HC Deb 15 March 1932 vol 263 cc242-4

7. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £1,500, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1932, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs."

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution.

6.30 p.m.

Brigadier-General CLIFTON BROWN

I should like to draw attention to Vote A on page 16, which refers to two Armoured Car Cavalry Regiments, one at home and one in Egypt. We were told originally when mechanisation was introduced that there were two reasons for the change, one that it would give greater fire power and the other that it would be an economy. I have no wish to make any criticism as regards fire power, but I am glad to notice a change in the organisation of cavalry regiments so that there are now three sabre squadrons, equipped with machine guns, attached to the headquarter squadron. That used to be done, and I am glad to see it.

As regards the armoured car regiments I have asked for some time what is the cost compared with the cost of a mounted cavalry regiment, and I have pointed out that if it could be shown that there was an economy, there would be much more reason for making the change than if no economy resulted. I received an answer on the 1st December, which stated that: The annual cost of a cavalry armoured-car regiment exceeds that of a horsed cavalry regiment by between 5 and 10 per cent., the figure depending on the life of the cars, as to which sufficient experience is not yet available to give a firm estimate."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st December, 1931; col. 940, Vol. 260.] In view of that answer, would it not be wise from the point of view of economy for the War Office to make this a mounted cavalry regiment again We have fewer mounted cavalry regiments than any Army in the world, and we have fewer horses and many more places than other countries where mounted troops are necessary. The co-ordination of the Ordnance Stores for these armoured cars is not very well arranged, and it seems to me that further economy could be effected on that score.

Several questions have been asked lately by an hon. Friend of mine opposite as to armoured car detachments in Palestine. I have asked whether they are maintained and equipped from the Array Ordnance Stores, or whether they draw on Air Force stores, and I was told that they dealt usually at the Army Ordnance Stores, but that they have separate stores of their own. I should like to know whether any attention has been paid to the report of the Commission four or five years ago, to which I am always referred when I ask for better co-ordination in regard to the Ordnance Stores. I should be glad if the Minister would look into this point and see if some economy could not be made.


I do not know whether I should be in order in asking a question on Vote 2. I brought forward this matter when the Estimates were before the Committee, but the Minister could not answer me then; he had not time. May I ask a question in regard to Vote 11, Miscellaneous?


The hon. Member must wait until Vote 2 is reached.


In reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Newbury (Brigadier-General Brown), I may say that I shall be only too glad to look into the points which he has raised and see if any further economies can be effected. I cannot, however, hold out any hope of a reversal of the decision in regard to the two armoured-car regiments, and that we shall remount them, although, as he pointed out, it does appear that at the present time they are costing more than mounted cavalry regiments. It is very natural, however, when you are beginning an experiment and a new departure in the equipment of troops by mechanisation means, that the costs should be slightly higher than they will be when the experiment has been further proceeded with. All the ifnormation at our disposal is that the armoured-car regiments have been a very great success and a very great advance. Although, as I have said to my hon. and gallant Friend before, we have no intention in the future, so far as I am aware, of reducing the number of the cavalry, because we still realise that the cavalry have a part to play in warfare, I cannot hold out any hope that we shall remount these regiments.

Ordered, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide, during Twelve Months, for the Discipline and Regulation of the Army and Air Force; and that Sir Bolton Eyres Monsell, Sir Philip Sassoon and Mr. Duff Cooper do prepare and bring it in.