HC Deb 25 February 1904 vol 130 cc1005-6
* SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury if he will state under what Vote the salary of the Secretary of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet and his Staff will be provided, and if it is intended to give the House any opportunity of discussing the exact functions of his post. In putting the Question may I offer the congratulations of the Opposition side of the House to the right hon. Gentleman on his return to his seat.


I am grateful to the right hon. Baronet and his friends for their congratulations. I think it would be extremely desirable that there should be an opportunity for discussing the Committee of Defence upon the Estimates because it is only in that way that any general debate can take place on matters in which both the Army and the Navy are concerned. The ruling of the Chair has hitherto been that in discussing the Navy Estimates nothing connected with the Army can be debated, and in discussing the Army Estimates nothing connected with the Navy can be introduced. There should, no doubt, be an opportunity of discussing the combination of the two defensive forces of the Empire; and probably, if and when the change foreshadowed in the Question takes effect, the debate can most properly take place on the Vote for the Secretary or Staff of the Defence Committee. I shall endeavour to put it down in such a form that the First Lord of the Treasury shall be the person to deal with such a Vote. The Chairman of the Defence Committee is the Prime Minister, and I think he ought to reply. If the Prime Minister should be in the other House, there might be some difficulty in arranging who should answer for the Defence Committee, but at the present time, at all events, I shall put it down in such a form that I shall be the person to reply.