That a further sum, not exceeding £50,000,000, be granted to His Majesty on account for defraying the Charges for Army Services, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1920.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution.
§ Mr. G. THORNE
Perhaps the Financial Secretary to the War Office will be good enough to state the circumstances under which he submits this to-night?
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Forster)
It is necessary to get the Report of the Vote to-night in order that we may have money tomorrow to carry out the necessary payments for the Army and Army services. We do not expect the House to give us a Report of this magnitude sub silentio; therefore, we propose to put down Army Estimates again in the near future so that hon. Members, many of whom have points to raise, will not be deprived of the opportunity of raising them at a more convenient hour of the day when they can meet with full consideration.
§ Captain SPENDER CLAY
I think that one ought to protest against this method of bringing this matter before the House at such an hour of the night. It shows, great ineptitude on the part of the financial branch of the War Office, who seemingly have discovered at the last moment that if they do not get the Report stage at this sitting the Army will not be paid to-morrow. There must be something wrong, some great oversight. In my own limited experience of the financial branch of the War Office, a more obstructive branch could not be found. If there is. any Committee sitting which requires improved conditions in the way of pensions or pay for the soldier it is always met by the obstruction of the financial branch of the War Office; yet at 12.15 at night we are asked to vote £50,000,000 because they have suddenly ascertained that it is necessary to obtain it on this particular day. I realise that the Financial Secretary has promised a day for full discussion, and ho says it will be in the near future. We were anxious to have such discussion this week, but hon. Members with whom I am associated were informed that it was not possible owing to other more important business. I do suggest that the Leader of the House should give us an undertaking that at any rate next week we shall have an opportunity of discussing these Estimates. These are matters of most urgent 1569 importance which ought to be brought before the House in connection with the Army Estimates. I will refer only to such questions as that of service with the Colours counting towards civil pension when a man joins the Civil Service after being in the Army or Navy. There are innumerable other points. I sincerely hope that the Leader of the House will promise us a day next week, and that we shall have an undertaking that if we pass this without lengthy discussion tonight we shall have an opportunity of bringing these matters before the House on a full Parliamentary day.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
May I say, in answer to the reference to myself, that unless something unforeseen happen the Government will give another day next week.
Lieut.-Colonel Sir J. HOPE
There are many subjects which hon. Members desire to discuss and to get an answer upon, and the decisions in many of these case have been delayed for some time by the Finance Branch of the War Office. There is the question of the disposal of the large sums of money under the Army and Navy Canteens Board and the question of the allowance to soldiers who have been demobilised, having had no leave for the previous two years, and who are put on the same terms and receive exactly the same leave pending demobilisation as those who have had leave three months previous to demobilisation. These questions were referred some time ago to the Finance Department of the War Office, and we have, had no answer yet, and it is only reasonable to ask that if we now pass this Vote, and give way to the Finance Department, the least they can do in return is to have decisions ready to announce to the House on the day on which these Supplementary Estimates are put down, in order to enable the House to discuss these questions. In the past on Army Estimates there has often been a long discussion, and the answer to many of the questions which have been raised has been that they will have to be decided by the Finance Department of the War Office; but I think, having now given notice of all 1570 these questions, we should receive some assurance that we shall not only be allowed to discuss these questions, but that we shall have them definitely answered by the Finance Department.
§ Major-General Sir JOHN DAVIDSON
I wish to endorse what has fallen front the hon. and gallant Member opposite (Captain Spender Clay). I, too, feel that there is great delay going on in the Finance Department of the War Office. There arc a great many urgent questions and grievances which require to be righted, in regard to retired pay and pensions of officers and men, in regard to the war gratuities of the men, in regard to allowing service with the Colours to count towards Civil Service pensions, and in regard to pre-war pensions. All these matters have been held up. I believe the question of retired pay and pensions has been in the hands of the Finance Department of the War Office since last autumn, and nothing has been done in the matter, which is, nevertheless, one of great urgency.