ON THIS DAY 1949: Nearly £760m for defence.

Archive front page: EDP 16 Feb 1949. Photo: Library

Archive front page: EDP 16 Feb 1949. Photo: Library - Credit: Archant

As part of a new daily online series we look back on what was making the news on this day in Norfolk. Today, we look at the Eastern Daily Press front page of February 16th, 1949

Britain's defence in 1949-50 is estimated to cost £759.86 million compared with the estimate of £692.6 million for 1948-49. These figures are given in a White Paper, published last night.

Of this sum, the Admiralty is estimated to need £189.25 million (compared with £152 million estimated for the Navy last year). The War Office estimate is £304.70 million (compared with £305 million proposed last year) and the Air Ministry estimate is for £207.45 million, against last year's figure £173 million for the RAF. The Ministry of Supply is asking for £57.75 million (£61 million last year) and the Ministry of Defence wants £71 million (£6 million).


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A full debate will take place in the House of Commons next month, when Mr A V Alexander, the Minister of Defence, and other Service Ministers will speak. It is expected that Opposition speakers will emphasise the extra money that is being asked for in the White Paper. This will be criticised in conjunction with the additional £221 million in supplementary civil estimates which was published last week.

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Reasons for Increase

Excluding war terminal and non-effective charges and the cost of those non-military activities of which the Service votes have now been relieved; the remaining provisions in the three Services' estimates for 1948-49 stood at about £547 million. The comparable figure this year is about £654 million.

Of an increase of about £107 million compared with last year approximately one-third is accounted for by increased Service rates of pay, increased civilian wages, the increased cost of insurance charges for Service men and civilians and higher prices for supplies.

Increased expenditure on the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces and the bulk of the balance is accounted for under the heading of equipment. This extra provision for equipment is largely attributable to the emergency measures authorised in September, 1948, but the trend in this direction will become more pronounced as time goes on, the statement says.

Western Union

Of the increase of about £81,000 in the Ministry of Defence estimates £52,000 relates to secretarial and common service arrangements for Western Union establishments in London. Another £25,000 consists of expenditure previously borne on other votes.

Other expenditure arising from Britain's activities in Western Union - for example, on account of British Service men and women who are full time members of the staffs and committees - is included in the separate Service estimates.

Forces' Strength

As a result of the decision to suspend releases from the Forces for three months and to increase the period of full-time National Service from 12 to 18 months. The reductions in the Forces during 1948-49 contemplated in last year's statement will not be achieved.

Instead of a total strength of 716,000 on April 1st, 1949, a figure of 793,000 is estimated. The intention is that by the end of the financial year 1949-50 the strength of the Forces will be about 750,000.

The manpower plan for 1949-50 provides for the call-up of 174,000 National Service men, divided as follows - Navy 10,000, Army 120,000, Air Force 44,000.

'Service in the Armed Forces is a direct and important contribution to the security of our country.' says the statement. 'And the Government believe that on these grounds alone it will always possess a strong attraction for many. They intend that this attraction should be reinforced by conditions of service which are such as to make a wide appeal and to compete on reasonably equal terms with employment in civil life.'

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