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Defence Expenditure

Volume 526: debated on Thursday 29 April 1954

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asked the Prime Minister if he will now issue instructions to all Ministers concerned on ways and means of securing definite relief from the present burden of defence expenditure.

The future of the defence programme and possibilities of relief from the heavy burden involved are matters which, under my direction, engage continuously the attention of Her Majesty's Government, but I do not wish to make any statement about the procedure followed by Her Majesty's Government for that purpose.

Since the Chancellor of the Exchequer indicated that the Government must obtain some definite relief from the defence burden in the coming year—those were the Chancellor's words—can the Prime Minister tell us in what ways Her Majesty's Government propose to obtain that definite relief?

Does the right hon. Gentleman's answer mean that the subject is under constant review? If so, can he tell us, seriously, whether any progress has been made and, if not, when he expects progress will be made?

We inherited an enormous programme, loosely scattered out, and if we had not controlled it very severely it would have carried us into figures far beyond those at which the right hon. Gentleman now professes to be shocked. We are doing our very best to curb the growth of military expenditure, and we hope that results which are very necessary for our future finances will be achieved.

When can we expect the right hon. Gentleman to answer a question directly and not indulge in irrelevancies? Will he be good enough to tell the House, now that the Chancellor has intimated his intention—of course, with the Government—to reduce defence expenditure, and because the subject, as the right hon. Gentleman himself has said, is continously under review, when he expects some progress to be announced to the House?

The results of these exertions will, of course, be apparent when the Estimates for next year are laid before the House.