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Defence Expenditure

Volume 530: debated on Tuesday 20 July 1954

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49.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will now make a statement on the review promised by the Government on defence expenditure; and how far any reduction can be expected in the current year.

Will the right hon. Gentleman be a little more forthcoming? In view of the fact that earlier in the yeas, or I believe at the end of last year, both he and his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer promised emphatically to the House that the Government were reviewing defence expenditure and hoped to effect a reduction at an early date, what is being done about it?

Unending studies have been made in this subject. The Estimates are usually decided in November of each year, but as early as May, if not April, we began special Departmental and inter-Departmental inquiries in order that the whole field should be surveyed. That process is still going on and considerable progress has been made in a general presentation of the case. The decisions which have been taken upon it will be made known to Parliament at the usual time.

Very well. In view of the progress which the right hon. Gentleman says has been made, can he reply to the second part of my Question? Does he expect to effect a reduction in the current year?

No, Sir, not unless some unexpectedly favourable event should occur. The process of effecting frugal economies in the whole conduct of the Services is steadily going forward.

Is the Prime Minister aware that it costs £25,000 to train a bomber pilot? Will he look at this calculation and see whether it is not much too generous?

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will not expect me to do more in regard to that question than to see that it is transmitted, with the HANSARD, to the appropriate Department.