Committee on Finance. - Vote No. 63—Army.

I move:—

Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £5,542,328 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1942, chun an Airm agus Cúltaca an Airm (maraon le Deontaisí áirithe i gCabhair) fé sna hAchtanna Fórsaí Cosanta (Forálacha Sealadacha), agus chun Costaisí áirithe riaracháin ina dtaobh san; chun Costaisí Oifig an Aire Cóimhriartha Cosantais; chun Costaisí i dtaobh daoine áirithe do thriail agus do choinneáil (Uimh. 28 de 1939, Uimh. 1 de 1940, agus Uimh. 16 de 1940); chun Costaisí áirithe fé sna hAchtanna um Chiontaí in aghaidh an Stáit, 1939, agus 1940 (Uimh. 13 de 1939 agus Uimh. 2 de 1940) agus fén Acht um Réamhchúram in aghaidh Aer-Ruathar, 1939 (Uimh. 21 de 1939); chun Cúl-Soláthairtí Leighis d'Ospidéil Síbhialta; agus chun costaisí áirithe de chuid an Fhórsa Chosanta Aitiúil (ar a n-áirmhítear Deontaisí-i-gCabhair) (Uimh. 28 de 1939).

That a sum, not exceeding £5,542,328, 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, 1942, for the Army and the Army Reserve (including certain Grants-in-Aid) under the Defence Forces (Temporary Provisions) Acts, and for certain administrative Expenses in connection therewith; for the Expenses of the Office of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures; for Expenses in connection with the trial and detention of certain persons (No. 28 of 1939, No. 1 of 1940 and No. 16 of 1940); 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 Act, 1939 (No. 21 of 1939); for Reserve Medical Supplies for Civilian Hospitals; and for certain Expenses of the Local Defence Force (including Grants-in-Aid) (No. 28 of 1939).

The Estimate for the Army Vote for the financial year 1941/42 is put forward in an unusual form, in that the total amount required is not distributed among the usual sub-heads, and no information is given regarding the manifold items which make up the total amount, £8,383,556 required. This is the first time that the Army Estimate has been presented in this form.

The Estimate is being put forward in this unusual form, not because the Department is not in a position to calculate the estimated cost of the various services covered by the Vote, but because the Government decided that on grounds of military expediency the usual detailed information available should not be published. That is the only reason why this form of Vote has been adopted. It would, therefore, be wrong to assume that the total amount required is simply guess work or an unreliable estimate, because, in point of fact, the Department has presented its Estimates in the usual form to the Department of Finance, and the detailed Estimate showing the cost of the many services covered by the Army Vote has been in the hands of the members of the Defence Conference for the past two weeks, by whom it has been carefully examined. It is the public interest alone which has dictated the form of the Estimate.

Strictly and legally the effect of this form of Vote would be twofold. In the first place, the Department would not be bound to account for its expenditure under the normal sub-heads of the Vote, but under the two sub-heads shown in the present Estimate, and in point of law the Appropriation Account will have to be rendered in the new form in strict accordance with the Estimate. This would mean strictly that the Dáil would not have information as to the expenditure on the various sub-heads of the Vote. It has been decided, however, that the Department will keep its accounts in the normal form of the sub-heads of the Army Vote, so that although the Appropriation Account will follow the form of the present Estimate the Department will have at all times available the usual information regarding expenditure under the normal sub-heads of the Army Vote.

The second effect of the present form of Estimate would be that the Department of Defence could, without having recourse to the Department of Finance, apply any excesses on some Army services to meet any deficits on others, within, of course, the ambit of the Vote and the total sum voted. Here again, however, it has been decided that the Department will work within the totals of the various sub-heads agreed to by the Department of Finance, and that the total of any sub-head will not be exceeded without the specific concurrence of the Minister for Finance.

It will, therefore, be seen that under this form of Vote the Army will not be given a blank cheque, and will not be left to its own devices in spending the money voted. There is no such intention. Every penny expended must, as in normal circumstances, be covered either by regulation or by the special authority of the Minister for Finance, and both Departments will be bound by the ambit of the Dáil's Vote. There will, consequently, be no authority without coming back to this House to embark on any schemes which are not covered fairly by the ambit of the Vote.

Finally, there will be no relaxation of financial control either as regards the disbursement of money or the accounting for stores. All the normal accounting and audit checks will remain strictly in force, and every effort will be made to enforce economy and to prevent waste of any description. Any tendency to disregard regulations dealing either with the expenditure of money or with the expense of stores will, as far as possible, be immediately stopped, and every effort will be made to see that the money voted and the stores purchased will be spent and utilised for the purposes stated in the resolution of the Dáil.

Within the last few months the Local Defence Force has been transferred from the Gárda Síochána to the Army, and no hitch whatsoever has occurred in its transfer. This magnificent body of Volunteers is now undergoing intensive and progressive training, and shows every sign of becoming a most useful addition to the Army if the occasion to utilise its services should arise.

As regards the Army itself, the officers of the forces have handled the large influx of recruits during the past year with extraordinary zeal and efficiency, and the new officers temporarily commissioned are standing up to their new duties magnificently.

The health of the troops has been surprisingly good. The incidence of disease has been lower than usual, and there has been no marked epidemic of any form of disease during the past winter. There have, of course, been discharges on grounds of medical unfitness, but taking things all round, the standard of physical fitness may now be said to be high. Discipline, too, has been satisfactory, the percentage of military crime being very low, and indeed it may be said that the morale of the whole Army is excellent.

In asking the House for the approval of the Army Estimate in the form as published, and under the conditions just briefly outlined, I desire to ask the House to approve of establishments for Regular, Reserve and Local Defence Forces which will not, during the year, exceed an aggregate of 250,000 all ranks.

Vote put and agreed to.