HC Deb 16 March 1925 vol 181 c1863

Order for Committee read.

The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Sir Laming Worthington-Evans)

I beg to move, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."

On the last occasion that I had the honour of presenting the Estimates for the Army to this House, the Army was undergoing a process of transition, reduction and reconstruction. The period of transition from war to peace has passed, the reductions resulting from the recommendations of the Geddes Committee have been effected, and, in the nature of things, I have not to-day any large reductions in expenditure to announce. The savings that we can look for in the future are those which can be obtained by careful administration and economy. I cannot hope, nor do I wish, to discount criticism in advance, but it must be patent to all that the Army Estimates, like those of all the Service Departments, are particularly liable to criticism. Like most forms of insurance, they are a compromise between the risks to be guarded against and the premium which financial considerations are expected to permit.

The critics range from those who advocate a policy of complete disarmament as a gesture—I think that is the fashionable phrase—and those who seek to be covered against every possible contingency, however remote and at whatever cost to the taxpayer. The duty of the Government of the day is to hold the balance between these two conflicting views, and, while having regard, on the one hand, to the vast Imperial interests committed to their charge, on the other hand, to pay due regard to the interests of the taxpayer and the many other competing claims upon his purse. Like all those who try to hold such balances fairly, a Minister finds that he is likely to receive more kicks than halfpence.

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