HC Deb 02 November 1949 vol 469 cc394-6
46. Mr. A. R. W. Low

asked the Minister of Defence whether he will now state, the allocation between the three Service Departments and the Ministry of Supply of the £12,500,000 savings to be made on the current year's expenditure.

Mr. Alexander

It is too early in the financial year to evaluate precisely each of the many measures of which the estimated saving of £12½ million will be the cumulative effect. Whilst I can say that the Army and Air Force votes will make the major contributions, it is not possible at this stage to give precise figures, but the overall saving from the expenditure which would have been incurred in the financial year by the three Service Departments will be at least £12½ million.

Mr. Low

How does the right hon. Gentleman know that, unless he has some idea of what each Service Department will save?

Mr. Alexander

I said that I cannot give precise figures, but I can say at this stage that the larger part will be borne by the Army and the Air Force Votes.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is the right hon. Gentleman handicapped by a shortage of chartered accountants in these Services, and if he is, will he borrow some from the Ministry of Health and the Scottish Office?

Mr. Alexander

Chartered accountants can usually be precise on figures which have already been spent, but they cannot be so precise on estimates.

Mr. Peter Thorneycroft

Does it not show very sad neglect of their duties for the Government to propose cuts in the Estimates for the Defence Forces if they have no idea how much each of the Services will be affected?

Mr. Alexander

That is not the position. If the hon. Gentleman will read my answer tomorrow morning, he will see that that is not the position.

48. Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

asked the Minister of Defence if the promised review of the Defence Services in the interests of economy has yet proceeded far enough for him to be able to announce the economies proposed in the future operation of the National Service scheme.

Mr. Alexander

As I informed the House in reply to the Question last Wednesday by the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore), National Service remains an essential feature of our defence policy, though we shall continue to keep its practical working under close review to ensure that it meets the needs of the Services as efficiently as possible. I have nothing of substance to add to this except to say that recent speculation in the Press as to major changes in the present scheme of National Service is not well founded.

Mr. Frank Byers

Will the Minister say that the Government have definitely no intention of introducing the selective ballot?

Mr. Alexander

I have nothing to add to my answer.

Mr. Chetwynd

Will my right hon. Friend reject the idea of a selective ballot because of the great discontent it would arouse?

Major Legge-Bourke

Would the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that if any change is intended in the present system he will make an announcement to the House before that change is put into operation?

Mr. Alexander

The House of Commons is the ultimate controller of policy of this kind, and at the proper time whatever recommendations the Government may have to make will be laid before the House.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Can the Minister give the House an assurance that whatever is the outcome of this review, it will be communicated to the House in the form of a White Paper in good time to enable adequate discussion to take place in this House at the earliest moment?

Mr. Alexander

There is bound to be a White Paper on Defence and hon. Members will get that in adequate time.

Mr. Yates

Do I understand from the right hon. Gentleman that the scheme of National Service will not be reviewed? I understood from the Prime Minister that this was to be included in a general review of the Services?

Mr. Alexander

The Prime Minister did not say that. My right hon. Friend said that it would be wrong for the questions referred to the Inter-Services Inquiry to be prejudiced by decisions taken to meet the immediate pressure for economy,