I support the motion to refer back the Estimate for reconsideration. I am sure the few Deputies who are present now were present when the Minister for Finance introduced the Budget. In the course of his statement, the Minister painted a rosy picture in regard to the adoption of certain badly-needed reliefs to income tax payers with large families. Then, after raising. I suppose, false hopes, he deplored his inability to afford such relief through want of £100,000. If this Estimate is referred back for reconsideration, and if the Minister for Defence gets down to serious work on it, with his colleague the Minister for Finance, I am sure that the difficulty of obtaining at least the £100,000 required for that purpose would not be insurmountable. If the Minister for Finance arms himself with the economy axe, and if the Minister for Defence uses the pruning knife, I am sure that between the two they will be able to clip the wings of the Army Estimate a little more closely. I am sure that I am on fairly common ground when I welcome such reductions as have been effected since last year, reductions which, I may say, are very much overdue. These reductions should have been carried out during the past two or three years. The attitude of the Opposition Party in this House in asking for reductions on the Army Vote has now borne a certain amount of fruit, but we are not yet satisfied with the result, and, like Oliver Twist, we will keep on asking for more. If we examine the situation in this country to-day and realise the urgent necessity of affording relief to the taxpayer and of finding the money which is required for essential social services, we, on this side of the House—and I am sure that in this matter we express the views of the ordinary man in the street—are far from being satisfied with the amount which it is proposed to spend on the Army in the coming year. We consider that further reductions are essential, that they are a crying necessity under existing economic conditions, and that such further reductions would be effected by any Government worthy of the name, and by any Government which had, as this Government professes to have on convenient occasions, the welfare of the ordinary people at heart.
We think that under normal conditions a sum approximately of one million pounds per annum would be a reasonable amount to expend on Army services. If it should be considered advisable in future to render financial assistance to officers' training corps, gymnastic clubs, rifle clubs, and associations for training the youth of the country, and to expend a certain amount each year on the manufacture of munitions and supply services, we think that a million and a quarter might be considered as the maximum cost. Present conditions, however, are by no means normal, and I think until this country is placed on a secure financial footing, until her industries are firmly established, and until trade and commerce are in a sound position, it is imperative that the cost of our defence forces should be reduced to the absolute minimum consistent with effectiveness. This matter of the Army was debated at length last October, I think, on last year's Estimate, and Deputies from this side of the House again and again pointed out and emphasised the utter uselessness of the present type of Army organisation to cope with attack or to defend this country against an outside power. The Minister for Agriculture, in that debate, frankly admitted that the Army was useless for that purpose and, furthermore, he said that it was not intended to use it for that purpose. That makes the position quite clear. The people of this country are being asked to provide a huge sum of money annually to maintain and keep in existence an Army which is, as the Minister for Agriculture said, utterly useless for the main purpose of any defence force, namely, to defend the country against attack from any outside power. We are supposed to be getting away from the old system, and we are told that the Army is being reorganised. I think that the Minister for Defence stated, on the 1st April, the approximate number of N.C.O.'s and men was 6,500, and the number of officers 500, approximately 7,000, and including them you have two types of reserve. The Minister, in introducing the Estimate to-day, made no reference whatever to the bringing into existence of a territorial force. This matter is apparently still in the air, and to my mind we are as far as ever from a radical change in the system. The Minister stated, I think, in last year's debate that he had hoped to bring a territorial force into existence. I would like to ask him to state definitely in his reply what his intentions are in the matter, and when he expects to make a start on this branch.
The Government, I suggest, is only tinkering with this question of national defence. The system in existence at present, with its tendency towards large paid reserves, is simply an extension of the old system which has been in existence in this country during the past five or six years. That system, as I said before in a previous debate, follows too closely on British Army methods and British Army organisation to suit either the requirements or the financial resources of this country. I spoke before also of our objection to the principle of large paid reserves. We on this side of the House consider it objectionable and unwise to promote any such system to a great extent. Our objection is not so much a question of the actual pay involved, although that is a matter which is deserving of serious consideration from the point of view of economy, as the wrong idea which we consider is behind the entire system. We think that the formation of large paid reserves should not be encouraged. On the other hand, we consider that the formation of a territorial or citizens' defence force should receive primary consideration from the Government and the Minister for Defence in particular. When the question of a volunteer force is raised in this House we have, of course, the usual cheap sneers about unpaid heroes, and so on. I suppose it is hardly worth while to pay much attention to remarks of that nature, especially when one considers the quarters from which they emanate. I will merely say that the unpaid heroes of 1920 and 1921 had a record second to none. They certainly had nothing to be ashamed of so far as their general conduct was concerned.
