Armed Forces

Part of Bills Presented – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th December 1964.

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Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire 12:00 am, 14th December 1964

That was not the impression which the hon. Member left on me. I listened carefully to his speech, as I did to other speeches by hon. Members opposite, and they all add up to increasing our national expenditure on defence. The defence estimates introduced by the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) amounted to nearly £2,000 million. By the time the hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. J. Eden) had finished his catalogue of our requirements, I made a rough estimate that a further £200 million was required. In addition, an aircraft carrier costing £60 million had been thrown in. Thus, the economic crisis had disappeared again and hon. Member opposite were calling for an increase in unproductive national expenditure. They had forgotten all about the need to increase our exports and the deficit of nearly £800 million, much of which has been accumulated because these very large sums of money have been spent on defence.

Surely when we were in financial difficulties, when we were face to face with an economic crisis and when the £ was in danger, all hon Members should have welcomed the moderate suggestion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that we should review this expenditure. All that the Chancellor said was that we were reviewing the defence expenditure, but the Leader of the Opposition rose to his feet as if my right hon. Friend had suggested something obscene. We need to examine this expenditure. If we do not succeed in increasing our exports, our economy will be rotten and we shall be unable to pay for an increase in defence expenditure. I therefore welcome the examination by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I hope that he will do it thoroughly, without sentimentality and ruthlessly, taking into account the economic state of the country. I hope that he will bring in Dr. Beeching, and, if necessary, half-a-dozen other Dr. Beeching's to help him examine this expenditure which has been accumulating for so long.