain Mullins in finishing fourth in the World Showjumping Championships in Dublin in June 1982. This was a highly commendable performance in a competition involving the best riders in the world. Also, Army riders competed at a considerable number of provincial horse shows and gymkhanas, achieving a total of 154 places with winnings in excess of £12,000.
One of the constituent elements in the make up of the Defence Estimate for 1983 is the provision of £1,365,000 in Subhead G for civil defence. Central to the organisation of the civil defence service is the ideal of voluntary service and in practice we rely heavily on the volunteer component of the organisation. Not only are the volunteers in civil defence on call when the occasion arises but they also give freely of their own time in training to acquire and maintain skills in fire fighting, rescue techniques, casualty treatment, welfare and, most importantly, the ability to measure and monitor radio activity from nuclear sources. Civic-minded people such as these are deserving of the highest praise and the State and the community stand indebted to them.
The bulk of the provision will be used on grant-aiding training, equipment maintenance and administration expenditure by local authorities but there will also be sufficient to finance this year's outgoings in the Department's programme to replace their entire Civil Defence stock of radiation monitoring equipment by the end of the first quarter of 1984. The contract under which this supply has been secured was placed with an Irish firm last December, and, I am glad to say, provides for the manufacture of the equipment in Ireland. I am also glad to say that it is hoped to begin the introduction of improvements in the style of the Civil Defence uniform in the last quarter of 1983.
In spite of a less substantial allocation than I would wish, I hope to accelerate progress in this important area of our national defence. At a very low cost much has been achieved but undoubtedly there is scope still to strengthen the organisation and promote recognition of the fact that an efficient Civil Defence is vital in wartime and extremely valuable in peacetime.
Before I conclude on Civil Defence I wish also to express my appreciation of the Irish Red Cross Society, the Order of Malta and the St. John's Ambulance Brigade, whose ready co-operation with Civil Defence is very welcome.
The sail training vessel Asgard II completed her full programme of cruises planned for 1982, covering a total distance of over 9,000 miles of which about 4,000 were entirely under sail. Almost 500 people, including about 250 boys and over 100 girls, participated in the cruises and there were about 200 other young people who applied to go on cruises but unfortunately could not be accommodated.
The highlight of the 1982 season was the international race of sail training vessels in which Asgard II participated in August. She first sailed from Cork to Brest and from there through the Bay of Biscay to Lisbon where the international “fleet” of sail training vessels assembled, including several large square riggers from North and South America. After a few days at Lisbon the entire fleet took part in a cruise-in-company to Vigo in Northern Spain. This provided an opportunity for the young trainees to spend some days on vessels from other countries, while young people from Poland, Germany, Holland and Britain sailed on Asgard II. The Cutty Sark Tall Ships Race from Vigo to Southampton started on 14 August 1982. Asgard participated and did well in finishing second in the smaller square rigger class.
A full programme of cruises on Asgard II is planned for 1983. Once again some of the cruises will include visits to ports abroad. Passages will be made through the Kiel Canal in Germany — when the vessel visits the Baltic — and through the Caledonian Canal in Scotland in the course of the return journey. Asgard II will also take part in an international tall ships race from Weymouth to St. Malo in August.
And now I turn to the Army Pensions Estimate for the year ending 31 December 1983, which is for a net sum of £34,502,000. This includes a total of £729,000 to cover increases in pensions and allowances from 1 July 1983 in accordance with the principle of maintaining parity in public service pensions.
The net out-turn for 1982, which includes a sum of £1,184,000 charged to the Vote for remuneration, was £30,764,500. The 1983 provision of £34,502,000 is, therefore, an increase of £3,737,500, 12 per cent, compared with the 1982 out-turn. The more significant increases in terms of overall cost occur in subhead C — allowances and gratuities to dependants; subhead E1 — Defence Forces Pensions Schemes; subhead K — Concessions for Veterans of the War of Independence, including free travel, free electricity allowance and free telephone rental, and subhead L which contains provision for funeral grants.
There is also a significant increase in the provision in subhead I — Post Office Services. Ordinarily, the expenditure under this subhead is the cost of postage of the pensions warrants, but on this occasion the Department of Posts and Telegraphs have raised a charge in respect of an additional service which it has rendered for some years past — that of cashing warrants for the Department's pensioners.