I suppose, in a way, it is difficult, and perhaps unfair, to blame the present Government for their refusal to tackle this problem of national defence in the right manner. They are unable to do so. They are not in a position to tackle it in the right way. It can only be tackled successfully, and at a minimum cost to the taxpayers of the country, when a national Government is in control, when you have a Government in office in this country in whose military policy, in whose national defence policy, the citizens of the country will have every confidence. There must be all-round support and a united national outlook for a satisfactory solution of this important problem. The hands of the present Government are tied. Their declared loyalty to the British Empire, their complete satisfaction with our present status, their refusal on many occasions to stand up for their rights, their attitude all along is the attitude displayed in this matter of national defence. We know what to expect from them in this as in other matters of policy, and we are not going to be very optimistic about their intentions. If we are going to have a defence force in this country, and if the taxpayers of the country are going to provide a huge sum of money annually to be spent on the maintenance and the organisation of an Army, it should be an Army which can be relied upon to defend this country if it were invaded by an outside power and not be, simply as I consider it at present, a glorified police force.
The Minister for Agriculture, as I said before, told us that the Army was utterly useless for the ordinary purpose of an army. If the Army is being maintained solely as an auxiliary police force, what necessity is there for having a Ministry of Defence at all? Why not abolish the Army altogether, hand over these armed men to the Minister for Justice, and let him control them as an auxiliary police force? If we are to tackle this question of an effective national defence force, we must organise and train our army with the object of securing an effective guerilla fighting machine which can be relied upon to make it impossible for an enemy to remain in this country or to attempt to govern this country. That, I consider, is the only basis upon which we can hope to defend ourselves against attack from an outside power, and any money and energy expended in organising or perfecting any other system is just so much money and energy cast to the winds. The position of the Minister for Defence reminds me of the picture of the lunatic who was attempting to empty a barrel of water with a bottomless bucket. The Minister for Defence is making just as much impression on this problem as the lunatic made on the barrel. We must rely upon ourselves entirely in this matter of national defence. All the talk about the League of Nations, the peace pacts and the disarmament conferences is, to my mind, just so much humbug and hypocrisy. The only guarantee we, in this country, can have is the guarantee of possessing an effective and powerful defence force. Armed neutrality should be the policy of this country in the future. To avert the worst, it is necessary to prepare for the worst. Again, as has been pointed out before from these benches, if our national demands are to be met, if we are to make any advance towards complete independence, our arguments must necessarily be supported by physical force. When I say that I do not want it to be taken that I am, in any way, advocating war. Personally, I am not a militarist.
I have the utmost horror of war and all the sufferings and misery war entails but I do hold that the best possible insurance against war, the surest way to avoid bloodshed is to have an effective fighting machine. We know from the history of our country in the past that the only occasion upon which our national demands were met were those when such demands were effectively supported by physical force. We know the example of the Volunteers of 1782 and in our own time we have seen the result of the organised national opposition to the conscription menace during the years of the Great War. I certainly suggest to the Minister for Defence that the activities of his Department might be profitably directed towards this question of guerilla warfare. I suggest that the problem be closely studied in all its various aspects. Units, I suggest, should be organised so as to be as mobile and self-contained as possible and special attention should be given to the training and equipment of machine-gun sections. The question also of the provision and use of a light type of mountain howitzer is deserving of special consideration.
With regard to the actual cost of the Army and the question of maintaining an effective defence force in this country for the sum of £1,000,000 per annum, I went into this matter in detail last October on last year's Estimates and there is hardly any necessity to cover the same ground again. Assuming £60,000 is the figure advisable to aim at for territorial forces and taking outside figures for the cost, maintenance and all the various charges in connection with that force I showed that the maximum cost of such a system would be about £450,000. Such total cost of £450,000 would not be reached for a period of ten or twelve years and the initial cost during the first two or three years would not be more than about £200,000 or £300,000. These figures are a very generous estimate of the cost of such a system and I am sure the Minister for Defence will agree with me when I say that.
If we examine the figures in this year's estimate for the cost of A and B reserves it will be seen that it is intended to call up approximately 7,000 men for training at a cost of about £84,000, or about £12 per man. If I were to base my calculations on this figure of £12 per man, or the cost per head of the B reserve only, which is £10 per annum per man— and these figures, I may say, approach the average cost of similar systems in other countries—the initial and ultimate cost of the system I have suggested would be reduced by about a half. As I have said, however, I have taken outside figures to be on the safe side of my calculations and to cover all possible contingencies. As far as the size of a standing army is concerned, we suggested last year, and we see no reason to change the opinion, that 3,000 men would be ample for all requirements. The cost of such a force should not exceed £600,000. If we add to this the cost of the proposed territorial force, the total initial cost of the entire system would be about £800,000, and the maximum cost over a period of years would be £1,050,000. These points were put forward from these benches last year and I suggest to the House and the Minister that they are deserving of serious consideration. We have had enough of the Minister's usual airy and flippant manner of disposing of criticisms with a wave of his hand and answering points made in a debate of this nature with a string of high-sounding phrases and attempted witticisms. We would like a little common sense this time.
There are a few sub-heads in the estimate to which I would like to refer. Sub-head A—Pay of Officers, Cadets, N.C.O.'s and Men. I would like to refer to the pay of the officers in particular. The Minister for Defence stated before, and I think he stated to-day also, that he had reached the minimum number of officers. We take it, therefore, that 500 is considered the minimum number and that there will be no further reduction, as far as the Minister is concerned, in that number.
