HC Deb 16 March 1925 vol 181 cc1863-82

The Estimates for next year show comparatively little variation from those presented a year ago. It may be thought that, for this reason they are uninteresting. On the other hand, I venture to suggest that this is precisely the reason why they are worth considering. We have now got rid of most of our War aftermath. The reductions in establishments have been made. We are, therefore, getting into the position of being able to compare like with like when we compare one year's Estimates with those of the preceding years. We have made provision in Vote A for 160,600 men, as compared with 161,600 in last year's Estimate. That is a net decrease of 1,000, or, if we omit the decrease of 100 in Indian troops in Iraq, the net decrease in our Army amounts to 900 men. The estimated cash to be voted is £44,500,000, compared with last year's vote of cash of £45,000,000, showing a reduction of £500,000. But the real maintenance cost of the Army is not cash alone. There is also the value of stocks drawn from stores without replacement. For next year the estimate is £48,216,000 as compared with: 049,240,000 for the present year, which is a reduction of £1,000,000.

Hon. Members will notice that we are still able to draw from current stocks without replacing them, that is to say, we have still got war stores on hand, and next year we draw upon them to the value of nearly £2,750,000. As these supplies disappear in future years the cash for this Service must inevitably increase. The decrease in the cash required for next year may be accounted for by the reduction in the War terminal charges, which have fallen from £1,075,000 to something just under £400,000. We have been able to meet the increases caused by higher prices, higher wages and gradual depletion of stocks to a considerable extent by administrative economy. For example, £150,000 has been saved on Head III by savings in the Ordnance depots.