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Re-Armament Programme

Volume 496: debated on Wednesday 20 February 1952

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47.

asked the Prime Minister how far the actual expenditure on the re-armament programme for 1951–52 will fall short of the expenditure originally proposed.

I cannot give an exact figure, but the present indications are that expenditure will fall short by about £120 million of the £1,250 million which it was hoped it might be possible to spend in the current financial year.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether that will mean that the programme will have to be extended over four or five years instead of the present three?

It will certainly take longer than three years, but we are going to have a debate on this subject next week.

48.

asked the Prime Minister the extent of the shortfall in th0 re-armament programme, due to lack of materials and other causes, and the revised overall expenditure necessary to maintain the previously announced £4,700 million quantity of supplies, due to the decrease in the purchasing value of the £; and how far he intends to extend the period of fulfilment of this programme.

It is not at present possible to forecast over what precise period it will be necessary to spread production of all the equipment included in the original three-year programme, and therefore to estimate what is likely to be the total expenditure on defence during the revised period of the programme.

The White Paper on Defence Estimates and policy will be circulated tomorrow, and we hope there may be a debate on defence on the Thursday following.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that as soon as he has the facts and figures available he will make a statement to the House or give us an opportunity of putting a Question?

I hope the hon. Member may be fortunate in catching the eye of the Chair in the debate on defence.

I asked the Prime Minister a simple question. He said the facts and figures are not yet available. I am asking that when they are available he will either make a statement to the House or, through the usual channels, make arrangements for a suitable Question to be asked so that he can give the facts and figures to the House.

Could the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether this estimate includes the new expenditure likely to arise as a result of new policy on the discovery of the atom bomb?

I should be very sorry to put myself forward as seeking to deprive the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues of the credit that is due to them for the progress that has been made.

Can the Prime Minister say whether any estimate has been formed to show how much we will get for such money as we are able to spend as compared with what we could have got for the same money at the time when this re-armament programme was framed?

I think that is a very fair point to raise in the forthcoming debate.

49.

asked the Prime Minister when he proposes to announce the revised expenditure on armaments to replace the late Government's programme of £4,700 million over three years.

The programme has not been replaced. On the contrary we are pressing forward with it to the best of our ability though inevitably it must now be spread over a somewhat longer period.

Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that we should be more likely to get a greater quantity of effective units for a given sum of money spent if revision were planned ahead rather than a reduction left to the free play of material shortages?