The total cost of these 500 officers, taking such figures as are available for pay, marriage and children allowances, lodging and subsistence allowances, and the various other allowances which officers receive, is approximately £275,000, roughly £530 per head per annum, or £10 per head per week. In addition, a number of these officers have a free house and free light, and they all, I understand, have free hospital and medical treatment. There is also a regulation—I think it is still in existence—that there is a provision of £450 for furnishing married officers' quarters. In any comments I am making on the Estimate or on the particular sub-head, I would not like it to be taken that I have any antagonism whatever to the Army, or particular members of the Army. I may have a different opinion from the Minister as to the positive nature of their services to the country, but I am not going to discuss that now. As far as the cost of these 500 officers is concerned, I consider it is rather excessive. I suggest that these officers are being over-generously treated as regards pay and the numerous allowances which they receive. I might exclude, to a certain extent, the junior officers from these remarks. I consider that the officers in the Army should not be placed in a much more favourable position than persons of equal ability and competence in other Governmental services or in outside occupations. I consider that there is room for further reduction both in the number of officers and in some of the many allowances which they receive. I suggest that the Minister should have these points considered.
The next sub-head upon which I would like to remark is sub-head A 1—Military educational courses abroad for specially selected officers. I may say that I thoroughly approve of the idea of sending selected officers abroad for special instruction. I am glad to see, for this purpose, America is preferred to England. I hope, however, that any future expenditure under this particular sub-head will not follow along the lines of the last course, when, I think, six officers spent six months in America. The total expenses, I understand, of that trip were £5,600—a little over £34 each per week. I consider that cost excessive. I suppose I may be pardoned for voicing the suspicion that the entire amount of £34 per week per officer was not spent on the acquisition of military knowledge. I am sure that a fair proportion of it was spent on social extravagances and on hitting the high spots, I suppose, at West Point, or whatever other academy the officers attended.
Sub-head A 2—Gratuities to retired and resigned officers. This year's Estimate provides for £64,000. Last year, I think, £44,000 was spent on this particular item, a total of about £110,000. I think this figure covered about 290 officers. This amounted, approximately, to £400 per officer. I suggest that £200 per officer, as an average, would be a more reasonable figure and that some of the money which would have been saved in this way could have been devoted to providing a small bounty or something in the nature of a bounty for N.C.O's and men whose services were dispensed with on account of the reorganisation of the Army. I think the distinction which has been made in this matter was, to say the least of it, unfair. These men were thrown on the labour market without any little reserve whatever to enable them to carry on over a month or two until they could get employment.
Then we come to the question of stores and transport. I suggest that there should be better supervision and a more accurate system of accounting in connection with lodging and subsistence allowances, with all transport charges and with the purchase of various types of stores. I consider that there is room for a general tightening up in these matters. As far as general stores are concerned, I would like to ask the Minister to give some explanation of why it should be necessary to sell, every year, large quantities of what are described in the Estimates as surplus and unserviceable stores. Last year £10,000 worth was sold and this year provision is made for the sale of £15,000 worth. I would like to ask the Minister if all these surplus stores have been in existence since 1922 and 1923 or are they the result of unnecessary purchases during the last few years? Would it not be possible to have better supervision in this matter of stores and to have a closer estimate of the requirements of the Army in this matter and, consequently, avoid the waste and loss involved in such transactions?
Next we come to war-like stores. I know that there is an appreciable increase in this item since last year. I suppose it would be incorrect to assume from this increase that the British Empire is contemplating war with any of her trade rivals. I notice also that there is a new purchase of rifles intended during the coming year. I would like to ask the Minister what is the position with regard to the 40,000 or 50,000 rifles which were left over since 1923. Are those rifles out of date? Are they being discarded, or does the Minister intend sending commercial travellers to Mexico or some such place to dispose of them?
Next we come to the Minister's own dug-out—the Department of Defence. I notice that the estimated cost of the Army has been reduced by approximately 20 per cent., but during the same period the estimated cost of the Department of Defence has been reduced by only 3.5 per cent. If we go back to the earliest available figures I have, those for 1926-27, we find that the total cost of the Army then was £2,309,700, and the cost of the Department of Defence, £51,354. Therefore, we see that while there has been a reduction in the cost of the Army of practically 38 per cent., over the same period the reduction in the cost of the Department of Defence has been only 3.5 per cent. I suggest to the Minister that such a state of affairs indicates a great need for the pruning knife, and that he should get to work in his own Department and reduce the cost considerably below its present figure.
The last item upon which I wish to touch is the Army reserves. I notice that provision is made for 230 officers on the reserve during the current year, and that the cost is approximately £90 per officer for the year. I should like to ask how many of these officers will be called up for training, or to assist in training, during the current year, and how many will receive grants averaging over £5 without coming up for training at all? Will the Minister also indicate how many of these particular officers are in receipt of service pensions, and how many of them received two years' pay and allowances on retiring from the army? As to the A and B reserves, I should like the Minister to state his intentions as far as the total strengths of these formations are concerned and when he expects such strengths to be reached. I support the motion for the referring back of the Estimate for reconsideration, and would ask all those Deputies who mean, or ever meant, what they said, when they spoke about economy and retrenchment, to go into the Division Lobby in favour of the motion.