A token sum of £10 is provided in subhead J for special compensation payable by way of lump sum to or in respect of members of the Defence Forces killed or wounded while serving with the United Nations or who died or were disabled by disease contracted during that service. It is customary to make provision for a token sum only as it is not possible to estimate the demand on the subhead. Amounts paid, however, are recoverable from the United Nations.
As regards military service pensions, subhead D, and special allowances, subhead G, the numbers involved continue to decrease as death is taking its toll of those who served in the War of Independence. The number of military service pensioners on pay is now fewer than 2,000, representing a reduction of about 250 in the past year. There are now about 4,000 special allowance holders on pay and here, too, there has been a decline — about 500 in the past year. There is, however, a substantial increase in the number of widows, mainly of veterans, for whom provision is made under subhead C, so that the total number of pensioners and allowance holders remains static at just over 20,000.
I have been Minister for Defence for seven months or so and in that time have gained considerable knowledge of, and insight into, the Defence Forces and their affairs. As a result I am in a position to appreciate in a particular way the many fine qualities of the Defence Forces and, in particular, their loyalty and patriotism not merely as abstract concepts but as ideals put into practice as manifested by a willingness to behave in a disciplined way, to discharge their obligations not, as in common nowadays, to the minimum standard necessary but always with the objective of doing the best possible job. It has been a pleasure for me to visit units of the Defence Forces, for I find Army installations to be oases of order and discipline and tidiness in this agitated and untidy world.
Theoretically, the primary role of the Defence Forces is to defend the territory of the State against external aggression, but in practice its role consists of coming to the aid of the civil power in the apparently never ending fight against subversion and terrorism. The general military training which the Defence Forces undergo qualifies them to discharge both their roles.
It is the policy of the Government not to be allied militarily to any particular alliance, and in pursuing this policy they are following the expedient of successive Governments for a long number of years. I use the word "expedient" deliberately because it is quite clear from my survey of our stance in this regard, that though some commentators would see our neutrality as a matter of high principle, the majority of people and the historical evidence would suggest that it is a matter of expediency.
It suits us to be neutral militarily. Our territory is not desired or required as a base by the Western alliance and we are in the happy position that, being ideologically and geographically allied to the Western Block, we can confidently rely on it to protect our territory should any state or combination of states hostile to the Western world threaten it. Our economic, political and cultural interests lie very definitely with the Western world. This is entirely consistent with our historical stance and it is apposite to recall that during the emergency our neutrality was biased in favour of the Allies. Indeed, we are fortunate that we can have the privilege of being militarily neutral with the special status that that can give us, for example, in the United Nations and in the eyes of the Third World countries, while at the same time we can have our economic alliances as a member of the European Economic Community.
At the same time, for the twin reasons of vindicating our sovereignity and of being prepared, alone if necessary, to defend our independence, there is a need for us to maintain our Defence Forces in the most effective manner possible both as regards training and equipment and to ensure that the conditions of service and the morale of the members are kept high. In this regard I am happy to know that there is an ever increasing emphasis on the need for good personnel policy within the Defence Forces, and I am satisfied that attention to this aspect will ensure that full regard will be paid to the individual members as individuals, to their personal and professional needs, and that they in turn will find their careers in the Defence Forces to be satisfying and rewarding.
The Defence Forces do not have, and more importantly do not want, any form of organised representation, and in this situation it is particularly important that the Minister for Defence of the day would remain sensitive to the needs of the Defence Forces and when possible respond as fully and as effectively as possible to those needs. By my contacts, formal and informal, with members of the Defence Forces in all ranks I hope to keep myself informed of those needs and to be able to deliver the appropriate response. While on the opposite benches, on a similar debate some time ago, I indicated some matters that were of concern. I mention those matters to reassure personnel that they have not been forgotten.
I am sure I speak for everyone in the House when I say that the country can be proud and grateful for its Army, Naval Service and Air Corps. I commend these Estimates to the favourable consideration of the House. I look forward to the debate which will ensue and I will be happy to supply any further information that may be requested in the course of it.