§ "to provide during twelve months for the Discipline and Regulation of the Army and the Air Force," presented accordingly, and read the First time; to be read a Second time to-morrow, and to be printed. [Bill 73.]
§ Commander MARSDEN rose—
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Mr. G. HALL
I should like to refer to the favourable position that the Admiralty is in regarding this Vote. I find, on comparing the Vote as asked for in the Estimate this year with the expenditure of 1923, there is a reduction of nearly £1,000,000, or almost a third of the total Vote. Notwithstanding the fact that there is a sum of some £588,000 provided for expenditure on Singapore, it is 246 £104,000 less than the amount provided for last year. In dealing with this Vote, I feel sure that the Civil Lord will take into account that we have buildings which were provided during the time when the personnel of the Navy was at its peak. In the various dockyards throughout the world there are buildings capable of dealing with larger numbers of men than we have in the Navy at present and, before any expenditure is incurred for new buildings a scrutiny ought to take place, and I am sure is taking place, with regard to existing buildings which may be more than ample to meet requirements.
Again, I think the Admiralty is fortunate in the sense that last year was the first year that the loans under the old Naval Acts commenced to fall in. In the years from 1895 to 1905 a considerable sum of money was borrowed for the purpose of providing new works urgently required for the Navy. It is not for me to criticise the policy that was adopted at that time, but for the last 40 years we have been paying off interest and principal of moneys borrowed to provide for those works. The only point I desire to make is in regard to the sum that appears last in the list on page 222 of the Naval Estimates, where we are told that there are charges in respect of sums borrowed on Exchequer bonds, and the amount to be repaid during this year is £107,874. Is this going to be the final payment or is there likely to be a continuation for some years? Year after year for the next five or six years there will be substantial sums falling in under the annuities, with the result that in the course of some five or six years a sum of more than £500,000 a year will be saved to this Vote alone. The only point is whether provision will have to be made in future Estimates for the repayment of the £107,000.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ The CIVIL LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Captain Euan Wallace)
We have, it is true, derived a benefit of almost 247 £1,000,000 by the reduction in the charges coming under Vote 10 since 1923. The reasons are twofold. One is the very considerable reduction in prices, and the second is that during the period to which the hon. Gentleman refers we were spending a good deal of money in building up oil fuel storage. In regard to what he said about buildings in general, I can assure him that it is almost as difficult to get a, project for the erection of new buildings from the local officers through the Commander-in-Chief, through the Superintending Sea Lords, through me, through the Finance Committee and on to these Estimates as it is for the proverbial camel to get through the needle's eye. Every proposal for new building is subjected to the most careful scrutiny. So far as we can, we make do with the old buildings, but I am certain that the House will realise that there are occasions when it is cheaper to put up a modern structure.
In regard to the point about sub-head O, the annuities that we have to pay on the old naval loans, we have derived benefit this year to the extent mentioned by the hon. Gentleman by the falling in of one of the annuities, but that benefit has been offset by a drop of rather more than that amount in the Appropriation-in-Aid that we receive under this Vote. We realise—and from the taxpayers' point of view we are grateful for it—that during the next few years we are going to obtain a series of progressive reliefs owing to the falling in of some of these annuities. In regard to the particular one that the hon. Gentleman mentioned, the charge in respect of sums borrowed on Exchequer bonds to the extent of £107,874, I am informed that this payment goes on until 1934 far certain, and will then have to be reconsidered.